Memorandum Seeking to Delay Aircraft Sales to Israel
(October 25, 1965)
After receiving tanks from the U.S., Israel immediately began to ask
for large numbers of aircraft, which Administration officials were opposed
Memorandum From Robert W. Komer of the National Security Council
Staff 1to President Johnson
Washington, October 25, 1965, 6:30 p.m.
Planes for Israel. Now that Israel has a good tank
sale under its belt (which nets us dollars), it is predictably focusing
on planes. You'll recall that last March we promised that if Israel
would lie low on Jordan arms, we'd sell some tanks and "up to 24
combat aircraft" if they couldn't get them anywhere else.
Again predictably, the Israelis have made a blue sky
opening bid--not for just 24 but for 210 new fighter bombers. Their
air chief of staff was just here proposing in effect that we take over
the modernization of the whole Israeli air force, on the grounds that
neither France nor the UK--the only other suppliers--can provide the
State and DOD told him that he'd better go back to
the French and British, and that selling 210 planes--even for dollars
over several years--was out of the question. Nonetheless, it is true
that we produce far better aircraft for the money, and that France and
the UK probably can't meet Israel's total need (in fact the Israelis
are already back in, claiming that a new approach in Paris produced
We'll keep stalling the Israelis along, making clear
that we simply can't talk about becoming their chief suppliers but not
slamming the door on a small sale in 1966. State remains adamant against
any combat aircraft, but some of us are coming to wonder whether State
doesn't overestimate the adverse Arab reaction (as it did on Hawks and
then tanks). Moreover, the Israelis are eager enough that they'd even
let us sell planes for dollars to Jordan too (if necessary to block
a MIG deal).
Israel is happy enough about tanks and is asking enough
other things from us--a desalting plant, 1966 economic aid, PL 480--that
we can play hard to get on planes for a few months yet. But we'd recommend
keeping the option open if you approve. 3
R. W. Komer
1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Name File, Komer
Memos, Vol. II. Secret.
2. Discussions held October 12-13 between an Israeli delegation chaired
by Ambassador Harman, with Chief of the Israel Air Force General Ezer
Weizman as the chief Israeli spokesman, and a joint State-Defense U.S.
delegation chaired by Hare, with Hoopes as the chief U.S. spokesman,
are summarized in an October 14 memorandum from Kitchen to Thompson.
(National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files
1964-66, POL ISR-US)
3. The memorandum bears no indication of Johnson's approval or disapproval.
Sources: U.S. Government. Foreign
Relations of the United States, 1964-1968, V. 18, Arab-Israeli Dispute
1964-1967. DC: GPO,
2000. Department of State.