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Lyndon Johnson Administration: Telegram on Israeli Concerns on Security and Water Rights

(February 26, 1965)

In response to Israeli concerns, the United States reiterated its commitment to Israeli security and discussed water issues with Israeli diplomats.

Telegram From the Embassy in Israel to the Department of State1

Tel Aviv, February 26, 1965, 9:45 p.m.

1050. From Harriman. Embtel 1037.2

I opened day long sessions February 25 saying the President is following closely current Israel-Arab situation. After summarizing critical world security situation, I outlined our analysis of current Middle East realities. I particularly stressed that it is imperative Israel-Arab confrontation not become polarized on West-East lines. Noting we must make decision on Jordan arms within few days, I reviewed rationale this step at length. Then I reiterated President's basic commitment to Israel's security.

In ensuing discussion:

I emphasized significance of President's willingness to consider direct sales of such military equipment as Israel needs and cannot obtain from traditional sources.

I stressed essentiality there be no publicity about what we might agree re principle of arms supply to Israel. I requested the government of Israel seek quietly to influence Jewish community in US to abide by such conclusions as we may reach on this and Jordan arms.

Mrs. Meir asked if our arms aid to Jordan would continue if the Soviets gave Jordan economic aid. I stressed that a major purpose of our Jordan policy was to keep Soviet influence out. It came out eventually that what she had in mind was concern that Soviet financial assistance directly or indirectly enable Jordan to continue water diversion plan, i.e., Mukieba Dam.

Eshkol said Jordan waters issue was fundamental "first test" for him. In lengthy back and forth, he urged we directly press Jordanians and Lebanese to desist from cooperating in diversion projects.

Eshkol bore in on arms supply problem. He asked that simultaneously with our agreement to meet Jordanian arms requirements as outlined by us, we commit ourselves to add to Israel's deterrent by announcing we would insure it maintain adequate arms balance.

Eshkol called for active US government assistance re establishment Israeli full diplomatic relations with Iran, Turkey, India.

PriMin called on us to move Embassy to Jerusalem.

He even brought up Suez transit question.

I rebutted that public declaration re our arms policy must be made at time and in manner considered most opportune.

I insisted on Israel's undertaking not to strike against Arab diversion projects; that she must take peaceful road, including UN, to resolve Jordan waters crisis. Subsequently I repeated this theme in clearest possible formulations several times.

On nuclear question, I requested Israel's continued undertaking that it would not build weapons, and would consent to IAEA observation. Eshkol agreed to reaffirm non-nuclear undertaking, but said Israel would accept IAEA controls "together with Nasser."

I reiterated our strong feeling that we should not now announce any change in our area arms policy, and in this connection, that we still have the problem of Israel's acquiescence in Jordan arms deals. When there is actual US delivery of weapons to Israel, we could then consider public announcement.

I stressed historic significance of President's willingness to consider direct arms supply in context of other understandings we seek. We pointed out we have in mind Hawk-type credit terms, not grant supply. In answer to my question regarding undelivered equipment under German deal, Israelis seemed satisfied submarines would be delivered directly from Britain, but were particularly concerned over small naval craft (Schnellbooten) as well as tanks.

Mrs. Meir characterized Lebanon's and Jordan's recent accommodations to Nasserist pressure as frightening. She contended King Hussein would at every step raise the ante by threatening to turn to Soviets. She professed to be upset about recent USG-GOI discussions of Jordan waters.

Afternoon Session

Talks almost entirely on Jordan waters, with Meir reaching for all possible ammunition to point out dangers to Johnston Plan in recourse to UN. Vigorous exchange followed predictable lines. I told them we are willing to discuss ways and means whereby our support in principle of Johnston Plan allocations could be effectuated in UN context. We emphasized that in event Soviet veto putting Jordan waters issue before world, public opinion could not help but improve Israel's case. I was quite harsh in countering Mrs. Meir's scornful appreciation of Security Council's role. We stressed that when Israel undertook not to launch pre-emptive military action against Arab preserve, we would be willing, anytime, anywhere discuss any methods of peaceful approach.

As meeting concluded, Eshkol asked for "something in writing" re arms supply to Israel. We stressed confidential nature of our discussions, and said we would consider this among other related subjects prior to 3:00 p.m. meeting Friday.

Various members of PriMin's suite have emphasized to our aides "necessity" for some very early public indication of USG willingness supply arms directly and openly to Israel. In side conversations we have stressed that if watershed in our policy is to be crossed, GOI may have to steel itself to endure considerable short range domestic political flak.

Komer saw Peres morning Feb 26 in effort to persuade latter of full significance President's package; that there no time for GOI to bargain over wrapping.



1 Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 7 US/HARRIMAN. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Received at 3:48 p.m. and passed to the White House.

2 Document 158.

Sources: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968, V. 20, Arab-Israeli Dispute 1967-1968. DC: GPO, 2001.