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Senate Foreign Relations Committee Sessions: Arm Sales & Aid to the Middle East

(July 11-26, 1967)

July 11, 1967 - U.S. ARMS SALES TO ISRAEL

But, getting back from the Middle East, I reported to Chairman Russell and Chairman Fulbright that I thought, based on the quality of the Egyptian Air Force, it was only a question of time before there would be a blow-up out there.

The Israelis saved themselves by hitting first. Their air force is 95 percent French. The French have refused immediately to sell them anything or work with them, just like they have done to us in the past, and the Russians apparently are rebuilding rapidly the Egyptian Air Force, and whoever hits first out there generally wins because of the nature of the terrain, et cetera.

I would hope that you would be considering what we would do if the French continue to refuse to send any military assistance to Israel or, perhaps, if there are any friendly Arab countries left--sell planes would be better--and give what our policy will be towards Israel, if they have the ability to buy defenses from us if the French continue to run out on them.

Secretary Rusk. Senator, this is a question that is very, very much on our minds with the renewal by the Soviet Union of their substantial arms shipments to Egypt, Syria, and Algeria because--and I know the committee does not want to get into this in detail today--but we do have once again the problem which that posed for us before, because these three so-called progressive states heavily furnished with arms by the Soviet Union create threats not only to Israel as a possibility, but their own Arab neighbors--Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Tunisia, and Morocco.

We have tried in the past reluctantly because we have not wanted to become a major arms supplier in that part of the world, we have tried, with the help of some other governments, such as particularly France and Britain, to do a certain balancing there between the moderate Arab states and these three so-called progressive states, and then, in turn, to have some balance between the forces on the Arab side and Israel itself.

[Discussion off the record.]    Senator Symington. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The Chairman. Senator Aiken.


The Chairman. Mr. Secretary, there was one other matter that the committee discussed this morning, but since most of them have gone, I would think it is inappropriate maybe to raise it. This morning in the discussion of foreign aid they did send word or authorized the Secretary to give us a full report on the Israeli sinking of our ship. The matter of aid to Israel arose and, perhaps, we will just say now that at a later date, particularly on Friday, I am sure some of the members will want to raise that question.

Secretary Rusk. All right, Mr. Chairman.

The Chairman. Because they raised the question what about the aid in view of the attack on the Liberty ship.

Secretary Rusk. Well, I will be glad to discuss that.

I might just say at the moment that all the facts we are going to get, I think, are pretty well in, and we still have no satisfactory explanation of how it occurred.

We will be putting a bill in to the Israeli government for reparations and damages for both personnel and for damage to the ship, and that will be coming along as soon as we get all the data together. That will be a very substantial bill.

The Chairman. Well, I just wanted you to know it was raised this morning.

Well, thank you very much.

Secretary Rusk. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

The Chairman. The hearing is adjourned.

[Whereupon, at 6:20 p.m., the committee was adjourned.]    

July 26, 1967 - FOREIGN ASSISTANCE ACT OF 1967


Secretary McNamara. Yes. May I comment on three points. Who will approve it? What has been the past action? Where do we stand today?

First, there will be no military assistance, grant or sales, to Jordan that is not personally approved by the Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense. That has been the practice in the years that I have been associated with it, and it will be the practice in the future.

Secondly, what was the past policy? I want to speak on a very delicate matter and ask your cooperation in withholding this information from public forums.

The fact of the matter is that the recent agreements with Jordan--and when I say recent, I mean extending back, say, two or three years during which time agreements were made that totaled something on the order of 60 odd million dollars worth of supplies for an extended period of delivery--have, generally speaking, been made pursuant to the decision of the Israeli government. I want this clearly understood. There are some qualifications to this, and I do not mean to say that they approved every single transaction. But on the more important transactions, they were asked to make the decision. I personally negotiated with Eban and, as a matter of fact, I insisted that the Israeli government sign a statement indicating their approval of the supply of arms to Jordan.

Now, why did we do this?

Because we didn't want to feed the fires of an arms race in the Middle East. Our policy is quite the contrary. Nor did we want one of the parties publicly objecting to the supply to the other party.

Beyond that, we felt that the independence of Jordan and the character of its political life was a matter of primary concern to the Israelis, not to us.

As you pointed out a moment ago, we do have interests in the Middle East. Our private corporations have oil interests there and financial interests. The Western European nations depend on Middle Eastern oil to a considerable degree.

But, nonetheless, we felt that the primary interest was Israeli interest, and the primary responsibility must be that of Israelis.

So we said in effect to Israel, ``You decide''----

Senator Gore. What do you mean by primary?

Secretary McNamara. The primary responsibility for the decision as to whether we would or would not supply arms to Jordan must be Israel's and we said to them in effect, ``You decide. We have been requested to supply arms to Jordan. Those arms might be used against you. If the arms are not supplied, almost surely the current government will be overthrown. It will be replaced by another government. The Soviet Union will be the arms supplier to Jordan and may have important influence in this country that is on your border.''

And a very extended border indeed.

``But this matter is of so much greater importance to you than it is to us we are not going to act unless you certify we should act in a certain way. We want to tell you also that you must bear the responsibility for your decision. And if you decide we should not supply arms to Jordan, and King Hussein is overthrown, and the Soviets do become the primary supplier, and they do introduce military personnel or otherwise affect the security of your border, that is your decision and we don't want afterwards to have you claiming it is ours.''

Quite frankly, we put it just that directly, and after it was all over I said, ``Sign here.'' I don't want this discussed; and if it is to be discussed, I will deny it, because the very life of some of these people is involved.

Senator Symington. If the Senator will yield, you don't have to deny it. I want to completely confirm it with the gentleman in the room who was Ambassador to Jordan. I had asked the Israeli representative if he had any objection to selling the F-104's to Jordan and he said none whatsoever.

Mr. Macomber was in the room.

Secretary McNamara. These are delicate matters and, as I say, I would have to deny it. These are extremely delicate and obviously cannot be carried out without the Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense.

Senator Mundt. The same with Saudi Arabia?

Secretary McNamara. That instance is different. And I don't recall that we asked Israel to pass on Saudi Arabian matters; but I do know Israel is interested in, I will say, driving a wedge between the moderate Arabs among whom one would sometimes classify Saudi Arabia, and the radical Arabian nations, which I would say are Syria and Iraq and Egypt. So that I believe that Israel would favor the Saudi Arabian policy we followed, although I personally have not discussed it with any representatives of that government.


Senator Gore. Mr. Chairman--I hope from--the Secretary has misspoken himself a bit.    Secretary McNamara. I hope not, but I may have.

Senator Gore. Because I can understand why in such delicate matters we would obtain the advice of the Israeli government. I don't really think we ought to relegate to them the decision-making on a matter of this delicacy, but I have used my time and Senator Symington is chairman of the Middle Eastern subcommittee, and I want to defer.


Secretary McNamara. Yes, there is no question but what we have more evidence here of lack of intent to consciously attack a U.S. vessel than we had there.

May I finish by taking just one second to say I would like to go back and examine the record of the Tonkin Gulf incident which occurred three years ago, and on which my memory is a little hazy, to determine the evidence of conscious intent of attack. I think it is very clear. I think the evidence is that our communications intelligence intercepted orders that indicated intent to attack.

There was no evidence of that in the case of the Liberty.


Secretary McNamara. I, myself, had serious questions about each of them. I believe I am correct in saying that, in every instance, we substantially modified the request, and these were requests from foreign governments for these sales. I know that in the case of Iran, I personally cut the Iranian request back to the level at which it was ultimately settled contrary to the advice of our ambassador, who by the way was personally involved in this, and contrary to the advice of some other representatives of the government, but with the clear support of the Secretary of State.

In the case of F-5's to Morocco, my recollection is that we substantially reduced the number, again with the support of the Secretary of State.

In the case of A-4's to Argentina, there was a long, extensive negotiation and, I think, a very controversial one. The Secretary of State and Defense participated directly in that negotiation.

The sale of F-104's to Jordan, I alluded to earlier.

I personally handled this with the foreign minister of Israel, as well as with the King of Jordan and the official who serves him as both defense minister and chairman of the joint chiefs. I did so with the full knowledge and support of the Secretary of State.

These are typical sales agreements, every one of which, if it is of any importance, comes to my direct personal attention.


Senator Cooper. The chief volume of those sales would be to India and Pakistan.

Secretary McNamara. No, sir, although India and Pakistan might buy some, the chief volume in fiscal 1968 will be to Iran, to Saudi Arabia, and to Israel.


Senator Cooper. If these countries cannot pay, why don't you just list them in grants. Is it because you believe they can pay in time?

Secretary McNamara. Yes, sir. They very definitely can pay it back in time. Iran, for example, is one of the major countries which would receive this kind of guaranteed loan. Israel is another. I think it is very clear that both Israel and Iran can pay over a reasonable period--five, seven or ten years.


Secretary McNamara. In most instances, we have no treaty commitments to the underdeveloped countries. The amount of military equipment we are supplying them under sales agreements does not give them a capability to fight along with our side in any significant fashion. Here, the objective is quite different. The objective is in many cases to hold down an arms race, to avoid destabilizing relationships among nations such as would occur were we to deny military sales to Israel. I think that Israel represents, perhaps, a good example of the problem we would face if the revolving fund authority were cancelled, or if our use of Export-Import Bank credit for undeveloped countries is cancelled.

If that be the case, we cannot make military credit sales to Israel. If we cannot make military sales to Israel, the power balance between Israel and particularly the radical Arab countries will shift. This is a matter of concern particularly to our State Department and indirectly to the Defense Department.


Secretary McNamara. Except for one intra-NATO case, and a U.S. approved delivery in 1964 of tanks to Israel, we have not given our approval and no other transactions have been consummated. These were government to government transactions and no private firms were involved.

[Whereupon, at 2:15 p.m., the committee was adjourned.]    

Sources: Federation of American Scientists