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John F. Kennedy Administration: Circular Telegram on U.S.-Israeli Talks On Security Threats

(November 13, 1963)

This is a circular telegram from the Department of State to certain posts providing information on the November 12-13, 1963 U.S.-Israeli talks on Israeli security concerns and the UAR military threat.

Talks with Israeli representatives on UAR military threat involved two three-hour sessions under chairmanship Talbot November 12-13. First session devoted to Israeli presentation consisted half hour general intelligence assessment UAR order of battle and one-hour discussion UAR missile and sophisticated weapon capability. Balance on over-all UAR military threat concentrated heavily upon talks and conventional weapons. UAR missile threat characterized useless for military targets but capable disrupting Israeli mobilization effort by strikes upon heavily populated areas. Also possession missiles might encourage over-confidence in UAR offensive capability precipitating general conventional and non-conventional attack. Only comment to query on status Israeli missile program was certain preparatory studies made, but still need much money, knowledge, and know-how to get into business.

Second session comprised military critique Israeli presentation stressing 1) exaggeration UAR tank and naval threat and 2) US doubts about UAR missile and sophisticated weapon capabilities. Following discussion period Talbot made summation:

1. Both sides appear agree UAR missile capability limited.

2. Acquisition missiles by Israel would cause intense UAR effort obtain Soviet missiles, thus enhancing rather than reducing threat war in Near East.

3. Resulting cold war polarization in area would cause more difficulties for Israeli security than does present UAR missile capability.

4. Secretary and President concerned about escalation arms race in Near East.

5. Any suggestions on how to effect arms limitation welcome.

6. Nasser well aware UAR could not attack Israel without sparking seriously damaging non-Israeli reaction.

7. Israel has assurances given both publicly and in bilateral official communications of deep US concern for Israeli security and intent to safeguard it.

8. If in pursuit this goal US should choose course of aligning itself with Israel through security guarantee, joint planning and arms buildup, Arabs would react by seeking similar arrangements with USSR.

9. Resulting cold war polarization detrimental to US security interests as well as to Israel's.

10. We perceive tacit but growing Arab acceptance of Israel and desire avoid steps that would reverse this trend.

11. Would hope Israel in addition to military preparedness would see value in pressing forward toward accommodation with Arabs.

12. US appreciates frank expression Israeli views and would be glad receive through military attaché channels further pertinent information Israeli reps indicated they wished supply in response some questions raised in our critique.

Ambassador Harman responded he appreciated discussion and US concern for Israel security and would like take away from conference areas of agreement:

1. There is minimum margin safety below which Israel defense capabilities must not be permitted to drop.

2. Minimum margin safety for tanks ratio one Israeli to two or three Arab.

3. Based upon this minimum margin, necessary replace with new tanks 300 out-moded Sherman tanks and acquire additional 200 to meet anticipated UAR tank build up by 1965.

4. Principle minimum margin safety also applies to Israeli naval defense requirements.

5. No great difference over facts on UAR missile capability. UAR has missile, corps experts and working improve weapons in inventory. Economic cost production unimportant to UAR.

6. Israel fears possession missiles plus military build up in other areas could trigger UAR offensive.

7. UAR has missiles in production and far more advanced in this field than Israel.

8. Israel supports concept total disarmament coupled with mutual inspection but no indication readiness any form disarmament on other side.

9. Israel looks forward to continuous association along lines present discussion.

Talbot concluded purpose talks not reach agreed conclusions but merely exchange views on Israeli intelligence presented.

You should disabuse Israeli officials regarding conclusion any agreements on UAR military capabilities, Israel's needs, or any intent that November 12-13 talks should be base for future discussions.

More detailed report after study transcript talks.



Sources: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963: Near East, 1962-1963, V. XVIII. DC: GPO, 2000.