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Lyndon Johnson Administration: Haggling Over Arms to Jordan and Israel

(March 7, 1965)

The U.S. requests that Israel not do anything to disrupt an arms deal that the U.S. wants to make with King Hussein and is looking to avoid commitments to Israel.

181. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Israel/1/

889. For Komer from McGeorge Bundy.

1. Have reviewed all your messages over this week end and have had long talks with highest authority. I detect a difference in temper between our sense of the problem and yours, which this message aims to bridge. Current clear preference here is for a prompt and clear-cut understanding limited as closely as possible to the immediate problem of Jordan arms sale. The general line in Deptel 685/2/ is not a bargaining tactic but his genuine preference.

2. Highest authority does not now believe we should accept continuing general open-ended obligation to supply arms to Israel. The carefully hedged offer in Harriman's initial instructions was matched by a requirement of strong Israeli undertakings on nuclear weapons and on avoidance of pre-emptive attack over Jordan waters. But Israelis resist flat undertakings which affect their ultimate sovereign power. (This Israeli reluctance has been reaffirmed forcibly through Feinberg today--protect source.)

3. In this situation White House view is we should leave these larger wider questions open for later discussion. We cannot now get a guarantee on the nuclear matter or even on Jordan waters. We have requested State-Defense coordination on concrete proposal which might meet Eshkol's aside to you--taking account of your own recommendations to us. In addition we would want a gentlemen's agreement that our deal with Hussein will not be undercut by Israel, but we do not currently think that Eshkol letter to President is essential means of registering this gentlemen's agreement.

This message is for guidance only and is not an instruction. Instruction should follow today or tomorrow, and present object is simply to insure that in any intervening discussion you focus attention sharply on the immediate problem of Jordan decision and a balancing arms offer to Israel. Highest authority wishes to take every possible step to turn talks away from open-ended arms commitment now./3/


/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, DEF 12-5 JORDAN. Secret; Priority; Exdis. The message was drafted at the White House and sent to the Department of State with a note from Bundy stating that it had been cleared in substance by Ball and should not be sent until Talbot saw it. The telegram indicates that it was cleared by Talbot.

/2/The reference should be to telegram 865, Document 175.

/3/Komer replied in telegram 1131, March 8, which reads in part as follows: "Read Deptel 889 loud and clear. Our tempered reaction is that prompt and limited understanding along lines described possble if we prepared pay reasonable price." (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, DEF 12-5 JORDAN)

Sources: U.S. Department of State