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Lyndon Johnson Administration: Israelis Agree to American Terms On Aircraft

(February 22, 1966)

In this memorandum, President Johnson's deputy special assistant for national security affairs let President Johnson know that the Americans pressured the Israelis into agreeing to their terms about the military aircraft sales to Israel and Jordan. He also let Johnson know that the U.S. can sell Jordan military aircraft, which will please the Arab League and prevent Jordan from acquiring Soviet aircraft.

Memorandum From the President's Deputy Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Komer) to President Johnson/1/

Washington, February 22, 1966, 6 p.m.

Our tactic of sicking McNamara on the Israelis seems to have worked. I got Eban down here on the 12th and McNamara dusted him off in twenty no-nonsense minutes.

As predicted, the Israelis have come back essentially settling for our terms./2/ They've added enough oral caveats, however, that we think we'll insist on the terms in writing.

In short, we'll sell Israel 48 A4Es (about $50 million), and they will undertake in return to: (1) quietly support our sale of 36 secondhand F-104s to Jordan; (2) reaffirm their promises not to go nuclear unless others do; (3) keep the whole matter quiet until we decide how to publicize it; and (4) not bother us any further on planes for the next several years.

Meanwhile King Hussein has replied to your oral message/3/ asking him to sit tight for a few more weeks. He again appeals for help, saying that otherwise when the Arab leaders meet on 14 March he'll have to give in and take MIGs. King Feisal is also in, appealing that you help out Hussein. We are now able to get Hussein off the hook by offering him the secondhand F-104s in three increments of 12 a year beginning in 1968. We'll charge cash (it should net us about $50 million too) because the oil-rich Arabs are footing the bill. Once we are satisfied with the Israeli commitments, may we go ahead with the Jordan sale? We'll get some criticism, no matter what we do, but in my judgement, the risk is now less one of Zionist complaints (though we'll get some) than of the Arabs doing something foolish. If we play our hand skillfully, however, we believe we can handle this.

R. W. Komer

See me/4/

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Israel, Vol. 5. Secret.

/2/A memorandum of the February 19 conversation between Harman and Hoopes is attached to a February 21 memorandum from Hoopes to Hare and Komer. (Ibid., Files of Robert W. Komer, Israel Security, Arms/Aircraft, 1966)

/3/Johnson's oral message was transmitted in telegram 379 to Amman, February 14. It assured the King that it remained U.S. policy to "support the integrity and progress of Jordan to the fullest extent" but that Jordan's request for supersonic aircraft raised grave problems for the United States. It stated that Johnson had asked for an urgent and searching re-examination of how the problem could best be met. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, DEF 12-5 JORDAN) The text of the King's oral response was transmitted in telegram 496 from Amman, February 17. (Ibid.)

/4/This option is checked. The President indicated his approval on a February 25 memorandum from Komer to the President, filed with this memorandum, which states that the Departments of State and Defense believed it urgent to move promptly on the sale to Jordan.

Sources: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968, V. 18, Arab-Israeli Dispute 1964-1967. DC: GPO, 2000.