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Lyndon Johnson Administration: Give “Just Enough” To Israel

(March 13, 1965)

Komer feels the United States has made a good deal with Israel. The United States is giving Israel what they want, which they do not feel will upset the Arab world to much. Komer is also confident that Israel will not try to make side deals to get more weapons.

190. Memorandum From Robert W. Komer of the National Security Council Staff to President Johnson/1/

Mission to Israel. I hope I'm right in saying that we finally got from the Israelis the essentials of what you wanted--their agreement to sit still on Jordan arms in return for some tanks and planes. State almost fouled us up again by rewriting the contract at the eleventh hour, but we got over that hurdle too. My final cable (attached)/2/ sums up the matter.

What really broke the logjam was our shifting (Mac tells me on your judgment) from a broad package understanding, which was simply too much to negotiate quickly, to a much more limited deal. Once we called their hand this way, and were prepared to talk hardware, they tried to shift back. However, Eshkol quickly settled when I told him first that we were going ahead with Jordan and then showed him concretely just what we were prepared to do for him.

On this last point, I was grateful that McNamara and Bundy accepted my recommendation we talk 24 planes instead of 20. This bit of give will cost us nothing in terms of any Arab reaction (24 is as bad as 20), yet it got us past the point of making Israel so strictly comparable to Jordan that the Israelis could cry foul. Nor will these necessarily have to be US planes.

I also taped down that (a) we don't want to see any Israelis here for six to eight weeks--this should buy us at least four; (b) attempted backdoor negotiating with the White House through unofficial emissaries hurts more than it helps; and (c) we will flatly oppose both premature jumping of the Arabs over water and Israel going nuclear. As a bonus, we got a written promise on the latter, for what promises are worth.

While I may be prejudiced (and also too tired to see the matter in the round), I think we finally came out all right--and without giving more than we'd have to give sooner or later anyway to our Israeli friends.

R. W. Komer

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Israel, Harriman Israeli Mission (II). Secret.

/2/Telegram 1333 from Athens, March 11; attached but not printed. A copy is in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 7 US/KOMER.

Sources: Department of State