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Lyndon Johnson Administration: Johnson and Aides Discuss Israel/Jordan Arms and Aid

(February 11, 1966)

This memo records the proposal for Jordanian and Israeli aircraft sales, where Israel gets 48 aircraft, including the A-4E aircraft instead of the A-6 aircraft

Memorandum for Record/1/

Washington, February 11, 1966, 11:46 a.m.-1:12 p.m.

President's Meeting on Israel/Jordan Matters

The President
Secretary Rusk
Secretary McNamara
Secretary Vance
Director Bell
Ambassador Hare
Mr. Komer

1. Plane Sales to Israel/Jordan. Secretary Rusk described the proposal being recommended, i.e., sale of 48 aircraft to Israel. He saw dangers even in selling the A-4E, but much stronger political as well as military arguments against selling the A-6 which the Israelis now wanted. There was also the nuclear angle. At the same time, it was proposed that we offer Jordan 36 F-104s or F-5s. Secretary McNamara felt that we could not even consider the A-6. It was an extremely complicated aircraft, and the bugs hadn't even been worked out yet. We had only one squadron. There were security problems with its electronics. Its price was four times as expensive as the A-4E. There was a shortage in our own supply for Vietnam. Selling the A-6 would also inflame the Middle East arms race, in particular scaring the Arabs about Israeli nuclear capabilities, since it was designed as a nuclear weapons carrier.

The President asked Secretary McNamara to take on the job of dealing with the Israelis on this matter. He noted the pressure he was under from the Congress on Israeli matters. He had already had to talk with twelve Congressmen, plus Foreign Minister Eban. So McNamara should call Eban back here and tell him we couldn't possibly sell A-6s, for the reasons McNamara had given. McNamara should find out if Israel was willing to have us sell to Jordan. He should tell the Israelis that we would sell them "X" aircraft and give them "X" dollars in aid if they would sew up everyone in Congress to keep quiet about our Jordan and Israeli sales. McNamara should say that our proposition was a final one; all the pressure in the world would not change it.

2. After a brief discussion of economic aid to Israel, the President agreed that perhaps it was better to hold off telling the Israelis how much economic aid we could give in 1966 until we settle the plane matter.

3. On desalting, Bell and McNamara suggested that we should not help the Israelis on any plant that was uneconomic. We should help out with loans at the normal rate for the investment required, but there should be no subsidies. As to the Israeli proposal for creating a two-man committee, the President agreed that we should work out first what we could do financially on the project before we agreed to set up such a committee.

Here follows discussion of unrelated matters.


/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Name File, Komer Memos, Vol. II. Secret. The time of the meeting is taken from the President's Daily Diary, which also lists McNaughton and Hoopes among those present. (Ibid.) The memorandum is dated February 12.

Sources: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968, V. 20, Arab-Israeli Dispute 1967-1968. DC: GPO, 2001.