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Meir Discusses Egyptian Threat With Secretary of State

(September 30, 1963)



New York, September 1963


  • Middle East Affairs—Israeli Security


  • United States
    • The Secretary of State
    • Mr. Joseph J. Sisco
    • Mr. Robert O. Blake
  • Israel
    • Mrs. Golda Meir, Foreign Minister of Israel
    • H. E. Avraham Harman, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S.

Mrs. Meir observed that Israel no longer is so concerned about Arab unity. She also believes that the situation in Jordan is more stable. The King had shown himself to be a reasonable man, and Jordan now is, with the exception of Lebanon, the most stable Arab government, if only the King could somehow be assured that his life would be saved.

There was a short discussion of the Jordan waters situation, with Mrs. Meir saying the Israelis have recently suggested a plan to the United States for the control of salinity along the lower reaches of the Jordan River.

Mrs. Meir said the big question still remains Nasser. Israeli experts report that the Yemen operation in costing the UAR over 80 million Egyptian pounds a month, not including the upkeep of Egyptian forces. The Secretary observed that to date UNYOM had not been a roaring success but there had been some stabilization of the regimes in Jordan and Saudi Arabia as a result. Mrs. Meir said that the UAR is getting some benefits in the form of training. The UAR forces were using poison gas, including mustard gas. Mr. Sisco said our information did not confirm this but rather indicated that the Egyptians were using a high concentration of tear gas. Mrs. Meir said Israeli information was different.

Mrs. Meir said Israel continues to be very disturbed about the activities of German scientists in the UAR in the field of poison gases, missiles, etc. In reply to the Secretary’s question about the guidance systems for UAR missiles, Mrs. Meir said that while they were originally quite primitive, recently there had been indications that at least 50% of these troubles had been eliminated. As of now 50% of UAR missiles dispatched towards a target area such as Tel Aviv would land in the target area and by 1965 the UAR will have accurate missiles in quantity.

The Secretary said it would be useful for the United States and Israel to exchange views on this situation. Mrs. Meir agreed, saying Israel must avoid allowing the UAR to gain definite military superiority. The Israeli Government does not know what to do because the cost of missile programs is so frighteningly high. She had been asked by Prime Minister Eshkol to discuss this as a most urgent matter with the United States Government. Israel does not need to have the same quantity of missiles and other advance weapons as does the UAR, but she must have at least the same quality of weapons. Nasser will not start a war unless he feels he can win. Therefore, Israel must maintain a strong deterrent. There then followed a somewhat inconclusive discussion of the type of missiles which the UARpossessed. Mrs. Meir observed that the UAR had been given certain types of military equipment which even the socialist countries of Eastern Europe had not received.

Mrs. Meir said it would be useful to arrange for a session with American experts and that Israel would be glad to pass on any information it had. Ambassador Harman said he would arrange a session and hoped that representatives of both State and Defense could participate.

Mrs. Meir said that she was concerned about two particular types of weapons, tanks and missiles. Israel was thinking of procuring some of the new European tanks. The Secretary observed that U.S. military authorities considered the tank to be rapidly on the way out because of the ability of the individual soldier to destroy it with modern weapons.

Mrs. Meir said there continues to be some evidence that the UAR is building a nuclear capability. She referred to documents which were made available by an Austrian scientist during the recent trial of Israeli citizens in Switzerland. These documents had shown that the UAR was attempting to buy cobalt and other materials with the idea of building a nuclear capability. The UAR was also doing advance work in chemical and radiological warfare. The Secretary asked if the Israeli Government had information on the location of factories which produced this type of material. Mrs. Meir said they had some information. The Secretary said this would be useful information to have.

Mrs. Meir said Israeli military experts would come to Washington as soon as possible with all the details. The Secretary urged again that the Israeli experts bring along all the information they had regarding the location of UAR facilities producing advance weapons. The United States is pretty sure that it knows what is going on at locations known to U.S. intelligence. Our information does not support some of the Israeli claims. It was agreed that the talks might take place in ten days to two weeks.1

The Secretary said he had not lost hope of working out some facets of regional disarmament which would be useful to Israel. For example, the United States proposed the mutual destruction of obsolete bombers with the thought in mind that Soviet bombers would then not show up in other parts of the world. We have also suggested that the Soviet Union and the United States move on from the destruction of bombers into the destruction of other sophisticated weapons as they become obsolete. In reply to Mrs. Meir’s question as to whether there were any results, the Secretary said there were no positive results on these points to date but the United States has not given up hope of some substantive limitation of arms in the Middle East. Mrs. Meir remarked that Israel could not afford to live on hope but she, too, hoped Nasser would give up the senseless arms race.

The Secretary said that he had talked with UAR Foreign Minister Fawzi at Geneva, saying that not only the big powers but also the small powers should think of how they could disarm, and that the eight neutrals at Geneva should consider this problem. Fawzi had agreed that this was important.

The Secretary asked Mr. Sisco to outline the current status of the UNRWA item. Mr. Sisco did so, including an indication of our desire to get assurances from both sides not to submit any resolution since none was necessary.

1In telegram 320, October 5, the Department of State informed the Embassy in Tel Aviv that the United States and Israel had reached agreement to hold a meeting on November 12, chaired by Talbot, during which Israeli defense and intelligence officials would present to their U.S. counterparts information on which Israel based its assessment of UAR missile capacity. (Ibid., DEF 12 ISR-US).

Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL ISR-US. Secret; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Blake on October 2 and approved in S on October 3. The meeting was held at the U.S. Mission. Foreign Relations of The United States, 1961–1963, Volume XVIII, NEAR EAST, 1962–1963.