John F. Kennedy Administration: Memorandum on Gazit Seeking Reaffirmation of U.S. Policy Toward Israel
(April 30, 1962)
Memorandum for the Record/1/
Luncheon with Israeli Minister Gazit
Gazit called me for lunch upon his return from Israel, apparently to talk about a number of problems concerning his government. He clearly felt unhappy about recent developments on Lake Tiberias and about the signs of a shift in US policy toward Nasser, especially as revealed during the Kaissouni visit (he was of course quite well-informed).
Gazit's main purpose seemed to be to float the idea that the Israelis could live with US economic support of Syria and even the UAR so long as they were adequately reassured with respect to US guarantees to them. In his opinion, the Israelis were tired of being told repeatedly by the US that Israel "was here to stay"; they needed some more tangible reassurance. For example, the President might write a secret letter to Ben Gurion along the following lines: (1) the US recognized Israel's security preoccupations; (2) Israel should be reassured that in event of clear-cut Arab aggression the US would take whatever steps were necessary to make sure that the attack could not succeed; (3) along with such reassurances the US could also ask that Israel pursue a policy of greater restraint with respect to incidents on its frontiers and cooperate more effectively with UNTSO, etc. so that ambiguous incidents would not arise. Gazit's point was that if Israel had more in the way of a security commitment from the US, it would not have to pursue such an activist policy. He further indicated that while such an idea was a personal one of his and indeed "contrary to his brief", he thought his government would be rather forthcoming in such circumstances.
Gazit implied that the Israelis had some indication that reassurances in some form for Israel were in the wind. But one big difficulty was that the US tended to issue such reassurances without any prior consultation with the Israelis. He felt that such consultations could take place in full secrecy, and that it would be much more profitable if they had a chance to discuss the matter with us. He complained bitterly about the way in which the US patronizingly makes such moves without any form of prior consultation.
Without discussing the merits of the issue, I pointed out that in any case involving two adverse parties, to have a prior consultation with one party made us their hostages if they should choose to use these to their own political advantage. He argued that there had been several communications between the US and Israel at Presidential level which had never been revealed by the Israelis; we could rely upon their keeping confidence.
Gazit indicated considerable knowledge of what was discussed with Kaissouni (I neither confirmed nor denied) and presumed that the next step after PL-480 and the stabilization program (he believed the UAR would accept IMF terms) would be a consortium. He questioned whether substantial development aid to the UAR would buy us much with Nasser; he felt that Nasser's political behavior remained as basically hostile as ever. He regarded the recent dispute in the Lake Tiberias area as having been provoked by Cairo Radio's constant pressure on Syria for not defending Arab interests against the Israelis, saying that Syria and Jordan were merely looking for a compromise under the infamous Johnston Plan for water take-off.
We briefly discussed the Shah's visit. He had heard from a middle level source in the Iranian Embassy that the Shah thought the visit had gone rather well, and had been pleased with the military hardware offered.
Gazit and I had spent the first half of luncheon discussing the events in Algeria and Morocco, including Ben Bella's remarks and their later retraction by the PAG. He seemed to endorse our policy on arms for Morocco and perhaps Algeria in competition with the Soviets; we agreed that the French should shoulder the main burden here, and might be more forthcoming in the light of the Algerian settlement. However, Gazit then posed the question of whether we would give arms to Syria on a similar basis of attempting to preclude Soviet aid or whether we would prefer to have our European allies do so. I told him that I knew of no plans for US arms sales to the Syrians and that these seemed to be in quite a different category from those to Morocco or potentially Algeria. I opined that if the French continued on the line of developing cordial relationships with the new Algerian regime, its ties with Moscow and Cairo might not develop too far.
/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Meetings and Memoranda Series, Staff Memoranda, Robert W. Komer. No classification marking. Drafted by Komer.
/2/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.
Sources: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963: Near East, 1962-1963, V. XVIII. DC: GPO, 2000.