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Lyndon Johnson Administration: Memorandum on Israeli Efforts To Get More Planes After The Tank Deal

(June 16, 1965)

Komer does not want to sell Israel planes. They have already made a good deal with Israel on tanks and now Israel is pushing for more.

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

Planes for Israel. Our Israeli friends are typically pressing us to enrich the secret arms deal as much as possible. Since we've done even better than they originally expected on tanks, they're now zeroing in on aircraft.

When I was out there, they talked about an old light bomber like the B-66, which they thought they could buy for peanuts. We agreed to help them get up to 24 "combat" planes (not necessarily bombers) either in Europe or here. Since then we've convinced them that the B-66 is not available as surplus so now they're asking for the F-4, our fanciest current operational model./2/

The F-4 is (a) simply outside the spirit of our understanding; (b) would cost them a mint; and (c) would raise hob with the Arabs. Rusk is very strongly opposed; he doesn't even want to sell old planes.

This memo is to (a) inform you so you'll be ready for any backdoor approaches; and (b) ask you to let me say I've confirmed our negative position at the highest level--hopefully this will fob off further useless talk. We can always take another look later. The alternative is not to bring your name into this yet, but I fear the Israelis won't look seriously in Europe unless I can do so. I already have Feldman on my neck.

Keep me out of this as yet/3/

R. W. Komer

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Israel, Vol. IV. Secret. A note on the source text states that the memorandum was received at 10 a.m.

/2/A June 10 letter from Harman to Talbot states that Israel had been unable to find suitable military aircraft in Europe and was looking to the United States for a plane such as the Phantom. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, DEF 12-5 ISR)

/3/This option is checked.

/4/Bundy initialed below Komer's signature.

Sources: U.S. Department of State