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Lyndon Johnson Administration: Memorandum on Pressure in Campaign for Tanks for Israel

(May 11, 1964)

This document emphasizes the extraordinary pressure the U.S. was under vis a vis the issue of selling tanks to Israel. The U.S. was reluctant to sell tanks and the Administration pressured Congress, the Jewish press, and leaders of the Jewish community to be silent on the issue to curry favors with the administration.

Memorandum From the President's Deputy Special Counsel (Feldman) to President Johnson1

Washington, May 11, 1964.


Tanks for Israel

I have rarely been exposed to as much pressure as I have had recently on the question of tanks for Israel.

It has been only after considerable effort that members of Congress have been restrained against making speeches on the question, the Anglo-Jewish press has killed several articles, and responsible leaders of the Jewish community have demonstrated their confidence in the Administration by keeping silent.

I call this to your attention at this time because the pressure continues to mount and I believe we should prepare our position as soon as possible so that we may be able either to (1) take advantage of any favorable decision or (2) counter any adverse decision.

I believe the various Government departments concerned are now ready with their recommendations, and I am ready with mine.

Myer Feldman2


1 Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Israel, Tanks, Vol. I. No classification marking. A handwritten "L" on the memorandum indicates the President saw it. A handwritten note by Walter Jenkins reads: "Mac--President says pls talk to Feldman and LBJ about this." In a May 13 telephone conversation, Bundy asked Johnson's approval to have Senator Abraham Ribicoff and New York banker Abraham Feinberg tell Ambassador Harman and any Jewish leader they thought necessary that public discussion of the question of tanks for Israel would be counterproductive. It would "make life tough for our British friends," Bundy commented, if it looked "as if we were passing the buck to them." He told Johnson that he was with Ribicoff, who was willing "to try and keep things buttoned up" if Johnson wanted. Johnson approved, saying, "I want him to stop everybody that's talking about it." (Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Bundy, May 13, 1964, 3:35 p.m., Tape F64.26, Side B, PNO 7)

2 Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.

Sources: Department of State