Lyndon Johnson Administration: Negotiations Over the Sale of Phantom Jets
(November 5, 1968)
Negotiations with Israel-F-4 and Advanced Weapons
Ambassador of Israel, Lieutenant General Yitzhak Rabin
Major General Hod, Commander, Israeli Defense Force Air Force
Brigadier General David Carmon, Defense and Armed Forces Attach6
Mr. J. Shapiro, Director, Ministry of Defense Mission, New York
United States Side
Assistant Secretary of Defense (ISA), Paul C. Warnke
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (ISA), Harry H. Schwartz
Deputy Director, NESA Region (ISA), Robert J. Murray
Mr. Warnke told Ambassador Rabin that what he had done was to set out in a Memorandum of Agreement the points discussed yesterday. 2 Mr. Warnke then passed the memorandum to Ambassador Rabin to read.
Ambassador Rabin, having finished reading the memorandum said: "As I understand it you put three basic conditions to the sale of F-4s."
Mr. Warnke said that the word "understandings" would perhaps be more appropriate.
Ambassador Rabin said "I prefer to put it in my words: First, Israel will not test or deploy strategic missiles; second, we will not acquire strategic missiles or nuclear weapons; and third we would sign and ratify the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. You also ask to make inspections, making a fourth condition." Ambassador Rabin asked: "Is this the official United States position, that without these conditions we do not get Phantoms?"
Mr. Warnke: "That would be my recommendation." Ambassador Rabin said he was not in a position to give his Government's answer.
Mr. Warnke said we understood that. He would like to say that the words of the memorandum were his. It is the assurances we seek, not the form.
Ambassador Rabin restated that he could not give his Government's position, but that his reaction was: "I don't believe Israel is going to accept conditions within a Memorandum of Understanding about selling the Phantoms. We were told more than once that there would be no conditions-at least not these kinds of conditions." The Ambassador then added, haltingly: "It would be a pity-all these conditions on paper-just for 50 Phantoms."
Mr. Warnke said that he did not consider what was being discussed was "just 50 Phantom aircraft." He said that if we sold these 50 Phantom aircraft to Israel, our position would have changed markedly to one of the principal supplier of arms to Israel and he thought that the significance of this change is something that should be thought about very carefully by the Israeli Government as well as by our own. It is of great importance to Israel on the one hand and it is of significance to the United States on the other because it means that the security of the United States is more closely involved in the area. It is this larger matter which should be considered concurrently with the assurances for which we have asked.
Ambassador Rabin said that it would be possible to have discussions on each of the items. But he again said, as his personal reaction, that "to have these conditions just for selling of 50 Phantoms, I don't think it is right."
Mr. Warnke repeated that the Department of Defense would consider any other form which would give us similar assurances that Israel would care to propose. Ambassador Rabin asked for time to study the memorandum more carefully. He asked also whether, in the meantime, it would be possible for Major General Hod to talk with the U.S. Air Force.
Mr. Warnke said that he had spoken with Mr. Hoopes, Under Secretary of the Air Force, who agreed to arrange for a F-4E briefing for General Hod and would expect a call from Hod tomorrow.
Mr. Warnke said that we had drafted the Memorandum of Agreement so that Israel could see clearly the things that trouble us. Whether the assurances we receive are contained in separate documents or whether we come to separate understandings is, to our way of thinking, irrelevant. We feel we must know what missile and nuclear developments are going on in the Middle East. These vitally affect the national security interests of the United States. There has been a long and strong relationship between our two countries. We must have mutual trust and confidence. [8½ lines of source text not declassified]
Mr. Warnke said that he would be gone for the next several days, but if it was necessary to have further discussions in this period that the Ambassador should contact Mr. Nitze or Mr. Schwartz.
Sources: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968, V. 20, Arab-Israeli Dispute 1967-1968. DC: GPO, 2001.