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Lyndon Johnson Administration: Letter to Israeli PM Eshkol on Forthcoming Meeting

(February 20, 1964)

"Dear Mr. Prime Minister:

"I am delighted that you and I will soon have an opportunity to discuss our mutual interests and problems. The dates of June 1 and 2 would suit me well.

"I also want to thank you for the warm welcome given Sargent Shriver during his recent visit to Israel. He has told me in glowing terms of the hospitality he received. He was much impressed with the technical assistance work your people have undertaken, and he particularly enjoyed his meeting with you.

"As you know, we have been giving careful thought to your expressed concerns about Israel's security needs. In particular we can understand your worries over the growing imbalance between Israeli and Arab armor, and can see the justification for your feeling that you must take steps to modernize Israel's tank forces and anti-tank defenses. We are fully prepared to discuss this problem further with you.

"At the same time we are disturbed lest other steps which Israel may contemplate taking may unnecessarily contribute to a heightened arms race in the region without in fact contributing to your security. Among other things, we seem to have quite different estimates with respect to the likely UAR missile threat, and the potential costs and risks of various ways of meeting it. Because of our own link to Israel's security, I feel that these matters too are of legitimate mutual concern and merit frank discussion.

"As you and I are both so well aware, we face a number of issues this year that will demand a heavy investment of United States effort in support of Israel. Among them are the Jordan waters off-take, the activation of the Dimona reactor, and the related problems of Israel's security and the Near East arms race. We must work together to minimize undesirable repercussions and devise steps to avoid unnecessary increases in Arab antagonism, with the consequent weakening of the forces of moderation. At stake is United States influence with the Arabs, which we see as an essential component of our ability to help bring about any improvement in the relations between Israel and its neighbors.

"I am sure we will want to discuss all these matters when we meet. Pending our meeting, I hope that your people and mine can air them frankly and freely so as to narrow down any points of difference. In the meantime let me assure you again that your genuine security concerns remain very much in our minds, and we of course wish to keep in closest touch about any significant developments that might affect Israel's situation.


"Lyndon B. Johnson"

Sources: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968, V. 18, Arab-Israeli Dispute 1964-1967. DC: GPO, 2000.