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Lyndon Johnson Administration: Pressure on Israel to Accept U.S. Arms for Jordan

(March 1, 1965)

In this internal wire, United States officials are discussing the situation regarding arms, Israel and Jordan.

Message From Robert W. Komer of the National Security Council Staff to the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)1

Tel Aviv, March 1, 1965.

For McGeorge Bundy from Komer.

1. Need your help in resolving apparent failure effective communications between Washington and here evident from Eyes Only Deptel 847.2

2. Well realize Washington may think we need be bucked up, but we've already made and remade every point Deptel 847 in far stronger terms, especially on nuclear weapons. I'm surprised Israelis still speak to me. Also Harriman told them flatly that if they used force on Jordan waters US would be "spang up" against them.

3. Realize Washington worried about mounting Arab counterpressures, but as Harriman says even Soviets are less tough bargainers than Israelis. Harriman, Barbour and I convinced what set back talks was draft Eshkol letter to President we instructed propose. We can get credible assurances if we prepared pay price, but not in this form.

4. In line Deptel we'll threaten again to turn against Israelis if they don't play ball, but this not too credible. Also sure President doesn't want us break too much crockery at time US aid to Arabs already under fire, we trying get new aid bill through Congress, and we face major Jordan water crisis. Nor can we say too loudly we'll withdraw from Middle East and let chips fall where they may.

5. Crux of matter is that these people have received so many broken promises in their long history of dealings with great powers that they must get more than general statements we'll help them out with arms. Though we've said till we're blue in face that they can and must trust US word, no mistaking their determination keep negotiating, if possible in Washington, till they get more on arms.

6. Moreover, let's put ourselves in their shoes and realize we're asking for several specific pledges on matters they regard as essential their security, in return for very unspecific pledges on our part. True, they need us more than we need them, but we can't high pressure them in a few days to settle matters we've been arguing about for several years. At any rate, we can't do so without a little more flexibility.

7. As I tried indicate in Embtels 1060 and 1068,3 there must be some way to be specific enough to meet Eshkol's needs without really robbing us of much freedom of action. We're buying so little by delaying the inevitable that I conclude State's chief worry is leaks here which could grievously harm us with Arabs. I couldn't agree more, but let's carefully examine risk of general contingent commitments we have in effect already given without getting firm pledge of secrecy versus risks of leak slightly more specific commitments for which we can get strongest secrecy pledges. Frankly, we're already compromised by leakage German deal, imperatives of selling to Israel once we sell to Jordan, and resultant offers we've already been authorized make here. So risk to us in going slightly farther seems to me far less than risks we already courting.

8. Any mileage in getting McNamara to look at possible Vautour deal mentioned Embtel 1068?

9. Finally, remember time pressure is requiring us use such strenuous tactics to force Israeli hand that they've probably concluded they can either bid up price now or get further delay while they keep bargaining. Though we've told them they must choose whether to lose Jordan, trouble is they know we are in a bind.

10. I'll stay here pushing hard but urge you help get us minimum necessary to put across early deal, US itself needs as much as Israel at this point. Even so, across-the-board package deal so complex and involves so many gut issues, that breaking up package in favor of more limited understanding along lines alternative B in Embtel 1068 may be best we can get. We just can't settle water issue here and now. My personal view is alternative A shouldn't be ignored either, but this probably too risky.


1 Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Israel, Harriman Israeli Mission (I). Secret. Received at the White House at 1728Z.

2 Document 169.

3 Documents 165 and 168.

Sources: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968, V. 20, Arab-Israeli Dispute 1967-1968. DC: GPO, 2001.