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John F. Kennedy Administration: State Department Opposes Security Guarantee for Israel

(August 22, 1963)

This is a memorandum from the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, Sloan, to the Deputy Assistant Secretay of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, Grant, discussing the question of a U.S. security guarantee for Israel.

Dear Jim: Enclosed are the comments of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on your letter of 15 July. We generally concur in these comments.

Our evaluation is that the true desire of the Israelis is for more public and open alignment and support from the U.S. rather than a great interest in advanced weaponry or purely military planning. It is further our feeling that there is little or no advantage to the U.S. in going beyond the type of public assurances contained in the President's May 8th statement.

While we might advise them that we are willing to increase the amount of training in the U.S. available to them, or engage in some completely confidential exchanges of military views, it is most unlikely that such low key responses would either satisfy their desire for more open support, or really meet a true Israeli military need.

Because of the size of the territory and the nature of the threat, joint planning would have little military value. The Joint Chiefs of Staff have current unilateral contingency plans covering the rapid application of varying degrees of force and have developed military studies with the British permitting coordinated bilateral US-UK military actions, if considered appropriate. These contingency plans and studies give the United States the capacity to put military teeth into our existing protective attitude toward Israel and are considered adequate to foreseeable U.S. military requirements in the event of Arab-Israeli hostilities. In short, it is the political value of open military support which the Israelis desire, and which we do not recommend.

Without unnecessary repetition of the Joint Chiefs comments, we see no good reason for alteration of our present Middle East arms policy. We say this not only because we are skeptical that it is pinching the Israelis noticeably, but also because it seems plain that we will respond affirmatively to their valid requests for purchase of appropriate defensive weapons when needed to help maintain the arms balance in the area.

I trust this letter together with the Joint Chiefs memorandum is responsive to the question raised in your letter.

Sincerely yours,


Sources: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963: Near East, 1962-1963, V. XVIII. DC: GPO, 2000.