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John F. Kennedy Administration: Telegram Addressing Israel Questions on U.S. Foreign Military Policy and Aid

(May 28, 1962)

This telegram is from the U.S. Deprtment of State to the Israeli Embassy addressing Israel's concerns regarding U.S. military aid and complaints about U.S. policy.

Following from uncleared memcom between Secretary and Ambassador Harman arranged at latter's initiative to present GOI views obtained during his recent consultations in Jerusalem.

1. Israel's Security: Harman said in atmosphere of uncertainty surrounding Israel Government and public his interpretation USG's professions intent to support Israel in case of assault had not dispelled anxiety since assurances USG would be involved if Israel attacked, and that USG had so informed Arabs, had to be qualified by statement USG would not relax its policy re arms supply nor engage in contingency planning. His statement that in case of trouble situation would be discussed on diplomatic level had been disappointing. Secretary commented that this is mode of communication between governments; that decisions could not be made by "colonels on both sides". Harman agreed, but said he assumed US policy implying military involvement would be reflected in advance joint planning and prior establishment agreed channels military communication.

In response to Secretary's query re arms balance as assessed by Israel's military, Harman reported no concern for immediate future but great deal for two or three years hence. He described UAR as key problem since its naval forces so far ahead Israel not even trying keep abreast; its infantry increasing from 11 to 14 brigades; its armor from four to nine brigades; and its ground carrier fleet tripled. Israel's major vulnerability remains air attack since Egypt has received eight TU-16 long-range bombers which can operate from bases deep in Egypt far beyond Israel's attack range. In addition, MIG-21s are on way, UAR pilots having had preliminary training. Israel believes UAR to receive ground-to-air missiles in use of which it probably has also had prior training. While USG's overtures to Nasser may impose restraining influence, this is calculated risk to Israel's security suggesting USG should give Israel compensatory or counter-balancing gesture.

Secretary referred to Department assurances to Deputy Defense Minister Peres (Deptel 755)/2/ that US would re-study Israel's security position. He asked Harman not to infer change in US position. While periodic review of possibly changing situations is appropriate, he said, no conclusions should be drawn as to its possible findings.

2. Heads of State Correspondence: Harman said that, in view of unfortunate impressions and misconceptions accumulated in past six months re US policy, would be helpful if colloquium initiated year ago between heads of state could be resumed especially as both governments are agreed mounting tensions may lie ahead in Near East. He said US initiative might spark continuation of this colloquium which could clear "psychological deck". Secretary was noncommittal.

3. Direct Negotiations: Harman found Israel very critical of US vote against Brazzaville Resolution. Of all world conflicts only in Palestine complex is negotiation rejected as matter of principle. Direct negotiation resolution would have strengthened hands of those Arabs who are resigned to inevitable settlement with Israel. Secretary asked whether there are such Arabs and emphasized that US enthusiastically supports direct negotiations if there is slightest prospect of success. If such prospect exists, Israel has means to learn about it and also US antennae would be among first to react to evidence such possibility.

On Harman's expression dissatisfaction with Brazzaville Resolution and US role in April 9 Security Council resolution, Secretary remarked Israel Government was fully aware in advance of US attitude. On Brazzaville Resolution, Israel had been informed that US preferred no resolution but Israel had gone ahead to inspire just such resolution. Israel of course is not US satellite but contrary also true. Similarly Israel could be in no doubt as to US attitude towards retaliatory raid. Secretary said he hopes he has made clear that if Israel relies on US support, US is entitled to be consulted.

4. Jordan Valley Development: In connection foregoing Secretary asked if USG has been fully informed Israel's water development schedule and diversion volume planned. Harman replied affirmatively.

Harman complained also of US attitude on status Jerusalem and on Israel's sovereignty over Tiberias.


/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.84A/5-2062. Secret. Drafted by Hamilton, cleared by Pezzullo (S/S) and Strong, and approved by Talbot. Repeated to Jerusalem, Baghdad, Amman, Cairo, Damascus, Jidda, Beirut, London, and Paris.

/2/Document 275.

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