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Lyndon Johnson Administration: Telegram Discourages Withholding Arms To Pressure Israel

(November 22, 1966)

This telegram discusses the disadvantages of restricting arms delivery to Israel and urges the Johnson administration to seek other ways to demonstrate to Israel that its raid on Jordan was unacceptable.

Amman 1120, 1180 and 1200;/2/ Tel Aviv 1742;/3/ USDAO Amman 1703 Nov 66./4/ Joint State-Defense.

/2/Regarding telegram 1120 from Amman, see footnote 2, Document 337. Telegram 1180 from Amman, November 20, urged a favorable response to the Jordanian request for military equipment but stated that the Embassy was convinced the most effective action to help Hussein, deter future Israeli attacks, and benefit the U.S. image in the Middle East would be an announcement of suspension of military deliveries to Israel. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, DEF 19-8 US-JORDAN) Telegram 1200 from Amman, November 21 reiterated the Embassy's view that the action that would have the maximum impact in Jordan would be an announcement of suspension of military deliveries to Israel. (Ibid., POL 32-1 ISR-JORDAN)

/3/See footnote 5, Document 343.

/4/Not found.

Arms Deliveries to Israel

1. Idea of suspending or slowing down arms deliveries to Israel has much appeal as possible means (a) underline to GOI our strong disapproval Nov 13 raid and retaliation doctrine generally and (b) as short-term psychological measure to help bolster morale Hussein and GOJ. After careful consideration we have concluded for number reasons that such actions, whether publicly announced or privately conveyed to one or both parties, would not be wise at this juncture and might in fact be counterproductive.

2. Regardless general indignation concerning nature of Israeli raid, public announcement suspension of deliveries could be interpreted as slap at Israel that failed to take into account context of terrorism over past two years, growth of "popular liberation" sentiment in area, and alleged lack of immediately effective alternatives. We also have in mind most recent reports indicating Israeli forces used were on much smaller scale than originally reported and that no significant, if any, US equipment was employed (Tel Aviv 1742 and USDAO Amman 1703 Nov 66). In addition, publicly announced suspension of arms to Israel could lead to demand for same to be applied to Jordan, and perhaps to whole area. At very least this could reopen previous public questioning of US sales to Israel, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, which could do considerable damage to our policy interests both in short and longer run. Finally, suspension of deliveries would face us with problem developing convincing rationale for their ultimate resumption. Even if suspension were kept private, fact of suspension would probably surface, and if terrorism and present tension continue it would be difficult justify resumption unless Israelis had renounced retaliation (which we judge as most unlikely).

3. Similar disadvantages and risks would apply to non-publicized actions affecting Israel arms deliveries. If actions were to do any good along lines para 1 (a) and (b) above, Israelis and Jordanians would have to be made explicitly aware of them, and damaging, probably distorted, publicity would almost inevitably result.

4. Whatever wisdom Nov 13 raid, Israel is in good position in larger context to justify defense requirements and thus to argue that delays in arms deliveries could jeopardize Israel's defense. If it could be demonstrated Israel had violated agreements with us by using our equipment for aggression there would be no question our reactions to suspend shipments. In present circumstances we believe measures short of suspension such as deliberate slowdown of shipments would risk strong reactions that could undercut Israel's tacit agreement for recent US tank and aircraft sales to Jordan.

5. In sum, in present circumstances we believe disadvantages outweigh advantages of suspension of arms deliveries to Israel and are therefore concentrating on (a) other ways to put IDF on notice that conditions of sale of US military equipment and US position on retaliation are not mere "paper points," (b) demonstrating that effective alternatives can be developed for containing terrorism, and (c) finding other means to provide psychological encouragement to GOJ.


Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 32-1 ISR-JORDAN. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Symmes on November 21; cleared by Atherton, Handley, Colonel Jordan of DOD/ISA, Sisco, Kitchen, and Davies; and approved by Katzenbach. Sent to Amman, Tel Aviv, USUN, Beirut, Damascus, Jerusalem, Cairo, Baghdad, Jidda, Kuwait, London, Paris, and Moscow and pouched to POLAD CINCSTRIKE.

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