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Lyndon Johnson Administration: Telegram on Israeli Request for Arms Package Equivalent to U.S. Arms For Jordan

(March 11, 1965)

Israel asks to be given the same quality and quantity of arms as Jordan is supposed to receive from the U.S. The United States is not happy with this request, but does not reject it. The U.S. asks Israel not to tell anyone about either of the arms sales it wants to make. The U.S. says that they want to provide arms to Jordan so that Jordan will not get arms from the USSR. The United States , in the interest of both themselves and Israel wants Israel, to not to do anything that will disrupt their deals with Jordan. This includes military action and telling other parties about the arms deals. The United States also asks Israel to communicate with them directly and not through other channels.

184. Telegram From the Embassy in Israel to the Department of State/1/

1151. For SecState, SecDef, Bundy. Ref: Embtel 1150./2/ Highlights final sessions with Israelis. Komer went over script with Peres at luncheon, saying had only tentative Washington OK since top echelon had not yet signed off./3/ But told Peres previous night's session enabled him suggest way break logjam by urging some give on planes in lieu impossible idea $40-50 million compensatory sales. Gave Peres list suggested oral understandings plus draft memo.

In evening Peres, Levavi insisted meeting first with us and attempted reintroduce concept sales to Israel of value comparable to Jordan. Komer flatly rejected, saying if so must go back to comparable kinds and quantities too. That was that. Then accepted minor addition of "direct" sales para 5.

Also told Peres Washington willing consider so-called Peres gambit on Bonn/US/Israel tank drill./4/ Peres sent off cable Bonn that "unofficial US answer is they will consider if and when Germans approach US."

When met Eshkol he had word on preceding, so all went well. Expressed great appreciation President's response Israel's needs. Said ready to sign memo. On publicity we could tell President he would do everything possible. He wouldn't brag US giving Israel tanks, if only so Jordan wouldn't brag either.

Said tell President Israel relations with Germany would now improve. Pleased at Nasser's latest "folly."

Komer replied would assure President Israel would not undercut Jordan sales program. Komer regarded US as having gentlemen's agreement (PM nodded assent). As agreed yesterday, we depended on Harman give clear private guidance friends in US why US compelled sell limited arms Jordan prevent Soviets/Nasser coming in. Hoped Eshkol wouldn't mind if President told one or two mutual friends too. Assured Eshkol we would try hardest avoid press leaks our end too. On principle cui bono, US had no interest damaging Hussein by revealing Israel agreed US arms sales.

We planned deliver basic M-48 to Jordan and M-48A1 to Israel, Israel could convert latter under contract with US. Remaining M-48's we'd deliver if Germans didn't were 90.

On planes, should leave to military experts. Though planes either from US or other sources, we did not exclude B-66 or include it, latest word was our military people don't think B-66 best type for Israel.

In response Peres question, Komer said that, speaking entirely personally, he didn't see why USG wouldn't at least consider SP guns instead of tanks or engines instead of planes. Let's leave to experts. PM agreed.

Komer said must repeat this no change our long-standing arms policy--a balanced exception; not open-ended.

Komer expressed appreciation PM's agreement on secrecy. Said essential keep M-48A3 kit deal secret as long as possible too. This in Israel's own interest to keep down Jordanian pressure for M-48A3's.

Next Komer said asked make clear genuine perturbation at highest levels USG at unofficial approaches purporting speak for Israel. Hoped government-to-government matters could be handled through same channels though couldn't stop friends from talking about general attitudes. Stressed importance mutual understanding between heads of states as more important than anything else. PM got point.

Had earlier told Peres to tell PM not send people Washington prematurely. Suggested at least 6-8 week interval let us recover from shock. PM himself mentioned this later. Believe point made.

At this point Deptel 909/5/ brought to us in meeting. Asked recess so could consider. Must say this almost blew up whole show again. We compelled make command decision, what to change in memo already being typed for signature and which to finesse. We take full responsibility.

Got in clear reference to 90 tanks, i.e. remainder of the 150 not shipped. Peres wanted latter phrase to cover possibility Italians would hold back 20 in Italy. We said would argue later. Felt essential leave language re sources aircraft as change this sensitive matter could have re-opened whole package. Furthermore, present form says same thing as Deptel 909. Skipped altered secrecy provision;/6/ can't repudiate all previous words at last meeting.

[Language?] on Hussein's intention inserted, at cost raised eyebrows. Last sentence para 7 also altered per Deptel 910. In return we agreed new sentence in para IV that US told Hussein no sales if he got Soviet arms.

To clear atmosphere, Komer then paraphrased Deptel 909 para on Peres gambit,/7/ citing it as good news. This helped.

Next we suggested agreed memcon to be initialed both sides. PM agreed and Barbour will follow through./8/ Finally, Komer asked PM if could give him some good word on non-preemption. PM said Israel wouldn't move "for month, two months, three months." While discussions going on. Agreed must be further talk about water, either here or in Washington.

One comment PM was that between Komer and Harriman over last four weeks, they had managed much persuade him Jordan sale made sense.

Harman urged, with PM's consent, that we urge Hussein keep US sales to him secret as long as possible. This would greatly help Israel keep quiet too. Harman further proposed we consult on what Israel might say if and when matters began coming out. We agreed. And urge prompt follow-through on both items.

In final private aside to Eshkol and Meir, Komer told them President had made every effort meet their needs. He asked reciprocal understanding. Planes from US or other sources was great last-minute concession Komer hadn't really expected. In fact, in response PM's plea for concreteness President had just told Komer tell PM privately "up to 24" planes in mind. After near blow-up result in arrival Deptel 910, Komer and Barbour felt had to state number positively instead of negatively. PM moved, expressed appreciation, said tell President we'll collaborate fully. Komer ended by saying don't press things too hard. Give us time to think matters through. Let's work together, not argue with each other. Gently reminded PM that personal rapport with President worth more than any and all pieces of paper.


/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, DEF 12-5 JORDAN. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Received on March 10 at 8:32 p.m. and passed to the White House.

/2/Telegram 1150 from Tel Aviv, March 10, informed Johnson, Rusk, and Bundy that the memorandum of understanding had been signed. (Ibid.)

/3/Telegram 903 to Tel Aviv, sent at 12:59 a.m. on March 10, told Komer that he should press for a final understanding that evening but that his instructions would be confirmed in time for his talk with Eshkol. (Ibid., DEF 12-5 ISR)

/4/Reference is to a proposal reported by Komer in telegram 1144 (see footnote 3, Document 183) that since the United States had been willing to sell 150 M48A2 tanks to Germany to replace the ones that Germany had intended to sell to Israel, the United States might ship 90 of them to Israel and charge the cost to the Germans.

/5/Telegram 909 to Tel Aviv, March 10, authorized Komer to give U.S. agreement to a draft memorandum of understanding, the text of which was transmitted in telegram 910 to Tel Aviv, also March 10, and commented on some of the desired changes. (Both in National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, DEF 12-5 ISR) The draft transmitted in telegram 910 was similar in substance to the signed memorandum of understanding except as indicated in this telegram and in footnote 6 below.

/6/The paragraph on publicity in the draft transmitted in telegram 910 to Tel Aviv consists of two sentences similar in substance to the second and third sentences in paragraph VII in telegram 1152 (Document 185), but does not include the first sentence. Telegram 909 states that the change was made in view of the U.S. intention to disclose the general outline of the deal to the Jordanian and UAR Governments and to some Western Europe allies.

/7/It expressed willingness to cooperate in the "Peres gambit" but commented that it would be best arranged through a private Israeli-German understanding.

/8/Barbour sent the memorandum of conversation, initialed by Bitan and Barbour, to Komer with a covering letter of March 17, and Komer forwarded it to Read with a covering memorandum of March 31. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 7 US/KOMER) A copy of the memorandum of conversation is in the Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Israel, Harriman Israeli Mission (IV).

Sources: U.S. Department of State