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Lyndon Johnson Administration: Telegram Outlining US Position on Arms in the Middle East

(February 26, 1965)

The United States is outlining its understanding with Israel on the arms balance in the Middle East.

Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Israel1

Washington, February 26, 1965, 1:42 p.m.

823. For Harriman. Tel Aviv 1037,2 1039.3 Following telegram cleared at highest level.

We can see virtue in reducing our understanding with the Government of Israel to an explicit statement. We believe that this understanding should be expressed in two simultaneous separate documents. The first would be a memorandum initialed by both parties along the following lines:

1. The Governments of the United States and of Israel agree that full secrecy shall be maintained on all matters referred to herein and all subsequent actions taken in this connection, until the two Governments agree on how and when to divulge them.

2. The United States agrees to review with Israel the dangers posed by the Arab counter-diversion scheme and the Unified Arab Command build-up.

3. The United States is prepared to reiterate at an appropriate time both its policy of opposition to aggression in the Near East and its support for the Unified Plan as an equitable standard by which to judge Jordan water usage by riparian states.

4. The United States will seek a firm private assurance from King Hussein that he intends to keep his armor on the East Bank of the Jordan.

5. The United States will undertake to make selective direct sales of military equipment to Israel, if the United States and Israel agree that a disproportionate arms build-up on the Arab side is developing which cannot be otherwise met. Any such sales would be arranged on a quiet case-by-case basis, with minimum attendant publicity, after Israel had made maximum efforts to obtain its requirements from Western European sources.

6. The Government of Israel pledges not to develop or obtain nuclear weapons and, before any direct sale of arms is initiated, will certify this by accepting IAEA safeguards on all its nuclear facilities.

7. Israel undertakes not to embark on preemptive action against the Arab Jordan diversion works, but to utilize all peaceful recourse including the United Nations.4 FYI If Israelis insist you may add "where the United States would be prepared to support the principles of the Unified Plan." End FYI.

As a part of the over-all agreement you should insist upon a letter from Eshkol to the President which might read as follows:

"Dear Mr. President:

I greatly appreciate your consideration in sending Governor Harriman to discuss with us in depth the problems our two Governments face in connection with the developing situation in the Middle East. We have, I think, come to a full understanding.

Governor Harriman has made clear the concern of your Government for the maintenance of the security of Israel. On my part, I want you to know that we shall be as understanding as possible in helping you to meet some of the heavy responsibilities that you bear. I am, therefore, prepared to assure you that the actions of my Government will consistently reflect the following considerations: (1) We believe that it is both necessary and useful for the US to maintain an effective influence and presence in the Arab world; (2) We accept the need for the US to provide certain military equipment to Jordan; (3) Should it prove necessary for the US to make direct sales of military equipment to Israel we will cooperate fully to minimize the resultant strains on US relations with other states in the area."



1 Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66 DEF 12-5 ISR. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Drafted by Talbot, Davies, and Ball; cleared by Bromley Smith for the President; and approved by Ball.

2 Document 158.

3 The reference should be to telegram 1038 from Tel Aviv, February 26, which stated that Harriman had not been able to convince the Israelis to agree that rather than taking preemptive action they would take the water problem to the United Nations. It proposed alternative language for his instructions as follows: "Israel must agree not to embark on pre-emptive action but to undertake to exhaust all peaceful recourse including the United Nations." (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 7 US/HARRIMAN) Telegram 1039 from Tel Aviv, February 26, reported Harriman's unsuccessful effort to assuage Israeli anger at the West German Government. (Ibid., DEF 12-5 ISR)

4 Talbot told Ball in a telephone conversation at 12:50 p.m. on February 26 that the President had read the outgoing telegram and approved the word "utilize" rather than "associate." (Johnson Library, Ball Papers, Israel).

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