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Lyndon Johnson Administration: U.S. Closes Deal On Tanks for Israel, Moves On To Planes

(July 29, 1965)

The United States has closed the tanks deal with Israel and now they are moving on to planes. The U.S. is going to try to get Israel planes from Europe but is prepared, without Rusk's approval to give Israel the planes they need.

230. Memorandum From Robert W. Komer of the National Security Council Staff to President Johnson/1/

Israeli Tanks. I have the honor to inform you that we finally closed the Israeli tank sale on the original basis approved by you./2/ After about five months of trying to enrich the deal, they finally conceded and are very happy to boot.

They'll get (a) 110 M48A2C medium tanks to replace the German ones; (b) 100 M48A1 tanks to match those sold to Jordan; (c) conversion kits to upgun these plus the 40 Bonn did deliver to 105 mm. guns; and (d) ammo and spares. Total sale would amount to around $42 million in dollars over two years or more. I might add that Israelis have been very good at keeping mum to date, and we have a cancellation clause in case they leak later.

Now we'll start arguing about the twenty-four combat planes we said we'd help get from US or European sources. Rusk is strong against any US sale so we'll stall for a while and try to shift them to Europe. We can always concede in the end, but it's good to have leverage on the Israelis because we don't like their threats to attack the Arab water diversion works (now it's Lebanon). We're also still very suspicious they might go nuclear.

R. W. Komer

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Name File, Komer, Vol. I. Secret.

/2/The agreement was embodied in a July 29 exchange of letters between Solbert and Zvi Dinstein, Special Assistant to the Israeli Defense Minister. (Ibid., Files of Robert W. Komer, Israel Security, Tanks (1965)) They amended the November 15, 1964, exchange of letters between Solbert and Colonel Ron; see footnote 6, Document 99.

Sources: U.S. Department of State