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JFK & Israel's Nuclear Program: U.S. Opposes the Introduction or Manufacture of Nuclear Weapons in the Middle East

(April 3, 1963)

Excerpts from a President Kennedy news conference.

As you know, the German Government itself has indicated its displeasure, and there is some question of whether it may be a breach of the law, the German scientists who are working on missiles, air engines, and air frames for the U.A.R. There is not a great number of them, but there are some of them, and of course they do affect the tensions of the Middle East. So I think this matter has been very strongly brought to the attention by the Israeli Government and by other interested parties who are seeking to diminish rather than increase the arms race in the Middle East.(1)

Now, on the question of what military assistance we would give the Israelis: as you know, the United States has never been a supplier of military equipment directly to the Israelis. We have given economic assistance. The Israelis themselves have bought equipment, a good deal of it from France. We will just have to see what the balance of the military power may be in the Middle East, as time goes on, We are anxious to see it diminished rather than participate in encouraging it.

On the other hand, we would be reluctant to see a military balance of power in the Middle East which was such as to encourage aggression rather than discourage it. So this is a matter which we will have to continue to observe. We have expressed our strong opposition to the introduction or manufacture of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, and we have indicated that strongly to all of the countries. So we have to wait and see as the time goes on. At the present time, there is a balance which I think would discourage military action on either side. I would hope it will continue.


1. Reference to protests by the Israel Foreign Minister Golda Meir and the Israel Knesset of March 20, and by the Zionist Organization of America of March 31, 1963.

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