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Lyndon Johnson Administration: U.S. Report on Israeli Nuclear Policy

(November 3, 1966)

This memorandum summarizes Israel's position regarding nuclear proliferation and a potential Israeli nuclear buildup. Israel expressed its support for a nuclear non-proliferation treaty, particularly as it appears that Egypt is now willing to accept Israel's intentions. Israel declared that keeping Egypt uncertain is the best way to prevent an Egyptian arms buildup. The U.S. then discussed ways to ensure Israel had control over any nuclear installations.

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

Tel Aviv, November 3, 1966, 0855Z.

1540. Ref: State 68096./2/

1. After delays caused primarily by Security Council consideration of Israel complaint against Syria re Fatah, FonMin Eban and I finally had opportunity discuss together arms control in ME at long lunch session on Nov 2. Having heard me out on Secretary's oral message contained reftel, Eban made following points:

A. He had not for moment thought that lack of reference this subject at his Oct 7 meeting with Secretary indicated any loss of interest on our part.

B. GOI too has put considerable thought on this matter. As reflected in Raphael Nov 2 speech in New York GOI stands solidly behind anti-proliferation treaty and will give it active public and moral support.

C. From all evidence available to GOI, Egypt now fairly relaxed as to Israeli intentions re nuclear weapons.

D. In fact, PM has been convinced by President Johnson that effort keep Nasser uncertain as to Israeli intentions is no longer worth risk of Egyptian weapons escalation.

E. However, due Egyptian predilection for sabotage and plotting, GOI must find middle ground between letting Egyptians be assured GOI not manufacturing bombs and giving them full info as to Israel's scientific nuclear facilities.

F. Therefore, GOI cannot accept IAEA system of controls to which Egyptians have access at all levels and, furthermore, it wishes be sure we (and presumably others) do not pass on to Egyptians specifics as to location or functions of Israeli installations.

G. Possibility remains that some kind of political controls can be worked out but recent Egyptian speech in Vienna makes Israelis less convinced of Egyptian willingness.

H. Israelis too have hopes of being included in general non-proliferation treaty before long which they would prefer to being singled out in some special arrangement in way contrary Israel's sovereign status.

2. I pointed out that treaty not yet a reality and, much as we all support it, we do not know when it will be. Furthermore, this being imperfect world, Israeli gesture to assure its suspicious neighbors that it not moving toward nuclear weapons would promote peace of area. Acceptance of IAEA controls would be best way accomplish this. I suggested that although my instructions did not go this far, if Israel cannot see its way clear accept these, verification scheme including Israel and Egypt with third country is another possibility. Still another which would have advantage of being unilateral act of sovereign state would be GOI invitation to scientists of other countries to participate in research projects at Dimona.

3. Then I brought up May 24 conversation with PM in which he stated missiles were at least two years away (Embtel 1229 to Washington)/3/ and suggested that since UAR running into difficulties in missile development, this type of sophisticated weaponry too should be subject control arrangement.

4. Eban said he not informed on history our missile discussions and would look into matter. He added that he would discuss points made in our conversation with PM and would get in touch with me for further discussion.

Comment: Although GOI does not appear any closer now than it ever was to accepting IAEA controls, I think we are making progress. It is significant that Eban now says President was successful in convincing PM that tactic of keeping Nasser in state of uncertainty as to GOI intentions was dangerous. Also, it hopeful sign that GOI is supporting anti-proliferation treaty and that Eban for first time appears genuinely interested in keeping dialogue going on this subject. Airgram with further report conversation follows./4/


/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, DEF 12 NEAR E. Secret; Exdis.

/2/Telegram 68096 to Tel Aviv, October 18, transmitted the text of an oral message from Rusk to Eban. The message stated that Rusk hoped to have a second meeting with Eban while he was in the United States (for the first meeting, see Document 328) to discuss arms control, especially actions that might be taken to prevent the escalation of the Arab-Israel arms race into the nuclear field. Noting that this was a major U.S. concern, it expressed the hope that the U.S.-Israeli dialogue on the subject could continue. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, DEF 12 NEAR E)

/3/Document 293.

/4/Airgram A-263, November 5. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, DEF 12 NEAR E)

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