431. Telegram From the Embassy in Israel to the Department of State1

555. In the course of separate conversations yesterday with Eytan, Kollek and Herzog, I was informed as follows:

Distribution Eban’s 1500-word telegraphic report Sharett’s talk with Secretary on November 21 has been limited to foregoing plus Ben-Gurion and Myerson.Sharett was characterized as having been taken by surprise and as having submitted no recommendations on the talk. When Herzog and, later, Kollek commenced discuss substance of talk, I informed them I was under injunction not to discuss the matter.
Was given impression that government had made no decision to retaliate for recent incidents and that no reprisals were planned unless new incidents involving mortalities created unusual public pressure for action. Consensus GOI thinking is that arms aid problem greatly overshadowed all others and was serving to restrain IDF behavior in less vital matters.
Tolkowsky, Chief IDF Air Force, yesterday gave Ben-Gurion intelligence estimate of Egyptian receipts Soviet aircraft and their impact on Israel’s security position. According to Kollek,IDF has photographs “substantial number” of MIG’s on an airfield near Alexandria and also several MIG’s located airfield Suez area.IDF also has tentatively identified 5 to 7 Ilyushin two-motor jet bombers in Egyptian possession. Kollek said GOI was banking heavily on French promises deliveries Mystères but added French had “crossed them up” in past (General Dayan told me last night IDF wanted Mystere IV; that the II was no good).
Herzog said that key question future Israel course of action would arise when Dayan informs Cabinet that Egyptian receipts Soviet arms were reaching point where IDF could no longer be responsible for the security of the state. He added his judgment that IDF would be satisfied if it could obtain from US enough planes and other items to cope successfully with the rapid increment in Egyptian strength. On this point Kollek made surprising statement that US policy should be to maintain arms situation between Egypt and Israel under which neither party could successfully launch an offensive war. He thought Israel would be satisfied with a smaller number of planes then Egypt was receiving provided the discrepancy was not [Page 812]greater than could be compensated by superior Israel techniques and maintenance.
Comment: While I have no means of knowing whether information regarding Egyptian plane receipts is substantially correct, I believe the GOI will press vigorously for rapid compensating deliveries Mystere IV’s and F–86’s from France and US. Israeli’s mood now that they are faced with the fact rather than the theory of survival is one of less truculence and less belligerency. Reports from several sources indicate that Ben-Gurion is allergic to preventive war concept and would like to find a practicable alternative.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 684A.86/11–2955. Top Secret; Alpha; Limit Distribution. Received at 9:45 a.m.