442. Memorandum of a Conversation Between the President and the Secretary of State, Camp David, Maryland, December 8, 19551

I walked with the President from his living lodge to the lodge where the NSC meeting is held.2 We discussed the question of arms to Israel. I said that we would probably have the Defense Department’s list on availability and costing within the next day or two, and we would then have to reach a policy decision.3

I said that in general our thought was to concentrate on primarily defensive items, although the big problem would be the jet planes which, while essentially fighter and interceptor planes, could be used offensively to drop bombs.

The President expressed the view that we could not very well refuse to let the Israelis buy some defensive weapons.

I pointed out that I was looking into the question of whether we could limit the list to the same type of equipment which we were prepared to sell Egypt last June. This would at least in principle make our action less subject to criticism by the Arabs. Also, I hoped we could announce some program for Iraq and Saudi Arabia at the same time and possibly something about the Aswan Dam. However, I said that undoubtedly any sale of arms to Israel would be misinterpreted in the Arab world as support for Israel against her Arab neighbors and would have bad political repercussions, tending to drive the Arabs more and more into the arms of the Soviet Union.

  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers; Meetings with the President. Top Secret. Drafted by Dulles on December 9.
  2. According to Secretary Dulles’ Appointment Book, the NSC meeting that day at Camp David began at 10 a.m. (Princeton University Library, Dulles Papers)
  3. In a memorandum, December 7,Russell and Allen informed the Secretary that the Department of Defense would be providing this data in the near future. (Department of State, Central Files, 784A.56/12–755)