141. Memorandum From the Under Secretary of State (Hoover) to the Secretary of State1

The President called me at 10:15 February 29 just prior to the Press Conference in which he announced his willingness to be a candidate for renomination.2

The President told me that he was a little worried that perhaps we were being too tough with the Israelis with respect to arms. He had in mind particularly interceptors.

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He also mentioned that we might consider sending them a battalion of Nike’s “if for nothing else, to see if they would work” !

The President was considering a statement, if he were asked a question, that we were making a really sympathetic study because we understood the position the Israelis were getting into.

I pointed out to the President that Bob Anderson was at present engaged in a most delicate mission between Nasser and Ben Gurion and that any indication of a departure from our present position might seriously jeopardize our ability to bring the two sides together. I further pointed out that you had stated the Administration position as recently as February 24 before an open session of the Foreign Relations Committee.3 At that time you had said that the UN and the Tripartite Agreement afforded Israel a far greater degree of protection than would a few arms and, above all, we did not want to start an open arms race in the Middle East. If such a race started, you pointed out, Israel could not hope to win because 1,700,000 Israelis on the one hand could not hope to match 30,000,000 Arabs on the other, either in the amount of arms that they could absorb or the amount of territory in which they had to operate.

I further pointed out that we certainly had not excluded arms for Israel but we did not think that this was the time or the circumstance in which to make a statement which would in effect announce a new policy.

The President indicated he was in agreement and I gather that he had decided not to make any statement that would be a departure from our present position.

An examination of the transcript of his press conference reveals that no question was raised with regard to arms in the Middle East.

  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, Israeli Relations 1951–1957. Secret; Eyes Only; No Distribution; Personal and Private.
  2. For the transcript of the President’s press conference, which began at 10:31 a.m. and continued until 10:52 a.m., see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1956, pp. 263–273.
  3. See footnote 5, Document 131.