291. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rusk to the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (Talbot)0

I am still not satisfied that the attached materials1 come to a well-supported position on the Hawk missiles.

Look, for example, on page 6 at paragraph (2) a.i. where it is stated that strengthening the weak link in Israel’s defenses would reduce any temptation Israel may have to take preemptive offensive action. To put it this way, rather than that Hawk missiles would help to deter an attack against Israel by modern aircraft being supplied to Egypt by the Soviet Union seems to me very odd.

Further, the Hawk is not a counterpoise to similar ground-to-air missiles in the hands of Israel’s neighbors. The Hawk is an anti-aircraft missile not an anti-missile missile. The Hawk as a defensive weapon should be measured against weapons on the other side at which it would be aimed. The question is: Does Egypt have an important air-strike capability against Israel and, if so, does Israel have a sufficiently credible defense against such airstrikes as to provide reasonable security? I recognize that the reciprocal of the same question can be asked about Israel air-strike capability and Arab defenses. But what is relevant to Israel’s need for Hawks is Arab aircraft—not Arab ground-to-air missiles.

This needs prompt and further discussion with me.

I am not now suggesting what the answer ought to be but I am not clear that we have yet found the basis for reaching a satisfactory answer.2

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 784A.5612/6–1762. Secret. Attached to Document 299.
  2. Document 290.
  3. According to the notes for the Secretary’s Staff Meeting of June 11, “the Secretary asked Mr. Cottam to follow-up immediately on the Secretary’s comments on NEA’s paper on Israel.” (Department of State, S/S Files: Lot 66 D 147, Secretary’s Staff Meetings)
  4. Rusk’s initials appear in an unidentified hand, indicating Rusk signed the original.