206. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Israel0

674. During 75-minute courtesy call on Deputy Under Secretary Johnson April 2, Israel DepMinDef Peres1 commented as follows:

There are major changes afoot which affect Near East area and Israel. Primary among these are recent setbacks to Soviets and corresponding improvement in US position in area; Arab unity moves which show Nasserism still popular but far from all-pervasive; breakup of simplified Monrovia-vs-Casablanca groupings in Africa with attendant emergence of conflicting Pan-African and Pan-Islamic tendencies which Nasser will try exploit; “augmentation of military hardware” in Near East where Nasser already has or is acquiring air-to-air, ship-to-shore, ground-to-air, and ground-to-ground missile capacities which add to his self-confidence and against which countermeasures lacking.
One change which not inimical Israel’s interest is increased US influence and prestige.
Israel sees this as ideal time for USG to use this newly-increased influence to oppose “Arab belligerency”, i.e., to make it clear that transgressions of the Arab-Israel territorial status quo would be directly countered by US military strength. Every effort should be made bring about direct Israel-UAR negotiations, which are prerequisite of any area peace. In such moves, USG would find Israel a “willing partner” as Israel has no ambitions running counter present territorial status quo. USG “too reluctant” in pushing Nasser in this direction. He needs US more than vice versa and US influence now at all-time high. Situation may not be so propitious five years hence.
In immediate terms, Israel would like see US efforts bent toward maintenance of status quo in Jordan and reforms within House of Saud. US aid should not be so focused on Nasser.
In long run, overthrow of Hussein and Saud-Faisal unavoidable. Former is courageous and generally acts wisely. However, he has too many senior officers plotting against him. Israel doing what it can prolong his tenure, with what it regards as useful effect on Nasser, by [Page 450] including overthrow in Jordan among three situations it has publicly proclaimed might be regarded as causes for unilateral Israel action (other two being interference re Aqaba transit and Jordan waters). USG can help by continuing assist Hussein identify his enemies and encourage his measures popularize himself. This regard, appointment of PriMin Samir Rifai has already improved Hussein’s popular image somewhat.
GOI has “definite information” UAR used gas as weapon in Yemen.

In course of conversation Deputy Under Secretary Johnson:

Doubted UAR missile development will have much military significance for considerable time to come.
Said USG deeply opposed introduction of nuclear weapons capability in area.
Said USG considers it important work for strengthened UNTSO operation. (Peres replied Israel has almost built-in resistance to UNTSO operations and cannot agree there anything UNTSO does which US could not do better by direct exercise of “good offices”.)

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL ARAB-ISR. Confidential. Drafted by Crawford; cleared by Strong, Talbot, and Slater; and approved by Johnson. Repeated to Amman and Cairo and pouched to Beirut, Damascus, London, and Jidda.
  2. Deputy Defense Minister Shimon Peres visited Washington April 2–4 and, at the request of the Israeli Government, held discussions with State and Defense Department officials with respect to consummating the Hawk missile transaction. Documentation on the visit is ibid., DEF 12 ISR. The memorandum of conversation between Johnson and Peres is ibid., POL NR EAST.