253. Letter From the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (Talbot) to the Ambassador to the United Arab Republic (Badeau)0
Dear Mr. Ambassador: The rising concern here and abroad as regards the long-range security situation in the Middle East has occasioned us to take a new look at our policies to insure that they are consistent with our commitments and long-range interest in the area. I believe I need not elaborate on the reasons for concern such as the Arab-Israel arms race, the Israel Dimona reactor and its potentialities for possible weapons production within a few years, the entry of the UAR into ground-to-ground rocket production, the massive UAR military intervention in Yemen, the reference to liberation of Palestine in the Arab Unity Proclamation of April 17, the recent riots in Jordan and the incessant UAR propaganda against Jordan and Saudi Arabia. It is perhaps possible for detached observers to examine the nuances of each of these situations separately and to reach a judgment that they constitute no immediate peril. Such a judgment, however, may well be viewed as rather facile in face of the long run security threat which the combined picture presents, especially to those immediately concerned, and to Americans who share their concern. No equation relating to the balance of power in the area is complete without taking into account both the deep psychological factors in Israel and what American public opinion will support at home.
Thus, in order to maintain the essentials of the constructive action program which has been charted in recent years, the President feels it important to give serious consideration to Israel’s strong desire for a more specific security guarantee. He believes it is only through allaying Israel fears about the long-range threat to its existence that leverage to forestall possible Israel preventive warfare and to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons can be maintained. He further believes that such a guarantee would be helpful in removing any margin for error by the Arabs about US intentions. Moreover, it is conceivable that by obliging the Arabs to make a more realistic reexamination of their own situation in light of the present power structure of the area, we might well lead them toward a more conciliatory policy albeit this is perhaps a debatable point.[Page 546]
The precise nature of the agreement including quid pro quos to be negotiated with Israel is being studied in the Department and specific plans will be made known to you as they unfold. It is sufficient to say now that major objectives will be to obtain firm assurances from Israel that it will (a) refrain from initiatives to violate the peace, [2–1/2 lines of source text not declassified] (d) cooperate more fully with United Nations peacekeeping machinery, (e) desist from propaganda and activities designed to disrupt our relations with the Arabs, and (f) adopt a more cooperative attitude toward a serious effort to solve the refugee problem and other underlying causes of tension.
The President is fully cognizant of the problem that we face with the Arabs on this score. Although nothing is being given to the Israelis other than what they already have in substance, and although we hope to obtain in return concessions from Israel that will have positive benefits for the Arabs, we recognize that psychologically the Arabs are bound to react unfavorably and that our missions in the Arab world are likely to be faced with difficult problems. However, we hope that after the initial impact, the Arabs will settle down to a tacit, if not overt, understanding of what the United States is trying to do.
We recognize that politically the Arabs cannot accept the same type of agreement that we shall be negotiating with Israel, but we are nevertheless prepared to give them whatever we offer Israel and, should that not prove to be something they want, the firmest assurances of support—as clearly demonstrated in 1956—for their own security and integrity. We propose also to continue with our existing economic assistance programs. We might also give some consideration, in light of expected improvements of Israel’s sense of security, to a more liberal attitude in regard to sales of conventional armaments than heretofore, depending upon the degree of moderation and restraint the Arabs display and their cooperation toward bringing about the limitations on nuclear and sophisticated weapons which we seek.
I enclose, merely as a stimulant to your consideration, an outline of tentative thoughts regarding the agreement and its implications. This outline, I would caution, is, indeed, tentative and by no means represents the final word. I would greatly appreciate your giving this outline the benefit of your full study and appraisal.
Since the President wants to move ahead expeditiously, I would appreciate hearing from you soonest. In view of the delicacy of the matter, we wish for the present to keep communications closely controlled and I would thus recommend that all correspondence be by “For Talbot [Page 547] from Ambassador” personal letter unless, of course, factors of urgency should require a “For Talbot” telegram.1
With best personal regards.
P.S. Perhaps by the time you have received this letter you will have received instructions to present a letter from President Kennedy to President Nasser for the purpose of alerting him in a general way (not with specific reference to an Israel security guarantee) that new U.S. initiative to allay Israel concern and security guarantee negotiations together and approach both the UAR and Israel even-handedly. [sic] If the UAR refuses to go along on arms limitation we would then be obliged to revert to a unilateral security guarantee for Israel, the latter, however, to retain the quid pro quos mentioned earlier.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL NR EAST-US. Secret; Limit Distribution; For Ambassador Only; Official-Informal. Drafted by Barrow on May 14 and cleared by Strong, Gaud, and Hewitt.↩
- Badeau responded to Talbot on June 5 in a lengthy official-informal letter, which contained a detailed account of the problems and dangers the United States faced in extending a security guarantee to Israel. (Ibid., POL ARAB-ISR) On May 27, Talbot sent a letter to other Near Eastern posts concerning the proposed security guarantee to Israel. Talbot’s letter has not been found, but the responses to it from Barbour (June 6), Stookey (June 8), Knight (June 10), Melbourne (June 11), Meyer (June 12), Mak (June 13), and Hart (July 1) are ibid. Macomber’s response of June 10 is ibid., DEF 18-6 NEAR E.↩
- Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.↩
- Secret; Limit Distribution.↩