142. Telegram From the Department of State of the Embassy in Jordan1

446. For Talbot. Acting Secretary has asked Jernegan to get in touch with you urgently by teletype. Understand however atmospheric condition unfavorable and this message contains what he had planned to put to you. Request immediate answer.

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Presidential decision2 is that emissary to Israel should be Harriman accompanied by Feldman and Komer.3 In effort to avoid too much focus on real purpose of trip, Harriman would plan to go on from Tel Aviv to Tehran, and Kabul and perhaps visit one or more African countries on way back. General line with public would be that he taking occasion of visit farther east to stop off briefly in Israel.

This mission is felt to be necessary because of probability that Israelis would leak a Presidential letter as they have already done with the news of the proposed Jordanian arms deal (see Tel Aviv #945, rptd Amman 212).4

President and Acting Secretary wish to do everything possible to forestall anticipated Israeli drive in US against foreign aid and other essential US policies. Such drive seems probable if GOI is not placated in face of Jordanian deal. Presumably a special emissary of Governor Harriman’s stature and ability could help soothe Israeli feelings and bring about some cooling off of high emotions.

We would appreciate your views regarding this projected mission.

Assuming arms deal with Jordan is in fact concluded, on terms you have offered or on anything more liberal, we very much fear repercussions in Congress affecting whole Middle East policies and perhaps other aspects foreign policy. As indicated above, President himself deeply concerned about this aspect. We are beginning to think that only step we could take which has chance of being really effective is to give Israel assurance that when and if necessary USG would be willing to consider direct arms sales on favorable terms. Following is some language illustrating what we have in mind:

  • “1. Recognizing that continued Soviet arms sales to the Arabs can over time upset the deterrent balance (which US arms sales to Jordan are designed in fact to preserve), the US would consider selective sales of arms to compensate for any disproportionate buildup on the Arab side.
  • “2. This, however, does not seem to us to be an immediate problem. We continue to prefer that Israel seek maximum help from European sources. But, if and when we agree that Israel has a demonstrable need which cannot be satisfactorily filled elsewhere, the US will consider direct sales on favorable credit terms.
  • “3. In return to USG desires Israeli undertakings: a) actively to support US aid to Jordan and other Arabs and to assist in abating the stir over aid to the UAR; b) not to undertake premature preemptive action against Arab diversion works; c) not to go nuclear or deploy strategic missiles; d) accept full IAEA safeguards.”

Would like to know how this strikes you and Barnes. Realize Israelis may well balk at agreeing to 4 considerations in para. 3 above. However, if we got even three of them, with or without commitment to abandon missiles, we would have achieved some pretty major objectives, possibly at the cost of nothing more than we will inevitably be forced to give over coming years without any quid pro quos.

Do you and Barnes think there is any chance of getting Hussein to postpone his trip to Cairo for a week or two? This might give us more time for consideration here and further attempts to bring him around, while at same time it would give us breathing space in which to persuade Israelis to calm down.

Do you think that a concession of 100 M–48A3s to be delivered in three years or thereabouts would enable you make deal with Hussein?

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 7 US/HARRIMAN. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Drafted and approved by Jernegan and cleared by Ball.
  2. A draft attached to the telegram indicates that the decision had been reached that morning, presumably when the President met very briefly with Ball, Komer, and Jernegan on the subject of Jordan following an NSC meeting. Discussion of the question of arms sales to Jordan had been scheduled to follow discussion of Vietnam at the NSC meeting, but the meeting broke up after the Vietnam discussion. (Ibid., S/S-NSC Files: Lot 70 D 265, NSC Meetings, 1965; Johnson Library, President’s Daily Diary)
  3. The question of who the emissaries to Israel should be was discussed by the President and Ball in telephone conversations at 5:15 and 5:25 p.m. on February 7. Ball suggested sending Harriman. (Ibid., Ball Papers, Jordan)
  4. Telegram 945 from Tel Aviv, February 8, reported a front-page story in Maariv that Israel had expressed concern to the U.S. Government over its decision to supply Jordan with arms worth $50 million. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, DEF 12–5, JORDAN) Ball called in Harman on February 8 and expressed U.S. unhappiness with the leak. (Telegram 712 to Tel Aviv, February 8; ibid.)