177. Telegram From the Embassy in Israel to the Department of State1

1122. For President and Secretary. From Komer. Part One. Komer and Barbour laid proposal Deptel 8652 before Eshkol and Meir in three hour meeting morning 5 March3 (Eshkol unavailable previous day because attending maneuvers in Negev). Despite our best efforts, including stress on need for prompt understanding lest we both lose Jordan, Eshkol found it unacceptable. As suspected by Washington, he contended that in respect to arms offered Israel it worse than previous proposals. We refused accept such immediate answer and insisted on Israeli counterproposal. If he couldn’t accept our new offer, what was he prepared say? He agreed respond, and we think he shaken.

In aside to Komer at end Eshkol pleaded we recognize Israel’s predicament. If President would only tell him privately—orally if necessary that we would meet Israel’s needs for tanks and “a few” planes in the next year or so, he could try meet our needs painful as they were. Komer replied that, speaking as Presidential emissary who knew our Middle East problems, he would urge PM not to press us too hard now. Israel would get farther in long run by not trying to force our hand. PM must see our problems too. If he trusted his US friends, he mustn’t try to settle everything on arms today. We wouldn’t let Israel down, but Israel must in turn comprehend our own deeply held concerns.

Hightlights and Comments follow.4

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, DEF 12–5 ISR. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Repeated to Manila for Harriman and passed to the White House. Part Two of Komer’s report, consisting of highlights of his conversation with Eshkol, and Part Three, Comments, were transmitted in telegrams 1124 and 1125 from Tel Aviv, both March 5. (Ibid.) Bundy sent a retyped copy of the three telegrams to the President with a covering memorandum of the same date, noting that it was Komer’s latest report which Johnson would probably want to read, but that there was no need for action until Eshkol’s counter-proposal was received. Bundy added that he shared Komer’s evident conclusion that they had “pressed the Israelis far enough” and it was time to agree that “in the very nature of the situation we are bound to be their last resort for arms supply from here on out,” especially since the only immediate commitment required was for “tanks and ‘a few’ planes.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Israel, Harriman Israeli Mission (II))
  2. Document 175.
  3. A memorandum of the conversation, enclosed with airgram A–696, March 17, is in the National Archives and Records Administration,RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 7 US/HARRIMAN, and in the Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Israel, Harriman Israeli Mission (II).
  4. See footnote 1 above.