179. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Israel1

887. Tel Aviv for Barbour and Komer. Ambassador Harman informed Talbot March 52 that he instructed to proceed Israel immediately for consultation and leaving that night. He believed that reason was GOI concerned and confused about course of current negotiations. He would be asked to explain Washington thinking. Could Talbot throw any light on negotiating problems?

Talbot said feeling strong here we had to move forward. We have regarded proposals conveyed to GOI by Gov. Harriman as forthcoming and, as he had told PM Eshkol, signalling significant change of direction for future. We had been disappointed that GOI found itself unable accept that formulation. In view of GOI’s position, had concluded the alternative was to present a formula directed specifically at protecting Israel from adverse effects of arms sales made to Jordan for purpose of keeping Soviet arms and attendant dangers away from longest segment of Israeli frontier.

Harman professed GOI’s astonishment that USG had put forward totally new proposal when GOI was awaiting US reactions to suggested changes in Harriman proposal. GOI had gathered impression these changes likely be acceptable. Talbot replied that negotiations had been followed with greatest care at the highest levels of USG who certainly had not concluded that positions put forward by Harriman had in fact been accepted. If this was wrong, we would like to know it.

Ambassador Harman said he did not wish to duplicate negotiations being conducted in Israel, but would like to know more about US position. Recognizing para 5 of original proposal3 as key policy statement, he probed for Talbot interpretation of its meaning. Talbot held closely to actual wording of para. Harman then asked at what point we believed Israel had not accepted US proposals? Talbot replied that record of talks in Israel showed these points in detail. Harman returned to theme that from report of Harriman’s last talk he had understood that certain changes were proposed and it was left that these could be considered. Komer then had come in with new restricted [Page 386] proposal, which as we now knew Prime Minister had found totally unacceptable. Talbot repeated rationale of new proposals: that since Israel had been unable to accept broader arrangements, we had accordingly moved to a position that what we did for Jordan we would do for Israel. This meant that we would hold to same policy of restraint in arms sales as in past 15 years, regarding these proposed new sales to Israel and Jordan as a balanced exception to policy. We had made exception in Hawk sales. We had moved to this position because rapid course of events in NE, which could place us in most difficult position, had led us to conclude that necessary actions could not be further delayed while Israel and US continued discussion of certain aspects of original broader proposal.

Harman expressed inability to understand why narrower proposal should have included same request for Israeli assurances on questions of pre-emption and nuclear proliferation that had been in broader proposal. Talbot noted these now framed in somewhat different fashion and that no assurance was now asked for beyond what Eshkol had already said he was willing to give. Harman complained that US seemed to be prepared to give arms to Jordan without conditions, even though Jordan involved in water diversion plans and in UAC. USG, however, still insisting on full Israeli assurances its arms would not be used against Arabs. Talbot reviewed whole complex of reasons making it in interest of Israel and West to meet request of Jordan from non-bloc sources.

In repetitive second telephone call of March 54 Harman requested additional clarification points of issue. Repeatedly sought to get from Talbot precise answers to question whether USG would oppose any alteration in Johnston Plan, specifically any off-take by Lebanon beyond 35 MCMs. Talbot replied Harman could assure Prime Minister US position same as expressed in January 1964 in Presidential letter carried by Shriver and Departmental-Embassy discussions on details of Johnston Plan. There had, of course, been some differences in Israeli and US interpretation of Plan at that time. However, in its desire to help protect Israel’s interests, US has made clear that it would oppose Arab disruption of Israel’s water supply. If Ambassador wished to get into details of interpretation of Johnston Plan again, we could do that on his return to Washington. In meantime, we hoped he would convey reassurances to Prime Minister.

Talbot suggested Harman could also tell his Government we unable to understand why Israel seemingly taking position that prospective Sovietization of Jordan armed forces, with all significance that [Page 387] would have for Hussein’s efforts remain independent, would be more in Israel’s interest than our proposed line of action. Harman did not respond directly, but returned to observation that new narrow proposal unacceptable to Israel. Talbot gave no indication we proposed to return to broader proposal. He urged on Harman importance of completing our current discussions promptly.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, DEF 12–5 JORDAN. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Drafted by Russell and Talbot, cleared by Davies, and approved by Talbot. Repeated to Manila for Harriman.
  2. A memorandum of the telephone conversation between Harman and Talbot, incorrectly dated March 4, is ibid., POL 17 ISR–US.
  3. See Document 160.
  4. No record of this telephone conversation has been found.