19. Memorandum From Robert W. Komer of the National Security Council Staff to President Johnson1

The good relations we’ve built up with the Arabs are in increasing jeopardy, primarily because in their frustration over their inability to stop Israel’s water diversion, they’re lashing out at all Israel’s friends. [Page 44] This is why they reacted adversely to your Weizmann speech; it will color their reaction to anything we say or do this year.

So Rusk proposes several friendly moves (Tab A),2 designed to compensate for the pro-Israeli stand we’ll have to take this year. None should trigger much Zionist reaction except maybe the loan to the UAR, though this is covered by the fact we’re also giving Israel a loan. Rusk and Bell just told the UAR we re-approve this loan on certain conditions (but these offer enough loopholes for us to renege if the going gets too rough).
We also propose you pick up the Kennedy-Nasser correspondence, which the Egyptians themselves say Nasser set great store by. It’s been kept wholly private, which shows they want to continue it. A careful but friendly draft is at Tab B.
We want to ask Eshkol in your name to permit us to reassure Nasser that our recent inspection of Israel’s Dimona reactor shows Israel isn’t going nuclear.3 This has been of real value in keeping Arabs from going off half-cocked, and especially important now when Arabs are already violent about Jordan Waters.
We want Phil Talbot to try out once more last year’s quiet effort to interest Nasser in tacit arms control (i.e. if Nasser will agree to stay out of nuclear and missile business we’ll ask Israelis to do the same). This won’t take, but is highly useful nonetheless in (1) both reassuring and warning Nasser; (2) putting him gently on notice that if he keeps getting arms from Moscow we may have to do the same for Israel. To show that the probe has the same high auspices as before, Talbot should have your blessing (Tab D).4

All these moves were worked out with Bundy and myself; they entail minimum risk of adverse repercussions. We recommend you approve.5

R. W. Komer
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, United Arab Republic, Vol. I. Top Secret.
  2. The tabs are not attached but are listed on a copy of the memorandum in the Johnson Library, National Security File, Name File, Komer Memos, Vol. I. Tab A was a memorandum of February 19 from Rusk to the President on the subject “Maintaining the Near East Balance—1964.”
  3. Tab C was the draft telegram to Tel Aviv referred to in footnote 4, Document 12. Telegram 747 to Tel Aviv, February 27, instructed the Embassy to seek Eshkol’s agreement to passing reassurance from the Dimona inspection to Nasser. (National Archives and Records Administration,RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, DEF 12 ISR)
  4. Tab D was Rusk’s February 25 memorandum to the President, Document 18.
  5. A note in Komer’s handwriting states that the President approved all actions cited on February 26, according to Johnson’s Special Assistant Jack Valenti and a subsequent Johnson-Bundy telephone call.