21. Memorandum From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (Jernegan) to the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Johnson)1


  • Tanks for Israel


Attached is a self-explanatory letter to Deputy Secretary of Defense Cyrus Vance indicating that the Department of State is not willing, at this time, to approve the sale of tanks to Israel.2

Cairo Telegram 1896 (Tab D)3 well summarizes the political imperatives for searching for more feasible alternatives to that earlier decision. Since the analysis in that telegram was prepared, Nasser has signalled in his speech of February 22 that the Arabs will react violently to any [Page 47] U.S. actions in 1964 that threaten their security interest. The Libyan Prime Minister has informed Ambassador Lightner of the badly deteriorating situation regarding the Libyan attitude toward Wheelus (Tripoli’s 331, Tab C).4 In addition, the results of the Rowen mission show there are no grounds for thinking our supplying tanks could be used as a counter in dissuading Israel from proceeding in its missile program.

The proposed letter also calls Mr. Vance’s attention to the fact that, judging from the reports we have seen, members of the mission appear to have indicated to Israel officials that the U.S. was giving favorable consideration to the tank request. This was directly contrary to the limitations in the terms of reference, paragraph 3, b. (Terms of reference attached at Tab B.)5


That you sign the attached letter at Tab A.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, DEF 19–3 US–ISR. Secret. Drafted by Russell and cleared by Jeffrey C. Kitchen, Kenneth L. Brown of INR, Davies, Adrian S. Fisher, Deputy Counselor and Vice Chairman of Policy Planning Henry D. Owen, and Edward A. Padelford, Jr., of NR. The memorandum was received in Johnson’s office on March 2.
  2. The tabs are not attached; the letter has not been found.
  3. Telegram 1896 from Cairo, February 21, is in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, DEF 12–5 ISR.
  4. Telegram 331 from Tripoli, February 27, is ibid., DEF 15 LIBYA–US.
  5. The political terms of reference were set forth in telegram 716 to Tel Aviv, February 13. (Ibid., ORG 7 OSD)