388. Information Memorandum From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (Davies) to Secretary of State Rusk 1

SUBJECT

  • US-Israeli Discussions on Anti-Infiltration Technology

The attached telegram2 summarizes a meeting February 6 between DOD/State officials and the Israeli Military Attache to consider our draft Memorandum of Understanding3 on US-Israeli cooperation in the field of anti-infiltration technology. From this meeting, as well as from other recent discussions with and public statements by Israeli officials, there has emerged an Israeli position which may be summarized as follows:

1.
The application of electronic and other technological developments to the problem of protecting Israel’s borders against Arab clandestine penetration attempts is not a new concept; Israel has been experimenting with this approach for some years.
2.
The Government of Israel is prepared to examine and test the latest American devices and techniques to determine whether Israel can improve its own effectiveness in this field. It is disappointed, however, with what we have come up with so far and is not yet prepared to sign the proposed agreement.
3.
In any case this approach can never provide a complete answer to Israel’s security problem. To give it undue weight as part of a “static” defense policy would limit Israel’s sovereign right to defend itself by whatever means it deems necessary. Even while Israel continues to practice military restraint it must maintain a credible deterrent posture. This means that it cannot permit the impression to be created that it has renounced the right to choose the manner, place and time in which it will act to assure the security of its borders. Politically, undue emphasis on anti-infiltration technology would create a defensive, ghetto psychology that would encourage increased Arab harassment and foster a defeatist attitude in Israel. Both of these developments would constitute a setback to Israel’s search for a permanent settlement of the Arab-Israel problem.
4.
Israel thinks the U.S.G. is overselling the anti-infiltration idea, creating the impression that it can solve Israel’s security problem. Israel was particularly disturbed by the description of anti-infiltration technology as an “alternative” to military reprisal in the President’s reply to Prime Minister Eshkol’s recent message.4 In the Israeli view this emphasis, which they also see reflected in comments by various U.S.G. officials, suggests a fundamental U.S. failure to understand the true nature of the threat Israel faces. Those on the Arab side who advocate terrorism—the Syrian Government, Palestinian extremists and their ideological mentors—must be shown that this is a self-defeating doctrine before it becomes too deeply rooted to be destroyed. By advocating “passive defense,” the United States is encouraging the aggressor while asking the victim to limit his freedom of action.

We have endeavored to make clear to our Israeli contacts that we do not view our cooperative anti-infiltration efforts as a cure-all, but rather as part (one might say the U.S. component) of a more measured and precise response to the type and level of threat Israel now faces than are massive retaliatory raids of which Samu is the most recent example. The latter, in our judgment, exacerbate rather than contain the problem. The raids encourage the terrorists in their aim of goading Israel into intermittent hostilities with its neighbors. Fundamentally, we do not believe that Israel can achieve absolute security, so long as there is no peace between it and its Arab neighbors, or that it can shoot its way to peace. We think military retaliation is both ineffective and reckless and may in time give serious substance to Palestinian terrorism which, despite some tragic successes, is still a shadowy and relatively disorganized force.

At the same time we agree that efforts to improve Israel’s anti-infiltration capabilities should be carried out quietly, and we have accordingly endeavored to avoid focussing public attention on them. The fact is that the first official public acknowledgment of U.S.-Israeli cooperation under way in this field came in a press conference by Foreign Minister Eban on January 24. Israeli complaints that we are overselling the anti-infiltration concept seem prompted primarily by privileged references we have made in private forums to our joint efforts in this field, in an attempt to reassure Congressional and other friends of Israel in this country regarding our continuing interest in Israel’s security. We would therefore not rule out some degree of Israeli stalling in getting the anti-infiltration device study into operation, but believe this to be primarily for tactical reasons.

The Israeli Government, as you know, has argued that the United States over-reacted to Israel’s November 13 raid against Jordan. Israel [Page 760] has also been clearly concerned that our reaction to that raid would adversely influence our response to Israel’s requests for assistance in the economic and military field. Perhaps to counteract this as well as to maintain world sympathy and concern for Israel, Israeli spokesmen have made a concerted effort of late to dramatize the current Arab terrorist threat to Israeli security. The present Israeli tendency to downplay the importance of anti-infiltration technology, as an answer to terrorism, would appear to be a part of that effort. Despite some lack of enthusiasm in Israeli military circles, we do not interpret this as an indication of official Israeli indifference to our anti-infiltration proposals and believe we should continue to push those proposals quietly but firmly.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 23–8 ISR. Secret; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Atherton.
  2. The attached telegram is a copy of telegram 132912 to Tel Aviv, February 7. Another copy is ibid., DEF 1 ISR.
  3. Not found.
  4. See Document 382.