142. Memorandum From Robert N. Ginsburgh of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow)1


  • Who Would Win a War? Israel or the UAR
The attached document2—prepared a week ago—is the best I have seen on comparing the military capabilities of Israel and the UAR. I suggest you read all of it.
It concludes:
  • —Israel could get air supremacy over the Sinai in one to three days—depending on who struck first.
  • —Israel would lose a third to half of its air force. (This estimate may be high; one-fourth to one-third losses might be closer to the mark.)
  • —Israel would drive the Egyptians west of the Suez Canal in seven to nine days.
  • —Israel could contain any attacks by Syria or Jordan during this period.
Since this was written, the UAR has gained a number of military benefits:
  • —The UAR has consolidated positions in Sinai.
  • —The UAR has manned the Straits of Aqaba.
  • —The UAR has mined certain areas.
  • —Arab command, control, and planning has probably improved.
  • —The threat to Israel posed by Jordan has increased.
  • UAR logistics in the Sinai have probably improved.
By a delay of one week—28 May to 4 June—the Arabs have made a net military gain if war should now occur. The ultimate outcome—according to “my experts”—would be unchanged. Israel would still win, but
  • —It might take 8–10 days to drive to the Suez.
  • —Israel might suffer 5–10% more casualties.

If war outbreak were delayed one more week—to 11 June, the Israeli military position would probably deteriorate further—but at a slower rate. “My experts” judge that:

Israel would still win, but

  • —It might take as much as 9 days to two weeks.
  • —Israelis might suffer an additiona casualties.

After 11 June, the military balance would not change until the economic effects of mobilization began to affect military posture.
Some of my experts think that the above underrates Israel. I suspect that if I were a responsible Israeli commander, I might be less sanguine even though I had no doubt about the ultimate military outcome. The only other nagging doubt is that sometimes in the past professional military opinion has been awfully wrong, but I can find no objective basis to challenge the present estimate.
Thus, I conclude that Israeli concern about delaying a war which they fear is inevitable is based primarily on their concern about a deterioration in their political and diplomatic position rather than on military factors.
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Middle East Crisis, Situation Reports. Top Secret; [codeword not declassified].
  2. The attachment is apparently a draft of Document 76.