398. Memorandum of Conversation1

Mr. Ephraim Evron, Minister, Embassy of Israel, called me yesterday [July 30] and asked if he could drop by at my home on his way back from the airport where he was leaving his wife at 10:00 p.m. I agreed.

His points were these.

He was approached the other day by U.S. officials and urged to use Israeli influence on the Hill in support of our military aid program, notably the maintenance of the revolving fund. The argument was acceptable to Israel and conformed to its interest as well as to the interest of the U.S.; namely, that military assistance was required in the Middle East to balance Soviet arms shipments to radical Arab countries and thus to support not only Israel but also moderate states. The Israel Embassy was acting on this request. But they were now disturbed to find some U.S. officials (unnamed) were pressing the argument on the Hill in the simple form that Israel needed the military aid bill. This was apparently reported by certain of Israel’s friends on the Hill. He observed that, given the low level of U.S. military aid to Israel, the argument in that form did not make much sense and that it would be better and more effective if the lobbying were done by representatives of the Israel Embassy.2

He then went on to discuss the situation with Jordan. He said Israel had problems with Hussein who no longer was regarded as a reliably moderate figure after joining with the radical Arabs for the second time in an attack on Israel—the first being 1956. They were “dismayed” by the refusal of Hussein to collaborate in the return of refugees to the [Page 738] West Bank by failing to distribute a questionnaire with an Israeli government heading. They were also disturbed by the Jordanian radio stirring up hostile attitudes towards Israel among the West Bank and Gaza refugees and inhabitants. He went on to repeat a theme he had earlier stated—that it was going to take time for the Arabs to explore their options and come to a sensible position; and this was also true for Israel, although his government would not thank him for saying so. He said that there might well be anti-Israeli incidents in the West Bank area, which would make those who thought of holding the West Bank less interested in that outcome. The economic costs of holding the West Bank would also work in that direction. But time would be needed.3

At the present time the criterion of security was overriding in Israeli government discussions—security in the literal short-run sense. From that perspective, holding the West Bank was quite attractive, although, in the long run, it might well be judged less attractive.

Evron then told me he had put into the Israel government, when he was home, a proposal to initiate soon some action on the refugees, starting in Gaza. The proposal would be for the Israelis to pay an indemnity to Arab refugees if they moved out and settled in other countries. The West Bank could take some but not many. Others could go to Iran, Western Europe, etc. About 100,000 would be left in Gaza.
I confined myself to observing that we were now in an interval of re-thinking. We did not know where Israel government thoughts were tending. Nor did we know what the outcome would be of Hussein’s talks with the Shah or the meeting of Arab Foreign Ministers in Khartoum. We did not know what Nasser’s position was or Nasser’s thoughts on when and how to proceed towards a settlement. Time would evidently be required; but there was danger for all if there was no forward movement in the direction of a settlement in the weeks ahead. Degenerative forces were at work as well as forces making for increased realism and moderation.

His only response was to probe as to whether we had any information on Nasser’s thoughts or willingness to move towards a settlement. I said: No.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Middle East Crisis, Vol. VIII. Confidential; Sensitive; Very Limited Distribution. Drafted by Rostow on July 31. A handwritten notation on the memorandum indicates that copies were sent to Bundy and Saunders. A copy was sent to the Department of State with a covering memorandum of July 31 from Rostow to Benjamin Read.
  2. Saunders commented in a July 31 memorandum to Bundy that the main Congressional threat to the military aid program as it related to Israel was the Church amendment to eliminate the revolving fund for military credit sales. He noted that Israel would by no means be the only country affected by the amendment and commented that Evron made a fair point in saying that they should not be trying to save the whole program by arguing Israel’s case alone. (Johnson Library, National Security File, NSC Special Committee Files, Military Aid) The amendment to the foreign assistance authorization bill (S. 1872) proposed by Senator Frank Church would have terminated as of December 31, 1967, the special Defense Department military assistance credit account used to guarantee loans by the Export-Import Bank for arms purchases by underdeveloped countries. On August 9 the Senate Foreign Relations Committee adopted the amendment and reported out S. 1872.
  3. Evron told Battle in a luncheon conversation on July 31 that the Israelis were convinced that “time is on their side and that the longer the Suez Canal is closed and the greater the economic problem in the UAR, the better chance that Nasser will be the first Arab country to come to peace terms with them.” (Memorandum of conversation, July 31; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 ARAB–ISR)