406. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson1
- Israeli Military Visit
As part of his bargain last week to stave off a public outcry against our clampdown on military shipments to Israel, Mac Bundy agreed to try to arrange for the visit here of a top Israeli military officer to explain Israel’s current and future military requirements. Secretaries Nitze and Rusk have agreed to the week of 21 August and recommend we go ahead. The purpose of this visit would not be announced, and we would again ask the Israelis to keep this low key.
We have known for some time that we would have to go through another exercise like this. It is impossible to reconcile Israeli requests with our military’s view of Israelis actual needs without this sort of confrontation between the experts. Whatever we decide later on political grounds, talks like this are an essential first step.
On another level, this visit along with releasing $3 million worth of equipment now is our payment for the time we’ve bought with the Jewish community. Mac asked me to tell you that he was grateful to you for approving that $3 million on the phone for his gentlemen’s agreement.2 He felt it was basically a paper transaction selling the same horse twice, since that $3 million will come from the $14 million credit you already approved back on May 23.
Once this visit is over and we have had a chance to digest its results, we’ll come to the big decision on what we will and will not bargain about with the Israelis. We may have to do another small interim deal after the visit to buy a little more time for making up our minds, but any major supply agreement would depend on larger political considerations. After he has had a chance to sort out his thoughts and talk around a bit, Mac wants to come in and see you at your convenience toward the end of next week to discuss this. Meanwhile, he wanted you to know that he believes we have to go ahead with this visit. He [Page 751] assumes you have no objection since we have contained this pressure for about as long as possible now.3
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Middle East Crisis, Vol. IX. Secret.↩
- See Document 403. A memorandum of August 10 from McNamara to the Secretaries of the Military Departments approved the release to Israel of $3 million in minor items of military equipment as an exception to his June 8 memorandum (see footnote 2, Document 225). (Washington National Records Center, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 330 71 A 4919)↩
- A note on the memorandum in Johnson’s handwriting reads: “I seriously doubt wisdom of this visit now. Let’s get for[eign] aid further along—ask Mc call me—L.” An attached memorandum of August 4 from Rostow to the President reported that Bundy was convinced that if the visit did not take place, pressures would grow to expand military aid to Israel in the wake of Soviet military aid to the Arabs. An attached memorandum of August 11 from Bundy to Rostow states that the President had never approved the visit, now planned for September 11, but “the painful fact is that I told Evron we could plan for it.” Bundy stated that he saw no way they could avoid discussion of military questions with the Israelis and concluded: “I think we have a bargain and I sure hope that the President will let us keep it. Otherwise, I’ll have to move to Cairo.”↩