418. Memorandum for the Record1
- Discussion with Israeli Minister
Following up Mac Bundy's recent conversations with Israeli Minister Evron, I saw him today to tell him of Mr. Bundy's feeling that the USG should not release more than $3 million in arms aid for Israel at this time. I said we had discussed this in detail before reaching this decision, but that we did not feel we should re-open the question right now while the aid bill is on the floor of the Senate and will be uncertain until the House/Senate conference is over.
When I said I hoped his Government could live with this, he said, “Of course—if we have to.” It is not a question of military urgency, but a political problem of undercutting those in Israel who argue that Israel cannot trust the U.S. and should go it alone. There are those who view our aid freeze as a harbinger of a confrontation over post-war settlement such as we had in 1956–57. Evron argues that a small additional release—such as those items on the Munitions Control List which Israel would normally buy through commercial channels—would do the trick. However, he said he wouldn't press us further but asked us to keep an open mind on the idea of making a small additional release as a good will gesture on our own, perhaps between the end of Senate debate and General Weizman's visit.2
His argument rests on two points:
(a) Crudely put, there are some in Israel who argue that if there is to be a U.S.-Israeli confrontation, the arms embargo is the issue to have it on. Their case is excellent given Soviet resupply of the Arabs, and Israel's friends could exert a good deal of pressure. They feel Evron should have turned down the $3 million in order to preserve this issue. [Page 782]He does not want a confrontation on anything and is trying to take the wind out of their sails by offering proof that our hearts are in the right place.
(b) He believes that helping Israel would support—rather than endanger—the military aid bill. He feels that enough Senators support Israel's cause—not only because of the Jewish vote, but out of broad sympathy for the underdog—that we could argue from Israel's case outward to broaden understanding of our purpose in selling arms.
I told him it was the judgment of those responsible for getting the Administration's bill through Congress that now was not the time to rock the boat. While the friends of Israel may have usefully argued their case, we did not feel certain enough of our position to justify going further at this point. On the one hand, there are those in Congress who generally oppose arms supplies anywhere and who are particularly concerned when the U.S. ends up supplying arms to both parties in a war. On the other hand, some of these same people admittedly recognize the legitimacy of Israel's cause. Given the contradictory nature of the arguments and emotions involved, no one could guarantee which sentiment would dominate. Therefore we chose not to throw any new issues into the forum at this time. (Comment: Try as I did with my questions, I could not figure out how another $1 million would break the back of resentment over our military aid suspension.)
Turning to other issues, Evron voiced his Government's increasing disillusionment with King Hussein. He felt the King was trying to bring together an Arab summit meeting mainly to show us that the Arabs could not produce a solution and confront us with responsibility for finding one ourselves. He felt Jordan's recent efforts to stir up resistance on the West Bank fitted this picture of trying to build an eventual case for U.S. intervention to produce a pro-Jordanian settlement. I thought he over-stated the situation considerably and felt that while we did not fully understand Hussein's motives, it was quite reasonable to assume that Hussein would have to have some general Arab support before he came to terms with Israel. I did not feel, as Evron had argued, that Hussein was free to settle with Israel entirely by himself.
I expressed concern that Israel seemed to be digging into its present position more solidly every day. Each new headline painted a darker image. Without even arguing the merits of letting the dust settle, I saw a problem for both of us in the rapidly sharpening image of Israel as the intransigent victor holding onto its spoils. Evron said it was inevitable that Israel (and we) would have a hard time in the coming UNGA. I suggested that there are two ways of dealing with the inevitable. One is to sit on your hands and accept all its consequences; the other is to see whether you can't do something to face it with some dignity instead of just sticking your head in the sand and letting the brickbats fly.[Page 783]
At the end of our conversation he cited an interesting report from Israeli Ambassador Eytan in Paris. Eytan, on the basis of recent conversations with members of the French military who were party to some remarkably free remarks of De Gaulle, made on his recent sea voyage to Canada, reports that De Gaulle's position vis-à-vis Israel is based on two points: (a) At the heart of De Gaulle's American policy is the feeling that America's strength will lead to war. Therefore the U.S. must be weakened. Since Israel and the United States have grown closer, the U.S./Israeli alliance must be weakened in order to undermine the U.S. position in the Middle East. (b) De Gaulle is just plain annoyed with Israel for not having followed his advice in May and June. De Gaulle's idea then was that Israel should test Nasser's blockade by sending a ship of its own into the Gulf of Aqaba.
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Harold H. Saunders, Israel, 6/1/67–10/31/67. Secret; Nodis. The memorandum is filed with a covering memorandum of August 17 from Saunders to Battle stating that Bundy “did not want any papers to circulate on the arrangement he made with Evron on the $3 million release” but that Saunders thought Battle should “have the flavor of the attached and then throw this memo away.”↩
- An August 9 memorandum from Saunders to Bundy summarizes a conversation between Saunders and Evron in which Evron “professed not to be reopening your gentlemen's agreement on the $3 million release” but indicated that he felt U.S. bureaucrats were interpreting the terms of the U.S. aid suspension too narrowly. Saunders advised Evron against reopening the issue with the President but agreed to pass on his request to Bundy. (Ibid., National Security File, NSC Special Committee Files, Suspense)↩