436. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson1


  • General Weizman’s Presentation2

General Weizman today wound up two mornings of formal talks in the Pentagon on Israel’s aircraft requirements for the next five years. The first reaction of all who attended was that, while details of any such presentation are debatable, his requests and tone were both modest.

The attached table3 shows how Weizman sees the Israeli air force developing 1968–73. His request from us boils down to: (1) complete on schedule (beginning in December) delivery of the 48 Skyhawks contracted for in March 1966; (2) sell an additional 27 Skyhawks; (3) sell 50 F–4 Phantoms. In short, he wants 77 more US planes from us roughly by the end of 1968.

He rests his argument on these main points:

Airpower will continue to be the decisive factor in Israeli strategy. Israel with its small population has mustered about all it can manage in ground forces.
If there is another war, Israel will face a tougher enemy: There will be greater Arab cooperation, and Israel won’t be able to count on the luxury of fighting one enemy at a time. Arab airfields will be better defended, more numerous and more widely dispersed and hardened. The Arab air forces on Israel’s borders alone will number around 900 combat aircraft by 1970, against a planned Israeli force of 350.
Israel still believes that it must maintain a force that will deter aggression. Weizman feels that one cause of the June war was that Israel’s force was so close to the margin of visible superiority that it lost its credibility as a deterrent and allowed Nasser to miscalculate his chances.
If there is a next time, Israel will have to be prepared to absorb a first strike, since the Arabs are now painfully aware of the advantages of this strategy.

We told Weizman he could expect no answers while he was here, and staff work will now begin grinding out a recommendation for you. But I wanted you to have immediately the flavor of Weizman’s presentation.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Israel, Vol. VII. Top Secret.
  2. Saunders’ notes of General Weizman’s presentation on September 11, with a covering memorandum of that date to Rostow, are ibid. A joint State-Defense message of September 15 to Tel Aviv is in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 7 ISR. A transcript of the proceedings is ibid., NEA/IAI Files: Lot 70 D 304.
  3. Attached but not printed.