437. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Evron on the Arms Deal

While riding back from our second session with General Weizman, Evron informally suggested we consider handling the arms deal (if any) as follows.

There are two possible approaches. One would be to exact conditions for aircraft. The other would be to meet Israel’s arms request without formal conditions but simultaneously to say through some informal channel that we were doing this at some political cost and would therefore expect something from them in return. They fully expect this, but the way we do it will be important.

Evron feels we’ll get more out of the Israelis by taking the second tack. He feels that the President understands that the way to deal with Israelis is to treat them as close friends and to expect them to respond in kind, rather than treating them like bazaar hagglers.

This strikes once again at the heart of our relationship with Israel. The Israelis have always tried to get close to us and to build the kind of relationship we have with the British. We have—at least at the professional level of our government—kept them at arms length, and they have been deeply hurt. Evron and I have discussed this aspect of our relationship before, and it’s no surprise that he sees here a chance for a new start.

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Comment. Taking Evron’s tack would be a noble experiment as well as a calculated risk. I recall saying when we were debating our military aid package for Israel before the war that the argument had nothing to do with dollars or numbers of APCs—that the real argument was over what kind of relationship we should have with Israel. In my mind, there is no question, so I’m tempted to take the risk Evron suggests. This is not to rule out a pretty blunt dialogue on what we expect of the Israelis. But as Evron suggests, the real leverage we have is not a specific number of aircraft but our total relationship. In a situation such as we face today nothing short [apparent omission] is big enough for the kind of stakes we’re talking about, but I’m not sure we’re in a position to bargain with it. In any case, Evron’s idea warrants serious consideration since our decision on tactics will set the tone of our relationship with Israel for some time.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Israel, Vol. VII. Secret. Drafted by Saunders.