457. Memorandum From Harold H. Saunders of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow)1


  • Your Talk with Ambassador Harman This Afternoon2

Ambassador Harman got a rocket from Eshkol a couple of days ago about our military aid freeze. He has since seen Luke Battle and asked to see Nick Katzenbach.3 He has also seen Senator Symington and maybe some others on the Hill. Unfortunately, this is building up to a major political storm which we could have headed off.

You should be aware of how Katzenbach and Nitze authorized Battle to handle Harman yesterday. They’ve all had calls from Symington similar to yours.4

Luke told Harman that there are all kinds of people against our sending any arms to the Middle East—those who don’t want war, those who don’t want a fuel and arms race, and those who don’t like either Arabs or Israelis. One reason for the continuing freeze has been the feeling that we could not move on Israel alone and that Israel’s friends would oppose our moving anything to any Arabs.

Then Luke went down the list of things being held up for the Arabs and asked whether the Israelis have any objection to our moving them. Harman said that, except for Jordan, he didn’t think they would, but he would let Luke know if he was wrong.

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Luke feels likewise that Senator Symington does not object to moving with the moderate Arabs. Therefore, it looks as if we have established a point that we can move some things to both Arab and Israelis without upsetting some of our main problem people on the Hill.

Unfortunately, there is enough evidence around town that (a) Congress is not a problem and (b) some people in the Executive Branch are thinking of keeping the freeze on until the Israelis change their position toward the Arabs to create suspicion in Jerusalem which we have been unable to breach with all of our assurances.

I think the best you can do with Harman is to say about what you did to Evron last week:5

It has been the judgment of the men responsible for getting this legislation through Congress that having a big headline to the effect that we were resuming military assistance to the Middle East would do great damage to the aid bill. We have reviewed this a couple of times at their request and as recently as last week that was still our judgment.
We are willing to pursue the matter along the lines he and Luke discussed because we have no ulterior motive in maintaining the freeze.
We are sorry that our solemn assurances have been thrown aside so lightly in Jerusalem.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Israel, Vol. VII. Secret.
  2. No record of this conversation has been found.
  3. Harman’s conversation with Battle on this subject on October 3 is recorded in telegram 49692 to Tel Aviv, October 6. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 12–5 ISR) His conversation with Katzenbach on this subject on October 6 is recorded in telegram 51187 to Tel Aviv, October 9. (Ibid.)
  4. A memorandum of October 3 from Walt Rostow to the President states that Senator Stuart Symington had called him that day. Symington said there was great “anxiety, vexation and deep bitterness” in the Israeli Government over U.S. military aid policy; the Israelis were convinced that the United States was holding things up to put pressure on them. Rostow commented that the situation was “political dynamite.” He said Symington intended to take the floor of the Senate soon to insist on resumption of military aid to Israel and that Symington said there would be no opposition to military aid to the moderate Arabs. Rostow concluded that Symington said he could, if necessary, easily get a special bill passed supporting military aid to Israel in the face of the continuing shipments of Soviet arms. Rostow sent copies of the memorandum to Rusk and McNamara. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Israel, Vol. XII)
  5. No record of this conversation has been found.
  6. Printed from a copy that indicates Saunders signed the original.