470. Telegram From the Embassy in Israel to the Department of State 1

1145. Subject: Surface to Surface Missiles. Ref: Tel Aviv 971.2

After pondering our questions PM provided his reaction in form of following points which, in view of approaching Yom Kippur holiday, he asked Bitan to pass to me.
GOI is engaged in a missile research and development program in conjunction with France.
This program is not expected to be completed for at least another two to three years.
As to evaluation of UAR missile program there may be different views. As an example, within past month UAR has rebuilt its air force with some 250–300 planes. They have 25 COMAR rocket-carrying boats which are capable of shelling Israel’s coastal towns. It is in fact not possible to determine when and how UAR will achieve a ground-to-ground rocket capability.
Prime Minister would not be drawn out on more specific answers to our questions. In his opinion it is premature to get into that much detail.
Bitan commented that there is “no reason for anxiety” on our part as regards Israeli-French missile program. He indicated that progress had been so slow that whenever PM asked for report from his experts, reply was invariably that program would not be completed for “two to three more years.”
When I pressed for additional info on domestic missile development activity I was referred again to point 1–A above. (This may carry inference that GOI is making contribution to joint effort in ways other than financial.)
FYI. Although Prime Minister was relaxed when I was discussing our request with him personally, Bitan did remark subsequently that PM believes we are carrying our inquiries in this field too far. Although this is not new feeling, it is at present strong, according to Bitan, due to PM’s irritation over US suspension of arms shipments since Six-Day War. End FYI.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 12–5 ISR. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Repeated to London, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, and USUN. Received at 0829Z.
  2. Telegram 971 from Tel Aviv, September 28, states that the Charge was trying to arrange an early approach to Eshkol to obtain his reactions to the points raised in telegram 44235 to Tel Aviv, September 26. (Both ibid.) Telegram 44235 to Tel Aviv states that information obtained during the Weizman talks was fragmentary. Despite some U.S. intelligence indicating that MD–620 development might have reached the stage where a decision on production would seem to be required in the very near future, Weizman said an Israeli decision was “definitely not” imminent and the thinking about missile deployment was “not very serious.” The telegram requested that Barbour approach Eshkol and ask him to confirm U.S. understanding of several points.