473. Memorandum of Conversation1

Minister Evron asked to see me today. The only time available was lunch, so we dined together at my office.

He said he had prepared to come in a state of agitation and crisis because of the discussions yesterday with Sec. McNamara; but, just before lunch they had received Sec. McNamara’s letter to Minister Eban,2 which eased the situation they thought they faced yesterday. It had been immediately forwarded to Jerusalem and they would await a response.
He described the “shock” of their discussion yesterday with Sec. McNamara in which they had understood him to be requesting formal Israeli support now for the shipment of military spare parts to Jordan. He said this was politically impossible and explained why.
I explained at length Sec. McNamara’s position, underlining that he was not insensitive to Israel’s political problems but was laying before Minister Eban a situation and a fact which Israel could not ignore or evade:
  • —The Russians had given Hussein a most attractive offer for military equipment on the basis of a “single supplier”;
  • —The U.S. could not accept sole responsibility for dealing with this problem when it arose. He said he now understood the problem and the proposal made by Sec. McNamara.

I took the occasion of lunch to make as strongly as I could the point that it would be impossible for the U.S. to have an Israel policy without a Middle East policy; and a Middle East policy without having a global policy including a policy of seeing our commitments through in Southeast Asia. I underlined that I had heard nothing more dangerous in recent months than the doctrine that we could somehow look after Israel’s arms requirements while living with the Church amendment and all it implied.

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Evron agreed that this was correct and then went on to say the following: If we are to work together, as we must, on issues like Middle East arms supply, we ought to try to work out a more lucid common strategy for the whole region. He did not mean we would always agree in detail. Israel did some things with which we disagreed and vice versa. He underlined the beginnings of Israel’s uneasiness as starting with the Goldberg-Gromyko draft resolution, which they saw and on which they were “permitted to comment only at virtually the 12th hour.” He suggested that we use the occasion of Eban’s presence in the country for the frankest possible talks so that our tactical problems could be handled within the framework of a fairly lucid common strategic approach to the Middle East and Middle East settlement.

I took the occasion to get out Eban’s aide memoire of 30 August 19673—emphasizing that this was a personal view, not that of the President or the Secretary of State—and emphasized my judgment that it was a most dangerous illusion for Israel to believe that it in fact could rely for its security on its own without reference to “external factors.” The recent Middle East crisis required not merely Israeli feats of arms but a U.S. policy that kept the Soviet Union from engaging in the Middle East and which kept a working majority in the UN General Assembly. An Israel surrounded by hostile Soviet-dominated Arab states would be no answer to its problems no matter what the U.S. arms supply might be; nor would an Israel which had lost its support in the world community.

He noted these comments with some sympathy.

He concluded by saying that he was sure that in the week ahead the friends of Israel in the U.S. would make a maximum effort to get the Church amendment removed.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Israel, Vol. VII. Secret. Rostow sent this memorandum to the President that afternoon with a covering memorandum stating, “Herewith an account of my lunch today with Minister Evron. Harry [presumably McPherson] tells me that after lunch Evron feels a bit easier.” A handwritten “L” on the covering memorandum indicates the President saw it.
  2. See footnote 5, Document 468.
  3. See footnote 5, Document 430.