99. Memorandum of Conversation1
- US Support of Israel
- Brigadier General Joseph Geva, Israeli Defense Attaché
- Lt Col Moshe Amir, Assistant Israeli Defense Attaché
- United States
- Colonel Amos A. Jordan, Jr., Director, Near East South Asia Region2
- Philip E. Barringer, Deputy Director, NESA
- Delavan P. Evans Assistant for Middle East Affairs, NESA
At his request, General Geva called to discuss US support of Israel in the present crisis. In essence, General Geva asked for a policy decision that the US would set aside previous policies and procedures and agree to far-reaching military cooperation and support of Israel in the light of the present crisis.
General Geva introduced the discussion by stating that Israel has accepted US advice about restraint, but when he left Mr. McNamara’s office after the 26 May discussion with Foreign Minister Eban3 he was very worried. He focused on General Wheeler’s statement that even after an initial UAR attack on Israeli airfields, Israel would win any war. General Geva agreed with that assessment but said Israel would pay a heavy penalty. General Geva was much concerned that in making its estimate the US was assuming that Israel had equipment and capabilities it does not have. General Geva further stated that four Presidents of the United States have made commitments to Israel. Israel does not expect US forces to intervene but wants to know whether it will be able to obtain “special assistance” from the US. General Geva also referred to President Johnson’s statement to Foreign Minister Eban during a preceding trip to the effect that Israel was so strong that the Arabs would never attack, and to Mr. Hoopes’ statements that the deterrent strength of the Israeli Defense Forces is a factor for peace in the area.
General Geva insisted that both Israel and the US have accepted a grave responsibility by restraint. He emphasized that Israel had nothing [Page 183] to gain by war. General Geva went on to indicate his concern with events in Jordan and stated that while he did not think the Soviet Union would interfere physically in the conflict it was supporting the Arab States diplomatically and with equipment.
General Geva stated it was his understanding that a “special relationship” between the US and Israel now exists. Under these circumstances he could not understand why Mr. McNamara had refused to loan Israel 150 to 200 thousand gas masks. Colonel Jordan explained that a loan might not be legal but that the US would supply the gas masks as soon as we could work out the necessary arrangements.
General Geva indicated that he foresaw problems with respect to military hardware. As examples, he mentioned the following:
- Israel is in the process of converting M–48A1 tanks to diesel-powered M–48A3’s. This conversion process will take a year and a half, during which time these tanks are not available for operational use. Israel is now exploring the question of whether to request additional US tanks because of this difficulty.
- Israel had requested certain ECM equipment which had previously been refused. He asked whether it was necessary in this case to follow previous procedures (i.e., policies). Given the present “special relationship”, he could not understand why the US seemed unwilling to release this equipment. (On at least one previous occasion Israel was refused ECM equipment on both policy and security grounds; the Senior Control Group recently decided to take no action on this ECM request for the time being since the time required to deliver and put this equipment in operation would be so long that it would not be useful in the present crisis.)
- Israel had asked that the USAF ship gas masks to Israel in Air Force C–130 aircraft but had been refused. General Geva felt that the “new approach” to Israel’s problems should result in positive decisions on this kind of request. He foresaw that Israel would have serious financial and operational difficulties in transporting equipment to Israel in time to be useful during the present crisis.
Colonel Jordan indicated that he recognized the Israeli concern, but the issues General Geva was raising went far beyond the responsibilities of his Directorate. He would, however, take up these matters with Mr. Hoopes and Mr. McNamara. Colonel Jordan pointed out that the US has many interests in this crisis, one of which is to attempt to defuse the crisis. In his personal opinion it might make matters worse if the USAF were to deliver equipment in C–130 aircraft since such action might send the wrong signal to the other side. It was important for the US to maintain its ability to take the heat out of the situation by diplomacy and to stave off a conflict.
General Geva then took up the problem of US support of Israel’s position with respect to the Gulf of Aqaba and possible US military support of Israel. He stated that in the present crisis the US is surely not [Page 184] neutral. President Eisenhower and Secretary Dulles had given commitments with respect to freedom of passage through the Gulf of Aqaba. He referred to written assurances by Secretary Dulles and statements by Ambassador Lodge in early 1957. He also stated that Nasser seems to consider that Israel is isolated and is therefore playing all of his cards. It is important that Nasser understand that Israel is not isolated, and that the US in effect is supporting Israel’s position.
An informal discussion of the US position and problems ensued. In general, DoD spokesmen pressed the ideas that we have interests in other countries in the area such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan; that the US is in a very difficult position which requires that it maintain flexibility. Maintaining flexibility may preclude overt, massive aid. If we can carry through with some influence in the Arab world, we may be able to achieve a settlement which will protect not only US interests throughout the area but also the long-range interests of Israel.
General Geva raised the question of combined contingency planning. He foresaw a situation in which Hussein might be overthrown or for some other reason the US would consider it necessary to intervene with military forces. He pressed the thought that combined planning after a decision had been made to undertake joint action would not work. Would it not be better therefore to undertake discussions and possibly combined planning at an early date?
General Geva indicated that despite the President’s commitments to closer cooperation with Israel in defense and intelligence fields, the Israelis were finding that these commitments were being construed narrowly by those given the responsibility for carrying them out. Colonel Jordan indicated that he understood the point General Geva was making but that these matters were far beyond the responsibility of his Directorate. However, General Geva’s views would be made known to the proper authorities. Colonel Jordan went on to reemphasize the fact that the US is involved in a very delicate situation. People at all levels including Secretaries McNamara and Rusk are wrestling with these problems and are making plans. These also involve the UK and other maritime countries. The President also wished to have consultations with Congress, which will take time. Colonel Jordan expressed the opinion that when these matters have reached an appropriate point he felt sure that discussions with Israel would be undertaken. At the moment we are most concerned that these efforts, which were of interest both to Israel and the US, not be jeopardized by hostilities.
- Source: Washington National Records Center, OASD Files: FRC 330 71 A 4919, 333, Israel. Secret; Sensitive. Drafted on June 2. The meeting was held at the Pentagon. A typed notation on the memorandum indicates Hoopes saw it.↩
- In the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs.↩
- See Document 69.↩