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

154625. 1. Please deliver following message to Foreign Minister Eban from the Secretary.

“Dear Mr. Minister:

We have in the past discussed the dangers to mankind of a further spread of nuclear weapons. The current resumed session of the United Nations General Assembly will have the opportunity in this respect to take a major step by endorsing a treaty to prevent the further spread of nuclear weapons. It is the strong feeling of my government that the General Assembly should endorse the treaty and ask that it be opened immediately for signature by as many countries as possible so that it may enter into force at the earliest possible date.

To assure prompt and widespread support for the treaty, parallel action will be necessary on the part of certain nations and groups of nations which have an understandable desire to assure themselves that their neighbors will also adhere to the treaty. The Middle East is clearly an area which stands greatly to benefit from the enhanced security which this treaty will provide. In this area, parallel action by Israel and the Arab states will be required for such a benefit to be realized.

The Government of Israel, which, as the most technologically advanced state in the Middle East, has made clear its intention not to be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the area, is therefore in a position to assure that the treaty will effectively encompass the nations of the Middle East. That is why I urge, Mr. Minister, that your government as early as possible in the General Assembly make clear its readiness to join in supporting the treaty at the resumed United Nations General Assembly session. This, I trust, will shortly be followed by an announcement that Israel is prepared to sign the treaty.

As you know, we are keenly aware of the many problems you face in assuring Israel’s security. We recognize your concern over the buildup of conventional weapons in the states surrounding Israel. I can assure you again, as President Johnson told Prime Minister Eshkol in January, that we will press every opportunity to achieve satisfactory limitation of shipments from the Soviet Union. I can also repeat what [Page 308] the President said in January about our determination to keep Israel’s needs under active and sympathetic review.

In that context, I believe this treaty is crucial to the ultimate security of Israel. While we will work to limit the conventional arms race or keep it in appropriate balance, it is absolutely essential to prevent that race from leaping into weaponry against which Israel cannot be defended. The consequences of its use in your country would be catastrophic.

Because we do not expect any Arab nuclear capability in the foreseeable future, Israel’s objective must be to prevent, insofar as is possible by political arrangements, the transfer of such weapons to its neighbors. While the gains to Israel through adherence to the NPT would be vital, the only cost to Israel would be self-denial of the questionable deterrent of an unknown nuclear capability.

However, I must also tell you that I consider this treaty to transcend even these crucial national issues. Its potential contribution to the safety and survival of all mankind—as well as to the survival of each nation large or small—is so great as to compel its separate consideration. I am confident that Israel will not ignore the worldwide significance of this act. I hope, therefore, that the United States can count on your government’s initiative in supporting this treaty in the coming session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Sincerely yours, Dean Rusk.”

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Israel, Vol. IX, Cables and Memos, 3/68-5/68. Secret; Priority. The text of a Presidential message was received from the White House for revision as a letter from Secretary Rusk. The telegram was approved by Rusk and Davies. Repeated to USUN and Geneva.