2. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Israel1

74858. Ref: Tel Aviv 1611.2

You may inform Eshkol that status Weizman request remains as conveyed to GOI representatives here. We continue actively to staff [Page 3] out request within USG but unable say at this time when our internal procedures will be completed. With respect to additional A-4’s, Eshkol may be assured that we are aware of special lead time problem on Douglas A-4 production line and are taking this factor fully into consideration. More generally, we are sensitive to Israel’s need retain adequate defensive capability and remain convinced that Israel retains sufficient margin of safety for foreseeable future to permit orderly completion of thorough and deliberate analysis Weizman request which we are still in process of making. Our decision to unfreeze sizeable backlog of orders for parts and components, to give continuing case by case consideration to new pipeline requests, and to confirm delivery of A-4’s under 1966 contract—a decision which was not politically easy for us—should reassure GOI of our continued sympathetic view of Israel’s security requirements. FYI. SIG is scheduled consider Near East arms policy, including Weizman request, week of November 27, and we hope have decision one way or other, at least with respect to additional A-4’s, soon thereafter. JCS say that, with arrival 48 A-4’s already promised, Israeli military superiority over any combination of Arabs will be assured for three to five years, even without additional 50 Mirages from France. Israeli MilAtt here has conveyed some sense of urgency about A-4 add-on request, largely related to fact Douglas Aircraft must soon make decision about future production line programming. On other hand, MilAtt fairly relaxed about other components of Weizman request. In addition, he has indicated Israel no longer pressing for M-113 APC’s approved May 23 and wishes instead early USG approval for GOI purchase of used APC’s from European surplus stocks for cannibalization purposes. We are now giving active consideration to this request as well as to pending IDF orders for Piper Cub aircraft and $11 million in additional tank parts. End FYI.
Following is for your guidance should Eshkol raise Nasser speech.3 While speech does not augur well for early progress toward political settlement, we have never felt progress would come easily and assume GOI has not thought so either. It is not without precedent for Near Eastern political leaders to strike hard line public bargaining pose and remains to be seen how much of what Nasser said about settlement terms is for bargaining purposes. This should become clearer once [Page 4] UN Special Representative becomes active.4 Meanwhile, we do not discount potentially serious implications of Nasser speech—particularly references to Suez Canal, withdrawal terms, and military preparations—which, at very least, will make job of UN Rep more difficult. At same time, it important to bear in mind that main purpose of speech appeared be to boost domestic morale in context of somber review of enormity UAR military defeat in June. On future course of Arab-Israel problem there are number of ambiguities and contradictions in speech which could, if Nasser chooses, leave door open for some compromise. For example, he (a) describes UN resolution as “insufficient” but does not reject it, and (b) while speaking of need to prepare for new military round, acknowledges possibility that political settlement may make this unnecessary. In latter connection, possibly significant is Nasser’s statement that “We believe that reaching a sufficient degree of strength may be a substitute for using it in fact.” Given past experience, we are not inclined take comfort from any of this. At same time, we assume GOI will agree it would be mistake to assume on basis one speech in essentially domestic context that Nasser’s position completely inflexible and that he is irretrievably launched on path to new war. Negotiating process has dynamic of its own which must be allowed develop before any final conclusions are reached.
Re present state of UAR military preparedness, we prefer base our judgment on what we know to be case and not on such ambiguous, unsubstantiated and contradictory statements as were contained in Nasser’s November 23 speech. For example, while he says in one place that “the real power of our armed forces exceeds the real power prior to the start of the battle,” he says in another that “our armed forces have restored a considerable part of their military strength” and that “we must realize that we cannot achieve everything all at once.” In context, Nasser’s comments about his armed forces make clear that he envisages and is preparing his people for a fundamental and long drawn-out process of reorganization and rebuilding. Again, we do not discount potentially serious implications of this, but we see in it no basis for altering our assessment of present relative military strengths in [Page 5] area and time factors involved which, in our judgment, remain in Israel’s favor for foreseeable future.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 12-5 ISR. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Drafted by Alfred L. Atherton, Jr.; cleared in substance by Harry H. Schwartz and Richard B. Parker; and approved by Rodger P. Davies.
  2. In telegram 1611 from Tel Aviv, November 24, Ambassador Barbour reported that Prime Minister Eshkol asked whether the U.S. position on military supplies for Israel remained as stated by Battle on October 6. (Ibid.) Documentation concerning the position taken by Battle on October 6 is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume XIX.
  3. Reference is to the State of the Union message delivered by President Nasser to the UAR National Assembly on November 23. The speech was summarized in telegram 1015 from Cairo, November 24. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 15-1 UAR) Excerpts from this speech are printed in American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pp. 619–620.
  4. Security Council Resolution 242, adopted on November 22, called on the UN Secretary-General to designate a Special Representative to proceed to the Middle East “to establish and maintain contacts with the States concerned in order to promote agreement and assist the effort to achieve a peaceful and accepted settlement” in accordance with the principles and provisions of Resolution 242. (UN doc. S/RES/242 (1967)) On November 23 the Secretary-General informed the Security Council of the appointment of Gunnar Jarring, Swedish Ambassador to the Soviet Union, as the Special Representative. (UN doc. S/8259)