210. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (Warnke) to Secretary of Defense Clifford 1
- Israeli F-4s
Ambassador Ball is going out next week to discuss with Israel, certain of the Arabs, and others, the possibilities for a settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict. He will be going first to London and Paris, then to TelAviv, Amman, Beirut and Jidda (also, being very closely held, he may meet the UAR Foreign Minister in Beirut).
We are told that State is preparing a Memorandum for the President in which they propose that Ball be armed with permission to reveal a “yes in principle” on the F-4s. We are not certain under what conditions this “yes” might be offered, but it seems to be related to the Israeli attitude on progress in the peace talks rather than, for example, Israeli signature on the NPT or their agreement to forego missile or nuclear acquisition.
The advantages of going forward with the F-4 agreement in principle at this time are as follows: Israel must be able to defend itself—there is a gap in high-performance aircraft between the Arabs and Israelis—eventually Israel will need U.S. aircraft in any case-the duration of the French embargo is uncertain—we could reassure Israel of our support and perhaps make them less rigid—we would convince the Arabs and the Soviets of the firmness of U.S. support for Israel-the Arabs and Soviets may already presume we will deliver F-4s and have discounted this—it would ease Congressional and public concerns in this country-it would strengthen the Israeli Government vis-a-vis its domestic critics.
The arguments against going ahead are: there is no real military need to do so now, and we are delivering A4s-there would be an adverse impact on the Jarring mission-it would be counter to the latest Soviet moves on Near East arms control—it would bring pressure on the Soviets to supply more and better aircraft—the Mirage deliveries may well go through and could be in operational Israeli units almost immediately after the decision is taken by de Gaulle. This would give the Israelis, at least temporarily, a sizeable “overkill”, particularly if the [Page 408] MD-620 missiles were also delivered by France-F-4s will not deter essentially irrational Arabs—it would deprive us of potential inducements to get the Israelis to be more flexible.
We see certain advantages to giving Ambassador Ball authority to make a very conditional promise of a future agreement to sell F-4s on the following basis:
- We recognize Israel’s need for F-4s if Arab inventories continue increasing;
- The need is not immediate;
- The diplomatic problems are at present overriding; and
- We must first see the results of the efforts to find a peaceful settlement (and the prospects for Near East arms limitation discussions with the Soviets).
We suggest that Ambassador Ball’s kit include only this conditional promise for F-4s which should for the present be kept secret but which could be made public at a later point (say, October) after the progress of the possible Near East arms discussions with the Soviets and the Jarring efforts are clearer and provided Israeli movement toward a settlement, in the coming months, is adequate.
We suggest that you discuss the foregoing with Secretary Rusk or the President.
- Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 72 A 1499, 452.1 Israel. Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Murray in NESA.↩