231. Memorandum From Harold H. Saunders of the National Security Council Staff to President Johnson1

SUBJECT

  • Letter from Prime Minister Eshkol

Ambassador Rabin today delivered the attached message from Prime Minister Eshkol.2 It is mainly an answer to your note which Ambassador Ball carried to Eshkol.3 However, it reiterates the familiar Israeli view that Nasser does not want a real peace and that one reason he refuses to face reality and settle with Israel is that he still thinks he can win the arms race. This leads Eshkol to hope there will soon be a favorable decision on Phantoms.

Since Eshkol seems to pass over rather lightly the prospects for progress through Jarring in the near future, we may recommend a quick response to this letter. The danger we want to avoid is that the Israelis will feel they’ve placated us now in their talks with Ball and won’t follow up seriously. If there is to be any progress the Israelis will have to begin talking substance with Jarring.

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Eshkol’s jab in his final paragraph at our Jordan arms program4 is hard to understand except as a general reminder that he’s keeping his eye on us. Our program is just as we explained it to the Israelis after you approved it. We can’t believe the Israelis really see it as a threat.

New subject.

Just for your information, Rabin in a separate note5 has requested twelve more Skyhawks. These would be added to the end of the present production line before it is modified to put out a new model for our Navy. The Israelis want these mainly to cover normal attrition over the life of the planes. With the original 48 and the 40 more you released after Eshkol’s visit, this would bring their total to 100. We will have a recommendation for you later.

Hal
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Special Head of State Correspondence File, Israel, 8/1/68-12/12/68. Secret. A handwritten notation indicates that the memorandum was received at the LBJ Ranch on August 8 at 10:15 a.m.
  2. Attached was an August 5 letter from Ambassador Rabin to Secretary Rusk conveying a message from Prime Minister Eshkol to President Johnson.
  3. See Document 212.
  4. Eshkol expressed concern that Jordan’s rearmament would prove to be more formidable than anticipated and that King Hussein’s interest in a final peace settlement would be correspondingly weakened.
  5. Not found.