24. Memorandum From Harold H. Saunders of the National Security Council Staff to the President's Special Assistant (Rostow)1

SUBJECT

  • Israel's Changing Focus on the Middle East

A distinct shift in Israeli attitudes has become apparent in recent weeks. It's hard to know whether the new attitude derives from a new appraisal of the situation or whether the Israelis have decided that their new line will serve better in pushing us toward an arms decision.

The new line seems to be to emphasize Soviet activity in the Middle East above all else. The unexpected Soviet moves in Yemen—on which Israeli intelligence is almost as good as ours—and the Soviet bomber visit to Cairo have at least coincided with this shift, if not caused it.

The main operational result of the shift in emphasis is that the Israelis seem more resigned to our resuming some military assistance to Jordan. It is impossible for them to say that the biggest threat facing them is this increased Soviet activity and yet still say that they don't care whether Jordan accepts a substantial Soviet presence. Even Evron is now willing to conceive that resumption of some military aid to Jordan appears the lesser of evils.

It may simply be that we have convinced the Israelis that the Jordan arms decision is tied to their aircraft decision and that the aircraft override all other considerations for them. In this case, we can consider that we've worn them down. It may be however that the Israelis also genuinely fear the implications of being surrounded by Soviet-influenced governments.2

Hal
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Israel, Vol. VIII, Cables and Memos, 12/67-2/68. Secret.
  2. A list at the bottom of the page indicates that telegrams 1763, December 11, and 1886, December 21, from Tel Aviv were attached to this memorandum. Both telegrams reported on conversations between the DCM and Foreign Office officials who expressed concern about the visit of Soviet bombers to Egypt. The Soviet Air Force visit was represented as part of a Soviet “grand scheme” to surround Israel with hostile forces.