25. Action Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson 1
- Surplus APCs for Israel Instead of New Ones
You will recall approving last May the sale to Israel of 100 new Armored Personnel Carriers.
The Israelis have now said they don't intend to buy these new APCs if we will release 375 surplus World War II half-track personnel carriers for them to cannibalize. Apparently they captured enough new equipment in June to hold them for the moment and are mainly concerned with keeping their present inventory operational. The old APCs they want originally went to our NATO allies and are now back in our control as surplus in French and Italian depots. Of the 375, 143 are the balance of a sale we had already authorized last March but suspended when war broke out.
Secretaries McNamara and Katzenbach recommend that we go along with this Israeli proposal. This would avoid introducing a new and modern piece of heavy equipment into the Israeli inventory, and the deal would attract less attention from the Arabs. Our approval would be consistent with your recent decision to supply spare parts to the Israeli military since these would be cannibalized. From the Israeli side, the half-tracks have the advantage of immediate delivery and cost only about $130,000, contrasted to the 18-months lead time and $3.5 million for new vehicles.
I am checking this with you mainly because of your personal battle for the new APCs last spring. I assume, however, that you would have no problem with this suggestion since this is what the Israelis want and it is easier for us.
The only question is whether we go ahead now or wait till you've seen Eshkol. Since we get the better end of this deal, I'd be inclined to tuck it under our belts right now. We don't get a great deal of credit for letting them have what everybody else has now laid aside as military [Page 47]junk. However, even though aircraft will be the main focus of your talk with Eshkol, you may want to give the impression of a hiatus in decisions before he comes.
Approve now but hold until after Eshkol visit2