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

236515. Subject: Allon Visit. Following summary FYI only and Noforn.

Summary:

Deputy Prime Minister Allon called on Secretary September 10 and urged USG decision soonest sell F-4 Phantoms to Israel as means deterring possible Soviet-inspired Arab aggression. Military deterrent only way to force Arabs talk peace. Asked about Israeli nuclear intentions Allon said Israel did not have nuclear weapons and he was authorized reiterate PriMin Eshkol’s assurances that Israel would not be first to introduce new weapons into Middle East. Declared GOI had not yet signed NPT in order keep Egyptians uncertain as to Israel’s capability. Allon said Israeli hopes for an SSM had vanished, declared MD-620 program dead and denied Israel currently making an SSM. Secretary suggested Israelis settle USS Liberty claims soonest and evacuate Tiran Island. According Allon, Liberty matter should be resolved in a few days. End of summary.

[Page 491]
1.
During September 10 call on the Secretary Deputy Prime Minister Yigal Allon, accompanied by Ambassador Rabin and Minister Argov, urged USG decision soonest sell F-4 Phantoms to Israel. Presentation emphasized theme that while Israel currently strong enough defeat Arabs (particularly in present geographical posture) the Phantoms would serve as a deterrent to war and encouragement to peace. Arabs would only give serious consideration to peace if the possibility of their military superiority removed. Soviet aggression against Czechoslovakia has convinced Egyptians that Soviets are no longer cautious and this, together with Egyptian postwar rearmament, has prompted Egyptians to initiate recent serious incidents along Suez Canal. USG decision now sell Israel Phantoms would convince Arabs of futility of seeking military solution to Arab-Israel dispute.
2.
Secretary asked Allon about status of Israeli missile program. Allon replied that as far as a Surface-to-Surface Missile (SSM) was concerned, “Israeli dreams had vanished.” Declared that if the proposed deal with the French for Mirage aircraft was “dead,” the MD-620 program was “doubly-dead.” Asked if Israel was not itself making an SSM, Allon replied: “No, not yet.” Both Allon and Rabin declared they did not attach much importance to Israeli acquisition of an SSM since in discussing SSM’s they were talking about missiles with “conventional warheads” and such missiles require extremely high degree of accuracy. On other hand, Egyptian possession of SSM’s could prove dangerous threat to Israel’s mobilization system.
3.
Secretary asked what assurances GOI could give that Phantoms would not be used to deliver nuclear weapons and why GOI had not signed NPT. Allon replied: “I can assure you on behalf of the Prime Minister that what he has said about Israel not going to be the first to introduce new weapons into the Middle East still stands.” He pointed to American inspection of Dimona reactor as giving additional assurances. When Secretary commented that these inspections applied only to Dimona Allon replied that Israel was a small country and was open to Americans.
4.
In pursuing NPT matter Secretary described as unsatisfactory FonMin Eban’s June 30 letter this subject.2 Stated that letter was vague and failed to answer question. Both Allon and Rabin declared that GOI hoped leave question mark in Egyptian minds as to Israel’s nuclear capability as a form of deterrent in current state of semi-war. Secretary stated that by leaving question mark in Egyptian minds GOI similarly placed doubts in mind USG as to its nuclear intentions. Allon commented that he felt sure that sooner or later GOI would sign and that [Page 492] Eban would be prepared discuss matter further with Secretary in October at UNGA.
5.
Secretary asked Allon’s reaction to a possible multi-power guarantee of negotiated Arab-Israel frontiers. Allon saw such a guarantee, even if given by the four permanent members of UNSC, as no substitute for a peace settlement.
6.
Pointing out that security which rests on military means alone is a very fragile thing Secretary asked on what basis Allon sees a possible Israel-Arab peace. Allon replied that increased Jewish immigration to Israel plus a plausible military deterrent would eventually bring about a settlement. Opined that King Hussein seemed truly desirous of peace, but unable to move because of Egyptian objections. Added that GOI does not miss a single opportunity to communicate its peaceful intentions to all levels of the Jordanian Government. Stated that the plan he had proposed to Cabinet for disposition of West Bank takes into account Israel’s security and demographic requirements while at the same time offering honorable conditions to Jordan. Israel was prepared make territorial concessions consonant with its security requirements.
7.
In concluding conversation Secretary said Israel should expeditiously settle Liberty claims so as to remove unnecessary obstacle US-Israel relations. Allon indicated his complete personal agreement and said he hoped matter would be settled within few days. Secretary’s suggestion that IDF should evacuate Tiran Island was countered by Rabin’s argument that Israeli occupation was dictated by necessity ensure free passage Tiran Straits pending Israel-Arab peace settlement.
Rusk
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 7 ISR. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by John D. Leonard (NEA/IAI), cleared by Battle and Atherton, and approved by Rusk. Repeated to Amman, Cairo, London, Jidda, and USUN.
  2. Transmitted in telegram 4354 from Tel Aviv, July 2; see Document 205.