253. Telegram From the Embassy in Jordan to the Department of State 1

6654. Subj: Phantoms for Israel. Ref: Amman 6653.2

After the King raised the possible sale of Phantoms to Israel (Amman 6653), I commented that as of yesterday the White House Press Secty had stated no decision has been made to supply them. The Israeli request is still “under consideration,” as stated last Jan. Nine months have gone by since the President met with PriMin Eshkol. During this time some Arab leaders have been making statements that fall just short of calling for “another round.” Some of them were boasting about the degree to which they had been able to obtain new arms from [Page 501] the SovUnion. The presence of thousands of Soviet instructors in the UAR and Syria has become well known to the general public. I wondered sometimes if the Arab public remembered the bellicose statements of Arab officials when they reacted to statements about Phantoms for Israel. In any case, it seemed to me personally that the administration has shown great restraint in so far avoiding steps that could be interpreted as upsetting arms relationships in the Middle East.
The King then asked me if Washington had given any thought to what might be provided to Jordan as an offset in the event that Phantoms were sold to Israel. I replied I was not aware that this hypothetical possibility had been considered. I jokingly commented that our thinking generally revolved around avoiding sales of arms. The King then said he had thought about having Gen Khammash go to Washington to request earlier delivery of eighteen additional F104s and other essential equipment, including 155s. I commented that I thought such a visit would be inappropriate at the present time. With regard to the outstanding request for 155s, I thought that the climate for its consideration might be improved if there were a cessation of artillery exchanges in the Beisan area.
At one point the King interjected that the Soviets have indicated they are prepared to supply a “much more sophisticated aircraft with offensive capability” to the UAR if the US supplies Phantoms to Israel. He obviously thought that he had made a slip and asked me not to report what he had said about the Soviets.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, DEF 19-8 US-ISR. Secret; Priority; Limdis. Repeated to Tel Aviv, London, Cairo, and USUN.
  2. In telegram 6653 from Amman, September 17, Symmes reported on a conversation that day with King Hussein in which Hussein described the upcoming UN General Assembly session as perhaps the last chance to achieve a peaceful settlement in the Middle East. He stressed that he had authorized Foreign Minister Rifai to take advantage of all opportunities to promote a settlement, including meeting privately with the Israelis if given an incentive to do so. The King complained that the United States had not taken an active enough role in promoting a settlement. He also said that possible U.S. supply of Phantom aircraft to Israel made it difficult for him and others in the area to defend their relationship with the United States. (Ibid., POL 27 ARAB-ISR)