275. Telegram From the Department of State to Selected Posts1

252286. 1. At about 1:00 p.m. EDT today the White House put out the following statement by the President made in connection with his signing of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1968:2

“I have taken note of Section 651 concerning the sale of planes to Israel.

In the light of this expression of the sense of the Congress, I am asking the Secretary of State to initiate negotiations with the Government of Israel and to report back to me.”

2. FYI. Section 651 of the Aid Authorization Act reads as follows:

“Section 651. Sale of Supersonic Planes to Israel-It is the sense of the Congress that the President should take such steps as may be necessary, as soon as practicable after the date of enactment of this section, to negotiate an agreement with the Government of Israel providing for the sale by the United States of such number of supersonic planes as may be necessary to provide Israel with an adequate deterrent force capable of preventing future Arab aggression by offsetting sophisticated weapons received by the Arab States and to replace losses suffered by Israel in the 1967 conflict.” End FYI.

3. At their discretion addressee posts may wish to point out to local contacts that President’s statement was made in context of clear expression Congressional views on subject and in light continuing Soviet deliveries of arms to certain Arab countries. While we recognize Arabs will be prone to jump to unjustified conclusions, simple fact is that arms limitation in current volatile Near Eastern situation cannot be onesided. You should emphasize fact that USG/GOI discussions may take some time and agreement will have to be reached on a range of points before there will be any actual aircraft dispatched to the area.

4. Although you should avoid discussing comparison of aircraft, you may wish to note that since June 1967 war Soviets have delivered many supersonic jet military aircraft to Arab countries on or near Israel’s borders … several times the number of Phantom aircraft Israel [Page 549] has requested. Furthermore, with French embargo on Mirages, Israel has had no source of supply for aircraft in this category to replace its wartime losses. Supply of supersonic jets to Israel by USG thus fully consistent with our long-standing policy of assuring Israel has adequate defense capability and represents no change in our basic approach to political problems of area.

5. We will continue work for resolution complex Arab/Israel issues in peaceful atmosphere which would render provision additional arms to either side no longer necessary.3

Rusk
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, DEF 19-8 US-ISR. Secret; Immediate. Drafted by Country Director for Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Yemen, and Aden William D. Brewer and Atherton; cleared by Davies and Country Director for Ethiopia, Somali Republic, and Sudan Affairs John F. Root; and approved by Katzenbach. Sent to Aden, Algiers, Amman, Beirut, Cairo, Dhahran, Jerusalem, Jidda, Khartoum, Kuwait, London, Moscow, Paris, Rabat, Tel Aviv, Tripoli, Tunis, and USUN.
  2. P.L. 90-554, 82 Stat. 960, enacted October 8 and signed by the President on October 9.
  3. On October 9 Rusk called Ambassador Wiggins at USUN to instruct him to do what he could to reassure Jarring that a decision on the planes was not imminent. (Memorandum of telephone conversation; National Archives and Records Administration,RG 59, Rusk Files: Lot 72 D 192, Telephone Conversations, Box 930) Ashraf Ghorbal called on Richard Parker at the Department of State on October 9 in response to the White House announcement and stated that “he was at a loss for words to describe how catastrophic this action of ours was.” (Memorandum of conversation, October 9; ibid., Central Files 1967-69, DEF 19-8 US-ISR) The Jordanian Charge called at the Department on October 10 and expressed similar dismay. (Telegram 253602 to Amman, October 10; ibid.) Prime Minister Eshkol sent a letter to President Johnson on October 10 to indicate his “deep appreciation” for the decision to initiate negotiations for the sale of Phantom aircraft. (Ibid., DEF 12-5 ISR)