292. Telegram From the Embassy in Israel to the Department of State1

5862. NPT-Phantoms.

Moshe Bitan, Asst DirGen MFA, called on Amb this evening and gave him oral message from Eshkol as follows: “After having received a report from Foreign Minister Eban on his conversation with the Secretary of State, the Prime Minister wishes to state that it is his understanding that the negotiations between our two governments about the sale of Phantom aircraft are to commence forthwith without being linked to the question of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The Prime Minister assumes and hopes that our negotiating team led by Ambassador Rabin will be enabled to start immediately with practical discussions relating to the sale of the aircraft.”
At same time, Bitan handed Amb paper (text septel)2 responding to US request for clarification Israel’s position on NPT. Paper notes Eban return US delayed by PM’s indisposition and requests PM’s views therefore be conveyed to USG by Amb. Paper repeats familiar Israeli position on NPT and offers no firm assurance on signing.
Bitan expressed regret US had linked NPT with Phantoms and said strong Israel was in free world and US interest. Amb noted NPT paper was no advance beyond previous GOI positions and cautioned Bitan not to underestimate depth of feeling on NPT at all levels USG. Reviewed importance of NPT to world peace and noted anomaly of Israel sharing distinction of non-signature with Germany.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 12-5 ISR. Secret; Immediate; Nodis.
  2. The text of the Israeli paper was transmitted to the Department in telegram 5863 from Tel Aviv, October 28. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Israel, Vol. X, Cables and Memos, 6/68–11/68) Walt Rostow called telegrams 5862 and 5863 to the President’s attention in an October 29 memorandum. Rostow summarized the Israeli paper on the Non-Proliferation Treaty by calling Eban’s statement that his government was studying the issue “a completely non-committal answer.” (Ibid.)