298. Action/Information Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson 1

Mr. President:

Herewith the state of the Phantom deal.

Sec. Rusk instructed Hart to ask Rabin to come in with a draft agreement.
The Israelis are coming back this morning with their draft.2
The Pentagon is determined, unless instructed to the contrary by the President, to link the Phantom deal to hard nuclear assurances to the U.S.

Sec. Rusk told me that what he had in mind is not forcing [is forcing?] the Israeli hand on the NPT by getting them to sign on to the U.S. that they will not produce or accept nuclear weapons.

The Pentagon will not even discuss technical details with the Israelis until they get the nuclear assurances. Therefore, I suggest that you:

  • —Talk with Sec. Rusk and get his recommendation as to how we proceed in the light of what Rabin brings to Hart this morning; and
  • —After that conversation, talk with Clark Clifford and give him an instruction as to how to proceed with the technical talks with respect to timing and to prior conditions, if any.

Abe Feinberg called me about this, underlining the Pentagon problem in broad terms.3

W. W. Rostow 4
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, Walt W. Rostow, Vol. 102, 10/29–31/68. Secret.
  2. The Israeli-proposed memorandum of agreement was conveyed to Hart on October 31 under cover of an October 30 letter from Rabin to Hart. A copy is in the Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 73 A 1351, Chronology of F-4s for Israel, 10 Oct 68–5 Sept 69, Folder 1. In an October 31 memorandum to Rostow, Saunders summarized the Israeli draft as follows: “places the order for 50 planes and requests that we try to deliver some in early 1969; refers to Eban’s paper of October 28 reaffirming Israel’s ‘intention not to be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the area’ and agrees, accordingly, that the Phantoms won’t carry these weapons.” Saunders found the Israeli proposal disappointing: “This is much less than we have been talking about. It doesn’t get to Israel’s not producing nuclear weapons. It doesn’t touch missile production.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Israel, Vol. X, Cables and Memos, 6/68–11/68) In a similar assessment of the Israeli draft, Hart concluded that the Israeli draft posed the question of whether to try to get, in the context of the F-4 negotiations, assurances from Israel concerning the NPT, nuclear weapons production, and missile development. (Memorandum from Hart to Rusk, October 31; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 12-5 ISR)
  3. Rostow added a handwritten postscript that reads: “P.S. Amb Rabin also called to ask if the President had made a ‘policy decision.’ I told him I was reporting the situation to the President.”
  4. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.