300. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (Warnke) to Secretary of Defense Clifford1


  • Negotiations with Ambassador Rabin on F-4s

Yesterday, November 1, 1968, the Secretary of State, instead of negotiating anything with the Israelis, instructed Mr. Rodger P. Davies to [Page 587] inform Ambassador Rabin that the American Government was prepared in principle to accede to the Israeli request for Phantoms and that they should get in touch with Defense “to set up technical discussions.” In the attached memorandum of Mr. Davies,2 General Hod’s name is used as the one to contact us, but Mr. Davies admits that Hod’s name was not included in Mr. Rusk’s instructions to him. Davies also tells us that Mr. Rusk said that we should get from the Israelis no less than we have gotten in the past.

I therefore seek your authorization to negotiate with the Israelis on the basis that an agreement in principle leaves ample room for us to require assurances from the Israelis with respect to matters which are vital to the national security of the United States, and specifically much harder assurances with respect to strategic missiles and nuclear weapons than we have received in the past. These were only: (1) that Israel will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the area, and (b) they would not use the A-4 aircraft to carry nuclear weapons.

I would propose to tell Ambassador Rabin that:

I am acting on the instructions of the Secretary of Defense;
[3-1/2 lines of source text not declassified];
[2-1/2 lines of source text not declassified];

Israel may consider such weapons to be a deterrent to hostile action by Arab states. The United States Government, having had considerably more experience with nuclear weapons and the concept of deterrence than any other nation on earth, does not believe that these weapons will have the effect on which Israel presumably is counting. Instead, we believe it will compel the U.S.S.R. to station nuclear missiles in the U.A.R. and perhaps in other Arab countries.

Such a concept leaves out entirely possible actions by the Soviet Union with respect to the Arab states or with respect to Israel. It also ignores the unstable and irrational nature of the Arabs. Our belief, based on experience, is that deterrence of this kind can work only if the other side is not only capable of rational analysis, but of sustained rational action, particularly in times of great stress. We know, and Israel knows, that neither the Egyptians nor the Syrians nor the Iraqis have been known to exhibit such rational thought and behavior and we cannot be sure that they will be for decades to come. Furthermore, the United States, by selling Phantom aircraft to Israel, is entering into a new relationship not only as the principal arms supplier to Israel—when only a short time before we publicly refused to be a major arms supplier—but also, and partly by virtue of that fact, will put ourselves in a more vulnerable position with respect to any future hostilities. For [Page 588] these reasons, we must ask of Israel certain assurances prior to entering this new relationship;

Specifically, we would include in any written agreement for the sale of the aircraft, the following assurances:
Not to test or deploy strategic missiles without our advance knowledge and consent;
Not to manufacture or otherwise acquire strategic missiles or nuclear weapons without our advance knowledge and consent;
To permit semi-annual inspection of specified sites in Israel and to provide full information on any program designed to achieve a nuclear weapon capability;
To sign and ratify the nuclear nonproliferation treaty.

I have set my meeting with Ambassador Rabin for Monday afternoon, November 4. He can be expected to react strongly to my approach and immediately to notify both his government and others in order to elicit the maximum pressure on us to change our position. The meeting, however, should be a long one and the repercussions should not be felt until Tuesday. If you approve this approach, I will of course report immediately to you after my session with Ambassador Rabin for further instructions.

One happenstance that may work out well is that I am leaving for Europe on Wednesday, the 6th, and I therefore recommend that Ambassador Rabin’s next session be with Paul Nitze. If Paul Nitze then takes the same line with the Ambassador on the 6th of November that I have taken on the 4th, the Israeli Government might become accustomed shortly thereafter to the thought that we are serious in this matter.

In the meantime, I recommend that you report to the President how we intend to negotiate with Ambassador Rabin, and why.

I am also attaching a proposed exchange of letters between the President and Prime Minister Eshkol with respect to the assurances that we require.3 I consider this method of receiving the assurances the most binding and therefore the most suitable. A cross-reference to these letters could be made in the actual contract. My second preference for receiving written assurances would be in a government-to-government Memorandum of Understanding. In this memorandum there should be a clause which connects Israel’s assurances with paragraph 6 of the Standard Sales Contract, which reads:

“6. Under unusual and compelling circumstances when the best interest of the United States requires it, reserves the right to cancel all or part of this offer at any time prior to the delivery of defense articles [Page 589] or performance of services. It shall be responsible for all costs resulting from cancellations under this paragraph.”

I would also recommend as additional sweeteners to obtain the assurances we desire, that we be prepared to offer a number of other items; for example:

As is already inserted in the draft proposed letter from the President to the Prime Minister: “The United States undertakes to provide Israel with sufficient conventional military equipment to meet its legitimate security needs.”
We would also be prepared to offer something like the following:
  • —Reconnaissance F-4s.
  • —As many as 50 more F-4s if desired.
  • —J-79 engines for which they have already asked for their Mirage IIIc.
  • —Non-nuclear weapons systems for the F-4s of a kind which have previously been withheld, and a number of other items which they have requested which we have withheld for various reasons up to now.

Finally, I recommend that in the event you are unable to see the President on this subject between now and 2:00 o’clock on Monday afternoon, November 4, that I nevertheless be authorized to talk to Ambassador Rabin along the lines set forth above.

Paul C. Warnke 4
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 72 A 1499, 452.1 Israel. Top Secret; Sensitive.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 299.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Printed from a copy that indicates that Warnke signed the original.