315. Editorial Note

President Johnson met with President-elect Nixon at the White House on November 11, 1968, to provide him with a briefing on foreign policy issues. Included in the meeting were Secretaries Rusk and Clifford, General Wheeler, CIA Director Helms, and Walt Rostow. Rostow described the situation in the Middle East as “very delicate,” and Rusk noted that Israeli Prime Minister Eshkol was “fighting for his political life.” Rusk added that the crux of the problem was that the Arab [Page 624] states thought that Israel was interested in territorial expansion and Israel thought that the Arabs were interested in exterminating Israel. Rusk also told Nixon that he would have to face the problem of how to keep nuclear weapons out of the Middle East. If the Israelis developed nuclear weapons, Rusk felt the Soviet Union would respond by putting nuclear weapons into Egypt. President Johnson said that he had hoped to get the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Israel had not yet agreed to sign, approved before he authorized the sale of Phantom jet aircraft to Israel. (Meeting Notes, November 11; Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Walt W. Rostow, Nixon and Transition)

The issue of Israel’s adherence to the Non-Proliferation Treaty came up again in a November 24 telephone conversation between Walt Rostow and Robert D. Murphy, who was advising President-elect Nixon on foreign policy issues. Rostow told Murphy that he had a message for Nixon from President Johnson. The Johnson administration was negotiating the sale of the Phantom jets with Israel and was trying to factor into the sale as much “nuclear restraint” on Israel’s part as Israel would agree to. The United States was pushing Israel to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty. To that end, President Johnson was considering calling a special session of Congress at the beginning of December devoted to the issue of the treaty, which would have the effect of putting additional pressure on allies, such as Israel, which had not yet signed the treaty. Johnson felt that Nixon’s endorsement of calling such a special session was important, and implied that he would only go forward with Nixon’s endorsement. (Memorandum of telephone conversation, November 24; ibid., Murphy, Robert D) Murphy replied on Nixon’s behalf in a telephone conversation with Rusk on November 29. Murphy said that Nixon felt that until he succeeded to the presidency the management of the effort to win approval of the Non-Proliferation Treaty was President Johnson’s responsibility. Noting that Nixon had problems with members of his own party on the issue, Murphy said that Nixon would not take an active part in the debate over the treaty, nor would he express hope of ratification in a special session. (White House telegram CAP 82813 from Bromley Smith to President Johnson in Texas, November 29; ibid., Nixon and Transition)