332. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • F-4 Negotiations with the Government of Israel

On November 26, Ambassador Rabin called me and reported that he had received my letter2 in reply to his letter requesting that the United States Government sell 50 F-4 Phantoms to Israel.3 Ambassador Rabin said that the letter posed no problems for him except for the reference to the interpretation of the United States Government as to what would constitute the introduction of nuclear weapons by a Middle East power.

[Page 660]

Ambassador Rabin said that he understood from our second conversation that we would not incorporate a definition of this term. I pointed out that this discussion had occurred in the context of an anticipated Memorandum of Understanding, to be subscribed by both parties. With a Memorandum of Understanding it would be necessary to arrive at an agreed upon interpretation and our conversation had made it clear that this was unlikely. I commented further that the existence of such differences of opinion had, as I understood it, been the reason for his proposal of an exchange of letters in lieu of a Memorandum of Understanding. I also commented that, as Ambassador Rabin had noted in our last conference on Friday, neither of us was responsible for the content of the other’s letter.

I pointed out further that the interpretation of the United States Government was not directed exclusively at the circumstances under which Israel would be deemed to have introduced nuclear weapons into the Middle East but that it applied equally to the eventuality of such action by any other Middle Eastern power. In the event that another Middle Eastern power should acquire possession and control of nuclear weapons then this would relieve the Government of Israel from the restrictions of its announced policy.

Ambassador Rabin said that he recognized that our position was equally applicable to other Middle Eastern powers and asked again if I thought this paragraph should remain in the letter. I said that I did and Ambassador Rabin said “all right.”

In response to my question as to how the negotiations are proceeding, Ambassador Rabin said that General Hod had met yesterday with Mr. Schwartz and had presented a list of the items desired in order that an appropriate letter of offer could be prepared. He also commented that he might want to talk with me at the end of the week with regard to the delivery schedule. I said that I would be free to see him on Friday.

Paul C. Warnke
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 91-0017, Israel, 452 (Sen). Secret; Sensitive.
  2. Document 333.
  3. Rabin’s November 22 letter to Warnke requested the sale of the aircraft, together with related armament, ammunition, training, spare parts, and other related services. The letter reaffirmed Israeli commitment not to be the first power in the Middle East to introduce nuclear weapons, and agreed not to use any U.S.-supplied aircraft as a nuclear weapons carrier. (Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 72 A 1499, 452.1 Israel)