333. Letter from the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (Warnke) to the Israeli Ambassador (Rabin)1

Dear Mr. Ambassador:

This will acknowledge and respond to your letter of 22 November 1968,2 requesting on behalf of the Government of Israel that the United States sell to the Government of Israel fifty Phantom aircraft and related equipment and training. The Government of the United States agrees to sell to the Government of Israel fifty F-4 Phantom aircraft and related equipment and services in accordance with this exchange of letters and technical and financial annexes to be negotiated separately. This transaction is subject to the provisions of the Foreign Military Sales Act3 and the Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement of July 23, 1952.4

The United States Government, for its part, accepts the assurances given by the Government of Israel as stated in your letter:

“On its part the Government of Israel reaffirms its longstanding policy as laid down in the Memorandum of Understanding of March 10, 1965,5 that it will not be the first power in the Middle East to introduce nuclear weapons and agrees not to use any aircraft supplied by the United States as a nuclear weapons carrier.”

In this connection, I have made clear the position of the United States Government that the physical possession and control of nuclear arms by a Middle Eastern power would be deemed to constitute the introduction of nuclear weapons.

I wish also to confirm the understanding of the Government of Israel as set forth in the fifth paragraph of your letter of 22 November 1968.6 Such unusual and compelling circumstances would exist in the event of action inconsistent with your policy and agreement as set forth in your letter.

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The agreement contained in the last paragraph of your letter concerning the secrecy of this undertaking is satisfactory to us.

It is understood that we can now proceed to negotiate the technical and financial details of this transaction.7

Sincerely,

Paul C. Warnke
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 72 A 1499, 452.1 Israel. Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Murray.
  2. See footnote 3, Document 332.
  3. Reference is to Part II, Chapter 3 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended. (P.L. 87-195, 75 Stat. 424)
  4. TIAS 2675; 3 UST 4985.
  5. See Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, vol. XVIII, Document 185.
  6. The fifth paragraph of Rabin’s letter stated that Israel understood that the United States reserved the right, under unusual and compelling circumstances, to cancel all or part of its commitment to provide F-4 aircraft and related equipment and services at any time prior to delivery.
  7. As initially conveyed to Rabin, the last paragraph read: “It is understood that your letter of 22 November 1968 and this letter in reply together constitute an agreement between our two governments.” Rabin objected in a telephone conversation with Warnke on November 27 that the proposed last paragraph of Warnke’s letter implied that Israel agreed with the U.S. interpretation of the circumstances that would constitute the introduction of nuclear weapons. Warnke agreed to substitute a “bland” concluding paragraph that did not carry such implications. (Memorandum of conversation, November 27; Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 91-0017, NESA Chron)