35. Telegram From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson in Texas1

CAP 80151. We sent to you in the pouch early this morning two late memos on Eshkol from Dick Helms2 without comment. After reflecting on them this morning, I find that they bring the following points into sharper focus:

More than just seeking a specific number of aircraft, Eshkol may be looking for a firmer commitment to Israel’s security. He must understand that security guarantees and treaties are out, but he may seek a guaranteed source of arms. According to Dick’s plausible report, the June war destroyed Eshkol’s policy of putting out as many support lines as possible. His French and Russian policies are bankrupt, and he now seeks the closest possible tie with us.
To seal this relationship, he may come offering to associate Israel with our position in Vietnam.
He is apparently willing to acquiesce in our resuming military aid to Jordan. To do otherwise would be inconsistent with his increased fear of the USSR.

If this report is true—and we have to make the normal allowance for the fact that it reflects only one [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] man’s opinion—it raises the problem of Eshkol trying to get too close to us. His possible offer to associate with us on Vietnam runs the risk of sharpening the image of Israel as our stooge and driving the wedge further between us and the Arabs. We want to consider whether Eshkol’s quiet support wouldn’t help you as much while avoiding damage abroad.

It’s hard to know how much the Israelis are pushing the Soviet threat merely to justify their case for more arms.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Israel, Eshkol Visit, Memos and Miscellaneous, 1/7-1/8/68. Secret.
  2. The CIA memoranda, both dated January 5, have subject lines that read: “Agency Views Regarding the Political Future of Eshkol” [text not declassified]. (Ibid.)