51. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson1

SUBJECT

  • Your Understanding with Prime Minister Eshkol

PM Eshkol asked Ambassador Harman to clear up any misunderstandings before he briefs his political intimates. He arrives home tonight. Luke Battle has drafted the attached notes,2 checked them with Secretaries Rusk and McNamara and compared them with Ambassador Harman’s. There are two points of disagreement.

1.

View of the threat. The Israelis believe General Wheeler and Hod agreed that the Israeli air force will not be adequate, if certain things happen, to meet the Arab threat 18 months from now. Wheeler says his point was that Israel faced no problem for the next 18 months but in the period after that might have a problem, depending on what the Soviets and others did. Unless you intended to state a different point of view from Wheeler’s, we will stick with the Wheeler-McNamara view. These two views are in brackets at “A” on the attached text.

Approve US language3

Approve Israeli language

2.
Number of Phantoms in January 1970. Did you say that, if you decide to sell Phantoms, you would prepare to deliver in January 1970 a batch of say 30, 40 or 50 planes? Or did you have in mind starting the production line rolling then with delivery at the normal rate of about 4 a month thereafter?

The Israelis interpreted you as implying the possible delivery of a batch of planes in January 1970 if the situation required. They know Secretary McNamara had in mind normal production line delivery, but they thought you expressed a different view which indicated that you would even pull planes out of inventory and deliver in a batch if the threat required. These two views are represented in the brackets at “B” on the attached.

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Approve US language4

Approve Israeli language

Secretary Rusk isn’t enthusiastic about this exercise, but he admits that we owe Eshkol some help in describing your understanding accurately to his colleagues. If you agree, Luke Battle could just share these notes with Evron. I think either he or I should call Harman and say that, while we’ve argued over language, no one here intends to dilute in any way the spirit of your talks.

Walt

Call me5

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Israel, Vol. XII, 1965-1968. Secret; Nodis.
  2. Reference is to a 3-page undated memorandum headed “Notes on Meeting Between President Johnson and Prime Minister Eshkol January 7-8, 1968.”
  3. This option is checked. The proposal Israeli language reads: “would not be adequate to meet its needs 18 months from now.” The McNamara-Rusk language reads: “may not be adequate to meet the threat in January 1970.” Rostow added another option that reads: “No language-via telephone.”
  4. This option is checked. The U.S. language reads: “Delivered to Israel beginning in January 1970.”
  5. This option is checked. The draft notes on Johnson’s meeting with Eshkol, as approved by the President, were sent to Tel Aviv on January 19 in telegram 101300, for delivery to the Israeli Foreign Ministry. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL ISR-US)