73. Memorandum of Conversation1

PARTICIPANTS

  • President Lyndon B. Johnson
  • Ambassador Avraham Harman

Ambassador Harman opened his farewell call on the President yesterday by expressing his appreciation for the honor of having worked with the President and of having represented his country in the United [Page 150] States for this past eight years. He thanks the President for his understanding.

The President responded by saying he had Israel’s deepest interests at heart. The President said he felt this deeply and personally. If at any time we reached different conclusions it was because of our different viewpoints rather than because of any lack of interest in Israel’s future.

The President went on to express his deep concern over the odds working against Israel. He knew the Israeli people were superior in ability to their neighbors, but he feared they might not be superior to the Soviets. The President recalled how the Soviets had poured arms into the Arab countries after the war. He said he was not sure what Soviet intentions were. He had thought after talking to Premier Kosygin that they wanted to live at peace with us, and now after the summer of arms shipments into the Mid-East and events in North Korea, he was not so sure.

The President said, however, that he could not afford to give up hope. He had agreed with Premier Kosygin to talk about the Middle East and nothing has happened. Kosygin has moved on the NPT, and the President hopes something can be done to achieve arms limitation in the Mid-East. He is not confident, but he can not afford to give up hope. He intends to make every effort to reach some sort of understanding before he makes any more decisions on aircraft. Ambassador Harman nodded his understanding.

In the context of discussing Soviet penetration of the Middle East, the President said, “I am going to do something for Jordan. I told your Prime Minister that and I am just going to have to go ahead.” Ambassador Harman again nodded his understanding.

Of Nasser, the President said he had come into office with the hope of getting along with the Egyptian leadership. He had found, however, that Nasser was unreliable, untrustworthy, and undependable. He hoped we could achieve some sort of working relationship but did not know exactly what we could work out.

The President described the problem created for him by the depth of opposition in the United States to our extensive international commitments. The President suggested that what the Israeli Ambassador and his Minister ought to be doing is to tell their American friends at every turn that the United States cannot play a responsible role in the world if they pull out on obligations like Vietnam. The President said he didn’t see how Americans could live with their consciences unless they met these obligations around the world, but he was having a very difficult time persuading many Americans on that point. He said many Americans believe that our problems would end if we got out of Vietnam, but he knew it “wouldn’t be 24 hours before we faced new ones.”

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The Ambassador said a few kind words about his successor. The President said that he did not know how the Israelis could improve on Ambassador Harman’s work but that he looked forward to working with General Rabin and said he would find the President just as receptive as Ambassador Harman had.

He told Ambassador Harman that he liked all the Israelis he knew. He was fond of Eshkol and liked to do business with him. He would not like to do anything to hurt his feelings. Then he said he would like to see Moshe Dayan when he visited the United States, but did not know how to do it without hurting Prime Minister Eshkol’s feelings. Ambassador Harman said that, with the President’s permission, he would see whether he could do something to ease the President’s problem. The President reiterated that he fully understood Eshkol’s sensitivities on this subject and would have the same ones if their positions were reversed. But he, the President, would like to know as many Israeli leaders past, present or future as possible.

In parting, the President asked the Ambassador to take his warm wishes to Mrs. Harman. He also asked the Ambassador to tell Prime Minister Eshkol, “I may not worry as much as Prime Minister Eshkol does about Israel, but I worry as deeply.”

H.H.S.
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Israel, Vol. VIII, Memos, 12/67-2/68. Secret; Nodis. Prepared by Saunders.