94. Information Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson 1

SUBJECT

  • The Israelis Say They Need More Aircraft

You should know that the Israelis are claiming that a major change is taking place in Soviet-Egyptian military relations. They believe that 50 or more Soviet pilots are now flying with the Egyptians, that the Russians are in the process of taking over the air defense system, and that arrangements have been made for sending five more squadrons of MIG-21’s to Egypt. From this information they conclude that Israel is losing its air superiority, and the Air Force commander is talking in [Page 195] terms of needing a hundred more planes. So far, they haven’t made any formal request.

The Israelis are making the strongest possible case out of the information, but if their facts are right, it isn’t a bad case. Our intelligence people are unable to confirm what the Israelis are telling us, but they admit that Israeli sources could be better than ours. They are trying to get a clearer picture, but at this point they just don’t know whether the Israelis are telling the truth.2

Walt
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Israel, Vol. VIII, Cables and Memos, 12/67-2/68. Secret; Limdis. A handwritten notation indicates that the memorandum was received at 2:45 p.m.
  2. A handwritten note by Rostow reads: “Tell Israel they better work out peace plan.” This comment apparently was the President’s response to this memorandum.