132. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (Nutter) to the Deputy Secretary of Defense (Packard)1
- Israeli Arms Requests
We understand (from Hal Saunders on the NSC staff) that Dr. Kissinger plans—as a result of a call by Ambassador Rabin last night2—to raise the subject of Israel’s “want” lists of military hardware. Significantly, Ambassador Rabin has again turned to the White House, despite our request to the Attaché that these requests be handled through channels. The GOI is now beginning to make a practice of threatening “to go to the White House” if we are slow in responding to their requests.
Needless to say, it is highly irregular to handle military requests in an Ambassador-to-White House channel, leaving out both State and Defense. There are good reasons for following authorized channels: US decisions on arms requests must take into account the political impact of the sale, the military requirement to be met (and we do not simply take the word of the customer), equipment availability, and overall military impact of the sale. These judgments require expert knowledge and professional judgment, which is available only in the DoD and State. For NSC staff members (including Dr. Kissinger) to make commitments of US military assets, without consulting DoD and State is dangerous, seriously degrades the role of both State and Defense, and risks compromising US security by giving away secret information or critical assets.[Page 455]
If this subject is raised, we recommend you respond by (1) noting that we have received and are studying these requests, as a matter of urgency; (2) that OSD is establishing a special committee to review the ECM and advanced weapons requests, and has already sent a team of experts to Israel to assist in our review; (3) that the US response must be based on careful State-Defense study, given the very serious security implications involved, and (4) that you avoid any discussion of details on particular items of equipment at this time (Mr. Pranger will be available to comment on the individual items if this should be necessary).
On A–4s, you should know that we are staffing the A–4 “earmarking” problem, and will have a detailed position by Friday. The simple fact is, however, that we are not prepared to begin aircraft modification and rehabilitation unless and until a contract has been signed, and the Presidential decision on aircraft excluded such a contract until September.
Finally, you should know that this insistence by Ambassador Rabin on “going to the White House” has become a matter of the greatest concern both here and in State. The basic rationale of these two departments is to provide the expertise needed for just such matters as this, and if the NSC staff is to make all arms decisions, our role ceases to exist. We consider it of the greatest importance that DoD’s position not be compromised on this subject.3
- Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330–76–0067, Box 73, Israel. Secret. A stamped notation indicates that Packard saw it.↩
- No record of Rabin’s July 7 conversation with Kissinger has been found. In a July 8 memorandum to Laird, Moorer, and the Acting Secretary of State, Kissinger wrote that Rabin had requested an “urgent appointment” with him (Kissinger) on the morning of July 8 to discuss recent changes in the Middle East situation. The three most urgent problems raised by Rabin involved: “Assembly now and possible modification of A–4 aircraft to reduce a three to four months leadtime in the event a decision is made to proceed with the provision of additional aircraft to Israel commencing in September 1970; provision of improved ordinance to Israel; and provision of additional credit to Israel.” Kissinger added that “an additional and perhaps more serious implication of the discussion with Ambassador Rabin is the possibility that the Israelis may initiate air strikes against the SA–3 sites in the UAR which are reportedly located 22 to 25 miles from the Suez Canal. Should these attacks be undertaken and Soviet aircraft respond, this could have the most grave implications for the U.S. government.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 607, Country Files, Middle East, Israel, Vol. V.) A memorandum of conversation between Kissinger and Rabin is ibid.↩
- On July 9, Nutter wrote in an attached note: “Since this memo was written, the Secretary has spoken to Kissinger on the phone about some of these problems. I still feel it is useful for you to have our views before you in preparation for the meeting this afternoon.” Reference is to the Ad Hoc Special Review Group meeting; see Document 133.↩