194. Paper Prepared by the National Security Council Staff1
Strategy for Relating Assistance to Israel to Mid-East Peace Negotiations
At the immediately following sub-tabs are two papers:2
—The second (“Technical Options”) is a Defense Task Force study of the technically feasible options in supplying aircraft to Israel.
—The first (“State Paper”) deals mainly with the considerations and strategy in relating any decision on those options to negotiating strategy.
What follows is a summary of (1) the technical options and considerations (because they do provide some argument in selecting the options) and (2) the political options in relating these to negotiations.
I. U.S. Supply Options
The Israelis have requested:
—54 F–4 Phantoms delivered at the rate of 3 per month January 1971 through June 1972.
—120 A–4 Skyhawks as follows: 20 of the modified A–4E (similar to the 16 now being diverted to Israel) and 16 A–4M models to be diverted from the initial production run of 44 aircraft ordered by the U.S. Marines. Israel asks for delivery of these 36 planes in CY 1971. The balance of 84 A–4Ms are requested to be delivered as follows: 36 in 1972, 36 in 1973, 12 in 1974.
The U.S. decision in December was to supply 12 Phantoms and 20 A–4Es, thus reducing the above requests and the numbers in the options below by those amounts. The options below are not reduced because they still provide a sensible technical framework for decision.
Technical considerations. Production time is approximately 22 months, so any deliveries to Israel within the next 22 months will re[Page 685]quire diversion from presently planned production for the USAF or other buyers. There is also a long lead time on the ground support equipment which is necessary if Israel plans to disperse these aircraft to several bases. The USAF now has only 80% of its requirements.
1. Provide the full number Israel has requested, either on Israel’s schedule or over a longer period.
a. Provide 54 F–4 Phantoms by June 1972 (cost $243 million). All would have to be diverted from the USAF and other programs.
b. Provide 54 F–4 Phantoms over a 2½ year period with delivery of four aircraft per quarter until the third quarter of CY 1972, then 6–8 aircraft per quarter thereafter (cost $243 million). This would soften the impact on the USAF and ease the financial burden on Israel by lengthening the payment period.
c. Provide 54 Phantoms from new procurement which would mean delivery beginning in 22 months (cost $243 million).
2. Respond positively but with less than the 54 Phantoms requested.
a. Provide 24 additional Phantoms at 4 per quarter, January 1971–June 1972. This would be enough for attrition plus a fourth squadron. (Cost: $108 million.)
b. Provide some variation of the above. Defense suggests, for instance, 16 Phantoms financed by U.S. credit and 16 more if Israel is willing to use $67 million impounded in France for the Mirages.
c. Agree to replace promptly Israeli aircraft lost through attrition.
3. Disapprove the request for additional aircraft but provide attrition aircraft.
Comment: The most promising area for discussion seems to be 1–b above. This meets Israel’s overall need but allows for some consideration of the needs of U.S. forces. Stretched over a longer period, deliveries by the quarter might offer greater diplomatic flexibility.
Technical considerations are more complex than with the F–4 because of a shift in the models being produced.
The A–4E which Israel now has is no longer being produced so providing this model requires taking planes from the U.S. Navy as it replaces them and modifying them for Israel instead of turning them over to Naval Reserve squadrons as now planned. Not turning them over to the Reserve will require replacement of Reserve aircraft with the more expensive ($1 million per plane) A–4M model. [The first 100 Skyhawks sold to the Israelis were the A–4H. The last 16 now being sent are the A–4E modified to be as close to the A–4H as possible.][Page 686]
The A–4M is a brand new aircraft just entering production. Adequate ground support equipment is not likely to become available until after the production line has stabilized. Since the first run is only 44 aircraft for the U.S. Marines, diversion to Israel would delay deployment of this weapons system until after it had been provided to Israeli forces. It costs $1.5 million versus $500,000 (plus modification cost) for the A–4E.
1. Provide the full number requested, though perhaps in some other combination of models or on some other schedule.
a. Provide 20 A–4E (modified) and 100 A–4M as requested. (Cost: $254 million.)
b. Provide 66 A–4E at four per month from April through December 1971 and three per month January through October 1972; and 54 A–4M at three per month from November 1972 through April 1974. This would meet Israel’s requests in terms of total number and delivery time frame, though not in ratio between the models. However, it would involve no disruption of A–4M programming and would be less expensive because of the higher number of A–4Es. Additionally, the A–4M could be configured identically to the A–4H models already in the Israeli inventory. This course would, of course, require taking the A–4E from Reserve squadrons with replacement at higher cost to the U.S.
c. Provide 20 A–4Es as requested and 12 A–4Ms at two per month starting in July 1972. Provide up to 88 A–4Ms out of FY 72 and FY 73 procurement.
2. Provide 72 A–4 aircraft—enough to replace all older French models on a one-for-one basis. If this number were decided on, Israel would probably want 20 A–4Es in 1971, 16 A–4Ms in 1971, and 36 A–4Ms in 1972. A number of variations for scheduling would be possible.
3. Disapprove additional aircraft but agree to replace promptly with A–4Es any A–4s lost through attrition. This would mean sale of perhaps 5 A–4Es per year.
Comment: The range for discussion would seem to be in the area of paragraph 1–b above—giving Israel a voice in deciding on the trade-offs between model types and delivery schedules.
II. Political Options
The Sisco paper [next tab, “State Paper”] presents four options with the arguments noted below:[Page 687]
Option 1: To say that, in present circumstances, Israel’s needs have been generously met by our recent military supply and financial commitments and that we will make no further commitments unless and until Israel adopts positions and a negotiating posture that accord with our own view of what would constitute a reasonable and realistic approach to a settlement—i.e., positions along the lines of our proposals of October and December 1969.3
The argument for this approach is that giving anything more now than we already have would deprive us of leverage that we will seriously need. This approach would be least abrasive in Arab eyes.
The arguments against are that (a) this would create a maximum sense of insecurity in Israel which would strengthen the hand of the hardliners and (b) this would increase the likelihood that most of Israel’s energies would be devoted to the military supply question in an atmosphere of increasing tension. Past experience has indicated that we end up giving more than we planned when we finally give in.
Option 2: To commit ourselves now to meet Israel’s long-term requests in substantial measure if not totally.
The arguments for this approach are that (a) Israel is more likely to be flexible when it feels secure and (b) this would remove most bickering over arms from the U.S.-Israeli relationship and from U.S. politics and permit total concentration on negotiation. We are not likely to buy with a few aircraft Israeli concessions on issues Israel regards as vital to its future. Having committed ourselves to supply Israel’s needs, we could then put our diplomatic and military support on the line for major changes in Israel’s position. A technical argument for this approach is that it would make for a more orderly supply program in the U.S. and minimize impact on U.S. forces.
One argument against is that the Israelis just do not operate this way. They will take what we offer and give as little as possible in return. Those who hold this position argue that the only way to deal with Israelis is to bargain hard and to use leverage. Since Israel itself has linked military supply to its return to the talks, we should accept that linkage. Also, this would cause the sharpest Arab reaction.
Option 3: To demand no specific quid pro quo for a general commitment on the continuity of supply but keep Israel on a relatively short leash by limiting future commitments to short-term periods, e.g. for six months at a time.
The argument for this approach is that it would reduce the fears that option 1 would produce and yet preserve an element of uncertainty in Israel about how long and in what degree it can continue to rely on U.S. [Page 688] material support while persisting in policies that the U.S. considers unsatisfactory.
The argument against this approach is that it makes a period issue out of arms supply and makes it as likely as not that we will have to deal with this in an atmosphere of tension. We have in the past provided more under these circumstances than we would have otherwise, and the process has been disruptive to our own force supply patterns.
Option 4: To defer decision.
The arguments for and against are essentially the arguments stated above because deferring decision is essentially a decision against option 2, leaving open the choice between options 1 and 3.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–050, Senior Review Group Meetings, SRG Meeting—Middle East 1–11–71. Secret; Nodis. All brackets are in the original.↩
- The undated papers are attached but not printed.↩
- See Documents 58 and 78.↩