92. Telegram From the Embassy in Jordan to the Department of State1

677. Subject: Possible Arms for Israel.

1. I am certain the Dept is aware from field reporting that the President’s Jan 30 statement regarding a decision on arms for Israel2 has stimulated renewed anti-American feeling and suspicion among the Arabs. The Cairo communiqué3 was a mild version of the kinds of criticisms we are hearing about US policy motives. To be sure, in an area of almost entirely venal newspapers and state-controlled radio and TV, we can discount much of what we see and hear in the local media. The manic depressive and ephemeral qualities of Arab attitudes are also well known.

2. Bearing the foregoing in mind, I wish to register my own conviction that the Arab interpretations of the Jan 30 statement, as seen by them against the background of the deep Israeli air penetrations into the UAR, have brought about a new and significant dimension of bitterness and suspicion within the Jordanian establishment. I would draw a sharp distinction between these deep feelings on the part of the Jordanian establishment and the reactions of the Arab communications media. Both may be unrealistic and in some ways shortsighted, but I would emphasize we have a real problem when our friends here reach the stage of desperation about our policies that I now observe.

3. I want to be sure the Dept understands what is bothering the Jordanians. As they see it, the USG is now holding a thirty-day deadline, [Page 298] even a threat, over the Arab head, and they are almost fatalistically convinced the end result will be more Phantoms for Israel. Yet, the Jordanians stress, in this same time-frame Israeli aircraft are bombing the outskirts of Cairo and other places in the UAR with virtual impunity, and with the barely veiled objective of bringing down Nasser. The government directing this apparently overwhelming military power occupies Arab territories taken by outright “aggression” and launches its attacks from those territories. This same government, in their view, has not only refused to accept formally and unconditionally SC Resolution 242 but has also publicly and harshly rejected US proposals for a peaceful settlement. The Jordanians thus find it inconceivable that in such circumstances the USG could even consider supplying more arms to Israel. They believe in effect our posture justifies an Israeli policy of intransigence and implies approval of Israeli hopes of causing Nasser’s fall.

4. Certainly the problem is not as simple as the Jordanians put it. In fact, we have never hesitated in talks with Jordanian leaders emphasize that the USG cannot stand aside to watch the development of an arms imbalance that could lead anyone to consider renewed general hostilities as an alternative to a peaceful settlement. Nevertheless, given the Jordanian views I have summarized above, I must emphasize that the chances of positive Jordanian (let alone UAR) consideration of our settlement proposals become increasingly dim. Moreover, I do not consider it at all unlikely that the Jordanians might feel forced to reconsider the outstanding Soviet arms offer4 if we respond favorably to the Israeli arms request. I am convinced we must find a way out of this situation of distrust and suspicion if we are going to have any hope of pursuing successfully our peace efforts.

5. I believe disclosure at this time of a US decision to supply Israel with additional aircraft will risk ruining chances of playing out our hand on peace. I am strongly attracted to a number of ideas for getting around this problem, including the interesting proposal of Minister Bergus (Cairo 260).5 We also have been giving further thought to the implications for the US position in Jordan of a unilateral US arms embargo. As soon as we can refine our ideas further, we will forward some specific suggestions.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 614, Country Files, Middle East, Jordan, Vol. III. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Repeated to Beirut, Cairo, Jidda, Tel Aviv, and USUN.
  2. In response to a question on U.S. arms sales to the Middle East at his press conference on January 30, the President said: “We are neither pro-Arab nor pro-Israel. We are pro-peace. We are for security for all the nations in that area. As we look at this situation, we will consider the Israeli arms request based on the threats to them from states in the area and we will honor those requests to the extent that we see—we determine that they need additional arms in order to meet that threat. That decision will be made within the next 30 days.” A transcript of the entire press conference is printed in Public Papers: Nixon, 1970, pp. 36–44.
  3. Issued on February 9 at the close of the conference of Arab “confrontation countries” in Cairo, the communiqué in part criticized the United States, proclaiming: “Israel would not have gone that far in her aggression and recklessness with regard to all human values and principles and would not have defied world public opinion and violated the United Nations Charter and the United Nations resolution as she does, had it not been for her constant reliance on United States support and supplies of arms and aircraft and had it not been for the United States’ allowing its citizens to serve in the Israeli armed forces and for the United States’ political support in the international field.” The complete text of a translation of the communiqué is printed in the New York Times, February 10, 1970, p. 3.
  4. See footnote 3, Document 69.
  5. Bergus wrote: “Could not our decision on Israel request for more aircraft be an assurance that we closely watching situation and if imbalance actually develops we prepared release aircraft from Defense Department’s own inventories on, say, sixty days’ notice?” (Telegram 260 from Cairo, February 4; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 635, Country Files, Middle East, UAR, Vol. III)