254. Minutes of National Security Council Meeting1


  • Israeli Military Requirements


  • The President
  • Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger
  • Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
  • The Director of OMB James Lynn
  • The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General George S. Brown
  • The Director of Central Intelligence William Colby
  • State
  • Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Joseph J. Sisco
  • Counselor Helmut Sonnenfeldt
  • Defense
  • Deputy Secretary William Clements
  • WH
  • Richard Cheney
  • NSC
  • Brent Scowcroft
  • William G. Hyland
  • Robert B. Oakley

Note: The following are the minutes of that portion of the meeting on Israeli Military Requirements.2 Minutes reporting the discussion of another topic are identified as Part II of II.

President: Our military relationship with Israel is a very important issue and we must examine it carefully. Bill (Colby), will you start by giving us your assessment?

Colby: [Presented briefing attached at Tab A up to point V on page 12. During the first part of the briefing the President asked if Israel already had the weapons and equipment mentioned on page 2 to counter the Arab SAM threat. Colby replied that they do. The President also asked for clarification of the figures in Chart III of the presentation. Colby explained the force ratios in the “worst case” column of Chart III. [2 lines not declassified] The following conversation took place following the first part of Colby’s briefing.]

Rumsfeld: What are you carrying for participation by all Arab states combined in your “most likely” estimate column?

Colby: [3½ lines not declassified] We include everything for Egypt and Syria with lesser amounts from other Arab countries.

Clements: What do you carry for Iraq? It can be very significant.

Colby: [4½ lines not declassified]

President: What about the improvement in the military abilities of the Arab soldiers which was apparent in the October 1973 war?

Colby: There has been some improvement but Israel still has an immense qualitative superiority in the training of its men, their technological abilities and their strategy and tactics. Over the next five years we do not expect this to change although the Arabs will catch up over a longer period of time.

Kissinger: Does your Chart (III) take into account new requests by Israel?

[Page 881]

Colby: No, the numbers and force ratios on the chart assume that Israel will have everything which has been approved for delivery at the present time, but does not include anything which they are requesting now or expect to request in the future.

President: Have the things we have requested funds for in the FY 76 budget gone into this?

Kissinger: No, this shows what has already been approved. For example, you see the Israeli figure for tanks is 3,250 but there are an additional 180 under consideration in the 75/76 list. If they were approved the total would be at least 3,430; the same is true for APCs where there are 1,000 under consideration which, if approved, would make the Israeli total at least 7,800.

Colby: That is right. New requests are not included and agreeing to these would change the ratios.

President: I am trying to relate this to the budget program. Are the new requests going to come out of the FY 76 or the FY 77 program?

Scowcroft: We are considering the calendar year 1976 increment of Matmon–B but there is a lot more ahead.

Kissinger: There will be similar increments later on, so if the President approves anything at all of what they are requesting today, and we assume there will be further requests approved later on, it would give Israel a better force ratio than those shown on Colby’s chart. That is why this chart is somewhat misleading. This chart does not show what Israel is really likely to have in 1980 although it projects a 1980 force ratio.

Clements: On the payments angle, this is only the going-in request. Once you agree then it is like becoming pregnant since you will have an obligation to carry forward with financing it in future budgets.

Scowcroft: The Israeli practice is to make the minimum possible down-payment and then worry about how to pay the other increments later on. Also, if we agree to the entire 1975/76 request it will be seen as a signal that we intend to go ahead with the entire Matmon–B plan.

Kissinger: On the other hand, if we do not it will be seen as a decision not to support the concept of Matmon–B and you might have a couple of unexpected, unwanted callers this year, Mr. President.

Rumsfeld: As I understand it, we are considering today only 180 tanks, not the larger figure in Matmon–B. Any additional deliveries will be added to the figures shown for Israel and for the Arabs, as well, won’t they?

Kissinger: The CIA projection already contains foreseeable increases between now and 1980 on the Arab side. The Arab figures are 1980 figures but the Israeli figures are 1975 figures. Israel wants over [Page 882] 1,000 tanks during the next five years. The chart is misleading since Israel is not also calculated on a five-year basis.

President: What exactly does the 3,250 figure for Israeli tanks represent?

Scowcroft: What they have on hand or have approved orders for, not what they plan to get later.

Rumsfeld: We need to organize ourselves better, including a better chart, Bill.

President: Have we funded for the Israeli equipment request or not?

Lynn: Every year we have orders but the payment does not come in the same year. The Israelis will have to pay about $1.6 billion in FY 76 for things they have already had approved, some of which have already been shipped. On the other hand, they have carry-over unspent funds of $550 million so they will have about two billion in FY 76 to pay for the $1.6 billion plus whatever new orders they make. But the new orders will have very little financial effect, as Brent just said.

President: This is crucial. The Congress requires full funding for the Department of Defense and I can see why. But Israel uses partial funding and then we have to find the money somehow later on.

Clements: Exactly. This is creating a commitment which will hit us in coming years.

Colby: The impact of the decision we take in the near term will be more political and psychological than military since Israel already has such great power and the delivery dates for new items are not immediate. Such weapons as the Pershing and the F–16 can have this political impact. [2 lines not declassified] (Colby presented the remainder of the briefing at Tab A, starting with point V on page 12 and continuing through the end of page 16.) [3 lines not declassified]

Rumsfeld: The figures you project would be the equivalent of 500,000 Americans. They were badly hurt in the October war.

Colby: The subject of comparative casualty figures is morbid but interesting. Look at the percent of casualties for the United States in comparison to the number of people in the Armed Services and the total of the population. For World War I we had 2% casualties of the total number in the Armed Services, about .1% of the total population. It was about the same for World War II. Israel suffered less than 1% casualties of those in the Armed Services during the October 1973 war, and about .1% of the total population. Our projections for a future war are about 1.6% casualties of those who serve in the Israeli Armed Forces. This is substantial, but not unusual in wars.

Clements: But it will take place in a very brief period of time.

[Page 883]

Colby: Yes, but it will lead to victory. [4 lines not declassified] We have increased the percentage of Arab participation we estimate over the October 1973 figures; it is up to 35%. [2 lines not declassified] We do not see how they can be transported to the front before the war had ended in an Israeli victory even were there no political differences and were the other Arab Governments willing to deprive themselves of security protection at home. There could be pre-positioning but Israel would detect this and react strongly.

Kissinger: Yet sooner or later the sheer numerical superiority of the Arabs will prevail. Take the historical view and this becomes clear. It may take 25 years but the Arabs will eventually catch up technologically and then Israel will be in the gravest danger.

Colby: Yes. That is why they need to negotiate a settlement while there is still time.

President: I saw a report [less than 1 line not declassified] that the U.S. sells $10 billion in arms to the Middle East while all the other states combined sell about $3 million.

Colby: Only the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. have a really major capability for arms production. The others can do it but much more slowly.

President: Brent, do you want to get us started again?

Scowcroft: [less than 1 line not declassified] Israel’s [less than 1 line not declassified] idea of a force level for Matmon–B. It is a plan for forty billion dollars of arms and equipment. Only the first five years has been projected in detail. It calls for 1,000 tanks, 3,000 APCs, 250 F–16s, etc. to be added to the IDF by 1980. They are really talking about a program which will change the entire military and strategic balance in the Middle East, whether or not they admit it. [less than 1 line not declassified] Today we are faced with the 1976 increment of Matmon–B which was given to us in February 1975.3 It is hard to get a handle on this issue but it is important. Essentially we need to decide three things: the level of response to the 75/76 list, the related question of how we respond to the request for 250 F–16s, and the list of thirty-two sensitive items which have been requested. If you take out the F–16s, the basic 1975/76 list is valued at about $2.2 billion. Look at these two charts (Tab B)4 showing the projections at different levels of future Matmon–B and our projected level of assistance.

President: The deficit on this first chart is the difference between Matmon–B and what we project for security assistance for Israel. They will have to make up the difference.

[Page 884]

Scowcroft: The impact of our accepting the entire 1975/76 request would be seen by Israel as a commitment to the whole of the Matmon program; it would be seen by the Arabs as full U.S. support for Israel, abandoning our role as a mediator. As an alternate, we looked at the idea of a package equal in value to what you have asked from Congress for FY 76, $1.5 billion. The concept behind this would be one of modernization and replacement instead of force expansion. This would lower the numbers and give us the philosophic basis for a lower program. For the basic list we must decide whether to go for the entire amount or a lesser amount such as the one we have examined. On the F–16, we have agreed to supply them to Israel but we have given them no commitment on the quantity or the timing of delivery. There are three ways to handle this issue: we can request Israel to cut the number it is asking for, say to 100; this would reduce the price to about $1.3 billion instead of the $3.2 billion for 250. Or we can put Israel at the end of the production queue; or we can defer the entire issue for a year, if necessary promising Israel they would not lose their place in the production line because of the delay.

Kissinger: They also want to produce them in Israel.

Clements: Not really; only to assemble some sub-sections.

Scowcroft: Deferral would upset the Israelis but granting the full request would really upset the Arabs, coming on top of the F–15 deal.

President: What about the effect on our own forces?

General Brown: If we take the earlier delivery option, it would affect our modernization but if we took the slower option there would be no impact. The F–16 is a very modern high-performance aircraft. It is better for ground attack than the F–14 or F–15 which get more publicity. It is almost as good as the F–15 in air combat except at the very high altitude segment of the envelope. It will make a whale of a difference in the Middle East.

Clements: We will be producing 4,000 by 1990.

Brown: We have a firm commitment to NATO, after we persuaded them to take the F–16 over the French.

Clements: We cannot possibly renege on our commitment to NATO.

Kissinger: We never promised Israel anything on delivery dates.

Scowcroft: No dates and no numbers were promised Israel.

Kissinger: If the President were to decide on the total amount, he could delay on delivery.

Scowcroft: The earliest delivery would be 1981 in any event.

President: What is our commitment to NATO and our own forces?

Brown: The option we can exercise is the production rate. We can go for delayed delivery now and then increase the production rate later.

[Page 885]

President: When do we deploy the F–16 to our own forces?

Clements: It will be 1980 before they are deployed to squadrons although some testbed aircraft will be operational in 1979.

President: It could be a question of who goes first.

Brown: Put them in the production queue or give them priority, that is the choice.

Scowcroft: They want a decision now so they can place their orders.

Kissinger: I do not recommend delaying a decision. I recall the problem Rogers had in delaying a decision on the F–4 and we never heard the end of it. You are better off putting them on a slow schedule and then speeding up later.

Scowcroft: We can defuse the Arabs by talking about late delivery and put Israel into the production queue.

Kissinger: When we talked about the F–4, Israel was happy to get two or three a month.

Clements: They are getting the F–15 to tide them over.

Scowcroft: Last September Dinitz and Peres gave us a list of 32 high interest items. Some of them have been resolved but those that remain are problems. I will pass out a list of those (Tab C).5 There are three kinds of problems: some are still in R & D, there is a special sensitivity for the technology on others such as the EA6Q and the FLIR, and others like the CBU72 are politically sensitive. It is like napalm in terms of sensitivity.

Brown: It is a propane mix which spreads out over a wide area and is then ignited by grenades. It makes a huge explosion with great overpressure. There is a cloud like a tactical nuclear weapon. We used it against that island during the Mayaguez incident and there was no more shooting. But it will cause a political problem like napalm has.

Scowcroft: There is also our first-line communications security equipment which Israel wants but the intelligence community is adamant against releasing it.

President: Has Israel asked for all these items?

Scowcroft: Yes, and in the quantities indicated. I understand Defense opposes all of these.

Rumsfeld: There is a general Defense doctrine, as I understand it, opposing the transfer of high technology weapons to other countries, the reduction of U.S. stocks and the release of destabilizing items.

Brown: The last time we discussed this, Mr. President, you told us not to take anything more from stocks or production for the U.S. [Page 886] Armed Forces and we have been holding to this.6 We are planning ahead on this basis.

Rumsfeld: We should not count items still in R & D. They are not operational so why does Israel want them.

Kissinger: They know all about your R & D so if they like an item you can be sure it has promise. In making decisions on arms for Israel you have several problems: foreign policy, the strategic balance, and the domestic impact as well as on our military assets. Our ability to move Israel when we negotiate in earnest is also a consideration. Let’s look at this list and see what we can approve. We can promise some of these R & D items safely since they cannot get them and we lose nothing. The items with moral objections can be considered separately.

President: Is the CBU on the refusal list for moral reasons?

Rumsfeld: For foreign policy reasons, I would say. Henry is picking up some Brademus terminology and I want to stop him. It is really a foreign policy and political problem.

Kissinger: In general we deal with Israel on arms by allowing them to beat up the bureaucracy and pick off items one at a time. But in an election year we are better going to a comprehensive list and settle it once and for all. I have no specific recommendations but we did agree to give sympathetic consideration to high technology items during the Sinai negotiations. We are not committed to any specifics.

Clements: They get things and put them in their pocket without ever looking back. They already have a lot of things.

Kissinger: They got the smart bomb by successive waves of attacks.

Rumsfeld: I would do the same thing if I were Israel and out there alone with the Arabs—no matter what Colby’s charts say.

President: Henry did not mention the cost. This is a very important factor.

Lynn: We really have two issues. One is the appropriation level for Israel and the mix. They want additional high technology they do not yet have but this is only a partial list and they already have items approved on the longer list. The other issue is whether or not Israel can afford what they want. I will comment on that after passing around these charts. (Tab D)7 The left-hand column for each year is what Israel will have to pay and the right-hand column is what they will have from us to pay with. The colored segments are annual payments due for each [Page 887] successive year’s increment of Matmon–B. In 1976 they will owe $1.6 billion for orders already placed and will need only an additional $200 million to order $2.2 billion in new equipment. But this mushrooms out in the succeeding years.

Rumsfeld: It is like a chain letter.

Lynn: The second chart is based on $1.5 billion for 1976 and only half a billion thereafter. Still, they will be a bit shy.

President: This is why Congress went to full funding for our own Department of Defense. There is no controlling the cost under the system used by Israel. What would be the effect on Matmon–B of $1.5 billion for FY 76 and $1.0 billion thereafter.

Scowcroft: It would be about ⅓ off what they want.

Clements: We must remember that if they get all of Matmon–B, it will double Israel’s forces.

Kissinger: That is right. We need charts for the 1981 projection based on full Matmon–B and the reduced rate. If they get all the APCs they want, they would even have more than all the Arabs by 1981. This chart only shows approved Israeli orders, not projected ones.

President: Such charts would be useful.

Scowcroft: The philosophy behind the lower rate was replacement and modernization.

Kissinger: The F–16 is not in here. It should be.

President: When does Israel need to pay for the F–16? Has NATO paid?

Clements: NATO paid right away. They put money into the production.

Kissinger: We should recall, as Brent said, that we have been holding out on Israel since last March. If we give them alternate #2, we can tell Rabin we can meet that percentage of his needs this year. We do not want to study it any more and give him a chance to accuse us of bad faith. He can decide upon the mix.

Scowcroft: We have cut on the basis of a rationale but it is up to them to set the mix.

Kissinger: We must decide this before Rabin arrives.

President: We told the Israelis we would give them between $2 and $2.3 billion in assistance. What did we give them?

Scowcroft: Just about $2.3 billion.

President: We went with the upper level and now they want a list of hardware.

Kissinger: They want this year’s Matmon–B slice of $2.2 billion.

President: It has been suggested that we make them choose their priorities out of $1.5 billion.

[Page 888]

Kissinger: They separate payments and hardware, saying give us what we want and then we can worry later about how to pay for it. This is the first time in seven years we have looked at the cost and the hardware together. The Israelis never discuss the financial implications. We have three options for this year’s list: tell them yes on all of it and then worry later about the cost; or tell them they get a certain percentage; or tell them we will change their list. I do not recommend the latter. I suggest we give them a percentage corresponding to alternate #2 but tell them they can choose the mix. Give them specific numbers and quantities rather than dollar amounts. They can change the breakdown if they do not like it.

President: Henry says we should not disapprove their concept but they must get into the choice about the length of the program.

Kissinger: Don’t debate them on the five-year plan. They will tie us in knots. Cut each category and get to the $1.5 billion level. Then tell them we are flexible.

Rumsfeld: We may want to suggest telling them what we can do with the funds available. Have Jim do a chart starting with $1.3 billion. If you make this commitment to $1.5 you are implicitly committed to going higher than the available funding.

President: And the F–16 is not included.

Lynn: We must get into this kind of review and analysis before the budget process every year rather than afterwards.

Kissinger: We cannot allow them to add the charge of double cross to the other problems we will have with them this year. Let us settle on numbers. Their request is never modest. It is like the going-in position of the Armed Services. They can stand being cut but Rabin needs to go home with something.

Rumsfeld: They will want to know what they can buy.

Kissinger: Give them a recognizable slice of Matmon–B. Put a working group together and agree on figures. Give them a big slug of Matmon–B.

President: That is what we did last year, when we gave them more than we needed to.

Scowcroft: We have already done it this year. We have tried to get a handle on bringing the equipment and the funding together. It is an artificial device but it is a try to get it together. The SRG ought to meet again to go over the high-interest list item by item and come up with a recommendation.

Rumsfeld: Let us agree that from now on there will be a U.S. position on Israeli requests. They will get the same response wherever they go, no more good guys and bad guys.

[Page 889]

President: I really hope this will be the case. They exploit the good-guy, bad-guy gambit. I don’t want that.

Colby: One of the recommendations is to have our own estimate on the military balance each year. I hope this can be approved. It is very important.

President: I like this. This is the way it should be done. Lay out the readiness and the situation in the area and the payments and look at them all together.

Kissinger: This is the best session since I have been here.

Lynn: We have two issues: how much they can buy and how much we will fund.

Kissinger: If you say the latter, they will find other funds. Let us agree on a percentage of the list. We can justify it with our assessment of the strategic balance and the financial implications.

Lynn: That is good. This has been clarified. Are there any items on the list which would lead to an escalation by the Arabs?

Kissinger: Yes, the Pershing and maybe the F–16 but not the Matmon–B list.

Rumsfeld: We agree on some items they will not get. We can tell Rabin that.

Kissinger: It is a little early to tell Rabin. They know they will not get the Pershing but we do not really want to tell them.

Clements: Do you mean, Mr. President, that this funding is for the present or the future?

President: This year is consistent with our Sinai commitment. We have made no commitment past this year but what we are talking about in numbers and dollars is suitable for the future.

Kissinger: This Israeli Government has a habit of publishing everything they get from us that can work to their advantage concerning assurances or commitments, even earlier ones. In the past we were in the habit of giving the Israelis assurances in writing that their needs for military equipment would receive sympathetic consideration. Johnson and Nixon both did this. We can no longer do this and the best way to meet the need and the problem is with an annual strategic review. Concerning amounts, we are better off when Israel is a bit short than when they are a bit long on what they want.

Clements: We met to discuss the Middle East almost one year ago to the day.8 In my judgment the total situation now is much more volatile than it was then, due primarily to the situation in Lebanon where a major conflict between Israel and Syria could occur at any moment.

[Page 890]

Kissinger: I agree with you. The situation is very explosive due to the generally mounting frustrations of the Arabs, not only because of Lebanon although that is a serious danger. We cannot throw in our lot completely with the Israelis or we will lose our mediating role and compromise our relations with the Arabs. We must give Israel enough to deter an Arab attack but not so much as to lose our relationship with the Arabs. Excessive rhetoric in New York is already hurting us in this regard.

Clements: The situation in Lebanon is extremely explosive. Any day it could bring about Israeli or Syrian direct intervention and end up in major hostilities between the two and another Arab oil embargo directed against us.

Kissinger: The U.S. must be taken seriously as a major factor in the area.

Colby: Another critical factor for the U.S. in the Middle East is the health of President Sadat, and he is not well.

Kissinger: You are right. Look at the situation now compared to Nasser. Egypt played the key role in the fight over the future of Angola at the recent OAU meeting. With Nasser they would have led the opposition and produced an overwhelming majority against us. They even fought harder than we would have done, opposing citing the name of the U.S. alongside Cuba and South Africa and the U.S.S.R. as intervening in Angola. We finally told them we could accept this, if necessary, to get the resolutions adopted.

President: Egypt, Zambia and Zaire really fought hard.

Kissinger: Plus Idi Amin who is momentarily on our side.

President: He is a paradox. And he wears so many medals.

Kissinger: Not so many as Bokassa who has to wear them on the back as well as on the front.

Rumsfeld: The Israelis tell you they need more military equipment as a deterrent. They say make us stronger and we can manage all alone. This is a critical issue of Israeli internal politics as well as a foreign policy issue. The Israeli behaviour makes negotiations very difficult. What would contribute to making them more conciliatory, to be a little stronger or a little weaker? You can say that if they are strong, they will feel secure at home and therefore will be more willing to make essential concessions. Or you can say that if they are too strong, they will no longer feel any need to negotiate or make concessions. It can come out either way.

Kissinger: We have had a lot of historical experience with this question. Rabin asks for weapons as an encouragement to negotiate and then he gets them and does not negotiate. This happened last year, when we gave them too many arms in September 1974. Then in March [Page 891] 1975 they refused to make the concessions we had been led to expect. You can’t get them too strong and you must keep something in reserve to reward them with for negotiating. Last time we gave them twice what we should have, and it caused them to be inflexible.

President: We were too generous. I think we have contributed more financial assistance to Israel on a per capita basis than any other country in the world.

Kissinger: This year it is $700 per individual in U.S. assistance.

President: We should put it on a per capita basis to see what the U.S. taxpayer pays.

General Brown: Whether they come out a little weaker or a little stronger than they plan, [4 lines not declassified].

Colby: This is doctrine for many of them and they make no effort to conceal it.

Kissinger: And what happened the last time (October 1973) gave them an incentive to redress what many regard as psychological imbalance since the Arabs did not lose completely.

Brown: They think that the mistake they made the last time [less than 1 line not declassified] and they are determined not to make that mistake again.

Colby: They could have increased their mobilization but not much else. Starting the war two or three hours earlier would have made no difference.

Kissinger: When they did go, they did not do such a good job. They did not know how to handle the SAMs.

Rumsfeld: The problem is that Lebanon and the Israeli mentality make a dangerous combination.

Kissinger: I agree, many in Israel want an opportunity to preempt.

[Omitted here is Part II of the minutes, unrelated to the Arab-Israeli dispute.]

[Page 892]

Tab A

Briefing by Director of Central Intelligence Colby9

Washington, January 13, 1976.


I. Mr. President, CIA and DIA reviewed the present Arab-Israeli military balance, and assessed the impact on it through 1980 of those weapons and technology already approved for supply to Israel and of those currently under consideration. [5 lines not declassified]

II. The October 1973 War again demonstrated Israel’s combat superiority over the Arabs. Israel won despite serious disadvantages resulting from the surprise Arab attack on two fronts. Since then, the Israeli Defense Forces have continued to increase their military advantage through modernization, added equipment, and correction of most of the organizational deficiencies identified during the war.

A. For example, delivery of some 140 A–4 and F–4 combat aircraft allowed Israel to replace its war losses and expand its air force by two fighter squadrons. The “smart bombs,” air-to-ground missiles, and ECM equipment will help Israel counter the Arab SAM threat that hampered ground-support operations in the last war. Israel now has at least 50 percent more tanks, twice as much large-caliber self-propelled artillery, and more than 50 percent more armored personnel carriers than it had prior to the 1973 war. These weapons enabled Israel to expand its armored force by two divisions, and will provide the mechanized infantry support that was lacking in the last war.

B. Overall Israeli combat capabilities have also been improved by increased operational readiness, higher active-duty strength, more intensive training, and the correction of mobilization and intelligence deficiencies. We judge that the Israeli Defense Force retains its substantial qualitative advantages in leadership, tactical flexibility, operational proficiency, and technical competence.

C. On the other hand, we believe that the Arab threat to Israel is relatively less than it was in 1973. Current force levels are shown in this chart.10

1. Egypt has made major efforts to rebuild its armed forces since the war but has been hampered by poor relations with the Soviets and resulting limitations on the supply of weapons, equipment, and spare [Page 893] parts. Thus, although Egypt has obtained additional modern tanks, APCs, aircraft, and air defense missiles, its inventories generally are not larger and in some cases fall short of prewar levels. The air force, in particular, is some 30 percent below its prewar fighter strength.

2. We estimate that Egypt’s overall combat strength is slightly less than prior to the 1973 war, although it is still capable of a major offensive of limited duration and of strong defensive action. It could not sustain large-scale military operations, however, without major Soviet resupply.

3. Unlike Egypt, Syria has been able to rebuild and even expand inventories through extensive Soviet aid. More tanks, APCs, tactical missiles, air defense weapons, and advanced fighter aircraft have made Syria stronger than in 1973.

a. Still, significant weaknesses remain. These include poor leadership, lack of tactical flexibility, low technical competence, and an inadequate logistic system.

b. Although the modern MIG–23 and SU–20 aircraft in the Syrian air force provide an increased tactical strike capability, they lack the overall performance of the Israeli F–4s and A–4s.

4. The other Arab states are generally stronger than in 1973 but we estimate that distance and logistical and political problems would limit their contribution in a war with Israel.

III. The impact of U.S. weapons shipped to or approved for Israel since 1 April 1975 is considerable, as shown in the center column of this chart.11 We believe that this weaponry will maintain and, indeed is likely to increase, Israel’s military superiority over the Arabs through 1980.

A. Any “worst-case” Arab military buildup would seriously test Israeli capabilities, but Israel probably would win, although at a much higher cost. It would hold a decisive advantage over the “most likely” projected Arab threat.

B. The additional weapons will correct almost all remaining deficiencies in Israeli capabilities discovered in the 1973 war and will enable Israel to further modernize and expand its armed forces. For example:

—The Israeli air force will be strengthened in both size and quality. The F–15 represents a new generation of combat aircraft with greatly improved performance characteristics. It will be more than a match for any Soviet aircraft through the current decade.

[Page 894]

—New U.S. tanks and APCs will enable Israel to form an additional armored division and greatly expand its mechanized infantry force. The mobility and combat power of the Israeli ground forces will be improved, especially their ability to cope with anti-tank weapons. The additional air defense weapons will increase ground-force air defense and free the air force for other missions.

—The Lance missile battalion will be an important psychological weapon for the Israelis and will provide them with an alternative to aircraft attacks on heavily defended targets in rear areas.

C. Israel argues that the arms requested will be needed by 1980 to protect against a burgeoning Arab threat. We believe that Israel has exaggerated this threat but that, even as a “worst case,” the Israeli estimate is still useful as a standard against which to measure Israel’s capabilities in 1980. This chart will help explain what I mean.12

1. Comparison of the October 1973 force ratios with those for a worst case in 1980 indicates that a dramatic shift in the Arabs favor would occur only in the number of SAM batteries. But this is a defensive category, and the Arab numerical advantage is offset by the significant increase in Israel’s air superiority and capability of suppressing SAMs.

2. Nor will Arab quantitative gains in other categories likely overturn the decisive Israeli advantage in leadership, tactical flexibility, and general competence. The ratios remain generally comparable to those with which Israel won a decisive victory in 1973, even overcoming the disadvantage of surprise.

3. The Arabs almost certainly will achieve some qualitative advances in equipment and training despite the burden of absorbing much new and sophisticated hardware. But the Israelis will retain their relative advantage. They are starting from a more advanced technological position and have a broader base of trained and trainable manpower.

D. A “more likely” Arab threat in 1980 can be derived [2 lines not declassified] by reviewing the constraints that are likely to influence Arab military developments.

1. We question [less than 1 line not declassified] that all Arabs are irrevocably committed to a massive military buildup with the object of forcing a final military solution to the Middle East problem. Egypt, for one, has sacrificed Soviet military aid for a more pragmatic diplomatic approach.

2. We can only speculate about the Arab ability to overcome the political disunity that has plagued them in the past, but the present [Page 895] trend is toward less coordination between the front-line Arab states. Egypt, for instance, might today avoid a Sinai offensive if Syria started new, unprovoked hostilities.

3. [3 lines not declassified] Considering the past performance of those states, including their political inhibitions and logistical difficulties in supporting a conflict, we believe that they would provide only about 20 percent of the Arab forces.

4. A principal constraint on the Arab capacity to expand and upgrade their military forces will remain a shortage of technically trained personnel. The problem will continue to be acute through the late Seventies.

5. The availability of sources of modern weaponry probably will also constrain the Arabs. The Israeli projection represents both a gross increase in new arms deliveries and a massive replacement of older weapons as well. No Western European arms supplier has the capability of supplying the Middle East on the scale projected without a substantial increase in production capacity, and this requires long lead times. Even existing arms contracts call for extended delivery periods.

6. Barring the U.S., this leaves only the Communist bloc as a major source of Arab arms. But Moscow’s continued willingness to provide substantial new weaponry, particularly on soft terms, is by no means certain. Nor is the willingness of the Arab states to continue their heavy dependence on Communist military sources, particularly if funded by the conservative Arab oil states.

IV. Finally, let me address the impact of delivering those weapons for which approval is still pending. Delivery of this equipment, shown at the right of the first chart, would obviously increase Israel’s already substantial advantage over the Arabs. It might also be met by an Arab effort to match it. We know, for example, that President Asad has already used this argument in Moscow.

A. Much of the initial impact of such deliveries would be psychological, however, as the greatest increase in military capabilities would actually occur in the early 1980s.

1. The first of the 250 F–16 fighters would not become operational before the early 1980s, but both sides would feel at once the psychological impact of knowing that Israeli air strength would soon make a quantum jump. The effect would be magnified by the availability of additional sophisticated ordnance for the Israeli air force.

2. The ground force would not grow much, but the greater proportion of modern weapons would provide added firepower and mobility.

3. The Pershing missile would have greater psychological impact than any weapon Israel has requested to date. Its range would largely [Page 896] limit it to targets already in reach of the Israeli air force, but it is a disturbing element because of its association with nuclear weapons.

B. There is little the Arabs can do to counter the effects of Israel’s new weapons and technology. Nothing that the Arabs could acquire from Soviet or West European sources would be likely to offset Israel’s gains from the latest U.S. weaponry, particularly the combination of F–15 and F–16 aircraft armed with advanced air ordnance.

C. In summary, we believe that Israel will retain a decisive margin of military advantage over the Arabs in 1980 regardless of whether the pending requests are approved. Israel would hold the advantage against even its “worst-case” threat, and its superiority would be even greater in a “most likely” situation.

[92 lines (17 paragraphs) not declassified]

US Military Aid to Israel
Shipped 6 October 1973–1 April 1975 Shipped or Approved Since 1 April 1975 Under Consideration
Combat Aircraft
F–15 25
F–16 250
F–4 and A–4 143 74
“Smart Bombs” 7,800 1,300 200
Air-to-air missiles 900 780
Antitank missiles 5,167 26,843 7,520
Ground Weapons
Tanks 700 500 180
Armored personnel carriers 1,150 2,580 1,000
Self-propelled artillery 365 23 142
Lance Missile battalions 1
Pershing missile battalions 1
SAM batteries 4 3
Air defense artillery 2 46 12
[Page 897]
The Arab-Israeli Force Balance—1 January 1976
Egypt/Syria Expeditionary Forces Arab Totals Israel
Tanks 4,350 1,350 5,700 3,000
APCs 4,200 800 5,000 5,500
Artillery 2,150 450 2,600 810
Combat Aircraft 850 200 1,050 420
SAM Batteries 182 0 182 19
Arab-Israeli Force Ratios
1973 1980 (Worst Case)13 1980 (Most Likely Case)14
Arabs Israel Combat Ratio Arabs Israel Combat Ratio Arabs Israel Combat Ratio
Tanks 4,700 2,000 2.4:1 9,100 3,250 2.8:1 6,700 3,250 2.1:1
Armored Personnel Carriers 5,000 3,450 1.5:1 9,660 6,800 1.4:1 7,100 6,800 1:1
Artillery15 3,700 700 5.3:1 5,780 890 6.5:1 5,000 890 5.6:1
Combat Aircraft 1,180 380 3.1:1 2,310 550 4.2:1 1,300 550 2.4:1
SAM Batteries 181 15 12:1 400 22 18:1 265 22 12:1
  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Box 2, NSC Meetings File, NSC Meeting, January 13, 1976. Secret; Nodis. The meeting was held in the Cabinet Room at the White House. All brackets, with the exception of ones describing omitted material, are in the original.
  2. See Documents 243 and 244.
  3. Not found.
  4. The charts, Tab B, have not been found.
  5. The lists, Tab C, have not been found.
  6. A reference to a brief discussion of the Israeli military requests at the end of the September 17 NSC meeting. The draft minutes of the meeting are in the Ford Library, NSC Institutional Files, Box 10, Meeting Minutes, NSC Meeting, September 17, 1975.
  7. The charts, Tab D, have not been found.
  8. Possibly a reference to the WSAG meeting on January 14, 1975; see Document 126.
  9. Secret.
  10. Table II below.
  11. Table I below.
  12. Table III below.
  13. The 1980 worst case compares the Israeli estimate of the Arab force with the current Israeli force augmented by items already approved and domestic production. The 1980 most-likely case compares our estimate of the Arab force Israel would face with the same Israeli force as in the worst case. [Footnote is in original.]
  14. The 1980 worst case compares the Israeli estimate of the Arab force with the current Israeli force augmented by items already approved and domestic production. The 1980 most-likely case compares our estimate of the Arab force Israel would face with the same Israeli force as in the worst case. [Footnote is in original.]
  15. The artillery ratio is inflated because the Arab figure includes artillery over and under 100 mm, multiple rocket launchers, and mortars over 100 mm, whereas the Israeli figure includes only artillery over 100 mm. [Footnote is in original.]