265. Memorandum From Secretary of State Vance to President Carter1

Proposed Israeli Sale of KFIR C2 Aircraft to Ecuador

The Issue:

In 1973 we agreed to help Israel develop its KFIR C2 Fighter Intercepter which is powered by a U.S. General Electric engine. Under the Foreign Military Sales regulations the U.S. is required to review and approve the sales of the engine to a third country. In December 1976 Israel asked us to approve the sale of the KFIR to Ecuador.2 Secretary Kissinger did not approve the sale and held the matter for our review. The Israelis are now pressing for an early decision. They claim that unless the sale is approved by tomorrow evening, the Ecuadorians will not purchase the KFIR and instead turn toward the French Mirage. We cannot verify this. The Israelis have asked Senators Humphrey, Case and Javits to press their case with us. They have done so.

The Consequences

Here is what I see as the consequences of authorizing the sale:

A. Advantages

—please the Israelis and their supporters in the Congress;

—ease Israeli balance of payment problems; increase Israel’s military self-sufficiency and allow it to establish a military export market in the third world;

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—improve US-Ecuadorian relations by ending a restrictive policy on the supply of sophisticated US arms which Latin Americans view as paternalistic.

B. Disadvantages

—contradict our announced intention to review our arms sales policies worldwide;

—make it difficult for the U.S. to disapprove sales of sophisticated aircraft to other Latin American countries;

—fuel an arms race in the already tense Andean region.

Israeli Reaction

If we refuse to authorize the sale, the Israelis will express deep unhappiness. They are unlikely, however, to be able to generate a massive protest against this decision on the Hill. If we decide to either postpone the sale pending the completion of our review or to refuse its authorization I recommend that we:

—give our worldwide review of arms transfers as the public reason;

—indicate to the Israelis privately that we understand their disappointment and will give consideration to some sort of compensation in the form of U.S. aid for the loss which they may suffer from losing the sale.3

  1. Source: Carter Library, Plains File, Box 12, State Department Evening Reports, 1-2/77. Secret. Above the addressee line, Carter wrote “Secret” and circled it. Carter wrote in the upper right-hand corner: “Cy—We should not join in hi-tech weapons sale in S.A.–assess econ. loss to Israel & let me know J.”
  2. In a February 3 memorandum to Aaron, Quandt and Sick wrote: “We have been aware since at least December that the Israelis were negotiating with Ecuador for the purchase of about 25 Kfir aircraft at a total value of approximately $150 million. The general subject of Israeli sales of military equipment with US components to third countries was raised by Secretary Kissinger with Ambassador Dinitz in January, but no decisions were taken or conveyed with respect to specific sales cases other than drawing Israel’s attention to the need to obtain US permission for such sales in advance.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor, Country Files, Box 19, Ecuador, 2-12/77)
  3. In a February 11 memorandum to Carter, Vance wrote, “We believe this denial will not in itself affect Israel’s economic or military viability.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 17, Evening Reports (State), 2/11-28/77) No decision memorandum regarding the Kfir sale was found.