101. Letter From President Nixon to Israeli Prime Minister Meir1
Ambassador Barbour will be informing you of the results of our review of your government’s financial and military needs, particularly with respect to aircraft, which you and I discussed last September. He will also convey to you the announcement on these matters which we shall be making shortly.2
I fully understand your deep sense of personal responsibility for the security of your country and the survival of your people. I carry a similar burden and can appreciate the sense of concern and urgency in the message you sent me through Ambassador Rabin last week.3 To be isolated in the world and deprived of the means of defense would indeed be tragic for your people, who have endured so much and struggled so valiantly. The response we are conveying to you is intended to make clear to the world that Israel is not alone.
I know you would have preferred a more definitive decision now on your request for additional aircraft. Weighing all factors, I have concluded that such a decision at this time would not serve the cause of peace in the Middle East—the common goal which is essential to the long term interests of both our countries. The achievement of this goal requires both strength and restraint. I say this to emphasize the difference between restraint and weakness.
Our present response takes into account that in the absence of peace, Israel’s margin of safety and security must be maintained. The [Page 338] provision for maintaining Israel’s strength in the face of attrition is designed to express our continuing support for Israel’s security. This point will not, I am convinced, be lost on any who may harbor hopes of reversing the military balance in the area.
The relationship between our two countries is based in the final analysis on mutual confidence in each other’s fundamental intentions. I want to reaffirm to you that, for our part, these remain as steadfast and firm as they have been during all the years of Israel’s nationhood.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 606, Country Files, Middle East, Israel, Vol. IV. No classification marking. The letter is attached to a March 14 memorandum to Nixon, in which Kissinger wrote: “In view of Mrs. Meir’s direct personal appeal to you on the aircraft decision, a personal response would seem desirable in connection with our telling her of the decision. The main purpose of such a note would not be to convey the details of the decision or to argue the case but to reassure her that Israel is not being cut off.”↩
- See Document 106.↩
- Meir’s March 8 letter to Nixon was delivered to Kissinger by Ambassador Rabin during their meeting at the White House on March 12 (see Document 99). Meir wrote: “Lately some rumors have reached me that your decision [on arms requests] may be negative or at best postponed. I absolutely refuse to believe it . . . To envisage such a blow to my people is more than the courage I have to believe. If, God forbid, this were true, then we would feel really forsaken. Our enemies, including the Russians, would, for the first time, really believe that we are at their mercy . . . The encouragement to the Arabs that we have been abandoned by our best friend while their supplies pour in, spells not only a security danger but a psychological shock for our people. The effect of this shock cannot be overestimated . . . Mr. President, we are alone! Again, I say to myself and to you, I do not believe it.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 612, Country Files, Middle East, Israeli Aid)↩
- Printed from an unsigned copy.↩