KC Johnson

LBJ & Abe Feinberg, 20 Feb. 1965

President Johnson: I like [Levi] Eshkol—I got along with him fine. I got along with [David] Ben Gurion fine. I spent a lot of time with him, back when they were in real problems, and they were getting ready to [impose] sanctions [in 1963, over Dimona]. I just came down here and said, “Hell, no, that can’t be.”

Abe Feinberg: I remember that.

President Johnson: President Johnson: And I stopped it.

But they fight among themselves over there, and I’m not going to get in the middle of one of these clashes—have one of them leak it on me that I want to join up with the Arabs.

Feinberg: I gather that, for proper diplomatic reasons, you think that [Foreign Minister] Golda’s [Meir] visit here would be—

President Johnson: President Johnson: I just think—I think it would inflame the whole world. I think that the Germans would wonder if she’s coming to mess in that thing. I think that the Arabs would say, “Good God, what’s Johnson doing in here?” I think the Jews would all start sending telegrams . . .

President Johnson: President Johnson: I can’t imagine her getting off [the plane] with a suitcase without somebody saying, “Why?”

Feinberg:  Yeah.

President Johnson: President Johnson: And then I don’t want to get another Arab/Ben Gurion/Eshkol/Erhard election in this thing if I can avoid it.

I’m friendly to these people, and I want to help them. But . . .

As our people see it, if they [the Israeli government] really, sincerely, genuinely feel that we oughtn’t to sell these planes to Jordan, and we oughtn’t to sell these tanks (we’re giving them as little as we can get by with; Nasser has got their feet to the fire)—well, we won’t do it. I’ll just say that, and I’m prepared to do it.

And I’m telling [Averell] Harriman to tell the prime minister that. Because I think it’s something that’s got to be settled with him . . .

Feinberg: With the prime minister of Israel?

President Johnson: President Johnson: Yeah. Yeah.

And now he’s [Harriman] going to say, “Now, you all decide this.”

We have indications from our Jewish population in the United States that they think that’s the course we ought to follow.

Now, our judgment is we oughtn’t to do it. Our judgment is we oughtn’t to let this little king [King Hussein] go down the river. He’s got a million-and-a-half people, and he only controls a third of them—two-thirds [are] against him.

But he is the only voice that will stand up there. And if you want to turn him over and have a complete Soviet bloc, why, we’ll just have to—and we’ll get out of the arms business. We just . . .

And we think . . . We’ll have to get out of supplying Jordan with money. And we think when we do that, it will cause pressure to really be—when that story comes out—it will be on the whole $100 million that goes to Jordan, and to Israel, too.

But we’ll fight that when we come to it. We’ll deprive Jordan of their aid. We’ll tell ‘em, “No more aid, no more munitions. No more nothing. We’re not going to get into manufacturing munitions,” and so on and so forth. If that’s what they [the Israelis] think.

We think it would be better to give ‘em [Jordan] as little as possible, and control it. And all of our defense people think it would be.

But I’m not prepared to take on the New York Times and [former White House counsel] Mike Feldman and everybody else. [Feinberg chuckles.] I’m going to let them make the decision.

But it’s got to be in or out. If we go in—[then] of course, we’ve got to be of some help to Israel. If we get out, then we just got to say, “Well, we’re not taking part. We’re not going to supply arms to one side or the other. We’re just not going to be in here to sell a lot of munitions.”

The only reason I’m helping Jordan is on account of Israel. Now, if Israel doesn’t—if Israel considers them their enemy, and not of help, then we just wasted 600 million [dollars, in military aid to Jordan].

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