Eshkol Hints on Arrival to See Johnson He Would Talk About U.S. Phantom Jets for Israel
Menu JTA Search

Eshkol Hints on Arrival to See Johnson He Would Talk About U.S. Phantom Jets for Israel

Download PDF for this date

Levi Eshkol, Prime Minister of Israel, arrived here late this afternoon on his way to Texas to confer with President Johnson, and indicated he would discuss with the President the supply of arms, possibly Phantom jet planes, to Israel.

After had weather which forced his El Al Israel Airlines plane to land nearly two hours late on its flight from Israel, Mr. Eshkol and his party came to the John F. Kennedy International Airport here, guarded by extraordinarily heavy security details of Federal agents and local police. He was greeted formally by Samuel King, the acting United States Chief of Protocol, as well as by protocol officials representing the United Nations, the State of New York, and New York City, at the International Airport Synagogue, near the landing strip, he was greeted by about 500 persons, many of them among the outstanding leaders of American Jewry.

The Prime Minister was accompanied by Mrs. Eshkol; Rabbi Yaakov Herzog, director-general of the Prime Minister’s office; Adi Yaffe, his political secretary; Col. Israel Liyor, his military aide; and Moshe Bitan, deputy director-general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, and head of the Ministry’s American desk.

(Prior to his departure earlier today from Israel’s International airport at Lod, Mr. Eshkol said he would discuss with President Johnson ‘problems concerning our security and also our needs in armaments, so that we do not stay behind in the arms race with our neighbors.” In his talks with the President, he said, he will “try to explain Israel’s position and the need to promote the cause of peace for Israel and for the region as a whole.”)


At an extraordinarily crowded news conference immediately after he landed – covered not only by the world press but also by television and radio – Mr. Eshkol read a statement in which he said that the recent events in the Middle East had opened possibilities for peace – but, simultaneously, “created the danger of a new war.” He voiced “fond memories” of his previous meeting with President Johnson, in 1964, and said Israel “appreciates the President’s dedication to the peace and progress of our area.”

Later, at the synagogue, he told the Jewish community of America that Israel appreciated, too, Jewry’s aid to Israel “during the days of peril.” Rabbi Herschel Schacter, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of American Jewish Organizations, representing 21 organizations with a total membership of 4.5 million Jews, voiced confidence during the synagogue reception that the United States would supply Israel with military aid “to deter any new assault which the huge and recently-received supply of Soviet weapons may tempt the Arab nations to undertake.”

Mr. Eshkol told the newsmen that Soviet-made ground-to-ground missiles had been installed on Arab territory, and that the fact was one of his motives for wanting to talk with President Johnson. Asked specifically whether he would seek American Phantom jet planes in his talks with the President, he indicated that he would do so but said the subject might be covered in a communique following the Texas conferences.


Mr. Eshkol’s attention was called to a statement made today by Secretary of State Dean Rusk, in which the latter voiced hope that Russia would work with the U.S.A. toward limitation of the arms race in the Middle East. The Israeli Premier replied that he saw no evidence on which to base such a hope. Asked whether Israel would again accept planes from France, in the event that French President ne Gaulle reversed his recently announced position opposing Israel’s actions during the June war, Mr. Eshkol replied in the affirmative.

Regarding the possibility of direct negotiations now between Israel and the Arab states, Mr. Eshkol said he did not know what offers of that kind are being carried by Ambassador Gunnar V. Jarring. the special United Nations peace emissary to the Middle East. The latter is now canvassing political attitudes in all the major Middle East capitals, on the Arab side as well as in Israel. Mr. Eshkol had declared in his formal statement:

“When direct negotiations between Israel and the Arab countries could be set in motion, many problems would find solution far more rapidly than it is generally imagined today in an atmosphere laden over 20 years with tension and hostility.”

The Premier declared he was looking forward to the meetings with President Johnson and discussions with him on United States-Israel ties and on the current situation in the Middle East. He emphasized that, during the 20 years of Israel’s existence, “deep and lasting ties of friendship have developed between Israel and the United States.” This friendship, he said, “rests on the solid foundation of the common Biblical heritage and the dedication to democracy, to freedom and to peace.”

According to Mr. Eshkol, “the events in the Middle East in 1967 have, for the first time, opened up possibilities for peace. At the same time, the danger of a new war is ever present. Our area is at the crossroads. World statesmen can do much to enhance the positive trends”. He stated, that knowing of the interest of President Johnson and the people of the United States in peace in the Middle East, he fervently hoped his visit might advance that cause.


In the jam-packed International Synagogue, where the cream of American Jewish leadership was assembled, Mr. Eshkol emphasized, in response to the formal greetings, that “in this great and stormy period, through which Israel is living, the bonds of historical involvement and of common spiritual destiny have deepened between American Jewry and Israel.” He expressed the hope that American Jewish youth will come to Israel to take part in rebuilding and development. He said that he, Mrs. Eshkol and their associates were deeply moved by the welcome in the airport’s “Bet Knesset,” and declared he would welcome the opportunities on this visit to meet with American Jewish leaders of all groups.

“In days of peril, as in days of achievement, we have known that the heart of American Jewry beats with us,” said Mr. Eshkol. “We know that this unity will continue as we face up to the great challenges. Jewish unity and Jewish fraternity have reached unprecedented heights in recent months.”

He referred in Hebrew to the maxim “all Jews are responsible for one another,” and stated that “privileged are we to live in a generation in which Jewish independence has been restored in the Land of our Fathers, in which Jewish dignity has been uplifted, in which from the pit of despair and agony we have moved to fulfillment. In this new epoch now unfolding, may you, the largest Jewish community in the world, and we in Israel reborn, together answer the summons of our common historical involvement and spiritual destiny.” In Hebrew he said: “I greet you with the greeting of ‘shalom’ from Jerusalem, a city that is compact together. Peace to all near and far.”


Rabbi Schacter told the Premier, in his official greeting: “We believe that our Government will not be deterred from its announced policy of working for an enduring peace in the Middle East – a peace which can be achieved only by direct negotiations between Israel and the Arab states. We expect that American support for Israel will continue to strengthen Israel’s just cause. And we are prayerfully confident that our Government, recognizing that Israel’s needs coincide with America’s national interests, will supply the Jewish State with the tools and equipment necessary to defend her people.”

“American Jewry.” Rabbi Schacter continued, “magnificently demonstrated during the tense days of May and June of 1967 that its heart is one with Israel. Deeply conscious of the Arab threat to Israel’s existence as a nation and to the lives of its people, we are thankful to God that the Arab threat to destroy Israel was averted, and we remain proud of Israel’s steadfastness, heroism and victory.

“But it was not the Jewish community alone that rejoiced in the fact that the annihilation of Israel did not come to pass. The American people as a whole hailed Israel’s triumph as a vindication of their faith in justice. They also saw in Israel’s victory a strengthening of the American position in a vital area of the world, and an enhancement of democracy as a whole.”

Following the reception at the Airport Synagogue, Mr. Eshkol left for the Plaza Hotel in New York, where he rested prior to a series of meetings and functions scheduled at the United Nations tomorrow.

(In Jerusalem, it was announced officially today that Mr. Eshkol will visit London on January 17 and 18, and will confer with both Prime Minister Harold Wilson and Foreign Secretary George Brown.)

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund