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State Department Outlines Policy on U.S. Arms to Israel and Arabs

February 15, 1966
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The stand of the U.S. Government on the question of supplying American arms to Israel and the Arab states was outlined by the State Department today in reply to the joint protest of 75 members of Congress who deplored the Arab arms build-up and asked consideration for Israel’s security needs.

The reply, written for the Secretary of State, was addressed to the dean of the House of Representatives, Congressman Emanuel Cellar, New York Democrat. It was signed by Assistant Secretary of State Douglas MacArthur, 2nd. It emphasized that “the continuing state of tension in the Near East results from the basic dispute between Israel and her Arab neighbors” and indicated that the United States deemed it desirable to continue providing arms on a “case-by-case” basis to the Arab states and Israel.

“The best course for us would be to maintain the lowest level of armaments possible, but this is not something we alone can do, ” the letter stated. “To achieve this would require a common approach by all the states capable of supplying arms to the area. It would presuppose a fundamental agreement on the need to avoid an arms race in the area as well as a situation in which differences and tensions among the arms-supplying nations did not exist.” Mr. MacArthur pointed out that “in present circumstances, while the United States uses its influence to work for peace and stability in the area, it cannot ignore the realities of the situation. Beginning in 1955 massive Soviet arms sales into the area have been a major factor feeding the arms race.”

The State Department official said America seeks to avoid becoming a “major supplier” to any country in the Near East and “by not becoming involved in the arms spiral, we have hoped we might play an effective role in persuading both sides to limit further acquisitions of lethal weapons. “However, ” said Mr. MacArthur, “sales by others have forced us to respond on occasion by making selective sales. These exceptions to our general policy have been based on careful case-by-case examinations and a determination that such a sale would not be an unstabilizing factor.”


He said that reports on arms transactions have at times been based on partial information, not always accurately reflecting the actual situation. Also reports “sometimes tend to interpret the continuing modernization of military establishments in terms of sudden acceleration and also may fail to take account of the fact that delivery pursuant to arms sales may stretch out over a period of years without significant immediate impact.”

Declaring that the arms sales made to Israel and the Arab states are “in support of our objectives of maintaining friendly relations with all the states of the area while seeking to advance peace, progress, and stability, ” the State Department official added: “We do not underestimate the seriousness of any arms augmentation and will use our influence as we can to see that the dangers inherent in the military confrontation in the Near East are limited to the extent possible. To this end, we will continue our efforts to assist in resolving the basic differences which divide the Arab states and Israel.”

Rep. Thomas M. Rees, California Democrat and co-signatory of the letter to the State Department, commented: “I do not think the reply from the State Department suggests any solution to the arms race in the Middle East. ” Rep. Rees, who recently assumed the seat vacated by United Nations envoy James Roosevelt, said the State Department should recall the recent warfare between India and Pakistan. He said although America asked that arms supplied be used only for self-defense, “instructions were ignored and we had fighting between two nations using American supplied equipment in a border dispute.”

In a communication to constituents, Rep. Rees went on to stress that America should not supply arms to nations like the Arab states “whose open policy is to make war with another nation. ” He said he hoped the State Department would find “a solution more profound than trying to outdo the Soviet Union in supplying military hardware to nations of the world.”

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