1964-1968, Volume XIX, Arab-Israeli Crisis and War, 1967|
Released by the Office of the Historian
Prewar Crisis, May 15-June 4, 1967 1. President's Daily Brief Washington, May 15, 1967. [Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, NSC Histories, Middle East Crisis, Vol. 6, Appendix A. Top Secret; [codeword not declassified]. 1 page of source text not declassified.] 2. Telegram From the Embassy in Israel to the Department of State
Prewar Crisis, May 15-June 4, 1967
1. President's Daily Brief
Washington, May 15, 1967.
[Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, NSC Histories, Middle East Crisis, Vol. 6, Appendix A. Top Secret; [codeword not declassified]. 1 page of source text not declassified.]
2. Telegram From the Embassy in Israel to the Department of State/1/
Tel Aviv, May 15, 1967, 1920Z.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 32-1 ISR-SYR. Confidential; Immediate. Repeated Priority to Amman and to Baghdad, Damascus, Jidda, Beirut, Kuwait, Dhahran, London, USUN, CINCSTRIKE, CINCMEAFSA, Jerusalem, Aden, and Sanaa. Received at 5:14 p.m. Passed to the White House and USIA at 5:40 p.m.
3604. Ref: Cairo 7494./2/
/2/Telegram 7494 from Cairo, May 15, reported that UAR military forces had been placed on alert and that extensive movement of troops and materiel was in process. (Ibid.)
1. Bitan (Fon Off) advises Battle saw Harman this morning and expressed concern at reports Egyptian troop concentration in Canal area which blocked to normal traffic and interpreted development as Egyptian demonstration solidarity with Syrians who apprehensive possible Israeli intentions./3/
/3/No memorandum of this conversation between Battle and Ambassador Harman has been found. Secretary Rusk told Battle that morning that "we should have a very frank talk with the Israelis" and that "it was very important for the Israelis to sit tight." (Notes of telephone conversation at 9:46 a.m. on May 15, prepared by Rusk's personal assistant Carolyn J. Proctor; ibid., Rusk Files: Lot 72 D 192, Telephone Calls) Telegram 194189 to Tel Aviv, May 15, instructed the Embassy to approach the Israeli Government at the highest level and express the U.S. hope that the Israelis would "maintain steady nerves in interest avoiding serious deterioration area situation." (Ibid., Central Files 1967-69, POL ARAB-ISR)
2. Bitan said that following talks with PM Eshkol and FM Eban he authorized give following GOI reaction this representation.
A. There no Israeli troop concentration Syrian, Egyptian or other frontier. (This corresponds with US Attaches reconnaissance to this hour.)
B. GOI hopes infiltration and sabotage will stop.
C. If there no further sabotage there no reason anyone to worry.
D. GOI interpretation Egyptian demonstration troop activities is that Syrians trying involve Egypt in Syrian-Israeli issue and if Egyptian concentration true Syrians could represent this as support.
3. GOI has no objection foregoing being transmitted to Cairo.
4. Situation with Syria is obviously precarious and, if additional serious sabotage incidents such as attacks on settlements, main roads etc. continue it impossible predict GOI will sit idly by without reacting. However, I believe GOI aware risks escalation, disposed make minimum effective response, and exercise what to them would seem maximum patience. I doubt that they will be very impressed in any event with Nasser's foot shuffling one way or the other.
3. Circular Telegram From the Department of State to Certain Posts/1/
Washington, May 15, 1967, 9:04 p.m.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 32-1 ISR-SYR. Confidential; Priority. Drafted by Atherton, cleared in draft by Davies, and approved by Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Eugene V. Rostow. Sent Priority to Tel Aviv, Cairo, Amman, Baghdad, Damascus, Jidda, Beirut, Kuwait, Dhahran, London, USUN, Paris, Jerusalem, CINCSTRIKE/CINCMEAFSA, and Moscow.
194945. 1. Under Secretary Rostow called in British and French Ambassadors jointly May 15 for exchange of views on current Syro-Egyptian-Israeli situation, emphasizing in particular following points:
A. In view state of alarm in Damascus and reports of UAR troop movements, USG had today taken initiative to urge restraint on GOI, SARG/2/ and UARG./3/
/2/Assistant Secretary of State Lucius D. Battle met with Syrian Charge Galeb Kayali on May 15. Battle said that guerrilla incursions into Israeli territory were exacerbating Arab-Israeli tensions and urged all parties to exercise restraint. (Memorandum of conversation; ibid.)
/3/Telegram 7496 from Cairo, May 15, reported that Charge David Nes had raised the subject of the Israel-Syrian crisis with UAR Foreign Minister Mahmoud Riad that morning. Riad said that his government viewed the events of the last few days "most seriously," that "all necessary military precautions" were being taken, and that "any move by Israel would be met by immediate UAR response." (Ibid.)
B. In New York, Ambassador Goldberg had issued statement supporting SYG's efforts maintain area peace./4/ In addition Goldberg, UK and French Ambassadors to UN had agreed make joint approach to SYG to explore whether situation warranted convening Security Council.
/4/Telegram 5299 from USUN, May 15, conveyed the text of a press release issued by U.S. Representative to the United Nations Arther Goldberg that day. (Ibid., POL ARAB-ISR)
C. Latest reports from Israel (Tel Aviv 3604)/5/ were reassuring, but it still not clear what UAR up to and fact remained that another terrorist incident could spark outbreak hostilities.
D. By diplomatic approaches Damascus and Cairo, we hope reassure GOI and relieve pressure on Israelis to take unilateral action in response recent terrorist attacks whose increased sophistication makes them particularly serious.
E. USG hoped UK and French Governments would also use their influence in Cairo and Damascus. Such diplomatic pressures were useful and consistent with Tripartite Declaration/6/ which had never been rescinded.
/6/Reference is to a statement issued on May 25, 1950, by the U.S., British, and French Governments expressing their interest in the maintenance of peace and stability between the Arab states and Israel, their opposition to an arms race in the area, and their opposition to the use of force or threat of force between any of the states in that area. It stated that if the three governments were to find that any of the states in the area was preparing to violate frontiers or armistice lines, they "would, consistently with their obligations as members of the United Nations, immediately take action, both within and outside the United Nations, to prevent such violation." For text, see Foreign Relations, 1950, vol. V, pp. 167-168.
2. French Ambassador Lucet commented that Tripartite Declaration remains basis for French policy. While agreeing on usefulness of diplomatic approach, Lucet expressed reservations re Security Council meeting. UK Ambassador Dean concurred, stating situation did not appear serious enough convene Security Council particularly in view latest information from Tel Aviv.
3. Rostow raised question as to whether it might possibly be useful to approach USSR in view strong Soviet position in Syria, noting indications that Soviets have in past attempted exercise restraining influence on Damascus.
4. British and French Ambassadors said they had no reports of initiatives by their Governments in present situation but would report Rostow's presentation including his question as to whether it might be useful to approach the Soviets./7/
/7/Printed from an unsigned copy.
4. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson/1/
Washington, May 15, 1967, 7:15 p.m.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Israel, Vol. VI. Confidential.
/2/The President's Daily Diary indicates that he met from 11:30 a.m. to 12:10 p.m. on May 16 with New York banker Abraham Feinberg and Washington attorney David Ginsburg, who were to report on their trips to Israel. (Johnson Library) No record of the meeting has been found.
I am attaching two memos on the Israeli aid package/3/ for your reference. The first (Tab A)/4/ is the full description of the package. The second (Tab B)/5/ is a note describing the disadvantages of urging the Israelis to buy the Italian-made version of our APC.
/3/A package of military and economic assistance to Israel had been under discussion for several weeks; see Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, vol. XVIII, Documents 414 and 416.
/4/Tab A was not found attached.
/5/Tab B was a brief memorandum of May 12 from Harold Saunders of the NSC Staff to Rostow, with an attached memorandum dated May 1 from Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Affairs Townsend Hoopes to Rostow and another dated April 17 from Secretary of Defense McNamara to the President. For text of the McNamara memorandum, see Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, vol. XVIII, Document 405.
You will know how far you want to go in discussing this package with them. Ambassador Harman has simply been told that the package "will substantially meet their requests."/6/
/6/A note attached to a May 15 memorandum from Saunders to Rostow on the Israel-Syria-UAR tension states that Battle said this to Harman at their meeting that morning, making clear that the decision had been made before the border tension. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Middle East Crisis, Vol. 1)
I have put to Gene/7/ the question of sending the Vice President to Israel and Egypt./8/ Luke Battle thinks it's a good idea, but Secretary Rusk may not agree. However, we cannot decide until the Egyptians come through on their promise to get our AID fellows out of jail in Yemen/9/ and until the threat of war between Israel and Syria lessens.
/7/Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Eugene V. Rostow.
/8/ A May 15 memorandum from Saunders to Rostow commented on a possible vice-presidential visit to the Middle East, arguing that if the situation cooled off, a high-level meeting with UAR President Nasser might clear the air in U.S.-UAR relations. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Name File, Saunders Memos)
/9/Two Americans at the AlD mission in Yemen had been jailed in April on charges of attempting to destroy the city of Taiz; they were released on May 17. For information concerning this episode, see the Yemen compilation in Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, volume XXI; see also ibid., vol. XVIII, Document 417.
In hearing their report on their trip to Israel, you may want to ask whether they have any feeling for Eshkol's intention to attack Syria. Border tension mounted sharply over the weekend after Eshkol and the Israeli Chief of Staff threatened an attack if terrorist raids from Syria into Israel continue. The UAR has ostentatiously put its forces on alert.
We sympathize with Eshkol's need to stop these raids and reluctantly admit that a limited attack may be his only answer. However, without preaching, you would be justified in letting these gentlemen know that a miscalculation causing a Mid-East blow-up right now would make life awfully hard for you. We want to make Eshkol think twice without giving him cause to blame us for holding him back if events later prove that a limited attack now would have been the best answer.
5 Telegram From the Embassy in the United Arab Republic to the Department of State/1/
Cairo, May 16, 1967, 0834Z.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 32-1 ISR-SYR. Confidential; Priority. Repeated Immediate to Amman and to USUN, CINCSTRIKE/CINCMEAFSA, Damascus, and Tel Aviv.
7544. Ref. State 194188./2/
/2/Telegram 194188 to Cairo, May 15, instructed Nes to meet again with Foreign Minister Riad, express U.S. concern at the increase in tension, tell him the United States had urged restraint on the Israelis and was unaware of any major changes in disposition of Israeli forces, tell him the United States was also urging restraint on the Syrians, and suggest that the UAR could play a useful role in urging the Syrians to put an end to the terrorist incidents that were inflaming the border situation. (Ibid.)
1. I have seen El Feki regarding the mounting tensions in the Near East and in particular on the Israeli-Syrian border.
2. Referring to my talk with FonMin Riad of yesterday I reiterated USG concern with situation and said that we had urged restraint in the strongest terms and at the highest level of the Israeli Government. I said that based on info avail to us in Israel we were not aware of any major changes in the disposition of Israeli forces or of any "mobilization" measures. I then provided verbatim the Israeli response to our expressions of concern per State 194639./3/ From USUN 5302/4/ I also quoted to El Feki the two points which Israel had asked the Secretary General to convey to the Egyptian and Syrian Govts.
/3/Telegram 194639 to Cairo, May 15, conveyed the points made by Bitan to Barbour. (Ibid.) See Document 2.
/4/Telegram 5302 from USUN, May 16, reported conversations at the United Nations, including an Israeli request that the Secretary-General convey two points to the UAR and Syrian representatives: the Israeli Government was not making any military dispositions on the borders with Syria and the UAR, and it was planning no military action unless action was taken against Israel. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 32-1 ISR-SYR/UN)
3. El Feki followed all of this most carefully and with genuine interest. He said that he was particularly struck by the fact that whereas the Israelis denied any build up on the Syrian border, no mention was made of Jordanian border. He also read from one of his intelligence reports which highlighted fact that yesterday's Jerusalem parade did not include any significant heavy equipment, thus revealing that such equipment had been kept with units.
4. We then discussed over-all Israeli-Arab confrontation in general terms and I read from President Kennedy's statement of May 9, 1963,/5/ saying that in my view my govt would never tolerate unprovoked aggression by Israel against its Arab neighbors. We had intervened against the tripartite aggression of 1956 and in my view we would do so again. The UARG should place due credence with respect to its security in our statements regarding our position in the event of aggression and in the United Nations.
/5/President Kennedy stated during a press conference on May 8, 1963, "We support the security of both Israel and her neighbors." He also stated, "This Government has been and remains strongly opposed to the use of force or the threat of force in the Near East. In the event of aggression or preparation for aggression, whether direct or indirect, we would support appropriate measures in the United Nations, adopt other courses of action on our own to prevent or to put a stop to such aggression, which, of course, has been the policy which the United States has followed for some time." For text, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1963, p. 373.
5. El Feki said that the position of his govt was likewise very clear and had been stated repeatedly. The UAR will never take the initiative in attacking Israel. However, in the event of any large scale Israeli attack against its neighbors the UARG cannot await UN intervention or even that of the great powers but would have to come to the assistance of victim of aggression without delay.
6. El Feki seemed genuinely eager to be in touch with us regarding present Near Eastern tensions and I think we should maintain a continuing dialogue here, in Washington and in New York with the Egyptians with a view to reassuring them and calming their fears. I am certain that they are now merely reacting to those fears and have no aggressive intent.
6. Editorial Note
At 10 p.m. Gaza time on May 16, 1967, United Arab Republic Brigadier Eiz-El-Din Mokhtar gave Major-General Indar Jit Rikhye, the commander of the United Nations Emergency Force in the Middle East, a letter from Lieutenant General Mohammed Fawzi, Chief of Staff of the UAR armed forces, stating that in accordance with his instructions to the UAR armed forces to be ready for action against Israel in case of any aggressive Israeli action against any Arab country, UAR troops were concentrated in Sinai on the UAR eastern borders. He requested that Rikhye withdraw all the UNEF troops in the observation posts along those borders. Rikhye replied that he would report the request to UN Secretary-General U Thant. The Secretary-General replied at 6:45 p.m. on May 16 through the UAR permanent representative at the United Nations asking for a clarification of the request. His reply stated in part:
"If it was the intention of the government of the United Arab Republic to withdraw the consent which it gave in 1956 for the stationing of UNEF on the territory of the United Arab Republic and Gaza it was, of course, entitled to do so. Since, however, the basis for the presence of UNEF was an agreement made directly between President Nasser and Dag Hammarskjold as Secretary-General of the United Nations, any request for the withdrawal of UNEF must come directly to the Secretary-General from the government of the United Arab Republic. On receipt of such a request, the Secretary-General would order the withdrawal of all UNEF troops from Gaza and Sinai, simultaneously informing the General Assembly of what he was doing and why."
The Secretary-General's message is quoted in a report which he submitted to the UN General Assembly on May 18. For text of the report, see Public Papers of the Secretaries-General of the United Nations, Volume VII, U Thant, 1965-1967, pages 424-433. Concerning the establishment of UNEF, see Secretary-General Hammarskjold's report to the General Assembly on November 20, 1956, with an annexed aide-mémoire on the basis for the UNEF presence in Egypt; ibid., Volume III, Dag Hammarskjold, 1956-1957, pages 373-376. An aide-mémoire of August 5, 1957, in which Hammarskjold described his November 1956 exchanges with the Egyptian Government over the conditions that should govern UNEF's withdrawal, is ibid., pages 377-382. General Rikhye recorded his recollections of the UAR demand and subsequent events in The Sinai Blunder: Withdrawal of the United Nations Emergency Force Leading to the Six-Day War of June 1967 (London and Totowa, N.J.: Frank Cass and Company Limited 1980). Documentation relating to UNEF is in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-1969, POL 27-4 UN, although most of the documentation pertaining to UNEF withdrawal is ibid., POL ARAB-ISR.
7. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson/1/
Washington, May 17, 1967.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Middle East Crisis, Vol. I. Secret.
We had hoped yesterday that tension in the Israel-Syria-UAR triangle was dropping after an ostentatious Egyptian show of putting its forces around Cairo on alert. Last night, however, we and the Israelis learned that the Egyptians have moved forces into the Sinai. Now they have moved forces in front of the UN Emergency Force on the Israel-UAR border and all but ordered it to withdraw.
The UAR's brinksmanship stems from two causes: (1) The Syrians are feeding Cairo erroneous reports of Israeli mobilization to strike Syria. Regrettably, some pretty militant public threats from Israel by Eshkol and others have lent credibility to the Syrian reports. (2) Nasser probably feels his prestige would suffer irreparably if he failed a third time to come to the aid of an Arab nation attacked by Israel. Moderates like Hussein have raked him over the coals for not coming to Jordan's aid in November or to Syria's when Israel shot down 6 of its MIG's last month.
In this highly charged atmosphere, it's probably impossible for Israel to get away with a limited retaliatory strike for the next terrorist attack from Syria. But the Syrians may try harder than ever by turning loose the terrorists either to force Israel to eat crow by taking further sabotage attacks without reacting or to drag them and the UAR into a fight. Eshkol may even decide that Egypt's move to the border pushes him too far.
Secretary Rusk personally recommends the attached message/2/ to Eshkol urging him not to put a match to this fuse. A week ago, I would have counseled closing our eyes if Eshkol had decided to lash back at the Syrians. We just don't have an alternative way to handle these terrorist raids that are becoming more and more sophisticated. Unfortunately, however, his own public threats seem to have deprived him of the flexibility to make a limited attack today.
/2/The draft message as approved by the President, with an attached note directing that it should be sent LDX to Ben Read, is ibid.
I have worked with State to make this message as sympathetic as possible while trying still to strengthen Eshkol's hand against his hawks. Arthur Goldberg is aware of the Secretary's proposal and approves. We will follow events closely to be sure the message isn't overtaken by events before delivery.
/3/Neither option is checked. On the memorandum "Call me. L." appears in Johnson's handwriting next to the two options. A note in Rostow's handwriting at the top of the page states that the President approved by telephone at 6 p.m.
8. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Israel/1/
Washington, May 17, 1967, 7 p.m.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL ARAB-ISR. Secret; Immediate. Drafted and approved by Rusk; cleared by Battle; and cleared with changes by Walt Rostow.
196541. Please deliver following personal message from President to Prime Minister Eshkol:
"Dear Mr. Prime Minister:
I am following very closely the tense situation in the Near East and am deeply concerned about the maintenance of peace in that area. We have made known our concern in Damascus and Cairo and are working closely with other countries in the United Nations. Our efforts will continue.
I know that you and your people are having your patience tried to the limits by continuing incidents along your border. In this situation, I would like to emphasize in the strongest terms the need to avoid any action on your side which would add further to the violence and tension in your area. I urge the closest consultation between you and your principal friends. I am sure that you will understand that I cannot accept any responsibilities on behalf of the United States for situations which arise as the result of actions on which we are not consulted.
With personal regards.
Lyndon B. Johnson"
9. President's Daily Brief
Washington, May 18, 1967.
[Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, NSC Histories, Middle East Crisis, Vol. 6, Appendix A. Top Secret; [codeword not declassified]. 1 page of source text not declassified.]
10. Information Memorandum From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs (Popper) to Secretary of State Rusk/1/
Washington, May 17, 1967.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL ARAB-ISR. Confidential. Drafted by Popper on May 17. The memorandum was evidently sent to Rusk on May 18.
As you know, the Arab-Israeli situation has changed considerably during the day, and as of 7:00 p.m. (yesterday)/2/ we still do not know exactly how matters stand. It is clear that the UAR has requested that UNEF Forces withdraw from certain observation posts along the UAR-Israeli frontier (presumably this does not include the Gaza Strip). The UN Secretariat has told us that at some points the Egyptian forces are now standing between the UNEF Force and the border, thus facing Israeli territory. The Secretariat also says that the UAR has requested within 48 hours the evacuation of the UNEF observation post at Sharm al-Shaikh, strategically situated on the Gulf of Aqaba. The deadline for this movement would be tonight/3/ our time.
/2/"Yesterday" is a handwritten addition on the memorandum.
/3/"Tomorrow night" was changed by hand to "tonight" on the memorandum.
During the day (yesterday),/4/ the Secretary General announced that he was urgently seeking clarification from the UAR as to its intentions with respect to the continued presence of UNEF in the area. The UN spokesman's announcement said:
/4/"Yesterday" is a handwritten addition on the memorandum.
"The UNEF went into Gaza and Sinai over ten years ago with the consent of the government of the UAR and has continued there on that basis. As a peacekeeping force it could not remain if that consent were withdrawn or if the conditions under which it operates were so qualified that the force was unable to function effectively. The Secretary General regards the situation as being potentially very grave. On the basis of reports thus far received from the Chief of Staff of UNTSO, the Secretary General knows of no troop movements or concentrations along any of the lines which should give rise to undue concern."
This statement obviously impairs our ability to keep the Force in place over UAR opposition. The general principle has been that UN peacekeeping forces are emplaced with the consent of the government on whose territory they are stationed. What is not clear-and there is no precedent-is whether, that consent being removed, the UN Force is required to depart.
On this issue, in a report of the Secretary General on a study of the experience with UNEF (Document A/3943, 9 October 1958)/5/ Secretary General Hammarskjold stated:
/5/Secretary-General Hammarskjold's report of October 9, 1958, on the experience with UNEF is printed in Public Papers of the Secretaries-General of the United Nations, Vol. III, Dag Hammarskjold, 1956-1957, pp. 230-292.
"The consequence of such a bilateral declaration is that, were either side to act unilaterally in refusing continued presence or deciding on withdrawal, and were the other side to find that such action was contrary to a good-faith interpretation of the purposes of the operation, an exchange of views would be called for towards harmonizing the positions. This does not imply any infringement of the sovereign right of the host Government, nor any restriction of the right of the United Nations to decide on the termination of its own operation whenever it might see fit to do so. But it does mean a mutual recognition of the fact that the operation, being based on collaboration between the host Government and the United Nations, should be carried on in forms natural to such collaboration, and especially so with regard to the questions of presence and maintenance."
Our first reports of the Secretary General's discussion today with the countries contributing forces to UNEF indicate that he is playing for time. He appears to have said that any request for withdrawal of UNEF Forces should be sent to him and not to General Rikhye, the UNEF Commander. The UAR representative in New York has not as yet received instructions to approach the Secretary General on this subject. The Secretary General has given the UAR representative an 8-page Aide-Memoire/6/ recalling the circumstances under which the Force was established and apparently appealing for a delay. However, it is our estimate that neither the Secretary General nor the troop-contributing nations would be eager for a test of will on this issue.
/6/The aide-mémoire is quoted in Secretary-General Thant's May 18 report to the UN General Assembly. (Ibid., Vol. VII, U Thant, 1965-1967, pp. 424-433)
USUN agrees that every effort should be made to delay any UNEF withdrawal by all appropriate means. The personal message which U Thant is sending to Nasser today may help. There will be Big Four consultations today/7/ (US, UK, France, USSR) with or without the participation of the Secretary General. If the situation has not eased, Ambassador Goldberg will be asking you for authority to move urgently toward a Security Council meeting. Other UN representatives have suggested that the General Assembly, which is in session, might also take up the matter.
/7/"Tomorrow" was changed by hand to "today" on the memorandum.
11. Telegram From the Mission to the United Nations to the Department of State/1/
New York, May 19, 1967, 0149Z.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-4 PAL/UN. Confidential. Repeated to Amman, Beirut, Damascus, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Cairo, Moscow, London, and Paris. Received on May 18 at 10:43 p.m.
5357. UNEF. I called on SYG and Bunche this morning accompanied by Pedersen to survey present status of UNEF and to urge strongly SYG not take decision to withdraw UNEF without fullest consultation with perm members SC and with GA.
SYG said he had not yet received official request for withdrawal, although El Kony (UAR) was scheduled to see him right after I did (at which time he did present the request).
I urged SYG to consult with Fedorenko (USSR) in interest of peaceful situation in Middle East, saying I intended to do same myself. Noted today was key day. SYG indicated he understood importance of Sovs but did not make clear commitment to contact them. I told SYG we had consulted background of statements made by Hammarskjold at time of UNEF's establishment./2/ These indicated that while basic principle obviously was that UNEF was on territory with consent of UAR, there was the "good faith" agreement specifically reached with them and many other indications that response to request to withdraw need not be automatic but result in consultations. Bunche said Secretariat had been looking into matter carefully and had sent UAR two messages yesterday, one the eight page memo he had previously told us about. While he was not specific about its contents I had impression memo had covered these points but probably concluded that if UAR seriously requested withdrawal SYG would do so. Bunche said their legal examination indicated decision on withdrawal was something SYG could make and did not require any UN political action.
/2/See Document 6.
I also suggested SYG's first response to request for withdrawal might be appeal to Nasser, which we had previously been told he was considering. SYG said he had this morning been "advised seriously and confidentially" not to make such appeal. (He did not say who this came from.)
I told SYG we suspected there was a great deal of face and political maneuvering in current situation and that with careful handling we might yet preserve situation and UNEF role. Canadians had told us that in Riad's approach to them in Cairo he had said they were not prepared to discuss principle of withdrawal but were prepared to discuss modalities. Perhaps this was something that could be worked on. Perhaps an appeal from him or a request by him for SC meeting under Article 99 would provide means to restore situation.
SYG said he would make report to GA and to SC but he was resist-ant to idea of using Article 99. Bunche also expressed view UAR was quite serious, noting he had just received report from Rikhye that UAR troops in Sinai had gone right up to borderline, so that now they were directly opposite Israeli battalions.
Bunche also emphasized practical difficulty of supplying and maintaining force if UAR wanted to harass it and said that in any case most countries supplying contingents would withdraw them immediately if UAR so demanded.
In concluding session I again urged that SYG not take responsibility upon himself. I noted this was matter of great political consequence and I urged he consult widely with members, especially perm members of SC and defer any commitment in response to UAR request until he had done so.
SYG said I should know that Syrians had alleged to him there was wide-spread conspiracy to attack Syria involving Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel and in which US and UK were implicated. I told him categorically this was not true and that US policy continued be opposed to use of force and violence in Middle East and to favor maintenance of peace and security in area. Told him we had conveyed these views to all govts in area, including Israel. Read him some of the things we had said. Told him charges were ridiculous and pointed to statement I had ready and intended to use with press after meeting, in which I denied it./3/
/3/Telegram 5360 from USUN, May 19, conveyed the text of the statement. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL ARAB-ISR)
12. Telegram From the Embassy in Jordan to the Department of State/1/
Amman, May 18, 1967, 1505Z.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 32-1 ISR-JORDAN. Secret; Priority; Limdis. Repeated to Baghdad, Cairo, Jerusalem, USUN, CINCSTRIKE, Jidda, Beirut, Damascus, London, and Tel Aviv. Received at 3:23 p.m.
3612. Ref: Amman's 3596./2/ Subject: Conversation with Hussein re Present Situation in Middle East.
/2/Telegram 3596 from Amman, May 17, reported that Ambassador Burns had met that afternoon with King Hussein, who said he viewed the situation in the Middle East as the most critical since 1956. (Ibid.)
1. In discussing the present situation in the Middle East, Hussein observed that the apparent target for possible Israeli attack is Syria. If the UAR does not react militarily to an Israeli attack on Syria, Jordan will stand still. If, as is more probable, Nasser must and does react, if only nominally, Jordan will have to take sufficient action to keep from being a conspicuous scapegoat, but this would not entail a direct armed clash with Israel so long as an Israeli attack on Syria were of limited duration.
2. The King feels that the Middle East is in for an extended period of serious trouble. He views the factors and issues involved as much more complicated than they appear on the surface. He considers, for example, that infiltration is only symptomatic of the underlying situation. He believes it is important that all concerned will keep the entire picture in the broadest possible focus to insure that all of the factors involved, both short and long range, are properly and accurately calculated. In this context he noted that while Syria might logically be the next target of attack, Jordan is just as likely a target in the short run and, in his opinion, an inevitable one in the long run. In support of this he said that he is not at all convinced that the Israelis have accepted the status quo as a permanent solution. Israel has certain long range military and economic requirements and certain traditional religious and historic aspirations which in his opinion they have not yet satisfied or realized. The only way in which these goals can be achieved, he said, is by an alteration of the status of the West Bank of Jordan. Thus in the King's view it is quite natural for the Israelis to take advantage of any opportunity and force any situation which would move them closer to this goal. His concern is that current area conditions provide them with just such opportunities-terrorism, infiltration and disunity among the Arabs being the most obvious. The present state of tension in the Middle East provides a cover, so to speak, for an Israeli attack on anyone of their choosing. Hussein pointed out that in 1956 Israel was threatening Jordan but in fact attacked Egypt; in November 1966 it was the Syrians with whom Israel's relations were at a nadir yet it was Jordan who was attacked. Admittedly, said Hussein, there would have to be a casus belli for an Israeli attack against Jordan, such as a terrorist incident in Israel across from the Jordanian border. In such event Israel might attack Jordan alone, or Jordan and Syria together. The Jordanians are making the maximum effort to interdict terrorists, but, he observed, there always exists the possibility a terrorist would get through who would do serious damage. Or, he added, an incident could be manufactured if the risks and gains appeared worth it.
3. I challenged Hussein's thesis and in addition pointed out to him there was no evidence Israel was planning to attack Jordan and that all factors and indicators argued against the Israelis doing so. Hussein remained unconvinced, arguing that neither he nor we could afford to rule such a possibility out of our overall considerations. He conceded that Israel could not successfully annex the West Bank in one action, but any move which would tend to neutralize the West Bank or weaken Arab control over it would put Israel a step closer to a goal which was in her long-term strategic interest. The temporary seizure and occupation of a piece of Jordanian territory would place Israel in a position to extract a price for withdrawal, such as, possibly, demilitarization of the West Bank or some form of UN control over the West Bank. Israel could make as much of a case for such action on grounds of security against infiltration and sabotage as she did in Suez. His regime could not pay a price for Israeli withdrawal and still survive. Hussein said that if Israel launched another Samu-scale attack against Jordan/3/ he would have no alternative but to retaliate or face an internal revolt. If Jordan retaliates, asked Hussein, would not this give Israel a pretext to occupy and hold Jordanian territory? Or, said Hussein, Israel might instead of a hit-and-run type attack simply occupy and hold territory in the first instance. He said he could not exclude these possibilities from his calculations and urged us not to do so even if we felt them considerably less than likely.
/3/Israel attacked the Jordanian village of Samu on November 13, 1966, in a large-scale raid in retaliation for recent terrorist incidents. Documentation relating to the incident is in Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, vol. XVIII, Document 332 ff.
4. In any event, asked Hussein, what would the US do if his hypothesis proved correct? He had been assured on countless occasions by US officials that the US would not permit the Israelis to alter the status quo. He had been told when last in Washington, he said, that Jordan did not need additional armament because the Sixth Fleet would protect him.
5. I replied that the US stood by its declarations (Tripartite Declaration, Eisenhower reaffirmation of November 9, 1955, Eisenhower Doctrine and Kennedy statement of May 8, 1963) that the US would not acquiesce in changes of the border by force. Just what form US action would take would have to be decided at the time in the light of circumstances then existing.
6. Hussein replied: "Yes, I know those declarations. In such a contingency as I have described there would be need for immediate US assistance to force Israeli withdrawal. The other Arab states would not help Jordan, and it would take too long for the US to act. I predict that if the Israelis remain in Jordan for any extended length of time, the pres-ent regime here would fall. The same thing would happen if the Israelis succeeded in extracting significant concessions as the price for withdrawal. As you know, I no longer believe the Israelis have a stake in my regime, so that its demise would not deter them from such action. In my opinion, the chances of the contingency we have talked about arising would be practically eliminated if the Israelis were clearly on notice you would forcibly intervene."
7. Comment: Whatever Hussein's beliefs he does not want to tangle with Israel and will be guided by prudence. If, however, a serious terrorist incident should occur in Israel across from the Jordanian border, I defer to judgment of Embassy Tel Aviv but I would imagine that, given the present tense atmosphere and the precedent of Samu, no one could rule out the possibility that Israel might hit Jordan. There is little doubt the Jordanians would in such event counterattack. The King realizes a counterattack would court escalation, but he is convinced that not to counterattack would mean the end of his regime through internal upheaval. I would guess the counterattack would follow swiftly upon the attack, and be of lesser scale than the original attack.
8. I plan to see the King again in a few days to review the situation with him. I will continue to encourage him in his present course of prudence. Would appreciate any views or reassurances the Department would wish transmitted to Hussein./4/
/4/Telegram 198899 to Amman, May 20, approved the line Burns had taken with the King as reported in telegram 3612. It instructed him to reiterate to the King the assurances contained in the President's letter of November 23 (see ibid., Document 346) and to inform him that the U.S. Government still stood by President Kennedy's statement of May 8, 1963, and that the U.S. estimate of Israeli intentions toward the Jordanian regime had not changed. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 32-1 ISR-JORDAN)
13. Telegram From the Embassy in Israel to the Department of State/1/
Tel Aviv, May 18, 1967, 1630Z.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL ARAB-ISR. Secret; Nodis. Received at 4:30 p.m. Walt Rostow sent a copy to the President with a May 19 8:30 a.m. covering memorandum. Johnson wrote on the memorandum: "Get meeting set up." (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Middle East Crisis, Vol. VII)
3648. Ref: State 196541/2/ and Tel Aviv 3640./3/
/3/Telegram 3640 from Tel Aviv, May 18, reported that Ambassador Barbour had delivered the message conveyed in telegram 196541 (Document 8) to Foreign Minister Eban, since he already had a meeting scheduled with Eban at the latter's request. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL ARAB-ISR)
1. FonMin Eban gave me at 1700 hrs reply to President's message from Prime Minister Eshkol. Eban added series amplifying comments on PriMin's behalf contained my immediately following telegram./4/
2. Text Eshkol reply as follows:
"Jerusalem, May 18, 1967
Dear Mr. President,
I have received your personal message of May 18, 1967.
I agree with you that the situation is tense and I welcome your readiness for close and continuous consultation. Foreign Minister Eban gave detailed information to Ambassador Barbour today/5/ and our representatives are exchanging ideas with yours in Washington and at United Nations headquarters.
/5/Barbour reported his conversation with Eban in telegram 3639, May 18. Eban stated the Israeli view that if the UAR were to order UNEF off its soil, it would be necessary to reconvene the UN General Assembly. He warned that if the UAR military buildup were to continue, there would be a buildup on the Israeli side as well and urged U.S. efforts to convince the Soviets that it was in their interest to diffuse the tension. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL ARAB-ISR)
I should like to summarize my main conclusions:
First: The primary link in the chain of tension is the Syrian policy of terrorist infiltration and sabotage. From Under Secretary Rostow's conversation with Ambassador Harman,/6/ I am glad to learn that your government and mine are agreed on this. You are correct, Mr. President, in stating that we are having our patience tried to the limits. There have been 15 attempts at murder and sabotage in the past six weeks. We have not reacted. This in itself proves that there is no lack of temperance and responsibility on our part. On the other hand, the problem is not solved indefinitely by inaction. We cannot always rely on the stroke of fortune which has so far prevented the terrorist acts from taking the toll of life and injury intended by the perpetrators. Although many acts have been committed from Lebanon and Jordan, our present conviction is that Syria is responsible and is attempting to embroil other Arab states. We are alive to this stratagem and shall not cooperate with it.
/6/Circular telegram 196738, May 17, summarized Rostow's conversation with Harman that afternoon. Harman stated that the nub of the problem was Syrian support of terrorism and urged public reiteration of U.S. opposition to terrorism. Rostow stressed the importance of Israel's taking no military action without consultation with the U.S. Government, "since such action would involve us all." (Ibid.)
My first conclusion, therefore, is that every effort should be made to emphasize, proclaim and condemn Syrian responsibility for these terrorist acts, in order to deter their continuation.
Second: The Egyptian build-up of armor and infantry in Sinai, to the extent so far of approximately four divisions including 600 tanks, is greater than ever before, and has no objective justification. Egypt knows that there is no foundation for reports of troop concentration against Syria. Yet even after receiving information on this subject from UN and other sources, the UAR has increased its troop concentration. This naturally forces me to undertake precautionary reinforcement in the south. One of the dangers that we face is that the Egyptian troop concentration may encourage Syria to resume terroristic acts under the false impression of immunity.
The only way of avoiding the effects of an escalating reciprocal build-up is for Egypt to return to the previous posture in Sinai. This would immediately affect our own decisions and arrangements.
I urge the full application of international influence to secure the end of abnormal troop concentrations.
Third: It would be very unfortunate if the UN authorities were to give an impression of irresolution in connection with the presence of the UNEF in Sinai. It is not the function of the United Nations to move out of the way in order to facilitate warlike acts. I hope that the Secretary General will insist that he cannot affect the status quo concerning the UN force in Sinai without a mandate from the General Assembly. There is ample legal basis for this.
I must point out that Israel was a party to the arrangement which led in March 1957 to the stationing of the UNEF. At United States initiative, we took far-reaching measures in exchange for the UNEF arrangement./7/
/7/Extensive documentation on the negotiations leading to the creation of UNEF under General Assembly resolution 1000(ES-I), November 5, 1956, and the replacement of Israeli troops by UNEF troops in Sinai and Gaza, completed March 8, 1957, is in Foreign Relations, 1955-1957, volumes XVI and XVII.
Fourth: There may be an impression in Cairo and Damascus that Soviet support for Egypt and Syria is assured, and that therefore they have no need of restraint. This factor would be an emphatic clarification by the United States to the Soviet Union of the American commitment to Israel's independence and integrity and the American will and capacity to defend stability in the Middle East. I can hardly exaggerate the importance and urgency of such an approach to the USSR. It is one of the central keys to the improvement of the situation.
Five: In this connection, Mr. President, I am solemnly bound to refer to the specific American commitment so often reiterated to us between May 1961 and August 1966. I especially remember our own conversations in June 1964./8/ Your note of May 18 does not explicitly refer to the commitment by the United States to act both inside and outside the UN in support of Israel's integrity and independence. I understand that you do not wish to be committed without consultation. But with a massive build-up on our southern frontier linked with a terrorist campaign from the north and Soviet support of the governments responsible for the tension, there is surely an urgent need to reaffirm the American commitment to Israel's security with a view to its implementation should the need arise.
/8/Concerning the conversations between Johnson and Eshkol, June 1-2, see ibid., 1964-1968, vol. XVIII, Documents 65 and 66.
In view of the magnitude of the issues involved, I have felt at liberty to speak with frankness on five problems in all of which I believe that the United States is in a position to make a vital contribution to the avoidance of dangers and the reinforcement of peace.
Signed Levi Eshkol."
14. Telegram From the Embassy in Israel to the Department of State/1/
Tel Aviv, May 18, 1967, 1720Z.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 ARAB-ISR/UN. Secret; Immediate; Nodis.
3650. Ref: Tel Aviv 3648./2/
1. Following are amplifying comments re Eshkol message made by Foreign Minister Eban referred to in my immediately preceding telegram.
2. First, GOI wished to point up fact of Syrian responsibility. One had only to look at what Syria had achieved in Middle East: it had involved itself in troubles with Israel; it had embroiled the UAR in crisis that short time ago UAR had no intentions get embroiled in; and it was trying similarly to embroil Jordan and Lebanon. Syrian responsibility had to be brought to light and emphasized in most explicit way. GOI realized what Syria trying to do re Lebanon and Jordan, and not prepared to be taken in. Focus GOI interest remained Syria.
3. GOI appreciated advice and exhortations contained in President's letter but it had to ask what could be the President's advice if there were another terrorist incident, and another. The logic of advising patience in the current context was understandable but GOI had to ask at what point did the US think that a maximum accumulation of this kind of incidents would be reached when further patience could no longer be warranted.
4. Second, GOI wished to point up false premise on which the Egyptian troop concentrations rested. Egypt has been informed by those who should know including the US that there were no Israeli concentrations opposite Syria. If this escalation continues, soon there will be large armies facing each other across a short distance. The international community had a legitimate interest in trying to bring this situation back to normal. Israel did not know by what means this might be achieved, through diplomatic channels or otherwise. It was not for Israel to say, but in Eban's opinion if present UNSYG's predecessor were still in that position "he would have been out here three times already."
5. Third point related to the UN is thought that UNSYG has thus far shown too little resistance to UAR's UNEF demands. Already at one UNEF post within view Israeli positions UNEF personnel had moved out. There were reports out of UAR today that UAR wanted UNEF out of UAR and Gaza, though there no confirmation of these reports yet. In Israel's view any changes in status UNEF was not unilateral act but matter involving several parties. It resulted from agreement with UN signed by UAR. As Eban recalled understanding voiced by US representative UN at time was UAR had agreed force to remain until its removal would no longer result in military confrontation in ME. To yield to Egyptian demands would be against spirit these arrangements. Israel had accepted the establishment of UNEF on its southern borders under certain conditions and so Israel is party to this arrangement. Eban recalled US-Israel discussions in which US took responsibility suggesting March 1957 arrangement by which Israeli troops were withdrawn from Gaza. Thus this was not a matter for SYG to decide "at drop of a hat." Changes UAR was suggesting re UNEF would involve intricate structure of Middle East stability. Israel regarded this as a major development and hoped SYG would not yield without serious and earnest discussion in GA or Security Council acting as GA's agent.
6. Fourth was the question of the USSR. This was aspect of problem in which only the US could exercise its unique influence. GOI must observe that Soviet commitment to Syria was being articulated more loudly than US position of support of Israel and more generally of status quo in area. GOI would not suggest form in which US might reiterate its support but it felt that unless it was done there would be no restoration of equilibrium in area. GOI knew that USG did not want to reiterate its commitments unnecessarily but if there was ever a time for such a reiteration it was now, with terrorism in the north, mobilization in the south and the Soviets hovering over it all. It did not matter how the Soviets got the message, publicly or privately, just so they got it.
15. Circular Telegram From the Department of State to Certain Posts/1/
Washington, May 18, 1967, 10:01 p.m.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL ARAB-ISR. Secret; Priority; Limdis. Drafted by Atherton and cleared by Eugene Rostow. Sent to Tel Aviv, Cairo, Amman, Baghdad, Damascus, Jidda, Beirut, Kuwait, Dhahran, London, USUN, Paris, Jerusalem, Moscow, and CINCSTRIKE/CINCMEAFSA.
197665. 1. During call by Israeli Ambassador Harman on Under Secretary Rostow and Assistant Secretary Battle afternoon May 18, Rostow reported he had just called in Soviet Charge (a) to apprise him of rumors being spread by Syria in Middle East that Syria had unlimited Soviet political and military support and (b) to state we "assumed" and "hoped" this not true. Soviet Charge indicated he doubted rumors were true./2/
/2/Telegram 197661 to Moscow, May 18, informed the Embassy of Rostow's conversation with Soviet Charge Tcherniakov and suggested "making same point in low key in Moscow." (Ibid., POL 27 ARAB-ISR) Ambassador Thompson reported in telegram 5016 from Moscow, May 19, that he told Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin during a brief luncheon discussion that day that the United States was using its influence to calm the situation and hoped the Soviets were exercising as much pressure in Syria as the United States was in Israel. Dobrynin replied, "I think we can match you." (Ibid., POL ARAB-ISR)
2. Re reports SYG would order UNEF withdrawal, Harman suggested every effort should be made to play for time by (a) stressing logistical problems involved and (b) raising legal questions-e.g. need to consult members UNEF Advisory Commission per earlier Hammarskjold position.
3. Rostow agreed delaying tactics desirable; problem was that, despite valid question whether SYG has authority withdraw UNEF, he might simply announce decision to do so. Hopeful sign was that SYG reportedly anxious go to Middle East and now awaiting Cairo reaction this proposal.
4. Harman summarized Israeli intelligence re UAR buildup in Sinai along lines Tel Aviv's 3639,/3/ adding that there had also been reinforcement UAR air power in Sinai. Harman indicated GOI now revising earlier estimate that UAR military moves were only for show; such concentration of troops near Israeli borders required GOI take precautionary measures. In summary Harman said key elements in situation were (a) need to preserve UNEF and exert pressure on Cairo to withdraw UAR forces, (b) effect of UAR buildup on Syrians and (c) Soviet role, which he considered most important of all. Expressing appreciation for USG approach to Soviets, Harman urged we continue pressing USSR.
/3/See footnote 5, Document 13.
5. Rostow said he hoped report was not true that UAR had moved troops to Sharm el-Shaikh. Even if this was the case, however, it would be mistake to initiate any action against such deployment of Egyptian troops on Egyptian soil. Rostow emphasized USG would not wish to see Gulf of Aqaba closed but nothing should be done until and unless this was attempted. (Rostow made it clear in previous discussions that no action should be taken without prior consultation.)
6. In subsequent conversation with Battle, Harman stated there had been USG-GOI agreement, at time Gulf opened to Israel, with respect to grave consequences of any future interference with Israeli shipping./4/ Battle emphasized that important thing was not to assume interference would occur as result presence UAR troops at Sharm el-Shaikh; these two aspects of problem should be kept separate.
/4/See Document 36.
16. Circular Telegram From the Department of State to Certain Posts/1/
Washington, May 18, 1967, 9:39 p.m.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 32-1 ISR-SYR. Secret; Priority. Drafted by Atherton; cleared in draft by Popper, in substance by Director of the Office of Inter-African Affairs Fred Hadsel, and by Under Secretary Rostow; and approved by Davies. Sent to Amman, Baghdad, Beirut, Jidda, Kuwait, Algiers, Khartoum, Rabat, Tripoli, and Tunis and repeated to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Damascus, London, Paris, and Moscow.
197664. 1. Action addressees unless overriding objection perceived should approach Governments at appropriately high level along following lines:
A. In current dangerous situation in Middle East, USG has been urging restraint on Israel and considers it important that Arab states do likewise in Damascus and Cairo. We consider UNEF important instrument for stability and urge other governments to convey to UAR the hope that UNEF can continue play useful role it has fulfilled for over a decade.
B. Main thrust of our policy is to work through and support United Nations efforts to preserve peace in Middle East. We are giving urgent consideration to steps that might be required in support of UN role.
C. Since Soviet position will be important factor in present crisis, we are encouraged by report we have of statement by one Soviet representative to high official of another government that, while Soviets have supported Arabs against Israel on numerous occasions, they would not wish Arabs to force confrontation with Israel which could escalate into open hostilities. This position was supported by statement Soviet Charge Washington to Under Secretary Rostow on 18th that although Soviet sympathies on side of countries representing "National Liberation movements" Soviets desire area remain calm and rumors heard by USG that Syrian Government had been promised unlimited military as well as political support from the Soviet Union were unlikely.
2. For Jidda and Amman: We are concerned by reports that UAR forces occupying Sharm el-Shaikh. While recognizing sensitivity this issue for GOJ and SAG, we must convey to those governments sense of extreme importance we attach to maintaining free passage for all shipping in Gulf of Aqaba.
3. For Amman: Suggest for obvious reasons you omit para C above from your presentation.
17. President's Daily Brief
Washington, May 19, 1967.
18. Telegram From the Embassy in Israel to the Department of State/1/
Tel Aviv, May 19, 1967, 1430Z.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 ARAB-ISR/UN. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Received at 2:23 p.m.
3679. Ref: Tel Aviv 3648 and 3650./2/
/2/Documents 13 and 14.
1. Eshkol and Eban are taking announcement of General Rikhye that as of 1600 hours UNEF no longer operating very hard. Coupled with reassessment UAR dispositions now as of offensive character (my 3654)/3/ and reports UAR troops moving into Sharm-el-Sheikh, level their apprehensions has risen markedly. Response my determined probing they claim GOI has not as I suggested "pushed the panic button," and they only taking minimum defensive precautionary measures. However, they describing U Thant's capitulation in such terms as "unheard of destruction important defensive mechanism operating for eleven years." My argument that, unfortunate as it is, it does not affect fundamental military situation which depends on Nasser's intentions and there every reason for Nasser not embark on attack on Israel, seemed me fall on deaf ears.
/3/In telegram 3654 from Tel Aviv, May 19, Barbour reported that the Israelis considered UAR troop dispositions to be assuming a posture more capable of offensive action than they had previously thought, and that consequently the Israelis had increased their counter measures somewhat. Barbour had urged that Israel take only the barest minimum dispositions and avoid measures on a scale that would increase the danger in the situation. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL ARAB-ISR)
2. Specifically, they ask whether they will receive answer Eshkol's reply to President, which they hope, and urge that in altered circumstances they would regard it appropriate that US assurances to Israel re support in event aggression be reiterated publicly.
3. I have put to them in strong terms importance they keep their nerve and not do anything in their anxiety to heat up the situation further. I have gone so far as to say that their professed frustration at this development and apparent fright of UAR force now facing them, which although large is obviously not of invasion magnitude, is giving me qualms as to their own strictly defensive intentions. Naturally they protest vigorously, and as of now I think truthfully. However, the potentialities are such and Israel's concerns with Nasser as principal opponent in Arab world so deep seated and long enduring that I find it conceivable at least that counsels of opportunity could sway them into major adventure next few days.
4. I consequently recommend that we consider what we can do to calm them down. Anything the President could say in reply Eshkol that would strengthen latter's resolve continue limit his objective to restoration status quo would be helpful. This connection, particular reference to Sharm-el-Sheikh obviously especially telling.
19. Information Memorandum From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs (Popper) to Secretary of State Rusk/1/
Washington, May 19, 1967.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL ARAB-ISR. Confidential. Drafted by Popper.
At John Walsh's suggestion, I am summarizing what we know about the Arab-Israeli crisis as of mid-afternoon today.
1. The Secretary General today released his report to the UN General Assembly on the withdrawal of UNEF./2/ The report indicates that from the first U Thant took the line that if the UAR wanted UNEF to leave, he had no alternative but to order it to leave-which he did. He makes it clear that he did so with great misgivings as to the consequences in the area. He also indicates quite clearly that the UAR has provoked the present crisis.
/2/A copy is attached to the memorandum. The text is printed in Public Papers of the Secretaries-General of the United Nations, Vol. VII, U Thant, 1965-1967, pp. 433-438.
2. The report describes the way in which the UAR penetrated the UNEF area of observation, moved past the observation posts toward the frontier, and issued ultimata to the UNEF troops to withdraw, even going to the length of firing two artillery ranging shots. This is counter-balanced by a comment on the Israeli "buzzing" of General Rikhye's aircraft.
3. The Canadians were instructed to call a Security Council meeting today, but have delayed in response to the Secretary General's plea to give him at least 24 hours more.
4. Exdis-The Secretary General's plea for delay is based on his assumption that he will be able to announce tomorrow his trip to the Middle East. This information is very closely held./3/ End Exdis.
/3/Goldberg reported in telegram 5375 from USUN, May 19, that UN Under-Secretary for Special Political Affairs Ralph J. Bunche had told him Secretary-General Thant would be leaving for Cairo on May 22 to try to establish a basis for a continuing UN presence in the area. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69 POL ARAB-ISR)
5. Ambassador Goldberg saw Fedorenko this noon./4/ Fedorenko said the Russians wanted no trouble, appeared to recognize that the Soviets had some responsibilities here, but refused to meet in a 4-Power group, preferring to talk to us alone.
/4/Goldberg's conversation with Fedorenko was reported in telegram 5370 from USUN, May 19. (Ibid.)
6. Ambassador Goldberg also saw El Kony (UAR) and Tomeh (Syria)./5/ He told both that allegations of a "U.S. conspiracy" were ridiculous and asked El Kony to have the UAR use its influence to restrain the Syrians.
/5/Goldberg's conversation with El Kony was reported in telegram 5364 from USUN, May 19. (Ibid.)
7. The Israelis have conveyed an urgent message from their Foreign Minister to the Secretary General protesting the "breathless speed" of his withdrawal of UNEF and claiming that the UN should have had the right and duty to ponder the matter./6/ Orally, the Israelis said that:
/6/Telegram 5374 from USUN, May 19, transmitted the text of the message that Israeli representative Gideon Rafael had given to Richard F. Pederson of the U.S. delegation. (Ibid.)
(a) Any interference with free passage through the waters off Sharm al-Shaikh would have "grievous and grave consequences";
(b) Any aggressive move by UAR forces, directly or through encouragement of infiltration, would have grave consequences;
(c) Any resumption of the Syrian campaign against Israel would have grave consequences no matter which border it crossed (no doubt a reference to Syrian terrorists coming from Jordan or Lebanon).
8. A mechanically transmitted copy of the Secretary General's report is attached, with apologies for the poor legibility.
20. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson/1/
Washington, May 19, 1967.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Israel, Israeli Aid. Secret.
Attached is a rundown of our major official statements./2/ It does not, of course, include anything that might have been said privately by you to Eshkol or others.
/2/The attachment, titled "The US Commitment to Israel," is not printed.
In essence, our commitment is (a) to prevent Israel from being destroyed and (b) to stop aggression--either through the UN or on our own.
The immediate questions before us, which you will want to discuss this afternoon, are (a) whether we should reiterate this position publicly and (b) if so, what we are prepared to do to back up that statement.
We understand that U Thant is prepared to go to the Middle East to try to defuse this situation. On the negative side, he appears ready to withdraw the UN Emergency Force on the UAR-Israel border.
Our first effort must be to keep him out in front and stiffen his spine.
Next, we must learn from Secretary McNamara what we could do militarily if we had to move.
Only then should we decide whether to restate our commitment. Personally, I would prefer to keep a public statement until last but to consider first another private approach to the USSR and private assurances to Eshkol.
This is the broader framework for our discussion this afternoon./3/ I will follow up later with any further material that appears useful.
/3/See Document 22.
W. W. Rostow/4/
/4/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.
21. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson/1/
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Middle East Crisis, Vol. I. Secret.
Washington, May 19, 1967.
In talking with Luke Battle yesterday, Ambassador Harman made the two following points:
1. Prime Minister Eshkol would like to make an official visit to the US. Early October would be particularly convenient because he could stop here in conjunction with a visit to Argentina. He would simply like to discuss future trends in the Middle East. Ambassador Harman noted that this request pre-dates the current crisis. Luke acknowledged the request and said he assumed that the Israelis would not expect an immediate response.
2. He asked whether there were any further progress on the aid package. Luke said we would not have any final answers yet and suggested that now might not be the time for us to go before the world with a large aid commitment to Israel. Harman said that, of course, it could be kept quiet for as long as we wished.
We have had other quiet suggestions from the Israeli Embassy that an answer on the aid package now would be a big boost for morale in Jerusalem. I think, if you want, we could give them answers on everything but the APCs without much harm, provided we asked them to keep it quiet for the moment. They do want to get on with their PL 480 and long range military spares buying.
One new note has been injected into the problem of APCs. The Israelis announced quietly right before their Independence Day Parade that they would be buying some armored cars from France. They probably still want the APCs from us but these French cars are ideal for patrolling, so it looks as if they want the APCs for other purposes. This might provide an added reason for our separating APCs from the rest of the aid package. We could give them the rest of our answers and ask them to explain where these French cars fit into the picture before talking about APCs further.
Go ahead with economic parts of the package and military credit
Don't do anything
/2/The last two options are checked.
22. Editorial Note
President Johnson met from 5:38 to 6:59 p.m. on May 19, 1967, with Secretary of State Rusk, Secretary of Defense McNamara, Special Assistant to the President Walt Rostow, and White House Press Secretary George Christian. (Johnson Library, President's Daily Diary) According to Rostow's notes of the meeting, they agreed that Ambassador to France Charles E. Bohlen and Ambassador to the United Kingdom David K.E. Bruce should ask the French and British Governments what they were prepared to do concerning the Middle East situation, with a view to reviving "as much of the tripartite as we can." Rostow's notes continue: "President wants to make sure Arabs know what our declarations are." The agenda for the meeting had listed U.S. contingency plans among the items for discussion under "Middle East," but Rostow's notes state, "Wasn't much discussion about contingency plan." The bulk of the discussion concerned Vietnam. (Notes of meeting with the President, May 19, and agenda for meeting; ibid., National Security File, Rostow Files, Meetings with the President, January-June, 1967) A May 1966 paper entitled "Politico-Military Contingency Planning for the Arab-Israeli Dispute" was sent to Rostow on May 19 with a covering memorandum from Art McCafferty. The paper stated that it was unlikely that U.S. forces would be committed to combat participation in Arab-Israeli hostilities but that they might have essential roles to fill defending U.S. interests, protecting U.S. nationals, discouraging Soviet intervention, and possibly providing logistics support for UN military operations. (Ibid., Country File, Middle East Crisis, Vol. I)
23. Memorandum From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (Hoopes) to Secretary of Defense McNamara/1/
Washington, May 19, 1967.
/1/Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330 72 A 2468, Middle East 092. Confidential. A copy was sent to Department of Defense General Counsel Paul C. Warnke on June 9.
Mr. McNaughton and I have just returned from a meeting in the State Department which was devoted to an assessment of the fluid situation in the Middle East. One action to emerge from the meeting was the decision to reconvene immediately the Contingency Coordinating Group/2/ to reexamine the major issues and options in light of the developing Arab-Israeli situation. There was also discussion of Sixth Fleet deployments.
/2/Three papers prepared by the Contingency Coordinating Committee over the weekend to update the contingency paper of May 1966 (see Document 22) were sent to the White House from the Department of State on May 22. They are filed with a covering memorandum of May 22 from Art McCafferty to Walt Rostow. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Middle East Crisis)
Mr. McNaughton and I are aware that this latter subject may have been discussed and perhaps decided at your White House meeting later this afternoon. In any event, we recommend that the major fleet elements (the two carrier task forces and the Marine Battalion) which are currently off the west and southern coasts of Italy be ordered to move now toward the Eastern Mediterranean./3/ We believe this can be done quietly and without publicity and will have the effect of reducing the reaction time should its presence be desired in the vicinity of Israel.
/3/A note in McNamara's handwriting connected to this sentence reads: "5/19. I will talk to Gen. Wheeler. RMcN." In a telephone conversation that evening, McNamara and Rusk agreed that the Sixth Fleet should steam at normal speed until it reached a position approximately 1 day's distance from the Eastern end of the Mediterranean. (Notes of telephone conversation at 7:20 p.m. on May 19 prepared by Rusk's Special Assistant C. Arthur Borg; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Rusk Files: Lot 72 D 192, Telephone Calls) JCS telegram 5893 to USCINCEUR, May 20, confirmed telephone instructions that elements of the Sixth Fleet should be moved to the Eastern Mediterranean, with the center of gravity of the area of operations within 2 days' steaming of the Eastern shore, and the Eastern edge no more than 1 day's time. (Johnson Library, National Security File, NSC Histories, Middle East Crisis, Vol. 7, Appendix H)
Attached is a summary of present dispositions of the major fleet elements./4/
/4/The attachment, entitled "Sixth Fleet-Position of Major Units, 19 May 1967" lists CTG 61.7 (Com PhibRon 6), with 1,431 Marines on the USS Cambria, in Naples; CTG 60.1, USS America and 3 DDs, with approximately 120 Marines on board, in Livorno and CTG 60.2, USS Saratoga and 6 DDs and 1 CLG, with approximately 100 Marines on board, en route to Palermo.
24. President's Daily Brief
Washington, May 20, 1967.
25. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Israel/1/
Washington, May 20, 1967, 7:17 p.m.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL ARAB-ISR. Secret; Priority; Nodis. Drafted by Davies, cleared by Popper, and approved by Under Secretary Rostow. Also sent priority to Cairo, Moscow, and USUN.
198916. Ambassador Harman called urgently on Under Secretary Rostow morning May 20.
1. Harman said GOI pleased to note reaffirmation 1957 agreement re status Gulf of Aqaba./2/ GOI considers this most solid agreement between governments within framework U.S. commitment to Israel's security. GOI has also noted U.S. injunction Israel not move unless Egyptians take action to close straits. Under Secretary replied there is no disagreement on gravity of situation. 1957 understanding valid but should be read in context President's letter re consultation. Should Egyptians block passage of Israeli shipping, we should consult as to measures to be taken.
/2/Reference is apparently to Harman's May 18 conversations with Rostow and Battle; see Document 15.
2. Ambassador Harman reported "disturbing conversation" between FonMin Eban and Soviet Ambassador. Latter asserted terror incidents on Syrian border work of CIA, adding "We have warned you. You are responsible. You are responding to provocation by CIA." Harman said this raised possibility we may be getting double talk from Soviets. Supporting this, he noted Syrian press and radio trumpeting Soviet Novostny Agency statement that Soviets stood behind Syria and would support if Israel attacked. Ambassador thought it important to get to the Soviets since they and the Syrians now were "pointing the finger." Situation raised possibility of Soviet-Syrian-Egyptian collusion. He also stressed great importance of prompt public and diplomatic reaffirmation USG support of Israel against aggression. Under Secretary replied that request will be at forefront our considerations.
3. Under Secretary asked whether Israel knew French view on the validity of the Tripartite Declaration. Harman replied the French were taking serious view of situation and intervening in Cairo. Under Secretary said it would be useful if Israel could clarify French position for if situation becomes bad, Tripartite planning would be useful. Ambassador Harman indicated that while Israel had liaison with French military, there had been no joint planning.
4. Ambassador Harman reverted to importance Israel ascribed to right of passage through Gulf of Aqaba, noting that the British, French, and Canadians had been involved with us in 1957 assurances. Stressed importance U.S. policy remaining diplomatically apparent.
5. Harman said U.S. DefAtts briefed yesterday in Israel on danger posed Israel by UAR deployments which now clearly taking form offensive posture. This had required precautionary measures on Israel's part.
6. Ambassador Harman said Ambassador Barbour had been asked to see whether U.S. destroyer which had departed Gulf of Aqaba after visit Jordan could not reenter and visit Eilat. Davies (NEA) who present said ship was unarmed flagship COMIDEASTFOR and now in Yenbo. Department believed that given furor raised by PriMin Eshkol's remarks re role Sixth Fleet, unscheduled appearance U.S. naval unit might well aggravate situation./3/
/3/Telegram 198809 to Tel Aviv, May 20, states that the Department had given careful consideration to Bitan's request for a U.S. destroyer visit to Eilat but had concluded that it would not contribute to a lessening of tension. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL ARAB-ISR)
7. Ambassador noted Israeli intelligence reports UAR forces had gas and troops equipped with gas masks. Asked for urgent response Israel's request purchase 20,000 masks./4/ He noted that when gas first used Yemen, Golda Meir remarked that if Nasser gets to point of using gas on Arab brothers, we must expect the worst.
/4/A May 19 memorandum from NSC Executive Secretary Bromley K. Smith to Walt Rostow states that Eugene Rostow had called to report that he had given Department of State approval to the shipment of 20,000 gas masks; the shipment was to be processed over the weekend. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Middle East Crisis, Vol. I)
26. Telegram From the Mission to the United Nations to the Department of State/1/
New York, May 20, 1967, 2149Z.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL ARAB-ISR. Confidential; Priority; Exdis. Repeated to Cairo and Tel Aviv. Received at 7:33 p.m.
5388. Middle East Crisis.
1. I called on SYG and Bunche this noon right after release of announcement of his trip to Cairo. Told him I was pleased he was making trip and that I would say so publicly after meeting. On basis telecon with Under Secy Rostow, told him that while Israelis were playing situation cool, they were reappraising situation and now believe UAR had offensive intentions. Told him troop movements and dispositions of UAR forces indicated to them operations of offensive character. Bunche then said UN reports today were that there were heavy Syrian concentrations in Galilee area.
2. I told SYG we had a second concern which was UAR use of poison gas in Yemen. Said evidence included canisters with Cyrillic markings. Said we had grave apprehensions lest this gas also be employed in present circumstances, consequences of which would be grave. My own impression was that he would express apprehensions in Cairo on this point.
3. I also told him our current reports from AmEmb Cairo were alarming about mood now prevailing there. Told him I had spoken yesterday to El Kony (UAR), Tomeh (Syria), Fedorenko (USSR), all troop contributing countries, all members of SC except Keita (Mali), as well as reps of other Arab countries in area. Told him I had given El Kony and Tomeh solemn assurances that US was not involved in any steps in area in spite of anything Syrians were saying. Told SYG this applied to CIA as well as to other agencies of USG. There no CIA operation going on. There was nothing to it. Matter had been carefully reviewed with Director of CIA. Allegations were complete nonsense. Told him UAR line, elaborated in Al Ahram this morning, was alleging great plot, in which culmination would be establishment of UNEF on Syrian frontier after battle between Israel and Arabs.
4. Told SYG we were receiving confusing signals from Sovs. Noted I had obtained nothing really from Fedorenko except his statement USSR did not want war and that he would report to his govt. Also noted Ukrainian and Byelorussian reps yesterday had expressed satisfaction over current situation and noted UN ought to get out of peace-keeping business and that Fedorenko had said this demonstrated undesirability of UN force under SYG control. Noted for his private information only that in Moscow after Thompson had said US was using its influence against any kind of use of force no matter what the provocation was, Dobrynin said USSR would do no less. Added however that since that time Sovs appeared to be supporting stories of US involvement and even to have initiated them. (I also told SYG our approaches urging restraint upon Israel had been at highest levels.)
5. SYG said he going to area with some trepidation. He may or may not have any success. He had some ideas which he had discussed with Martin (Canada) which Martin fully shared. His basic idea was to enlarge the effect of UNTSO in area as well as on other frontiers. This would have to include enlarging of the units. He said first step already under way. He then read telegram from General Bull reporting from EIMAC Chairman that Egyptians had suggested EIMAC occupy three platoon camps in Gaza as observation posts. SYG said he had sent instructions to accept this immediately and he expected eleven UNMOs, transferred from other posts, to be there within two days.
6. SYG said that for 17 years Secretariat had exercised its initiative to augment or diminish observers, who had once totaled over 750. More recently Sovs had for first time questioned SYG's authority to do this with respect to UNMOGIP in Oct 1965. In private Fedorenko had complained mainly about national composition of the observers, but in Feb he had also had confidential note from Fedorenko taking position he could not increase UNTSO without SC action. Thought it highly likely Sovs would raise this matter if he took any current steps and suggested that perhaps SC meeting would be wisest course in present circumstances. I replied that of course there was current opposition to SC meeting on the part of some members and that both Israel and UAR were against it. I said this could not be controlling. I noted that SC could not, for example, stand aside if fighting broke out. With respect to enlargement of TSO I said I thought current situation might be distinguishable from normal augmentation.
7. I asked him whether in request for UNMOs UAR had included Sharm el Sheikh. He said no but that he proposed to raise matter of Sharm el Sheikh in major effort in Cairo. (He did not elaborate on the context in which he would raise it, but he is clearly fully conscious of implications that would flow from stopping shipping.) Bunche said UAR and UN were currently in joint occupation of Sharm el Sheikh and that so far UAR forces had not sought to interfere with shipping which is going through the straits.
8. I noted that if UNTSO and IMAC operations were to be recommenced Israeli cooperation would be required. Told him I had already advised Rafael this morning of my personal view that Israel should re-examine its position on this matter and I had subsequently had confirmation this was Washington's viewpoint as well.
9. I also suggested that inasmuch as Israeli cooperation would be required he should also consider extending his visit to include Jerusalem and Damascus. SYG replied he thought not now and that inclusion of Israel might jeopardize efforts. On basis of how matters developed in Cairo, however, visit to Israel would not be precluded. He said he planned to be gone about 2-1/2 days, returning to NY next Friday. I stressed again importance of having Israel on board in whatever his plans were. Urged him to tell Israelis in advance about UNMOs going into Gaza and desirability of refraining from any more public comment than necessary until matters worked out with all concerned. SYG said there were three stops on his plane trip to Cairo but he would not see press at any of them. I again offered to provide a jet if he needed it, painted with UN markings if he wished, but he said he thought his present arrangements for commercial travel would be satisfactory. We both agreed to touch base on Monday/2/ before his departure. I read him my proposed statement dealing with his report of this morning to the SC and he expressed approval of our statement.
27. Telegram From the Embassy in Syria to the Department of State/1/
Damascus, May 20, 1967, 1330Z.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL ARAB-ISR. Confidential; Priority. Repeated Priority to Amman and to Baghdad, Beirut, Cairo, Jerusalem, London, Jidda, Moscow, Paris, Tel Aviv, CINCSTRIKE, DIA, and Aleppo. Received at 12:56 p.m. Advance copies were sent to the White House, USIA, CIA, DOD, and NSA at 1:45 p.m.
1156. Subject: Arab-Israel Crisis. Ref: Damascus 1151/2/ (Notal).
/2/In telegram 1151 from Damascus, May 20, Ambassador Smythe reported that he was seeking an appointment with Syrian Foreign Minister Makhus to urge Syrian restraint, restate U.S. policy on aggression in the area, support UN peacekeeping instruments and measures, caution that a guerrilla incident could spark a conflagration, and inform Makhus that the United States was counselling restraint at the highest levels of the Israeli Government. (Ibid.)
1. In hour and half session with FonMin Makhus (reftel) early afternoon May 20, whom Ambassador met without usual accompaniment DCM or Pol Chief at FonMin request, Makhus discussed points raised by Ambassador in friendly but inflexible manner.
2. In response Ambassador's caution at explosive potential recent arms buildup, Makhus replied US aware of threats Israeli leaders have made against Syria which left SARG and UARG no choice but believe Israeli aggressive intents. Said also SARG investigations showed Israeli troops in DMZ. SARG and UARG thus mobilized and made mutual defense treaty operative. Said although Israel created tense situation, measures SARG and UARG have taken are welcomed by all Arabs. Palestine issue is "sacred cause" and will never die, never be extinguished. Citing Crusaders, Makhus said "occupation of another's territory can never be eternal." Reiterating all Arabs ready, Makhus wanted USG understand any Israeli attack will be answered by war, regardless of consequences.
3. As for guerrillas, which Ambassador noted could trigger war no one wants, Makhus emphasized Palestinians are single people, wherever scattered, and no one has right rule them. They need not ask anyone's permission fight for usurped homeland. Having waited 18 years for UN carry out resolutions which Israel refuses honor, Palestinians have right self-determination and right fight for freedoms guaranteed by UN Charter, UN resolutions, and internal law. SARG refuses "for once and for all" take any responsibility for actions Palestinians in their fight for rights and for despoiled homeland, since Palestinians not under command Syria. "Israel took their land; Israel must deal with Palestinian people." As for infiltrators, "all might US armed forces Vietnam unable contain guerrillas there." SARG refuses be threatened by others every time Palestinian takes action as infiltrator, such accusations being but excuse for aggression against Syria. Re UN peacekeeping, said SARG and all other Arabs had welcomed UNEF, but defended UARG right to request departure.
4. As for Kennedy statement endorsed by President Johnson,/3/ Makhus called Syria victim of aggression. Mere presence Israel is aggression against Arab nation which USG should oppose. Not to US advantage support such aggression or equate acts of Israeli aggression with Arab actions in fight for freedom, independence, and to regain lost territory. Neither US nor any other country has right serve as deterrent those fighting for rights or stop fight between independent states when one side struggling regain its heritage. Makhus concluded SARG thus does not accept Kennedy statement as operative in preventing Arabs from fighting for own rights.
/3/Concerning President Kennedy's statement of May 8, 1963, see footnote 5, Document 5. President Johnson endorsed Kennedy's statement in a toast at a dinner for Israeli President Zalman Shazar, August 2, 1966. For text, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1966, Book II, pp. 796-797.5. In reply Ambassador's emphatic denial that USG or any agency seeking overthrow SARG or plot against it, Makhus said he pleased have USG deny such role and hoped sincerely US will prove it speaks truth and show this in practical manner. Said he hoped fog between our countries and people would be dispersed, and that American people and "Embassy staff in Syria" will work to see no conspiracy against SARG occurs.
28. Telegram From the Embassy in the United Arab Republic to the Department of State/1/
Cairo, May 21, 1967, 0900Z.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL ARAB-ISR. Secret; Priority. Repeated to Amman, Baghdad, Beirut, London, Tel Aviv, and USUN. Received at 6:18 a.m. Passed to the White House, DOD, CIA, USIA, and NSA at 6:45 a.m.
7760. Middle East Crisis. Ref: Cairo 7754./2/
/2/In telegram 7754 from Cairo, May 20, Charge Nes declared that the UAR Government regarded the situation as serious and was "not play acting" and reported indications of UAR officials' state of mind. (Ibid.)
1. Last night Parker took up with Zakaria Muhieddin's secretary Mustafa Abdul Aziz latter's remarks as reported Miles Copeland (para 2 reftel)./3/ Abdul Aziz said: (a) regular UAR units as opposed PLA occupying all front line positions and under strict order not to start anything. If Israelis began anything however, Egyptians, who had largest concentration troops and heavy equipment ever seen in Sinai, would react immediately and would crush Israelis with brute force. He hoped Israelis started something. This time Egyptians would win. (b) Altho he personally reluctant believe stories of US-Israeli plot, series US actions, beginning with our forcing Germans to supply arms to Israel and culminating recent spate pro-Israeli and anti-UAR statements by public figures in US, including McNamara, Javits, Robert Kennedy and McCloskey, who said we wanted strengthen UNEF, meaning stationing it on Syrian border, created strong presumption story of plot was true.
/3/In paragraph 2 of telegram 7754, Nes reported that Aziz had told Miles Copeland that UAR forces had been given orders to "hit Israelis with everything they have" if anything erupted along the border and that Palestine Liberation Organization leader Ahmed Shukairy had moved his headquarters to Gaza, PLA units were in the front lines, fedayeen raids would occur, and if the Israelis retaliated, the Egyptians would strike back. Aziz had also said that Nasser "believes what he says about CIA plots and this is major factor contributing to present crisis." Copeland, a former CIA officer, was in Cairo on private business. Nes commented that his account might not be accurate.
2. When Parker pointed out that statements by US Senators not statements official US policy and that we had been endeavoring restrain Israelis as well as Arabs, Abdul Aziz asked why there had been no statement by responsible American allocating responsibility fairly. Israelis had threatened attack Syria and had massed troops near border for that purpose. USG had said nothing. As soon as UAR took defensive meas-ures however USG had gone into orbit. It clear we prepared protect Israel but didn't care about Egypt or Syria.
3. When told Egyptians committing major mistake in basing their estimates of situation on what Soviets and Syrians telling them about our intentions, Abdul Aziz said Egyptians not relying on either of those powers for its assessment but had reached their conclusions all by themselves. Those conclusions based essentially on public record USG statements and actions, including its failure deny Eshkol remarks that we had urged Israelis rely on Sixth Fleet for their protection./4/ He produced sheaf of carefully arranged Arabic translations news reports and public statements from US. Seemed particularly incensed by Robert Kennedy warning to Arabs not to attack Israel.
/4/Reference is to a statement made by Eshkol in an April 1967 interview. Asked whether he would expect help from the United States if Israel were attacked in force by its neighbors, he stated that Israel would rely primarily on its own army but that he would expect help, "especially if I take into consideration all the solemn promises that have been made to Israel. We get these promises when we ask the United States for arms and are told: 'Don't spend your money. We are here. The Sixth Fleet is here.' My reply to this advice is that the Sixth Fleet might not be available fast enough for one reason or another, so Israel must be strong on its own." (U.S. News and World Report, April 17, 1967, p. 76)
4. Comment: It clear to us UARG had talked itself into believing story of US-Israeli plot to create incident which would result in stationing UNEF along Israel-Syrian border. It also seems clear that Nasser has resolved to deal with this imagined threat thru massive power play which, if successful, will be his biggest political victory since Suez, even if no shot is fired. If Syrians continue Fedayiin incursions and Israelis retaliate, there will be serious hostilities and Arabs apparently confident they can win in long run. If Israelis do not retaliate, Nasser will have forced them to back down and will have won first Arab victory over Israelis, and incidentally will have won another victory over US in Arab eyes. By his present posture Nasser has abandoned his traditional position of not wishing to start fight except at time and place of his own choosing because timing of hostilities now in hands Fatah-Asifa and Israelis. Do not believe Nasser would have done so unless he fairly confident of victory. He is playing for keeps and we should make no mistake this regard. We hope visit of UNSYG will lead to at least temporary deescalation of war atmosphere now prevailing.
29. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom/1/
Washington, May 21, 1967, 9:49 p.m.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL ARAB-ISR. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Eugene Rostow and his Staff Assistant Robert T. Grey, Jr., and approved by Eugene Rostow. Also sent to Paris and repeated to USUN, Tel Aviv, Cairo, and Damascus.
198959. Middle East Crisis.
Ambassador Dean (UK) called on Under Secretary Rostow this afternoon and made following points:
1. He invited comments on draft of letter George Brown is planning to send to U Thant before Thant's trip to Cairo, assuring him of UK support for a peaceful solution through the UN, urging Thant to seek to persuade UAR to allow UNEF to remain in Gaza area and pressing strongly for a continuing UN presence in area either in form of expanded UNTSO or some new UN body. Brown stresses continuation of UN presence in Sharm-el-Sheikh and emphasizes importance UK attaches to rights of free navigation in international waterways and seriousness with which UK would view any interference with free passage in Gulf of Aqaba. Brown also urges U Thant to visit Tel Aviv and to hold an immediate meeting of Security Council after his return from area.
2. Dean said London agreed that US-UK assessments of situation are similar and wants to keep in close touch. UK had no objection to bringing others into these consultations from time to time but would object to joint daily meetings with French./2/ UK view was that information passed in meetings with French would leak and would also lead to queries about the present status of the Tripartite Declaration which the UK regarded as out of date. Rostow indicated US position was that the principles of the Tripartite Declaration still apply. Dean indicated that in UK view Tripartite Declaration had been superseded by the Kennedy-Macmillan statements of 1963./3/ Dean noted that in Macmillan's statement UK had laid great stress on UN role in any Middle East dispute and that UK view was that object of Kennedy-Macmillan declarations was to move away from earlier Tripartite Declaration. Macmillan had made his statement on that basis. Rostow indicated that there were several reasons why it would be advantageous now to breathe new life into Tripartite Declaration if at all possible. US takes the view that Tripartite Declaration is right policy for three governments. Dean indicated that he would seek further clarification of UK position from London.
/2/Telegram 198944 to London and Paris, May 21, reported that regular meetings had been held concerning the Middle East crisis with British and French representatives in Washington and at the United Nations, and summarized the discussion at a meeting held in Washington that day. The statements by Ambassador Dean recorded in paragraphs 3 and 4 of telegram 198959 were in response to questions raised by U.S. representatives at that meeting. (Ibid.) French Ambassador Lucet told Under Secretary Rostow on May 23 that while the French wished to continue regular U.S.-French exchanges on Middle East questions, they would prefer not to continue on a tripartite basis, since regular daily meetings on such a basis might become conspicuous and create false ideas in public opinion. (Ibid., POL 27 ARAB-ISR)
/3/In a statement in the House of Commons, May 14, 1963, Prime Minister Harold Macmillan endorsed President Kennedy's statement of May 8, 1963 (see footnote 5, Document 5). The text of Macmillan's statement is in Hansard, vol. 677, col. 142.)
3. Dean stated that while UK wished to have close continuing political consultations with US HMG did not wish to become involved in military contingency planning at this time, especially contingency planning which involved possible military action outside of the UN. Rostow indicated that primary US objective was to use all political means to prevent the outbreak of hostilities but that the possibility of a flare-up could not be excluded and it was unlikely we could obtain Security Council action if hostilities did break out. Therefore we cannot ignore risk of being required to honor previous commitments.
4. Dean indicated UK felt it would heighten tension now to advise British tourists to leave or stay away from the area and that it was not necessary to do so at this time. They were taking line their Missions should inform inquirers that there were obvious dangers in the area.
5. Rostow indicated USG was considering presenting a written paper to all the governments in area reiterating US position. Such a paper could be presented jointly by US, UK and French, or separately by the three governments, as well as by Canada, with respect especially to Gulf of Aqaba. We would have draft for his consideration tomorrow.
6. Dean passed copies of exchange of letters between Wilson and Eshkol. Eshkol's letter follows line taken with President Johnson. Wilson letter states UK has made strong representations to Syrians regarding need to stop infiltration of terrorists and UK misgivings about dangers involved in forceful reprisals. Wilson also asked Eshkol to reconsider GOI's own policy of not permitting UNEF to operate on Israeli territory and stressed UK support through UN to secure free passage through the Gulf of Aqaba. Wilson also stated that George Brown will urge USSR to counsel restraint during his trip to Moscow.
Rostow subsequently called Dean and brought following statement made in Commons by Wilson on April 13, 1965 to his attention:
"The tripartite declaration of 1950 was intended to express the policy of Britain, France and the United States at that time. It has not been retracted. I expressed the government's deep concern for the peace and stability of the Middle East when, in the course of the foreign affairs debate on 16 December, 1964, I endorsed Mr. Macmillan's statement of 14 May 1963."
For London and Paris: In the light of the ambiguities revealed in this conversation, you should now urgently request authoritative confirmation from HMG and GOF that Trilateral Declaration of 1950 remains the policy of those two Governments, as it is of ours.
In this period of stress among allies on so many issues it is of particular importance that our unity on fundamentals be reaffirmed. The implications of failure in our strenuous efforts to prevent hostilities from breaking out in the Middle East are far-reaching. A war in the Middle East would gravely and fundamentally affect the security of all three countries, of Europe, and of the West. We believe a strong clear stand now is indispensable to deter those who might be tempted to take advantage of such a situation.
FYI for Paris: You may have copy as we do of Confidential French letter to GOI which was never made public. End FYI.
30. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Israel/1/
Washington, May 21, 1967, 9:02 p.m.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL ARAB-ISR. Secret; Priority; Nodis. Drafted by Atherton; cleared by Battle, Eugene Rostow, and Walt Rostow; and approved by Eugene Rostow for Rusk with revisions. The President's handwritten revisions appear on a draft copy sent to him with a May 21 memorandum from Walt Rostow noting that it had been cleared with Rusk. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Middle East Crisis, Vol. I)
198955. Please deliver following reply from President to Prime Minister Eshkol's May 18 letter (Tel Aviv 3648)./2/
/2/Document 13. Telegram 198954 to Tel Aviv, May 21, instructed Barbour in delivering the letter to stress the need to do everything possible to restore and maintain the effectiveness of the United Nations in the area. The purpose of this, it noted, was to help moderate Israeli opposition to any UN observation or peacekeeping activity on Israel's side of the Armstice Line. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL ISR-US)
Dear Mr. Prime Minister:
Thank you for your prompt and detailed reply to my message of May 18.
Ambassador Barbour has informed me of your assurances, conveyed through Mr. Bitan yesterday, that the measures your Government is taking are precautionary in nature and that you will continue to do all you can to avoid further deterioration of the present grave situation on your borders./3/ By continuing to display steady nerves you can, I am convinced make a major contribution to the avoidance of hostilities.
/3/Barbour reported the conversation in telegram 3681 from Tel Aviv, May 19. (Ibid., POL ARAB-ISR)
I fully agree that, for tranquillity to return, there is an urgent need for the cessation of terrorism and the reversal of military movements of the type we have witnessed during the past week. We and our friends have done all we can to make this amply clear in both Cairo and Damascus.
As you know, we have also been in touch with the Soviet Government and are somewhat encouraged by the tone of their reaction to our approaches. I am confident they are under no illusions about the firmness of our commitment to support appropriate measures in the United Nations, or outside,/4/ to counter aggression or the threat of aggression in the Middle East. As you so well know, that commitment was made publicly by Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy as well as myself, and by the British, French and United States governments in their Tripartite Declaration in 1950. I can assure you that I hope all parties concerned will act firmly and in unison to meet any challenges to the peace./5/ We have suggested to your Ambassador that you consult, as we are doing, with the other two governments with respect to these assurances.
/4/Johnson substituted the words "or outside" for "or to take other action on our own".
/5/Before Johnson's revisions, the previous two sentences read: "As you know, that commitment, which has been made publicly by Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy as well as myself, and by the British, French and United States governments in their Tripartite Declaration in 1950, definitely includes Israel. I can assure you that it remains firm so far as we are concerned."
So far as a United Nations presence on the boundary between Israel and the United Arab Republic is concerned, we strongly objected, as you know, to the Secretary General's decision with regard to the status of the UNEF in Sinai. We continue to regard a United Nations presence in the area as important and desirable.
I have been giving serious thought to the question of what further steps we might take to ease the situation and am giving most urgent consideration to your suggestion to Ambassador Barbour that a public statement by me would have a calming effect. In making this decision, I am weighing the possible bearing of such a statement now on Secretary General Thant's visit to Cairo. I am sure you will agree that nothing should be said or done at this time which might complicate or distract attention from the efforts of the Secretary General. In the meantime the problems discussed in your letter to me are occupying the attention of the highest officials of this government and will continue to do so until they are resolved.
With personal regards,
Lyndon B. Johnson/6/
/6/Barbour reported in telegram 3712 from Tel Aviv, May 22, that he had delivered the message to Bitan that day. He had stated that the United States felt it necessary to do everything possible to restore and maintain UN effectiveness in the area and had taken issue with Israeli opposition to a UN presence on the Israeli side of the border. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL ARAB-ISR) Foreign Minister Eban's reaction had been "strongly negative" when Barbour raised this possibility on May 21. (Telegram 3692 from Tel Aviv, May 21; ibid.) Eugene Rostow and Battle both pressed Harman on this point in a May 22 meeting. (Telegram 198964 to Tel Aviv, May 21; ibid.)
31. Telegram From the Embassy in the United Kingdom to the Department of State/1/
London, May 22, 1967, 1800Z.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL ARAB-ISR. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Received at 2:18 p.m.
9732. For Secretary from McGeorge Bundy.
1. I had an hour with George Brown this morning and he spent most of it on the Middle East. I pointed out, of course, that I was here as a private citizen. But George is an old friend, and there was no holding him.
2. Embassy tells me Brown's comments on the Middle East diverged somewhat from those of his civil servants. He is not at all sure that Nasser will stop with ousting the UNEF force from the Egyptian-Israeli border and in particular is worried that Nasser may move to interdict shipping into the Gulf of Aqaba. While Brown, like his civil servants, is immediately focused on trying to get U Thant to play a more effective role, he was quite strong in saying that if access to the Gulf is impeded and thus becomes a freedom-of-the-seas issue and if the UN then fails to provide an effective means to deal with this problem, the British will probably feel able to find some other direct way of doing so, though they would hope to be able to enlist the help of other maritime nations. Brown strongly implied that in view of their military and naval forces presently East of Suez, this is probably the piece of the Egypt-Israel problem the British could and would be most disposed to take a direct hand in themselves. The freedom-of-the-seas context would in Brown's view reduce the risk of hostile reactions from other Arabs.
3. With respect to the Tripartite Declaration, Brown pointed out that the Labor government is clearly on record in support of Macmillan's 1963 statement. They construe this essentially as relieving the British of their commitments under the Tripartite Declaration. I think the chance of reversing this view is zero. However, when I suggested that it would be both unnecessary and undesirable to underline this position at this time Brown seemed to agree. He is to make a television statement on the Middle East tonight and I am hopeful he will avoid comment on the status of the Tripartite Declaration. David Bruce has phoned him to reiterate the desirability of avoiding a statement and so keeping the situation flexible.
4. On Viet Nam, I found Brown understanding of American problems and quite staunch in support. He was also modest and realistic in appraising how much the British (and he personally) can do with the Russians in helping promote negotiations. My impression is that he is less interested in this role than his boss.
32. Telegram From the Mission to the United Nations to the Department of State/1/
New York, May 22, 1967, 2111Z.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL ARAB-ISR. Confidential; Priority; Exdis. Repeated Priority to Cairo, and to Tel Aviv. Received at 7:33 p.m.
5399. Subj: Middle East Crisis.
May 22, 1967
Dear Mr. Secretary General:
As you depart for your highly significant trip to the Middle East I wish to convey to you the best wishes of the United States Government and our support for your efforts to preserve the peace and maintain an effective United Nations presence in the area.
We share your view that the situation in the Middle East is more menacing than at any time since 1956. We are especially concerned that, whatever intentions may have been when the current crisis began, miscalculation or uncontrolled provocation may now slide the area into direct conflict. Every effort must be made to avoid this and to preserve for the future, at a minimum, the relative calm that has prevailed in the Middle East for the past ten years. The United Nations and its effective presence on the ground is in our view the most likely means through which this might be accomplished.
I have already expressed to you the profound regret of the United States Government about the decision to withdraw UNEF from the area. While we are not unaware of the physical and factual problems which confronted you, nevertheless it was and is our view that a decision of this magnitude required as a minimum adequate consultation with all appropriately concerned governments, including our own. The first official information the United States received of the initial exchange in which the basic decision was taken was over 16 hours after it had taken place.
I have also indicated to you that it was and remains the view of the United States that while non-enforcement peacekeeping operations require consent of the governments concerned, nevertheless in this instance the consent to the establishment of the force carried with it understandings regarding the circumstances of its withdrawal, and that in any event the final decision could only be appropriately taken after consideration by the General Assembly. The record to us is compelling. The manner and circumstances under which withdrawal of UNEF would be decided was thoroughly examined at the time of its establishment with a view to averting precipitate incidents of the sort we have just faced, and in fact the departure of the force to the United Arab Republic was delayed over this area.
The then Secretary General on November 13, 1956 completed a series of exchanges with the Foreign Minister of Egypt leading to the despatch of the force, stating that "withdrawal of consent leading to the withdrawal of forces before the task was completed, although within the rights of the Egyptian Government, would go against its acceptance of the basic resolution of the General Assembly" and that "the question of withdrawal would be a matter for discussion to the extent that different views were held as to whether the task established by the General Assembly was fulfilled or not"./2/ The Secretary General made it clear to us, as to others, that the question of whether the task assigned to the force was completed would have to be submitted to the General Assembly. This was explicitly also his view with respect to the aide-memoire concluded with Egypt and noted with approval by the General Assembly in Resolution 1121 (XI)/3/ which followed shortly thereafter.
/2/For information concerning the exchanges under reference, see Public Papers of the Secretaries-General of the United Nations, Vol. III, Dag Hammarskjold, 1956-1957, p. 369.
/3/The aide-mémoire on the basis for the UNEF presence in Egypt, annexed to Secretary-General Hammarskjold's report to the General Assembly of November 20, 1956, is printed ibid., pp. 375-376. It was noted with approval by the General Assembly in resolution 1121 (XI), November 24, 1956; see ibid., pp. 396-397.
This corresponded to the views and understandings of other governments involved in the establishment of UNEF, including the United States. Our view on this was officially stated at various times. A memorandum to this effect delivered to the then Secretary General on March 15, 1957, on the occasion of a visit by him to Cairo, is attached./4/
/4/The text of the memorandum given to Secretary-General Hammarskjold on March 15, 1957, prior to his visit to Cairo is printed in Foreign Relations, 1955-1957, vol. XVII, pp. 422-423.
I do not seek to document fully in this letter the history of this issue, other aspects of which I referred to in our conversation of May 17 in which I urged you to consult with the General Assembly before any decision was taken./5/ But I do wish to say that the United States, having itself brought the 1956 crisis to the Security Council against the wishes of its closest allies and having been one of the most firm supporters of UNEF throughout its history also had and continues to have a special concern in the matter.
/5/Reference is apparently to the May 18 conversation reported in Document 11.
We have refrained from commenting publicly on these matters other than to express our regret at the decision because of the extreme delicacy and gravity of the situation and because we do not believe such comment would be helpful to the United Nations in circumstances where it is already suffering in both general and informed opinion as a result of last week's developments. We are expressing ourselves in candor on this subject because of its overriding importance for the future and not out of any desire to second guess your actions, which we recognize were taken under difficult circumstances and obviously out of the best of motives.
I am sure we share the common view that the imperative task now is to make all possible efforts to turn aside the rising state of tension and the military buildup in the Middle East and re-establish conditions under which the prohibition of the use of force in any form, is fully respected. I have previously advised you that the United States Government is using its fullest diplomatic influence with all governments in the area, as with others, to this effect. I have also previously told you that any allegations that the United States Government or any of its agencies are engaged in a conspiracy in the Middle East are totally unfounded. These allegations have been mischievously and deliberately spread. You are authorized to convey our firm denial of them and our reaffirmation that the United States is opposed to any aggression or violence in the Middle East regardless of the direction from which it comes and whether it is direct or indirect.
As you go to Cairo you will be speaking on behalf of an organization which has repeatedly-both through the Security Council and through the General Assembly-called for the maintenance of peace in the Middle East. You will be speaking against the background of constructive exercise of United Nations authority in the area for twenty years. Nowhere in the world has the United Nations exercised such decisive influence in the interests of peace, and we know that your objective will be to revitalize that contribution to the maximum.
In particular, the United States urges that in your discussions in the area your primary specific objective, in the pursuit of restoring peaceful conditions, be to retain the maximum possible degree of effective United Nations presence on the ground along the frontiers and points of sensitivity between the United Arab Republic and Israel. We fully share your view as expressed in your report to the Security Council that the Gaza Strip and the Sharm-el-Sheikh are particularly sensitive areas, involving as they do a large number of refugees and the Palestine Liberation Organization and the international character of the Straits of Tiran and Gulf of Aqaba.
In this connection, you are no doubt aware of the policy of the United States Government with respect to the Straits of Tiran and the Gulf of Aqaba as stated by Ambassador Lodge in the General Assembly on March 1, 1957, a policy which remains that of the United States Government today:
"The United States believes that the Gulf comprehends international waters and that no nation has the right to prevent free and innocent passage in the Gulf and through the Straits giving access thereto. We have in mind not only commercial usage, but the passage of pilgrims on religious missions, which should be fully respected.
"The United States recalls that on January 28, 1950, the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed the United States that the Egyptian occupation of the two islands of Tiran and Senafir at the entrance of the Gulf of Aqaba was only to protect the islands themselves against possible damage or violation and that 'this occupation being in no way conceived in a sprit of obstructing in any way innocent passage through the stretch of water separating these two islands from the Egyptian coast of Sinai, it follows that this passage, the only practicable one, will remain free as in the past, in conformity with international practices and recognized principles of the law of nations.'
"In the absence of some overriding decision to the contrary, as by the International Court of Justice, the United States, on behalf of vessels of United States registry, is prepared to exercise the right of free and innocent passage and to join with others to secure general recognition of this right."/6/
/6/For the complete text of Lodge's statement before the General Assembly on March 1, 1957, see Department of State Bulletin, March 18, 1957, pp. 431-434. The quoted paragraphs are from the published version of an aide-mémoire that Secretary of State John Foster Dulles gave Israeli Ambassador Abba Eban on February 11, 1957, which was made public in slightly revised form on February 17, 1957. For text of the published version of the aide-mémoire, see ibid., March 11, 1957, pp. 392-393. The text of the aide-mémoire as given to Eban on February 11, 1957, is printed in Foreign Relations, 1955-1957, vol. XVII, pp. 132-134.
The right of free and innocent passage through these waters is a vital interest of the international community and a vital interest, as you know, of the State of Israel in particular. I hope you will convey to the UAR the conviction that any interference whatever with these international rights could have the gravest international consequences.
What the details of a continued effective United Nations presence on the ground would be we do not seek at this point to define, as this necessarily must be explored in the first instance in negotiations with the parties concerned. But we do believe that you should not yield on the principle of an effective United Nations presence on the ground, the experience of so many years having demonstrated the decisive contribution it can make.
While the situation between the United Arab Republic and Israel is currently acute because of the movements of troops and ships and extensive mobilization involved, we trust also that you will give close attention to the problems on other frontiers, especially that between Syria and Israel. The record of Security Council action in the past two years demonstrates that recent tensions have most often arisen in that area, and the current critical situation clearly arises from those troubles. Questions of the degree to which the armistice agreement is really being carried out and of the capability of United Nations machinery are both involved. We concur in your statement that El Fatah activities are a major factor and that some recent incidents indicate a new level of organization and training as well as your statement opposing resort to force by any party and appeal to all parties to observe the armistice agreements./7/ We would accordingly urge that you appropriately consult the governments concerned about these problems as well.
/7/Secretary-General Thant made these statements in response to a question at a luncheon of the United Nations Correspondents Association on May 11; for text, see Public Papers of the Secretaries-General of the United Nations, Vol. VII, U Thant, 1965-1967, p. 414.
From all parties concerned we suggest that a first objective should be to obtain immediate assurance of peaceful intent and a commitment to remove troops from direct juxtaposition with each other. While this may be easiest to achieve with regular forces it will be equally if not more important that irregular groups such as the Palestine Liberation Army and the El Fatah organization be promptly restrained.
You might also wish to consider other steps you might take with the parties at the outset, such as a special message to their heads of state urging them to exercise the greatest reserve and to make no adverse changes in the status quo while your consultations are proceeding.
Whatever agreements you work out for a continuing effective United Nations presence should, of course, be generally acceptable, as presumably others than the United Arab Republic will also be involved. Consequently I would renew my suggestion that you seriously contemplate proceeding after Cairo to Damascus and to Tel Aviv before finalizing any arrangements.
We will of course be carefully watching the situation ourselves as a member of the Security Council while you are on your important mission.
The United States, of course, would not wish to initiate any steps which would interfere with the Secretary General's efforts to pacify the situation in the Middle East. Nevertheless, conscious of the primary responsibility of the Security Council for maintenance of international peace, we shall continue to give the closest attention to developments and will be consulting further with other Council members to review what other constructive steps may be required in the interest of maintaining peace.
We wish you Godspeed and you carry with you our hopes that you will return with positive and constructive proposals to report to the Security Council, the organ with primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. Should you not make satisfactory progress, we believe that the present state of tension in the area would make it imperative for you to call a meeting of the Security Council in accordance with Article 99 of the Charter.
With best wishes for a successful mission in the interest of peace.
Arthur J. Goldberg
[Omitted here is the text of the memorandum cited in footnote 4.]
33. Telegram From the Mission to the United Nations to the Department of State/1/
New York, May 22, 1967, 2350Z.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL ARAB-ISR. Confidential; Immediate; Exdis. Repeated Priority to Cairo, and to Tel Aviv. Received at 9:41 p.m. and passed to the White House on May 23 at 12:20 a.m.
5405. Re: Middle East Crisis.
I called on SYG and Bunche this afternoon accompanied by Pedersen to convey our letter prior to his departure (USUN 5399),/2/ to discuss his mission and to wish Godspeed. SYG said he was scheduled to arrive back in NY at 3:30 p.m. on Friday and would want to consult on Saturday with perm members of SC, UNEF Advisory Comite, and troop contribution countries. Said he would be cancelling his appearance at Pacem in Terris tomorrow or Wed.
/2/ Document 32.
I told SYG we had letter to deliver to him expressing views of USG which I would give to him at end of meeting and substance of which I would discuss. In addition I had one statement of very grave importance to make. In light of tensions in area US had been called upon to reaffirm commitments four of our Preses had made with respect to protecting any countries in ME against aggression. Noted original expression was contained in Tripartite Declaration 1950 and that Preses Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson had independently reaffirmed and restated US commitment. Our basic commitment was to support appropriate measures in UN or outside to counter aggression or threat of aggression in ME.
I told him I wished to say what we had not said publicly, so that he would know as he went to Cairo, that the US would keep that commitment. I observed that this carried with it grave implications and added that we were of course tremendously concerned that efforts should be made within UN context. We therefore completely supported him and all he could do to pacify situation in the area. We were committed to prevent aggression in the interest of the political independence and territorial integrity of states in the ME. This we had said on various occasions, including statements I had made in SC last year.
I told him we may or not not yet have to say publicly what I had just told him. But I thought there should be no misunderstanding and that ambiguity might lead to great misunderstandings.
Bunche observed that Nasser would assert that UAR actions were reaction to Israeli invasion threat against Syria. He wondered whether SYG would be authorized to say that our commitment applied to Syria as well as to Israel. I replied that our policy applied to all govts in ME. It applied to the political independence and territorial integrity of all. He could therefore say that US position on this was very clear and that it was against any form of aggression in ME from any country whether overt or clandestine. Our aim was to seek solution to these problems within UN as there were too many confrontations in world already.
I added that our letter explicitly said there was no US design on Syria or conspiracy to overthrow other govts. Allegations to the contrary were nonsense. Our commitments extended to the whole area, and the letter contained explicit language which he was authorized to convey.
I then told him our letter contained a number of comments about the termination of UNEF, which had been a matter of grave concern in Wash. We had hoped for consultation. US had particularly been involved in the establishment of UNEF and we wanted to recall to him past record on questions of consent and withdrawal and US views with respect to them, in particular for his use with Nasser. US had broken with its allies at time of Suez in the interest of the law of the Charter and rights of Egypt. We had therefore taken different view than SYG re withdrawal. We had been instrumental in great measure in helping stop the attack on Egypt. If we had not acted when we did Nasser probably would not even be there now. There was a specific history on matter of consent and withdrawal and we believe Nasser was under obligation not to disturb situation and insist on withdrawal under circumstances such as prevailed.
Bunche asked if we planned to release letter. I said no and reiterated that in spite of domestic pressures and criticisms we had not made public our divergence of views on this issue, as others had, because we did not think it was in interest of UN. I reiterated that we respected motives of SYG on this and the practical problems with which he was concerned. Letter was for him but we had no objections to his talking to Nasser about these points because we thought Nasser, having done what he had done, now has some obligations to SYG and UN.
Future, however, was the important thing and a main purpose of presenting our views was to give him in writing our thoughts about necessity of preserving an effective UN presence in area.
I said this could not be done just on Nasser's own terms. From our contacts here it appeared that UAR line would be that they have now gotten rid of UNEF; if Israel would only be willing to revert to EIMAC and support it everything would be fine. I said this would not resolve the issue because it would require still further concessions to UAR position beyond what it has already gained. It would be necessary to bring all concerned on board and some way must be found to accommodate viewpoints of both parties.
I observed that Israel was involved too. We had told Israelis we want them to cooperate with SYG, but it would be necessary to obtain their views as well. I referred to my recommendation that he extend his visit to include Damascus and Tel Aviv, saying I understood why he did not wish to say anything about such visits now but I thought they would be highly desirable.
Referring to Sharm el-Sheikh I said this was one of most critical points. (Bunche interjected, "the most".) Bunche observed ships were still going through but commented critically on Jordanian broadcasts criticizing UAR for this. I told him we had intervened on this and believed they had stopped. I noted many maritime countries would be concerned with passage through straits, including, French, Scands, Israelis and ourselves, and read him section of letter in which we restated our position on transit. Told him consequences could not be predicted if transit through straits was interfered with. Told him he could use passage on our policy on straits with Nasser if he wished to.
I commented also that situation of refugees and PLO in Gaza Strip made that a danger point also. Bunche said they were aware of this. Added that info PLO had taken over UNEF post was not correct according to info from Rikhye. Added that El Auya would be another difficult point, as Nasser would raise fact that Israelis had occupied this area in 1955. SYG noted Israel still appeared be negative on EIMAC and TSOs on UAR border. I suggested that he might want to consider creating new instrument. Perhaps something with new initials would be acceptable to both sides where old one might not be.
I then said we thought early disengagement of forces would be especially helpful. Bunche interjected "yes" and SYG nodded. I said it was especially important that PLO be kept away from frontier. Noted that value of UNEF had been that it had controlled Sharm el-Sheik and had been shield against Liberation Army and refugee problems, as well as against retaliatory raids.
I noted also that origins of present problem came from Syrian frontier and said our letter re-enforced statements I [he] had made about hits on May 11 and 13./3/ We thought GAA should be respected and operate fully on that frontier and efforts needed to be made by him on this border as well as on UAR border.
/3/Thant's May 11 statement is cited in footnote 7, Document 32; his May 13 statement is not printed.
Finally I called attention to our suggestion for his consideration that he might send messages to heads of states in area, either publicly or privately, calling for restraint and no adverse changes in status quo while he was consulting. He said he would give thought to this.
When I told him I thought he ought to report to SC when he returned and call meeting under Art 99 if necessary, he said he was clear he would have to make report to SC when he came back.
I also told him we had in various ways communicated with Sovs about the situation, the essence of our approaches being to appeal for cooperation with SYG in preserving peace in area.
SYG expressed his appreciation for our good wishes and indicated he well understood difficulties of mission he was undertaking and said he would study our views carefully.
34 Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the United Arab Republic/1/
Washington, May 22, 1967, 8:49 p.m.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL ARAB-ISR. Secret; Flash; Nodis. Drafted and approved by Eugene Rostow and cleared by Walt Rostow. Repeated to USUN Eyes Only for Ambassador Goldberg. Walt Rostow sent a copy to the President at 4:30 p.m. with a covering note stating that he had dictated it and sent it to Eugene Rostow's Middle East task force that afternoon. Rostow added: "From previous experience I know Nasser is vulnerable to direct communication from the President of the United States." (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Middle East Crisis, Vol. I) Another memorandum from Walt Rostow to Johnson that evening states that Eugene Rostow and Battle recommended sending messages to Prime Minister Eshkol and Syrian Prime Minister Atasi in case Nasser should release the President's message to him. (Ibid.) Messages from Johnson to Atasi and Eshkol urging restraint were transmitted in telegrams 199728 to Damascus and 199729 to Tel Aviv, both dated May 22. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL ARAB-ISR)
199704. Deliver following through quickest means to President Nasser from President Johnson:
"May 22, 1967
Dear President Nasser:
I have spent much of these past days thinking of the Middle East, of the problems you face, and the problems we face in that area.
Various of our common friends, including Ambassador Battle, have told me of your concern that the United States may have indicated an unfriendliness toward the UAR. This, I would wish you to know directly, is far from the truth.
I have watched from a distance your efforts to develop and modernize your country. I understand, I think, the pride and the aspirations of your people-their insistence that they enter as soon as possible the modern world and take their full part in it. I hope that we can find public as well as private ways to work more closely together.
I also understand the political forces at work in your region, the ambitions and tensions, the memories and the hopes.
Right now, of course, your task and mine is not to look back, but to rescue the Middle East-and the whole human community-from a war I believe no one wants. I do not know what steps Secretary General U Thant will be proposing to you; but I do urge you to set as your first duty to your own people, to your region, and to the world community this transcendent objective: the avoidance of hostilities.
The great conflicts of our time are not going to be solved by the illegal crossings of frontiers with arms and men-neither in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, or Latin America. But that kind of action has already led to war in Asia, and it threatens the peace elsewhere.
I had expected that I might ask our Vice President to go to the Middle East to talk with you and other Arab leaders, as well as with the leaders of Israel. If we come through these days without hostilities, I would still hope that visit by my most trusted friend could result immediately.
Each of us who has the responsibility for leading a nation faces different problems shaped by history, geography, and the deepest feelings of our peoples. Whatever differences there may be in the outlook and interests of your country and mine, we do share an interest in the independence and progress of the UAR and the peace of the Middle East.
I address you at this critical moment in the hope that you share that assessment and will find it possible to act on it in the hours and days ahead.
Sincerely, Lyndon B. Johnson"
35 Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the United Arab Republic/1/
Washington, May 22, 1967, 9:38 p.m.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL ARAB-ISR. Confidential; Immediate. Drafted by Bergus and Sterner, cleared by Atherton and Davies, and approved by Eugene Rostow. Repeated to London, Paris, Tel Aviv, Damascus, Amman, Beirut, Jerusalem, Ottawa, USUN, Moscow, Ankara, Tehran, Rome, Algiers, and Jidda.
197710. For Damascus, Tel Aviv, Amman, Beirut, Jidda, Algiers: The following telegram is being sent to Cairo. You should make appropriate substitutions and deliver identical note to your government.
For London, Rome, Paris, Ottawa, Ankara, Moscow, Tehran: You should inform your host government of our action, and request that we remain in closest contact in light of reports of UAR decision to close Strait of Tiran./2/
/2/Telegram 199773 to Baghdad, Kuwait, and Sanaa, May 23, sent similar instructions to those Embassies. (Ibid.)
1. You should request urgent meeting with Foreign Minister Riad to convey following note verbale:
2. In recent days, tension has again risen along armistice lines between Israel and Arab States. We agree with view of Secretary General of United Nations that situation there is matter of concern to international community as whole. It is our earnest wish to support efforts in which he is taking lead to reduce tensions, and to restore conditions of stability and trust.
3. We have no reason to believe, in present situation, that any of parties to Armistice Agreements between Arab States and Israel has intention of committing aggression. Danger, and it is grave danger, lies in misadventure and miscalculation. There is risk that those in authority in area may misapprehend or misinterpret intentions and actions of others.
4. Three aspects of situation cause us particular concern. First is continuing terrorism being carried out against Israel with Syrian approval, and at least in some cases, from Syrian territory. This is directly contrary to the General Armistice Agreements which call on signing governments to assure that no warlike act or act of hostility shall be conducted from territory of one against other party or against civilians or territory under control of that party. We believe General Armistice Agreements remain best basis for maintenance of peaceful conditions along borders. We hope that UAR will join us as well as other governments in urging all parties to Agreements to observe scrupulously their provisions.
5. Secondly, we are concerned that a precipitate withdrawal of the United Nations Emergency Force may make the problem of maintaining peace along the UAR-Israeli border more difficult. In our opinion, the presence of UNEF has been an important aid in preserving basic security along this border. USG supports Secretary General Thant's mission to Cairo and earnestly trusts that the UARG will explore fully with him possibilities for continued UN peacekeeping presence in some form along UAR-Israel border.
6. Third, USG considers it particularly important that the present cycle of troop build-up on both sides be arrested and reversed. We have noted statements of United Arab Republic and Israel indicating that their military movements are defensive in purpose and we would hope that both parties, as well as other states in the area which have taken military precautions, will return their forces to their normal dispositions. In doing so, they could perform an important service toward relieving the present tense situation.
7. We would also take this opportunity to reaffirm our continued adherence to principle of free access to Gulf of Aqaba for ships of all nations. The right of free and innocent passage of these waters is a vital interest of the international community. We are convinced that any interference whatever with these international rights could have the gravest international consequences./3/
/3/Telegram 199681 to Cairo, May 22, sent at 7:58 p.m., requested confirmation of an Agence France Press report that Nasser had announced that the UAR had closed the Gulf of Aqaba to Israeli ships. It instructed the Embassy to convey to the UAR Government "our gravest concern" if this was true. (Ibid.) Nasser made the announcement in a May 22 speech to UAR air force officers, broadcast at 0400 Greenwich time on May 23. (FBIS Daily Report, May 23; Johnson Library, National Security File, NSC Histories, Middle East Crisis, Vol. I)
8. In present situation UARG, as well as other Arab governments can rely on certainty that USG maintains firm opposition to aggression in the area in any form-overt or clandestine, carried out by regular military forces or irregular groups. This has been policy of this government under four successive administrations. Record of our actions over the past two decades, within and outside the United Nations is clear on this point.
9. In conclusion USG expresses its sincere hope that UAR will join it as well as numerous other nations in their efforts, both within UN and outside of that body, to bring about a lessening of tension and restoration of area stability.
36. Letter From the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Rostow) to the Israeli Ambassador (Harman)/1/
Washington, May 22, 1967.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-2 ARAB-ISR. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Eugene Rostow, Meeker, and Rostow's Staff Assistant Robert T. Grey, and cleared by Rusk, Walt Rostow, Goldberg, Battle, Meeker, and Popper. A May 20 letter from Eugene Rostow was sent to Walt Rostow on May 21 with a covering memorandum from Department of State Deputy Executive Secretary John P. Walsh requesting that it be brought to the attention of the President. Walt Rostow sent it to the President for his approval with a covering memorandum of May 21. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Middle East Crisis, Vol. I) The letter printed here is a revised version of the May 20 letter, which was not sent. The text of the letter printed here was transmitted to the Embassy in Tel Aviv in telegram 199930, May 23. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Middle East Crisis Files, E. 5190, Box 6, Arab-Israeli Crisis, Chron, Tel Aviv)
Dear Mr. Ambassador:
This will acknowledge your letter to me, delivered on May 20./2/ I think it useful to review our conversation of May 18 in light of our several discussions over the last few days and President Johnson's messages to Prime Minister Eshkol of May 18, 1967,/3/ and May 21, 1967,/4/ well as the United States Memorandum of February 11, 1957./5/
/2/Harman's undated letter to Rostow stated that in their May 18 conversation (see Document 15), Rostow had informed Harman that the U.S. Government was fully aware of the "nature of the agreements between our two Governments in 1957 relating to Sharm-el-Sheikh and the straits", was still "motivated by these commitments", and regarded the straits as an international waterway. He stated that Foreign Minister Eban and Prime Minister Eshkol welcomed Rostow's "assurances" regarding the "reaffirmation of the agreement between our two countries", and that he was therefore instructed to inform Rostow that Israel would not move against the Egyptian forces in Sharm-el-Sheikh unless and until the Egyptians took action to close the straits. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-2 ARAB-ISR)
/3/For text of Johnson's message of May 17, delivered on May 18, see Document 8.
/4/For text of Johnson's message of May 21, see Document 30.
/5/See Document 32 and footnote 6 thereto.
In our view, as I said to you in our talks on the subject, the problem of the Gulf of Aqaba, like other aspects of the situation, is governed by the policy set forth in the President's letters to Prime Minister Eshkol.
The United States' position is that the present grave problem should be handled in a peaceful manner, preferably through the United Nations. We understand and appreciate the calm and deliberate way in which your government is reacting to this latest crisis.
We share your concern about reports that United Arab Republic troops have taken up positions at Sharm-el-Sheikh. You will recall that I pointed out that the presence of United Arab Republic troops on United Arab Republic territory is not in itself illegal.
The United States' position on the international status of the Gulf of Aqaba and the Strait of Tiran is set forth in this government's memorandum of February 11, 1957, made public on February 17, and quoted in Ambassador Lodge's statement in the General Assembly on March 1. 1957. I am enclosing a copy of this memorandum for your convenience./6/
/6/The attachment is headed "Memorandum of February 11, 1957." The text consists of the portion of the published version of the aide-mémoire quoted in Document 32.
Should there be any attempt to interfere with free and innocent passage through the Strait or in the Gulf, the United States Government would wish to consult immediately with the Government of Israel, and with the other governments which took the same view in 1957, about steps to keep the Gulf open. We would expect the Government of Israel to work together with those governments to bring this matter to the immediate attention of the United Nations Security Council.
My Government is proceeding in this matter, as the President made clear in his letter to Prime Minister Eshkol of May 18, on the basis that Israel will take no unilateral military action at any time. Military operations at this time, in our view, may well lead to general hostilities in the area. We are convinced that the issue of the Strait of Tiran must be handled as an international matter./7/
/7/The last three sentences in the May 20 version of Rostow's letter read as follows: "My Government will expect Israel to take no unilateral military action to open the Straits until all peaceful means have been fully utilized. It further believes that since military activities at this particular point would be very likely to open up general hostilities in the area, the issue of the Strait of Tiran should be handled as an international matter. In this effort, Israel will have the full support of the United States."
Eugene V. Rostow/8/
/8/Printed from a copy that indicates Rostow signed the original.
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