U.S. Secretary of State Concerned War Might Break Out In Middle East

(January 16, 1967)


The Chairman. Just one other subject before you go on. I wonder about Israel. There seems to be, from this morning's press, a very dangerous situation there. Could you say a word about it?

Secretary Rusk. The issue at the present time centers along the Israeli-Syrian border. There are three elements in the problem in terms of repose in the area. One is the activities of a Fatah organization of terrorists, who we think are not directly and actively supported by any of the governments concerned. Particularly not by Jordan, who has been trying to operate against them but who use Syrian and Jordanian territory for acts of sabotage and terror over the Israeli border. On that particular point, Jordan and Israel have greatly increased their police action on their respective sides of the border to try to deal with that activity as a police matter. There is a more complicated matter between Israel and Syria. At the time of the armistice, Syrian forces were occupying a strip within the historical boundaries of the mandate. Under the armistice, Syrian forces withdrew from that strip under demilitarized regulations. Israel claims since this was territory within the mandate and is Israeli territory, and they claim to exercise sovereignty over the subject as to demilitarized regulations.  

The Syrians claim this has never been legally established, and so you have both Israeli and Syrian farmers in this strip. Arms are fired into the area from the Syrian side typically, with response from the Israeli side. Israelis patrol on occasion in this area with their own armored vehicles, so you have a continuation of this particular kind of struggle.

DO NOT EXPECT A MAJOR WAR

I don't myself, think, sir, that this is likely to lead to a major war.

The Chairman. You do not?  

Secretary Rusk. Athough--because I don't think, for example, the Syrians are particularly interested in it. We know the Israelis are not interested in a major war in this situation, but it is a very troublesome problem as to how you handle these repeated acts of terror back and forth across the border, particularly in that area.

General Bull, the head of the U.N. force out there, is trying to make some arrangement--the Arabs would say, ``Let the U.N. forces take charge in this demilitarized area and provide the police forces,'' while the Israeli and Syrian farmers go ahead with their agricultural work. As a matter of fact, farmers on both sides apparently get along pretty well until somebody from outside the demilitarized zone starts shooting in from outside the area.

But that is about the situation, Mr. Chairman. It is tense, but we don't----  

The Chairman. You don't expect a major war?  

Secretary Rusk. We don't expect a major war.  


Source: Zionism and Israel Center