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Lyndon Johnson Administration: Israel, U.S. Discuss Terrorism and Stability in Jordan

(December 14, 1966)

This telegram recounts the meeting between Acting Secretary of State with Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Abba Eban, and the United States' concerns with Israel's raid. The meeting demonstrates Israel's acknowledgement of the importance of having a peaceful, and secure Jordan.

102760. Israeli Foreign Minister Eban accompanied by Ambassador Harman and Minister Evron called on Acting Secretary December 12.

Eban opened by noting substantive change in Israel's security situation over past two or three years. Israel's deterrent capacity had achieved a viable balance in that no neighboring state wished military confrontation. Israel's enemies were now employing new method of expressing active hostility: guerrilla warfare, classic strategy of the weaker side. Arab press reflected tremendous interest in guerilla warfare as practiced in Algeria, Viet-Nam, etc. Arabs now viewing this as answer to direct confrontation. This technique plus the ideology of adding the "sixth entity," the Palestine nation, to the five opposing Arab states created a major problem. This entity serves as the "liberating force." Its activities create a serious situation and the prospect looks ominous. Perhaps no more than twenty people were involved in disrupting train service between the capital city and the coast, sabotage in the capital city, and causing safe travel on certain frontier roads to be problematic. The action on November 13 was designed to meet these problems. US and Israeli views diverge on wisdom of this decision and US conclusion is that this answer is not valid. Israel is not committed to this course as the answer but seeks to gain understanding seriousness of the problem and of fact that Israel is looking for an answer. The government had decided to look at static defense measure including reinforcing frontier guards, increasing patrolling, adopting and investigating all kinds of electronic and other electrical devices, increasing the number of vehicles available for patrols, fencing and illuminating certain frontier settlements, and asphalting certain border patrol routes to prevent mining. These measures were burdensome economically and any US experience in these fields would be useful./2/

/2/Telegram 96200 to Tel Aviv, December 3, records a December 1 conversation between Davies and Bitan, in which Davies stated that U.S. officials were studying technical devices to assist in detecting cross-border infiltration, which might be of use to the Israelis, UNTSO, or Jordanian security forces. Bitan expressed enthusiasm and urged U.S. flexibility to provide such materials. Telegram 96200 also instructed the Embassy to confirm to the Foreign Ministry that U.S. study of this was continuing. (Ibid., POL 32-1 ARAB-ISR)

The Acting Secretary welcomed this approach and said we would seek to be helpful. We would be in touch with the Embassy very shortly on the matter. He asked whether the UN peacekeeping effort couldn't be strengthened by adding more personnel and providing more mobility. Mr. Eban replied that UNTSO would be more effective if the organization were less interested in investigating incidents and more in preventing them. Since the SYG has raised the question of strengthening UNTSO, he felt Israel would join the dialogue. He noted that Israel did cooperate with UNMOS, while Syrians locked them in their observation posts and do not permit them to move more than fifty yards therefrom without escort.

Mr. Eban expressed concern at the exaggerated interpretation on the other side of the meaning of the events of November 13. Israel believes that maintenance of the territorial status quo and existing regime in Jordan is of great importance for Israel's security. Hussein however feels Israel aspires to topple his regime and grab the West Bank. The King was way off the track on this.

The Acting Secretary said he was prepared to accept these assurances but no matter what Israel's motivation, its actions made things extremely difficult and precarious for Hussein. Israel can't now say it didn't mean to precipitate the situation. It exists, and Israel must live with the consequences. The tragic aspect is that Israel damaged the King's position at a time when all the trends in Jordan were favorable. However what was done is past and we must look to the future and a future with King Hussein in place is desirable for both Israeli and US interests. Picking up the pieces will take patience and some actions which we will undertake Israel will not like.

Mr. Eban touched on the adverse impact on Israel's psychological atmosphere of the "insensitive and intemperate" Security Council resolution censuring Israel. He appealed for understanding and asked that in arriving at our decisions we weigh this factor. Twice in the recent past Israel had been asked to give assent or not to object to things we had found it necessary to do for Jordan. Israel had expended its efforts to be helpful.

The Acting Secretary remarked that Jordan had also made efforts that might have been more effective than Israel had been willing to give credit for. This is part and parcel of King Hussein's feeling that Israel's motivation must have ends other than mere retaliation. Nevertheless despite the divergence in our views on this action there are many areas of agreement between Israel and the US and nothing is being undone. Our objective is to seek to stabilize the border and help Jordan prevent incidents fomented by others. To do this, we must have someone to work with; therefore, we seek to shore up King Hussein's regime and to restore the status quo ante or even improve on this. The magnitude of King Hussein's request for assistance is such that we are not able to meet it in entirety. What we have under consideration will not alter the military situation or threaten Israel in any way. We plan to do the minimum necessary to bolster the King's position with his armed forces.

Mr. Eban said that in shoring up the regime Israel and the US shared an interest. However, Israel hoped that what we did would not adversely affect Israel's economic, political or military position. Of particular concern was the type of hardware that might appear on Israel's frontier. It had been a tradition with the two governments to discuss problems such as these and to reach a consensus. This had created an atmosphere of confidence. If Israel's reaction to what the US planned to do is a factor in the situation, Mr. Eban hoped the GOI could be taken into our confidence as we reached decisions.

Mr. Eban touched on the situation in Egypt noting an apparent contradiction in its policies. On the one hand Egypt seemed to be exercising prudence in not seeking a confrontation with Israel and, he believed, Nasser was exercising restraining influence on Syria. At the same time, however, propaganda from Cairo within the past two days had taken on a new stridency in attacking King Hussein. Mr. Eban suggested that if there is a dialogue between the USG and the UARG, the US seek to moderate Cairo's output. Radio Cairo and the Voice of the Arabs he thought were of extreme psychological importance in the present situation.


Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 32-1 ISR-JORDAN. Secret; Limdis. Drafted by Davies on December 13, cleared by Handley, and approved by Katzenbach. Repeated to Amman, Cairo, USUN, and CINCSTRIKE.

Sources: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968, V. 18, Arab-Israeli Dispute 1964-1967. DC: GPO, 2000.