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Lyndon Johnson Administration: Memorandum Recommends Reprimanding Israel For Counterattacks On Jordan

(November 16, 1966)

This memorandum criticizes Israel for its attacks on Jordan in 1966 and discusses steps that the United States should take in reprimanding Israel for its actions.


Next Steps on Jordan-Israel

Amman's 1109 and 1120/2/ attached underscore the magnitude of the damage Israel has done in attacking Jordan.

/2/Telegrams 1109 and 1120 from Amman, November 15 and 16, are attached but not printed. Copies are in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 32-1 ISR-JORDAN.

The King in a private session [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] made it clear that he considers the unwritten agreement with Israel which had neutralized the Jordan-Israel border has "now been permanently shattered." He feels the only way he can discharge his obligation to his people is to beef up his military establishment with new equipment--hopefully from the US but from "the devil himself" if need be. He admits this buildup will cost Jordan much in both material and human resources.

The Embassy fears that the monarchy itself is in jeopardy. While the King says he will not counter-attack unless Israel attacks again, the pressure among his populace and junior officers to strike back is mounting. The Syrian radio is urging his junior officers to push him aside.

Embassy Amman feels we must (a) support a strong condemnation of Israel in the UN without coupling Israel's strike with earlier sabotage incidents and (b) announce suspension of our military aid and sales to Israel.

State is pressing the following actions in the next few days:

--NEA and IO have recommended a resolution that condemns Israel without mentioning the sabotage incidents. Goldberg's speech today did condemn Israel but Goldberg so far has not bought the IO-NEA recommendation on the resolution.

--If we confirm Jordanian charges that US Patton tanks were used in the Israeli attack, we will almost certainly have to suspend further shipments to Israel. Most of the tanks have gone, but we still have 80-85% of the refitting kits. Also, the Israelis have urgently requested some ammunition and we can be clumsy about meeting their demands on that.

--Letters from the President to both Hussein and Eshkol. The question is whether to wait till we have a clearer long-term position or to get something out quickly and follow up later.

--State is developing a series of graded actions for suspending military aid: delay one ammunition order this month; slow down the whole pipeline; temporarily suspend all aid and credits; and cancel.

These moves are all good tactical ones in the heat of this post-strike week. However, we ought to begin facing now the basic question of what kind of relationship between Israel and Jordan we can rebuild. We'll either have to give in to Hussein's expensive new arms requests or try to rebuild what the King today feels is "permanently shattered."

Our vote is to tackle the Israelis along these lines: They've wiped the slate clean by this attack and laid low the impressive tacit arrangement we've built over the years to neutralize the Israeli-Jordan border. They've probably wiped out the King's commitment not to station his army on the west bank. They've destroyed the running dialogue we had on controlling the cross-border terrorism. The King will shortly ask us for substantial quantities of military equipment and if we don't provide it, says he will go anywhere he can get it. So the Israelis have left us with a tremendous bill on our hands. We'd be entirely justified in suspending all aid to Israel simply to offset that bill. However, we'd like to try rebuilding what we can of the old tacit arrangement with Jordan. To do that, we need to know what we can count on from Israel. For instance, can we tell King Hussein we have a commitment from Israel not to strike again? Will Israel help build up the UN border-control system? If the Israelis are interested in this kind of arrangement, we will do what we can with the King.

State is not thinking clearly in these terms yet because it's still struggling with the details of our immediate reaction. Therefore, we should begin talking in these slightly longer range terms. One way to do this would be to ask for draft Presidential letters to both parties within a week designed to lay the groundwork for this kind of rebuilding.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Name File, Wriggins Memos. Secret.

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