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Lyndon Johnson Administration: Letter to Israeli PM Eshkol Encouraging Peacemaking

(April 6, 1968)

A number of terrorist incursions by Palestinians from Jordanian territory provoked Israeli reprisals. King Hussein would then complain to the United States and American officials would try to discourage Israel from using military force in response to terrorism. This letter from President Johnson to Prime Minister Eshkol is one example of this line of argument and the President's efforts to coax Israel to cooperate with the Jarring mission.

Dear Mr. Prime Minister:

I have considered your message of March 22 with two thoughts uppermost in my mind deep sympathy for the serious problems which continuing terrorist acts pose for your country; and deep anxiety about the prospects for peace in the Middle East.

2. I appreciate, of course, the dilemma which the recent growth of terrorism presents. I believe, however, that military action across ceasefire fines does not deter the type of terrorism you face, but leads to greater insecurity, above all at this critical moment.

3. We both recognize, I am sure, that true security for Israel lies only in peace.

4. I believe we are now at a crossroads in this respect in the Near East: the sole peace-making process now available is the jarring Mission. I am deeply concerned by the lack of tangible results from this mission and the cumulative deterioration of the situation resulting from a growing incidence of terrorism and counter military actions-especially at this delicate moment in the internal life of Jordan.

5. I feel, therefore, that there is an urgent need to reverse the present trend-a trend which carries the risk not only of greater and greater violence and insecurity, but indeed of another round of general hostilities, as well as irreparable damage to the Jarring Mission. We wish to see every possible step taken to minimize these risks.

6. There is very little time. There is still, however, an opportunity for an active strategy of peace.

7. I have just learned of Ambassador Goldberg's discussion with Ambassador Tekoah of April 5. I believe that we must seize the opportunity presented by King Hussein's visit to Nasser, and the King's apparent willingness to urge acceptance of the formulation which Ambassador Jarring gave the Israeli Government on March 10. I understand that Foreign Minister Eban told Ambassador Jarring at that time that your Government could accept this formulation. I urge you most strongly to make your acceptance clear to Ambassador Jarring. The King believes it would greatly enhance the possibility of his success with Nasser if you could also agree to a variation in wording1 which Ambassador Goldberg set forth to Ambassador Tekoah. I hope you will be able to consider such a variation in language, as necessary.

8. This may be the last chance for the Jarring Mission, and for peace.

Lyndon B. Johnson

1The language proposed by Jordan stipulated not only acceptance of Resolution 242 but also a readiness to implement it.

Sources: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968, V. 20, Arab-Israeli Dispute 1967-1968. DC: GPO, 2001.