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Lyndon Johnson Administration: Telegram Concerning Israeli Raids On Jordan

(November 22, 1966)

This telegram summarizes Dean Rusk's meeting with Jordan's ambassador Harman following Israeli raids on Jordan. Rusk emphasizes Israel's need for restraint despite terror attacks, and Jordan's need to help curb terrorism in its own country.

For the Ambassador only. Secretary saw Ambassador Harman morning 21st/2/ to convey through him President's concern over Israeli raid into Jordan and its impact on King Hussein's position in Jordan. Secretary said we aware dilemma faced by Israel in coping with terror incidents but that the raid was disproportionate to problem. It was launched without consultation with us although just two weeks earlier we had stood firmly with Israel in the Security Council on this very problem. Israel's action has put Jordan Government under heavy pressure and both our interests and Israel's have been adversely affected. Secretary made clear that a recurrence of action across armistice lines could bring re-examination of our decision to sell certain military equipment to Israel./3/

/2/A memorandum of the conversation is filed with a memorandum of November 21 from Read to Rusk telling him that the President had sent word through Rostow that he would prefer Rusk to call in Harman and deliver the warning against further Israeli reprisals. It also states, "Apparently the President looks with favor on the idea of a border sealing and hopes we can encourage the Israelis and the Arabs to promote this action." (Ibid., POL ISR-US)

/3/In telegram 88827 to Tel Aviv and Amman, November 21, Rusk informed Barbour and Burns that Komer had made this point to Harman and warned them that no indication of this should be given to the Jordanians. (Ibid., POL 27 ARAB-ISR)

Secretary said he welcomed statement by Prime Minister Eshkol as carried Monday's newspapers that Israel would seek to strengthen border security measures to prevent infiltration. Israel faces basically police problem, and police measures rather than disproportionate military attacks were the answer.

Harman said President's thoughts would be conveyed immediately to Jerusalem. He had however just received message from Prime Minister/4/ concerning USG distress over November 13 incident which he then read. Message opened with statement relief at news President's swift and resilient recovery and expression appreciation for meaning President's leadership for cause world peace and advancement human welfare. Noted Prime Minister's distress at course which events have taken since disturbances of November 12 and 13 and stated USG views being studied with utmost respect. Following lengthy recapitulation events in Israel and Security Council which led to Israel's decision to take action in response to November 12 incident, Prime Minister stated he felt refusal to act would not only demoralize his people but also open way for new attacks by terrorist groups. What was planned as limited local action turned out differently owing to arrival of Arab Legion infantry who unexpectedly engaged Israeli unit at close range. Repeated details attack as given by General Rabin to Barbour (Tel Aviv's 1742)./5/ In regard to future Prime Minister wished President to know he has ordered study be made and action be taken in regard methods of improving Israel's static defense. Prime Minister stated central point is that Israel's basic policy has not changed. It stands by armistice agreement, supports status quo, and sovereignty and integrity of existing states. Prime Minister invited understanding of President for dilemma in which Israel found itself. Message closes with strong appeal for US support to prevent SC resolution which utterly ignores Israel's losses, anxieties and difficulties.

/4/The message, stated in the third person, dated November 21, is filed with a covering memorandum of November 22 from Rostow to the President, which notes that Evron called on Rostow that day, underlined the shock felt in Israel at the consequences of the raid, and reaffirmed that the Israeli Government was "beginning to think seriously about more effective passive defense." (Johnson Library, National Security File, Special Head of State Correspondence File, Israel)

/5/Dated November 21. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 32-1 ISR-JORDAN)

Following Harman's presentation Secretary stated he still could not understand how Israel so misread situation as not to realize even limited action would seriously endanger Jordan Government and moderate policies it pursued. That Israel's action got out of control and escalated brought to his mind three incidents where escalation had or could have occurred. First occurred last year when infiltrators crossed from Pakistan-held territory into Indian-held Kashmir to harass area. Action taken by GOP without consultation with us brought move into Pakistan-held territory by Indian forces, again without consultation with us. Rate of escalation such we had no means to use our influence with either party. When cease-fire agreement finally came we were "fifteen minutes" from Congressional resolution which would have barred all further aid to India and Pakistan.

In matters involving U.S. we have practiced restraint in order to avoid escalation to extent possible. Despite heavy infiltration of North Viet Nam forces into south we waited five years before ordering bombing of supply points and routes in north. In effect, there was a five-year pause during which we sought other solutions. At present, almost every week, there are armed forays from Cambodia against us in Viet Nam. We know Prince Sihanouk does not condone actions and that he lacks military force to prevent them. Yet, because of position in which he would be put, we do not strike at our enemy in Cambodian territory.

Secretary noted that recently when six U.S. soldiers killed south of demilitarized zone in Korea we did not launch retaliatory action against north. Restraint is essential to avoid escalation and to build up prospects of peace. And yet, restraint and moderation are the most difficult of postures for any government to assume.

Ambassador Harman said Israel faces most difficult problem. Terror incidents occur on doorstep rather than miles away as in Kashmir. Its 800-mile frontier across extremely difficult terrain is guarded by only small conscript army. Government had increased length military service to make more men available for security patrols. Frontier villages employing night guards at their own expense. All this created "siege atmosphere" and made for most difficult way of life for Israeli citizens. Arab actions seem indication of policy of total aggression.

Secretary did not agree this the case and again noted measures taken by Jordan to control terror groups. He said "what you have done in the name of your security seems in fact to have undermined Israel's security."


Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 32-1 ISR-JORDAN. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Davies on November 21 and approved and initialed by Rusk. Repeated to Amman and USUN.

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