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Lyndon Johnson Administration: Telegram Discussing Arab-Israel Border Situation

(October 11, 1966)

This telegram discusses the U.S. perception of a terror attack from Fatah that occured from Jordan. Israel believes that Jordan is trying to punish Fatah but there is Israeli pressure to attack Jordan if attacks eminate from there. The U.S. does not want to go to Jordan every time there is an incident from Jordanian territory. Syria launched terror attacks on IDF soldiers patrolling the Israel/Syria border. Israel wants Jordan to take action against attacks from Jordanian territory. Israel expressed concern at Syrian attacks. The U.S. encouraged Israel to go to the Security Council after attacks but Israel said that it was concerned with the possibility of USSR veto.

Circular Telegram From the Department of State to Certain Posts/1/

Washington, October 11, 1966, 7:19 p.m.

63961. Arab-Israel Border Situation.

1. Israeli Ambassador Harman called on Hare today to discuss current security situation. Assistant Secretary Sisco also present.

2. Harman reviewed two incidents that happened over weekend, noting Syrians had quickly published Fatah communique on Jerusalem incident October 7. This was third incident in past three weeks from Jordan territory, two previous having taken place in south. Seriousness of Jerusalem incident lay in fact much more damage and loss of life might have occurred, it had taken place well inside Israeli territory, and perpetrators could only have come from Jordan.

3. GOI appraisal is SARG deliberately seeking involve GOJ. GOI also believes GOJ does not want to become involved in Fatah incidents, and taking measures to prevent them. Nevertheless, there strong domestic pressures on GOI to act if incidents from Jordanian territory not stopped. GOI therefore hopes GOJ can act to clean out their territory.

4. Harman recalled GOI had been told USG not prepared to go to GOJ every time there was incident apparently involving Jordanian territory. Series of three incidents, however, now justified Israeli request for USG to bring Israeli views to attention GOJ, particularly serious view GOI takes of Jerusalem incident. GOI wished GOJ to understand it under considerable pressure to take action and so far had resisted this pressure.

5. Other aspect of current situation involves Syria. Incident at Shaar Hagolan last Saturday is worst since 1965 in terms of fatalities and skill and sophistication with which it mounted. Four persons had been killed. GOI impressed by both planning and performance this incident in which border patrol had been lured into mine field by timed explosions. Saturday incident was part of a chain that had occurred from Syrian territory. GOI had reported other incidents in early September to Security Council. Incidents coming from Syria are being planned at higher military level and are based on doctrine of "popular liberation war."

6. Although SARG probably aware from SC discussions last July and August/2/ of public relations disadvantages publicly supporting Fatah incidents, Syrian Chief of Staff recently said SARG cannot stop Fatah. SARG had also broadcast communique on Saturday incident.

7. Harman concluded by stating what Israel wants is to have Fatah incidents stopped. If chain continues, GOI will have no alternatives. Yesterday in New York Eban called on Secretary General and also circulated letter to President of Security Council stressing need to stop incidents./3/ Israel recognizes that asking USG to speak to Syria is fairly useless. Israeli PermRep in New York is trying to see Fedorenko to present Israeli views to Soviets. Prime Minister Eshkol was calling in Ambassadors of four big powers in Tel Aviv (including USSR) today. These diplomatic approaches have aim of impressing Syrians with importance of stopping incidents.

8. Hare responded by assuring Harman USG deplores loss of life in Saturday incident and concerned about very real problems he had described. USG not disposed in any way to varnish over these incidents. Secondly, it seemed to us that attitude adopted by GOI was reasonable and instrumentalities it now using were correct.

9. At this point Harman broke in to explain both Jerusalem and Hagolan incidents had been subject complaints in UNTSO machinery, former in HKJIMAC and latter in ISMAC. Israel differentiating between two only to extent that one involved Jordan territory and other Syrian territory. GOJ had shown it could prevent Fatah incidents from its territory. GOI now wanted GOJ to take extraordinary steps to prevent any further use of Jordanian territory. GOJ should see it is prudent to take extraordinary measures to track down and stop terrorists.

10. Hare stated USG prepared to go to GOJ to make clear very serious nature of present situation.

11. In further discussion Harman emphasized that Israel raising Fatah matter as whole in present diplomatic approaches. Even Saturday incident has implications for Jordan since it occurred near Jordanian border and might have been additional attempt involve GOJ. Tracks, however, led to Syrian territory. Point is that SARG has adopted raiding doctrine that other Arabs give up in nineteen-fifties and trying to involve other Arabs. SARG must be made to see that this doctrine will not work and that other Arabs do not accept it. While other Arabs had not abandoned belligerence toward Israel, they at least were not following border-crossing and sabotage doctrine advocated by Syrians. Harman said Embassy had just received message reporting Israelis had found mine today at Maryan Baruch, near Tell Dan. If this mine had exploded, something serious might have happened.

12. In reply Sisco query, Harman stated SYG had seen Syrian Rep Tomeh yesterday but he had no report on results. In further comment Harman said absence of further incidents would be best way to judge whether Syrians getting message. On other hand, if incidents continued serious Israeli policy decision would be involved.

13. In discussion whether more formal approach to Security Council desirable, Harman said automatic Soviet veto discouraged Israel from such step. Hare and Sisco emphasized SC nevertheless could contribute toward improvement situation. Sisco granted Soviet veto always possibility, but present incident is clear cut, serious and part of pattern. SC members have been educated as result SC discussions last summer. GOI through present diplomatic moves has made its views clear and has helped create favorable circumstances for SC hearing based on clear evidence. Even if veto occurred there would be interesting test of Soviet attitudes and policies. Soviets also have interest in not allowing present situation mushroom. Thus, recourse to Security Council might be good and constructive political move and should not be precluded.

14. Harman deplored delays in UNTSO investigations incidents and tendency UNTSO to try to balance out evidence without fixing blame and responsibility. This characteristic would carry over into any Security Council hearing. What Israel wants is fixing of responsibility and cessation of incidents.

15. Sisco recalled that even in July SC hearing, when Israel was accused, Israel had not done badly. Moreover, USG statement/4/ had gone beyond UNTSO report to draw explicit conclusions re responsibility for Fatah incidents and obligations on parties to observe GAAs. In present case, Israel has not retaliated militarily, is exercising restraint, and pursuing political and diplomatic remedies; and particularly, if any thought being given presently to retaliation for recent incidents, due weight should be given to political advantages accruing to Israel in recourse to formal proceedings of SC. Harman said he would report these observations to Eban.

16. Hare added that Israeli tactics in present situation had been pragmatic and wise. Israel was well aware our views on avoidance force. Soviets undoubtedly wish avoid anything more serious. UAR and GOJ also probably wish avoid military involvement. There high degree of abnormality in Syrian domestic politics that might have unforeseen results.

17. Harman said that SARG aware of advantages they enjoyed because of nature of terrain which would force Israel mount major military action. An irresponsible and irrational element in Syria wants war with Israel and is seeking to drag in other Arabs by forcing such major incident. In further comment, Hare again pointed out present measures being taken were designed to get message across to Syrians. Sisco suggested that even if formal SC action vetoed or without conclusive result, support thereby garnered by GOI would be politically important.

18. Harman said he would convey foregoing to his government and once again requested GOJ be informed about Israeli attitudes, which Hare affirmed would be done.

19. For Amman: Request Charge inform GOJ at appropriate level that, in context our continuing assessment of Syrian situation, we want inform GOJ of serious situation we see developing as result recent Fatah incidents. Failure all Arab governments to curb Fatah operations will, in our considered opinion, almost certainly lead to major Israeli retaliation that could embroil area as whole militarily. We are urging Israelis avoid retaliation and avail selves of UN machinery, but there is limit to our influence in this regard if Fatah incidents continue. We recognize GOJ has been making serious effort control Fatah. Nevertheless, several recent incidents appear to have been launched from Jordanian territory. In discussing with us GOI has taken line SARG deliberately seeking involve GOJ by staging Fatah incidents from Jordanian territory and that, although GOI believes GOJ sincerely attempting prevent such use its territory, it is under growing domestic pressure to take action. We therefore urge GOJ redouble efforts prevent further Fatah operations from or through Jordan./5/


/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 32-1 ISR-JORDAN. Secret; Priority All Addressees. Drafted by Atherton and Symmes; cleared by Campbell, Vladimir Toumanoff of the Soviet desk, and Sisco; and approved by Hare. Sent to Tel Aviv, USUN, Amman, and Cairo and repeated to London, Paris, Moscow, Baghdad, Jidda, Kuwait, Damascus, and Beirut.

/2/See footnote 5, Document 309.

/3/UN document S/7536.

/4/The texts of statements made on July 29 and August 3 by Acting U.S. Representative Sisco during the Security Council debate are printed in Department of State Bulletin, August 29, 1966, pp. 313-317.

/5/Telegram 823 from Amman, October 12, reported that Adams conveyed the substance of paragraph 19 to King Hussein that day. The King replied, indicating that his comments could be transmitted to the Israelis, that the Jordanian Government was exerting maximum efforts to wipe out Fatah cells and apprehend infiltrators. As a result it had arrested half a dozen Fatah saboteurs in the last few days and expected to arrest more soon. Noting that the Israeli side of the border south of Jerusalem was more populated than the Jordanian side, he urged that the Israelis redouble their efforts to patrol the common border, and he warned that if Israel attacked Jordan, the Jordanian Government would have no alternative but to attack. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 32-1 ISR-JORDAN).



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