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Lyndon Johnson Administration: Telegram Discussing Syria Actions Troubling Israel

(May 12, 1967)

This telegram discusses Israeli Ambassador Harman's concern for Syria's action against Israel at the Israeli-Syrian border.

193481. 1. Israeli Ambassador Harman called on Asst Secretary Battle evening eleventh with instructions from Fonmin Eban to register serious GOI concern over terrorism northern Israel. In summary, Eban's view is that Syrians creating dangerous situation, without any restraint. In reviewing recent series incidents, Harman emphasized that Syrians are making increased use Lebanese territory to hit at Israel, are penetrating region hitherto quite free from terrorism (the area immediately north of Lake Tiberias), and are suddenly putting mines on major metalled roads. Fact there have been no casualties fortunate but does not diminish Syrian guilt and obvious terrorist intention include women and children among victims.

2. Harman said though he had not seen text May 11 statement by U Thant on situation,/2/ he understood it contained very helpful language. In particular, it contained one "very accurate" point that recent incidents showed greater expertise than before. GOI convinced, said Harman, that signs pointed definitely to involvement Syrian Army.

/2/The text of the statement made by Secretary-General U Thant during a May 11 press conference is in telegram 5263 from USUN, May 12. (Ibid.)

3. Harman said he did not want speculate on what GOI response might be if terrorism continues. He hoped that situation would not arise. Said GOI hoped Syria under no illusions that tactic of terrorism bestows on it some immunity from Israeli response any more than in cases like April 7 when other tactics such as interference with cultivation and shelling of villages from fixed positions are introduced.

4. Battle said he deeply regretted situation of terrorism, which we agree is alarming, and appreciated problems it poses for GOI. He could only commend calmness and restraint./3/ He agreed SYG's statement might be helpful. Said Dept thinks Lebanese Govt. doing its best to stop terrorism, but one should remember Lebanese internal problems recently fanned by tumult surrounding proposed Sixth Fleet visit, and in any event would be most difficult attain 100 percent success. He was glad to note from Harman's presentation GOI recognized dangers if situation got out of hand. Also to be kept in mind is that Syria having problems internally with regime's critics in disorganized and tumultuous way trying to show disapproval.

/3/Telegram 190856 to Tel Aviv, May 9, expressed concern at the flurry of terrorist incidents in the previous 10 days and instructed the Embassy to counsel restraint. (Ibid., POL 32-1 ISR-LEB) Telegram 191818 to Tel Aviv, May 10, summarized a conversation that day between Davies and Evron in which Davies reiterated this and urged that alternatives to military reprisal be sought. (Ibid.)

5. Harman said that while no question Syria is main culprit, Lebanese nonetheless had permitted their soil be used for terrorism seven occasions in short period time. Said GOL is responsible under GAA for taking forthright action against terrorism.

6. Harman agreed with Battle's statement that increased GOI success recent months in intercepting infiltrators is encouraging note.


Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL ARAB-ISR. Confidential. Drafted by Wolle; cleared by Paolozzi, Davies, and in substance by Robert H. Flenner in EUR/SOV; and approved by Battle. Repeated to Amman, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, London, USUN, CINCSTRIKE, Jerusalem, and Moscow.

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