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Lyndon Johnson Administration: Telegram on Warning Jordan on Fatah Attacks

(October 8, 1965)

Palestinians were launching increasing numbers of terrorist attacks against Israel from bases in Jordan and the Israelis began to complain to the United States and warn of the necessity to respond. The United States passed on the message to Jordan and warned that King Hussein's regime was also being undermined by the failure to control the terrorists. Hussein's failure to act would ultimately lead to a war between Jordan and the PLO in 1970.

Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Jordan1

Washington, October 8, 1965, 5:35 p.m.

151. Fatah raids from Jordan were major topic discussion in Ambassador Harman's courtesy call on Assistant Secretary Hare October 7. Harman said Fatah raids are a pressing security matter in Israel where the situation is becoming increasingly difficult. Originally Israel had concentrated on the longer range danger posed by UAC but this attitude has changed since Fatah operations have acquired character of grave regularity, central planning and expertise reminiscent of 1955-56. Fatah striking deep into Israeli territory. People are unable sleep nights. Armed forces are being diverted from essential training to night patrol duties and wartime atmosphere created in border villages. GOI appreciates what US doing in Amman but worried and would not like to draw practical deductions from its analysis of situation. It is afraid King will not be able seize hold of situation. He should know Fatah his enemy as well as Israel's. Important for him to take real action.

Ambassador Hare responded we appreciate Israel's concern over this type penetration. We have been in frequent touch with Jordanians, most recently with King on October 4 and 5 and Prime Minister on October 7. We convinced any doubts King may have had about seriousness matter are dispelled. He came out October 4 publicly about Fatah. Press conference by Prime Minister is to follow. Military are alerted. Jordanians have arrested individuals although guiding apparatus still intact. King has stated he is at wit's end to know what more he can do. If Israel thinking in terms of retaliatory raid Israel should remember King is not responsible but is trying to contain situation. Retaliatory raid would hit Jordan not real offender and would favor those Arab elements who want to accelerate long term animosity toward Israel. Raid would be grist for Shuqairy's mill. US understands Israel's concern and is doing its best. Jordan is also trying. Restraint on Israel's part necessary. Foregoing is distillation of our most careful thought and collective thinking.

Ambassador Harman responded Israel has shown extraordinary patience due to desire give Hussein time. But now appears Israeli restraint and a less than active King have contributed to Fatah's feeding on its own success. The King gives no sign of making all-out security push and Jordanians in lower echelons including IJMAC uncooperative. While Israel appreciates US efforts with Jordan GOI is in vulnerable position on this issue particularly in view of elections. Israel cannot take too much more risk. King should not miscalculate Israel can indefinitely ignore situation.

Ambassador Hare said we prepared if Israel authorized convey to GOJ seriousness with which Israel regards situation. We would urge Israel take no action that does not fit with progress we have made. Ambassador Harman replied he assumed we thought US actions of October 4, 5 and 7 should be allowed time to have effect. Ambassador Hare agreed. Ambassador Harman said he thought would be helpful if US would reinforce its concern to Amman.

Symmes (NE) noted that 1) we have information, already imparted to Israel Embassy, that word is getting down to lower Jordanian levels, 2) it is in Israeli and US interest King and other decision makers stay in power, and 3) these decision makers have been back in Jordan only one week and therefore need time to intensify control.

In separate conversation Department passed Israel Embassy (Yinon) substance King's and PriMin's comments on Fatah reported Amman's 198 and 201 2(omitting King's speculation GOI might be behind Fatah, also numbered paras 1 and 5 of Amman's 201). Stated we appreciative intelligence given us by GOI in past on Fatah activities outside Jordan and would welcome receipt additional such info in future. Pointed out that greater our total store of knowledge, better able we were to pass GOJ key intelligence of possible value its anti-Fatah efforts. Re GOI accusation lower levels GOJ not cooperating King's directives, suggested Israelis produce in IJMAC any evidence supporting this charge keeping us informed also. Yinon doubted utility MAC channel, claiming GOJ lacked confidence SJD Daoud, but opined might be feasible pass such evidence through UNTSO Chief of Staff for direct transmission King or PriMin.


1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 32-1 ISR-JORDAN. Confidential. Drafted by Wolle and Nyerges, cleared by Symmes, and approved by Raymond A. Hare. Also sent to Tel Aviv and repeated to Jerusalem and USUN and pouched to London.

2. Telegram 198 from Amman, October 6, reported a conversation with King Hussein the day before on the subject of Fatah. Telegram 201 from Amman, October 7, reported a conversation that day with the Prime Minister on the same subject. (Both ibid.)

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