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Lyndon Johnson Administration: Telegram Responding to U.S. Concerns About Raids in Jordan

(November 22, 1966)

This telegram relates the reactions of Prime Minister Eshkol and diplomat Abba Eban in response to the raids on Jordan. Here, the Prime Minister states that Israel was not trying to overthrow King Hussein's regime, and is dedicated to creating a secure border.

1780. Ref: State 88408; Tel Aviv 1741./2/

/2/Telegram 88408 to Tel Aviv, November 21, instructed the Embassy to continue to emphasize U.S. concern with the situation in Jordan and to outline developments at the United Nations so that the Israeli Government would understand the strength of the opinion against it in the Security Council. (Ibid., POL 32-1 ISR-JORDAN/UN) Telegram 1741 from Tel Aviv, November 21, reported a conversation with Foreign Office Director General Levavi, in which Barbour deplored the consequences of Israeli raid, stressing its impact on King Hussein. (Ibid.)

1. In mtg this afternoon, after discussing situation in SC reported septel, I told FonMin Eban that I assumed there no necessity for me to emphasize further the seriousness of the situation resulting from the Israeli Nov 13 raid, particularly insofar as its consequences in Jordan. I said that in worst event Hussein's regime will be displaced and at best damage of inestimable magnitude has been done to Hussein's attitude toward Israel and his estimate of Israeli intentions. This situation abundantly clear and I would spare him repetition.

2. Eban acknowledged full comprehension on part GOI now and its apprehensions. He said this understandably was reason he sought mtg. Having consulted at length with PM Eshkol, he wished to give some of GOI's thinking as to future. He expressed confidence in and gratitude for basic foundation of US-GOI relations. He cited help of U.S. in security field and its assistance in UN refugee and Syrian debates as components in making this a "good year" for Israel and a high point in US-Israeli relations. He went on that essential now is to get over current divergence. Basic factor which had been introduced into Arab-Israeli confrontation in recent times was concept of "popular war." This had given scope to non-governmental terrorist organizations hitherto under wraps. Attacks on Israel's capital (Romema dynamiting) and on railway between capital and main city added new dimension to security problem. GOI had reacted against harborers of agents involved. He admitted effect on Jordanian regime not as anticipated and dangerous situation had resulted.

3. PM has now approved as basic GOI policy the reestablishment of stability in Jordan. GOI will welcome any ideas as to measures which will promote this purpose. Meanwhile, PM has ordered "maximum restraint." This means no reaction to further popularly inspired incidents. Of course, in event of major military attack, GOI will defend itself. (Here Eban cited report earlier today of intention of commander of Jordanian brigade to take matters into own hands. I replied we had report apparently on same item but markedly different in most important element namely that commander in question was going to petition the King for authority. This seemed to reassure him.)

4. In implementation this policy GOI will endeavor first to minimize contact. Scopus convoy scheduled for tomorrow will not go. Trains on Jerusalem-Tel Aviv route will not run at night. Fences will be constructed in Jerusalem area at two points along railway. I asked about cultivation on Syrian border in DZ. He said GOI attempting through Bull to get informal three power--Israel, Syria and UN--negotiations going to settle fields on basis of status quo.

5. Of more continuing impact, PM has instructed that major effort be made to improve static defense in hope that even if it impossible to seal borders entirely at least infiltration can be made "less easy." Guards will be increased and technical devices sought. Any U.S. ideas will be welcome.

6. Eban wondered whether U.S. had any influence with Egyptians which might be utilized to assist King. Israeli impression is that subversion being fomented in Nablus is PLO inspired and although Shuquairy not Nasser agent his organization is in Egypt. I noted our stock with Nasser not high but it possible he also might not be anxious overthrow Hussein this time and might exercise moderating influence on his own.

7. Finally, Eban said King could be assured in firmest terms that Israeli policy as to Jordan and its disinterest in acquiring West Bank has not changed. Raid was not prelude or rehearsal for invasion. It merely got out of hand.

8. Conversation confirms that PM and other members GOI deeply shaken by developments. Also shocked by revelation of degree of precariousness of Hussein regime which, although they admit we told them repeatedly, they had been unable to comprehend. They probably have further taught themselves importance to Israel of Hashemite dynasty, idea which they adopted intellectually but less than wholeheartedly. Lesson may be worthwhile.


Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 32-1 ISR-JORDAN. Secret; Priority. Repeated to USUN, Amman, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, London, Paris, and Jerusalem and passed to the White House, DOD, CIA, USIA, and NSA.

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