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Lyndon Johnson Administration: U.S. Condemns Israeli Attack on Jordan

(November 13, 1966)

This memorandum summarizes the State Department's position regarding an Israeli attack on Jordanian terrorist targets. The U.S. condemned this Israeli attack on terror targets and felt that it would harm King Hussein of Jordan and hinder his actions in Palestinian areas of Jordan. The U.S. refused to deliver a letter of explanation to Jordan as it did not want to be seen as justifying Israel's actions. The U.S. urged Jordan to exercise restraint in the interests of peace.

Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Israel/1/

Washington, November 13, 1966, 3:25 p.m.

83785. Ref: Tel Aviv's 1652./2/

1. You should inform Bitan and higher levels as appropriate that USG deplores Israeli attack on Jordan this morning./3/ As we have said frequently, we cannot agree to or condone such retaliatory action. Moreover, timing of action particularly embarrassing to King, who this morning is host to President Ayub. This retaliation coming a few days after the U.S. made a major effort over weeks of deliberation in the Security Council puts us in a particularly difficult position. Action can only make objective which we, Israelis and Jordanians alike seek of putting end to border raids more difficult to achieve. It will (a) place heavy domestic and external political strain on King Hussein's regime; (b) raise pressures for more militant posture toward Israel; (c) make much more difficult or impossible GOJ's carrying out anti-terrorist campaign in Palestinian areas of Jordan.

2. We deplore terror attacks inside Israel and recognize domestic pressures for action created but we do not agree that incidents in which three Israeli soldiers killed left GOI with no recourse except retaliatory military action across ADL.

3. We are not willing deliver Israel's message to King Hussein. We have served as intermediary between Israel and Jordan in the interests of peace--not in the interests of facilitating or explaining Israel's policy of retaliation. Given extraordinary efforts GOJ root out terrorist nets of which we have kept Israel informed, our relaying message now could connote to Jordanians some justification in our minds for Israeli action. That action has seriously undermined credibility our efforts exert restraining influence, particularly in Jordan. We suggest Israelis pass sanitized explanation for raid to Jordan through General Bull or UNSYG.

4. You should note our feeling that moral and diplomatic support Israel garnered by recent Security Council debate has now been seriously affected. Those Afro-Asians and others who viewed Israel's restraint favorably and recognized terrorism resulted primarily from Syria's irresponsibility will undoubtedly take less sympathetic view Israeli case. Syria, for its part, can take comfort from Israeli strike against Jordan citing it as vindication SARG claim of non-responsibility for terrorist activities.

5. Ambassador Goldberg has passed essence of above to Comay.

For Amman

FYI. Having in mind GOJ's previous assertions of pressures on it to retaliate against Israel, believe you should continue efforts forestall thinking along those lines. End FYI. You may inform GOJ that we deplore Israeli action and will make this clear both publicly and to Israelis, but urge continued Jordan reliance on UNTSO and UN machinery in the area. Despite this backward step, we believe continued efforts eliminate use of Jordan territory for hostile acts against Israel essential for area stability and Jordan's security.


/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 32-1 ISR-JORDAN. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Drafted by Sisco, Davies, Atherton, Sterner, and Symmes; cleared by Hare and Sisco, and in substance by Goldberg; and approved by Davies. Wriggins at the White House was informed. Also sent to Amman and repeated to Beirut, Cairo, Jerusalem, London, and CINCSTRIKE.

/2/Barbour reported in telegram 1652 from Tel Aviv, November 13, that Foreign Ministry Assistant Director General Bitan gave him a message that the Israeli Government wanted to have passed to Jordanian authorities. (Ibid.)

/3/An Israeli force including tanks and jet aircraft conducted a large-scale raid on villages in the Hebron area early on November 13.


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