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Lyndon Johnson Administration: U.S. Reacts to Israeli Raid into Lebanon

(October 30, 1965)

This telegram from Secretary of State Rusk to the Embassy of Israel outlines the United States Government's reaction to an Israeli raid into Lebanon (in response to Lebanese attacks on Israel). In it, the US Government expresses its concern for such actions while providing policy alternatives. Also reiterated security precariousness in Israeli society.

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

Washington, October 30, 1965, 2:02 p.m.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 32-1 ISR-LEB. Secret. Drafted by Wolle, cleared by Symmes, and approved by Hare. Repeated to Beirut, Amman, Cairo, Damascus, USUN, Jerusalem, and London.

375. Tel Aviv's 450./2/

/2/Telegram 450 from Tel Aviv, October 29, reported that at the conclusion of a meeting that morning with Foreign Minister Meir, Barbour raised the subject of Israel's raid into Lebanon the night before, reminding Meir of the long-standing U.S. opposition to such unilateral action. (Ibid.)

1. Israel Ambassador Harman called at Department afternoon October 29 at request Assistant Secretary Hare to discuss GOI cross-border raid into Lebanon. Hare referred to Meir-Barbour conversation reftel and recalled GOI well aware from numerous past talks of strong USG opposition to raids across ADL. Said we see retaliatory raids as disturbing rather than positive factor. First, they disrupt armistice agreements. Hare noted that in MAC context there is difference between identifying transgression performed by Fatah or other thugs and official action for which one side takes full credit. Second, USG honestly and seriously believes such IDF actions contrary to Israel's long-term interests.

2. Re specifics October 28-29 raid, Hare made following points:

A. This amounts to triumph for Fatah. If irresponsibles by wrong doing can provoke acknowledged action by responsible government that is feather in their cap.

B. We understand there only three incursions from Lebanon in past five months. After first one GOI expressed itself as quite satisfied with GOL cooperation in MAC and actions outside it to check saboteurs. Therefore present raid does not have aura of understandable action.

C. Also Lebanon is, after all, somewhat different in position and attitude from other Israeli neighbors. Furthermore, present GOL having its internal troubles and this raid could make things difficult for it.

D. Primin Eshkol in election speech only matter of hours before raid had mentioned Fatah and Lebanon in sense of warning them. Juxtaposition speech and raid just does not look good.

E. Finally, and Hare termed this as marginal consideration but one we felt should be mentioned and in fact had been by Amb. Barbour to Mrs. Meir, there are other matters USG and GOI have talked about together. Things such as present raid can be bothersome to atmosphere such discussions and certainly don't improve it.

3. Hare emphasized he hoped Harman and GOI understand degree of USG concern this situation directly related to our concern for Israel's basic security and welfare. Was for this reason we felt it essential discuss situation with GOI without delay.

4. Responding, Harman outlined three elements in GOI view situation. First, GOI can acknowledge no difference at all between type incursions from Lebanon and Israeli action of October 28/29. Armistice agreement very explicit on this. It disapproves both irregular and official incursions. Arabs must understand border crossing is two way business. Said GOI hopes USG will not press this point with it. If it becomes point of public controversy Israeli border residents will endeavor take law into own hands, and this GOI will not allow. Second, Israel had noted October 27 incident took place despite GOL assurances after first two incursions that forceful measures being taken against violators and despite fact mukhtar of al-Huleh and other GOL officials could easily detect new Palestinian faces in village and draw conclusion they were up to no good (since Palestinians do not normally live and move close to border areas in Lebanon, unlike case in Jordan). Third and "most serious," there no connection with Israeli elections. GOI reaction would be identical November 3 or any other post-election date. Main point this episode was that October 27 incursion was attack against occupied village. Israel cannot and will not live this way, and GOI considers its elementary duty is to enable its people go to sleep at night. IDF cannot be spread thin and pinned down to patrol every few yards along border. Either Arab Governments must take responsibility controlling border violators or GOI must act as it does to provide security.

5. Harman said IDF personnel were given strict orders guard against human casualties and to his knowledge no life had been lost nor a single shot fired. He painted sober picture of mood pervading Israel's population. It had lived 17 long years under Arab threats and bombast of every type. Every family had some member in armed forces and constant cause worry about personal and national security. Emphasis on military content Israel's Independence Day parades was essential GOI tactic to assure populace its defenses at the ready. He knew of no country anywhere whose citizens would take relaxed philosophical view of bombs exploding under their homes. Concluded by hoping we would take all this into account, and stressed that when GOI views these matters from standpoint its own long-term security is convinced it must act as it does. Present government has been as cautious as any government could possibly be.

6. Hare assured Ambassador we minimized neither these factors nor wanton character of Fatah incursions, but reiterated our strongly held belief that retaliatory raids not the answer. Further, we were not pronouncing USG conclusion present raid connected with forthcoming elections though wanted mention that facts of situation might lead some to such interpretation.

7. Israel Minister Evron sounded final notes. Said Eshkol in other recent speeches had promised exploit to limit all diplomatic and other peaceful means achieve border security, using force only as last resort. His speeches should be taken together, not separately. Urged we consider, on other hand, King Hussein's October 28 speech, which GOI viewed as one of most belligerent it had ever read and was itself flagrant violation of armistice agreement.


Sources: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968, V. 20, Arab-Israeli Dispute 1967-1968. DC: GPO, 2001.