867N.01/3–1149: Telegram

The Special Representative of the United States in Israel ( McDonald ) to the Secretary of State


us urgent

205. ReDeptel 145, March 9, further to our 202, March 11.1 At 4 p. m. Foreign Minister requested my [me] call. Knox also present. Foreign Minister categorically denied any invasion Transjordan territory or any such intention and gravely stated Israel’s resentment US seeming assumption Israel’s guilt and consequent warning prior inquiry of Israel regarding its intentions or actions.

Foreign Minister explained as follows:

At 10 p. m. last night (March 10) Israeli flag raised over Umm Reshresh police station on shore Gulf of Aqaba just west Transjordan frontier (145885) “thus completing and making effective Israel’s possession of Negev”.
For some days Israel forces moving south in Negev with difficulty owing necessity find new transit avoiding any encroachment on Transjordan frontier; had to avoid eastern road in parts because it crosses Transjordan frontier and had to find new approach to Umm Reshresh in order avoid using road that crosses Egyptian frontier. Movement successful and at no point did Israeli forces cross either Transjordan or Egyptian frontiers.
As Israeli units approached Naqb el Aqaba (137890) (not Rasen Naqb which is on Egyptian side 136891) approximately 7 miles NW junction Gulf AqabA–Transjordan frontier (145885) and also Umm Reshresh they saw from distance unit of Transjordan Arab Legion entrenched there. Israeli forces stopped because under strict orders avoid clash.
Immediately Transjordan opened “diplomatic warfare” through three channels:
  • a. Message conveyed to Foreign Minister from Abdullah that latter shocked hear Israel advancing on Aqaba and that this did not accord with spirit Rhodes and that Israel forces were clashing with Transjordan. King alleged incidents at Naqb el Aqaba, Wadi [Page 822] Araba, and Aqaba area. To this Foreign Minister replied that if source King’s anxiety was that Israel had intentions Port Aqaba or had crossed Transjordan frontier Foreign Minister could assure him neither was case, if Abdullah was in position equally assure Transjordan troops would not cross Israel frontier all would be well and that Foreign Minister assumed Abdullah aware fact Negev between Egypt and Transjordan was assigned to Israel by UN and that Israel determined exercise sovereignty over it. As regards incidents: Incident at Naqb el Aqaba was well within Israel territory: Incident Wadi Araba was when Transjordan police patrol from Ein Gharandal (170944) fired on Israel troops well within Israel Negev and then withdrew, no incident in Aqaba area.
  • b. Second channel was Transjordan complaint to Bunche accusing Israel of crossing a Transjordan drawn “line” in Negev. This complaint admitted very helpful existence Transjordan invasion troops in area, Shiloah replied to Bunche as indicated in Deptel under reference and requested Bunche tell Transjordan evacuate area before larger issues are raised.
  • c. Third channel through HMG representative Tel Aviv who left note Foreign Office callings attention Government to HMG’s ally’s charges that Israel had crossed frontiers and was attacking Ein Gharandal. Note outlined line of action British troops in Aqaba would take certain instances as follows:
    If Israeli forces crossed Transjordan frontiers and fired they would be fired upon.
    If Israeli forces fire from Israel side fire would be returned.
    If Israeli cross frontier without firing they will be warned and then fired upon.
    If Israeli aircraft flew over British positions they would be fired upon whether they fired or not.

Foreign Minister stated that during the night of March 9–10 the Transjordan forces at Naqb el Aqaba and at Umm Reshresh evacuated and Israel forces occupied positions without firing.

Foreign Minister then read cable received from Eilat2 giving details of conversations in Department (reDeptel under reference) in which Eilat stated that attitude was tense and accusatory at first but more conciliatory at end. Foreign Minister said he would be less than frank if he did not state that this attitude of US based entirely on complaints from one side and without prior inquiry of Israeli Government has caused deep official resentment. (He was also probably thinking of inquiry made under instructions Deptel 140, March 8.) He stated that the Israeli move to Aqaba Gulf was undertaken with extraordinary care and great difficulty to avoid infringement Transjordan Egyptian frontiers and to avoid clashes. Conscious [Page 823] that Israel aggression would involve clash British, he stated “if there is no respect for our integrity there should be some respect for our intelligence”. He added that if this ex parte attitude on part of US were publicly known it would produce most unfortunate reaction.

Foreign Minister concluded by stating that Government had asked Bunche send observers immediately Negev check Israeli position, transit area, and alleged clashes. Also had instructed Shiloah at Rhodes March 11 sign cease-fire agreement with Transjordan in area of which most northern point is village of Budrus (149153) further line to north excluded because lack confirmation that Transjordan has power act for Iraq.

Comment: View tenseness situation and public feeling, earnestly hope that Department will not prejudge Israel’s intentions or actions on basis of complaints received from Arab capitals, Information gathered independently by MA’s tends confirm Foreign Minister’s statement that Israel has tried avoid clashes and has scrupulously refrained from infringing on Transjordan territory. End comment.

Pass to Army, Air, Navy.

Sent Department, passed London 16, Amman 4, Jerusalem 19.

  1. Not printed; it gave Mr. McDonald’s comment that the “Mission considers highly disturbing Transjordan assertion that it has established a military ‘line’ across Israeli territory in Negev and now accuses Israel of crossing that line.

    “Feeling among Israelis here is that Transjordan and British are determined precipitate clashes on Israel territory in effort force establishment armistice lines after which Transjordan will consider itself in permanent occupation of area.” (867N.01/3–1149)

  2. Alternate spelling of Elath; see footnote 4, p. 811.