134. Telegram From the Embassy in the United Arab Republic to the Department of State1
8397. 1. Following is text UAR Foreign Office “unofficial translation” of letter to President Johnson from President Gamal Abdul Nasser. With reference penultimate paragraph, was explicitly assured by Foreign Minister Riad that it was up to President Johnson to decide whether to send Vice President Humphrey here or invite Vice President Mohieddin to go to Washington, with no expression of UARG preference.2 While waiting for typing to be completed, enjoyed long pleasant conversation Foreign Minister Riad on non-political matters. Will pouch original letter in Arabic and Foreign Office translation. Text follows:
2. Cairo, June 2, 1967. Dear President,
3. I welcome your initiative in writing to me on the current situation in the Arab homeland. For however distant the point of agreement between us seems from the scope of our outlook at the present stage, I am convinced that any joint endeavor on our part to establish communication of thought, might at least contribute to dissipate part of the artificial clouds intended to depict the exercise of right as a sin and the right of defense as aggression.
4. It would be useful in the assessment of current events, to view them in their chronological and logical entity, to avoid misunderstanding and make a sound, reasonable, and fair evaluation of the facts we face.
5. Hence, I shall try to set forth a number of facts which I would term as preliminary:
6. First: It is essential that we go back to the few days which preceded the measures which the United Arab Republic took of late, and to [Page 255] recall the dangerously aggressive situation created by the Israeli authorities vis-à-vis the Syrian Arab Republic, the hostile threats proclaimed by a number of Israeli leaders, and the accompanying mass troop concentrations on the Syrian border in preparation for an imminent aggression on Syria. It was only natural then, that the United Arab Republic should assume her responsibilities and take all measures necessary for defense and to deter the planned aggression against our countries.
7. Second: Defense measures taken by the United Arab Republic made it imperative that our armed forces move to their advanced positions on the border to be able to cope with developments and through their very presence foil Israel’s premeditated invasion. Urged by our concern for the United Nations Emergency Forces, we found it imperative that they should withdraw: such has become our final position on the matter.
8. Third: Following the withdrawal of the UNEF, it was only logical that the United Arab Republic armed forces should occupy their positions, among which was the area of Sharm el Sheikh overlooking the Straits of Tiran. It was equally logical that we exercise our established sovereign rights on the Straits and on our territorial waters in the Gulf.
9. Here again, I wish to take you a few years back to the tripartite aggression on Egypt: We still recall with appreciation, the fair position adopted by your country with regard to that aggression.
10. Prior to the aggression, the United Arab Republic exercised its established legal rights with regard to Israeli shipping in the Straits and the Gulf. These rights are indisputable. Following the departure of the United Nations Emergency Forces and their replacement by our armed forces in the area, it was unthinkable that Israeli shipping or strategic materials destined for Israel be allowed passage. Our position thereon, in addition to Ily being legitimately established, it indeed aims at removing the last vestige of the tripartite aggression, in consonance with the moral principle which rules that no aggressor be rewarded for his aggression.
11. In all the measures we have adopted in defense of our land and our rights, we have underlined two points:
12. First: That we shall defend ourselves against any aggression, with all our means and potentialities
13. Second: That we shall continue to allow innocent passage of foreign shipping in our territorial waters.
14. These are facts relevant to the direct position proclaimed by the United Arab Republic, and which we feel afford no ground for some to create a climate of crisis or to launch that psychological campaign against us.[Page 256]
15. While this campaign takes on new dimensions and forms we notice complete and regrettable overlooking of a number of other facts which I wish to term as basic. These are the very facts which carry full weight on current events and will continue to have their bearing on the future until all appreciate fully and assess their dimensions and roots. Here I shall refer to two facts:
16. First: The rights of the Arab people of Palestine. In our view, this is the most important fact that should be recognized. An aggressive armed force was able to oust that people from their country and reduce them to refugees on the borders of their homeland.
17. Today the forces of aggression impede the Arab people’s established right of return and life in their homeland, despite the UN resolutions, the last of which was adopted last year.
18. The second fact is related to Israel’s position towards the Armistice Agreements: a position represented not merely by the constant violation of those agreements, but which has gone as far as to deny their presence and refuse to adhere to them. It has even gone as far as to occupy the demilitarized zones, oust the UN observers and insult the international organization and its flag.
19. Those are two basic facts which should be considered in the assessment of today’s events and developments.
20. In your message you referred to two points:
21. First: you urge that we put the past aside and endeavor to rescue the Middle East or rather the whole human community through the avoidance of hostilities. Here, allow me to refer to the policy of the United Arab Republic which does not restrict herself to placing world peace as an objective, but goes beyond that and assumes a positive role on which I do not wish to elaborate lest I should border on the area of self-glorification. As for endeavors to avoid military operations, I have but to emphasize what I have already declared that the measures we have adopted were imposed by the forces of aggression and their conceit as well as by their belief that they have reached the stage where they could impose their aggressive policy. Yet, our forces have not initiated any aggressive act, but no doubt, we shall resist with all our potentialities any aggression launched against us or against any Arab state.
22. Second: Your observation that the conflicts of our time cannot be solved by the crossings of frontiers with arms and men. Here, I share your view. Yet, we have to see how this principle is applied to every case. If you are referring to the crossing of the demarcation lines by some individuals of the Palestinian people I would urge the importance of considering this aspect in the general perspective of the question of Palestine. Here also, I may ask how far any government is able to control the feelings of more than one million Palestinians who, for twenty [Page 257] years, the international community—whose responsibility herein is inescapable—has failed to secure their return to their homeland. The UN General Assembly merely confirms that right at every session. The crossing of the demarcation lines by some Palestinian individual is, in point of fact, merely a manifestation of anger by which those people are naturally possessed as they meet with the full denial of their rights by the international community, and by the powers which side with Israel and assist it materially and morally.
23. Whatever our attempts to divide the aspects of the problem, it is imperative in the end that we return to its origin and fundamentals, namely the right of Palestinian people to return to their homeland, and the responsibility of the international community in securing them the exercise of this right.
24. My letter may seem rather long in a way: Yet, it was my wish to explain briefly some of the basic features of the situation we now face in the Arab region.
25. Finally, I wish to assure you that we would welcome listening to Mr. Hubert Humphrey, the United States Vice President, at anytime he may choose to visit the UAR. We shall provide him with a picture of the situation as we conceive it amidst the fundamental events faced by the Arab nation today. I am ready to send Vice President Zakareya Mohieddin, to Washington immediately to meet with you and expound our viewpoint.
26. Please accept my regards and considerations.
27. (Sgd) (Gamal Abdel Nasser) President of the United Arab Republic.
- Source: National Archives and Records Administration, Central Files 1967–69, POL ARAB–ISR. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Received at 6:20 p.m. A copy was sent to the President on June 3 with a note from Walt Rostow calling Nasser’s response “quite uncompromising,” noting that Nasser was willing to receive Vice President Humphrey or to send Vice President Mohieddin to Washington, and stating that he and Rusk agreed that “we should proceed to get Mohieddin here.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Middle East Crisis)↩
- Telegram 207861 to Cairo, June 3, states that the President would welcome a visit from Mohieddin and that in view of the urgency of the situation, “we hope it will be possible for him to come without delay.” It states that, if asked, Nolte could say that a corresponding visit to Cairo by a “very senior representative of the President” would be sympathetically considered if both Presidents decided such a step could be useful. It states that Harman had been informed about the possibility of the visit. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL ARAB–ISR)↩