158. Telegram From the Embassy in Israel to the Department of State1
3935. 1. Following message from Prime Minister to the President has just been handed to me for delivery:
“Dear Mr. President: After weeks in which our peril has grown day by day, we are now engaged in repelling the aggression which Nasser has been building up against us. Israel’s existence and integrity have been endangered. The provocative troop concentrations in Sinai, now amounting to five infantry and two armored divisions: the placing of more that 900 tanks against our southern frontier; the massing of 400 tanks opposite Elath with the object of sundering the southern Negev from Israel; the illegal blockade in the Straits of Tiran; the insolent defiance of the international and maritime community; the policy of strangling encirclement of which the first stage was the intimidation of Jordan and the most recent—the placing there of Iraqi troops and Egyptian commando regiments, the imminent introduction of MIG 21 aircraft under Iraqi command in Mafraq; Nasser’s announcement of ‘total war against Israel’ and of his basic aim to annihilate Israel; the order of the day by the Egyptian Commander General Murtagi calling on his troops in Sinai to wage a war of destruction against Israel; the acts of sabotage and terrorism from Syria and Gaza; the recent air encroachments culminating in this morning’s engagements and the bombardment by Egypt of Kisufim, Nahal Oz and Tsur Maon in Israel territory—all of this amounts to an extraordinary catalogue of aggression, abhorred and condemned by world opinion and in your great country and amongst all peace loving nations.
As you know, Mr. President, nothing effective had been done or attempted by the UN against a ruthless design to destroy the state of Israel which embodies the memories, sacrifices and hopes of an ancient [Page 303] people, which in this generation lost 6 million of its people brutally murdered in a tragedy without parallel in history. Mr. President, I am grateful for the friendship expressed in your letters; for your appreciation of our steadfastness and calm; for your policy of protecting the territorial integrity of Israel and other nations; for your undertaking to provide effective American support to preserve the peace and freedom of Israel and the Middle East; and for your undertaking to pursue vigorous measures to keep the Straits of Tiran and the Gulf of Aqaba open as an international waterway to ships of all nations.
These are impressive commitments. Your letter mentions the obstacles which have so far made action difficult. We rely on the courage and determination of our soldiers and citizens. Indeed maximum self-reliance is the central aim of our national revival. My information is that our defense is reaping success. But our trials are not over and we are confident that our small nation can count on the fealty and resolution of its greatest friend.
We seek nothing but peaceful life within our territory, and the exercise of our legitimate maritime rights.
I hope that everything will be done by the United States to prevent the Soviet Union from exploiting and enlarging the conflict. The hour of danger can also be an hour of opportunity. It is possible to create conditions favorable to the promotion of peace and the strengthening of forces of freedom in the area.
At this critical moment I should welcome the closest consultation between our governments at all levels.
Israel appeals, Mr. President, to your friendship, your fidelity and your leadership.”
- Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL27 ARAB–ISR. Secret; Flash; Nodis. Received at 8:44 a.m. Walt Rostow sent a copy to the President at 10:40 a.m. with a brief memorandum stating that Eshkol “builds his case mainly on the general environment, but refers to bombardment of three Israel towns as the trigger.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, NSC Histories, Middle East Crisis, Vol. III) At 11:10 a.m. Rostow sent Johnson telegram 3937 from Tel Aviv, June 5, that reported a meeting among General Amit, Barbour, and Special Counsel to the President Harry C. McPherson, Jr. Rostow’s brief covering memorandum commented that Amit’s argument was consistent with Eshkol’s: that there had been artillery fire on three Israeli villages and UAR air incursions, and then the Israelis had “punched all the buttons.” Rostow added, “At least that’s his story.” (Ibid.) For McPherson’s report of his visit to Israel, see Document 263.↩