163. Memorandum Prepared by the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (Battle)1


At the meeting with the President this morning, he expressed the desire for the following steps to be taken:

He wishes to have an assessment of various Embassies in key countries with respect to the current positions of governments to which they are accredited concerning the current Middle East crisis. He would like to know the best estimate of the likely position these countries will take on, among other things, the Maritime Declaration if we decide to move forward with it.
He would like to be sure that USIA is given guidance on the proper handling of its output and that we be looking carefully at the matter of what we say to the press at this point. He does not believe there should be anything more than his statement on the record but endorsed the idea of Secretary Rusk having a backgrounder the latter part of this afternoon. He wanted to be sure that news programs in the States were monitored carefully and that we tried to correct misstatements contained within them. He mentioned particularly the tendency to link Vietnam to the Middle East crisis implying in various ways that we had to choose between these two problems and would have to limit our activity in one place or the other to meet the needs of both.
He wishes to see us endorse what I am told is a call by the Pope to make Jerusalem an open city.
The President wants to be sure we have looked into the oil problems related to the Middle East. It was agreed that we need a “Mr. Oil” in the U.S. Government. The fact that Mr. Walter Levy has been available to us is known and appreciated, but the consensus of the meeting appeared to be that “Mr. Oil” should come from within and should be available full time and indefinitely.
We must look into the question of what we do if the Israelis ask us for spare parts or resupply of arms during coming days.2

I suggest that S/S assign action responsibility for the various items listed above. Perhaps the Secretary would like to see a copy of this list of action items, and he should be reminded that he has agreed to have some kind of backgrounder this afternoon.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the possibility of a further meeting tonight was mentioned although neither time nor the list of those to attend was decided upon.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Office of the Executive Secretariat, Middle East Crisis Files, 1967, Entry 5190, Box 16, State Memos. Secret. Rusk’s initials appear on the memorandum indicating that he read it. Marginal notations indicate the persons to whom action on the various items was assigned. The meeting was held in the Cabinet Room from 11:36 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. Those present were the President, Acheson, Battle, Rusk, Thompson, Bundy, Clifford, McNamara, Walt Rostow, and George Christian. (Johnson Library, President’s Daily Diary) No other record of the meeting has been found. Bundy recalled later that the meeting was “mainly concerned with the awful shape we would be in if the Israelis were losing. We didn’t really know anything about the situation on the ground. When, in the course of that day, it became apparent that the Israeli Air Force had won, the entire atmosphere of the problem changed. It was in a way reassuring when it became clear that the fighting was the Israelis’ idea and that the idea was working. That was a lot better than if it had been the other way around.” (Memorandum of conversation, November 7, 1968; cited in Document 155.) See also Document 149.
  2. A June 5 memorandum from Walt Rostow to the President states that the point he had wished to make that morning was: “if we are pressed by Israel for spare parts, etc., we should go hard to the Russians on their equivalent supply to the Arabs.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, NSC Histories, Middle East Crisis, Vol. III)