168. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom 1

208406. Ref: State 202732.2 For the Charge—You should transmit following message dated June 5, from the President to the Prime Minister:

Dear Harold:

I appreciate your comments3 on the unfortunate developments in the Near East. We had feared that someone might feel compelled to strike. We had no advance indication that a decision had been taken.4 We believed, in fact, we had at least a clean week for diplomacy.

[Page 318]

Arthur Goldberg has had a difficult time in the Security Council. Like you, we had hoped for a quick cease-fire resolution. But we have had to deal with a determined effort to have the Council call for a withdrawal of forces in terms which would legitimize Nasser’s action at the Strait of Tiran a subject on which we have both taken unequivocal positions.

We have done everything we could to get an even-handed Security Council pronouncement. We shall work with your people in New York to encourage helpful UN action. If the Soviets, and the French, are more forthcoming than they have been, both of us will want to build on that development to work toward a satisfactory settlement.

Meanwhile, I hope we can keep in closest touch as the military situation develops and put the best minds available to both of us to work on the contingencies that may arise and the constructive possibilities that may unfold.

I think you know the deep satisfaction I derived from our discussions.

Sincerely,

Lyndon B. Johnson

Rusk
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 ARAB–ISR. Secret; Immediate. The telegram indicates the text was received from the White House. It was approved for transmission by Walsh; the message conveyed in the telegram was apparently drafted by Walt Rostow.
  2. The reference is in error; telegram 202732 to London, May 26, transmitted the text of Prime Minister Wilson’s May 25 message to the President ( Document 62).
  3. A message from Prime Minister Wilson to President Johnson, delivered to Rostow during the 11:30 Cabinet Room meeting, noted that in their last talk on June 2, “you expressed your sombre belief that war between Israel and the Arabs could not be avoided, despite the efforts we had been making and discussing together earlier that day.” Wilson urged, “What we need is a clear demand from the Council for a cease-fire: after which a fresh attempt to thrash out a longer term settlement might be made.” Wilson thought that since it was unlikely that the Security Council would be able to agree, members would need to plan for other possible contingencies, underlining the importance of their meeting the previous week. He added, “I am indeed glad that you and I were able to go over the ground so exhaustively so that, in this situation of confusion and uncertainty, we at least are clear in our minds about each other’s attitude.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Head of State Correspondence File, UK, Vol. 6, PM Wilson Correspondence)
  4. In an earlier draft the two preceding sentences read: “We had feared that the Israelis might feel compelled to strike, but we had had no advance indication from them that they had actually taken a decision to do so in the face of what they judged to be further Arab provocations.” Walt Rostow sent the revised draft to the President for “one more look”, noting that he had changed the first paragraph “so that we did not put flatly into the record a judgment that Israel had kicked this off from a standing start.” Johnson approved the revised draft. (Johnson Library, National Security File, NSC Histories, Middle East Crisis, Vol. 3)