19. Information Memorandum From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs (Popper) to Secretary of State Rusk1


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At John Walsh’s suggestion, I am summarizing what we know about the Arab-Israeli crisis as of mid-afternoon today.

The Secretary General today released his report to the UN General Assembly on the withdrawal of UNEF.2 The report indicates that from the first U Thant took the line that if the UAR wanted UNEF to leave, he had no alternative but to order it to leave-which he did. He makes it clear that he did so with great misgivings as to the consequences in the area. He also indicates quite clearly that the UAR has provoked the present crisis.
The report describes the way in which the UAR penetrated the UNEF area of observation, moved past the observation posts toward the frontier, and issued ultimata to the UNEF troops to withdraw, even going to the length of firing two artillery ranging shots. This is counter-balanced by a comment on the Israeli “buzzing” of General Rikhye’s aircraft.
The Canadians were instructed to call a Security Council meeting today, but have delayed in response to the Secretary General’s plea to give him at least 24 hours more.
Exdis-The Secretary General’s plea for delay is based on his assumption that he will be able to announce tomorrow his trip to the Middle East. This information is very closely held.3 End Exdis.
Ambassador Goldberg saw Fedorenko this noon.4 Fedorenko said the Russians wanted no trouble, appeared to recognize that the Soviets had some responsibilities here, but refused to meet in a 4-Power group, preferring to talk to us alone.
Ambassador Goldberg also saw El Kony (UAR) and Tomeh (Syria).5 He told both that allegations of a “U.S. conspiracy” were ridiculous and asked El Kony to have the UAR use its influence to restrain the Syrians.
The Israelis have conveyed an urgent message from their Foreign Minister to the Secretary General protesting the “breathless speed” of his withdrawal of UNEF and claiming that the UN should have had the right and duty to ponder the matter.6 Orally, the Israelis said that:
Any interference with free passage through the waters off Sharm al-Shaikh would have “grievous and grave consequences”;
Any aggressive move by UAR forces, directly or through encouragement of infiltration, would have grave consequences;
Any resumption of the Syrian campaign against Israel would have grave consequences no matter which border it crossed (no doubt a reference to Syrian terrorists coming from Jordan or Lebanon).
A mechanically transmitted copy of the Secretary General’s report is attached, with apologies for the poor legibility.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL ARAB–ISR. Confidential. Drafted by Popper.
  2. A copy is attached to the memorandum. The text is printed in Public Papers of the Secretaries-General of the United Nations, Vol. VII, U Thant, 1965–1967, pp. 433–438.
  3. Goldberg reported in telegram 5375 from USUN, May 19, that UN Under-Secretary for Special Political Affairs Ralph J. Bunche had told him Secretary-General Thant would be leaving for Cairo on May 22 to try to establish a basis for a continuing UN presence in the area. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69 POL ARAB–ISR)
  4. Goldberg’s conversation with Fedorenko was reported in telegram 5370 from USUN, May 19. (Ibid.)
  5. Goldberg’s conversation with El Kony was reported in telegram 5364 from USUN, May 19. (Ibid.)
  6. Telegram 5374 from USUN, May 19, transmitted the text of the message that Israeli representative Gideon Rafael had given to Richard F. Pederson of the U.S. delegation. (Ibid.)