198. Memorandum From Larry Levinson and Ben Wattenberg of the White House Staff to President Johnson1

We talked to David Brody of the Anti-Defamation League of the B’nai B’rith, and he reported this reaction from the Jewish community in America:

Monday there was sharp disillusion and dismay at the McCloskey statement concerning “neutrality in word, thought, and deed.” The row-back by Secretary Rusk did not fully catch up with the original statement—[Page 355]certainly not among the Jewish rank-and-file (who hissed at a Union meeting in New York Monday when the “neutrality” statement was announced). The Jewish leadership understands that the statement was not your policy, but they feel that it did indicate to them a real feeling in the State Department—that Israel was just another country on the map and that there was little concern for the humanity of the situation there.

On the other hand, they are pleased so far with the American position in the U.N. regarding the cease-fire, and the fact that no withdrawal was stipulated, and, of course, they are highly pleased with the military turn of events.

The major concern today among Jewish leaders now is this: that Israel, apparently having won the war, may be forced to lose the peace—again (as in 1956). They were concerned that the U.N. would attempt to sell Israel down the river—and that only the U.S. could prevent that. Today, that is what American Jews are looking to the President for: assurances of a real, guaranteed, meaningful peace in the Middle East, and that Israel not be forced to a roll-back as they were by the Dulles-Eisenhower position in 1956.

(Brody feels that Israel will not withdraw from some parts of the newly occupied territory no matter who demands what.)

There will be a mass meeting of American Jews tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. in Lafayette Park. Brody thought it would clear the air and help your position with the Jewish community if you sent a message to the gathering. Brody believes that if you do send a message it ought to stress the “peace, justice and equity” theme of your Tuesday statement, ought not to mention “territorial integrity,” ought to dramatize your personal understanding and depth of feeling for the humanity involved and your desire to see a lasting and permanent peace in the Middle East.

Events are moving very rapidly—but as of this hour, from a domestic political point of view, it seems to us that this would be a highly desirable action. It would neutralize the “neutrality” statement and could lead to a great domestic political bonus—and not only from Jews. Generally speaking, it would seem that the Mid-East crisis can turn around a lot of anti-Viet Nam anti-Johnson feeling, particularly if you use it as an opportunity to your advantage.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Appointment File, June 1967, Middle East Crisis. Confidential. A handwritten “L” on the memorandum indicates the President saw it. The President called Levinson at 8:40 p.m. and said he had received the memorandum and was disappointed in some of his Israeli friends and their reactions to what was being done during the crisis. (Johnson Library, President’s Daily Diary)