20. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson 1
- Our Commitments to Israel
Attached is a rundown of our major official statements.2 It does not, of course, include anything that might have been said privately by you to Eshkol or others.
In essence, our commitment is (a) to prevent Israel from being destroyed and (b) to stop aggression—either through the UN or on our own.
The immediate questions before us, which you will want to discuss this afternoon, are (a) whether we should reiterate this position publicly and (b) if so, what we are prepared to do to back up that statement.
We understand that U Thant is prepared to go to the Middle East to try to defuse this situation. On the negative side, he appears ready to withdraw the UN Emergency Force on the UAR-Israel border.
Our first effort must be to keep him out in front and stiffen his spine.
Next, we must learn from Secretary McNamara what we could do militarily if we had to move.
Only then should we decide whether to restate our commitment. Personally, I would prefer to keep a public statement until last but to consider first another private approach to the USSR and private assurances to Eshkol.
This is the broader framework for our discussion this afternoon.3 I will follow up later with any further material that appears useful.