215. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Israel1

209253. 1. Secretary called in Israeli Ambassador Harman noon June 8. Said he had just spoken with President2 and was instructed express in very strong terms USG dismay at today’s attack on US naval vessel by Israeli naval unit. Said 4 are dead, 53 are injured at latest report. Ship badly listing. Requested Harman convey at once to Prime Minister our real dismay at this very serious matter. Said we consider it amazing that GOI motor torpedo commander could be unable to identify a U.S. naval vessel. We want GOI to issue very explicit instructions in this regard to Israeli naval commanders for we cannot accept attacks on our vessels on high seas.3

2. Secretary said we appreciate speed with which GOI informed us this action had been done by one of its craft. This speed of notification in itself may have avoided very serious consequences in many respects.

3. Harman promised inform his government immediately. Noted he had no information yet from GOI on this occurrence but had learned of it within the hour during call on Assistant Secretary Battle to whom he had expressed his great sorrow.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 ARAB–ISR. Secret; Flash. Drafted by Wolle; cleared by Rusk’s Special Assistant Harry W. Schlaudeman, and approved by Battle. Repeated Flash to CINCSTRIKE, Amman, Beirut, Cairo, USUN, Moscow, USCINCEUR, and CINCUSNAVEUR.
  2. The President met from 11:06 to 11:45 a.m. with Rusk, McNamara, Clifford, Katzenbach, Thompson, Bundy, and Rostow in the Situation Room. (Johnson Library, President’s Daily Diary)
  3. In a telephone conversation with Goldberg, Rusk told him that the next time he saw Eban, he should “hit him hard on this attack; if Israeli torpedo boats are attacking international shipping in international waters that is very dangerous business; if they were to hit a Soviet vessel that is extremely explosive.” (Notes of telephone conversation prepared by Carolyn J. Proctor, June 8, 12:51 p.m.; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Rusk Files: Lot 72 D 192, Telephone Calls)