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

212139. Subject: Rostow-Harman Memcom June 12.

Amb Harman opened the conversation by reviewing Israeli intelligence estimates on Arab rearming. He passed on the following list: June 6—Algeria loaded a ship bound for Cairo with tanks. June 8—A ship loaded with 70 tanks, 37 artillery pieces and other military equipment was supposed to leave the Soviet Union for the UAR. June 9—GOI believed that UAR had only 50 planes left. However, on that day, 27 MIG-17’s and 2 or 3 MIG-21s arrived in UAR from Algeria. June 10—Iraq promised to send a battalion of Centurion tanks to Jordan and the Saudi and UAR Governments discussed arrangements to allow for the transit of MIG-17’s from Yemen to the Arab-Israeli front. June 10–3 Iraqi infantry brigades and 1 armored brigade moved into Jordan. 15 Soviet An-12’s arrived in Cairo and since the 10th approximately 35 An-12’s had landed at Cairo. The Israelis believe that these transport planes could be carrying MIG-21’s. June 11—The 120th UAR brigade left Yemen for the UAR and a tank unit was in the process of leaving. Also on the 11th the UAR was in the process of signing a new military supply contract with the Soviet Union and the Iraqis were also asking for new military equipment from the Soviets.
Mr. Rostow noted that the Algerian Government was taking a hard line in the present situation and that this could involve serious problems for Morocco, Libya and Tunisia.
Mr. Rostow remarked that pressure was mounting for a unilateral Israeli withdrawal and that there was some indication that the Arab world might be considering using oil as a weapon to force Israeli withdrawal. There was a possibility that there would be serious trouble in the UN if the Soviets deleted the word “aggression” in their proposed Security Council resolution.
Rostow stressed that in the days that lie ahead GOI posture on territorial acquisitions would be of crucial importance. USG takes at face value GOI statements that it has no territorial ambitions and that it is prepared to withdraw to its frontiers if a condition of peace could be arranged. Such a position would not of course exclude appropriate security arrangements, and the problem of Jerusalem required separate study as a matter of international concern. Amb Harman said that USG could take Eban’s speech in the Security Council2 as being GOI’s position at that time. Since then, however, other events had taken place. The Jordanian situation was a nasty one and it raised a question of basic security for the GOI. Rostow said USG does not want any misunderstandings between it and the GOI on the question of occupied territory. USG was doing its level best with the Saudis, Kuwaitis and Iranians to introduce some stability into the Middle East situation. However, inflamed Arab passions threatened the stability of moderate Arab regimes.
Harman then turned to the Liberty incident and passed Under Secretary Rostow the Israeli reply to our note on the subject.3 Harman stressed the fact that GOI reaction to the incident was one of shock. He was, however, greatly agitated by press reports on the incident, particularly the Periscope item in this week’s Newsweek which referred to “high officials” as source for an indication that the attack was deliberate. Harman stressed the fact that GOI was making a prompt investigation of the incident. He asked Mr. Rostow if there was any truth in the Newsweek allegation that some US officials are not convinced that this incident had been nothing more than a tragic accident. Under Secretary Rostow replied that he had never heard any US official make such a statement. He did regard the episode as “literally incomprehensible.” So far as he knew, the Newsweek article was not correct. He promised Harman that he would look into the possibility of appropriate press guidance on the subject.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 ARAB–ISR. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Grey and approved by Eugene Rostow. Repeated to Moscow, Paris, USUN, and London.
  2. The text of Eban’s June 6 speech before the Security Council is printed in Israel’s Foreign Relations: Selected Documents, 1947–1974, Vol. II, pp. 784–792.
  3. Document 267.