267. Diplomatic Note From the Israeli Ambassador (Harman) to Secretary of State Rusk 1

The Ambassador of Israel presents his compliments to the Honorable the Secretary of State and has the honor to refer to the Secretary of State’s Note of June 10, 1967,2 concerning the attack by Israeli aircraft and torpedo boats on the United States naval vessel U.S.S. Liberty.

The Government of Israel feels that the statement that “there is every reason to believe that the U.S.S. Liberty was identified, or at least her nationality determined, by Israeli aircraft approximately one hour before the attack” is unfounded.

Nor can the Government of Israel accept the statement that “the attack must be condemned as an act of military recklessness reflecting wanton disregard for human life.”

The Government of Israel is of the view that the drawing of such conclusions before a full investigation has been made is unwarranted.

The Government of Israel has already announced the establishment by the Chief-of-Staff of the Israel Defense Forces of a Commission of Enquiry to make a full investigation of all the facts and circumstances. The Government of Israel will make available to the Government of the United States the findings of this investigation, and, for its part, would hope that the Government of the United States will make available to the Government of Israel the findings of its own investigation.

The Government of Israel recalls that as soon as this tragic error occurred it immediately informed the Government of the United States of what had taken place. The Government of Israel immediately assumed responsibility for this error and conveyed its apologies and deep regret for what had occurred and for the grievous loss of life.

Subsequently, as mentioned in the Secretary of State’s Note of June 10, 1967, the Government of Israel took the initiative to offer to make amends for the tragic loss of life and material damage. Further, all assistance was offered by the personnel of the Israel Defense Forces to [Page 441] the U.S.S. Liberty, but these personnel were informed by the U.S.S. Liberty that such help was not needed. The area around the U.S.S. Liberty was immediately searched by Israel Defense Forces personnel, by plane and boat, and subsequently search efforts were renewed.

The Government of Israel has standard instructions of the most stringent nature to all its military personnel that the personnel and property of the United States as of all countries not involved in hostilities, shall not be endangered. These instructions have been renewed.

The Government of Israel regrets that it was not given prior information by the Government of the United States of the presence of a United States vessel in an area which the United Arab Republic had warned neutral vessels to avoid, as it was an area of hostilities. The area was in fact being used by the United Arab Republic for purposes of hostilities against Israel. It would be appreciated if the Government of Israel could be given timely information of the approach by United States vessels to shores where the Israel Defense Forces are in authority.

The Government of Israel renews its offer to make amends and has instructed the Ambassador of Israel to reiterate its profound regret for the consequences of what was admittedly a tragic error.

The Ambassador of Israel avails himself of this opportunity to renew to the Honorable the Secretary of State the assurances of his highest regard.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 ARAB–ISR. No classification marking. An attached action slip indicates that it was handled as Exdis. Harman gave the note to Eugene Rostow on June 12; see Document 266.
  2. Document 256.