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

210499. For Ambassador Barbour.

You should draw upon following message for background purposes:2 With the main cease fire arrangements finally in effect, we wish to turn to next steps both within and outside the United Nations. In preparation for these efforts, we need urgently to know your government’s policies for the future, most particularly about territorial questions, refugees, the status of Jerusalem, Sharm al Sheikh, and the Suez Canal.

We are facing a violent and determined effort in the Security Council to require Israeli troop withdrawals to previous boundary lines. In broad terms, our posture has been and is that defined by the Resolution we tabled at Security Council.3 It will now be necessary to give more concrete and specific meaning to what lies behind that Resolution. It is indispensable that we move forward in that process on the basis of a firm understanding of your government’s position. We have noted your recent statement to Ambassador Goldberg in New York,4 as well as Prime Minister Eshkol’s statement in his letter to President Johnson of June 55 in which he said that “We seek nothing but peaceful life within our territory, and the exercise of our legitimate maritime rights.”

In general, we have been proceeding in reliance on Ambassador Harman’s repeated statements to us that your government has no territorial ambitions, but that it did not intend to withdraw its forces from the positions they now occupy except “to a condition of peace.” If peace can be achieved, he has told us, the Government of Israel is prepared to participate in a constructive approach to the problem of refugees, and other long-standing difficulties.

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In the light of what has happened during last few momentous days, and the difficult political atmosphere at the U.N., I should appreciate a statement of your government’s policy in as much detail as present circumstances permit. We do not want any misunderstandings between us to complicate the difficult task we all face in seeking arrangements to assure a just and durable peace in the Near East.

As far as the attitude of the US is concerned, our principal points of departure are (a) President Johnson’s reaffirmation on May 23 of long-standing American policy that “the United States is firmly committed to the support of the political independence and territorial integrity of all the nations of the area”; (b) the necessity to establish a regime of peace in the Near East in which neither side claims the right to infringe upon the rights of the other in the name of a state of belligerency; (c) the vital interest of the United States in its own relations with the Arab and Muslim world, a relationship in which Israel itself has an important stake; (d) the overriding necessity through magnanimous and imaginative policies to lay the foundation for a genuine reconciliation among the peoples of the Near East, even though it may require time. On the last point we know that you are at least as aware as we of the vital interest of Israel in its relations with its Arab neighbors who will number some 100 million people in the next quarter century.

We would be glad to have your views as soon as possible because of the developing situation in the Security Council.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 ARAB–ISR. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Eugene Rostow on June 11, cleared by Kohler and Battle, and approved by Katzenbach. Rostow had earlier initialed Rusk’s approval. Repeated to LuxembouRG as Tosec 20 for Rusk.
  2. The sentence originally instructed Barbour to convey the quoted message to Eban from the Secretary at the earliest opportunity. Telegram 210498 to LuxembouRG (Tosec 21), June 12, states that the President preferred an informal approach “in fear Israelis would present maximum demands and get feet in concrete.” (Ibid.) The text of the draft telegram cited in footnote 3, Document 269, is the same as the message in telegram 210499.
  3. See Document 223.
  4. See Document 227.
  5. See Document 158.