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

211672. At his request, Ambassador Harman called on Undersecretary Rostow on June 14.

Ambassador Harman reported that the Israeli Board of Enquiry investigating the attack on the U.S.S. Liberty would finish its hearings on Friday afternoon. Its findings would be made shortly thereafter, and would be given us when ready. The Ambassador asked when our Board would complete its own study of the matter. Rostow replied that he did not know but would find out. He assured the Ambassador that the findings of our Board would be made available to GOI when they were prepared. (After consultation with Secretary McNamara, Rostow informed Harman that the U.S. enquiry into the matter would be finished within a few days, and the findings completed shortly thereafter.)
Harman then informed Rostow that GOI now wished urgently to request a prompt decision with respect to the additional Hawk battery and the 48 Skyhawks discussed at an earlier point with Secretary Vance.2 GOI, like our government, was watching the pattern of Soviet arms shipments to U.A.R., Algeria and Iraq. Thus far GOI tended to agree with our assessment that the Soviet Union was doing no more than rebuilding the inventory of the U.A.R. and other states for political reasons. The level of supplies was rising rapidly, however, and was a matter of concern. For this reason, GOI regarded the requests as “vital.”3
In the course of a brief review of the problems of political negotiation during the next period, inside and outside the U.N., Harman added nothing new to the estimates as to GOI’s ultimate positions he had given in earlier talks, except to stress the possibility of political change in the Israeli Cabinet in the near future. Rostow said that his own view of the situation in prospect required him to put increasing stress on the advice he had offered Harman in recent conversations,4 namely, that there was considerable anxiety, which propaganda was exploiting, about the possibility that Israel would propose large and permanent territorial changes in the old frontiers, and adopt views about Jerusalem that might not take international interests in the city fully into account. In Rostow’s view, an early GOI statement of a moderate position on these problems would help clear the atmosphere, and perhaps reduce resistance to the idea of peace arrangements, GOI’s primary goal in the next period.
Harman stressed again GOI tactics of delay in the UNGA, to give the government a chance to recover its breath and think through its posture.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 ARAB–ISR. Secret; NATUS. Drafted and approved by Eugene Rostow. Also sent to USUN and repeated to London, Paris, Moscow, Tehran, Kuwait, Jidda, Rabat, Tunis, and Rawalpindi.
  2. Harman asked Vance on June 17 about the Israeli request for immediate delivery of 48 A–4 aircraft. Vance told him it would be impossible to meet the request without withdrawing aircraft from U.S. forces in Southeast Asia, and that they felt this could not be done. The earliest possible delivery date would be for the four A–4s previously promised for December 1967. (Memorandum for the record by Vance, June 17; Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330 72 A 2468, Israel 452)
  3. During a call on Battle on June 14, Harman stated that he was puzzled because in the past 7–10 days, Israeli Embassy officers and attaches had not been getting responses from the Departments of Defense and State on new requests for routine military items; their inquiries were being met with “rather indefinite expressions that matters like this were being looked into at higher levels.” Battle said he would try to get a clear answer on this for the Ambassador. (Memorandum of conversation; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 19–8 US–ISR)
  4. Rostow had made this point in a conversation with Harman on June 13. (Telegram 210999 to Tel Aviv, June 14; ibid., POL 27 ARAB–ISR)