483. Notes of Meeting1


  • Secretary Rusk
  • Secretary McNamara
  • Walt Rostow
  • George Christian
  • General Wheeler

[Omitted here is a brief discussion of demonstrations against the Vietnam war.]

The Israeli response to the sinking of a ship was discussed.

Secretary Rusk: The Israelis have not consulted us. I think if they want our support they ought to consult us. I do not know what they have in mind. They are waiting awfully late for a response.2

Mr. Rostow: I would not ask Eban. Our intelligence shows that the ship was 10 miles off shore. CIA feels they will retaliate against the Egyptians’ fleet. CIA says Egypt wanted to show its power.

Mr Helms: This ship was doing the same thing the Liberty was. It is strange that the Israelis didn’t do anything about the attacks. There were no planes or ships. We will try to find out where they intend to retaliate.

Secretary Rusk: They will equate this with the Gulf of Tonkin. But our vessels were 50 miles from shore and there was no cease fire in the Gulf of Tonkin. I think we should leave this matter to the U.N. and recommend prudence and hope for a long-term settlement.

The President: Do you have a final draft of the letter to Kosygin?3

Secretary Rusk: This is a message dated Friday.4 Dobrynin received it Saturday.

Mr. Rostow: We knew about the ship before we knew about this letter.

[Page 935]

The President read and suggested changes in the proposed Kosygin letter.

[Omitted here is the text of the draft letter.]

The President: I want Goldberg to make sure that we have documented evidence of all of the statements made in this message.

[Omitted here are comments by Helms concerning Vietnam.]

Mr. Rostow: Should the President see Abba Eban?

The President: I wish all of you would try to keep so many of these visiting dignitaries off me.

Secretary Rusk: Abba Eban’s own position is one of moderation. I am inclined to tell him that the last time you were over here we advised you not to get into a fight. Now you’re in a fight. We’re not anxious to come over there and fight the Soviets for you.

[Omitted here is discussion concerning Vietnam.]

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Tom Johnson’s Notes of Meetings, October 23, 1967, 1:05 p.m. Top Secret; Eyes Only. Sent to the President with a covering memorandum from Johnson of October 25. Director of Central Intelligence Richard Helms was also present. (Ibid., Daily Diary)
  2. Barbour reported in telegram 1285 from Tel Aviv, October 23, that he raised the subject with Bitan that day and expressed the hope that the Israelis would not feel constrained to embark on a course of retaliation, the outcome of which was unpredictable. Bitan said the Israeli Government had taken no decision to retaliate. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 ARAB–ISR)
  3. See Document 484.
  4. October 20; see Document 480.