49. Editorial Note

At 6:10 p.m. on May 23, 1967, President Johnson made a statement for radio and television on rising tensions in the Near East. He stated that the United States was particularly concerned with three potentially explosive aspects of the situation: the “warlike acts” from the territory of one state against another, the “hurried withdrawal” of the United Nations Emergency Force from Gaza and Sinai, and the recent buildup of military forces. He stated that the purported closing of the Gulf of Aqaba to Israeli shipping had brought a new and grave dimension to the crisis and that the United States considered the gulf to be an “international waterway” and felt that a blockade of Israeli shipping was “illegal and potentially disastrous to the cause of peace.” He declared that the right of free, innocent passage of the international waterway was a “vital interest of the international community,” and said the United States was “firmly committed to the support of the political independence and territorial integrity of all the nations of the area” and “strongly opposes aggression by anyone in this area, in any form, overt or clandestine.” He stated that he had been in close contact with [Page 81] Ambassador Goldberg at the United Nations and hoped the Security Council could act effectively. The text of the statement is in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1967, Book I, pages 561–563. The initial draft of the statement, prepared in the Department of State, was sent to the President with a May 22 memorandum from Rusk. (Johnson Library, National Security File, NSC Histories, Middle East Crisis, Vol. I) Additional drafts, along with related material, are filed ibid. and ibid., Country File, Middle East Crisis.