5. Telegram From the Embassy in the United Arab Republic to the Department of State1

7544. Ref. State 194188.2

I have seen El Feki regarding the mounting tensions in the Near East and in particular on the Israeli-Syrian border.
Referring to my talk with FonMin Riad of yesterday I reiterated USG concern with situation and said that we had urged restraint in the strongest terms and at the highest level of the Israeli Government. I said that based on info avail to us in Israel we were not aware of any major changes in the disposition of Israeli forces or of any “mobilization” measures. I then provided verbatim the Israeli response to our expressions of concern per State 194639.3 From USUN 53024 I also quoted to El Feki the two points which Israel had asked the Secretary General to convey to the Egyptian and Syrian Govts.
El Feki followed all of this most carefully and with genuine interest. He said that he was particularly struck by the fact that whereas the Israelis denied any build up on the Syrian border, no mention was made of Jordanian border. He also read from one of his intelligence reports which highlighted fact that yesterday’s Jerusalem parade did not include any significant heavy equipment, thus revealing that such equipment had been kept with units.
We then discussed over-all Israeli-Arab confrontation in general terms and I read from President Kennedy’s statement of May 9, 1963,5 sayingthat in my view my govt would never tolerate unprovoked aggression by Israel against its Arab neighbors. We had intervened against the tripartite aggression of 1956 and in my view we would do so again. The UARG should place due credence with respect to its security in our statements regarding our position in the event of aggression and in the United Nations.
El Feki said that the position of his govt was likewise very clear and had been stated repeatedly. The UAR will never take the initiative in attacking Israel. However, in the event of any large scale Israeli attack against its neighbors the UARG cannot await UN intervention or even that of the great powers but would have to come to the assistance of victim of aggression without delay.
El Feki seemed genuinely eager to be in touch with us regarding present Near Eastern tensions and I think we should maintain a continuing dialogue here, in Washington and in New York with the Egyptians with a view to reassuring them and calming their fears. I am certain that they are now merely reacting to those fears and have no aggressive intent.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 32–1 ISR–SYR. Confidential; Priority. Repeated Immediate to Amman and to USUN, CINCSTRIKE/CINCMEAFSA, Damascus, and Tel Aviv.
  2. Telegram 194188 to Cairo, May 15, instructed Nes to meet again with Foreign Minister Riad, express U.S. concern at the increase in tension, tell him the United States had urged restraint on the Israelis and was unaware of any major changes in disposition of Israeli forces, tell him the United States was also urging restraint on the Syrians, and suggest that the UAR could play a useful role in urging the Syrians to put an end to the terrorist incidents that were inflaming the border situation. (Ibid.)
  3. Telegram 194639 to Cairo, May 15, conveyed the points made by Bitan to Barbour. (Ibid.) See Document 2.
  4. Telegram 5302 from USUN, May 16, reported conversations at the United Nations, including an Israeli request that the Secretary-General convey two points to the UAR and Syrian representatives: the Israeli Government was not making any military dispositions on the borders with Syria and the UAR, and it was planning no military action unless action was taken against Israel. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 32–1 ISR–SYR/UN)
  5. President Kennedy stated during a press conference on May 8, 1963, “We support the security of both Israel and her neighbors.” He also stated, “This Government has been and remains strongly opposed to the use of force or the threat of force in the Near East. In the event of aggression or preparation for aggression, whether direct or indirect, we would support appropriate measures in the United Nations, adopt other courses of action on our own to prevent or to put a stop to such aggression, which, of course, has been the policy which the United States has followed for some time.” For text, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1963, p. 373.