66. Message From President Johnson to Prime Minister Wilson1

CAP 67447. From the President to the Prime Minister.

I had a good talk today with Mike Pearson. He can, evidently, talk for himself. But it is my impression that he wishes us all to stay together in this Middle East crisis: First, to see if anything useful can be accomplished in the UN; and then to work out something along the lines that you have suggested and about which George Thomson has been talking [Page 114] with our people in Washington. I have the impression that—if it comes to the point—the Canadians will join the party.

We had hoped—and still hope—that this track will keep the Israelis steady; but I should report to you that Eban came in this afternoon to Dean Rusk, on a very urgent basis, with the following.

He reported that a message from his Prime Minister indicates they fear an early general attack on Israel by the UAR and Syria. What they have asked for in this situation is immediate application of the U.S. commitment, backed up by a public declaration as well as practical actions. They would like a statement by us that an attack on Israel is equivalent to an attack on the U.S. They also want this announcement accompanied by an instruction to U.S. forces in the area to coordinate action with the Israeli Defense Force against any possible attack.

Our own intelligence estimate does not back up their statement, and we are not inclined to be as alarmed as they appear to be. We are taking the line with them here that our own knowledge does not coincide with their estimates. We are also pointing out that as far as the U.S. is concerned, the President and the Congress must proceed together in dealing with this problem, and on a multilateral basis.

We are also urging upon Eban the real danger of any pre-emptive action by the Israelis which would create an impossible situation in the Middle East as well as in the U.S. It would, we fear, create real difficulty in getting the support of other countries, to say nothing of Congressional support in the U.S.

I will see Eban tomorrow, as I feel I must. I plan to follow the same line with him Dean Rusk is taking tonight.

I would be interested to know whether your intelligence people share our judgment that the Israeli assessment is overdrawn; and, indeed, what your estimate of Nasser’s intentions is.

I should also like you to know directly my own view about the notion of four-power meetings outside the United Nations. I am against them, for reasons we can discuss when we meet on June 2. I am, of course, quite content to have the permanent representatives of the members of the Security Council meet in New York; but I do believe it would be unwise now to encourage quadripartitism outside that framework.

I must say that the initiative you have showed in this crisis thus far has been greatly appreciated here where our capacity to act hinges so greatly on some of us at least being able to move together.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Head of State Correspondence File, United Kingdom, Vol. 6, Prime Minister Wilson Correspondence File, 12/31/66–12/31/67. Secret. The message was transmitted May 26 at 0453Z. Filed with a draft that Rostow sent to the President on May 25 with a memorandum indicating that it had been amended by Rusk. Johnson initialed the memorandum, “OK. L.”