83. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Jordan 1

203947. 1. Following based on uncleared memcon,2 is FYI, Noforn and subject to change on review.

2. On behalf all Arab Ambassadors, Lebanese, Kuwaiti and Libyan Ambassadors called on the Secretary May 27 on instructions their governments to express concern of Arab countries about present Arab-Israeli crisis. Lebanese, who was principal spokesman, explained that in interest US-Arab relations, he wished to express to the Secretary deep feelings of the Arabs in the current crisis. Following represents main points of presentation.

3. Present situation had deep roots in Palestine problem beginning with creation of Israel. Although Arabs had many differences among themselves, they were all united on Palestine problem and against Israel.

4. Arabs were concerned about Zionist pressure in US. Prior receiving copy President’s recent statement on crisis,3 Ambassadors had received distorted impression from US radio, press and TV of statement and feared return to 1956 situation. When Lebanese Ambassador received full text of statement (said he was talking personally, but other two Ambassadors did not question his remarks), he found balanced and accurate assessment of problem. Nonetheless, Arabs were still worried that Zionist pressure would change spirit or objective of policy. Their fears heightened by recent visit to Washington of Foreign Minister Eban.

5. Present situation was very dangerous one. President, in emphasis in his statement on having problem handled by UN had taken wise course. This was best way of avoiding irritations caused by Suez crisis, which had same roots in basic Palestine problem. Was sure wise leadership of US would facilitate solution in UN, but to do so and not lose support Arabs, US must remain impartial in UN deliberations.

6. Ambassadors emphasized that no Arab state wanted to start war and no one wanted unfriendly relations with US.

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7. The Secretary welcomed opportunity to hear their views. Although he could understand deep roots of feelings in that part of world, US had nonetheless been working for closer relations with our Arab friends. He noted that some of problems stemmed not from Israel but from differences among the Arab states themselves.

8. The Secretary noted two elements in current situation. The first was possibility of an outbreak of hostilities. He was pleased to note that Ambassadors felt no Arab state wanted war. In existing tension, this was important if present situation was not to degenerate into hostilities. On our part, we had made strong efforts with all parties concerned to urge calm and restraint. He hoped there would be no military initiatives. We did believe UN should be in forefront in finding solution.

9. The second element was problem of Straits of Tiran. This was not just an Israeli problem, but one for all maritime states. If solution could be found to this problem, he thought tensions would perhaps subside.

10. He was not sure about the Fatah or the Palestine Liberation Force. If they continued activities, there would be trouble. He could not understand why Nasser announced his blockade of the Gulf of Aqaba at the very time that the Secretary General of the United Nations was on his way to Cairo. Nasser should surely have known from the President’s statement of the deep concern over this problem. He assured the Ambassadors that we would be making maximum efforts during next few days here and in the Security Council to find a solution to the problem. We did not think any country wanted war, but that did not produce a solution.

11. A discussion then ensued on the problem of the Straits of Tiran. The Arab Ambassadors pointed out that no Israeli ships had passed through the Straits during the period 1947 through 1956. Consequently, the Straits could not be of vital importance to the Israelis. The Straits had been opened to the Israelis as a result of the aggression of 1956. Nasser, by his action, had restored the position pertaining prior to that aggression. The Ambassadors hoped the United States could use its good offices to persuade Israelis not to begin war over Straits issue.

12. The Secretary emphasized again the seriousness of the problem and the importance of the right of innocent passage through the Straits being maintained.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL ARAB–ISR. Confidential. Drafted by Houghton, and approved by Pierre Shostal in S/S. Also sent to Baghdad, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, Jidda, London, Kuwait, Tel Aviv, Tripoli, Jerusalem, and USUN.
  2. Not found.
  3. See Document 49.