97. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Israel1

204800. 1. At Israeli request, Amb Harman accompanied by Evron called afternoon May 29 on Under Secretary Rostow. Harman said he had feeling he did not know precisely what going on within USG and was not in position report to his Government. Rostow explained weekend had been consumed in meetings and drafting messages to set out scenario agreed with FonMin Eban. Rostow said we hope have necessary messages ready for Secretary’s signature this evening and get them to President.

2. In reply Harman’s question, Rostow assured him we will be in touch with Israelis re form of maritime declaration. Under Sec said declaration will not contain threat of force since we wish secure participation largest number states possible. However, this aspect will be discussed with main partners in declaration. Harman raised question coordination and expressed hope we could move rapidly into joint Israeli-US [Page 179] planning. He requested intelligence exchange take place primarily in Washington so as to make it more effective.2

3. Harman said preliminary report sent him of May 28 Israeli Cabinet meeting made clear GOI decision had been extremely difficult one. It had been touch and go. Harman said GOI decision had been taken on basis Israeli reliance on President and with emphasis on time factor. In response Under Sec’s question re his estimate of time GOI can wait, Harman stressed Nasser’s moves amount to declaration of intention to destroy Israel. Harman said ten to fifteen day period would seem to be “on the long side.” Under Sec said we see signs UAR forces beginning to hurt from lack food and water in their desert deployment.

4. Under Sec noted we watching very closely movement Panamanian flag freighter Fenice toward straits Tiran. DeptOff said we believe Egyptians aware vessel is of Israeli ownership. DeptOff said we would appreciate it if Ambassador could find out intentions owner. Noted we understand cargo is non-strategic.

5. Under Sec said he had instructions begin contingency planning for new US aid to Israel taking account of burdens occasioned by Israeli mobilization. Under Sec assured Harman USG proceeding as rapidly as possible carry through with scenario. We hope have President’s final approval proposed steps by May 30 or 31. Congressional consultations scheduled begin May 31. Under Sec said we have taken steps to put financial pressure on UAR, and suggested Israelis also take what measures they can this direction. Pointed out we very conscious of time element but believe UAR likely suffer more from long mobilization than Israel.

6. Following meeting DeptOff informed Harman and Evron all USG officials under strictest instructions not to talk to press on trends policy thinking and diplomatic exchanges. DeptOff expressed concern re recent reports apparently originating with Israeli sources. Harman and Evron assured DeptOff that Israeli Emb and GOI not responsible for any leaks and will continue observe strictest press silence.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL ARAB–ISR. Secret; Immediate; Limdis. Drafted by David Korn (NEA/ARP); cleared by Atherton, Davies, and Grey; and approved by Eugene Rostow. Repeated Priority to USUN, Cairo, and London.
  2. According to the minutes of the May 28 meeting of the Control Group, Under Secretary Rostow stated that “We should deepen our intelligence exchanges with the Israelis. Liaison should at this time be limited to intelligence matters.” Rostow stated that he would speak to Helms about this and would inform Ambassador Harman. (Ibid., Office of the Executive Secretariat, Middle East Crisis Files, 1967, Entry 5190, Box 12, Minutes/Decisions of the Control Group, Folder 1)