116. Telegram From the Embassy in Jordan to the Department of State 1
Amman, March 19, 1968, 1915Z.
- Summary: King has followed up on suggestions made to him per Amman 3844 and previous and in course extended discussion with Emboff afternoon March 19 revealed decision made for staged withdrawal from Jordan of Palestinian battalion of Iraqi brigade to begin within week. Decision has also been made send Col Daoud to meet with Israeli counterpart under UN auspices in next few days. He reported GOJ intensive efforts apprehend those responsible for bus incident4 and again requested any information which might aid the investigation. He also speculated at some length on Israeli intentions toward East Bank.
- King prefaced discussion of terrorism with statement that his review of Arab military capabilities with own advisors, Iraqi Chief of Staff and Pakistani military team just arrived from Cairo have further convinced him of Arabs’ total incapacity to win military solution of Arab-Israeli confrontation. Iraqi Chief of Staff Ansari had just advised him that Iraq could do no more to help Jordan militarily. According Pakistanis, UAR will need another ten years to modernize its air force and bring its training and maintenance up to Israeli standards. Syria, King described as completely impotent militarily and said Jordan’s lack of military potential hardly bore discussion.
- Since Israelis are fully aware of this, King said, he had come to doubt seriously that Israelis had any desire for peace and he speculated that the Israeli posture on terrorism owed something to this underlying [Page 238] attitude. He had concluded Israel wishes to hold on to land it now occupies for religious and cultural reasons and needs certain additional territory to consolidate its position. East Bank he feels is obvious remaining target. He questions whether Israelis would have any serious concern about adverse world opinion should they feel time had come to launch military attack. They would cite terrorism as pretext. With fall of East Bank, West Bank would quickly come to terms. In procession UAR and Syrian regimes would be exposed as impotent and likelihood their fall would sharply increase.
- Hussein said he had “raised hell” with everybody concerning March 18 bus incident and has directed that, if perpetrators are caught in Jordan, they are to receive same punishment as if they had caused this accident to Jordanians. He said he had sent his top investigators, including trackers, to Aqaba area and stated they have discovered as yet absolutely no evidence of anyone having crossed over from Jordanian territory in that area or returned. King stated Jordanian intelligence apparatus through penetrations and otherwise has thus far been unable discover involvement on part of any known terrorist organizations with bus incident. Investigations continuing under King’s personal direction. He reiterated his request for any information that might assist investigation.
- King suggests possibility, recalling incident of oil storage tank sabotage at Eilat two months ago, that there may have been outside Egyptian involvement in yesterday’s incident.
- King said he wished tell us in confidence that decision made two days ago (Sunday, March 17) to start phased withdrawal of Palestine battalion of Iraqi brigade. Battalion would first be moved to H-4 (or H-5) and ultimately to Iraq. (Khammash subsequently stated that Iraqis strenuously resisted move on political grounds but that orders were issued today, March 19, for battalion to begin packing up.)
- Re Col Daoud meeting with Israelis, King said he had delegated responsibility for meeting arrangements to Gen Khammash and we should follow up subject with him. King anticipated meeting under UN auspices could take place in next few days. (Arrangements have been cleared with PriMin also and further details are reported in Amman 3886.)
- Hussein said he recognized that it would be desirable to inform Israelis of some of foregoing re terrorism and bus incident; the Palestinian battalion; and Daoud. He warned Emboff however, “If Israelis publicize exit of Palestinian battalion and claim it is result of Israeli pressure, I will not be able to let it leave, and my efforts in this regard will be seriously compromised.” Similar strictures apply to the decision to send Daoud.
- Comment: I believe it imperative that you get undertaking from Israelis that foregoing will be kept in absolute confidence before relating any of it. We know how well the Israelis can keep a secret if they so choose. I believe that it is in fact legitimate for us to claim credit for some of these developments. For example, as reported Amman 3844, the Palestine battalion was discussed with King prior to the arrival of the Iraqi Chief of Staff with whom agreement to withdraw Palestinian battalion finally reached.
- Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 ARAB-ISR. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Repeated to Tel Aviv.↩
- Telegram 3844 from Amman, March 16, reported on a conversation between Symmes and King Hussein in which Symmes stressed the importance of breaking the mounting cycle of terrorism and retaliation, which was increasingly prejudicing the possibilities for peace. Symmes suggested that the withdrawal of the Iraqi troops from Jordan would begin to defuse the situation, and he discussed with Hussein the importance of direct contacts with the Israelis to try to control the problem. (Ibid.)↩
- The Embassy reported on March 19 that Colonel Daoud had been instructed to meet with an Israeli representative to consider the problem of terrorism. Daoud’s instructions were to conduct the meeting in the presence of a UN representative. (Telegram 3886, March 19; ibid., POL ISR-JORDAN)↩
- On March 18 a land mine exploded under a tour bus carrying Israeli school children on a road 13 miles north of Eilat. Two children were killed and 27 were injured. (Telegram 2937 from Tel Aviv, March 18; ibid., POL 27 ARAB-ISR)↩