123. Information Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson1

SUBJECT

  • Reply from Eshkol

Ambassador Rabin delivered the attached reply2 this afternoon. It’s mainly a statement of the familiar Israeli justification for their raid into Jordan.

What emerges more sharply from this and from Rabin’s oral commentary to Luke Battle,3 however, is that the Israelis appear to have gathered extensive evidence that the Arab terrorist organization was planning a coordinated spring-summer offensive inside Israeli territory. They claim to have captured documents that prove it along with weapons such as Soviet-made heavy mortars.

Eshkol and Eban saw Jarring today. The Israelis are trying to keep his mission alive and to involve him now in achieving better control over the border. Our effort in New York is designed to re-focus attention on Jarring, but the debate is still going on and we can’t tell what success we’ll have. Jarring’s future will also depend on the outcome of the Arab summit which Hussein has asked for.

On a related subject, Luke Battle has told the Israelis we will be in touch with them as soon as the UN meeting is over to reschedule the signing of the PL 480 agreement. Luke frankly told them we didn’t think it would be helpful to sign while the debate continues, but he assured them that we are not backing out on the agreement.

Walt
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Special Head of State Correspondence File, Israel, 3/1/68-7/31/68. Secret.
  2. Not found attached. The 3-page letter from Prime Minister Eshkol to President Johnson, dated March 22, was transmitted to the Department of State under a covering note from Ambassador Rabin on March 22. Eshkol’s letter and the Ambassador’s note were transmitted to the White House on March 23 under cover of a note from Executive Secretary Benjamin Read. (Ibid.) For a summary of the letter, see Document 124.
  3. A record of Rabin’s conversation with Battle on March 22 was transmitted to Tel Aviv on March 23 in telegram 135537. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Special Head of State Correspondence File, Israel, 3/1/68-7/31/68)