16. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Israel 1

82530. Subject: Tiran Island.

At lunch December 6 Undersecretary Rostow raised with Ambassador Harman continuing Israeli occupation Tiran Island.2 Rostow suggested cooperative relations with King Faisal of great importance in period ahead, not only for Yemen but also because of Faisal’s influence [Page 31] on UAR, Jordan and elsewhere in process of settlement. He said continuing Israeli presence political irritant to US relations with Saudis and unnecessary due to presence Israeli forces at Sharm al-Sheikh. Our Ambassador in Jidda believed it would be possible arrange that Saudis not occupy island if Israelis withdraw. He (Rostow) would appreciate answer to our several approaches in Tel Aviv this subject.
Harman took note of Rostow’s request. He asked why Saudis had allowed Egyptians occupy island and asserted categorically that Egyptian troops had been on island just before arrival of Israelis in June.
Tel Aviv may wish refer to this conversation in further sounding out Israelis as opportunity arises.3
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 32-6 TIRAN. Secret. Drafted by George B. Lambrakis; cleared by Atherton, William D. Brewer, and Davies; and approved by Eugene Rostow. Repeated to Jidda and USUN.
  2. Israel occupied Tiran Island in the Straits of Tiran during the Six-Day War in June. The island was the territory of Saudi Arabia and, after Israeli occupation of the island was confirmed in August, the United States on several occasions encouraged Israel to withdraw from Tiran Island and the neighboring Saudi island of Senafir. Documentation on these initiatives on Saudi Arabia’s behalf is ibid.
  3. Under Secretary Rostow returned to the subject of Tiran Island in a conversation with Ambassador Harman on December 21. Rostow again urged Israel to withdraw from the island, a move that he argued would not affect Israel militarily and which would be very helpful politically with Saudi Arabia. (Telegram 88486 to Tel Aviv, December 21; ibid.)