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

184194. Subject: June 15 Lebanese/Israeli Border Incident. Ref: Beirut 10174 and 10177, 10178.2

1.
We are disturbed by what appears on basis Beirut reports, to be unduly aggressive and somewhat “trigger happy” response of Israelis to alleged terrorist incidents near Lebanese-Israel border. We particularly concerned in context Ambassador Rabin’s statement to Under Secretary Rostow and Assistant Secretaries Battle and Sisco on June 4 (State’s 177707)3 that as result direct contacts with Lebanese, “Israel knows GOL doing its best control terrorism.” Embassy should urgently approach GOL requesting full explanation of background of incident and stating our concern. In so doing, you may draw as appropriate on contents State’s 1825014 as well as on reftels. You should emphasize that while we fully appreciate Israel’s problem with terrorism we feel their approach to terrorism on the Lebanese border will only make more difficult GOL’s efforts to enforce controls and could lead to serious internal problems in Lebanon which in neither our or Israeli interest. We most strongly urge GOI that before taking military action it should avail itself of Lebanese continued offer to meet either in ILMAC or otherwise under UN auspices (Beirut’s 9528).5
2.
You should also inform GOI that we are approaching Lebanese and once again underlining the importance of their continuing make utmost effort to interdict fedayeen within their territory.
3.
For Beirut. You may inform GOL of our approach to Israelis but stress once again difficulties we face in restraining GOI as long as terrorist incidents occur. You may also reaffirm your statement to Michel Khoury (Beirut 10177) that USG following situation closely. Re Embtel 10178 we appreciate point you make regarding value of US public statement for Lebanese internal situation as well as our own position in Lebanon. Do not believe USG should commit itself publicly on incident however in absence of better information as to what might have provoked Israeli action.
Rusk
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 32-1 ISR-LEB. Confidential; Immediate. Drafted by Houghton; cleared by Day, Popper, and James H. Bahti; and approved by Handley. Also sent to Beirut, and repeated to London, Amman, Jerusalem, USUN, and CINCSTRIKE.
  2. Ambassador Porter reported, in telegram 10174 from Beirut, June 15, that Prime Minister Yafi was concerned about the Israeli shelling of a Lebanese border village near Houle on the morning of June 15. The Israelis claimed to be returning fire from the village but Yafi stated that his government had no knowledge of terrorist activity in the area. Yafi asked that the United States exert pressure on Israel to refrain from inflaming the border situation. Telegram 10177 from Beirut, June 15, reported that President Helou was convinced that the border incident was part of an Israeli effort to set the stage for further action against Lebanon. In telegram 10178 from Beirut, June 15, Porter recommended issuing a strong U.S. statement expressing concern about the apparently unprovoked Israeli attack on a Lebanese village. (All ibid.)
  3. Dated June 6. (Ibid., POL 27 ARAB-ISR)
  4. Telegram 182501 to Tel Aviv, June 13, instructed the Embassy to emphasize U.S. belief that Lebanon was trying to interdict terrorist activity from Lebanese territory. The United States strongly urged Israeli restraint in response to isolated terrorist incidents along the border. (Ibid.)
  5. Telegram 9528 from Beirut, May 24, reported on the efforts of the Lebanese Army to prevent infiltrators from crossing the border with Israel. (Ibid.)