229. Memorandum From the Executive Secretary of the Department of State (Walsh) to the Executive Secretary of the National Security Council (Smith)1

SUBJECT

  • Security Council Meetings Regarding Israeli Raid on Jordan

We are faced with a difficult situation in the UN Security Council over the next week or so resulting from the recent Israeli air raids against Fatah bases near Salt, Jordan.2 We expect, regardless of our efforts, that there will be near unanimity in the Security Council for condemning the Israeli counter military action, as was the case last March following Israeli attacks against Fatah bases in the Karameh area.

Ambassador Barbour has already expressed our concern to Eshkol and Eban over the consequences of this raid which according to the latest Jordanian figures has resulted in the death of 37 people. As Ambassador Barbour pointed out, our concern is that this latest military action will discourage the Jordanians from responding positively to Jarring’s efforts to get peace talks started; that early prospects for getting back the El Al airplane and the 12 Israelis from Algiers have been seriously undercut; and that Israel will find itself completely isolated in the Security Council for taking counter action universally viewed as disproportionate to the incidents which preceded it.3

We have instructed Ambassador Ball: (a) to refrain from any United States lead which would be interpreted as an attempt on our part to condemn Israel; (b) to make a major effort to assure that any condemnation of Israel is balanced by explicit criticism of the Fatah [Page 449] raids which gave rise to the Israeli counter attack; (c) to call once again on both sides to accept a strengthened UN presence as a deterrent along the Jordan-Israel ceasefire line; and (d) to state publicly our support for an expected Israeli demand for release of the El Al airplane and its 12 personnel.

We have also asked Ambassador Ball to exercise maximum influence in discouraging a call for sanctions against Israel which we expect the Jordanians to press at the outset. We are reasonably confident that, while every member of the Security Council will support condemnation of the Israeli air raids, a number will be unwilling to support sanctions.

The Soviet strategy is to isolate the United States in the Security Council and to exploit this in the Arab world by portraying United States policy as one of total support for Israel. In practical terms, if our position of reasonable impartiality in the area is to be maintained and if our overall interests are to be protected, the United States will be required to vote affirmatively, as was the case last March (enclosed),4 on a resolution condemning Israel and which includes reference to prior provocative Fatah incidents. Such a vote would help neutralize Soviet efforts to exploit the situation and help to maintain our influence with both sides.

Since the prior incidents which gave rise to the raid are not well documented, our efforts to achieve balance in the resolution will be very difficult. We can assume the Israelis will press us to make an effort to avoid condemnation. We intend to assure them that we will make a substantial effort. However, we would intend to make clear at the same time that U.S. interests in the area require us to avoid being isolated in the Security Council on this issue. An affirmative vote on such a resolution would come as no great surprise to the Israelis, in light of our affirmative vote last March.

We would expect that, as in the case of the Karameh raid, the Israelis will begin to discount in their own public opinion the significance of a second condemnatory Security Council resolution. This in turn leads us to believe, for the present at least, that there would be no serious adverse domestic flak if we voted affirmatively and thereby avoided being isolated.

We request that this memorandum be sent to the President for his information.5 We will keep the White House informed as Ambassador Ball’s consultations proceed in New York.

John P. Walsh
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Israel, Vol. X, Cables and Memos, 6/68-11/68. Secret.
  2. Israel launched air and artillery attacks against two Fatah guerrilla bases in Jordan on August 4. Foreign Minister Rifai summoned the Ambassadors of UN Security Council member states on the evening of August 4 to describe the Israeli attacks and to inform them that Jordan planned to request a Security Council meeting and hoped to count on Security Council members to adopt coercive measures against Israel. (Telegram 6022 from Amman, August 4; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 ARAB-ISR)
  3. Barbour reported this in telegram 4774 from Tel Aviv, August 5. (Ibid.) Battle supported Barbour’s initiative by registering a strong protest on August 5 with Rabin against the Israeli attacks. (Telegram 215559 to Tel Aviv, August 6; ibid.) [text not declassified]Helms stated that the Israeli attack, according to information from Amman, had created serious doubts [text not declassified] as to Israel’s desire for peace. He also noted that the reported use of U.S.-supplied Skyhawk aircraft in the attack had sharply increased anti-American sentiment in Jordan. (Central Intelligence Agency, Job 80-B01285A, DCI (Helms) Files, Chrono 1 Aug-3 Dec 1968)
  4. Enclosed was a copy of the UN Security Council resolution of March 24; see footnote 5, Document 121.
  5. There is no indication that the memorandum was sent to the President.