235. Telegram From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to the President’s Special Assistant (Jones) in Texas1

CAP 81937. Please hold this Hal Saunders memo for me, but show to the President if, in fact, Robert Anderson or any other private individual should seek to get in touch with the President on this sensitive issue.

“I would not bother you with this except that the President may be approached on this subject. The American company involved has engaged Robert Anderson as a ‘consultant.’

The Israelis are trying to press Standard Oil of Indiana to cut back operations in UAR oil fields in the Gulf of Suez off the Sinai or to take Israel into partnership on any expansion of production. Production in [Page 459] this major field is increasing steadily, so the Israeli request amounts to pressure to deal Israel in or stop normal growth.

The State Department Legal Adviser says Israeli occupation extends to the water’s edge of the Sinai but not into the Gulf of Suez. He says there is little question about continued UAR sovereignty over the Gulf’s underwater oil. More important, oil advisers are seriously concerned about the implications for our oil interests throughout the area-not to mention our political position-if Arab governments felt that we were now willing to stand aside and let Israel use an American company to consolidate its conquest of the Sinai.

State believes the Israelis are just seeing now much they can get away with and intends to advise Israelis strongly to drop the idea. But we probably have not heard the last of this.”2

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Israel, Vol. X, Cables and Memos, 6/68-11/68. Secret.
  2. Telegram 218916 to Tel Aviv, August 10, instructed Ambassador Barbour to see the highest available official in the Foreign Ministry to convey the deep U.S. concern about proposed Israeli actions with respect to oil in the Gulf of Suez. (Ibid.) Under Secretary Rostow took up the issue with Ambassador Rabin on August 12, stressing the potentially explosive character of the issue raised by Israel with respect to the El-Morgan oil field being developed by Standard Oil of Indiana. Rostow noted that the United States did not accept the Israeli legal justifications for their position, and added that, at a delicate and crucial stage in the Jarring Mission, Israeli pressure on this issue could intensify doubts about its interest in a peaceful settlement and its long-term intentions with regard to the Sinai. (Memorandum of conversation, August 12; National Archives and Records Administration,RG 59, Rostow Files: Lot 69 D 196, EUR Chron, August 1968) Battle also discussed the issue with Rabin on August 15, in the company of the Department’s Legal Adviser Leonard Meeker. Meeker outlined the U.S. legal position in opposing Israel’s assertion of rights in the Gulf of Suez, and Battle stressed the adverse political consequences. (Telegram 222928 to Cairo, August 16; ibid., Central Files 1967-69, POL 33 GULF OF SUEZ)