236. Telegram From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson in Texas1

CAP 81991. Secretary Rusk has had the following memorandum from Katzenbach, Ball, Battle and Sisco on the resolution pending in the Security Council on the recent Israeli retaliation raids on Jordan. [Page 460] The Secretary hopes to discuss this with the President by phone Thursday morning at the President’s convenience.

  • “1. The attached resolution is substantially the same as that adopted by the Security Council in March following the Israeli raid on Karameh. This is the case despite the fact that whereas there were general and well-documented prior incidents which provoked the Karameh raid, the same cannot be said for the present situation. The incidents that preceded the Israeli air raid on Salt were of a relatively minor character which could be expected in a situation where there is military occupation of territory. Tekoah (Israel) has made no real case in the Security Council concerning the prior provocations to this latest raid, and we nevertheless have succeeded in injecting balance in the resolution even though the Israelis have made a weak case. The fact of the matter is that this latest Israeli raid was a preventive raid rather than one that was sparked by any prior serious incident. Moreover, it is all the more embarrassing to us that evidence indicates that the Skyhawks we gave to Israel were involved.
  • 2. We have worked very hard behind the scenes in order to make the text more balanced than in any of its earlier forms. We have succeeded in two principal ways: (A) the sponsors, pursuant to our pressure, have eliminated any language which might form the basis for future sanctions against Israel; and (B) while the text condemns the Israeli counter raid, it also makes explicit reference to the prior acts of terrorism.
  • 3. Friendly members of the Security Council, after concerted and extensive efforts on our part (UK, Canada, Denmark, Brazil and Paraguay) have helped us achieve this result. They have concluded, as we have, that this is as well as we can do on any text. They are prepared to support the text, and we would be isolated if we were to stand out by abstaining. This would have adverse effects on our overall position in the area and give the Soviets an opportunity to exploit the situation to their advantage.
  • 4. A U.S. abstention would encourage the Israelis to feel that there were no restraints regarding similar future raids and that it could disregard entirely the views of the Security Council.
  • 5. Last March Israel put the best face on the Security Council resolution by stressing that both the prior terrorist raids and the Israeli counter action were criticized by the Security Council. They discounted its importance in Israeli public opinion, and we can expect the Israelis to play it essentially the same way this time. Our informal discussions with the Israelis indicate they expect condemnation and a resolution similar to the one adopted last March, and that this result they would not find greatly disturbing.
  • 6. We do not expect the adoption of this resolution to have any appreciable effect here at home. We have had no expressions of concern [Page 461] from the Jewish community, and there has been little interest in our press in the SC proceedings. The editorials on the latest incident in our papers have been balanced and have linked the provocations with the counter action, so that I do not anticipate any major press problem.
  • 7. Our affirmative vote would be coupled with a statement by George Ball in the Council which would stress that the SC resolution applies both to the prior terrorist raids as well as to Israeli counter action. George has already made such a speech in the Security Council, but it would be worth repeating.

Draft Resolution

The Security Council,

Having heard the statements of the Representatives of Jordan and Israel,

Having noted the contents of the letters of the Representatives of Jordan and Israel in documents S/8616, S/8617, S/8721, S/8724,2

Recalling its previous Resolution 248 (1968)3 condemning the military action launched by Israel in flagrant violation of the United Nations Charter and the ceasefire resolutions and deploring all violent incidents in violation of the ceasefire,

Observing that all the massive air attacks by Israel on Jordanian territory were of a large scale and carefully planned nature in violation of Resolution 248 (1968),

Considering that premeditated military attacks of this kind seriously prejudice the achievement of peace in the Middle East, and that all violent incidents and other violations of the ceasefire should be prevented,

Gravely concerned about the deteriorating situation resulting therefrom,

Reaffirms its Resolution 248 (1968), in particular its paragraph 2 which condemns the military action launched by Israel in flagrant violation of the UN Charter and the ceasefire resolutions, and paragraph 3 which deplores all violent incidents in violation of the ceasefire and declares that such actions of military reprisal and other grave violations [Page 462] of the ceasefire cannot be tolerated and that the Security Council would have to consider further and more effective steps as envisaged in the Charter to ensure against repetition of such acts;
Deplores the loss of life and heavy damage to property;
Condemns the further military attacks launched by Israel in flagrant violation of the United Nations Charter and Resolution 248 (1968);
Warns that if such actions were to be repeated the Council would duly take account of the failure to comply with the present resolution;
Calls for full cooperation with the Secretary General’s Special Representative.”4
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Israel, Vol. X, Cables and Memos, 6/68-11/68. Secret.
  2. UN docs. S/8616 and S/8617 are both dated June 5. S/8616 is a letter from the Jordanian Permanent Representative calling on the Security Council to consider Israeli aggression against Jordan in the Israeli raid on Karameh, and S/8617 is a letter from the Israeli Permanent Representative rebutting the Jordanian charges and holding Jordan accountable for terrorist activity against Israel. UN docs. S/8721 and S/8724, dated August 5, were again letters to the President of the Security Council from the Permanent Representatives of Jordan and Israel with similar charges and counter-charges following the Israeli air raid on Salt.
  3. Adopted on March 24. (UN doc. S/RES/248)
  4. The Security Council unanimously adopted this resolution on August 16. (UN doc. S/RES/256 (1968))