281. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Saudi Arabia1

257386. Subj: Tiran.

During conversation October 17 with Israeli Minister Argov, Davies of NEA said we wished once again to raise problem of continued Israeli occupation of Tiran, particularly as this affected US-Saudi relations. We had noted that in Ambassador Rabin’s last conversation with Battle in June,2 and again when Allon saw Secretary September 10,3 Rabin had justified continued Israeli presence on Tiran as military necessity, saying “even three Fatah with machine guns” on Tiran could close straits to shipping. Secretary had told Allon and Rabin he did not find this argument convincing. Davies said we wished once again to take up this point. Citing distances involved, Davies said it was difficult to see how light weapons could in any way interdict or otherwise harm shipping passing through the main Enterprise Passage which four-and-one-half miles away from Tiran. Only weapon that could do this would be long-range flat-trajectory guns such as Soviet 122 mm. rifle, and we were in position to know Saudis had nothing of this type. Moreover, such weapons obviously could not be installed on island without Israelis knowing about it through air surveillance. Davies said in addition to these factors he wished remind GOI we had King Faisal’s assurance that Tiran would not be militarized if Israelis left island. We had no reason believe this was not firm and reliable undertaking on King’s part. Argov made no comment except to ask if Israeli withdrawal from Senafir had had beneficial impact in Saudi Arabia. Davies said we had not heard that King had declared public holiday but we believed Israeli action had nevertheless been helpful.
Davies urged all measures be taken to keep this matter out of press. Argov said there had been leaks in past and he could give no assurances so far as Israeli press concerned.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 32-6 TIRAN. Secret. Drafted by Michael Sterner, cleared by Atherton and Brewer, and approved by Davies. Repeated to Tel Aviv, Amman, Cairo, and USUN.
  2. See footnote 7, Document 182.
  3. See Document 250.