338. Information Memorandum From Harold H. Saunders of the National Security Council Staff to President Johnson1


  • (1) Israeli Raids on Jordan
  • (2) Message from King Hussein2

Before he left this morning, Walt asked me to send you our latest reading on the Israel-Jordan fighting today.

The Israelis say their Sunday commando attack in southern Jordan was a direct response to terrorist shelling of Israel’s Dead Sea phosphate works, but that may only have been the last straw following the Jerusalem bomb explosion last week.

Today’s attack, however, was directed mainly at the Iraqi troops who have been supporting the terrorists logistically and who themselves opened fire for the first time on Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley last night. The Israeli embassy here says Israel just couldn’t sit still any longer without encouraging more such attacks.

Eban has asked Wally Barbour to transmit a message from Eshkol to the Jordanian government, saying that the Iraqis were the target and that Israel had no intention of widening the action.3 Rabin’s deputy here called me to say the same.

This will probably delay Jordan-Israel talks. Even the Israelis who are concerned about that argue that they have no choice if they’re just not going to roll over in front of the terrorists. But with Jarring beginning another round in the area-he saw Eban Monday and goes next to Cairo-the Arabs can’t help but assume the Israelis don’t care. It’s clear that they put short-term security above all.

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Hussein alludes to this Israeli attitude in his message (attached),4 written to you before the attack on another subject-your wire explaining your go-ahead on negotiating the Phantom deal with Israel. He expresses sharply his disappointment with our policy, but given his feelings, the message is restrained.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Israel, Vol. XI, Cables and Memos, 12/68–1/69. Secret. A handwritten notation indicates that the memorandum was received at 4:12 p.m.
  2. See Document 341.
  3. This request was reported in telegram 6361 from Tel Aviv, December 4. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 ARAB-ISR)
  4. Not attached. The text of King Hussein’s letter to President Johnson, dated November 30, was transmitted to the Department in telegram 7684 from Amman, December 2. (Ibid., DEF 12-5 ISR) The signed original of the letter was transmitted as an enclosure to airgram A-513 from Amman, December 5. (Ibid., POL 15-1 JORDAN) Ambassador Symmes provided his assessment of King Hussein’s letter in telegram 7774 from Amman, December 6. (Ibid., POL JORDAN-US)