340. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Israel 1

282248. 1. Assistant Secretaries Hart and Sisco called in Ambassador Rabin afternoon December 4 to make following points re recent Israel-Jordan cease fire incidents: [Page 674]

We are asking both Israeli and Jordanian Ambassadors to convey urgently to their governments our concern over recent cease fire violations.2 We see risk that escalating situation will get out of hand.
Without assessing blame, we look to both governments to observe cease fire.
We are aware of problems that terrorism and shelling of civilian centers cause for GOI. To avoid jeopardizing peacemaking efforts, however, we are urging parties to exercise utmost restraint. Latest Israeli air operation strikes us as dangerous over reaction.
At same time we recognize problem Iraqi operations from Jordanian territory cause for Israel and will stress to Jordanian Ambassador need for GOJ to assert control over Iraqis and Fedayeen.

2. Rabin said he would report foregoing promptly. At same time he wanted to explain how GOI views situation. Israel had accepted cease fire on assumption that it would be mutually respected. By entering agreement with Fedayeen organizations November 16, GOJ had assumed responsibility for Fedayeen activities. According Israeli information, GOJ understanding with Fedayeen groups provides inter alia that latters’ operations against Israel would be coordinated with GOJ.

3. Rabin continued that Iraqis were in Jordan in division strength consisting of three brigades and had artillery units positioned in northern sector. Israel had evidence that Iraqis had initiated shelling of Israeli settlements December 2 along 25 mile front from Tel Qazir to Beisan Valley. This had been preceded by more limited shelling of settlements December 1, to which Israel had responded in limited fashion with 15 artillery rounds against Irbid plus shelling of known Fedayeen concentrations. Following further artillery bombardment of Israeli settlements December 2, Israel had used aircraft against Iraqi positions near Irbid and subsequently against Iraqi positions and other installations on larger scale December 4. Rabin stressed that IDF had sought to concentrate latest strike only on Iraqi military targets; neither town of Mafraq nor Jordanian airfield had been attacked and there were no overflights of Amman. Israeli Air Force had ignored two Jordanian Hawker Hunters which had been in area at time but had not attempted to engage Israeli planes.

4. Rabin added that as Israeli success in stopping terrorist infiltration had grown (he claimed 85-90 per cent of infiltrators now killed or captured), Fedayeen as well as Jordanian and Iraqi military had resorted increasingly to cross river shelling. As result latest Israeli action he thought Iraqis would think twice before provoking further incidents. Neither side wanted major hostilities and he did not believe situation would get out of hand as we feared. Israel could not tolerate shelling [Page 675] of civilian settlements, however, and unless cease fire was observed by Jordanians, Iraqis and Fedayeen there would be further incidents. Israel wanted to avoid “too much” escalation. Experience had shown, however, that use of “more than normal force” could calm situation for a time.

5. Rabin noted that, while Israel had never requested UN observers on cease fire line with Jordan, it was GOJ not Israel which had refused to accept them. In response to query whether Israel would accept observers if Jordan agreed, Rabin said GOI had never believed UN observers could bring tranquility. Nevertheless Israel had accepted observers on Syrian and Egyptian cease fire lines when UARG and SARG had done so.

6. Sisco informed Rabin that we expected press inquiries to which we would reply that (a) we had expressed our concern about cease fire violations to both Israeli and Jordanian Ambassadors and (b) we had asked GOI and GOJ to observe cease fire scrupulously.

7. For Tel Aviv: Ambassador should seek early opportunity to reenforce foregoing approach at appropriate level GOI.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 ARAB-ISR. Confidential; Priority. Drafted by Atherton, cleared by Sisco, and approved by Hart. Repeated to Amman, Beirut, Jidda, London, Jerusalem, USUN, and Cairo.
  2. Hart made a similar presentation to Jordanian Ambassador Sharaf on December 4. (Telegram 282251 to Amman, December 5; ibid.)