21. Telegram 159327 From the Department of State to the Embassy in Israel1 2


  • TWA Hijacking
Israeli Embassy Counselor Raviv called at Department September 18 to learn of latest developments in connection with TWA hijacking. We brought him up to date re latest initiatives, including recent visit to Damascus by IATA President Hammarskjold and Italian Ambassador’s call on Syrian Foreign Minister over weekend. We indicated that we raising matter again with Soviets today. We mentioned likelihood that general issue of hijacking would be discussed shortly in UN forum.
Department officer expressed personal view that we have virtually exhausted our numerous efforts through third parties to [Page 2] secure passengers’ release and it becoming increasingly clear that Syrians will not rpt not agree to their release without face-saving quid pro quo. While Syrian Government has not rpt not so indicated in their talks with various intermediaries, this is distinct impression which Syrians have created. We recalled having broached with Israeli officials idea of an exchange for Syrian pilots and that Israeli position had been negative. We inquired whether there might be some other quid pro quo acceptable to Israelis.
Raviv said that GOI could not rpt not agree to any kind of trade-off, contending that this would only encourage further hijacking. We noted that most effective deterrent to future hijackings would seem to be to punish hijackers. It our understanding that hijackers being held in Syrian jail and are to be prosecuted.
Raviv said that his government at this juncture would presumably have to consider what measures GOI might have to take. Department [Page 3] officer replied that if by this he meant some Israeli military action against Syria, he assumed Israelis understood that such action would risk lives of two passengers being held. He wonder whether country such as Israel would be prepared forfeit lives of two human beings in this way. Raviv made no comment.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, AV 12 US. Secret. Repeated to Beirut, Rome, and USUN. Drafted by Thomas J. Scotes (NEA/ARN) on September 9 and cleared by Sisco, Seelye, Loy, and in substance with Johnson.
  2. Acting Secretary of State Richardson informed Embassy Tel Aviv that Israeli Counselor Raviv had been told that third-party efforts to secure the release of the passengers of TWA Flight 840 had been exhausted. In the Department’s estimation, Syria would not agree to release the passengers without a face-saving quid-pro-quo. Raviv said the Israelis could not agree to any trade-off.