6. Memorandum from Acting Secretary of State Richardson to President Nixon1 2


1. Zurich El Al Incident-The Department has taken a number of diplomatic steps in connection with the attack on the El Al aircraft in Zurich on Tuesday. We issued a statement late yesterday deploring the incident shortly after we contacted the Israeli Embassy and informed it that we wished to stay in closest contact on developments.

This morning Joe Sisco discussed the incident with Israeli Minister Argov in the absence of Ambassador Rabin. Joe urged them to pursue steps which would keep the focus of world opinion in Israel’s favor on this critical problem and not to negate world reaction by taking some offensive commando-type retaliatory action. As a means of assisting in keeping the proper focus on the El Al incident, he informed Argov that we were transmitting a letter of protest regarding the incident to the UN Security Council for the information of the members. Argov also was informed that we were encouraging both the British and the French to do the same or at least issue public statements condemning the latest attacks. We were also asking our Ambassadors to contact a number of friendly governments who have an interest in freedom of international air traffic to come out publicly on this matter.

We have also taken steps today to place the general problem of freedom of air traffic on the agenda of the ICAO Council which will consider this on a priority basis at Monday’s meeting. We instructed our Ambassadors in various Arab capitals to take up the matter with their respective governments to see whether any steps could be taken by them to restrain such commando raids. Today Ambassador Barbour counselled restraint on the Israeli Government. Finally, we issued a further press statement at noon revealing the steps that had been taken.

[Omitted here is material unrelated to the El Al incident.]

Elliot L. Richardson
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Lot File: 74D 164. Secret.
  2. Richardson reported that the Department of State had taken action in response to the Zurich El Al attack, and that a discussion had taken place between Israeli Minister Argov and Assistant Secretary of State Sisco. Sisco informed Argov that the U.S. was sending a letter of protest to the UN Security Council and urged France and the UK to do the same. The matter would also be placed on the ICAO Council agenda.