162. Circular Telegram From the Department of State to All Posts1

208191. 1. Undersecretary Rostow asked Chiefs of Mission of following Arab states call at 10:30 a.m. today: UAR, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Yemen.

2 Rostow noted that this was a deplorable occasion. Stated he wished inform Ambassadors of USG position toward events which we regretted. The outbreak of hostilities represented the failure of diplomacy. USG had been active with all governments directly concerned, especially the UAR and Israel, using all of our influence to promote restraint and to prevent the firing of first shot. We had looked forward to visit of Vice Pres Mohieddin to Washington. We regret that he has now asked to postpone this visit but are gratified that he has not cancelled it. We welcome him at anytime.

3. Rostow then read full text President’s June 5 statement re Middle East crisis.2 Rostow continued that this morning a resolution would be presented in the Security Council3 containing these three elements: 1) call upon on governments for cease-fire; 2) call upon all governments to cooperate with United Nations; and 3) request UNSYG to keep Council promptly and fully informed.

4. Rostow also asked that all Arab governments give full protection to US diplomatic establishments and citizens in their countries. We had received disturbing reports from some cities of riots. We hoped that all governments would take adequate and effective measures protect American lives and property.

5. UAR Ambassador Kamel, as dean of diplomatic representatives present, responded by agreeing that this was a deplorable and sad situation. Kamel then read from message from UAR Foreign Office accusing Israel of having fired first shot and trying deceive world opinion. Kamel continued that Israel attacks on third country shipping in Suez Canal indicated Israel’s desire drag third parties into conflict. Kamel [Page 308] said that Arabs had stated they would not start hostilities. Arabs had kept their word. Arabs had also felt that whatever differences had existed, normal channel for their solution was U.N.; hence they had participated in the Security Council’s deliberations. Arabs felt that Israelis starting hostilities while matter was before Security Council was dangerous action because it was an affront to the United Nations Charter. Kamel noted Arabs had appealed to USG time after time to use its influence to restrain Israel. Israel had now begun shooting. The Arabs would defend themselves. Kamel said the Israelis have proved they did not respect the UN Charter or the effort of the Security Council and had destroyed diplomatic efforts that USG and Arabs were making. Kamel asked rhetorically whether USG believed that imminent arrival UAR Vice Pres was a sign of hostility or a signal that UAR wished intensify diplomatic efforts.

6. Kamel also upbraided leading US newspapers as well as Senators and Congressmen for their constant repetition of theme that “time was working against Israel.” Such behavior could only be interpreted as either encouragement or endorsement of Israeli attack.

7. Kamel referred to visits to US of Lebanese and Iraqi FonMins and visit of UNSYG to Cairo. There had been no time to reap the fruit of any of these efforts.

8. Kamel stated Arab diplomats were unable to respond to USG appeal for cease-fire as they un-instructed. However, Arabs had been attacked and they were defending themselves.

9. As to protection of US citizens and property in Arab countries, Kamel said Arab governments would do their utmost to respect and protect Americans, not only because of requirements of international law but because the Arabs are a hospitable and dignified race. He admitted that some mistakes could take place but all ambassadors present would immediately appeal to their governments to redouble their efforts.

10. In response Rostow said that we had tried over last weeks to put train back on track. Arab states knew USG’s good intentions. US wanted to be friends to all the people in the Near East and this would remain our desire. We supported the territorial integrity and political independence of all the states in the area. This policy had redounded to benefit Egypt in 1956 and Lebanon in 1958. Thus we pursued an even-handed doctrine.

11. Mr. Rostow stated he had heard with interest UAR Ambassador’s charge that Israel had begun hostilities and we would like to study any documentation on this point which Arab states may wish to bring to our attention. This was an important, if not decisive, subject in the context of the rule of law and supremacy of the United [Page 309] Nations. The most important thing before us now was a cease-fire. As President Johnson had said, we wished to see “end to fighting and a new beginning of programs for peace and development of the area.” We were aware of difficulties such problems as Aqaba. The best of lawyers could disagree on such problems. Our efforts to resolve these problems by peaceful means had failed but they must and would be resumed.

12. Kamel warned that Israel was doing its utmost to bring US in on its side. He urged US not to become a third party. All Arabs would be watching US action, direct and indirect, open or behind scenes in this regard. Kamel stated other “friendly powers” would also be watching,

13. Rostow stated that we had pursued even-handed policy in dispute based on two main elements: 1) the international character of the Gulf of Aqaba and 2) our opposition to aggression. USG was not involved in deplorable events but had only tried to prevent them.

14. Kamel urged, view postponement Mohieddin visit, that President Johnson receive Arab ambassadors to clarify USG policy for them.

15. Kuwaiti Ambassador Al-Ghoussein raised Palestine problem. Said he hoped USG would give this serious thought in hope that permanent solution might now be achieved. Rostow replied that more permanent and lasting solution was desire of all of us.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 ARAB–ISR. Confidential; Immediate. Drafted by Bergus, cleared by Battle and Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Joseph Palmer II, and approved by Eugene Rostow.
  2. See Document 152.
  3. The UN Security Council met in emergency session on the morning of June 5, but no resolution was introduced.