18. Telegram From the Embassy in Israel to the Department of State1

3679. Ref: Tel Aviv 3648 and 3650.2

Eshkol and Eban are taking announcement of General Rikhye that as of 1600 hours UNEF no longer operating very hard. Coupled with reassessment UAR dispositions now as of offensive character (my 3654)3 andreports UAR troops moving into Sharm-el-Sheikh, level their apprehensions has risen markedly. Response my determined probing they claim GOI has not as I suggested “pushed the panic button,” and they only taking minimum defensive precautionary measures. However, they describing U Thant’s capitulation in such terms as “unheard of destruction important defensive mechanism operating for eleven years.” My argument that, unfortunate as it is, it does not affect fundamental military situation which depends on Nasser’s intentions and there every reason for Nasser not embark on attack on Israel, seemed me fall on deaf ears.
Specifically, they ask whether they will receive answer Eshkol’s reply to President, which they hope, and urge that in altered circumstances they would regard it appropriate that US assurances to Israel re support in event aggression be reiterated publicly.
I have put to them in strong terms importance they keep their nerve and not do anything in their anxiety to heat up the situation further. I have gone so far as to say that their professed frustration at this development and apparent fright of UAR force now facing them, which although large is obviously not of invasion magnitude, is giving me qualms as to their own strictly defensive intentions. Naturally they protest vigorously, and as of now I think truthfully. However, the potentialities are such and Israel’s concerns with Nasser as principal opponent in Arab world so deep seated and long enduring that I find it conceivable [Page 28] at least that counsels of opportunity could sway them into major adventure next few days.
I consequently recommend that we consider what we can do to calm them down. Anything the President could say in reply Eshkol that would strengthen latter’s resolve continue limit his objective to restoration status quo would be helpful. This connection, particular reference to Sharm-el-Sheikh obviously especially telling.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 ARAB–ISR/UN. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Received at 2:23 p.m.
  2. Documents 13 and 14.
  3. In telegram 3654 from Tel Aviv, May 19, Barbour reported that the Israelis considered UAR troop dispositions to be assuming a posture more capable of offensive action than they had previously thought, and that consequently the Israelis had increased their counter measures somewhat. Barbour had urged that Israel take only the barest minimum dispositions and avoid measures on a scale that would increase the danger in the situation. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL ARAB–ISR)