28. Telegram From the Embassy in the United Arab Republic to the Department of State1
Cairo, May 21, 1967, 0900Z.
7760. Middle East Crisis. Ref: Cairo 7754.2
- Last night Parker took up with Zakaria Muhieddin’s secretary Mustafa Abdul Aziz latter’s remarks as reported Miles Copeland (para 2 reftel).3 Abdul Aziz said: (a) regular UAR units as opposed PLA occupying all front line positions and under strict order not to start anything. If Israelis began anything however, Egyptians, who had largest concentration troops and heavy equipment ever seen in Sinai, would react immediately and would crush Israelis with brute force. He hoped Israelis started something. This time Egyptians would win. (b) Altho he personally reluctant believe stories of US-Israeli plot, series US actions, beginning with our forcing Germans to supply arms to Israel and culminating recent spate pro-Israeli and anti-UAR statements by public figures in US, including McNamara, Javits, Robert Kennedy and McCloskey, who said we wanted strengthen UNEF, meaning stationing it on Syrian border, created strong presumption story of plot was true.
- When Parker pointed out that statements by US Senators not statements official US policy and that we had been endeavoring restrain Israelis as well as Arabs, Abdul Aziz asked why there had been no statement by responsible American allocating responsibility fairly. Israelis had threatened attack Syria and had massed troops near border for that purpose. USG had said nothing. As soon as UAR took defensive meas-ures however USG had gone into orbit. It clear we prepared protect Israel but didn’t care about Egypt or Syria.
- When told Egyptians committing major mistake in basing their estimates of situation on what Soviets and Syrians telling them about [Page 42] our intentions, Abdul Aziz said Egyptians not relying on either of those powers for its assessment but had reached their conclusions all by themselves. Those conclusions based essentially on public record USG statements and actions, including its failure deny Eshkol remarks that we had urged Israelis rely on Sixth Fleet for their protection.4 Heproduced sheaf of carefully arranged Arabic translations news reports and public statements from US. Seemed particularly incensed by Robert Kennedy warning to Arabs not to attack Israel.
- Comment: It clear to us UARG had talked itself into believing story of US-Israeli plot to create incident which would result in stationing UNEF along Israel-Syrian border. It also seems clear that Nasser has resolved to deal with this imagined threat thru massive power play which, if successful, will be his biggest political victory since Suez, even if no shot is fired. If Syrians continue Fedayiin incursions and Israelis retaliate, there will be serious hostilities and Arabs apparently confident they can win in long run. If Israelis do not retaliate, Nasser will have forced them to back down and will have won first Arab victory over Israelis, and incidentally will have won another victory over US in Arab eyes. By his present posture Nasser has abandoned his traditional position of not wishing to start fight except at time and place of his own choosing because timing of hostilities now in hands Fatah-Asifa and Israelis. Do not believe Nasser would have done so unless he fairly confident of victory. He is playing for keeps and we should make no mistake this regard. We hope visit of UNSYG will lead to at least temporary deescalation of war atmosphere now prevailing.
- Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL ARAB–ISR. Secret; Priority. Repeated to Amman, Baghdad, Beirut, London, Tel Aviv, and USUN. Received at 6:18 a.m. Passed to the White House, DOD, CIA, USIA, and NSA at 6:45 a.m.↩
- In telegram 7754 from Cairo, May 20, Charge Nes declared that the UAR Government regarded the situation as serious and was “not play acting” and reported indications of UAR officials’ state of mind. (Ibid.)↩
- In paragraph 2 of telegram 7754, Nes reported that Aziz had told Miles Copeland that UAR forces had been given orders to “hit Israelis with everything they have” if anything erupted along the border and that Palestine Liberation Organization leader Ahmed Shukairy had moved his headquarters to Gaza, PLA units were in the front lines, fedayeen raids would occur, and if the Israelis retaliated, the Egyptians would strike back. Aziz had also said that Nasser “believes what he says about CIA plots and this is major factor contributing to present crisis.” Copeland, a former CIA officer, was in Cairo on private business. Nes commented that his account might not be accurate.↩
- Reference is to a statement made by Eshkol in an April 1967 interview. Asked whether he would expect help from the United States if Israel were attacked in force by its neighbors, he stated that Israel would rely primarily on its own army but that he would expect help, “especially if I take into consideration all the solemn promises that have been made to Israel. We get these promises when we ask the United States for arms and are told: ‘Don’t spend your money. We are here. The Sixth Fleet is here.’ My reply to this advice is that the Sixth Fleet might not be available fast enough for one reason or another, so Israel must be strong on its own.” (U.S. News and World Report, April 17, 1967, p. 76)↩