Office of the Historian
Bureau of Public Affairs
United States Department of State
January 12, 2004
The Department of State released today Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964–1968, Volume XIX, Arab-Israeli Crisis and War, 1967. This volume is the third to be released of a trilogy that focuses on United States policy toward the Arab-Israeli conflict during the Johnson administration. The volume documents U.S. policy immediately before, during, and after the June 1967 Arab-Israeli war and includes newly declassified documentation on the USS Liberty incident regarding Israeli involvement. Already released Volumes XVIII and XX cover the Johnson administration before and after the war.
The crisis that erupted in the Middle East in May 1967 set off a series of events that continue to impact the area’s political agenda. Gathering tension between Israel and Egypt reached crisis proportions on May 22, when Nasser announced the closure to Israeli ships of the Gulf of Aqaba, an international waterway. Israel regarded access to the Gulf as a vitally important national interest. Following the 1956 Suez Crisis the Eisenhower administration had given Tel Aviv assurances of U.S. support for continued Israeli access to the Gulf and its entrance through the Strait of Tiran.
On May 23, 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson reiterated the U.S. position that the Gulf of Aqaba was an international waterway, restated U.S. support for the independence and territorial integrity of all the nations in the area, and called upon all concerned to exercise restraint. Intense efforts by the United States and the United Nations to find a peaceful solution ensued. On June 5 Israel, convinced that these efforts would not be effective, launched pre-emptive military operations against Egypt, beginning what would become a wider conflict involving Syria and Jordan as well. Egypt and a number of other Arab states broke diplomatic relations with the United States on the erroneous charge that U.S. combat aircraft had participated in the initial attacks on Egypt.
Although Johnson and his advisers were sympathetic to Israel, the United States gave Israel no military assistance during the fighting and cut off military shipments to both sides. U.S. diplomats worked to end hostilities, supporting UN Security Council calls for a cease-fire and urging Israel to comply. The war ended on June 10, with Israeli troops in control of the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank and Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights.
Johnson and his advisers initially hoped that Israel’s military victory would lead to a comprehensive peace settlement in which Israel would exchange the territory it had captured, with minor exceptions, for recognition and secure boundaries. It soon became apparent, however, that the Arab states were not ready for such a settlement, and that Israel was becoming increasingly entrenched in the occupied territories. Various diplomatic efforts in the search for a settlement in the months after the war were not successful. Finally, U.S. and British efforts to craft a UN resolution that could be used as a basis for further negotiations led to the passage on November 22 of Security Council Resolution 242.
The text of the volume, the summary, and this press release are available on the Office of the Historian website (http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ho/frus/johnsonlb/xix/). The other volumes in the trilogy-XVIII, 1964–1967 and XX, 1967–1968 are also available on the website. Copies of all three volumes can be purchased from the U.S. Government Printing Office online at http://bookstore.gpo.gov/index.html. For further information, contact Edward Keefer, General Editor of the Foreign Relations series, at (202) 663-1131; fax: (202) 663-1289; e-mail: email@example.com.