[Freemanlist2] Document: Washington Tells Israel It Won't Honor Commitment On Straits of Tiran (Pre- 6 Days War)

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Document: Washington Tells Israel It Won't Honor Commitment On Straits of Tiran

[IMRA: A sobering lesson in history for those who propose Israel trade 
strategic territory for pieces of paper. In this case, Washington couldn't 
find their copy.]

Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, Volume XIX, Arab-Israeli Crisis and War, 1967

Released by the Office of the Historian
Documents 72-97
72. Memorandum for the Record/1/
Washington, May 26, 1967, 1:30 p.m.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Middle 
East Crisis, Miscellaneous Material.

Top Secret.

Drafted on May 27.

Filedwith a covering memorandum from Saunders to George Christian stating 
that he had dictated this draft from his notes and Christian could make 
additions or revisions before putting it in the President's records. A few 
handwritten corrections by Saunders appear on the source text and on a copy 
that Saunders sent to Walt Rostow. (Ibid., Vol. II)

No copy with further revisions has been found. The agenda for the meeting, 
prepared by Rostow, is ibid.

The meeting, held in the Cabinet Room, began at 1:33 p.m. The President left 
the meeting at 3:10 p.m. and returned at 3:51 p.m.; the meeting ended at 
4:05 p.m. (Ibid., President's Daily Diary)


Meeting on the Arab-Israeli Crisis, May 26, 1:30 p.m.

The President
Clark Clifford
The Vice President
Justice Fortas
Secretary Rusk
General Wheeler
Secretary McNamara
Richard Helms
Undersecretary Vance
Joseph Sisco
Lucius Battle
Walt Rostow
Eugene Rostow
George Christian
George Ball
Harold Saunders

Secretary McNamara had reported that he had met with Eban from 10:30 to 
11:20 a.m. He said Eban was back on the tack of the night before--that a 
surprise Arab attack was imminent. Eban said Israel by itself had two 
alternatives--surrender or a preemptive strike. He had come to explore a 
third--what the US might do to open the Gulf of Aqaba. He stressed US 
commitments and expressed concern that so far he had had no indication that 
the US was ready to use force. During the meeting Eban received a message 
stating that the prediction of attack was no longer just an appraisal but 
was solid information. However, he was vague on the source of this 

Secretary McNamara had said that the Israelis would stand alone if they 
initiated an attack. He cited the importance of our gaining Congressional 
support and working through the UN. Eban had questioned the efficacy of the 
UN. He predicted nothing would happen there and asked why Israel should not 
act now.

Eban cited a 27 February 1957 agreed Minute between Secretary Dulles and 
himself,/2/ then Israel's Ambassador in Washington. The substance of that 
understanding was that Israel would withdraw from Sharm al-Sheikh if passage 
through the Straits of Tiran was assured. Eban interpreted our statement at 
that time (we believe the Straits comprehend international waters)/3/ as a 
US commitment to use force to keep the Straits open.

/2/See Document 69 and footnote 2 thereto: [IMRA:  see below]

/3/The aide-memoire of February 11, 1957, as made public on February 17, 
1957, and Lodge's statement before the General Assembly on March 1, 1957, 
stated that the United States believed that the Gulf of Aqaba comprehended 
international waters. See footnote 6, Document 36, and footnote 6, Document 
32. President Eisenhower reiterated this position in an address of February 
20, 1957. (Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. 
Eisenhower, 1957, pp. 147-156)

Secretary McNamara said that, after reviewing the documents of that 1957 
exchange, he had learned that Eban was ignoring a 19 February 1957 statement 
by Secretary Dulles at a news conference. In effect, Secretary Dulles said 
he would not think the US had the right to use force to protect vessels of 
other flags. That would require Congressional action./4/

/4/At his news conference on February 19, 1957, Dulles said, "The President 
has inherent power to use the forces of the United States to protect 
American ships and their rights all over the world. But he has no power, in 
my opinion, to use the forces of the United States on behalf of the vessels 
of another flag unless he is given that authority by some congressional 
resolution or by a treaty." (Department of State Bulletin, March 11, 1957, 
115 p. 404) The complete record of the news conference is ibid., pp. 

69. Memorandum of Conversation/1/


Washington, May 26, 1967, 10:30 a.m.
/1/Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330 77-0075, 
Memoranda of Conversations between Secretary of Defense McNamara and Heads 
of State (other than NATO).

Top Secret.

Drafted by Jordan and approved on June 5 by Deputy Assistant Secretary of 
Defense for International Security Affairs Townsend Hoopes.

The meeting was held in McNamara's office at the Pentagon.


Dangers of Arab-Israeli War


Israeli Side
Foreign Minister Abba Eban
Ambassador Avraham Harman
Brigadier General Joseph Geva, Defense Attache

United States Side
Secretary of Defense--Robert S. McNamara
Deputy Secretary of Defense--Cyrus Vance
Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff--General Earle G. Wheeler
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State (NEA)--Rodger Davies
Director, Near East and South Asia Region, OASD/ISA--Col. Amos Jordan ....

2/Ambassador Harman delivered a copy of this document, unsigned and 
untitled, dated February 26, 1957, to Eugene Rostow with a covering letter 
of May 26. It states that at a meeting on February 24, 1957, the Israeli 
Ambassador sought clarification on U.S. attitudes and intent on matters 
discussed in the U.S. memorandum of February 11, 1957. It continues with 
side-by-side summaries of questions asked by Ambassador Eban and replies 
given by Secretary Dulles. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 
59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-2 ARAB-ISR) The U.S. record of the meeting 
on February 24, 1957, between Dulles and Eban is in Foreign Relations, 
1955-1957, vol. XVII, pp. 254-267. The next day Reuven Shiloah, Minister of 
the Israeli Embassy, gave Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, 
South Asian, and African Affairs William M. Rountree an Israeli working 
paper, unsigned and undated, summarizing Eban's queries and Dulles' 
comments. According to the U.S. memorandum of the conversation, Shiloah 
emphasized that the paper had no status as a document. (Ibid., pp. 270-271)

No record has been found in Department of State records showing U.S. 
acceptance of the Israeli paper as an agreed minute.
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