Document: Washington Tells Israel It Won't Honor Commitment On Straits of
[IMRA: The Obama admnistration's case of amnesia isn't the first time a
promise was forgotten. The following is 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.]
"No record has been found in Department of State records showing U.S.
acceptance of the Israeli paper as an agreed minute."
Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, Volume XIX, Arab-Israeli Crisis and War, 1967
Released by the Office of the Historian
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.
Drafted on May 27.
Filed with 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 Vice President
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
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).
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
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.