1967 Israeli-Arab Six Day war:

Dean Rusk: No war in the Middle East

January 16, 1967

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1967 Israeli-Arab Six Day war:

Dean Rusk: No war in the Middle East; Syrians not supporting Fatah

Introduction

On January 16, 1967, U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chaired by Senator William Fulbright. Rusk's testimony was remarkable because it was totally incorrect in nearly every respect.

1. Rusk thought that the problems at the Syrian border with Israel were really due to disputes over the DMZ:

...At the time of the armistice, Syrian forces were occupying a strip within the historical boundaries of the mandate. Under the armistice, Syrian forces withdrew from that strip under demilitarized regulations. Israel claims since this was territory within the mandate and is Israeli territory, and they claim to exercise sovereignty over the subject as to demilitarized regulations.

Actually, the problem was the Syrian attempts to sabotage the Israeli national water carrier, a strategy agreed upon at the Arab summit conference in Alexandria in 1964. Israel was constructing the national water carrier in accordance with the Johnson plan allocation of water to the different countries in the region. Since the Syrian sabotage was carried out by diverting the headwaters of the Jordan river in their own territory, Israel could not attack unless attacked first. Thus, the demilitarized zone incidents were created to generate an excuse for retaliation. Since the Syrian diversion attempts had been publicly announced and the nature of Israeli retaliatory raids was pretty well known, the

2. Rusk stated:

One is the activities of a Fatah organization of terrorists, who we think are not directly and actively supported by any of the governments concerned.

Fatah terrorists were recruited by Syrian army intelligence. Since the foundation of the PLO with the purpose of "liberating" "Palestine" by force had been agreed upon at the Arab summit in Cairo in 1964, it would not have  taken much deductive power to know that the Syrians were training and arming the Fatah, as well as looking the other way when they carried out their raids, for which they undoubtedly provided intelligence support.

3. Rusk stated, and repeated:

I don't myself, think, sir, that this is likely to lead to a major war.

The Arab summit of Casablanca, in September 1965, had resolved on a war to destroy Israel, allowing about 2-3 years to build up their military capabilities. Therefore, while the timing was a bit early, the assertion that the Arabs would not go to war was quite shaky.

 

Ami Isseroff

Copyright

The introduction above is copyright 2007 by Ami Isseroff. The document below is in the public domain. It was declassified by the United States government under the Freedom of Information act and is posted at:  http://www.fas.org/irp/congress/2007_hr/1967executive.html.Please cite the sources.


Hearings of January 16, 1967

...

SITUATION IN ISRAEL

The Chairman. Just one other subject before you go on. I wonder about Israel. There seems to be, from this morning's press, a very dangerous situation there. Could you say a word about it?

Secretary Rusk. The issue at the present time centers along the Israeli-Syrian border. There are three elements in the problem in terms of repose in the area. One is the activities of a Fatah organization of terrorists, who we think are not directly and actively supported by any of the governments concerned. Particularly not by Jordan, who has been trying to operate against them but who use Syrian and Jordanian territory for acts of sabotage and terror over the Israeli border. On that particular point, Jordan and Israel have greatly increased their police action on their respective sides of the border to try to deal with that activity as a police matter. There is a more complicated matter between Israel and Syria. At the time of the armistice, Syrian forces were occupying a strip within the historical boundaries of the mandate. Under the armistice, Syrian forces withdrew from that strip under demilitarized regulations. Israel claims since this was territory within the mandate and is Israeli territory, and they claim to exercise sovereignty over the subject as to demilitarized regulations.  

The Syrians claim this has never been legally established, and so you have both Israeli and Syrian farmers in this strip. Arms are fired into the area from the Syrian side typically, with response from the Israeli side. Israelis patrol on occasion in this area with their own armored vehicles, so you have a continuation of this particular kind of struggle.

DO NOT EXPECT A MAJOR WAR

I don't myself, think, sir, that this is likely to lead to a major war.

The Chairman. You do not?  

Secretary Rusk. Athough--because I don't think, for example, the Syrians are particularly interested in it. We know the Israelis are not interested in a major war in this situation, but it is a very troublesome problem as to how you handle these repeated acts of terror back and forth across the border, particularly in that area.

General Bull, the head of the U.N. force out there, is trying to make some arrangement--the Arabs would say, ``Let the U.N. forces take charge in this demilitarized area and provide the police forces,'' while the Israeli and Syrian farmers go ahead with their agricultural work. As a matter of fact, farmers on both sides apparently get along pretty well until somebody from outside the demilitarized zone starts shooting in from outside the area.

But that is about the situation, Mr. Chairman. It is tense, but we don't----  

The Chairman. You don't expect a major war?  

Secretary Rusk. We don't expect a major war.  


Source:

S. Prt. 110-20 EXECUTIVE SESSIONS OF THE SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE TOGETHER WITH JOINT SESSIONS WITH THE SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE (HISTORICAL SERIES) ======================================================================= VOLUME XIX __________ SOURCE:

NINETIETH CONGRESS first session 1967 MADE PUBLIC 2007 Printed for the use of the Committee on Foreign Relations U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE 31-436 PDF WASHINGTON : 2007

http://www.fas.org/irp/congress/2007_hr/1967executive.html

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