Johnson Warns Israel Against ‘unilateral’ Annexation of Old City of Jerusalem

President Johnson, shortly before welcoming Jordanian King Hussein to the White House, warned Israel today against annexation of the Old City of Jerusalem without full consultation with Christian and Moslem religious leaders and others.

In a special statement, President Johnson urged “appropriate consultation” among all concerned groups owing to Jerusalem’s unique status and religious significance to Christians Moslems and Jews. He made known that such consultation should be conducted before Israel made a final determination affecting the city’s status.

It was clear that the statement was prompted by reports from Jerusalem that Israel was formally annexing the Old City. The President’s timing was aimed at reassuring King Hussein that the United States Government did not concur on full Israeli sovereignty of parts of Jerusalem held by Jordan prior to June 5, when the war began.

The White House understanding was that annexation had not yet taken place although the Knesset had passed a law authorizing such action. The White House statement said: “The world must find an answer that is fair and recognized to be fair, that could not be achieved by hasty unilateral action, and the President hopes that the wisdom and good judgment of those now in control in Jerusalem will prevent any such action.”

The use of the third person approach was apparently designed as a reference to what President Johnson said on June 19. He then stated “there must be adequate recognition of the special interest of the three great religions in the holy places of Jerusalem.”

Extensive questioning took place at the White House following issuance of today’s statement. But no guidance was offered on what the United States Government would consider a solution of the Jerusalem issue. However, State Department sources said the United States would favor internationalization of Jerusalem, including the old sector seized by Israeli forces this month and the New City held by Israel prior to June 5.

While the President and King Hussein were meeting, the State Department press spokesman. Robert McCloskey, called the Israeli “annexation” of Old Jerusalem unacceptable.

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