WASHINGTON (Mar. 21)
The United States, Britain and the Soviet Union were in accord today in their condemnation of the Israeli military action to eliminate bases on the east bank of the Jordan River from which Arab guerrillas have been conducting terrorist activities against Israel and Israeli-held territories, but the three powers differed in the degree of their condemnation.
The State Department, with the authorization of the White House, issued a sharply critical statement which stressed the American view that “further violence cannot bring a durable and stable peace to the Middle East.” It said the Israeli action today against Jordanian territory was “damaging to the hopes for a settlement of the real issues involved” and ignored the “peaceful channels” available. It said the Administration recognized the problems created by terrorism and “we also recognize the disruptive effects of military action.”
The statement insisted that Israel and the Arab states “should be adhering scrupulously to the cease-fire resolutions of the Security Council” and should be working with the United Nations special envoy. Dr. Gunnar V. Jarring. The statement revealed that the United States had cautioned Israel and Jordan “as recently as one day ago” against resorting to force and had urged that “differences should be settled through efforts of the United Nations and not through use of force.” One official said here that “pressures” were used at the highest levels to restrain Israel from undertaking the operation. An even higher level of influence was exerted, he said, to make Israel break off the attack and withdraw.
The United States, which had sought to halt the Israeli move before it got under way, called on Israel early Thursday to pull back its forces to the cease-fire line. Previously, State Department sources said, Washington had urged Jordan to limit guerrilla actions and had urged Israel to recognize the difficulties of the Hussein regime in imposing restraints.
President Johnson and Secretary of State Rusk were said to be angered by the Israeli action and to have considered it “disproportionate” and a danger to regional peace. The Administration was said to be especially vexed that Israel failed to heed Washington’s advice on anti-guerrilla tactics. The “search and destroy” operation which the Israelis pursued, is difficult to criticize publicly here because of its similarity to the measures employed by the U.S. forces in Vietnam.
The British Foreign Office spokesman said that the British Government “deplores all violations of the cease-fire” and insisted that “all concerned” observe the cease-fire agreements. The British press, by and large, took the position that Israel’s actions, however unfortunate, were justified. The London Daily Telegraph asserted that had Israel permitted such acts as the mining of a school bus in the Negev to go unpunished, it would “encourage the terrorists.”
There was a violent reaction from Moscow. Moscow radio denounced the Israeli action as a “criminal act” and charged that the United States stood behind it. It warned that the action made U.N. efforts to establish peace in the Middle East “meaningless” and denounced it as a”flagrant violation” of the cease-fire agreement and “defiance” of world opinion.