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Ball Hands Johnson Letter to Eshkol, Believed to Reaffirm President’s ‘five Points’

July 16, 1968
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Ambassador George Ball, the United States chief representative to the United Nations, delivered a personal letter from President Johnson to Prime Minister Levi Eshkol today as the two met for 90 minutes. Earlier, Mr. Ball met for two hours with Israel’s Foreign Minister Abba Eban in talks which, informed sources said, indicated that there was no basic difference between the United States and Israel on permanent peace in the Middle East and the need for an agreed solution of the Arab-Israel dispute.

The meetings here today were the first contacts between Israeli leaders and top level American diplomats in Israel since the June, 1967 Arab-Israel war. Mr. Ball was accompanied by Assistant Secretary of State Joseph Sisco and Alfred Atherton, chief of the State Department’s Arab-Israel desk. Sitting in on the meetings were U.S. Ambassador Walworth Barbour and senior officials of the Israel Foreign Ministry and the Prime Minister’s office. The contents of Mr. Johnson’s letter to Mr. Eshkol were not made public. But it is understood that the President reiterated the principles of his “five points” for the Middle East which he stated in July, 1967.

Mr. Ball said, on his arrival at Lydda Airport yesterday, that he and his party came to Israel to get first hand insights into the problems of common concern to both countries in the context of the region and the United Nations. In this connection, it was understood that Mr. Eshkol and Mr. Eban expounded the Israeli view of the Middle East situation in detail. Mr. Eshkol is reported to have told Mr. Ball that he truly believed that the intention of President Nasser of Egypt was to destroy Israel. He drew attention to Mr. Nasser’s recent statements in Moscow which, in his view, aimed at nothing less than total war against Israel. Mr. Eshkol recalled that in the 1930s, Hitler expressed his aim to destroy the Jewish people, but most people did not believe him at the time.

The Israeli Prime Minister also voiced deep concern over the continued Soviet rearmament of Egypt and other Arab countries, a point that was reportedly also emphasized by Mr. Eban. Both of them asserted that no credence could be given to the Russian proposal for the curtailment of arms shipments to the Middle East because Russia was boasting that it had supplied the Arabs with better, more modern weapons. They said that the arms balance in the region was once more unfavorable to Israel and that American arms supplies for Israel were therefore essential. Mr. Eshkol repeated Israel’s desire for peace which, he said, could be brought about only through direct negotiations. Mr. Eban reportedly warned against misinterpretation of the so-called current Egyptian “peace offensive” which he described as misleading. The Israelis were believed to have told the American diplomats that the Suez Canal could be reopened whenever the Egyptians agreed to the principle of free navigation for all, including Israel. They also stressed that Israel could not withdraw its basic demand for direct peace talks because the Arabs have stated their absolute adherence to the Khartoum formula of August, 1967 which in effect, demanded Israel’s destruction.

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