ARAB-ISRAELI CONFLICT: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968. Vol. XIX. Arab-Israeli Crisis and War, 1967
Parker, Richard B., The Middle East Journal
Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968. Vol. XIX. Arab-Israeli Crisis and War, 1967, ed. by Harriet Dashiell Schwar. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 2004. 1063 pages. Index to p. 1087. $69.
This long-awaited and important tome, delayed for several years because of reluctance to declassify certain documents dealing with the Liberty case, was released in January 2004 to the accompaniment of an academic conference on the June War held at the Department of State. It contains 542 documents-telegrams, letters, diplomatic notes and memoranda, reporting demarches, conversations, and policy discussions during the six months from May 15 to November 22,1967, when UN security Council Resolution 242 was adopted. The entire volume is available online at http://www.state.gOv/r/pa/ ho/frus/johnsonlb/xix/. Hardly light reading except for the dedicated policy wonk, it comprises only a fraction of the mountain of paper that this particular crisis generated. Decisions as to what should be included must have been difficult, and keeping the volume within manageable size dictated exclusion of marginal items that might have interested historians. It does not contain much in the way of operational details about what was happening on the ground, so the characters and events are largely two-dimensional.
Researchers will find the book invaluable, and serious students will want to read every page of it. Some serious new books on the subject should result, but the inside story of the diplomatic chaos and the role of various actors as seen by those of us who had to pick up the pieces dropped by our superiors has yet to be written, and it is unlikely that it ever will be, because the actuarial tables are catching up with those of us who were involved at the working level.
The book does not contain any great surprises or revelations, or at least none that I recognized as such, but it does provide interesting insights into a number of queslions of interest to me, and particularly into the progressive erosion of US policy on territorial integrity, which has led to the present log jam in the Holy Land.
In the days before the war started on June 5, and most famously in President Johnson's statement of June 23, 1967, administration officials had repeatedly stressed our continued solemn commitment to the territorial integrity of all the states of the area, meaning Arab as well as Jewish. This commitment had been formalized originally in the Tripartite Declaration of May 25, 1950, which committed the United States, Britain, and France to take action both within and outside the United Nations to prevent violation of the armistice lines established in 1949. Although the other two signatories, France and Britain, had both repudiated it with their participation in the 1956 invasion of Egypt, the Johnson administration asked them in 1967 to reaffirm their adherence to the declaration and both declined. The administration appeared to consider itself still bound to honor the Tripartite commitment, however, or at least those of us in the field understood our frequent reiteration of statements about territorial integrity as confirming our continued adherence to the declaration. In the final discussion that terminated the conference on the June War held at the Foreign Service Institute in 1992 (see Richard B. Parker (ed.), The Six-Day War, a Retrospective, University Press of Florida), Alfred Atherton raised the following question:
"For eighteen years the United States had the policy of maintaining a structure embedded in the armistice agreements that had at least maintained a status quo and a reasonable amount of stability. Sometime between June 5 and 19, when Johnson made his speech (at Glassboro), there was a major change in US national policy, and I think it would be useful to know how this change happened. It was perhaps logical that we were not going to restore the status quo ante. But that was not necessarily the assumption. …