Distraction and Deception: Israeli Settlements, Vietnam, and the Johnson Administration

Distraction and Deception: Israeli Settlements, Vietnam, and the Johnson Administration Abstract The early stages of Israeli settlement construction in the occupied territories were reversible. To avoid pressure, Israel practiced deception regarding the civilian nature of settlements. The Johnson administration, distracted by Vietnam and lacking foresight, was unaware of Israeli deception until well into its “lame duck” period. Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are often considered to be a principal obstacle to peace in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Due to Israeli dependence on the United States in the international arena, American policy is the most significant external constraint on construction. The Obama administration was the latest to attempt to influence Israeli policy when it abstained from a United Nations (UN) Security Council resolution calling for a cessation of construction. Secretary of State John Kerry complained that “no one thinking seriously about peace can ignore the reality of what the settlements pose to that peace.”1 However, protests seldom substantially alter Israeli policy. Indeed, it seems that the story of U.S. policy towards the settlements is one of unmitigated failure. By the end of the Labor Party-dominated era in 1977, Israel had built seventy-seven settlements in the occupied territories.2 The extent and breadth of construction and population then grew exponentially under the leadership of both the Likud and Labor parties, particularly during negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in the 1990s, and continues to grow today. One could argue that the enterprise of Israeli settlement construction is too advanced to be reversed.3 However, taking action in the early stages of development could have curtailed construction and prevented entrenchment. Therefore, an analysis of the early U.S. policy towards the settlements, particularly during its nascence in the latter days of the Johnson administration, can help explain the United States’ pattern of long-term failure. Following its victory in the 1967 Six Day War, Israel was particularly sensitive to external pressure. The primary Israeli decision makers feared international pressure would force it to withdraw from the occupied territories. This fear was at least partially due to memories of the diplomatic campaign waged against it by the United States from 1956 to 1957. The withdrawal, in return for guarantees which in retrospect seemed almost worthless, loomed large for Israel.4 It seemed a repeat of the U.S. campaign was in the offing when a few days after the 1967 war, Special Consultant to the President McGeorge Bundy urged Israel to convey its territorial positions. Bundy was aware of the potential influence of pressure on Israel. He observed that “we are the people with the carrot” and “also the people with the stick,” but what “is not clear is whether we are ready to apply our full influence in this direction.”5 Fearful of potential U.S. pressure, Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol predicted that “for a few months we may be able to flout everyone, but we cannot do it for a long time, not to the world and not to the United States.”6 Fear that another round of irresistible pressure to withdraw from the territory captured in war was certainly prevalent in the Eshkol government.7 To formulate a territorial position which would ameliorate U.S. pressure, the cabinet met on June 19, 1967. Eshkol believed that since the United States “need[s] to know what [it] should support,” Israel “should know what to say.”8 The Israeli government decided it was willing to return the Golan Heights and Sinai in their entirety, in exchange for full peace. The Gaza Strip, West Bank, and Jerusalem were not part of this offer.9 As Avi Raz has convincingly shown, Israel designed the offer to forestall external pressure rather than offer a genuine peace.10 Remarkably, Israel took this far-reaching position even though direct pressure had yet to materialize. Thus, it stands to reason that the June 19 decision was not the bottom line of the Israeli position, and that under pressure, territorial demands could have been curtailed further. The structure of the Israeli cabinet made it particularly malleable to pressure. Made up of twenty-one ministers from seven parties, it contained vastly differing territorial conceptions. The cabinet was split into two loose camps. Foreign Minister Abba Eban, Minister of Finance Pinhas Sapir, and Minister of Justice Yaakov Shimshon Shapira headed a group wishing to return most of the occupied territories. Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and the two Ministers without Portfolio, Yisrael Galili and Menachem Begin, tended to support annexation. But even Dayan was outspoken in his belief that Israel could only continue to hold the occupied territories with U.S. support. Some of the most important decision makers, in particular Eshkol and Labor Minister Yigal Allon, fell between the camps and were responsive to external pressure.11 Indeed, the fact that the June 19 decision passed unanimously supports the notion that the cabinet was pliable on territorial issues.12 For the above reasons, the period immediately following the 1967 war was one in which Israel was attentive to pressure. Therefore, the Johnson administration enjoyed significant potential influence over Israeli settlement policy. In the early years of construction, Israel built settlements almost exclusively in areas it wished to retain in a permanent peace agreement. Settlement construction plans were based on the territorial preferences of the cabinet members supporting them. Particularly notable in this regard were Moshe Dayan’s “Dayan Plan” and Yigal Allon’s “Allon Plan.” Dayan believed that the West Bank should remain entirely under Israeli control and a line of settlements should be built along the dominant mountain ridge at its center. Meanwhile, Allon believed that the territory should be divided, but in order to guarantee Israeli security from an invasion on its eastern frontier, a line of settlements in the Jordan Valley should be constructed. Both Dayan and Allon had based their plans for settlement construction on their preferred concept of “defensible borders.”13 Therefore, if the United States had been able to significantly modify the Israeli territorial position, Israel would have correspondingly limited its construction plans. There is a lot of truth to Donald Neff’s argument that “if Washington had acted during this period with the steely determination and clarity of purpose that the Eisenhower administration had shown in 1956 in demanding Israel’s withdrawal after the Suez crisis, the chances are high that the militant settler movement would have been blunted.”14 Figure 1. View largeDownload slide United States Central Intelligence Agency, Israel (Washington, DC, 2001). Courtesy of the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/resource/g7500.ct000979/. Figure 1. View largeDownload slide United States Central Intelligence Agency, Israel (Washington, DC, 2001). Courtesy of the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/resource/g7500.ct000979/. View largeDownload slide United States Central Intelligence Agency, Israeli settlements in the Golan Heights, February 1992 (Washington, DC, 1992). Courtesy of the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/92682948/. View largeDownload slide United States Central Intelligence Agency, Israeli settlements in the Golan Heights, February 1992 (Washington, DC, 1992). Courtesy of the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/92682948/. Yet, the Johnson administration squandered the opportunity. Despite the potential influence enjoyed by the United States, Israeli territorial demands expanded significantly during the immediate post-1967 war period, and settlement construction expanded accordingly. Finally, on October 31, 1968, the Eshkol government rescinded its acceptance of the international borders with Egypt and Syria as the basis for a permanent settlement.15 Israel constructed settlements in accordance with its expanding territorial orientation. By 1971, Israel publicly admitted to having constructed thirty-two settlements in the occupied territories.16 Pressure from the Johnson administration certainly does not appear to have notably constrained construction. This puzzling outcome raises the question: Why did the United States fail to successfully restrain Israel from constructing a significant number of settlements in the occupied territories, despite its potential influence in the immediate post-1967 war period? The topic of U.S. policy towards Israeli settlements in the occupied territories suffers from a dearth of academic study. Two studies on the topic are extant. The first is a secondary-source based overview of changes in U.S. policy towards the settlements from 1967 to the Clinton era.17 The second, a strategic assessment written during the Obama administration, argues that the administration should have altered its policy towards partial acceptance of Israeli settlement construction.18 Neither rely on archival sources. Considering the vast amount of attention the media has given to U.S. policy on Israeli settlement construction, the sparsity of academic attention is surprising.19 Nevertheless, the lack of in-depth research into the topic has not stopped academics from espousing strong opinions on the matter. Since there is little doubt that the United States did not effectively curtail Israeli settlement construction, controversy has focused on explaining the outcome.20 Three schools of thought have emerged. One states that the United States has opposed Israeli settlement policy but has been inept in handling the issue.21 The second approach––put forth by outspoken critics of U.S. Middle Eastern policy, such as Noam Chomsky and Rashid Khalidi––maintains that the United States willingly supported Israeli settlement efforts.22 The third approach, not specific to settlement policy, posits that the United States does not oppose Israeli policies that counter U.S. national interests because of the influence of pro-Israel domestic pressure groups. John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt argue that “U.S aid has indirectly subsidized Israel’s prolonged and costly effort to colonize the Occupied Territories, and the lobby has made it impossible to convince Israel to abandon this counterproductive policy.”23 In order to settle the question of why the United States did not curtail Israeli settlement policy, thorough primary source-based research is needed. The following is an attempt to do so by focusing on the crucial Johnson era, when the policies of both states towards the issue of settlement construction in the occupied territories took shape. The argument here affirms the first approach, which posits that the United States had an interest in limiting settlement construction to advance the resolution of the conflict and thereby blunt Soviet influence in the region. Despite this, it lacked foresight in handling the problem. The Johnson administration did not predict the consequences of significant Israeli construction and failed to respond with a consistent policy or even verify Israeli construction policy on the ground. This conclusion brings nothing new to the perception of President Johnson’s policy towards the Arab-Israeli conflict. The general consensus is that the Johnson administration tended to support Israel.24 The sympathy Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) evinced towards the Israeli territorial position and the benign neglect of his administration towards settlement construction confirms the conventional wisdom. Nevertheless, this article speaks to wider debates on Johnson’s foreign policy. The president failed to see that Israeli settlement construction on occupied Arab territory could significantly hinder the attainment of a permanent resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Therefore, he left the matter in the hands of Secretary of State Dean Rusk and the State Department and allowed mediation to fall primarily on the United Nations. This reflects his general apathy towards Israeli occupation policy, which was partially explained by a fixation on the Vietnam War. These findings are in line with the traditional school of thought regarding LBJ’s foreign policy, sometimes referred to as the “been in Texas too long” school. The scholars behind this approach believe Johnson was uncomfortable with foreign policy, preferring to deal with domestic issues. Hence, he allowed his advisors, particularly Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, McGeorge Bundy, and Dean Rusk, a decisive role in decision-making. The lack of oversight and central control meant that the Johnson administration executed foreign policy ad-hoc without a clear strategy. This approach also stresses the centrality of Vietnam in policy formulation and the war’s role in paralyzing and incapacitating the United States’ wider foreign policy agenda.25 This argument contradicts the assumptions of revisionist studies of Johnson’s foreign policy. Revisionist scholars paint a picture of a competent and far-seeing Johnson administration foreign policy. Their interpretation emphasizes the autonomous and often successful nature of Johnson’s foreign policy outside of the Vietnam War. They also paint LBJ as a dominant decision maker, while minimizing the role of his advisors and the bureaucracy.26 This article also contradicts the thesis forwarded by H. W. Brands, which attributed the Johnson administration’s inability to resolve a series of international problems to the weakened position of the United States, not the failings of the administration.27 The picture emerging from the present study is of an administration wielding tremendous power over Israeli policy but failing to do so wisely. No works have been written on the policy of the Johnson administration towards Israeli settlements. Due to the importance of this era in setting the stage for future policy, this is a significant gap in the literature. Works on U.S.-Israeli relations do, on the other hand, note the sympathetic views of the administration towards Israeli territorial ambitions.28 Correspondingly, Zaki Shalom and Ehud Eiran reflect that due to this attitude, the administration evinced sympathy towards Israeli settlement policy.29 Still, they inaccurately equate Johnson’s territorial policy with his policy towards the settlements. While the two are related, the United States had a unique policy towards the settlements separate from its territorial position. In particular, the policy included an important differentiation between military outposts and civilian settlements. In addition, I argue that the Israeli settlements elicited no sympathy from the Johnson administration, but rather caused alarm in the State Department and utter apathy on Johnson’s part. The general literature on Israeli settlements also barely addresses the Johnson administration. Some works do not address the role of U.S. policy in this period as an important factor.30 More prescient observers correctly recognize that concern over imminent U.S. pressure influenced the Israeli government. However, writing mostly from the Israeli perspective, they do not explain why U.S. pressure did not materialize.31 Neff, focusing on secondary U.S. sources, attempts to explain this, stating that Israel moved decisively to construct settlements in territories but hid its intention to build civilian settlements by presenting them as paramilitary outposts. He contends this diffused American opposition to construction for over a decade.32 This is erroneous on two levels. First, Israeli construction outside Jerusalem was anything but decisive. Second, the United States was only briefly misled since decision makers knew the nature and extent of Israeli construction by mid-1968. The inaccuracy of existing literature is the result of a lack of multi-archival work specifically on the settlement issue during this pivotal era.33 The main thrust of the argument presented here is that Israeli settlement construction in the early years was tentative, with construction in Jerusalem being a notable exception. Therefore, at that time, Israel was highly vulnerable to pressure. Neff is correct that the use of supposedly military settlements played a role in stymying U.S. opposition, but since he did not consult Israeli documents, he was unaware of its role in a wider Israeli policy. To avoid consequential international pressure, Israel utilized a two-step strategy. The first step involved attaining a tacit bilateral agreement on settlement construction. Israel unofficially promised to build only military-oriented strongpoints and agreed that construction would be reversible. The second step was significant Israeli deception by constructing and developing civilian settlements in contravention to the agreement. This allowed the Israeli settlement enterprise enough cover from international pressure to pass its vulnerable nascent stage. The Johnson administration did very little to oppose the civilian nature of Israeli construction. Contrary to Shalom and Eiran’s belief that the U.S. government was sympathetic toward Israeli settlement construction, the State Department was deeply concerned about the development. The president, though, took little interest as the administration’s policy was to distance itself from direct mediation and allow the UN to take the reins. Distracted by increasingly bleak developments in the Vietnam War and plummeting popularity, President Johnson had no interest in confronting Israel on an issue which seemed peripheral at the time. Distracted and underrating the importance of the issue, the United States allowed itself to be fooled by Israeli obfuscation and accepted its assurances at face value. As a result, the issue was handled mostly by the Near Eastern Affairs (NEA) bureaucrats at the State Department and National Security Council (NSC) staff members. They sensed that the settlements presented a potentially significant obstacle to the Arab-Israeli peace process. But without backing from distracted top decision makers, they were unable to formulate a coherent policy. Instead the bureaucrats focused almost exclusively on keeping the issue out of the media. Furthermore, without guidance from the White House, the intelligence community did not divert sufficient resources to obtaining information on settlement construction. Contrary to Neff’s claim, Israeli obfuscation was effective for only a few months. Still, the strategy of hiding the nature of Israeli settlement construction was successful in that it was only exposed when the Johnson administration entered its “lame duck” period. By that time, it was too late to formulate a coherent policy. The major objective of the Johnson administration’s Middle Eastern policy, as with previous administrations, was the containment of regional Soviet influence. The unresolved Arab-Israeli conflict sabotaged U.S. efforts to galvanize regional actors into an anti-Soviet alliance. The USSR exploited the cleavages created by the conflict in order to further its influence. Therefore, the Johnson administration had a definite interest in resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict.34 In order to do so, the United States was forced to contend with the territorial dispute at the heart of the conflict. The territorial changes precipitated by the conflict altered the long-standing position of the United States. The Johnson administration’s official position on territorial issues in the Middle East prior to the 1967 war had been an insistence on the territorial integrity of all states. However, in the case of Jerusalem, the matter was clouded by UN resolutions 181 and 194, which maintain that the city be placed under an international regime. The United States designed its official position (which it has never revoked) accordingly, declaring that Jerusalem be treated as a corpus separatum. Consequently, it did not recognize the de facto Israeli annexation of parts of East Jerusalem occupied in the 1967 war. In addition, the United States continued to avoid awarding de jure recognition to Israeli sovereignty in the areas of West Jerusalem the Jewish state controlled before the war. The reality of Israeli occupation also challenged the commitment of the Johnson administration to territorial integrity. On June 19, 1967, Johnson laid out the principles of his administration’s approach to the problem in his “Five Points” speech. The president reiterated his commitment to territorial integrity, but noted that the ceasefire borders were “only fragile and violated truce lines.” This indicated that the ceasefire borders were not sacrosanct and that the United States would consider the Israeli desire to alter the 1967 borders.35 In fact, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the NSC assumed that some Israeli annexations were inevitable and perhaps desirable.36 Correspondingly, the short-term U.S. strategy did not involve placing pressure on Israel to withdraw. Instead, the United States chose to entrust mediation and conflict resolution to the UN. The product of these efforts, Security Council Resolution 242, appointed Gunnar Jarring as the principle mediator. The Jarring Mission was an attempt by the representative to mediate a permanent settlement based on the principles of the resolution.37 President Johnson explained heavy-handed U.S. mediation was not necessary, since “what will truly be decisive in the Middle East will be what is said and done by those who live in the Middle East.”38 This attitude would last until May 1968, when it became apparent that the Jarring Mission was unlikely to succeed.39 Similarly, in an effort to avoid undue involvement in territorial issues, the United States chose not to micro-manage Israeli occupation policy. While it expected Israel to comply with the international laws of occupation, the Johnson administration was not willing to exert pressure to address infractions. The White House staff treated the construction of civilian settlements, a violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, as a technical issue. In an NSC document listing Israeli violations of human rights in the occupied territories, the settlements were mentioned as one of several concerns. The document also noted that Israeli officials had assured the U.S. government that they had designed settlements “for military purposes and could be removed if necessary.”40 The Johnson administration’s policies towards territorial issues and human rights violations were designed to avoid confrontation with Israel, while distancing the United States from Israel enough to avoid a rift with its Arab allies. There were several factors behind this unacknowledged American policy. The United States was loath to take a strong stand on territorial issues in the immediate aftermath of the Six Day War. First and foremost, it was preoccupied with Vietnam and its unsuccessful policy there. The war wore Johnson down to the extent that he decided not to run for re-election in the 1968 presidential election.41 Yet, even if it had not been distracted, the administration had reason to believe deep involvement in resolving the conflict would not be productive. Aside from the unbridgeable gap between the bargaining positions of the belligerents, there was the difficulty of selecting a promising interlocutor. The most accommodating Arab state was Jordan.42 Indeed, the administration could see no other track to pursue. Syria was firmly in the Soviet camp, while Egypt and the United States had severed relations. As of yet, the United States was unwilling to consider the option of negotiating directly with the PLO or other Palestinian representatives.43 However, the Johnson administration was not optimistic that a bilateral Israeli-Jordanian peace agreement was attainable. State Department Country Director for Israel, Alfred Atherton, wrote that there was skepticism “because [Gamal Abdel] Nasser in the end will not give Hussein [bin Talal] a green light and Hussein cannot move on his own.”44 The general opinion was that the Hashemite government was so unstable, that if it went too far in accommodating Israel without the support of Nasser, it could collapse.45 Public opinion also militated against pressuring Israel. There was a great deal of sympathy towards Israel amongst the American public in the postwar period.46 This was partially due to the political strength of the pro-Israeli constituency in the United States, but also due to the association of some of the Arab states with the USSR in the consciousness of American voters. Therefore, the American public believed Israeli concessions to the Arab states were beneficial to communism.47 In fact, the State Department had received six times as many letters supporting Israel than supporting the Arab position.48 Since Johnson did not run in the 1968 presidential election, however, this factor was not decisive. Electoral political concerns were only part of his calculus. The president was certainly invested in a Democratic victory and flirted with the idea of running despite announcing otherwise. However, his support for Democratic nominee Hubert Humphrey was lukewarm at best and unlikely to have guided his decisions. In addition, Middle Eastern issues were peripheral to the campaign. Therefore, it is unlikely that domestic considerations took primacy over foreign policy interests in the latter days of his presidency.49 The Johnson administration also felt a moral obligation to Israel. The Eisenhower administration had guaranteed Israel the freedom to ship through the Tiran Straits, but this guarantee collapsed when Egypt closed the straits to Israeli passage. Israel waited with relative patience while the United States attempted unsuccessfully to resolve the crisis.50 President Johnson, in his capacity as Senate Majority Leader, had been severely critical of the Eisenhower administration’s handling of the crisis. In particular, he had stridently opposed threats to impose sanctions on Israel if it refused to withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip.51 So, the president may have felt he had a personal stake in the issue. The Israeli argument that it could not rely on international guarantees but rather needed to take unilateral measures was not one for which the United States had an answer. Ambassador to Israel Walworth Barbour told Eban this was “a very sensitive point” and requested Israel avoid “picking at the scab.”52 With all of these reasons in mind, the Johnson administration was loath to exact pressure on Israel. Tacit support for the Israeli position was tempered by a need to maintain close ties with Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Taking a public position that supported Israel closely might destabilize Jordan or send it into the arms of the USSR.53 The Saudi Arabian government warned that an American territorial position which was openly supportive of the Israeli position would allow the Soviet Union to appeal directly to public opinion in Arab states and weaken conservative regimes. This was more a question of public relations than of substantive policy. In fact, Saudi Arabian ambassador Ibrahim Al-Sowayel suggested the United States take a “strong public stance on withdrawal, while at same time privately assuring GOI [government of Israel] that such public position could be disregarded.”54 Even the Arab states did not seem to believe that U.S. pressure on Israel could resolve the conflict. Under these circumstances the United States seemed to have no impetus to confront Israel. But these reasons did not fully apply to settlement construction. As illustrated below, the NSC and NEA understood that territorial and settlement construction issues could be separated. To maintain influence with the moderate Arab states, contain Soviet influence, and keep opportunities for an Arab-Israeli settlement open, avoidance of Israeli settlement construction was an American national interest. However, Johnson did not predict the future importance of the issue and preferred to ignore it. The Eshkol government realized instinctively that under these circumstances, the United States was likely to prefer not to be privy to the finer points of Israeli settlement construction policy. Unwilling to confront Israel until powerless to formulate coherent policy, the United States allowed itself to be misled by a thin web of Israeli deceit. Israel initially adopted a strategy of secrecy regarding its settlement construction policy in the occupied territories, except for East Jerusalem. There was almost complete consensus in Israeli society and government that Jerusalem must remain united under Israeli sovereignty. Willingness to make concessions was limited to, at most, allowing Jordan symbolic status in sites holy to Islam.55 As a result, Israel openly executed a policy of de facto annexation and large-scale construction. Within one day of the cessation of hostilities in the 1967 war, Israel announced the incorporation of parts of Jerusalem previously controlled by Jordan and a significant area not previously included, into a larger municipal area.56 Even Eban, one of the most conciliatory members of the Israeli cabinet, insisted “it was inconceivable that Jordan could return to Jerusalem.”57 Therefore, the United States openly confronting Israel on that issue was likely to cause a significant rift. This could prove costly, especially since the administration was well aware that Jerusalem was an emotional issue for the American Jewish community.58 Still, persistent complaints from the Arab capitals put pressure on the United States to modify Israeli policy in the city.59 In an attempt to improve its image in the Arab world, the United States voted for a failed General Assembly resolution calling for establishing an international regime in the city.60 But in order to appease the Israeli government and its supporters, the official U.S. position was that Israeli actions in the city were administrative and did not change the legal status of the city. Furthermore, the Johnson administration refrained from putting pressure on Israel directly. The United States had no interest in picking a fight over an emotionally charged issue when serious negotiations were not in the offing. Correspondingly, it abstained on more critical resolution proposals in the United Nations. This juggling act was unsuccessful as an exercise in public relations. Other nations repeatedly attacked the United States in the General Assembly and in bilateral talks for its position. Still, the awkward position was maintained.61 The reluctance of the United States to pressure Israel on the Jerusalem issue is significant. A consensus emerged in the international community that the Israeli annexation of and construction in Jerusalem was illegal. In addition, the matter was of emotional import to Jordan and Saudi Arabia, important conservative Arab allies. The limited extent of pressure on an issue as salient as this would seem to indicate distinct limits to the willingness of the United States to pressure Israel on territorial issues when stiff resistance was offered. Towards a Policy on Military Settlements There was no similar Israeli consensus surrounding construction in areas of the occupied territories aside from Jerusalem, with the partial exception of the Etzion Bloc.62 Therefore, political and ideological cleavages in the cabinet influenced decisions.63 The Eshkol government utilized settlements to pursue its strategy of establishing “defensible borders.” Israel saw the occupied territories first and foremost as tools to establish greater security for the State of Israel.64 In pursuit of security, Israel utilized civilian settlements to eventually expand its sovereignty––as part of a peace agreement with the Arab states––into those areas it viewed as strategically vital. As Allon explained, “we never held territory without settling it.”65 In the early days, Israel seldom mentioned annexing territories for ideological reasons as a justification for maintaining control. The Israeli public was not as fiercely attached to other areas in the West Bank as it was to Jerusalem.66 The government’s hesitance to allow the development of a settlement in Hebron, a city of great religious significance in Judaism, attests to this. Eshkol notably said, “I am willing to give up Hebron as well … I don’t know what we get out of keeping Hebron.”67 The second holiest city for Jews was not settled until the Labor Party lost power, although Israel constructed a settlement nearby under significant pressure from pro-settlement advocates. To avoid international pressure, and due to the lack of consensus in the cabinet on the exact location of the most “defensible borders,” Israel obfuscated its territorial intentions. Eban insisted that “Israel cannot now say where boundaries would be; the nature of the peace settlement will influence the nature of boundaries.”68 This became the standard Israeli line.69 Israeli officials refused to draw exact maps and insisted that permanent borders could only be agreed upon during face-to-face negotiations.70 Israel adopted and implemented a similar policy of obfuscation regarding settlement construction. Israel established the first settlement, named Merom Golan, in the Golan Heights, which it considered to be an area of military and strategic significance. Allon, who served as head of the ministerial settlement committee, proposed that the settlement be disguised as a military camp. Concerned primarily with the international reaction, Eban agreed.71 The attempt to present civilian settlements as possessing a military character served an important diplomatic function. The legal counsel to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) advised that since the construction of civilian settlements in the territories was in contravention to international law, “it is vital that [it] be done by military bodies and not civilian ones.”72 This opinion was based on the legal prohibition expressed in Article 49 of the Geneva Conventions, which rendered civilian settlements, but not military bases, to be in contravention to international law.73 Israel did not follow the advice to construct only civilian settlements. Instead, it presented settlements as military, regardless of their actual nature.74 Particularly useful in hiding the purpose of settlements were units of graduates from Israeli youth groups, known as Pioneering Fighting Youth units (or NAHAL units in their Hebrew acronym). NAHAL soldiers are trained in both combat and rural settlement. In addition, they are well suited to forming new communities, due to their tight social ties. In September, Israel used these units to establish two outposts in the Sinai Peninsula.75 The cabinet determined that the settlements would remain NAHAL outposts unless it was specifically decided to modify their designation as civilian settlements.76 The secrecy surrounding the moves meant that the Johnson administration was unaware of them at the time. However, the United States government noticed the next Israeli move to construct a settlement in the Etzion Bloc because of accompanying publicity. Jews first settled the area, eighteen miles from Jerusalem, in the 1920s. In May 1948, the Arab Legion and Palestinian militias attacked the settlements in the region, leading to their surrender. Since the former inhabitants owned much of the land, there was greater moral and political impetus to settle there than elsewhere. On September 24, 1967, the Israeli cabinet approved a settlement on the spot of the evacuated village of Kfar Etzion.77 Eshkol insisted on calling the settlement an “outpost,” to render an appearance of transience, but he harbored no illusions as to its permanence, adding that “over time, kids turn into goats.”78 As in Merom Golan, officials gave the settlers orders to pretend they were NAHAL soldiers. Nevertheless, the establishment of the settlement was announced publicly and appeared in the Israeli media.79 Zerach Warhaftig, Minister of Religions, gave a bombastic speech marking the occasion, in which he prayed “this settlement will be forever and the sons will return for eternity.”80 The publicity surrounding the establishment of the Kfar Etzion settlement was doubtless a result of the expected domestic popularity of the move. The pomp and circumstance backfired on the Israeli government. The State Department issued a diplomatic rebuke through its spokesman: “we regret any actions taken by either side which prejudices the conditions that could make possible a lasting and effective settlement.”81 The matter was discussed in the General Assembly, and the UN became a forum for attacking Israel on the settlement issue for the first time. British Foreign Secretary George Brown stated that the implications of Israeli settlement construction “were clear and disturbing.”82 Facing an international arena hostile to the Israeli move, State Department officials told the New York Times they were concerned the settlements were permanent.83 Gideon Rafael, Israeli Ambassador to the UN, complained that since reports of the settlement appeared without warning, the delegation was unable to mitigate diplomatic damage.84 The State Department brought the severity of the issue to the attention of President Johnson in no uncertain terms, warning that settlements were likely to prejudice future borders and could “drastically reduce the chances of voluntary relinquishment of the West Bank to any Arab state.”85 However, neither Johnson nor Rusk picked up the gauntlet. On the day of the official State Department rebuke, Eban and Rusk sat down for a long discussion but Kfar Etzion was not on the agenda.86 The message to NEA officials was clear: the top decision makers were not interested in the issue. The bureaucrats dealt with the issue as best as they could under the circumstances. William Dale of the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv asked MFA officials for clarifications. Shlomo Argov asserted that the Etzion Bloc was strategically important and that Israel designed the settlement to address security concerns. When Dale asked about the significance of the fact that some settlers were children of former residents of the Bloc, he explained that “it is only natural that the religious NAHAL units include young men from religious agricultural settlements … created by the remainder of the people of Gush Etzion.” The State Department official replied that this explanation “seemed reasonable.”87 The NEA officials, with no backing from top decision makers, had decided to play down the issue. Probably the most revealing comments were those of Lucius Battle, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, to Israeli Ambassador Avraham Harman. Battle stressed the “need to avoid airing differences of opinion between us in public press.” The second important point he made was that Israel must avoid actions that provide “ammunition for those at the UN who would interpret the GOI position as hardening in the direction of territorial acquisition.” He barely discussed the actual substance of settlement policy.88 The importance of public relations was the paramount concern throughout the minor diplomatic scuffles over Kfar Etzion. The need to maintain the impression among the conservative Arab states that Israeli moves were contrary to U.S. policy was the sole motivation for opposition at this point. Indeed, the United States was willing to tacitly accept the settlement in Kfar Etzion if Israel designated it as a military installation and minimized press exposure. The MFA was caught unaware by the decision to publicize the creation of the Kfar Etzion settlement. Eban complained that the announcement sabotaged Israeli efforts to promote a permanent settlement based on Israeli-backed principles. He added that as far as he knew, the policy agreed upon had been not to “announce settlements but rather to build them when necessary.”89 The New York Times exposed the lack of a clear public relations policy. When reporters asked if the settlement was permanent, a spokesman for the MFA was unable to provide a clear answer other than that Israel would be “keeping all options open.”90 The MFA found it challenging to explain a policy that they neither fully understood nor with which they completely agreed. The State Department rebuke created the impression among the MFA staff that the depth of U.S. opposition to the construction of Kfar Etzion was fundamental. Eban was concerned, incorrectly as it turned out, that the settlement announcement was “playing into the hands” of State Department officials who supported a return to the pre-war borders. The MFA, always jealously guarding Israel’s image abroad, feared that Israel would confirm suspicions that its claims of peaceful intentions were hollow and that the real goal was territorial annexation.91 Eshkol was less impressed by American objections and was concerned that heeding American pressure would have domestic political ramifications. However, even the prime minister accepted the recommendation that there should be no more publicity surrounding the establishment of settlements. Correspondingly he canceled a planned visit to the new settlement.92 The overreaction of the MFA, and Eshkol’s willingness to accede in response to low-key American criticism, is instructive of Israeli sensitivity to American pressure. The Tacit Agreement on Military Settlements In response to the international criticism surrounding the construction of the Kfar Etzion settlement, Israel attempted to craft a public relations strategy for the settlement issue. Arthur Lourie, Deputy Director General of the MFA, suggested that Israel present all settlements as military ones, and, if asked, refer to the settlements as “strongpoints.” Lourie further suggested that Israel declare that construction would not foreclose future Israeli withdrawals.93 Minister without Portfolio Yisrael Galili recommended similar steps to the cabinet, warning that “otherwise we will place ourselves and our representatives abroad in unnecessary distress.”94 The cabinet determined that previously established settlements would be designated as NAHAL strongpoints while new settlements would be discussed on a case-by-case basis.95 In practice, over the next few months, Israel would maintain that all of its settlements were reversible NAHAL strongpoints, whether it was true or not. Officials utilized the Lourie formula quickly and fully in bilateral talks.96 The purpose of the strategy was to dull American criticism by making Israeli settlement policy seem palatable. Indeed, it ostensibly neutralized the two main concerns of the Johnson administration: that Israel was violating international law and that settlements would preclude future withdrawals. The NEA was only partially fooled, however. While they did not seem to doubt the military character of the settlements, State Department officials suspected that construction was irreversible. An internal memo observed that “the Israeli government has given us no clear indication that it would be politically possible to withdraw the NAHAL units even as part of a political settlement.”97 Similarly, Battle was concerned that Israeli settlement construction in Sinai could lead to Israel demanding changes to the international border with Egypt.98 Therefore, the NEA believed settlements were developing into a serious problem, and the organization lacked the necessary backing from top decision makers to alter Israeli policy. The Lourie formula and the obfuscation of the civilian character of settlements seem to have contributed to apathy at the top. State Department and NSC attempts to include the issue in talking points for bilateral meetings were followed up half-heartedly, if at all. For example, in preparation for meetings between Eban and Rusk scheduled for October 23 and 24, Harold Saunders of the NSC suggested that the foreign minister should be warned that the United States “is seriously disturbed by new para-military Israeli communities in the West Bank and Sinai.”99 However, the issue received little attention in the discussions. Rusk mentioned the settlements in passing as one of several examples of undesirable Israeli policies, while Johnson failed to refer to the issue.100 Receiving no support from the primary decision makers, the State Department shifted to a policy of tacit support for military-oriented settlement construction. Although remaining officially opposed, the State Department mentioned the issue infrequently, and the position seemed increasingly hollow. U.S. pressure over construction in Kfar Etzion, never particularly significant, tapered off in late October 1967. For the next six months, officials did not mention the issue publicly or in bilateral talks. The NEA, with no support from Rusk or Johnson, began to accept settlement construction within the bounds of the Lourie formula. Apathy on the part of Johnson and Rusk seems to have also led to a remarkable lack of actionable intelligence. The administration was aware of the existence of Merom Golan almost immediately after its establishment but was apparently unaware of its civilian nature for ten months. The first mention of its status appeared in a report made by a State Department legal adviser in May 1968. The same report referred erroneously to Kfar Etzion as a NAHAL strongpoint.101 Yet, both settlements were quite open about their civilian nature.102 A visit for verification would likely have been sufficient to ascertain that the military status of both settlements was a sham. The surprising level of ignorance by the U.S. intelligence community could be attributed to a lapse on the part of the intelligence services, but it is far more likely a result of disinterest on the part of Rusk and Johnson. The intelligence community cannot spare resources to focus on issues which the administration does not prioritize, especially when they involve spying on friendly nations. If the administration had indicated that keeping tabs on settlement construction was a priority, adequate resources would have been allotted. Indeed, a visit by a U.S. diplomat to the area would likely have sufficed. This may also indicate that there was a certain level of bilateral trust at play which Israel exploited by misleading the United States. If so, the Eshkol government deceived the Johnson administration, but the administration showed a marked willingness to be misled. It is not clear that better and more timely intelligence would have altered U.S. policy. Indeed, it seems unlikely. However, it is indicative of a lack of interest and initiative on the part of the Johnson administration. The catalyst for ending the tacit agreement was an initiative taken by private Israeli citizens, in contravention to Israeli policy. On April 11, 1968, pro-settlement activists tried to force the hand of the Eshkol government and bring about a decision to settle Hebron. As the settlers were aware, the cabinet had yet to decide on the issue.103 The would-be settlers travelled to the city before the Passover holiday and rented hotel rooms. The military authorities allowed them to enter the occupied territories on the condition that they leave after the celebratory dinner, but the settlers remained.104 This was the first occurrence of what would become a pattern of settler behavior. Settlers and sympathetic activists made alliances with members of the cabinet and established settlements illegally, while exploiting the sympathy of ministers and military officials.105 Several cabinet ministers went to Hebron to show support, and the settlement efforts featured prominently in the Israeli media.106 The cabinet was split on the proper response to the wildcat settlement. As a temporary solution, officials removed the settlers from the hotel and relocated them to military government headquarters in the city. In the meantime, the settlers persistently lobbied the government to build a Jewish neighborhood in Hebron or its vicinity.107 The State Department viewed these developments with unease. The public nature of the act upended the secretive nature of Israeli settlement policy, which had facilitated the bilateral tacit agreement. The exploits of the wildcat settlers also began to appear in the international press.108 Therefore, it threatened the U.S. government’s major interest in preventing the issue from attracting international attention. The unambiguously civilian character of the settlers made it clear that any settlement in Hebron would not be a NAHAL strongpoint. Finally, the religious symbolism of Hebron made any settlement in the city seem particularly disruptive and more likely to be permanent due to its emotional significance. For these reasons, the Hebron incident demanded a reevaluation of U.S. policy towards the settlements. A Deal Undone Developments in Hebron prompted Rusk to finally take an interest in the issue. The secretary of state requested that the Tel Aviv embassy “restate in strongest terms the US position on this question.”109 However, the uncomfortable reality was that due to the success of the Israeli policy of obfuscation and the disinterest of Rusk and Johnson up to that point, no coherent policy existed. Therefore, the order to restate the position on civilian settlements was met with dismay. The reply from Tel Aviv was that “none of us can recall having made, with or without instruction from the Department, a special point of this issue.”110 An examination of the record by the NEA staff found that no attempts had been made to address the issue since the Kfar Etzion incident had abated roughly six months earlier.111 After a thorough examination, the State Department conceded that no policy towards the construction of civilian settlements existed. In a belated effort to formulate a policy approach, the State Department engaged in a muddled debate on the legality of the settlement in Hebron. Some officials were remarkably quick to put forth the argument that, though inarguably detrimental to the peace process, the settlements did not directly contravene international law. Heywood Stackhouse, of the embassy in Tel Aviv, speculated that Israel may not have violated the Geneva Conventions.112 A legal report drafted by Robert Neuman of the NEA did little to establish a clear policy. Putting forth a nuanced and subtle argument, he interpreted Article 49 as designed to prevent the forced deportation of civilians. Thus he believed it was not fully applicable to the situation in Hebron.113 By early May, a State Department consensus had emerged on the point that the Geneva Convention forbids the facilitation of civilian settlements by an occupying government. However, this did little to resolve the Hebron conundrum since State Department officials believed the settlers had arrived in the city of their own free will and without government encouragement.114 Therefore, despite the best intentions of the NEA to formulate a policy towards the Hebron settlement, its emphasis on legal formalism impeded efforts. The freshly appointed Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Yitzhak Rabin, met with Battle to learn of the Johnson administration’s dissatisfaction with developments in Hebron. While the initiative was well intentioned, the potency of the message was undercut by the NEA’s legalistic approach. The talking points for the meeting conceded that “Israel did not have a duty to prevent such settlement” but should, however, “refrain from stimulating or otherwise facilitating it.”115 While no record of the conversation itself has been found, there is every reason to assume that this mixed message was ill-suited to deter Israel from furthering settlement efforts. In fact, the message could be interpreted as permission to allow settlements initiated privately to remain in place. This argument was convenient for Israel since the government did not initiate the settlement near Hebron.116 Predictably, Israel maintained plausible deniability as to their involvement in the settlement in Hebron. In talks with their State Department counterparts, MFA officials continued to maintain that all settlements in the territories were military strongpoints and had no bearing on future boundaries. Michael Elitzur, director of the North American division of the MFA, explained that the settlers in Hebron were “more of a problem that Israel was dealing with than an expression of its policy.”117 In other words, tailoring its response to the legal position of the United States, the MFA insisted that Israel had not initiated the civilian settlement in Hebron, and therefore it was technically legal. The Israeli government thus implied that the tacit agreement to construct only military strongpoints in the occupied territories remained intact. Despite the awkward response of the Johnson administration, the mere existence of American scrutiny inhibited Israeli policy in the city. The Eshkol government decided to allow the settlers to remain in Hebron but not allow more settlers to join or to build structures outside the military base.118 Instead of making an ultimate decision, Eshkol formed a committee to examine possible urban settlement in the environs of Hebron.119 Concerned that the U.S. government would interpret the de facto decision to allow the settlers to remain in Hebron as a change in settlement policy, the Israeli embassy in Washington, DC, conveyed the message that Israel would not create any permanent housing.120 However, four months later, Israel decided to allow the settlers to build permanent residences in the vicinity of the military government headquarters.121 Ultimately, the Foreign Ministry misled the United States, although probably unintentionally as it was not kept abreast of settlement policy. Indeed, Israeli policy on Hebron can be charitably described as reactive and difficult for the ministry to understand or predict. While the Hebron crisis was unfolding, the State Department and CIA realized that Israel had never upheld the tacit bargain.122 Yet, by then political circumstances made it difficult for the White House to respond effectively. The Johnson administration had been distracted from the Middle East by the events in Vietnam, particularly by the political fallout of the Tet Offensive of January and February 1968. The president’s approval rating crashed to 36 percent, while 52 percent of those polled disapproved of his performance.123 Johnson’s announcement on March 31, 1968, that he would not seek re-election further hampered the United States’ ability to influence outcomes on the ground in the Middle East. Traditionally, presidents near the end of their term, with no prospects of re-election, are referred to as “lame ducks,” and Johnson was no exception. Indeed, some American officials believed that the belligerent sides were awaiting the elections before making any further moves.124 Thanks to the tacit bargain, the realization that Israel had built civilian settlements came late and at an inopportune time. The decreased interest and clout of the Johnson administration facilitated an Israeli turn towards an increasingly expansive and public settlement policy. As mentioned previously, in late October 1968, Israel officially altered its policy to a more ambitious formulation. Israel declared that Gaza would remain in Israeli hands. In Sinai, Sharm El-Sheikh, as well as a strip of land guaranteeing territorial contiguity with the international border, were to remain under Israeli control. Israel believed that retaining control, though not necessarily sovereignty, over the strategically crucial Sharm was the only way to guarantee freedom of transit for its shipping.125 Expanded territorial ambition was accompanied by a correspondingly ambitious and public settlement policy. Allon stressed the importance of cementing Israeli control over Sharm El-Sheikh through “the creation of a civilian settlement near the approaches to the bay.”126 Israel eventually established the envisioned settlement there after Nixon took office.127 Similarly, Israel began moving away from its tacit agreement in the Etzion Bloc, and no longer felt the need for pretense when it came to its settlement policy. In October, Yigal Allon publicly announced that the Kfar Etzion settlement would be designated as a civilian settlement. Reports of Israeli plans to construct settlements in the territories, which had thus far been kept under wraps, appeared regularly in the Israeli media.128 When President-elect Nixon sent Pennsylvania governor William Scranton to the area as his envoy, Israeli officials willingly discussed measures to put the Allon Plan into effect.129 The Israeli belief that the Johnson administration was not capable of curtailing its settlement policy seems to have facilitated this transition to an open and public settlement policy. The Israeli government would never again invest serious effort in hiding the civilian nature of settlements in the occupied territories from the United States. The State Department noted the change, and the CIA reported it to President Johnson in the run up to the elections, but the administration took no action.130 The NEA finally confronted Israel after Nixon had been elected but while Johnson was still in office. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Parker Hart met with Ambassador Rabin. Hart told his Israeli interlocutor that “reports of new settlements carried implications of a permanent Israeli presence which was inconsistent with efforts to make progress toward peace.” Rabin insisted that Israel continued to adhere to its policy of building only military strongpoints in the occupied territories. This was simply untrue as Hart was aware. However, the United States made no attempt to confront Israel over its dishonesty. It also failed to discuss consequences for defection or issue demarches of any sort.131 By the time the United States confronted Israel for its violation of the tacit agreement, the Johnson administration had neither the time nor the energy to deal with the problem. The early years of the settlement project were a unique opportunity for the United States to exercise influence on Israeli policy. In Jerusalem, Israel made a determined and public stand of open construction and de facto annexation. But elsewhere, it was uncertain about which areas it wished to retain and, consequently, about its map of settlement construction. Therefore, the Eshkol government was pliable to American pressure and coercion. In the immediate aftermath of the 1967 war, Israel was so concerned about international pressure that it preemptively agreed to return to the pre-war borders vis-à-vis both Syria and Egypt. In terms of settlement policy, the reactions of Lourie and Galili to relatively mild criticism engendered by the establishment of Kfar Etzion evince remarkable sensitivity to external pressure. Even when it was clear that U.S. pressure was underwhelming, Israel constructed settlements hesitantly. Realizing that Israeli settlement efforts could be nipped in the bud, the Eshkol government obfuscated the nature and extent of its settlement construction policy. Ultimately, obfuscation gave the nascent settlement enterprise the breathing space it needed to survive a vulnerable period of incubation and take significant strides towards permanence. However, the effectiveness of Israeli obfuscation attempts should not be overstated. The lack of foresight demonstrated by Johnson and Rusk cultivated indifference towards the issue of Israeli settlement construction in the intelligence community and stunted the formulation of a coherent policy by the State Department. A comparison with the public and controversial case of Jerusalem shows that even without obfuscation, the Johnson administration was unwilling to use its influence to curtail Israeli construction. This reflected the failings of the Johnson administration’s reactive and uninspiring policy towards resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict in the post-1967 war period in general. These policies are commensurate with the traditional historiographical interpretation which holds that both an innate lack of initiative and creativity and an undue obsession with the Vietnam War stifled Johnson’s foreign policy. Indeed, the Johnson administration chose to delegate primary responsibility for Arab-Israeli negotiations to the UN, an institution that had utterly failed in its response to previous crises in the region and was deeply distrusted by the Israeli government. The Johnson administration remained aloof from the conflict even when it became clear that the UN-sponsored Jarring Mission was failing. The abdication of responsibility from the top played a large part in the intelligence community’s failure to discern the civilian status of Merom Golan and Kfar Etzion and in the NEA’s inability to formulate a coherent policy on civilian settlements. The NEA struggled to respond in the few months between its discovery of Israeli deceit in April–May 1968 and the end of the Johnson’s term. But time was pressing and President Johnson had already announced he would not run for re-election. His scant political capital was focused on the war in Vietnam, and Nixon’s election on November 5, 1968, put an end to the slightest chance of curtailing Israeli settlement policy. The Johnson administration’s lack of foresight meant that it lost a crucial opportunity and that the issue would await the attention, or often inattention, of future administrations. In the meantime, the settlement enterprise would become increasingly entrenched, and each successive administration would find it more difficult to reverse. Footnotes I would like to thank David Tal, Terry Terriff, John Ferris, Jeremy Pressman, and Ziv Rubinovitz for their invaluable comments. I also wish to thank the editors and the two anonymous reviewers for their helpful and enlightening comments. In addition, this article could not have been completed without the generous funding of the Centre for Military, Security and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary and the Kahanoff Israel Studies fund. Finally, I wish to thank the Association for Israel Studies, which selected an earlier version of this paper for the Kimmerling Prize. All flaws and errors are of course my own. 1 Michael Birnbaum, “British Prime Minister Denounces Kerry’s Speech on Israeli Settlements,” Washington Post, January 10, 2017, A10. 2 Yisrael Galili, Internal Memo of the Settlement Committee, June 1977, 12-3-93-2, Yad Tabenkin Archives (hereafter YT). 3 Zaki Shalom, “The United States and the Israeli Settlements: Time for a Change,” Strategic Assessment 15, no. 3 (October 2012): 73–85; Idith Zertal and Akiva Eldar, Lords of the Land: The War Over Israel’s Settlement in the Occupied Territories, 1967–2007 (New York, 2007). 4 For an overview of U.S. policy towards Israel in the 1956 war, see Isaac Alteras, “Eisenhower and the Sinai Campaign of 1956: The First Major Crisis in US-Israeli Relations,” in The 1956 War: Collusion and Rivalry in the Middle East, ed. David Tal (London, 2001), 25–46. 5 Paper Prepared by the President’s Special Consultant, July 18, 1967, Foreign Relations of the United States (hereafter FRUS), 1964–1968, vol. XIX, Arab-Israeli Crisis and War, 1967, eds. Harriet Dashiell Schwar and Edward C. Keefer (Washington, DC, 2004), doc. 374. 6 Reuven Pedatzur, The Triumph of Embarrassment: Israel and the Territories After the Six-Day War (Tel-Aviv, 1996), 51–52. 7 Cabinet minutes, June 11, 1967, 8164-6/A, Israel State Archives (hereafter ISA). 8 Avi Raz, “The Generous Peace Offer that was Never Offered: The Israeli Cabinet Resolution of June 19, 1967,” Diplomatic History 37, no. 1 (January 2013): 91. 9 Aryeh Levavi to Abba Eban, June 19, 1967, 5978-2/Foreign Ministry (hereafter FM), ISA. 10 See Raz, “Generous Peace Offer.” 11 Embassy in Tel Aviv to State Department, May 6, 1968, #137a, “Israel Memos 1 Vol. IX,” box 141, Country File (hereafter CF), National Security Files (hereafter NSF), Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library (hereafter LBJL); Gershom Gorenberg, The Accidental Empire: Israel and the Birth of the Settlements, 1967–1977 (New York, 2006), 48–53; Amnon Sella, “Custodians and Redeemers: Israeli Leaders’ Perceptions of Peace, 1967–79,” Middle Eastern Studies 22, no. 2 (April 1986): 237. 12 Avi Shlaim, The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World (New York, 2000), 253; Pedatzur, Triumph of Embarrassment, 48. 13 Pedatzur, Triumph of Embarrassment, 124–59; Yechiel Admoni, Decade of Discretion: Settlement Policy in the Territories, 1967–1977 (Ramat Efal, Israel, 1992), 40–48; Shlomo Gazit, Trapped Fools: Thirty Years of Israeli Policy in the Territories (London, 2003), 251–59. 14 Donald Neff, “Settlements in U.S. Policy,” Journal of Palestine Studies 23, no. 3 (Spring 1994): 53–69. 15 Israeli Cabinet, October 31, 1968, 15-46-39-2, YT; Emanuel Shimoni to London, November 1, 1968, 5978-2/FM, ISA. 16 “Six Settlements will be established in the Territories during the Coming Year,” Maariv, September 13, 1971, 4. 17 Neff, “Settlements in U.S. Policy,” 53–69. 18 Shalom, “The United States and the Israeli Settlements.” 19 On the centrality of settlements in media coverage and in U.S. foreign policy, see Elliott Abrams, “The Settlement Obsession: Both Israel and the United States Miss the Obstacles to Peace,” Foreign Affairs 90, no. 4 (July/August 2011): 142–52. 20 Neff, “Settlements in U.S. Policy”; Shalom, “The United States and the Israeli Settlements.” 21 Neff, “Settlements in U.S. Policy”; Gorenberg, Accidental Empire, 360. 22 Noam Chomsky, Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians (Cambridge, MA, 1999), 42; Rashid Khalidi, Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S. Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East (Boston, MA, 2013). 23 John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy (New York, 2007), 336; Edward Tivnan, The Lobby: Jewish Political Power and American Foreign Policy (New York, 1987); Michael Thomas, American Policy Toward Israel: The Power and Limits of Beliefs (London, 2007). 24 Warren I. Cohen, “Balancing American Interests in the Middle East: Lyndon Baines Johnson vs. Gamal Abdul Nasser,” in Lyndon Johnson Confronts the World: American Foreign Policy, 1963–1968, ed. Warren I. Cohen and Nancy Tucker (New York, 1994), 279–309; H. W. Brands, The Wages of Globalism: Lyndon Johnson and the Limits of American Power (New York, 1995), 183–218; John Badeau, The American Approach to the Arab World (New York, 1968); Douglas Little, “Choosing Sides: Lyndon Johnson and the Middle East,” in The Johnson Years, Volume 3: LBJ at Home and Abroad, ed. Robert A. Divine (Lawrence, KS, 1994). 25 Philip Geyelin, Lyndon B. Johnson and the World (New York, 1966); Eric Frederick Goldman, The Tragedy of Lyndon Johnson (New York, 1969); Warren I. Cohen and Nancy Tucker, eds., Lyndon Johnson Confronts the World: American Foreign Policy, 1963–1968 (New York, 1994); D. B. Kunz, ed., The Diplomacy of the Crucial Decade: American Foreign Relations during the 1960’s (New York, 1994); Irwin Unger and Debi Unger, LBJ: A Life (New York, 1999); Gareth Porter, Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam (Berkeley, CA, 2005). 26 Jonathan Colman, The Foreign Policy of Lyndon Johnson: The United States and the World (Edinburgh, UK, 2010); Robert A. Devine, ed., The Johnson Years, Volume 3: LBJ at Home and Abroad (Lawrence, KS, 1994); Brands, Wages of Globalism; J. W. Dumbrell, President Lyndon Johnson and Soviet Communism (Manchester, UK, 2004); Michael Lumbers, Piercing the Bamboo Curtain: Tentative Bridge-building to China During the Johnson Years (Manchester, UK, 2008). 27 Brands, Wages of Globalism. 28 William Quandt, Peace Process: American Diplomacy and the Arab-Israeli Conflict Since 1967 (Berkeley, CA, 2005), 44–48; Steven Spiegel, The Other Arab-Israeli Conflict: Making America’s Middle East Policy, from Truman to Reagan (Chicago, IL, 1985), 153–58. 29 Ehud Eiran, “Settling to Win: Strategic Settlement Projects in Post-Colonial Times” (PhD diss., Brandeis University, 2010), 98–104; Shalom, “The United States and the Israeli Settlements,” 77. 30 Zertal and Eldar, Lords of the Land; William Harris, Taking Root: Israeli Settlement in the West Bank, the Golan and Gaza-Sinai, 1967–1980 (New York, 1980); Haggai Huberman, Against all Odds: 40 Years of Settlement in Judea, Samaria, Binyamin and the Valley (Netzarim, Israel, 2008); Admoni, Decade of Discretion. 31 Ronald Ranta, Political Decision Making and Non- Decisions: The Case of Israel and the Occupied Territories (New York, 2015); Pedatzur, Triumph of Embarrassment; Peter Demant, “Ploughshares into Swords: Israeli Settlement Policy in the Occupied Territories, 1967–77” (PhD diss., University of Amsterdam, 1988); Gorenberg, Accidental Empire. 32 Neff, “Settlements in U.S. Policy,” 55. 33 Gorenberg’s book is an exception to this this rule and engages a wide array of sources, but due to the topic of the study, it does not focus on U.S. policy. See Gorenberg, Accidental Empire. 34 President’s Special Assistant to President Johnson, June 7, 1967, FRUS, vol. XIX, doc. 189; Jerusalem Consulate to Middle East Control Group, June 8, 1967, #33, “Jerusalem,” box 1, Files of the Special Committee of the NSC (hereafter FSCN), NSF, LBJL. 35 President Johnson speech, June 20, 1967, 7412-1/A, ISA. 36 Harry McPherson to President Johnson, June 11, 1967, FRUS, vol. XIX, doc. 263; Jerusalem Consulate to Middle East Control Group meeting, June 8, 1967, #33, “Jerusalem,” box 1, FSCN, NSF, LBJL; CIA Memorandum, June 9, 1967, #12, “Middle East Crisis––CIA Intelligence Memoranda,” box 112, Special Assessments on the Middle East Situation, NSF, LBJL; NSC to President Johnson, June 26, 1967, “NSC Special Committee #1,” box 2, FSCN, NSF, LBJL. 37 Memorandum for the President, undated, #156c, “Israel Memos, vol. X,” box 142, CF, NSF, LBJL. 38 Brands, Wages of Globalism, 215. 39 Department of State to the Embassy in Israel, August 17, 1968, FRUS, 1964–1968, vol. XX, Arab-Israeli Dispute, 1967–1968, eds. Louis J. Smith and David S. Patterson (Washington, DC, 2001), doc. 240. This change in policy can be traced to Ambassador Arthur Goldberg’s plan of June 23, 1968. See Arthur Goldberg to President Johnson, June 23, 1968, #154b, “United Nations––Vol. 10,” box 70, Agency File, NSF, LBJL. 40 Harold Saunders to Eugene Rostow, October 21, 1967, #69b, “Israel Memos––Vol. VII,” box 140, CF, NSF, LBJL. 41 A good indicator of the overwhelming importance of Vietnam to the Johnson administration is evident in the CIA daily briefings received by President Johnson. Every day roughly half of the report was dedicated to the “special daily report on North Vietnam” while the other half included items from the rest of the world. The other items also often concerned the Vietnam War. See Central Intelligence Agency, President’s Daily Brief 1961–1969, Freedom of Information Act Electronic Reading Room (hereafter FOIA), https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/collection/presidents-daily-brief-1961-1969?page=124. For secondary literature on the primacy of Vietnam over Middle Eastern interests, see Doris Kearns Goodwin, Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream (New York, 1976), 335–54; Judith Apter Klinhoffer, Vietnam, Jews, and the Middle East: Unintended Consequences (New York, 1999). 42 Abraham Ben-Zvi believes that the Jordanian element was the major factor in bringing about a “special relationship” between Israel and the United States. Abraham Ben-Zvi, Origins of the Israeli-American Alliance: The Jordanian Factor (New York, 2007). 43 The Nixon administration was the first to seriously consider this option. See Simen Zernichow and Hilde Henriksen Waage, “The Palestine Option: Nixon, the National Security Council, and the Search for a New Policy, 1970,” Diplomatic History 38, no. 1 (January 2014): 182–209. 44 Alfred Atherton to Rodger Davies, July 26, 1968, file Correspondence with Tel Aviv, box 2, 1951–1976 Subject-Numeric File (hereafter SNF), Record Group 59 (hereafter RG 59), General Records of the Department of State, U.S. National Archives (hereafter USNA). 45 Ibid; NEA Background Paper, King Hussein’s Position, June 24, 1967, #26, “Jordan––Visit of King Hussein,” box 148, CF, NSF, LBJL; The President’s Daily Brief, April 29, 1968, FOIA, accessed October 6, 2017, https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/DOC_0005974405.pdf 46 John Roche to President Johnson, July 10, 1967, #186, “Middle East Crisis Memos & Misc––Vol. XII,” box 109, CF, NSF, LBJL; Quandt, Peace Process, 45. 47 Nathaniel Davis to Eugene Rostow, July 18, 1967, #201, “Middle East Crisis Memos & Misc––Vol. XIII,” box 109, CF, NSF, LBJL. 48 Dixon Donnelley to Acting Secretary, June 26, 1967, #243, “Middle East Crisis Memos & Misc––Vol. XII,” box 109, CF, NSF, LBJL. 49 Robert Dallek, Flawed Giant: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1961–1973 (New York, 1998), 543–49, 569–92. 50 Michael Oren, Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East (New York, 2002), 61–126. 51 Salim Yaqub, Containing Arab Nationalism: The Eisenhower Doctrine and the Middle East (Chapel Hill, NC, 2004), 106–7. 52 Memorandum of conversation, August 6, 1967, 7412-1/A, ISA. 53 NEA Background Paper, June 24, 1967, #26, “Jordan––King Hussein Visit,” box 148, CF, NSF, LBJL; Memorandum of Conversation, June 28, 1967, FRUS, vol. XIX, doc. 331; Memorandum of Conversation, July 14, 1967, FRUS, vol. XIX, doc. 365. 54 Department of State to the Embassy in Saudi Arabia, July 1, 1967, FRUS, vol. XIX, doc. 336. 55 Alfred Atherton to Rodger Davies, February 23, 1968, file POL 27 Peaceful Settlement 1968, box 21, 1951–1976 SNF, RG 51, General Records of the Department of State, USNA. 56 Israeli government, June 28, 1967, S-1066/91/10, United Nations Archives and Records Management. 57 Memorandum of conversation, July 15, 1967, #151, “Middle East Crisis Memos & Misc––Vol. XIII,” box 109, CF, NSF, LBJL. 58 Heywood Stackhouse to files, March 19, 1968, file POL 32-5 Status of Jerusalem March 1968, box 22, 1951–1976 SNF, RG 59, General Records of the Department of State, USNA. 59 Control Group to Dean Rusk, Undated, FRUS, vol. XIX, doc. 340; Dean Rusk to all posts, July 5, 1967, FRUS, vol. XIX, doc. 344. 60 Dean Rusk to all posts, July 5, 1967, FRUS, vol. XIX, doc. 344. 61 Tunis to Dean Rusk: July 28, 1967, #36 “Middle East Crisis Cables––1 of 2,” box 140, CF, NSF, LBJL; Findley Burns Jr. to Dean Rusk, August 4, 1967, #46 “Jerusalem,” box 10, FSCN, NSF, LBJL. 62 The major controversy was between the Allon Plan’s supporters and the Dayan Plan’s supporters. Some minimalists, such as Abba Eban and Pinhas Sapir, were skeptical of the utility of a large settlement enterprise in general. 63 The positions of cabinet members must be considered if the coalition is to survive. This is particularly true for members of small, informal decision-making units where most of the important decisions regarding security matters are made. See Charles Freilich, “National Security Decision-Making in Israel: Improving the Process,” The Middle East Journal 67, no. 2 (Spring 2013): 257–66. 64 Pedatzur, Triumph of Embarrassment, 28–29. 65 Gorenberg, Accidental Empire, 51. 66 This is not to deny that the emotional and religious significance played a role in Israel’s unwillingness to include the West Bank in the June 19 offer or to deny that it played a role in shaping Israeli policy. However, in this period there is little evidence that emotional and religious attachments determined policy anywhere but in Jerusalem. In later years, starting with the establishment of the Gush Emunim civil-society group after the 1973 war and particularly after the Likud came to power in 1977, these considerations would take on greater salience. See Admoni, Decade of Discretion, 148–54; Zertal and Eldar, Lords of the Land, 3–54. 67 Pedatzur, Triumph of Embarrassment, 77. 68 Telegram from the Embassy in Israel to the Department of State, July 17, 1968, FRUS, vol. XX, doc. 213. 69 Telegram from the Department of State to the Embassy in Israel, September 14, 1968, FRUS, vol. XX, doc. 252. 70 Embassy in Israel to the Department of State, July 17, 1968, FRUS, vol. XX, doc. 213. 71 Admoni, Decade of Discretion, 26–27. 72 Gorenberg, Accidental Empire, 99–101. 73 Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (Fourth Convention), August 12, 1949, art. 49(6). 74 Government decision 866, October 1, 1967, 12-3-93-2, YT. 75 Decision 87/B of the Ministerial Committee for Security, September 13, 1967, 12-3-93-2, YT. 76 Government decision 866, October 1, 1967, 12-3-93-2, YT. 77 Cabinet decision 839, September 24, 1967, 12-3-93-2, YT. 78 Gorenberg, Accidental Empire, 114. 79 Zertal and Eldar, Lords of the Land, 13; Pedatzur, Triumph of Embarrassment, 190; Gorenberg, Accidental Empire, 121. 80 Gorenberg, Accidental Empire, 117. 81 Press Briefing Paper, September 25, 1967, file POL-32-5 Status of Jerusalem 1967, box 22, 1951–1976 SNF, RG 59, General Records of the Department of State, USNA. 82 Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations, September 26, 1967, 7462-8/A, ISA. 83 Hedrick Smith, “Israel Defends Plan on Settlers,” New York Times, September 28, 1967, 1. 84 Gideon Rafael to Yosef Tekoah, September 30, 1967, 7462-8/A, ISA. 85 George Lambrakis to President Johnson, September 28, 1967, file POL-32-5 Status of Jerusalem 1967, box 22, 1951–1976 SNF, RG 59, General Records of the Department of State, USNA. 86 Mission to the UN to the Department of State, September 26, 1967, FRUS, vol. XIX, doc. 449. 87 Shlomo Argov to Avraham Harman, September 28, 1967, 7462-8/A, ISA. 88 Nicholas Katzenbach to the Embassy in Israel, September 29, 1967, FRUS, vol. XIX, doc. 451. 89 Abba Eban to Aryeh Levavi, September 24, 1967, 7462-6/A, ISA; Cabinet decision 839, September 24, 1967, 12-3-93-2, YT. 90 Smith, “Israel Defends Plan,” 1. 91 Avraham Harman to Aryeh Levavi, September 25, 1967, 7462-8/A, ISA. 92 Aviad Yaffe to Abba Eban, September 26, 1967, 7462-8/A, ISA. 93 Arthur Lourie to Washington, September 25, 1967, 7462-8/A, ISA. 94 Pedatzur, Triumph of Embarrassment, 199. 95 Government decision 866, October 1, 1967, 12-3-93-2, YT. 96 Dean Rusk to the Embassy of Israel, October 7, 1967, FRUS, vol. XIX, doc. 458. 97 NEA Report, October 19, 1967, #70, “Israel Memos––Vol. VII,” box 140, CF, NSF, LBJL. 98 Lucius Battle to Dean Rusk, November 17, 1967, FRUS, vol. XIX, doc. 530. 99 Harold Saunders to Eugene Rostow, October 21, 1967, #70a, “Israel Memos––Vol. VII,” box 140, CF, NSF, LBJL. 100 Memorandum of conversation, October 24, 1967, 7404-6/A, ISA; Dean Rusk to Tel-Aviv, October 24, 1967, “Israel Memos––Vol. VII,” #22, box 140, CF, NSF, LBJL; Memorandum of conversation, October 24, 1967, #2a, “Israel,” box 26, Head of State Correspondence File, NSF, LBJL; Memorandum of conversation, October 24, 1967, #27a, “Meeting with Abba Eban and Others,” box 2, Meeting Notes File, LBJL. 101 Leonard Meeker to Lucius Battle, May 7, 1968, file Pol 32-5 Occupied Territories, box 22, 1951–1976 SNF, RG 59, General Records of the Department of State, USNA. 102 Gorenberg, Accidental Empire, 120–21; Admoni, Decade of Discretion, 26–27. 103 Yigal Allon to cabinet members, January 8, 1968, 7910-43/A, ISA; Avraham Agmon to Prime Minister’s Office, March 13, 1968, 6423-1/C, ISA; Yigal Allon to Aviad Yaffe, May 15, 1968, 6433-7/C, ISA. 104 Huberman, Against all Odds, 41; James Feron, “Hebron Settlers May Stay in Town,” New York Times, May 16, 1968, 13. 105 The best overview of this strategy and its application can be found in Zertal and Eldar, Lords of the Land, 17–70. 106 “Eshkol Will Explain the Position of the Government in Regard to Hebron Settlement,” Maariv, May 8, 1968, 1; “The Settlement Affair in Hebron will be Discussed in the Government Next Week,” Maariv, May 10, 1968, 1; Eli Landau, “The Settlers in Hebron will be Moved to Permanent Living Quarters,” Maariv, May 15, 1968, 1. 107 Hebron settlers to Mordechai Gazit, December 5, 1968, 6423-1/C, ISA. 108 Feron, “Hebron Settlers,” 1; “Dayan tells Hebron Mayor Jewish Settlers Will Stay,” New York Times, June 3, 1968, 13; Patrick Brogan, “Arab Resentment over Settlers in Hebron,” The London Times, October 1, 1968, 6. 109 Department of State to the Embassy in Israel, April 8, 1968, FRUS, vol. XX, doc. 137. 110 Heywood Stackhouse to Henry Precht, April 16, 1968, file Pol 32-5 Occupied Territories, box 22, 1951–1976 SNF, RG 59, General Records of the Department of State, USNA. 111 Henry Precht to Heywood Stackhouse, April 30, 1968, file Pol 32-5 Occupied Territories, box 22, 1951–1976 SNF, RG 59, General Records of the Department of State, USNA. 112 Heywood Stackhouse wrote that the Israelis are “not transferring parts of its civilian population into occupied territory; it may well argue that such a movement is voluntary and uninduced” [emphasis in original]. See Heywood Stackhouse to Henry Precht, April 16, 1968, file POL 32-5 Occupied Territories 1968, box 22, 1951–1976 SNF, RG 51, General Records of the Department of State, USNA. 113 Robert Neuman to Alfred Atherton, April 26, 1968, file Memcons Misc. 1968, box 22, 1966–1972 SNF, RG 59, USNA. 114 Henry Precht to Heywood Stackhouse, May 7, 1968, file Pol 32-5 Occupied Territories, box 22, 1951–1976 SNF, RG 59, General Records of the Department of State, USNA; Leonard Meeker to Lucius Battle, May 7, 1968, file Pol 32-5 Occupied Territories, box 22, 1951–1976 SNF, RG 59, USNA. 115 Leonard Meeker to Lucius Battle, May 7, 1968, file Pol 32-5 Occupied Territories, box 22, 1951–1976 SNF, RG 59, USNA. 116 Hebron settlers to Mordechai Gazit, December 5, 1968, 6423-1/C, ISA; Gorenberg, Accidental Empire, 142–52. 117 Michael Elitzur to Yitzhak Rabin, May 16, 1968, 7412-1/A, ISA. 118 Ministerial Committee for Security decision, May 30, 1968, 3194-24/FM, ISA. 119 Cabinet meeting summary, August 25, 1968, 6495-11/C, ISA. 120 Michael Elitzur to Shlomo Argov, July 25, 1968, 4294-1/FM, ISA. 121 Decision of the Ministerial Committee, September 30, 1968, 7900-26/A, ISA. 122 Department of State to the Embassy in Israel, April 8, 1968, FRUS, vol. XX, doc. 137; CIA intelligence memorandum, April 1968, #174a, “Israel Memos––Vol. IX,” box 141, CF, NSF, LBJL. 123 Robert Dallek, Lyndon Johnson: Portrait of a President (New York, 2004), 332. 124 Arthur Goldberg to Dean Rusk, June 4, 1968, #114, “United Nations––Vol. 10,” box 70, Agency File, NSF, LBJL. 125 Israeli Cabinet, October 31, 1968, 15-46-39-2, YT; Emanuel Shimoni to London, November 1, 1968, 5978-2/FM, ISA. 126 Pedatzur, Triumph of Embarrassment, 116. 127 Yigal Allon to Levi Eshkol, November 13, 1968, 6423-1/C, ISA. 128 “Ministerial Committee Decided to Establish a Hebron Quarter Similar to Upper Nazareth,” Maariv, October 11, 1968, 1; Yosef Harif, “Government Discussion on Settlement Policy––in One of the Upcoming Meetings,” Maariv, November 19, 1968, 1; Yosef Harif, “Eshkol Supports Immediate Settlement in the Jordan Valley, Maariv, December 4, 1968, 1; “Majority in the Government in Favor of Allon Plan, Davar, December 10, 1968, 1. 129 The President’s Daily Brief, November 13, 1968, FOIA, accessed October 6, 2017, https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/DOC_0005976511.pdf. 130 Jerusalem to Dean Rusk, October 21, 1968, file Pol 32-5 Occupied Territories, box 22, 1951–1976 SNF, RG 59, General Records of the Department of State, USNA; Embassy in Israel to the Department of State, November 19, 1968, FRUS, vol. XX, doc. 326; The President’s Daily Brief, October 23, 1968, FOIA, accessed October 6, 2017, https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/DOC_0005976423.pdf. 131 Memorandum of Conversation, December 4, 1968, FRUS, vol. XX, doc. 338. © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices) http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Diplomatic History Oxford University Press

Distraction and Deception: Israeli Settlements, Vietnam, and the Johnson Administration

Diplomatic History , Volume Advance Article (3) – Nov 17, 2017

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Abstract

Abstract The early stages of Israeli settlement construction in the occupied territories were reversible. To avoid pressure, Israel practiced deception regarding the civilian nature of settlements. The Johnson administration, distracted by Vietnam and lacking foresight, was unaware of Israeli deception until well into its “lame duck” period. Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are often considered to be a principal obstacle to peace in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Due to Israeli dependence on the United States in the international arena, American policy is the most significant external constraint on construction. The Obama administration was the latest to attempt to influence Israeli policy when it abstained from a United Nations (UN) Security Council resolution calling for a cessation of construction. Secretary of State John Kerry complained that “no one thinking seriously about peace can ignore the reality of what the settlements pose to that peace.”1 However, protests seldom substantially alter Israeli policy. Indeed, it seems that the story of U.S. policy towards the settlements is one of unmitigated failure. By the end of the Labor Party-dominated era in 1977, Israel had built seventy-seven settlements in the occupied territories.2 The extent and breadth of construction and population then grew exponentially under the leadership of both the Likud and Labor parties, particularly during negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in the 1990s, and continues to grow today. One could argue that the enterprise of Israeli settlement construction is too advanced to be reversed.3 However, taking action in the early stages of development could have curtailed construction and prevented entrenchment. Therefore, an analysis of the early U.S. policy towards the settlements, particularly during its nascence in the latter days of the Johnson administration, can help explain the United States’ pattern of long-term failure. Following its victory in the 1967 Six Day War, Israel was particularly sensitive to external pressure. The primary Israeli decision makers feared international pressure would force it to withdraw from the occupied territories. This fear was at least partially due to memories of the diplomatic campaign waged against it by the United States from 1956 to 1957. The withdrawal, in return for guarantees which in retrospect seemed almost worthless, loomed large for Israel.4 It seemed a repeat of the U.S. campaign was in the offing when a few days after the 1967 war, Special Consultant to the President McGeorge Bundy urged Israel to convey its territorial positions. Bundy was aware of the potential influence of pressure on Israel. He observed that “we are the people with the carrot” and “also the people with the stick,” but what “is not clear is whether we are ready to apply our full influence in this direction.”5 Fearful of potential U.S. pressure, Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol predicted that “for a few months we may be able to flout everyone, but we cannot do it for a long time, not to the world and not to the United States.”6 Fear that another round of irresistible pressure to withdraw from the territory captured in war was certainly prevalent in the Eshkol government.7 To formulate a territorial position which would ameliorate U.S. pressure, the cabinet met on June 19, 1967. Eshkol believed that since the United States “need[s] to know what [it] should support,” Israel “should know what to say.”8 The Israeli government decided it was willing to return the Golan Heights and Sinai in their entirety, in exchange for full peace. The Gaza Strip, West Bank, and Jerusalem were not part of this offer.9 As Avi Raz has convincingly shown, Israel designed the offer to forestall external pressure rather than offer a genuine peace.10 Remarkably, Israel took this far-reaching position even though direct pressure had yet to materialize. Thus, it stands to reason that the June 19 decision was not the bottom line of the Israeli position, and that under pressure, territorial demands could have been curtailed further. The structure of the Israeli cabinet made it particularly malleable to pressure. Made up of twenty-one ministers from seven parties, it contained vastly differing territorial conceptions. The cabinet was split into two loose camps. Foreign Minister Abba Eban, Minister of Finance Pinhas Sapir, and Minister of Justice Yaakov Shimshon Shapira headed a group wishing to return most of the occupied territories. Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and the two Ministers without Portfolio, Yisrael Galili and Menachem Begin, tended to support annexation. But even Dayan was outspoken in his belief that Israel could only continue to hold the occupied territories with U.S. support. Some of the most important decision makers, in particular Eshkol and Labor Minister Yigal Allon, fell between the camps and were responsive to external pressure.11 Indeed, the fact that the June 19 decision passed unanimously supports the notion that the cabinet was pliable on territorial issues.12 For the above reasons, the period immediately following the 1967 war was one in which Israel was attentive to pressure. Therefore, the Johnson administration enjoyed significant potential influence over Israeli settlement policy. In the early years of construction, Israel built settlements almost exclusively in areas it wished to retain in a permanent peace agreement. Settlement construction plans were based on the territorial preferences of the cabinet members supporting them. Particularly notable in this regard were Moshe Dayan’s “Dayan Plan” and Yigal Allon’s “Allon Plan.” Dayan believed that the West Bank should remain entirely under Israeli control and a line of settlements should be built along the dominant mountain ridge at its center. Meanwhile, Allon believed that the territory should be divided, but in order to guarantee Israeli security from an invasion on its eastern frontier, a line of settlements in the Jordan Valley should be constructed. Both Dayan and Allon had based their plans for settlement construction on their preferred concept of “defensible borders.”13 Therefore, if the United States had been able to significantly modify the Israeli territorial position, Israel would have correspondingly limited its construction plans. There is a lot of truth to Donald Neff’s argument that “if Washington had acted during this period with the steely determination and clarity of purpose that the Eisenhower administration had shown in 1956 in demanding Israel’s withdrawal after the Suez crisis, the chances are high that the militant settler movement would have been blunted.”14 Figure 1. View largeDownload slide United States Central Intelligence Agency, Israel (Washington, DC, 2001). Courtesy of the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/resource/g7500.ct000979/. Figure 1. View largeDownload slide United States Central Intelligence Agency, Israel (Washington, DC, 2001). Courtesy of the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/resource/g7500.ct000979/. View largeDownload slide United States Central Intelligence Agency, Israeli settlements in the Golan Heights, February 1992 (Washington, DC, 1992). Courtesy of the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/92682948/. View largeDownload slide United States Central Intelligence Agency, Israeli settlements in the Golan Heights, February 1992 (Washington, DC, 1992). Courtesy of the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/92682948/. Yet, the Johnson administration squandered the opportunity. Despite the potential influence enjoyed by the United States, Israeli territorial demands expanded significantly during the immediate post-1967 war period, and settlement construction expanded accordingly. Finally, on October 31, 1968, the Eshkol government rescinded its acceptance of the international borders with Egypt and Syria as the basis for a permanent settlement.15 Israel constructed settlements in accordance with its expanding territorial orientation. By 1971, Israel publicly admitted to having constructed thirty-two settlements in the occupied territories.16 Pressure from the Johnson administration certainly does not appear to have notably constrained construction. This puzzling outcome raises the question: Why did the United States fail to successfully restrain Israel from constructing a significant number of settlements in the occupied territories, despite its potential influence in the immediate post-1967 war period? The topic of U.S. policy towards Israeli settlements in the occupied territories suffers from a dearth of academic study. Two studies on the topic are extant. The first is a secondary-source based overview of changes in U.S. policy towards the settlements from 1967 to the Clinton era.17 The second, a strategic assessment written during the Obama administration, argues that the administration should have altered its policy towards partial acceptance of Israeli settlement construction.18 Neither rely on archival sources. Considering the vast amount of attention the media has given to U.S. policy on Israeli settlement construction, the sparsity of academic attention is surprising.19 Nevertheless, the lack of in-depth research into the topic has not stopped academics from espousing strong opinions on the matter. Since there is little doubt that the United States did not effectively curtail Israeli settlement construction, controversy has focused on explaining the outcome.20 Three schools of thought have emerged. One states that the United States has opposed Israeli settlement policy but has been inept in handling the issue.21 The second approach––put forth by outspoken critics of U.S. Middle Eastern policy, such as Noam Chomsky and Rashid Khalidi––maintains that the United States willingly supported Israeli settlement efforts.22 The third approach, not specific to settlement policy, posits that the United States does not oppose Israeli policies that counter U.S. national interests because of the influence of pro-Israel domestic pressure groups. John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt argue that “U.S aid has indirectly subsidized Israel’s prolonged and costly effort to colonize the Occupied Territories, and the lobby has made it impossible to convince Israel to abandon this counterproductive policy.”23 In order to settle the question of why the United States did not curtail Israeli settlement policy, thorough primary source-based research is needed. The following is an attempt to do so by focusing on the crucial Johnson era, when the policies of both states towards the issue of settlement construction in the occupied territories took shape. The argument here affirms the first approach, which posits that the United States had an interest in limiting settlement construction to advance the resolution of the conflict and thereby blunt Soviet influence in the region. Despite this, it lacked foresight in handling the problem. The Johnson administration did not predict the consequences of significant Israeli construction and failed to respond with a consistent policy or even verify Israeli construction policy on the ground. This conclusion brings nothing new to the perception of President Johnson’s policy towards the Arab-Israeli conflict. The general consensus is that the Johnson administration tended to support Israel.24 The sympathy Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) evinced towards the Israeli territorial position and the benign neglect of his administration towards settlement construction confirms the conventional wisdom. Nevertheless, this article speaks to wider debates on Johnson’s foreign policy. The president failed to see that Israeli settlement construction on occupied Arab territory could significantly hinder the attainment of a permanent resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Therefore, he left the matter in the hands of Secretary of State Dean Rusk and the State Department and allowed mediation to fall primarily on the United Nations. This reflects his general apathy towards Israeli occupation policy, which was partially explained by a fixation on the Vietnam War. These findings are in line with the traditional school of thought regarding LBJ’s foreign policy, sometimes referred to as the “been in Texas too long” school. The scholars behind this approach believe Johnson was uncomfortable with foreign policy, preferring to deal with domestic issues. Hence, he allowed his advisors, particularly Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, McGeorge Bundy, and Dean Rusk, a decisive role in decision-making. The lack of oversight and central control meant that the Johnson administration executed foreign policy ad-hoc without a clear strategy. This approach also stresses the centrality of Vietnam in policy formulation and the war’s role in paralyzing and incapacitating the United States’ wider foreign policy agenda.25 This argument contradicts the assumptions of revisionist studies of Johnson’s foreign policy. Revisionist scholars paint a picture of a competent and far-seeing Johnson administration foreign policy. Their interpretation emphasizes the autonomous and often successful nature of Johnson’s foreign policy outside of the Vietnam War. They also paint LBJ as a dominant decision maker, while minimizing the role of his advisors and the bureaucracy.26 This article also contradicts the thesis forwarded by H. W. Brands, which attributed the Johnson administration’s inability to resolve a series of international problems to the weakened position of the United States, not the failings of the administration.27 The picture emerging from the present study is of an administration wielding tremendous power over Israeli policy but failing to do so wisely. No works have been written on the policy of the Johnson administration towards Israeli settlements. Due to the importance of this era in setting the stage for future policy, this is a significant gap in the literature. Works on U.S.-Israeli relations do, on the other hand, note the sympathetic views of the administration towards Israeli territorial ambitions.28 Correspondingly, Zaki Shalom and Ehud Eiran reflect that due to this attitude, the administration evinced sympathy towards Israeli settlement policy.29 Still, they inaccurately equate Johnson’s territorial policy with his policy towards the settlements. While the two are related, the United States had a unique policy towards the settlements separate from its territorial position. In particular, the policy included an important differentiation between military outposts and civilian settlements. In addition, I argue that the Israeli settlements elicited no sympathy from the Johnson administration, but rather caused alarm in the State Department and utter apathy on Johnson’s part. The general literature on Israeli settlements also barely addresses the Johnson administration. Some works do not address the role of U.S. policy in this period as an important factor.30 More prescient observers correctly recognize that concern over imminent U.S. pressure influenced the Israeli government. However, writing mostly from the Israeli perspective, they do not explain why U.S. pressure did not materialize.31 Neff, focusing on secondary U.S. sources, attempts to explain this, stating that Israel moved decisively to construct settlements in territories but hid its intention to build civilian settlements by presenting them as paramilitary outposts. He contends this diffused American opposition to construction for over a decade.32 This is erroneous on two levels. First, Israeli construction outside Jerusalem was anything but decisive. Second, the United States was only briefly misled since decision makers knew the nature and extent of Israeli construction by mid-1968. The inaccuracy of existing literature is the result of a lack of multi-archival work specifically on the settlement issue during this pivotal era.33 The main thrust of the argument presented here is that Israeli settlement construction in the early years was tentative, with construction in Jerusalem being a notable exception. Therefore, at that time, Israel was highly vulnerable to pressure. Neff is correct that the use of supposedly military settlements played a role in stymying U.S. opposition, but since he did not consult Israeli documents, he was unaware of its role in a wider Israeli policy. To avoid consequential international pressure, Israel utilized a two-step strategy. The first step involved attaining a tacit bilateral agreement on settlement construction. Israel unofficially promised to build only military-oriented strongpoints and agreed that construction would be reversible. The second step was significant Israeli deception by constructing and developing civilian settlements in contravention to the agreement. This allowed the Israeli settlement enterprise enough cover from international pressure to pass its vulnerable nascent stage. The Johnson administration did very little to oppose the civilian nature of Israeli construction. Contrary to Shalom and Eiran’s belief that the U.S. government was sympathetic toward Israeli settlement construction, the State Department was deeply concerned about the development. The president, though, took little interest as the administration’s policy was to distance itself from direct mediation and allow the UN to take the reins. Distracted by increasingly bleak developments in the Vietnam War and plummeting popularity, President Johnson had no interest in confronting Israel on an issue which seemed peripheral at the time. Distracted and underrating the importance of the issue, the United States allowed itself to be fooled by Israeli obfuscation and accepted its assurances at face value. As a result, the issue was handled mostly by the Near Eastern Affairs (NEA) bureaucrats at the State Department and National Security Council (NSC) staff members. They sensed that the settlements presented a potentially significant obstacle to the Arab-Israeli peace process. But without backing from distracted top decision makers, they were unable to formulate a coherent policy. Instead the bureaucrats focused almost exclusively on keeping the issue out of the media. Furthermore, without guidance from the White House, the intelligence community did not divert sufficient resources to obtaining information on settlement construction. Contrary to Neff’s claim, Israeli obfuscation was effective for only a few months. Still, the strategy of hiding the nature of Israeli settlement construction was successful in that it was only exposed when the Johnson administration entered its “lame duck” period. By that time, it was too late to formulate a coherent policy. The major objective of the Johnson administration’s Middle Eastern policy, as with previous administrations, was the containment of regional Soviet influence. The unresolved Arab-Israeli conflict sabotaged U.S. efforts to galvanize regional actors into an anti-Soviet alliance. The USSR exploited the cleavages created by the conflict in order to further its influence. Therefore, the Johnson administration had a definite interest in resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict.34 In order to do so, the United States was forced to contend with the territorial dispute at the heart of the conflict. The territorial changes precipitated by the conflict altered the long-standing position of the United States. The Johnson administration’s official position on territorial issues in the Middle East prior to the 1967 war had been an insistence on the territorial integrity of all states. However, in the case of Jerusalem, the matter was clouded by UN resolutions 181 and 194, which maintain that the city be placed under an international regime. The United States designed its official position (which it has never revoked) accordingly, declaring that Jerusalem be treated as a corpus separatum. Consequently, it did not recognize the de facto Israeli annexation of parts of East Jerusalem occupied in the 1967 war. In addition, the United States continued to avoid awarding de jure recognition to Israeli sovereignty in the areas of West Jerusalem the Jewish state controlled before the war. The reality of Israeli occupation also challenged the commitment of the Johnson administration to territorial integrity. On June 19, 1967, Johnson laid out the principles of his administration’s approach to the problem in his “Five Points” speech. The president reiterated his commitment to territorial integrity, but noted that the ceasefire borders were “only fragile and violated truce lines.” This indicated that the ceasefire borders were not sacrosanct and that the United States would consider the Israeli desire to alter the 1967 borders.35 In fact, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the NSC assumed that some Israeli annexations were inevitable and perhaps desirable.36 Correspondingly, the short-term U.S. strategy did not involve placing pressure on Israel to withdraw. Instead, the United States chose to entrust mediation and conflict resolution to the UN. The product of these efforts, Security Council Resolution 242, appointed Gunnar Jarring as the principle mediator. The Jarring Mission was an attempt by the representative to mediate a permanent settlement based on the principles of the resolution.37 President Johnson explained heavy-handed U.S. mediation was not necessary, since “what will truly be decisive in the Middle East will be what is said and done by those who live in the Middle East.”38 This attitude would last until May 1968, when it became apparent that the Jarring Mission was unlikely to succeed.39 Similarly, in an effort to avoid undue involvement in territorial issues, the United States chose not to micro-manage Israeli occupation policy. While it expected Israel to comply with the international laws of occupation, the Johnson administration was not willing to exert pressure to address infractions. The White House staff treated the construction of civilian settlements, a violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, as a technical issue. In an NSC document listing Israeli violations of human rights in the occupied territories, the settlements were mentioned as one of several concerns. The document also noted that Israeli officials had assured the U.S. government that they had designed settlements “for military purposes and could be removed if necessary.”40 The Johnson administration’s policies towards territorial issues and human rights violations were designed to avoid confrontation with Israel, while distancing the United States from Israel enough to avoid a rift with its Arab allies. There were several factors behind this unacknowledged American policy. The United States was loath to take a strong stand on territorial issues in the immediate aftermath of the Six Day War. First and foremost, it was preoccupied with Vietnam and its unsuccessful policy there. The war wore Johnson down to the extent that he decided not to run for re-election in the 1968 presidential election.41 Yet, even if it had not been distracted, the administration had reason to believe deep involvement in resolving the conflict would not be productive. Aside from the unbridgeable gap between the bargaining positions of the belligerents, there was the difficulty of selecting a promising interlocutor. The most accommodating Arab state was Jordan.42 Indeed, the administration could see no other track to pursue. Syria was firmly in the Soviet camp, while Egypt and the United States had severed relations. As of yet, the United States was unwilling to consider the option of negotiating directly with the PLO or other Palestinian representatives.43 However, the Johnson administration was not optimistic that a bilateral Israeli-Jordanian peace agreement was attainable. State Department Country Director for Israel, Alfred Atherton, wrote that there was skepticism “because [Gamal Abdel] Nasser in the end will not give Hussein [bin Talal] a green light and Hussein cannot move on his own.”44 The general opinion was that the Hashemite government was so unstable, that if it went too far in accommodating Israel without the support of Nasser, it could collapse.45 Public opinion also militated against pressuring Israel. There was a great deal of sympathy towards Israel amongst the American public in the postwar period.46 This was partially due to the political strength of the pro-Israeli constituency in the United States, but also due to the association of some of the Arab states with the USSR in the consciousness of American voters. Therefore, the American public believed Israeli concessions to the Arab states were beneficial to communism.47 In fact, the State Department had received six times as many letters supporting Israel than supporting the Arab position.48 Since Johnson did not run in the 1968 presidential election, however, this factor was not decisive. Electoral political concerns were only part of his calculus. The president was certainly invested in a Democratic victory and flirted with the idea of running despite announcing otherwise. However, his support for Democratic nominee Hubert Humphrey was lukewarm at best and unlikely to have guided his decisions. In addition, Middle Eastern issues were peripheral to the campaign. Therefore, it is unlikely that domestic considerations took primacy over foreign policy interests in the latter days of his presidency.49 The Johnson administration also felt a moral obligation to Israel. The Eisenhower administration had guaranteed Israel the freedom to ship through the Tiran Straits, but this guarantee collapsed when Egypt closed the straits to Israeli passage. Israel waited with relative patience while the United States attempted unsuccessfully to resolve the crisis.50 President Johnson, in his capacity as Senate Majority Leader, had been severely critical of the Eisenhower administration’s handling of the crisis. In particular, he had stridently opposed threats to impose sanctions on Israel if it refused to withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip.51 So, the president may have felt he had a personal stake in the issue. The Israeli argument that it could not rely on international guarantees but rather needed to take unilateral measures was not one for which the United States had an answer. Ambassador to Israel Walworth Barbour told Eban this was “a very sensitive point” and requested Israel avoid “picking at the scab.”52 With all of these reasons in mind, the Johnson administration was loath to exact pressure on Israel. Tacit support for the Israeli position was tempered by a need to maintain close ties with Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Taking a public position that supported Israel closely might destabilize Jordan or send it into the arms of the USSR.53 The Saudi Arabian government warned that an American territorial position which was openly supportive of the Israeli position would allow the Soviet Union to appeal directly to public opinion in Arab states and weaken conservative regimes. This was more a question of public relations than of substantive policy. In fact, Saudi Arabian ambassador Ibrahim Al-Sowayel suggested the United States take a “strong public stance on withdrawal, while at same time privately assuring GOI [government of Israel] that such public position could be disregarded.”54 Even the Arab states did not seem to believe that U.S. pressure on Israel could resolve the conflict. Under these circumstances the United States seemed to have no impetus to confront Israel. But these reasons did not fully apply to settlement construction. As illustrated below, the NSC and NEA understood that territorial and settlement construction issues could be separated. To maintain influence with the moderate Arab states, contain Soviet influence, and keep opportunities for an Arab-Israeli settlement open, avoidance of Israeli settlement construction was an American national interest. However, Johnson did not predict the future importance of the issue and preferred to ignore it. The Eshkol government realized instinctively that under these circumstances, the United States was likely to prefer not to be privy to the finer points of Israeli settlement construction policy. Unwilling to confront Israel until powerless to formulate coherent policy, the United States allowed itself to be misled by a thin web of Israeli deceit. Israel initially adopted a strategy of secrecy regarding its settlement construction policy in the occupied territories, except for East Jerusalem. There was almost complete consensus in Israeli society and government that Jerusalem must remain united under Israeli sovereignty. Willingness to make concessions was limited to, at most, allowing Jordan symbolic status in sites holy to Islam.55 As a result, Israel openly executed a policy of de facto annexation and large-scale construction. Within one day of the cessation of hostilities in the 1967 war, Israel announced the incorporation of parts of Jerusalem previously controlled by Jordan and a significant area not previously included, into a larger municipal area.56 Even Eban, one of the most conciliatory members of the Israeli cabinet, insisted “it was inconceivable that Jordan could return to Jerusalem.”57 Therefore, the United States openly confronting Israel on that issue was likely to cause a significant rift. This could prove costly, especially since the administration was well aware that Jerusalem was an emotional issue for the American Jewish community.58 Still, persistent complaints from the Arab capitals put pressure on the United States to modify Israeli policy in the city.59 In an attempt to improve its image in the Arab world, the United States voted for a failed General Assembly resolution calling for establishing an international regime in the city.60 But in order to appease the Israeli government and its supporters, the official U.S. position was that Israeli actions in the city were administrative and did not change the legal status of the city. Furthermore, the Johnson administration refrained from putting pressure on Israel directly. The United States had no interest in picking a fight over an emotionally charged issue when serious negotiations were not in the offing. Correspondingly, it abstained on more critical resolution proposals in the United Nations. This juggling act was unsuccessful as an exercise in public relations. Other nations repeatedly attacked the United States in the General Assembly and in bilateral talks for its position. Still, the awkward position was maintained.61 The reluctance of the United States to pressure Israel on the Jerusalem issue is significant. A consensus emerged in the international community that the Israeli annexation of and construction in Jerusalem was illegal. In addition, the matter was of emotional import to Jordan and Saudi Arabia, important conservative Arab allies. The limited extent of pressure on an issue as salient as this would seem to indicate distinct limits to the willingness of the United States to pressure Israel on territorial issues when stiff resistance was offered. Towards a Policy on Military Settlements There was no similar Israeli consensus surrounding construction in areas of the occupied territories aside from Jerusalem, with the partial exception of the Etzion Bloc.62 Therefore, political and ideological cleavages in the cabinet influenced decisions.63 The Eshkol government utilized settlements to pursue its strategy of establishing “defensible borders.” Israel saw the occupied territories first and foremost as tools to establish greater security for the State of Israel.64 In pursuit of security, Israel utilized civilian settlements to eventually expand its sovereignty––as part of a peace agreement with the Arab states––into those areas it viewed as strategically vital. As Allon explained, “we never held territory without settling it.”65 In the early days, Israel seldom mentioned annexing territories for ideological reasons as a justification for maintaining control. The Israeli public was not as fiercely attached to other areas in the West Bank as it was to Jerusalem.66 The government’s hesitance to allow the development of a settlement in Hebron, a city of great religious significance in Judaism, attests to this. Eshkol notably said, “I am willing to give up Hebron as well … I don’t know what we get out of keeping Hebron.”67 The second holiest city for Jews was not settled until the Labor Party lost power, although Israel constructed a settlement nearby under significant pressure from pro-settlement advocates. To avoid international pressure, and due to the lack of consensus in the cabinet on the exact location of the most “defensible borders,” Israel obfuscated its territorial intentions. Eban insisted that “Israel cannot now say where boundaries would be; the nature of the peace settlement will influence the nature of boundaries.”68 This became the standard Israeli line.69 Israeli officials refused to draw exact maps and insisted that permanent borders could only be agreed upon during face-to-face negotiations.70 Israel adopted and implemented a similar policy of obfuscation regarding settlement construction. Israel established the first settlement, named Merom Golan, in the Golan Heights, which it considered to be an area of military and strategic significance. Allon, who served as head of the ministerial settlement committee, proposed that the settlement be disguised as a military camp. Concerned primarily with the international reaction, Eban agreed.71 The attempt to present civilian settlements as possessing a military character served an important diplomatic function. The legal counsel to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) advised that since the construction of civilian settlements in the territories was in contravention to international law, “it is vital that [it] be done by military bodies and not civilian ones.”72 This opinion was based on the legal prohibition expressed in Article 49 of the Geneva Conventions, which rendered civilian settlements, but not military bases, to be in contravention to international law.73 Israel did not follow the advice to construct only civilian settlements. Instead, it presented settlements as military, regardless of their actual nature.74 Particularly useful in hiding the purpose of settlements were units of graduates from Israeli youth groups, known as Pioneering Fighting Youth units (or NAHAL units in their Hebrew acronym). NAHAL soldiers are trained in both combat and rural settlement. In addition, they are well suited to forming new communities, due to their tight social ties. In September, Israel used these units to establish two outposts in the Sinai Peninsula.75 The cabinet determined that the settlements would remain NAHAL outposts unless it was specifically decided to modify their designation as civilian settlements.76 The secrecy surrounding the moves meant that the Johnson administration was unaware of them at the time. However, the United States government noticed the next Israeli move to construct a settlement in the Etzion Bloc because of accompanying publicity. Jews first settled the area, eighteen miles from Jerusalem, in the 1920s. In May 1948, the Arab Legion and Palestinian militias attacked the settlements in the region, leading to their surrender. Since the former inhabitants owned much of the land, there was greater moral and political impetus to settle there than elsewhere. On September 24, 1967, the Israeli cabinet approved a settlement on the spot of the evacuated village of Kfar Etzion.77 Eshkol insisted on calling the settlement an “outpost,” to render an appearance of transience, but he harbored no illusions as to its permanence, adding that “over time, kids turn into goats.”78 As in Merom Golan, officials gave the settlers orders to pretend they were NAHAL soldiers. Nevertheless, the establishment of the settlement was announced publicly and appeared in the Israeli media.79 Zerach Warhaftig, Minister of Religions, gave a bombastic speech marking the occasion, in which he prayed “this settlement will be forever and the sons will return for eternity.”80 The publicity surrounding the establishment of the Kfar Etzion settlement was doubtless a result of the expected domestic popularity of the move. The pomp and circumstance backfired on the Israeli government. The State Department issued a diplomatic rebuke through its spokesman: “we regret any actions taken by either side which prejudices the conditions that could make possible a lasting and effective settlement.”81 The matter was discussed in the General Assembly, and the UN became a forum for attacking Israel on the settlement issue for the first time. British Foreign Secretary George Brown stated that the implications of Israeli settlement construction “were clear and disturbing.”82 Facing an international arena hostile to the Israeli move, State Department officials told the New York Times they were concerned the settlements were permanent.83 Gideon Rafael, Israeli Ambassador to the UN, complained that since reports of the settlement appeared without warning, the delegation was unable to mitigate diplomatic damage.84 The State Department brought the severity of the issue to the attention of President Johnson in no uncertain terms, warning that settlements were likely to prejudice future borders and could “drastically reduce the chances of voluntary relinquishment of the West Bank to any Arab state.”85 However, neither Johnson nor Rusk picked up the gauntlet. On the day of the official State Department rebuke, Eban and Rusk sat down for a long discussion but Kfar Etzion was not on the agenda.86 The message to NEA officials was clear: the top decision makers were not interested in the issue. The bureaucrats dealt with the issue as best as they could under the circumstances. William Dale of the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv asked MFA officials for clarifications. Shlomo Argov asserted that the Etzion Bloc was strategically important and that Israel designed the settlement to address security concerns. When Dale asked about the significance of the fact that some settlers were children of former residents of the Bloc, he explained that “it is only natural that the religious NAHAL units include young men from religious agricultural settlements … created by the remainder of the people of Gush Etzion.” The State Department official replied that this explanation “seemed reasonable.”87 The NEA officials, with no backing from top decision makers, had decided to play down the issue. Probably the most revealing comments were those of Lucius Battle, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, to Israeli Ambassador Avraham Harman. Battle stressed the “need to avoid airing differences of opinion between us in public press.” The second important point he made was that Israel must avoid actions that provide “ammunition for those at the UN who would interpret the GOI position as hardening in the direction of territorial acquisition.” He barely discussed the actual substance of settlement policy.88 The importance of public relations was the paramount concern throughout the minor diplomatic scuffles over Kfar Etzion. The need to maintain the impression among the conservative Arab states that Israeli moves were contrary to U.S. policy was the sole motivation for opposition at this point. Indeed, the United States was willing to tacitly accept the settlement in Kfar Etzion if Israel designated it as a military installation and minimized press exposure. The MFA was caught unaware by the decision to publicize the creation of the Kfar Etzion settlement. Eban complained that the announcement sabotaged Israeli efforts to promote a permanent settlement based on Israeli-backed principles. He added that as far as he knew, the policy agreed upon had been not to “announce settlements but rather to build them when necessary.”89 The New York Times exposed the lack of a clear public relations policy. When reporters asked if the settlement was permanent, a spokesman for the MFA was unable to provide a clear answer other than that Israel would be “keeping all options open.”90 The MFA found it challenging to explain a policy that they neither fully understood nor with which they completely agreed. The State Department rebuke created the impression among the MFA staff that the depth of U.S. opposition to the construction of Kfar Etzion was fundamental. Eban was concerned, incorrectly as it turned out, that the settlement announcement was “playing into the hands” of State Department officials who supported a return to the pre-war borders. The MFA, always jealously guarding Israel’s image abroad, feared that Israel would confirm suspicions that its claims of peaceful intentions were hollow and that the real goal was territorial annexation.91 Eshkol was less impressed by American objections and was concerned that heeding American pressure would have domestic political ramifications. However, even the prime minister accepted the recommendation that there should be no more publicity surrounding the establishment of settlements. Correspondingly he canceled a planned visit to the new settlement.92 The overreaction of the MFA, and Eshkol’s willingness to accede in response to low-key American criticism, is instructive of Israeli sensitivity to American pressure. The Tacit Agreement on Military Settlements In response to the international criticism surrounding the construction of the Kfar Etzion settlement, Israel attempted to craft a public relations strategy for the settlement issue. Arthur Lourie, Deputy Director General of the MFA, suggested that Israel present all settlements as military ones, and, if asked, refer to the settlements as “strongpoints.” Lourie further suggested that Israel declare that construction would not foreclose future Israeli withdrawals.93 Minister without Portfolio Yisrael Galili recommended similar steps to the cabinet, warning that “otherwise we will place ourselves and our representatives abroad in unnecessary distress.”94 The cabinet determined that previously established settlements would be designated as NAHAL strongpoints while new settlements would be discussed on a case-by-case basis.95 In practice, over the next few months, Israel would maintain that all of its settlements were reversible NAHAL strongpoints, whether it was true or not. Officials utilized the Lourie formula quickly and fully in bilateral talks.96 The purpose of the strategy was to dull American criticism by making Israeli settlement policy seem palatable. Indeed, it ostensibly neutralized the two main concerns of the Johnson administration: that Israel was violating international law and that settlements would preclude future withdrawals. The NEA was only partially fooled, however. While they did not seem to doubt the military character of the settlements, State Department officials suspected that construction was irreversible. An internal memo observed that “the Israeli government has given us no clear indication that it would be politically possible to withdraw the NAHAL units even as part of a political settlement.”97 Similarly, Battle was concerned that Israeli settlement construction in Sinai could lead to Israel demanding changes to the international border with Egypt.98 Therefore, the NEA believed settlements were developing into a serious problem, and the organization lacked the necessary backing from top decision makers to alter Israeli policy. The Lourie formula and the obfuscation of the civilian character of settlements seem to have contributed to apathy at the top. State Department and NSC attempts to include the issue in talking points for bilateral meetings were followed up half-heartedly, if at all. For example, in preparation for meetings between Eban and Rusk scheduled for October 23 and 24, Harold Saunders of the NSC suggested that the foreign minister should be warned that the United States “is seriously disturbed by new para-military Israeli communities in the West Bank and Sinai.”99 However, the issue received little attention in the discussions. Rusk mentioned the settlements in passing as one of several examples of undesirable Israeli policies, while Johnson failed to refer to the issue.100 Receiving no support from the primary decision makers, the State Department shifted to a policy of tacit support for military-oriented settlement construction. Although remaining officially opposed, the State Department mentioned the issue infrequently, and the position seemed increasingly hollow. U.S. pressure over construction in Kfar Etzion, never particularly significant, tapered off in late October 1967. For the next six months, officials did not mention the issue publicly or in bilateral talks. The NEA, with no support from Rusk or Johnson, began to accept settlement construction within the bounds of the Lourie formula. Apathy on the part of Johnson and Rusk seems to have also led to a remarkable lack of actionable intelligence. The administration was aware of the existence of Merom Golan almost immediately after its establishment but was apparently unaware of its civilian nature for ten months. The first mention of its status appeared in a report made by a State Department legal adviser in May 1968. The same report referred erroneously to Kfar Etzion as a NAHAL strongpoint.101 Yet, both settlements were quite open about their civilian nature.102 A visit for verification would likely have been sufficient to ascertain that the military status of both settlements was a sham. The surprising level of ignorance by the U.S. intelligence community could be attributed to a lapse on the part of the intelligence services, but it is far more likely a result of disinterest on the part of Rusk and Johnson. The intelligence community cannot spare resources to focus on issues which the administration does not prioritize, especially when they involve spying on friendly nations. If the administration had indicated that keeping tabs on settlement construction was a priority, adequate resources would have been allotted. Indeed, a visit by a U.S. diplomat to the area would likely have sufficed. This may also indicate that there was a certain level of bilateral trust at play which Israel exploited by misleading the United States. If so, the Eshkol government deceived the Johnson administration, but the administration showed a marked willingness to be misled. It is not clear that better and more timely intelligence would have altered U.S. policy. Indeed, it seems unlikely. However, it is indicative of a lack of interest and initiative on the part of the Johnson administration. The catalyst for ending the tacit agreement was an initiative taken by private Israeli citizens, in contravention to Israeli policy. On April 11, 1968, pro-settlement activists tried to force the hand of the Eshkol government and bring about a decision to settle Hebron. As the settlers were aware, the cabinet had yet to decide on the issue.103 The would-be settlers travelled to the city before the Passover holiday and rented hotel rooms. The military authorities allowed them to enter the occupied territories on the condition that they leave after the celebratory dinner, but the settlers remained.104 This was the first occurrence of what would become a pattern of settler behavior. Settlers and sympathetic activists made alliances with members of the cabinet and established settlements illegally, while exploiting the sympathy of ministers and military officials.105 Several cabinet ministers went to Hebron to show support, and the settlement efforts featured prominently in the Israeli media.106 The cabinet was split on the proper response to the wildcat settlement. As a temporary solution, officials removed the settlers from the hotel and relocated them to military government headquarters in the city. In the meantime, the settlers persistently lobbied the government to build a Jewish neighborhood in Hebron or its vicinity.107 The State Department viewed these developments with unease. The public nature of the act upended the secretive nature of Israeli settlement policy, which had facilitated the bilateral tacit agreement. The exploits of the wildcat settlers also began to appear in the international press.108 Therefore, it threatened the U.S. government’s major interest in preventing the issue from attracting international attention. The unambiguously civilian character of the settlers made it clear that any settlement in Hebron would not be a NAHAL strongpoint. Finally, the religious symbolism of Hebron made any settlement in the city seem particularly disruptive and more likely to be permanent due to its emotional significance. For these reasons, the Hebron incident demanded a reevaluation of U.S. policy towards the settlements. A Deal Undone Developments in Hebron prompted Rusk to finally take an interest in the issue. The secretary of state requested that the Tel Aviv embassy “restate in strongest terms the US position on this question.”109 However, the uncomfortable reality was that due to the success of the Israeli policy of obfuscation and the disinterest of Rusk and Johnson up to that point, no coherent policy existed. Therefore, the order to restate the position on civilian settlements was met with dismay. The reply from Tel Aviv was that “none of us can recall having made, with or without instruction from the Department, a special point of this issue.”110 An examination of the record by the NEA staff found that no attempts had been made to address the issue since the Kfar Etzion incident had abated roughly six months earlier.111 After a thorough examination, the State Department conceded that no policy towards the construction of civilian settlements existed. In a belated effort to formulate a policy approach, the State Department engaged in a muddled debate on the legality of the settlement in Hebron. Some officials were remarkably quick to put forth the argument that, though inarguably detrimental to the peace process, the settlements did not directly contravene international law. Heywood Stackhouse, of the embassy in Tel Aviv, speculated that Israel may not have violated the Geneva Conventions.112 A legal report drafted by Robert Neuman of the NEA did little to establish a clear policy. Putting forth a nuanced and subtle argument, he interpreted Article 49 as designed to prevent the forced deportation of civilians. Thus he believed it was not fully applicable to the situation in Hebron.113 By early May, a State Department consensus had emerged on the point that the Geneva Convention forbids the facilitation of civilian settlements by an occupying government. However, this did little to resolve the Hebron conundrum since State Department officials believed the settlers had arrived in the city of their own free will and without government encouragement.114 Therefore, despite the best intentions of the NEA to formulate a policy towards the Hebron settlement, its emphasis on legal formalism impeded efforts. The freshly appointed Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Yitzhak Rabin, met with Battle to learn of the Johnson administration’s dissatisfaction with developments in Hebron. While the initiative was well intentioned, the potency of the message was undercut by the NEA’s legalistic approach. The talking points for the meeting conceded that “Israel did not have a duty to prevent such settlement” but should, however, “refrain from stimulating or otherwise facilitating it.”115 While no record of the conversation itself has been found, there is every reason to assume that this mixed message was ill-suited to deter Israel from furthering settlement efforts. In fact, the message could be interpreted as permission to allow settlements initiated privately to remain in place. This argument was convenient for Israel since the government did not initiate the settlement near Hebron.116 Predictably, Israel maintained plausible deniability as to their involvement in the settlement in Hebron. In talks with their State Department counterparts, MFA officials continued to maintain that all settlements in the territories were military strongpoints and had no bearing on future boundaries. Michael Elitzur, director of the North American division of the MFA, explained that the settlers in Hebron were “more of a problem that Israel was dealing with than an expression of its policy.”117 In other words, tailoring its response to the legal position of the United States, the MFA insisted that Israel had not initiated the civilian settlement in Hebron, and therefore it was technically legal. The Israeli government thus implied that the tacit agreement to construct only military strongpoints in the occupied territories remained intact. Despite the awkward response of the Johnson administration, the mere existence of American scrutiny inhibited Israeli policy in the city. The Eshkol government decided to allow the settlers to remain in Hebron but not allow more settlers to join or to build structures outside the military base.118 Instead of making an ultimate decision, Eshkol formed a committee to examine possible urban settlement in the environs of Hebron.119 Concerned that the U.S. government would interpret the de facto decision to allow the settlers to remain in Hebron as a change in settlement policy, the Israeli embassy in Washington, DC, conveyed the message that Israel would not create any permanent housing.120 However, four months later, Israel decided to allow the settlers to build permanent residences in the vicinity of the military government headquarters.121 Ultimately, the Foreign Ministry misled the United States, although probably unintentionally as it was not kept abreast of settlement policy. Indeed, Israeli policy on Hebron can be charitably described as reactive and difficult for the ministry to understand or predict. While the Hebron crisis was unfolding, the State Department and CIA realized that Israel had never upheld the tacit bargain.122 Yet, by then political circumstances made it difficult for the White House to respond effectively. The Johnson administration had been distracted from the Middle East by the events in Vietnam, particularly by the political fallout of the Tet Offensive of January and February 1968. The president’s approval rating crashed to 36 percent, while 52 percent of those polled disapproved of his performance.123 Johnson’s announcement on March 31, 1968, that he would not seek re-election further hampered the United States’ ability to influence outcomes on the ground in the Middle East. Traditionally, presidents near the end of their term, with no prospects of re-election, are referred to as “lame ducks,” and Johnson was no exception. Indeed, some American officials believed that the belligerent sides were awaiting the elections before making any further moves.124 Thanks to the tacit bargain, the realization that Israel had built civilian settlements came late and at an inopportune time. The decreased interest and clout of the Johnson administration facilitated an Israeli turn towards an increasingly expansive and public settlement policy. As mentioned previously, in late October 1968, Israel officially altered its policy to a more ambitious formulation. Israel declared that Gaza would remain in Israeli hands. In Sinai, Sharm El-Sheikh, as well as a strip of land guaranteeing territorial contiguity with the international border, were to remain under Israeli control. Israel believed that retaining control, though not necessarily sovereignty, over the strategically crucial Sharm was the only way to guarantee freedom of transit for its shipping.125 Expanded territorial ambition was accompanied by a correspondingly ambitious and public settlement policy. Allon stressed the importance of cementing Israeli control over Sharm El-Sheikh through “the creation of a civilian settlement near the approaches to the bay.”126 Israel eventually established the envisioned settlement there after Nixon took office.127 Similarly, Israel began moving away from its tacit agreement in the Etzion Bloc, and no longer felt the need for pretense when it came to its settlement policy. In October, Yigal Allon publicly announced that the Kfar Etzion settlement would be designated as a civilian settlement. Reports of Israeli plans to construct settlements in the territories, which had thus far been kept under wraps, appeared regularly in the Israeli media.128 When President-elect Nixon sent Pennsylvania governor William Scranton to the area as his envoy, Israeli officials willingly discussed measures to put the Allon Plan into effect.129 The Israeli belief that the Johnson administration was not capable of curtailing its settlement policy seems to have facilitated this transition to an open and public settlement policy. The Israeli government would never again invest serious effort in hiding the civilian nature of settlements in the occupied territories from the United States. The State Department noted the change, and the CIA reported it to President Johnson in the run up to the elections, but the administration took no action.130 The NEA finally confronted Israel after Nixon had been elected but while Johnson was still in office. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Parker Hart met with Ambassador Rabin. Hart told his Israeli interlocutor that “reports of new settlements carried implications of a permanent Israeli presence which was inconsistent with efforts to make progress toward peace.” Rabin insisted that Israel continued to adhere to its policy of building only military strongpoints in the occupied territories. This was simply untrue as Hart was aware. However, the United States made no attempt to confront Israel over its dishonesty. It also failed to discuss consequences for defection or issue demarches of any sort.131 By the time the United States confronted Israel for its violation of the tacit agreement, the Johnson administration had neither the time nor the energy to deal with the problem. The early years of the settlement project were a unique opportunity for the United States to exercise influence on Israeli policy. In Jerusalem, Israel made a determined and public stand of open construction and de facto annexation. But elsewhere, it was uncertain about which areas it wished to retain and, consequently, about its map of settlement construction. Therefore, the Eshkol government was pliable to American pressure and coercion. In the immediate aftermath of the 1967 war, Israel was so concerned about international pressure that it preemptively agreed to return to the pre-war borders vis-à-vis both Syria and Egypt. In terms of settlement policy, the reactions of Lourie and Galili to relatively mild criticism engendered by the establishment of Kfar Etzion evince remarkable sensitivity to external pressure. Even when it was clear that U.S. pressure was underwhelming, Israel constructed settlements hesitantly. Realizing that Israeli settlement efforts could be nipped in the bud, the Eshkol government obfuscated the nature and extent of its settlement construction policy. Ultimately, obfuscation gave the nascent settlement enterprise the breathing space it needed to survive a vulnerable period of incubation and take significant strides towards permanence. However, the effectiveness of Israeli obfuscation attempts should not be overstated. The lack of foresight demonstrated by Johnson and Rusk cultivated indifference towards the issue of Israeli settlement construction in the intelligence community and stunted the formulation of a coherent policy by the State Department. A comparison with the public and controversial case of Jerusalem shows that even without obfuscation, the Johnson administration was unwilling to use its influence to curtail Israeli construction. This reflected the failings of the Johnson administration’s reactive and uninspiring policy towards resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict in the post-1967 war period in general. These policies are commensurate with the traditional historiographical interpretation which holds that both an innate lack of initiative and creativity and an undue obsession with the Vietnam War stifled Johnson’s foreign policy. Indeed, the Johnson administration chose to delegate primary responsibility for Arab-Israeli negotiations to the UN, an institution that had utterly failed in its response to previous crises in the region and was deeply distrusted by the Israeli government. The Johnson administration remained aloof from the conflict even when it became clear that the UN-sponsored Jarring Mission was failing. The abdication of responsibility from the top played a large part in the intelligence community’s failure to discern the civilian status of Merom Golan and Kfar Etzion and in the NEA’s inability to formulate a coherent policy on civilian settlements. The NEA struggled to respond in the few months between its discovery of Israeli deceit in April–May 1968 and the end of the Johnson’s term. But time was pressing and President Johnson had already announced he would not run for re-election. His scant political capital was focused on the war in Vietnam, and Nixon’s election on November 5, 1968, put an end to the slightest chance of curtailing Israeli settlement policy. The Johnson administration’s lack of foresight meant that it lost a crucial opportunity and that the issue would await the attention, or often inattention, of future administrations. In the meantime, the settlement enterprise would become increasingly entrenched, and each successive administration would find it more difficult to reverse. Footnotes I would like to thank David Tal, Terry Terriff, John Ferris, Jeremy Pressman, and Ziv Rubinovitz for their invaluable comments. I also wish to thank the editors and the two anonymous reviewers for their helpful and enlightening comments. In addition, this article could not have been completed without the generous funding of the Centre for Military, Security and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary and the Kahanoff Israel Studies fund. Finally, I wish to thank the Association for Israel Studies, which selected an earlier version of this paper for the Kimmerling Prize. All flaws and errors are of course my own. 1 Michael Birnbaum, “British Prime Minister Denounces Kerry’s Speech on Israeli Settlements,” Washington Post, January 10, 2017, A10. 2 Yisrael Galili, Internal Memo of the Settlement Committee, June 1977, 12-3-93-2, Yad Tabenkin Archives (hereafter YT). 3 Zaki Shalom, “The United States and the Israeli Settlements: Time for a Change,” Strategic Assessment 15, no. 3 (October 2012): 73–85; Idith Zertal and Akiva Eldar, Lords of the Land: The War Over Israel’s Settlement in the Occupied Territories, 1967–2007 (New York, 2007). 4 For an overview of U.S. policy towards Israel in the 1956 war, see Isaac Alteras, “Eisenhower and the Sinai Campaign of 1956: The First Major Crisis in US-Israeli Relations,” in The 1956 War: Collusion and Rivalry in the Middle East, ed. David Tal (London, 2001), 25–46. 5 Paper Prepared by the President’s Special Consultant, July 18, 1967, Foreign Relations of the United States (hereafter FRUS), 1964–1968, vol. XIX, Arab-Israeli Crisis and War, 1967, eds. Harriet Dashiell Schwar and Edward C. Keefer (Washington, DC, 2004), doc. 374. 6 Reuven Pedatzur, The Triumph of Embarrassment: Israel and the Territories After the Six-Day War (Tel-Aviv, 1996), 51–52. 7 Cabinet minutes, June 11, 1967, 8164-6/A, Israel State Archives (hereafter ISA). 8 Avi Raz, “The Generous Peace Offer that was Never Offered: The Israeli Cabinet Resolution of June 19, 1967,” Diplomatic History 37, no. 1 (January 2013): 91. 9 Aryeh Levavi to Abba Eban, June 19, 1967, 5978-2/Foreign Ministry (hereafter FM), ISA. 10 See Raz, “Generous Peace Offer.” 11 Embassy in Tel Aviv to State Department, May 6, 1968, #137a, “Israel Memos 1 Vol. IX,” box 141, Country File (hereafter CF), National Security Files (hereafter NSF), Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library (hereafter LBJL); Gershom Gorenberg, The Accidental Empire: Israel and the Birth of the Settlements, 1967–1977 (New York, 2006), 48–53; Amnon Sella, “Custodians and Redeemers: Israeli Leaders’ Perceptions of Peace, 1967–79,” Middle Eastern Studies 22, no. 2 (April 1986): 237. 12 Avi Shlaim, The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World (New York, 2000), 253; Pedatzur, Triumph of Embarrassment, 48. 13 Pedatzur, Triumph of Embarrassment, 124–59; Yechiel Admoni, Decade of Discretion: Settlement Policy in the Territories, 1967–1977 (Ramat Efal, Israel, 1992), 40–48; Shlomo Gazit, Trapped Fools: Thirty Years of Israeli Policy in the Territories (London, 2003), 251–59. 14 Donald Neff, “Settlements in U.S. Policy,” Journal of Palestine Studies 23, no. 3 (Spring 1994): 53–69. 15 Israeli Cabinet, October 31, 1968, 15-46-39-2, YT; Emanuel Shimoni to London, November 1, 1968, 5978-2/FM, ISA. 16 “Six Settlements will be established in the Territories during the Coming Year,” Maariv, September 13, 1971, 4. 17 Neff, “Settlements in U.S. Policy,” 53–69. 18 Shalom, “The United States and the Israeli Settlements.” 19 On the centrality of settlements in media coverage and in U.S. foreign policy, see Elliott Abrams, “The Settlement Obsession: Both Israel and the United States Miss the Obstacles to Peace,” Foreign Affairs 90, no. 4 (July/August 2011): 142–52. 20 Neff, “Settlements in U.S. Policy”; Shalom, “The United States and the Israeli Settlements.” 21 Neff, “Settlements in U.S. Policy”; Gorenberg, Accidental Empire, 360. 22 Noam Chomsky, Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians (Cambridge, MA, 1999), 42; Rashid Khalidi, Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S. Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East (Boston, MA, 2013). 23 John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy (New York, 2007), 336; Edward Tivnan, The Lobby: Jewish Political Power and American Foreign Policy (New York, 1987); Michael Thomas, American Policy Toward Israel: The Power and Limits of Beliefs (London, 2007). 24 Warren I. Cohen, “Balancing American Interests in the Middle East: Lyndon Baines Johnson vs. Gamal Abdul Nasser,” in Lyndon Johnson Confronts the World: American Foreign Policy, 1963–1968, ed. Warren I. Cohen and Nancy Tucker (New York, 1994), 279–309; H. W. Brands, The Wages of Globalism: Lyndon Johnson and the Limits of American Power (New York, 1995), 183–218; John Badeau, The American Approach to the Arab World (New York, 1968); Douglas Little, “Choosing Sides: Lyndon Johnson and the Middle East,” in The Johnson Years, Volume 3: LBJ at Home and Abroad, ed. Robert A. Divine (Lawrence, KS, 1994). 25 Philip Geyelin, Lyndon B. Johnson and the World (New York, 1966); Eric Frederick Goldman, The Tragedy of Lyndon Johnson (New York, 1969); Warren I. Cohen and Nancy Tucker, eds., Lyndon Johnson Confronts the World: American Foreign Policy, 1963–1968 (New York, 1994); D. B. Kunz, ed., The Diplomacy of the Crucial Decade: American Foreign Relations during the 1960’s (New York, 1994); Irwin Unger and Debi Unger, LBJ: A Life (New York, 1999); Gareth Porter, Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam (Berkeley, CA, 2005). 26 Jonathan Colman, The Foreign Policy of Lyndon Johnson: The United States and the World (Edinburgh, UK, 2010); Robert A. Devine, ed., The Johnson Years, Volume 3: LBJ at Home and Abroad (Lawrence, KS, 1994); Brands, Wages of Globalism; J. W. Dumbrell, President Lyndon Johnson and Soviet Communism (Manchester, UK, 2004); Michael Lumbers, Piercing the Bamboo Curtain: Tentative Bridge-building to China During the Johnson Years (Manchester, UK, 2008). 27 Brands, Wages of Globalism. 28 William Quandt, Peace Process: American Diplomacy and the Arab-Israeli Conflict Since 1967 (Berkeley, CA, 2005), 44–48; Steven Spiegel, The Other Arab-Israeli Conflict: Making America’s Middle East Policy, from Truman to Reagan (Chicago, IL, 1985), 153–58. 29 Ehud Eiran, “Settling to Win: Strategic Settlement Projects in Post-Colonial Times” (PhD diss., Brandeis University, 2010), 98–104; Shalom, “The United States and the Israeli Settlements,” 77. 30 Zertal and Eldar, Lords of the Land; William Harris, Taking Root: Israeli Settlement in the West Bank, the Golan and Gaza-Sinai, 1967–1980 (New York, 1980); Haggai Huberman, Against all Odds: 40 Years of Settlement in Judea, Samaria, Binyamin and the Valley (Netzarim, Israel, 2008); Admoni, Decade of Discretion. 31 Ronald Ranta, Political Decision Making and Non- Decisions: The Case of Israel and the Occupied Territories (New York, 2015); Pedatzur, Triumph of Embarrassment; Peter Demant, “Ploughshares into Swords: Israeli Settlement Policy in the Occupied Territories, 1967–77” (PhD diss., University of Amsterdam, 1988); Gorenberg, Accidental Empire. 32 Neff, “Settlements in U.S. Policy,” 55. 33 Gorenberg’s book is an exception to this this rule and engages a wide array of sources, but due to the topic of the study, it does not focus on U.S. policy. See Gorenberg, Accidental Empire. 34 President’s Special Assistant to President Johnson, June 7, 1967, FRUS, vol. XIX, doc. 189; Jerusalem Consulate to Middle East Control Group, June 8, 1967, #33, “Jerusalem,” box 1, Files of the Special Committee of the NSC (hereafter FSCN), NSF, LBJL. 35 President Johnson speech, June 20, 1967, 7412-1/A, ISA. 36 Harry McPherson to President Johnson, June 11, 1967, FRUS, vol. XIX, doc. 263; Jerusalem Consulate to Middle East Control Group meeting, June 8, 1967, #33, “Jerusalem,” box 1, FSCN, NSF, LBJL; CIA Memorandum, June 9, 1967, #12, “Middle East Crisis––CIA Intelligence Memoranda,” box 112, Special Assessments on the Middle East Situation, NSF, LBJL; NSC to President Johnson, June 26, 1967, “NSC Special Committee #1,” box 2, FSCN, NSF, LBJL. 37 Memorandum for the President, undated, #156c, “Israel Memos, vol. X,” box 142, CF, NSF, LBJL. 38 Brands, Wages of Globalism, 215. 39 Department of State to the Embassy in Israel, August 17, 1968, FRUS, 1964–1968, vol. XX, Arab-Israeli Dispute, 1967–1968, eds. Louis J. Smith and David S. Patterson (Washington, DC, 2001), doc. 240. This change in policy can be traced to Ambassador Arthur Goldberg’s plan of June 23, 1968. See Arthur Goldberg to President Johnson, June 23, 1968, #154b, “United Nations––Vol. 10,” box 70, Agency File, NSF, LBJL. 40 Harold Saunders to Eugene Rostow, October 21, 1967, #69b, “Israel Memos––Vol. VII,” box 140, CF, NSF, LBJL. 41 A good indicator of the overwhelming importance of Vietnam to the Johnson administration is evident in the CIA daily briefings received by President Johnson. Every day roughly half of the report was dedicated to the “special daily report on North Vietnam” while the other half included items from the rest of the world. The other items also often concerned the Vietnam War. See Central Intelligence Agency, President’s Daily Brief 1961–1969, Freedom of Information Act Electronic Reading Room (hereafter FOIA), https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/collection/presidents-daily-brief-1961-1969?page=124. For secondary literature on the primacy of Vietnam over Middle Eastern interests, see Doris Kearns Goodwin, Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream (New York, 1976), 335–54; Judith Apter Klinhoffer, Vietnam, Jews, and the Middle East: Unintended Consequences (New York, 1999). 42 Abraham Ben-Zvi believes that the Jordanian element was the major factor in bringing about a “special relationship” between Israel and the United States. Abraham Ben-Zvi, Origins of the Israeli-American Alliance: The Jordanian Factor (New York, 2007). 43 The Nixon administration was the first to seriously consider this option. See Simen Zernichow and Hilde Henriksen Waage, “The Palestine Option: Nixon, the National Security Council, and the Search for a New Policy, 1970,” Diplomatic History 38, no. 1 (January 2014): 182–209. 44 Alfred Atherton to Rodger Davies, July 26, 1968, file Correspondence with Tel Aviv, box 2, 1951–1976 Subject-Numeric File (hereafter SNF), Record Group 59 (hereafter RG 59), General Records of the Department of State, U.S. National Archives (hereafter USNA). 45 Ibid; NEA Background Paper, King Hussein’s Position, June 24, 1967, #26, “Jordan––Visit of King Hussein,” box 148, CF, NSF, LBJL; The President’s Daily Brief, April 29, 1968, FOIA, accessed October 6, 2017, https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/DOC_0005974405.pdf 46 John Roche to President Johnson, July 10, 1967, #186, “Middle East Crisis Memos & Misc––Vol. XII,” box 109, CF, NSF, LBJL; Quandt, Peace Process, 45. 47 Nathaniel Davis to Eugene Rostow, July 18, 1967, #201, “Middle East Crisis Memos & Misc––Vol. XIII,” box 109, CF, NSF, LBJL. 48 Dixon Donnelley to Acting Secretary, June 26, 1967, #243, “Middle East Crisis Memos & Misc––Vol. XII,” box 109, CF, NSF, LBJL. 49 Robert Dallek, Flawed Giant: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1961–1973 (New York, 1998), 543–49, 569–92. 50 Michael Oren, Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East (New York, 2002), 61–126. 51 Salim Yaqub, Containing Arab Nationalism: The Eisenhower Doctrine and the Middle East (Chapel Hill, NC, 2004), 106–7. 52 Memorandum of conversation, August 6, 1967, 7412-1/A, ISA. 53 NEA Background Paper, June 24, 1967, #26, “Jordan––King Hussein Visit,” box 148, CF, NSF, LBJL; Memorandum of Conversation, June 28, 1967, FRUS, vol. XIX, doc. 331; Memorandum of Conversation, July 14, 1967, FRUS, vol. XIX, doc. 365. 54 Department of State to the Embassy in Saudi Arabia, July 1, 1967, FRUS, vol. XIX, doc. 336. 55 Alfred Atherton to Rodger Davies, February 23, 1968, file POL 27 Peaceful Settlement 1968, box 21, 1951–1976 SNF, RG 51, General Records of the Department of State, USNA. 56 Israeli government, June 28, 1967, S-1066/91/10, United Nations Archives and Records Management. 57 Memorandum of conversation, July 15, 1967, #151, “Middle East Crisis Memos & Misc––Vol. XIII,” box 109, CF, NSF, LBJL. 58 Heywood Stackhouse to files, March 19, 1968, file POL 32-5 Status of Jerusalem March 1968, box 22, 1951–1976 SNF, RG 59, General Records of the Department of State, USNA. 59 Control Group to Dean Rusk, Undated, FRUS, vol. XIX, doc. 340; Dean Rusk to all posts, July 5, 1967, FRUS, vol. XIX, doc. 344. 60 Dean Rusk to all posts, July 5, 1967, FRUS, vol. XIX, doc. 344. 61 Tunis to Dean Rusk: July 28, 1967, #36 “Middle East Crisis Cables––1 of 2,” box 140, CF, NSF, LBJL; Findley Burns Jr. to Dean Rusk, August 4, 1967, #46 “Jerusalem,” box 10, FSCN, NSF, LBJL. 62 The major controversy was between the Allon Plan’s supporters and the Dayan Plan’s supporters. Some minimalists, such as Abba Eban and Pinhas Sapir, were skeptical of the utility of a large settlement enterprise in general. 63 The positions of cabinet members must be considered if the coalition is to survive. This is particularly true for members of small, informal decision-making units where most of the important decisions regarding security matters are made. See Charles Freilich, “National Security Decision-Making in Israel: Improving the Process,” The Middle East Journal 67, no. 2 (Spring 2013): 257–66. 64 Pedatzur, Triumph of Embarrassment, 28–29. 65 Gorenberg, Accidental Empire, 51. 66 This is not to deny that the emotional and religious significance played a role in Israel’s unwillingness to include the West Bank in the June 19 offer or to deny that it played a role in shaping Israeli policy. However, in this period there is little evidence that emotional and religious attachments determined policy anywhere but in Jerusalem. In later years, starting with the establishment of the Gush Emunim civil-society group after the 1973 war and particularly after the Likud came to power in 1977, these considerations would take on greater salience. See Admoni, Decade of Discretion, 148–54; Zertal and Eldar, Lords of the Land, 3–54. 67 Pedatzur, Triumph of Embarrassment, 77. 68 Telegram from the Embassy in Israel to the Department of State, July 17, 1968, FRUS, vol. XX, doc. 213. 69 Telegram from the Department of State to the Embassy in Israel, September 14, 1968, FRUS, vol. XX, doc. 252. 70 Embassy in Israel to the Department of State, July 17, 1968, FRUS, vol. XX, doc. 213. 71 Admoni, Decade of Discretion, 26–27. 72 Gorenberg, Accidental Empire, 99–101. 73 Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (Fourth Convention), August 12, 1949, art. 49(6). 74 Government decision 866, October 1, 1967, 12-3-93-2, YT. 75 Decision 87/B of the Ministerial Committee for Security, September 13, 1967, 12-3-93-2, YT. 76 Government decision 866, October 1, 1967, 12-3-93-2, YT. 77 Cabinet decision 839, September 24, 1967, 12-3-93-2, YT. 78 Gorenberg, Accidental Empire, 114. 79 Zertal and Eldar, Lords of the Land, 13; Pedatzur, Triumph of Embarrassment, 190; Gorenberg, Accidental Empire, 121. 80 Gorenberg, Accidental Empire, 117. 81 Press Briefing Paper, September 25, 1967, file POL-32-5 Status of Jerusalem 1967, box 22, 1951–1976 SNF, RG 59, General Records of the Department of State, USNA. 82 Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations, September 26, 1967, 7462-8/A, ISA. 83 Hedrick Smith, “Israel Defends Plan on Settlers,” New York Times, September 28, 1967, 1. 84 Gideon Rafael to Yosef Tekoah, September 30, 1967, 7462-8/A, ISA. 85 George Lambrakis to President Johnson, September 28, 1967, file POL-32-5 Status of Jerusalem 1967, box 22, 1951–1976 SNF, RG 59, General Records of the Department of State, USNA. 86 Mission to the UN to the Department of State, September 26, 1967, FRUS, vol. XIX, doc. 449. 87 Shlomo Argov to Avraham Harman, September 28, 1967, 7462-8/A, ISA. 88 Nicholas Katzenbach to the Embassy in Israel, September 29, 1967, FRUS, vol. XIX, doc. 451. 89 Abba Eban to Aryeh Levavi, September 24, 1967, 7462-6/A, ISA; Cabinet decision 839, September 24, 1967, 12-3-93-2, YT. 90 Smith, “Israel Defends Plan,” 1. 91 Avraham Harman to Aryeh Levavi, September 25, 1967, 7462-8/A, ISA. 92 Aviad Yaffe to Abba Eban, September 26, 1967, 7462-8/A, ISA. 93 Arthur Lourie to Washington, September 25, 1967, 7462-8/A, ISA. 94 Pedatzur, Triumph of Embarrassment, 199. 95 Government decision 866, October 1, 1967, 12-3-93-2, YT. 96 Dean Rusk to the Embassy of Israel, October 7, 1967, FRUS, vol. XIX, doc. 458. 97 NEA Report, October 19, 1967, #70, “Israel Memos––Vol. VII,” box 140, CF, NSF, LBJL. 98 Lucius Battle to Dean Rusk, November 17, 1967, FRUS, vol. XIX, doc. 530. 99 Harold Saunders to Eugene Rostow, October 21, 1967, #70a, “Israel Memos––Vol. VII,” box 140, CF, NSF, LBJL. 100 Memorandum of conversation, October 24, 1967, 7404-6/A, ISA; Dean Rusk to Tel-Aviv, October 24, 1967, “Israel Memos––Vol. VII,” #22, box 140, CF, NSF, LBJL; Memorandum of conversation, October 24, 1967, #2a, “Israel,” box 26, Head of State Correspondence File, NSF, LBJL; Memorandum of conversation, October 24, 1967, #27a, “Meeting with Abba Eban and Others,” box 2, Meeting Notes File, LBJL. 101 Leonard Meeker to Lucius Battle, May 7, 1968, file Pol 32-5 Occupied Territories, box 22, 1951–1976 SNF, RG 59, General Records of the Department of State, USNA. 102 Gorenberg, Accidental Empire, 120–21; Admoni, Decade of Discretion, 26–27. 103 Yigal Allon to cabinet members, January 8, 1968, 7910-43/A, ISA; Avraham Agmon to Prime Minister’s Office, March 13, 1968, 6423-1/C, ISA; Yigal Allon to Aviad Yaffe, May 15, 1968, 6433-7/C, ISA. 104 Huberman, Against all Odds, 41; James Feron, “Hebron Settlers May Stay in Town,” New York Times, May 16, 1968, 13. 105 The best overview of this strategy and its application can be found in Zertal and Eldar, Lords of the Land, 17–70. 106 “Eshkol Will Explain the Position of the Government in Regard to Hebron Settlement,” Maariv, May 8, 1968, 1; “The Settlement Affair in Hebron will be Discussed in the Government Next Week,” Maariv, May 10, 1968, 1; Eli Landau, “The Settlers in Hebron will be Moved to Permanent Living Quarters,” Maariv, May 15, 1968, 1. 107 Hebron settlers to Mordechai Gazit, December 5, 1968, 6423-1/C, ISA. 108 Feron, “Hebron Settlers,” 1; “Dayan tells Hebron Mayor Jewish Settlers Will Stay,” New York Times, June 3, 1968, 13; Patrick Brogan, “Arab Resentment over Settlers in Hebron,” The London Times, October 1, 1968, 6. 109 Department of State to the Embassy in Israel, April 8, 1968, FRUS, vol. XX, doc. 137. 110 Heywood Stackhouse to Henry Precht, April 16, 1968, file Pol 32-5 Occupied Territories, box 22, 1951–1976 SNF, RG 59, General Records of the Department of State, USNA. 111 Henry Precht to Heywood Stackhouse, April 30, 1968, file Pol 32-5 Occupied Territories, box 22, 1951–1976 SNF, RG 59, General Records of the Department of State, USNA. 112 Heywood Stackhouse wrote that the Israelis are “not transferring parts of its civilian population into occupied territory; it may well argue that such a movement is voluntary and uninduced” [emphasis in original]. See Heywood Stackhouse to Henry Precht, April 16, 1968, file POL 32-5 Occupied Territories 1968, box 22, 1951–1976 SNF, RG 51, General Records of the Department of State, USNA. 113 Robert Neuman to Alfred Atherton, April 26, 1968, file Memcons Misc. 1968, box 22, 1966–1972 SNF, RG 59, USNA. 114 Henry Precht to Heywood Stackhouse, May 7, 1968, file Pol 32-5 Occupied Territories, box 22, 1951–1976 SNF, RG 59, General Records of the Department of State, USNA; Leonard Meeker to Lucius Battle, May 7, 1968, file Pol 32-5 Occupied Territories, box 22, 1951–1976 SNF, RG 59, USNA. 115 Leonard Meeker to Lucius Battle, May 7, 1968, file Pol 32-5 Occupied Territories, box 22, 1951–1976 SNF, RG 59, USNA. 116 Hebron settlers to Mordechai Gazit, December 5, 1968, 6423-1/C, ISA; Gorenberg, Accidental Empire, 142–52. 117 Michael Elitzur to Yitzhak Rabin, May 16, 1968, 7412-1/A, ISA. 118 Ministerial Committee for Security decision, May 30, 1968, 3194-24/FM, ISA. 119 Cabinet meeting summary, August 25, 1968, 6495-11/C, ISA. 120 Michael Elitzur to Shlomo Argov, July 25, 1968, 4294-1/FM, ISA. 121 Decision of the Ministerial Committee, September 30, 1968, 7900-26/A, ISA. 122 Department of State to the Embassy in Israel, April 8, 1968, FRUS, vol. XX, doc. 137; CIA intelligence memorandum, April 1968, #174a, “Israel Memos––Vol. IX,” box 141, CF, NSF, LBJL. 123 Robert Dallek, Lyndon Johnson: Portrait of a President (New York, 2004), 332. 124 Arthur Goldberg to Dean Rusk, June 4, 1968, #114, “United Nations––Vol. 10,” box 70, Agency File, NSF, LBJL. 125 Israeli Cabinet, October 31, 1968, 15-46-39-2, YT; Emanuel Shimoni to London, November 1, 1968, 5978-2/FM, ISA. 126 Pedatzur, Triumph of Embarrassment, 116. 127 Yigal Allon to Levi Eshkol, November 13, 1968, 6423-1/C, ISA. 128 “Ministerial Committee Decided to Establish a Hebron Quarter Similar to Upper Nazareth,” Maariv, October 11, 1968, 1; Yosef Harif, “Government Discussion on Settlement Policy––in One of the Upcoming Meetings,” Maariv, November 19, 1968, 1; Yosef Harif, “Eshkol Supports Immediate Settlement in the Jordan Valley, Maariv, December 4, 1968, 1; “Majority in the Government in Favor of Allon Plan, Davar, December 10, 1968, 1. 129 The President’s Daily Brief, November 13, 1968, FOIA, accessed October 6, 2017, https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/DOC_0005976511.pdf. 130 Jerusalem to Dean Rusk, October 21, 1968, file Pol 32-5 Occupied Territories, box 22, 1951–1976 SNF, RG 59, General Records of the Department of State, USNA; Embassy in Israel to the Department of State, November 19, 1968, FRUS, vol. XX, doc. 326; The President’s Daily Brief, October 23, 1968, FOIA, accessed October 6, 2017, https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/DOC_0005976423.pdf. 131 Memorandum of Conversation, December 4, 1968, FRUS, vol. XX, doc. 338. © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)

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Published: Nov 17, 2017

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