Amman, December 30, 1968, 1440Z.
8105. Subj: My discussion with Hussein on 28th. Ref: State 292074.2.
Summary: With the authority given me in State 292074, I broached with the King the issue of secret Israeli-Jordanian contacts. I am convinced that the King welcomed this initiative. In addition to supplying considerable details about substance of these contacts, the King made clear that the channel with Israel was still open if the Israelis wanted to use it, but it was up to them, he emphasized. He said he could do nothing more unless or until the Israelis became more forthcoming. He stressed that secret talks with Israel could only be complementary to, not a substitute for, talks through Jarring. End Summary.
1. During my lengthy meeting with Hussein on 28th, I told him that I wanted to raise a very sensitive matter which I had wanted to discuss with him for a long time but for a number of reasons had been unable to do so. I said I was referring specifically to the paper he had given Governor Scranton regarding secret contacts Jordan had had with Israel.3See . I had known generally about these contacts but I had not been in a position to discuss them with him. I personally had detected indications that in the coming weeks there might be in some ways a more active U.S. participation in the peace-making process under Jarring's auspices. I wished to make clear that the U.S. continues to want to reinforce and complement the Jarring Mission in constructive ways. I also wanted to make clear that we stand firmly by the assurances that have been given to him. My present approach to him was a purely personal and informal one. I particularly wanted him to know that I could pass on in a secure way anything further he wished us to know about sensitive contacts he had had with the Israelis. It seemed to me there was mutual benefit in our being able to discuss this matter in detail in the coming weeks. I added that I had never discussed the subject with anyone in his government; for example, I had reason to believe that Abdul Mun'im Rifai probably was not privy to the sensitive contacts with Israel. (The King affirmed that this was true.) I then referred to the King's forthcoming visit to England and said I thought it would be useful to him to let me know if there is any Jordanian official now in the know with whom I might discuss this general subject if necessary during his absences from the country. I added that I personally believed there was “give" in most aspects of the Israeli position and it would be useful for him to try to flush out their attitudes particularly on how withdrawal from the West Bank would be organized.
2. The King responded that he indeed thought it would be useful for us to have such an informal relationship in the coming period because he very much hoped the United States would take a more active role, but still under the aegis of Jarring. He said he would think over the situation in the coming days before he departs and would get in touch with me to let me know with whom I might talk during his absences if that were necessary. Meanwhile he wanted to brief me on what had transpired so far.
3. Hussein said that talks with the Israelis have gone on “for some long time.” In spite of all the contacts, however, there had been no discernible give in any specific aspects of the Israeli position. “In effect, the Israelis keep giving us their general position and we keep giving them ours.” As far as Jordan is concerned, the Nov 22 resolution contains the principles under which a settlement is to be worked out. The principles do not allow for any bargaining. It is details under the principles that need to be discussed. In regards to principles, however, Jordan had to make perfectly clear that it must have the Jarring umbrella: that is, that while details might be discussed by secret contacts, such discussions were only an aid and could not be a substitute for reaching agreement under the aegis of Jarring. Anything discussed in secret with Israel would have to be made known to Jarring to be passed on officially.
4. Another essential principle for Jordan is that the UAR must be associated with the Jarring process. Jordan at this time was unable to go it alone. Hussein indicated that even if he were willing to go it alone he thought any separate settlement reached with Israel would not endure. Hussein referred parenthetically to recent US-UAR discussions of the seven points and emphasized that we should not consider that Syria presents a problem. Jordan and the UAR are not in a position completely to disregard Syria and could make no public statement to that effect. On the other hand, if arrangements could be made between Israel and Jordan and the UAR, Syria could be left aside.
5. A third essential principle for Jordan is that Israel must publicly accept the principle of withdrawal from territory occupied in June 1967. The resolution provides that there shall be no territorial aggression. It also provides that boundaries are to be discussed and that there may be some territorial modifications; but unless the principle of withdrawal is accepted by Israel, Jordan will be unable to move further toward a peaceful settlement.
6. A final principle is that any territorial changes must be made on a basis of “reciprocity.” Hussein used the word “reciprocity" several times during his conversation. I think he meant that if Jordan agrees to a territorial change in one place it will have to be compensated by some territory elsewhere on at least a face-saving basis. He used the word “reciprocity" in discussing security as well. He stressed, for example, that he had told the Israelis repeatedly that security must be worked out on a basis of reciprocity. He is fully prepared to accept the notion that Israel has security concerns, but he also expects Israel to recognize that Jordan has security concerns.
7. Hussein discussed some of the specifics that the Israelis have thrown out in the secret contacts. With regard to territory, the Israelis have said they want a 12-kilometer-wide strip running along the Jordan River from the north (Tiberias) to a point a few miles north of Jericho. Jordan would be allowed to have corridors across this strip. The Israelis have noted also that they expect boundary changes in the west. Hussein mentioned no specifics with regard to Latroun and Qalqiliya, but he said that in addition to the boundary changes the Israelis insist upon the new western frontier being completely opened for all Israelis. The Israelis also want a strip of territory running to the Hebron area (sic). They have indicated in a general way that they would consider giving Jordan access to Mediterranean port facilities. With regard to Gaza, their last word was that they want to keep it, but there were some indications they might be willing to discuss its future.
8. Far from giving anything on Jerusalem the Israelis have taken a very hard line, and Hussein said that he could see that all Jordan would get was “access to the Holy Places.” Hussein said that “sovereignty" over what it previously had in Jerusalem is important to Jordan and that the Israelis so far had given him no hope of an arrangement in Jerusalem as “a city of peace" which would no longer be the cause of division between Arabs and Israelis but would be the place where they would meet. He did not go into any details of what kind of practical administration this would entail in his view, and because there was so much else to discuss I decided not to probe him for details.
9. On refugees the King said the Israelis were proposing that Jordan and Israel form a sort of bilateral committee to discuss the status and disposition of the refugees. The King had responded that this was unacceptable to Jordan and Jordan's position is that the existing UN resolutions on refugees must be applied, at least in principle. He believed firmly that Jordan and Israel alone could not effectively settle the refugee problem and that the international community must be involved.
10. The King said the Israelis were still insisting upon signing some kind of “government-to-government" document. Jordan did not take the position that it would never sign any kind of document. On the other hand, the way the Israelis kept putting it, it appeared that they wanted a government-to-government peace treaty of the traditional sort. This was not acceptable.
11. I suggested that submitting counter-proposals to Allon plan concepts might help to flush out Israeli “give.” Drawing on State 292074 and Amman 7992,4. I advanced several illustrative ideas. The King did not respond specifically but commented that Israeli insistence on a demilitarized West Bank gave him no problems. As he had already indicated to me, he was prepared to maintain only public security forces on the West Bank. On the other hand, things like the Allon plan would give him a problem, and he had stressed to the Israelis that Jordan also had security interests. Security was reciprocal, he reiterated, but, even more important, security would be a fruit of peace and would flow from an acceptable implementation of the resolution.
12. Hussein concluded this section of the conversation by saying that despite the negative summary he had given me he wanted to make clear that the channel is still open if the Israelis want to use it. It is up to them. The ball is in their court. “Unless they are willing to help me on the principles I have outlined, I can do nothing more.” When the King mentioned this to me another time, I emphasized to him that we would not be saying anything to the Israelis about this discussion and that I assumed that he already had told the Israelis that the ball was in their court. He indicated that this was the case.
13. As I was leaving the King said once again that he appreciated having had this conversation and that he would be in touch with me before he left to let me know if there were any late developments and also whom I might talk to in his absence.
14. Suggest Dept pass to Tel Aviv and USUN.5A note on the telegram indicates that it was not passed to Tel Aviv or USUN.