The Chargé in Jordan (Fritzlan) to the Secretary of State
421. Legtel 418 December 12. Yesterday evening I had hour and half talk with Samir Pasha Rifai re results fourth meeting with Israelis held Shuneh Tuesday1 nite presence King.
Following questions listed for discussion and trend talks as follows according Samir:
- Territorial settlement including Jordan access Mediterranean.
- Tulkarm triangle (approved for separate discussion after Israeli opposition).
- Israeli road link along west shore Dead Sea connecting potash works.
- Application British treaty Arab Palestine.
- Present and future treaty obligations both parties (this inserted request Israel and aimed Jordan obligations under AL charter).
First question passed over on insistence Israelis (desiring doubtless test extent Jordan concessions before revealing their hand access to sea) but on Samir’s condition it be discussed before meeting ended as it was crucial question.
Be Jerusalem, Israelis demanded change line afford them contiguity of territory with Jew quarter and Wailing Wall in old city and with Mt. Scopus institutions. Samir recognized reasonableness former and King readily assented but Samir stated Jordan could not consider latter but would be willing guarantee free access. This of course predicated on conclusion general agreement which would change line giving Jordan Nablus, St Pauls and Bethlehem roads and territory east and would provide compensation for certain Arab quarters. Such arrangement seemed in general satisfactory to Israelis.
Re Tulkarm, Samir claimed return fertile triangle area absolutely necessary. This land had been held by Jordan and had been given up at armistice negotiations result of ignorance and stupidity.
Re question Israeli road link between potash works King gave immediate assent to Israeli demand. At this point Samir insisted on returning to discussion of question Jordan access to sea rather than taking up two questions re treaties.
After some discussion between Shiloah and Sassoon latter made dramatic statement effect that as evidence good faith part Israelis, and in appreciation King’s conciliatory attitude, Ben Gurion had decided in face serious opposition especially from military that Israel should [Page 1546]give Jordan direct corridor from Hebron to Gaza (later amended to corridor from Hebron to Gaza via Beit Jibrin) with full sovereignty subject to three reservations: (a) there should be no military installations or bases in corridor; (b) Israelis should have free passage across it at least three places; (c) British treaty of guarantee not to apply corridor.
When King heard this proposal he expressed much pleasure and appeared believe agreement virtually reached. However, Samir replied proposal not acceptable. He had demanded South Negev and had indicated he would consider as alternative reasonable corridor with full Jordan sovereignty over it. He stated there were two reasonable and acceptable alternatives. One was Israeli relinquishment Western Galilee and suitable corridor to it, and other was corridor from Hebron to Majdal (slightly north Gaza) via Beit Jibrin and Faluja. He added Majdal only possible area which could be considered as point access in south because: (a) South coast very hilly with exception Majdal area and consequently Majdal offered only feasible site for port; (b) there existed road connection between Hebron and Majdal while no such link with Gaza; and (c) while Jordan hopeful eventually taking over Gaza from Egypt, this problematical.
Israelis replied they had no authority offer corridor to Majdal but agreed confer further with government.
Re Israeli reservations offer of corridor to Gaza Samir stated: (a) If Jordan agreed not establish military bases or installations in corridor it would ask Israel to give similar commitment re area both sides corridor to extent corridor width; (b) Jordan agreed in principle Israeli free passage at certain points across corridor but could not now commit itself to number of points. Question British treaty application to corridor not discussed but Samir believes injection this factor by Israelis indicative absence complete good faith.
Two remaining treaty questions deferred to later meeting.
Israeli delegates departed with intention requesting new instructions for possible future discussions for which date not set.
Comment: Apparent Israelis attempting obtain Jordan agreement on separate [apparent omission] in hope deferring central question Jordan access to sea. To counter such tendency Samir is making clear his refusal consider any aspects settlement except as integral part overall settlement, and agreement given on any particular question presumes reaching general agreement. I have strong feeling that neither Samir nor Prime Minister would be parties to agreement which did not embrace following as minimum: (1) corridor Hebron–Majdal with Jordan sovereignty over it; (2) Jerusalem line as giving Jordan Nablus, St Pauls and Bethlehem roads and territory east; and (3) return of Jordan Tulkarm triangle.[Page 1547]
It is extremely doubtful that any Jordan government would agree to less. In general Samir seemed hopeful talks would succeed. Question of their continuation will depend upon Israelis.2
Sent Department 421. Department pass London 108, USUN 24, Jerusalem 148, Tel Aviv 66.
- December 13.↩
- The Israeli version of the talks with the Jordanians on December 13 was conveyed to Ambassador McDonald by Mr. Shiloah the following day. The Ambassador’s account, as transmitted to the Department on December 15, was a brief one, going into detail only in connection with King Abdullah’s request for Majdal and Ascalon as his “sea exit” instead of Gaza. No direct mention was made in the Ambassador’s account of the Israeli proposal to give Jordan a direct corridor to the Mediterranean (telegram 893 from Tel Aviv, 767N.90i/12–1549).↩