Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (McGhee)1


Subject: Palestine Situation

Participants: Dr. Yusuf Haikal, Minister of the Hashemite Kingdom of the Jordan
NEA—Mr. McGhee
ANE—Mr. Berry
Mr. Rockwell

Problem: None (This was a courtesy call by Dr. Haikal prior to his return to Jordan).

Action Required: None

Action Assigned to: None

Discussion: The Minister at his own request called upon Mr. McGhee. After an exchange of courtesies, Mr. McGhee inquired what Dr. Haikal thought of the future of the Palestine situation. The Minister replied that his attitude was based upon a mixture of optimism and pessimism. Mr. McGhee stated that the United States Government considered such conversations as those now going on between Israel and Jordan a very important factor in a final settlement. He said that we had the impression that a stalemate in the conversations had occurred, and inquired why Dr. Haikal thought this was so.

The Minister believed that one reason might be that the Israelis were refusing to permit any refugees to return to their homes, and another that Israel was never ready to give anything in return for the concessions it demanded.

Mr. McGhee stated that we had not understood that the question of the refugees had entered into the Israeli-Jordan conversations, and the Minister said that he had not been officially informed of the scope of the talks. Mr. McGhee expressed doubt as to the feasibility of a corridor to the sea under Jordan sovereignty. He remarked that such a corridor would be indefensible in times of war, and that in times of peace Jordan could obtain the same advantages that would accrue from [Page 681] a corridor by means of free port facilities on the Mediterranean coast with guaranteed freedom of access. Other corridors such as the Polish Corridor, had not proven to be successful arrangements. Mr. McGhee added that the final decision on this matter was, of course, something for Jordan to make and that the United States Government was not attempting to influence the conversations in any way.

Dr. Haikal maintained that the only way Jordan could be sure of access to the Mediterranean was by having sovereignty over a corridor. He thought there were too many ways in which the Israelis could hinder access to the coast which was based only on the right of transit of Israeli-controlled territory.

Dr. Haikal then said that he was returning to Jordan in several weeks and wondered whether Mr. McGhee had any particular message which he might bear to his King and his people. Mr. McGhee replied that he desired to assure Dr. Haikal of the continuing friendship for and interest in Jordan on the part of the United States. He said that the United States Government was prepared to seek from the Congress legislation authorizing the United States to assume its share of the expenses of the refugee relief and works program recommended by the United Nations. Jordan would be a principal beneficiary of this program, and would thereby receive concrete proof of the interest of the United States in Jordan. Mr. McGhee hoped that Dr. Haikal would convey to King Abdullah the appreciation of the United States Government for the cooperative attitude which Jordan has shown in connection with the Palestine problem, and the hope that; Jordan would continue to maintain this approach to the question.

Mr. McGhee added that he would also appreciate it if Dr. Haikal would raise with the King and other Jordanian officials the point of whether it was desirable to endanger any progress toward a final settlement in Palestine because of issues which some people might be insisting upon largely out of such motives as revenge. He thought that local interests should be subordinated to the general need for peace felt throughout the whole Near East, and pointed out that no real progress in developing the area can be made until a political agreement is reached. The point which Mr. McGhee wished to make, of course, applied as well to Israel. A spirit of compromise was necessary on both sides. It was Mr. McGhee’s thought, however, that such things as the Israeli-Jordan conversations should not be permitted to fail because of stumbling blocks which in themselves were far less important than a final peace.

Dr. Haikal said that he would be glad to convey this information to his Government. He pointed out, however, that it was very difficult for any of the Arab States to be reasonable vis-à-vis Israel when their leaders thought of the homeless refugees and the vast amount [Page 682] of Arab property taken over by the Israelis. If the refugees were not to return, what was to become of their property? Dr. Haikal estimated the total value of this property at twelve billion dollars, and said that it was obvious that Israel could not afford to pay this sum, despite the vague promises the Israelis may have made about compensation. Mr. McGhee said the twelve billion dollars seemed to be a very large sum for the value of the property in question, and the subsequent conversation brought out that Dr. Haikal was including Arab-owned desert areas in Palestine which he maintained had had a considerable price set upon them during the Mandatory regime despite the unproductive nature of the soil.

After expressing his thanks for the interest taken by the United States in Jordan and his pleasure at seeing Mr. McGhee back in Washington, Dr. Haikal took his departure.

  1. Drafted by Mr. Rockwell.