11. Telegram From the Embassy in Jordan to the Department of State1
330. Violent events past few weeks suggest desirability reexamination position Jordan in Near East complex. This is an appraisal of current situation especially chances settling Palestine [Page 13] problem which we believe needs new or changed approach to make it possible.
Significant changes in sources of power and influence have occurred here. Authority and prestige of Throne have declined … and are relatively weak. Of late nationalist, extremist and subversive elements have increased in strength and freedom of action. Position of US improved during our policy impartiality but remains weak. Money we provide gives some return in good will through Point Four but refugee relief through UNRWA gains no understanding and fewer thanks. Extensive negotiations by Eric Johnston and handsome offers for Jordan Valley Plan have insufficient appeal overcome … government timidity. Missionaries, goodwill agencies, and relief food supplies have made no appreciable dent. Refugee bitterness over creation Israel remains fully potent and those who thought time had healed wounds and abated emotions (including most foreign observers in Amman) were misled.
The decline in British position is signally important and largely unperceived by them until now. Never so great as popularly supposed, their power atrophied from lack of exercise. Until Baghdad Pact proposal of December there never had been request for performance or return on heavy investment by UK and they lost their influence by default. Good will cannot be tunked [?] in the Palestinian mind any more than in Moscow.
The Israeli attack on Gaza on February 282 made deep impression in Jordan. Egypt’s purchase of Czech arms resulted in prompt and dramatic change in public opinion, hardening it against settlement with Israel, and against the West. Local opinion, in part wishfully, and in part the result of superior Egyptian propaganda, felt liberated from Western dependence, sensed for the first time initiative over Israelis and comforted by turn to Arab leadership.
During internal crisis and riots of December 14–21, 1955, the strength of Egyptian influence was manifest. Very revealing also is public acceptance and even approbation of subversive character of Egyptian activity, … and interference in domestic affairs. Side result also to be borne in mind is growing disrespect for the Arab Legion and its leadership. Jordan not yet accustomed to orderly processes of Republican Government, has lost its respect for authority, and influence of mob pressures must now be constantly borne in mind.
Whatever may be importance of Jordan Valley Plan, of Baghdad Pact, or refugee problem, it is increasingly clear they must be subordinated to an overall settlement of the Arab-Israeli problem.[Page 14]
For any settlement certain points now stand out.
- Nasser of Egypt must give his approval. He may not be able bring about settlement, but certainly as far as Jordan is concerned, it cannot be done over his opposition.
- He is likely the best vehicle and he has sent word to Ben Gurion (by Richard Crossman, UK Labor MP, if not others) that he is willing to undertake making of peace providing the discussions are secret.
- Some new twist or gimmick is necessary to give apparent advantage or to allow new avenue of approach. Arab leaders must pull off victory, even if only on paper. After Anthony Eden’s Guild Hall speech of November 93 there was much separatist talk in west Jordan, and the dream of an independent Palestinian Arab state along approximate lines 1947 partition4 was widely discussed. Recently this has been quiescent but suggests an opening which may provide necessary window-dressing. If Nasser supported creation of new independent Arab Palestine it would likely appeal to Arab world. (UK, US or UN proposal of same would draw immediate opposition.) A buffer state perhaps under aegis of UN and preferably unarmed should appeal to Israel both in terms of security and possibilities of trade extension. This without prejudice to the many negotiating points of borders, corridors, compensation et cetera.
- After recent violence here those who most wish to retain territory, viz. King Hussein, find themselves unhappy with Palestinians. Hussein could be reduced to ruling desert Kingdom of Transjordan with British support (perhaps improved by the JV plan and strengthened by Baghdad Pact) or he can have dual monarchy with Iraq or he can dream of future glory. The latter he has already done and recently spoke to me in cryptic terms…. He intimated that all he wished from the US or UK was non-intervention or hands-off policy.
- The consequences of delay may be substantially more serious than the increase in Egyptian and Communist influences. There appear to be possibilities of an Afro-Asian neutralist federation in which Nasser could play leading role. In the Near East it could go far to displace western position and in foreseeable future have major influence on availability of oil supplies.
In approaching possible settlement of Arab Israeli problem or in event matter to be discussed with British in near future, I suggest: [Page 15]
- Initiate negotiations if possible by March due upcoming US elections, meanwhile withholding Israelis from Banat Yacoub water diversion.
- That Abdul Nasser, even though his motives be suspect, be used as leader or negotiating avenue.
- Nasser be given, or allowed to have as his very own, idea that he can liberate Arab Palestine state west of Jordan River or to use it as negotiating gambit. Perhaps the Secretary General of UN or some similar person could provide Nasser with idea.
- Suggest British use no pressures on Jordan on such other questions as Baghdad Pact.
- Subordinate Jordan Valley plan to overall settlement since prior acceptance would contribute little to success major problem.5
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 785.00/1–556. Secret. Repeated to Baghdad, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, Jidda, London, and Tel Aviv.↩
- On February 28, 1955, units of the Israeli armed forces crossed the armistice lines at Gaza and attacked and destroyed the headquarters of the Egyptian Army.↩
- For text of Eden’s speech, see Frankland (ed.), Documents on International Affairs, 1955, pp. 382–385.↩
- Reference is to the U.N. General Assembly resolution concerning the future government of Palestine, adopted on November 29, 1947. For text, see Official Records of the General Assembly, Second Session, Resolutions, 16 September–29 November 1947.↩
- In telegram 331 to Amman, January 14, the Department informed the Embassy: “Analysis current situation contained Embtel 330 has been studied with close interest in Dept. Continued distrust Amman politicians by former Palestinians has been noted. Further details re your references to Eden speech and upsurge separatist notions on West Bank would be appreciated when convenient.” (Department of State, Central Files, 785.00/1–556)↩