297. Editorial Note

On June 16, 1962, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs Grant proposed in a memorandum to Secretary Rusk that Rusk send a memorandum to President Kennedy setting forth the Department of State’s reasons for opposing efforts to obtain support for direct negotiations between Israel and its Arab neighbors and authorizing the Department to make its position clear to Israeli officials. Grant noted that Israeli officials were commencing a campaign to persuade the Department of State of the need to support direct peace negotiations and that Israel’s supporters within the United States had underway a drive to develop U.S. opinion favorable to some kind of direct peace negotiations. Grant argued: “If we fail to oppose these pressures firmly at the offset, they may present us with a major problem by fall when we will have to engage in negotiations on sensitive Palestine matters at the UN General Assembly. Ambassador Stevenson has expressed concern over renewed Israeli activity to secure support for the direct peace talks concept.” (Department of State, NEA/IAI Files: Lot 70 D 304, Secret/Limdis 1962)

A June 18 note to Brubeck from Rusk’s Special Assistant Emory C. Swank, attached to Grant’s June 16 memorandum, reads: “You will recall that the attached memorandum was the subject of discussion at this morning’s staff meeting, with the Secretary indicating concern that we not appear to oppose in principle direct peace negotiations between the Arab countries and Israel. The Secretary penciled a note referring this paper for action to Mr. Ball, but it was my impression at staff meeting that this was a problem which the Mr. McGhee would interest himself in initially.” (Ibid.) The record of the June 18 Secretary’s staff meeting indicates that “The Secretary directed that in discussion of UN resolutions for direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Arabs we should avoid the posture of opposing direct negotiations in principle.” He also “requested IO and NEA to prepare a study and recommendations for Mr. McGhee on the subject of direct Arab-Israel negotiations, clearing with H—Mr. Dutton with regard to the statements we have made on the Hill.” (Ibid., Secretary’s Staff Meetings: Lot 66 D 147)

On June 18, Dutton directed to McGhee’s attention a draft letter to Senator Boggs, prepared in the Bureau of Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, that Dutton had found on his desk after the Secretary’s staff meeting. Dutton noted in a memorandum to McGhee that language in the proposed letter showing Department of State resistance to direct Arab-Israeli negotiations was typical of over 50 such letters that had gone out to members of Congress within the previous 2 months. Dutton then advised: “Both the Democratic leadership on the Hill and several members of the White House staff have expressed considerable concern [Page 732]over our posture on this issue. The Jewish newspapers in the country in the last sixty days have made quite an issue of this position. I have talked with NE several times about it. While the Arabs obviously will refuse to negotiate directly with Israel, I personally believe our discouraging such talks appears domestically to be taking the Arab viewpoint without in any way lessening tensions in the Middle East. I would think that the U.S. would always want to be in the position of encouraging efforts at understanding on a bilateral as well as a multilateral basis.” (Attached to memorandum from Dutton to Grant, June 18; ibid., Central Files, 684A.86B/6–1862)

In a separate memorandum to Grant on June 18, Dutton indicated that he was returning the proposed letter to Senator Boggs, adding “I assume that language will be inserted indicating that this country supports negotiations between the parties even though recognizing that Arab leaders would not likely be willing to undertake direct talks.” Dutton then recalled several letters to members of Congress that had not only reiterated U.S. opposition to the U.N. General Assembly draft resolution of December 19, but went considerably further in registering Department opposition. Dutton said that at McGhee’s request, he had sent McGhee copies of several of these letters. Dutton also complained to Grant that “we owe a letter to Congressman Farbstein indicating that assurances of a change in Jordanian policy previously given to him in writing have not been borne out. I know that he and several Jewish organizations have been deliberately testing the Jordanian regulations through the Embassy here and can document the fact that our assurances did not turn out in practice. The record should be set straight by us before it is done in the Congressional Record by Farbstein. I realize that this involves a delicate matter with Jordan; but considerable damage will be done to the Department and its overall presentation of foreign policy matters if specific documentation is produced that assurance has been given to the Congress on the matter when, in fact, there is no basis for it as verified by travel applications made by American Jews to the Jordanian Embassy.” A notation in an unidentified hand next to the suggestion to send Farbstein a letter reads “No”. (Ibid.)