314. Telegram From the Mission to the United Nations to the Department of State1

5845/Secto 13. Following uncleared memcon FYI Noforn and subject to revision.

Secretary and Ambassador Goldberg received Israeli FonMin Eban along with Rafael and Harman 7:15 p.m. June 21. Hour’s conversation revolved around two main topics: (A) Situation in Near East and Israeli view re settlement and (B) present parliamentary situation in UNGA. This telegram covers topic (A).2

Secretary referred to sentiment UNGA re need for reaffirmation principle of withdrawal before meaningful discussions on bases for settlement could take place. He believed there were two separable questions as regards form and substance. If we could be clear on substance we could then be more flexible on modalities.

Eban stated Israeli inter-ministerial committee had come to some tentative conclusions which he would like to discuss with Secretary but not others.

Egypt–Israel. Israelis wanted peace treaty on basis present international frontiers. This would involve Israeli maritime passage through Straits Tiran and Suez Canal and air passage over straits. In context non-belligerency this would mean Israel would be treated like everyone else. In same context Israel envisaged demilitarization of Sinai, which was natural barrier between two countries. From Egypt, Israel wanted only security, no territory. Israelis felt Egypt might be attracted to this concept.

Important thing that there must be treaty which committed Egyptians. Israeli unwilling accept another understanding on basis of assumptions. This had been major fault of 1957 arrangements which had committed much of world but not Egypt.

Israel–Syria. Israelis would like peace treaty on the basis of the international frontiers with some understanding that Syrian hills overlooking Israeli territory would be demilitarized. Israelis would also like assurances that Syria would not use returned territory for purpose of [Page 533] diversion of Jordan waters away from Israel. Eban noted that Syrians unable divert these waters now because Israeli held essential territory. Eban concluded that Israel was offering both Egypt and Syria complete withdrawal to international frontiers. These terms not ungenerous.

Gaza. Eban noted that Egypt had never claimed Gaza, had not accepted responsibility for occupying it, or for the refugees. The natural thing was for Gaza to be in Israel. Israelis would make every effort on behalf of Gaza population which totaled over 350,000 people. This plus Israel’s present Arab population would bring total Arabs in Israel to about 700,000. Israelis wondered whether some could not be settled elsewhere, e.g. northern part of Sinai, “Central Palestine” or West Bank of Jordan. Israelis would like to maintain status of UNRWA as source of assistance to these people.

West Bank of Jordan. Eban said Israeli thinking “less crystalized” re West Bank. They were still working on basis two tendencies, two conceptions in GOI. One tendency assumed that the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan would continue and that an agreed settlement on the basis of the demarcation line should be worked out. Another idea was that there should be some kind of association between the West Bank and Israel on the basis of autonomy and economic union. The difficulty with this latter approach, said Eban, was that it would push Hussein back across the Jordan River. Moreover, there were no international constitutional precedents for such an arrangement.

The Secretary interposed by wondering whether there were not precedents on the basis of letting the people concerned decide. Eban replied that GOI was trying to take soundings on the intelligence level. There were some “serious” Arab leaders on West Bank who felt that their relationship with East Jordan had been artificial and had provided them no security. Others had Hashemite loyalties.

Secretary inquired if there were no significant Egyptian military presence in Sinai what would be situation in the Negev? Eban pointed out that until UNEF removed there had been the slenderest military presence possible in the south of Israel.

Secretary commented that it was helpful to have these preliminary thoughts. He was not clear as to whether doctrine of innocent maritime passage through Straits of Tiran also applied to air passage. Eban felt that doctrine would apply, in light of relevant international conventions re air transit, except in times of war. Secretary asked whether economic arrangements between Israel and West Bank might not be conduit to bring Trans–Jordan into similar arrangement. He realized Israelis were angry at Hussein but advised that they should not sell him short. Eban admitted that Israelis’ first reaction had been to write Hussein off but they now heard that Hussein was being properly contrite.

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Secretary said he wanted to raise two points:

Refugees. We continued to get bad information on the refugee situation. Apparently several thousand Arabs per day continue to leave Israel. It would be great tragedy if the refugee problem was re-created. Our information does not agree with Israelis’ statements on this matter. Eban said he had spoken with the military governor of Jerusalem (who happened to be his brother-in-law) on this point. The Secretary suggested that Israel be less rigorous in its process of screening of people who left the West Bank during the hostilities and now wish to return. He felt that Israel could take some chances in this respect and that world opinion would press Israel very hard on the refugee question.
Jerusalem. Secretary hoped that Israel would be very careful with regard to Jerusalem as it involved actual or latent passions of an enormous number of people. The matter was very delicate and could be a source of strong anti-Israel feeling in the United States. Eban replied that Israel was trying to put the Christian holy places under Christian control and the Moslem holy places under Moslem control. Eban admitted that Israel had a job to do in projecting publicly its intentions regarding access to holy places.

Eban referred to reports of Soviet replacement of military aircraft to Egypt. He agreed that full replacement might take a year. At the same time Israel’s own aircraft inventories were low. Israel had lost 42 planes in hostilities. This had led to GOI request for expedited implementation of present contract to supply Skyhawks to Israel. Secretary replied that this was being considered in Washington at the present time. He did not know whether Soviets intended to replenish fully Arab inventories or to make a more modest gesture. Secretary said that he would try to find out from Gromyko if there was any Soviet interest in some arms limitation. Secretary noted that this was issue affecting whole area and that we were under heavy pressure for arms from friendly Arab countries.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 ARAB–ISR. Secret; Exdis. Repeated to Tel Aviv. Received at 3:27 a.m. Passed to the White House at 3:44 a.m. Secretary Rusk was in New York June 19–June 23 to attend the Special Session of the UN General Assembly.
  2. Telegram 5844 from USUN, June 22, reported the discussion of topic B. (Ibid., POL 27 ARAB–ISR/UN)