333. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Israel1

219964. 1. At his request Israeli Ambassador Harman called on Under Secretary Rostow on June 29, to explain GOI action on Jerusalem.2 Emphasized GOI intention maintain full access to Christian, Jewish and Moslem Holy Places. Said question of ultimate status and regulation of Holy Places is open as it was before and is now in hands of religious confessions involved. Legal action would enable GOI take all measures necessary to assure safety and proper access to Holy [Page 588] Places. Said Prime Minister had made clear in statement in Jerusalem to religious community heads that GOI open to suggestions.

2. Rostow said he appreciated Ambassador’s statements but stressed that point Secretary and other USG officials have been trying to make is much broader. The USG like the GOI has a strong national interest in achieving a condition of peace in the Middle East. To reach that goal, agreements are indispensable. The problem in Jerusalem is broader than the issue of access to the Holy Places. GOI is in Jerusalem, and in the whole of the West Bank, as the occupying power under the SC cease fire resolutions. Under international law, the occupying power has clear rights and duties. One is to use existing law as the basis of its administration, with minimal change. Dayan’s long press conference rested on this premise, which we regard as indispensable. Any unilateral change is highly disturbing factor, no matter what the previous situation. (He noted USG has never given legal recognition to Jordanian sovereignty over West Bank.) It was one thing to take position, as in Dayan’s June 25 statement, that Israel would use local West Bank municipal councils to govern. This was fine. But to say that Israel municipal laws apply in occupied territory is entirely different concept. Hence USG had made its two June 28 statements on Jerusalem.3

3. Rostow said GOI actions on Jerusalem had knocked entire UNGA situation into cocked hat. Weeks of effort there had vanished in smoke. We are instructing Ambassador Barbour to seek clarification GOI action on Jerusalem. Our plea is that GOI make clear publicly it does not regard any step it has taken as irrevocable and final position. Harman and Minister Evron insisted that GOI steps do not constitute annexation but only municipal fusion. Said word “annexation” does not appear in legislation. Rostow stressed hope GOI would make clear publicly its action does not constitute annexation and does not prejudice future negotiations about status of Jerusalem as a whole.

4. Harman referred to Yugoslav–Indian resolution introduced in UNGA and said it being interpreted in corridors as signal for war. Said para 3. calls on member states to act directly to apply its provisions thus authorizing direct use of force to achieve Israeli withdrawals. GOI considers this very serious. Rostow said he had not heard this interpretation and would discuss matter with Deputy Assistant Secretary Popper and Ambassador Goldberg.

5. Harman said GOI convinced there is much at stake in current UNGA proceedings and believes situation can be held if USG continues strong effort it has been making. He wished confirmation USG would [Page 589] continue focus on main situation. (Implication was we should not get sidetracked onto Jerusalem issue.) Rostow confirmed our continued concentration on main strategy and tactics but repeated conviction that GOI actions on Jerusalem caused sharp setback to possibility success. Noted that Secretary’s feeling evening June 28 was this might cause loss thirty votes.

6. Rostow said that King Hussein’s talk with President was not totally negative. King is in difficult position and knows it, but nothing should be done to interrupt possibility of his coming around ultimately to more moderate position.

7. Harman referred to continued movements Soviet aircraft into Cairo and Damascus, and movement of MIGs into Baghdad. Rostow assured him we are watching Soviet resupply efforts with utmost care.4

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 ARAB–ISR. Secret. Drafted by Wolle and Eugene Rostow, cleared by Handley, and approved by Rostow. Repeated to London, Paris, Amman, The Hague, Jerusalem, and USUN.
  2. On June 27 the Knesset approved three bills authorizing extension of Israel’s laws, jurisdiction, and public administration over the Old City of Jerusalem and other newer areas in the eastern portion of the city which had been under Jordanian control since the General Armistice Agreement of 1949. On June 28 the Israeli Government took administrative action under the legislation to extend its municipal services and controls over the entire city of Jerusalem.
  3. The texts of the statements issued by the White House and the Department of State on June 28 are printed in Department of State Bulletin, July 17, 1967, p. 60.
  4. Printed from an unsigned copy.