336. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Saudi Arabia1

100. The following is an uncleared memcon FYI only Noforn subject to revision upon review.

Saudi Ambassador Sowayel, at his request, called on Secretary June 302 to inquire as to our reaction Faisal’s suggestions that we support condemnation Israel and troop withdrawal.
Noting he had discussed subject with DepFonMin Saqqaf in New York,3 Secretary described three major issues which interact in NE area: (a) Arab–Israel issue; (b) progressive versus moderate split which Arab–Israel issue tends conceal; and (c) Soviet efforts penetrate area at expense both moderate Arab regimes and West. Secretary noted settled USG policy of support for territorial integrity and political independence conceived with all three in mind. At various times USG had implemented this policy, both in support Egypt and in support Egypt’s Arab neighbors against Egypt. We had also condemned both Arab terrorism and Israeli reprisal raids.
Sowayel noted failure USG publicly give unequivocal support Israeli withdrawal would provide opportunity for socialists and communists to exploit. Russians are already talking in language which mobs understand, but USG has not taken position which gives moderates ammunition vis–à–vis their own public opinion. Terms like “territorial integrity” lack impact on masses. Secretary responded USSR no doubt had short-run advantage because of its ability of being extreme.
Noting that, except for Old City, where we had publicly criticized GOI unilateral action, there seemed no serious territorial issues, Secretary said status boundary lines was very important. Did they connote peace or war? Nasser’s provocation in closing Gulf of Aqaba was act supreme folly. Egypt could not be at war with Israel without Israel being at war with Egypt. If only this state of belligerency could be removed, could make enormous difference. Secretary commented that Russians had told us they had eliminated their state of war with Japan many years before peace treaty achieved. There ought to be way for Arabs to do this with Israel even though no direct agreements feasible. This would be in Arab interest since it would protect Arabs as well as Israel. This connection, Secretary said that there were those with considerable international legal background who felt that, as long as UAR maintained state of war against Israel, Israel could not “commit aggression” against UAR.
Sowayel described current Arab scene as “field of phrasing” between radicals and moderates. Former were showing themselves better at this and moderates had to do something. Even in Saudi Arabia mobs had been a problem in Dhahran. Secretary asked whether mobs were satisfied with extent of Soviet support. Sowayel responded mobs were unsophisticated and did not look behind Soviet slogans. Fact that Israel had had no right to attack was central issue on which masses had to be satisfied before specific problems could be taken up.
Secretary observed it difficult condemn only one side for acts of war. Saudi Ambassador admitted Nasser had provided provocation. Secretary noted Soviets themselves now reportedly pulling away from idea of condemnation of Israel by special UNGA.
Sowayel again stressed USG must say something publicly on central issue in order support its Arab friends. Statements on Jerusalem had been helpful but general comment necessary. He thought President’s five principles very good but this was not moment to try implement them. Noting difficulty USG satisfy masses stirred up by Cairo Radio, Secretary wondered whether moderate regime such as SAG could ask even privately who were their friends. [Page 596] Sowayel replied Saudis knew who were their friends, to which Secretary suggested this should not be lost sight of when chips are down.

In conclusion, Secretary inquired whether Arabs able accept idea of elimination state of war with Israel. Sowayel responded

affirmatively but wondered what conditions might be. Stressed again that most important thing from standpoint Arab moderates was evidence of clear and unequivocal USG support for principle Israeli withdrawal.

Comment. FYI. In subsequent discussion with DeptOff, Sowayel went so far as to suggest it would meet need Arab moderates for USG take strong public stance on withdrawal, while at same time privately assuring GOI that such public position could be disregarded. End FYI.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 ARAB–ISR/UN. Secret. Drafted by Country Director for Saudi Arabia William D. Brewer, cleared by Davies, and approved for transmission by Robert L. Bruce (S/S). Repeated to Dhahran, Beirut, Amman, Tripoli, Tunis, and Rabat.
  2. Rusk met with the Ambassador at 4:40 p.m. on June 30. (Johnson Library, Rusk Appointment Book)
  3. Rusk’s meeting with Saqqaf on June 22 was reported in telegram Secto 22 from New York, June 23. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Conference Files: 1966–1972, Entry 3051B, CF 196)