354. Circular Telegram From the Department of State to Certain Posts1

5731. Subject: U.S. Position on a Near East Settlement.

Department wishes to maintain a dialogue on Near East crisis with host governments of addressees to promote understanding U.S. objectives and enlist support for steps necessary for settlement. The following points should be drawn upon as appropriate in discussions or incorporated in follow-up aide memoirs with host government officials and opinion makers.

The U.S. position on the Near East crisis was outlined in the President’s statement of June 19 and, we believe, provides the basis for [Page 638] a just and equitable settlement between the Arab states and Israel. In that speech, the President clearly called for the withdrawal of Israeli forces as essential element NE settlement. We believe the continued presence of Israeli troops on the territory of neighboring states is an unnatural situation. To create the conditions which will assure earliest withdrawal, all parties must take action to guarantee the future security and integrity of all the states involved. Otherwise another war would be probable.
In our view, the root of the problem is the claim of some states that a state of war continues with Israel and that they have right to the status of belligerents under international law with respect to Israel. The claim of belligerent rights works both ways. If Egypt claims belligerent rights, it can hardly deny belligerent rights to Israel. Egypt cannot claim the right to mass overwhelming military forces on Israel’s borders, issue threats of liquidation, and then deny Israel the right of counter-measures. In 1951, 1956, and in 1957 the Security Council declared that belligerent rights could not be asserted in the Near East. Surely, the time has now come to see if better ways to resolve differences can be found than those which have led to diversion of needed resources to sterile armaments, to nineteen years of fear and suspicion, and to needless death and destruction.
The United States believes firmly that termination of the state of belligerency coupled with withdrawal of troops from occupied areas is the only practical and realistic way to achieve that end and thus to initiate a constructive and agreed solution to other problems of peace in the area: justice for the refugees, the status of Jerusalem, unobstructed passage through international waterways, arms limitations, and peaceful progress for all the peoples of the area. In this way, and, in our opinion, only in this way, can the world achieve a condition in which independence, integrity, and security, which rightfully inhere in every nation in the area, can be fully respected and protected.
We are deeply concerned for the full and direct protection of the interests of Islam and the other great religions in Jerusalem. We are pledged to firm action with all interested parties to make certain that the interests of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity are fully respected and protected. The public statements made in Washington reflect our determination.
Our delegation abstained in the vote on the Pakistani Resolution about the future of Jerusalem at the General Assembly last week for sound reasons. As Ambassador Goldberg said, the Pakistani Resolution assumed that Israel has annexed Jerusalem. The Resolution asked that the supposed annexation be rescinded. But the Government of Israel had announced that its arrangements for the administration of [Page 639] Jerusalem as a unified city were not an annexation. Jordanian officials and municipal councillors will participate in the administration of the city during the period of occupation. And Israel is consulting with religious representatives and others about possible plans through which the deep interests of Islam and Christendom in Jerusalem can be permanently protected. The Prime Minister of Israel has said that Israel has no need or interest in the ownership of Christian or Moslem Holy Places. It therefore seemed to us that the Pakistani Resolution was not directed to the situation on the ground. We tried to get agreement on amendments that would have made it possible for us to support the Resolution, but we failed.
We are not wedded to any particular words or procedures in order to move toward achievement of a just and durable peace. The essential assurances can be given publicly or privately, through mediators, or through agreements. In the last analysis, a solution cannot be imposed from outside: The basic responsibility for achieving peace lies with the governments and peoples of the area. We, with other members of the United Nations, stand ready to help in any way our friends in the Near East deem helpful.
The United States has sought and continues to seek the best possible relations with all the states of the Near East on bases of mutual respect and mutual interests. To the extent we had the capability we have extended our assistance over the years in efforts to resolve disputes and prevent conflict. We have undertaken to seek to protect the territorial integrity and political independence of all states in the area. Our influence has been exerted in behalf of many states in the Near East in recent years—of Egypt in 1956, of Lebanon in 1958, and of other states when subjected to pressures on the part of their neighbors. We have sought through programs of economic assistance to help develop the well-being that gives substance and strength to independence.
The U.S. used every resource of diplomacy to prevent the outbreak of hostilities between Israel and her Arab neighbors in the present crisis. The closure of the Strait of Tiran, reversing international understandings through which Israel’s agreement to withdraw troops from Sinai in 1957 was obtained, clearly was the major factor in heightening the tensions which led to conflict.
It should be clear to all that the U.S. does not and cannot control the actions of any nation of the Middle East. If it had such control, hostilities would not have occurred. Not only did we exert our utmost efforts with all parties to avert hostilities, but also we had no prior knowledge they would occur. The calumnies alleging a U.S. role in the preparation or execution of these hostilities are totally and deliberately false, and are deeply resented by the people of the United States. These [Page 640] charges have caused damage to our friendly relations with some countries of the Near East, a fact we regret and deplore.
In this bitter and tragic conflict, we have neither supported nor opposed any country. Our energies have been engaged in seeking to achieve and protect peace, in the interest of all. We seek a peace in which the just rights of all the nations and peoples of the area will be safeguarded. We seek to strengthen bonds of friendship and understanding with all the peoples of the Middle East.

[Omitted here is a message for the Ambassador in Libya authorizing him to use the above as the basis for a presentation and aide-mémoire to the Prime Minister.]

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 ARAB–ISR. Confidential. Drafted by Eugene Rostow on July 11; cleared by Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs J. Wayne Fredericks, Davies, and Wriggins; and approved by Rusk. Sent to Amman, Jidda, Kuwait, Beirut, Rabat, Tunis, Tripoli, Tel Aviv, London, Paris, USUN, Tehran, Rawalpindi, Djakarta, New Delhi, Ankara, Tokyo, Belgrade, Moscow, Sofia, Rome, Madrid, Brussels, and Bonn.