357. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson1

Mr. President:

I have just had a long talk with Mac Bundy on Jerusalem. We have one day to turn around since the UN vote will not come until tomorrow.

Ambassador Goldberg feels we should not shift off our position of abstention on the Pakistani resolution. He says we have taken our lumps in the UN General Assembly and the international community on this issue. And, in his judgment, the Jewish community here would be up in arms if we switched. He adds a technical argument; namely, that the language of the present Pakistani resolution calls for the Security Council “to take measures” to enforce the General Assembly resolution. This means at the UN that Article 7 of the United Nations Charter be applied; and this involves sanctions or force. That aspect of the resolution has apparently scared off the Canadians and the UK. It may be modified via UK and Canadian pressure on the Paks in the course of the next 24 hours.
On the other hand, both Mac and I feel that the Israeli response to the Secretary General2 was unsatisfactory. Something more than a deal on the Holy Places with the Vatican is required if we are going to have a stable Middle East.
We face, therefore, three choices:
  • —to go with Arthur Goldberg and abstain again;
  • —to switch our position to support for the Pak resolution, using the unsatisfactory character of the Israeli response as a justification;
  • —to stay with abstention and make two statements: one by Amb. Goldberg, the other by the Secretary of State in Washington. The statements would make the following points:
    The pre-war position in Jerusalem was unsatisfactory;
    The actions taken by the Israelis and their proposals are also unsatisfactory in terms of your statement of June 19: “… there must be adequate recognition of the special interest of three great religions in the Holy Places of Jerusalem.”
    This is not an issue which can be settled by abstract resolutions in the UN or by the use of force. It requires negotiation among all the interested parties. In the meanwhile, we cannot accept as definitive the actions and position thus far taken by the Government of Israel.
Mac thinks, and I agree, that to get the proper attention and hardness into our position before our own people, the moderate Arabs, etc., a statement from Washington by the Secretary of State is essential. It is his judgment that Amb. Goldberg cannot really swing it politically.
Moreover, this is the one immediate issue on which we could begin to balance our accounts somewhat with the moderate Arabs; and it is a good issue because we believe that this position is right both for the U.S. and, in the long run, for the Israelis themselves.
In the course of the next 24 hours, as noted above, the language of the Pak resolution may be diluted; and we may wish to consider voting with it. In the meanwhile, Mac and I recommend the third option.3
The issue will be discussed in the course of the day by those working on the Middle East; and you may wish to discuss the matter with Secretary Rusk. I will keep you informed.
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Middle East Crisis, Vol. VIII. Confidential. A handwritten notation on the memorandum indicates it was received at 11 a.m.; a handwritten “L” indicates the President saw it.
  2. Foreign Minister Eban’s reply of July 10 to the Secretary-General is reproduced in the Secretary-General’s report of July 10 to the General Assembly and the Security Council. For text of the report, see UN document A/6753 (S/8052).
  3. There is no indication of the President’s reaction on the memorandum.