374. Paper Prepared by the President’s Special Consultant (Bundy)1


King Hussein has told us that he wants to negotiate a settlement with Israel. His opening terms are a return to June 4 with Jewish access [Page 683] to the Wailing Wall and Jordanian access to the Mediterranean. This is obviously an opening position.

The Israelis have told us that their response is positive and that they are ready to meet with Hussein at a convenient time and place.

We are consulting Ambassador Burns (now in Washington) and Ambassador Barbour (who arrives this evening). In the next day or so we must give Burns instructions on what to say to Hussein when he goes back to Amman. This situation confronts us with both short-run tactical and long-run strategic questions. On the tactics, there is considerable agreement that we need to proceed cautiously and that we should not urge an immediate top-level direct negotiation between Hussein and the Israelis. Both sides need ways and means to communicate back and forth from their opening positions, which are very far apart. Hussein needs an adviser or advisers he can trust. Whatever our eventual position, we should not now be the obvious middleman in the first discussions.

The tactical decisions should await our discussions with Barbour and perhaps should go no further than the initial guidance to Burns on his reply to Hussein. Under Secretary Katzenbach has been on top of this problem and will be presenting matured recommendations to the Secretary and the President over the next day or so.

But he joins me in feeling that the really urgent question before the President and Secretary at the moment is not technical but strategic. It is whether and to what extent the United States is prepared to use its own influence with Israel and Jordan to increase the prospect of a serious settlement between them. Nobody can be certain that such a settlement is possible even if we use all our influence. But it is reasonably certain that it will not come about if we do not. We are the people with the carrot in the form of economic support for an Israel-Jordan partnership. We are also the people with the stick, in that we are the one really big friend of both of these countries, and our weapons, for example, are at present essential to both.

There are many issues between Jordan and Israel—the termination of hostilities, the degree of mutual recognition, the level of economic interconnection, the division of tourist revenues, the degree of common concern for Palestinian Arabs. But the two crucial political issues are those of control of the Old City of Jerusalem and sovereignty over the West Bank of the Jordan. The more King Hussein can get on these two issues, the more likely he can be an enduring force for peace as Israel’s eastern neighbor. The less he gets on these two questions, the more risky his future and the less the likelihood of an agreement which can survive.

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I think there is substantial agreement within the Executive Branch that Israel’s own long-run interests would be served by a truly generous settlement with Hussein. I think there is also agreement that if we use our full influence, we can greatly affect the readiness of the government of Israel to move in this direction. But what is not clear is whether we are ready to apply our full influence in this direction, in the light of the depth and strength of the feelings of the people of Israel and of their supporters in the United States. With the best will in the world, our relations to both Hussein and Israel will tend to involve us more and more in their negotiations. If we mean to use our influence at the clutch, this involvement is desirable simply because it keeps us in touch with the state of play. But if we mean to stand aside on the substantive issues—if we are unwilling to press either side to make concessions it does not now contemplate, then it is of critical importance that our people be restrained and careful.2

This memorandum betrays my own beliefs in favor of a strong U.S. role—not now but later. But it is not designed to produce an answer so much as to start a discussion from which top-level guidance can emerge.

McG. B.
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, NSC Special Committee Files, Settlement. Secret.
  2. In a July 17 memorandum to the President, Bundy stated that he thought they would soon face the question of whether to use U.S. influence to promote a settlement between Israel and Jordan, especially whether Israeli access to U.S. weapons should be linked to a settlement with Jordan. He concluded: “If we take a passive role, I doubt if there will be a settlement between Israel and Jordan. Indeed there may not be a settlement in the works no matter what we do. But the worst course of all would be for us to embark on a course which requires pressure on Israel if in fact at the moment of truth we are likely to conclude that it is unwise to apply such pressure.” (Ibid., U.S. Position—Discussion)