382. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rusk to President Johnson1

Hussein has asked us to intervene to achieve a possible settlement with Israel and to discover their terms of settlement and their willingness to negotiate. He says he has Nasser’s blessing (which we would have little confidence in) as long as he does not engage in direct negotiations or conclude a peace treaty. He clearly would like us to lean on the Israelis to secure an agreement with which he can survive.

The Israeli Government is prepared to discuss a settlement with the Jordanians and has suggested we convey to Hussein their willingness to engage in private talks with Hussein or with his representative. Our estimate of their position, which is not yet formal, is that there could be agreement on various elements of a viable settlement except with respect to Jerusalem where the two sides are very far apart indeed on an issue which both regard as crucial. The Israelis do not wish to deal [Page 702] through an intermediary, and clearly do not wish the intermediary to be the U.S.

While the prospects for settlement are not particularly good, everyone—the U.S., Jordan and Israel—has such enormous stake in success, that it may be possible to achieve. While time might moderate positions, Hussein’s present political status is such that we cannot risk delay in starting the process.

We do not believe we can achieve a satisfactory foreign mediator or that the U.S. should presently play this role. Despite danger to Hussein from his Arab colleagues, we believe direct negotiation is the most feasible and productive course and one which would permit the U.S. to use our influence at appropriate stages to promote agreement without direct U.S. involvement in the total process.

We therefore propose that we respond to Hussein’s request along the following lines:

The Israelis tell us they are prepared to discuss a settlement on a confidential basis. They wish direct discussions and suggest two on each side.
We do not know the Israeli terms for a settlement and doubt that they have been formulated as yet.
We are inclined to believe that the possibility exists of working out a settlement of most of the issues and problems that would be involved. Jerusalem, however, will be very difficult and we do not know if there is any flexibility in the Israeli position except in respect to the direct administration of the Holy Places by religious authorities.
We do not know if an overall settlement will prove feasible, but we believe it would be worth the try. In any event, we are confident that the Israelis would protect the secrecy of their contacts with Hussein and the Jordan Government.
Hussein should keep in mind, however, that we do not trust Nasser, Boumediene and Atassi who are aware of Jordan’s intentions and we doubt that Hussein should trust them.
Finally, Hussein would be asked how he contemplates staffing-out the negotiations. If he expresses uncertainty, as we expect, the suggestion would be made that private legal counsel would help. If he desired, we would assist him in finding a competent and discreet American firm. While this would marginally increase our involvement, it would lessen the imbalance of negotiating talent that would otherwise exist and permit us to make appropriate inputs at the staffing level throughout the negotiating process.

You will note that Paragraph 6 involves the use of a private American. This seems to us constructive since it provides a method for [Page 703] us to be involved in the process which is controllable and which allows us both a private and public role. The American lawyer will not be acting as an American official, but would be a person in whom we had great confidence.

I have discussed this approach with Mac Bundy, who agrees with it.

Dean Rusk
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Middle East Crisis, Sandstorm/Whirlwind. Secret; Nodis; Sandstorm. Rostow sent the memorandum to the President at 6:20 p.m. with a covering memorandum of July 20 noting that the Rusk proposal was “designed to protect the U.S., while still permitting us to follow the negotiation closely; insert ideas; and throw our diplomatic weight at the right moment.” A handwritten “L” on the Rostow memorandum indicates the President saw it. A handwritten note of July 21 by Saunders on a copy of the Rostow memorandum states that the President had approved and asked that McNamara be briefed. It continues: “He was a little jumpy about the American lawyer but said OK.” (Ibid., Saunders Files, Jordan, 4/l/66–10/31/67)