386. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Jordan 1

11347. For Ambassador Burns.

We have developed following position in response to Hussein’s request that we help him achieve a possible settlement with Israel and to discover their terms of settlement and their willingness to negotiate. Our position is based on our knowledge that the Israeli Government is prepared to discuss a settlement with the Jordanians. The Israelis have suggested that we convey to Hussein their willingness to engage in private talks with him or with his representatives. Our informal estimate of their position 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 on an issue which both regard as crucial. The Israelis do not wish to deal through an intermediary and even if they did, do not wish the intermediary to be the United States.
While the prospects for a settlement are not promising, our belief is that everyone—the US, Jordan and Israel—has such enormous stake [Page 710] in success that it might just be possible to achieve one. We realize that time might moderate positions, but Hussein’s present political status is such that we believe he should not risk delay in starting the process.
We do not believe that we can find a satisfactory foreign mediator, or that the US should presently play this role. Despite the danger to Hussein from his Arab colleagues, we believe that direct negotiations between Jordan and Israel is the most feasible and productive course and one which would permit the US to use our influence at appropriate stages to promote agreement without direct US involvement in total process.
With the above in mind, you should therefore respond to Hussein’s request along the following lines:
The Israelis inform us that they are prepared to discuss a settlement on a confidential basis. They want direct discussions and suggest that there be two representatives on both sides.
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 which would be involved. Jerusalem, however, as the King is aware, 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 over-all 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 the King and his Government.
Hussein should keep very much in mind, however, in making his final decision that we do not trust Nasser, Boumediene and Atassi, who are aware of the King’s intentions. We doubt if the King should trust them either.
In view of the foregoing, we believe that at least in the preliminary meetings with the Israelis, the King should consider whether he should become directly engaged. He should review carefully the possibility of using a special Jordanian representative who should obviously be selected most carefully.
We believe that you should raise with Hussein how he contemplates staffing out the negotiations. He is undoubtedly aware that Israeli negotiators will be well prepared and will be supported by highly competent staff. If he expresses some uncertainty on this score, you might suggest that he consider obtaining private legal counsel. If he desired, we would assist him in finding a competent and discreet [Page 711] American firm to provide staff support. FYI. While this would to some extent increase our own involvement, it would lessen the imbalance of negotiating talent that would otherwise exist and permit us to make a contribution at the staffing level through the negotiating process. The American lawyer would not be acting as an American official, but would be a person in whom we had great confidence. End FYI.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 ARAB–ISR/SANDSTORM. Secret; Priority; Nodis; Sandstorm. Drafted by Houghton, cleared by Battle and Walt Rostow, and approved by Katzenbach. Repeated to London for the Ambassador.