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

554. Ref: Amman 547.2

I saw King late on the afternoon of July 27 at my request. I told him that I had returned to see him in order to continue the conversation we had on July 25 (Amman 519).3
I said that I felt his question regarding the US guarantee of territorial integrity and my reply required further discussion and clarification. I pointed out that our guarantee was really premised on a situation involving an unprovoked attack against a Middle Eastern state designed to alter the territorial limits of that state. The recent Arab-Israeli [Page 724] war did not, in our opinion, as the King was aware, originate without provocation. Furthermore, on the matter of major concern to the King—namely, Jerusalem—we had never recognized either Jordanian or Israeli sovereignty over the city, so that our territorial guarantee for Jerusalem related, technically at least, to a corpus separatum. I said I had understood his question to mean: Would we guarantee him the return of the West Bank by unilateral use of US force if necessary. The answer to that is “no”. If his question meant would we support him unilaterally or collectively to reach a just and lasting settlement with Israel, the answer is definitely “yes”. I said I had received in that morning’s pouch from Washington a memorandum of a conversation which took place July 14 between Secretary Rusk, Jordanian FonMin Touqan, and Jordanian Amb-designate to Washington Sharif Abdul Hamid Sharaf.4 Sharif Abdul Hamid had asked Secretary Rusk the meaning of the US territorial guarantee in the light of present circumstances. I said there could be no more authoritative reply to his and Sharif Abdul Hamid’s question than that given by Secretary Rusk. I then gave the King to read the Secretary’s reply in this connection.
I told the King that his statement to me on July 25 to the effect that it was now apparent America had made its agonizing choice and had chosen Israel disturbed me greatly because it simply was not correct. I said that we had an enormous stake—motivated by the most compelling of all incentives, self-interest—to preclude an East-West confrontation from developing in the Middle East. For this reason we desired to retain our position in the Arab world, and we wanted peace.
I then told the King I was such an unsubtle being I was going to have to ask him to tell me exactly why the instructions from Washington I had read him on July 25 represented such a deep disappointment to him.
The King replied that when he was at the White House last month, during private conversations with the President, Mr. Bundy, and Mr. Katzenbach, he had gained the impression that if he were prepared for a settlement with Israel, the US was prepared to lend him the strongest possible support. The subsequent indications of our support had struck him as being on a descending curve.
When FonMin Touqan returned to Amman, he reported to the King on the discussions he had had with American officials. From this briefing, said the King, he detected what he considered to be a weakening in American support for Jordan.
The instructions I had read him on July 25 appeared to him to be a yet further retreat from the degree of support he had concluded from [Page 725] his talks at the White House he might expect. On arms, for example, he said, he appreciated our Congressional problem, but the net result for him, no matter how valid our reasons, was that we were not going to be able to move as fast in that direction as the King desired and felt necessary.
I said that he should have no doubt about US support and that what the President, Mr. Bundy, and Mr. Katzenbach told him at the White House still very much obtained. The King said he appreciated my returning to see him and what I had said to him was reassuring. In sorting out his own thoughts during the past 48 hours he, too, had figured that the US would support him to the extent that the overall situation permitted. He only hoped our support would not prove to be too little too late.
Hussein said that, taking all considerations into account, he had concluded his own position was too weak to try to undertake bilateral negotiations with the Israelis at this moment. For one thing, he said, he agreed with US that Boumediene and Atassi, and Nasser probably, could try to pull the rug out from under him during the course of his trying to negotiate a bilateral settlement with Israel or just afterward. Nasser, he suspects, wants to see how far Jordan can get in reaching an accord with Israel as an indicator of how Nasser should go about doing the same thing, but Hussein doubts that Nasser could resist the temptation somewhere along the line to try to overthrow him.
Secondly, said the King, his security situation is too weak for the risks that would be involved in pursuing a settlement course at this moment. The Syrians, he reminded me, retain intact the greater part of their military establishment, whereas Jordan has lost a tremendous amount of equipment and has an air force consisting of one Hawker-Hunter. He noted, too, that until he could do something about replenishing some of his equipment losses he was in a difficult position vis-à-vis Jordanians and others in justifying the withdrawal of the 15,000 Iraqi troops.
A third reason, said the King, was that the Jerusalem problem at the moment looked insoluble and that before he undertook the risks of bilateral negotiation with Israel, he would have to have some indication that the Israelis have more flexibility on Jerusalem than would now appear to be the case. The risks to the regime of bilateral negotiations with Israel are so great, he said, that it would be folly to undertake them unless there was at least a chance of his being able to bring back a settlement that would be accepted. He said he guessed his position was similar to that of former President Eisenhower who was reluctant to attend summit meetings with the Russians unless there were some prospect of success. The King then quoted an Arab proverb to the effect [Page 726] that everyone acclaims the rainmaker who makes rain but that rainmakers who try but fail to bring rain are quickly disposed of.
I asked him how long he thought he could hold his position on the East Bank without forward motion in some direction. He replied “three or four months, assuming all the breaks do not go against me. Who knows, Nasser may crack before then and be forced to reach a settlement with the Israelis, in which case the danger of my doing so would be immeasurably reduced.” (Comment: By the “breaks” the King has specifically in mind two things: (a) that refugees would start moving from east to west, and (b) that we would furnish him with a certain amount of military equipment.)
The King said that during the next three-to-four month period he was much more concerned about the West Bank than the East Bank. He said that the euphoria that had appeared in the immediate wake of hostilities had vanished and that friction was developing between the Arabs and the Israelis. He said that if the Israelis react to this friction by repressive policies, this would have two results: (a) it would convince the Arabs that the Israelis are not serious about a settlement and of living in peace with the Arabs, and (b) it would transmit great agitation to the East Bank. He said that the indications were now that the East Bank would support him on a settlement, but this support would disappear quickly if the Israelis follow a repressive policy on the West Bank, fail to facilitate the return of refugees to the West Bank, or let the West Bank fall into worse economic straits. “Please tell the Israelis,” said the King, “that if they want peace, they must be patient and exercise self-restraint.” I reminded the King that the GOJ, too, must use self-restraint and not take actions which have the result of exacerbating Arab-Israeli relations on the West Bank.
I asked the King if he thought Nasser might resume hostilities in the foreseeable future against the Israelis in Sinai. The King said that Nasser was in no position to undertake major hostilities against the Israelis, though he retained, of course, the capacity to stage minor clashes along the Suez Canal. Nor did Hussein think that the Syrians would undertake major hostilities against Israel.
Hussein said that he expected to leave Amman this weekend for Tehran, there to meet with the Shah and the President of Turkey. He said he hoped that somehow a grouping could be worked out to include Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq and Jordan. This would put him in a stronger position vis-à-vis the Arab radicals in trying to reach a settlement with Israel.
Hussein also intends to try to visit the moderate Arab states, and prior to Aug 10 in the event an Arab summit is held. Hussein said he felt that the Arab moderates could be on the verge of a break-through [Page 727] if they could only band together. Nasser’s fangs had been loosened and now was the time to move. If he were successful in this endeavor, this, too, would strengthen his position vis-à-vis the Arab radicals.
Hussein said he was still expecting to meet with President Aref in Amman although he did not know exactly when Aref would come. The question of the removal of Iraqi forces from Jordan had, at Aref’s request, been postponed until Hussein and Aref meet.
I asked the King was he by any chance toying with the idea of some sort of confederation with Iraq. The King replied that his head was full of ideas of every conceivable description, but before he was prepared to formulate any particular idea he would have to do a lot of probing first. The King noted that Iraq was the only Arab state to provide him with any substantial assistance (other than monetary) during the past two months. Hussein said that if some sort of arrangement could be worked out with Iraq, then perhaps the Saudis might be interested in joining.
I concluded the interview by saying to the King that I wished to revert to the subject of Jerusalem and want to put to him a purely hypothetical question which I assured him was of my own devising. The question was this—“Supposing Jerusalem were made an international city, incorporating the major parts of the Jordanian and Israeli sectors, though omitting the suburban areas …” the King had already started to shake his head. I said, “permit me to finish sir … and the United Nations headquarters were transferred to this international city of Jerusalem?” The King took a long time answering and finally said “I guess in that case we would all have to accept it, wouldn’t we?”
I asked the King that in the event Jerusalem might be internationalized along the line I had hypothetically posed, would he still want the West Bank back. He answered in the affirmative. He said he would never be forgiven by the Arabs if the West Bank were left to Israeli control, either direct or through a puppet state. He said that the Palestinians have caused him a great deal of trouble in his lifetime, but they would cause him, and indeed all of us, even more trouble if they were not rejoined to Jordan.
Comment follows by separate telegram.
Please repeat this telegram to London and Tel Aviv.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 ARAB–ISR/SANDSTORM. Secret; Immediate; Nodis; Sandstorm. Received at 2:32 p.m.
  2. Telegram 547 from Amman, July 27, reported that Burns had seen King Hussein that day. (Ibid.)
  3. Telegram 519 from Amman, July 26, elaborated on the report in telegram 502 (see footnote 6, Document 390) of Burns’ July 25 conversation with King Hussein. It states that the King asked Burns whether the U.S. guarantee of territorial integrity applied in the current situation. Burns said that he had no choice but to indicate that the United States could not undertake unilaterally to guarantee a return to the pre-June 5 lines. Hussein expressed deep disappointment. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 ARAB–ISR/SANDSTORM)
  4. See Document 365.