420. Telegram From the Embassy in Israel to the Department of State 1

483. Ref: State’s 192382 and 18566.3

Bitan (FonOff) at behest of Eshkol and Eban gave me August 15 substance of instructions which have gone to Evron to respond to remarks re U.S. thinking on further steps in UN as put to Evron in conversation August 10 with Amb. Goldberg, Under Secretary Rostow et al. I had given Bitan for Eshkol and Eban close paraphrase of State’s 29238 [19238] reporting that conversation which I considered particularly clear and convincing exposition our views. It was my hope that in thus supplementing Evron’s report strength and logic our position might be enhanced with GOI and helpful reply stimulated.
Unfortunately, GOI position not helpful. As anticipated, Israeli reaction is definitely negative.
Bitan expounded to me Israeli thinking, which, he said is largely reflected in Evron’s instructions but, he added, Prime Minister and Eban wanted him to make doubly sure depth of their concern is understood.
As he put it, Israelis are prepared to discuss with us at this time, in UN context, principle but not tactics. If principles are agreed, tactics are relatively easy to devise as developments occur. They particularly feel necessity we keep each other informed and Bitan expressed some unhappiness that they had not been told at outset of exchanges with Tito. I protested that both Under Sec. Rostow and I had filled Israelis in on Tito as soon as possible. He did not pursue matter. Continuing, he said that as to principles the U.S. and Israeli positions coincide. Israel [Page 787] agrees with the five principles set forth by the President on June 19. However, we seem to be deviating from those principles in our interpretation of them. As to withdrawal, President’s statement refers to recognized boundaries and Israel security. There no mention of recognized boundaries in draft resolution. In talking to Tito, we referred to possible consideration of international guarantees of Israel’s security. No consideration should be given to such guarantees as it not in Israeli or U.S. interest to do so. International guarantees were in effect in May 1967 and were violated. To return to that situation is not to progress toward new situation of peace. Israel should be in position to take care of its own defense without UN presence or great power guarantees which would not be useful.
Bitan’s next point was in regard to Soviets. He said Israelis disagree with our apparent assessment that they are prepared to act moderately. GOI sees no signs such moderation. They are skeptical that Soviet willingness to proceed with draft resolution agreed with U.S. at end General Assembly reflects any meeting of minds between USSR and U.S. positions. Israel regards Soviets as merely determined to erode U.S. principles in favor their pro-Arab attitude. GOI urges we not envisage starting any further UN consideration from this point but return to original U.S. draft of June 204 which conformed to President’s five points.
Bitan then expatiated on Israeli estimate of more fundamental change he alleged is taking place in U.S. attitude. He referred to Tito’s comment that Arabs would be humiliated by being forced to recognize Israel. It is basic to U.S. and Israel policy that Israel is recognized and recognition is accepted. It symptomatic of degree of slippage that has taken place in last 19 years that such acceptance should be questioned at this time. Israel insists that this situation change and is prepared to sit in its present positions for 10 years if necessary to accomplish this end. Recognition is the only choice to avoid another war.
Returning to “Goldberg draft resolution,”5 Bitan said Israel is “asking, begging” that U.S. not start with this resolution but resubmit original U.S. resolution on June 20. Israel abstained on the LA resolution as a matter of tactics in the UN parliamentary situation as it then existed. The LA resolution was a necessary evil and it was important to defeat the Yugo resolution. GOI now believes it should have voted against LA resolution.
Turning to specifics of current US–USSR draft, Bitan particularly referred to para two and the phrase relating to the “inadmissibility of conquest of territory by war, etc.” He challenged this language. States [Page 788] aggressed against, like Israel, had in the past held territory conquered by war where it necessary to do so to defend themselves against further aggression. GOI considers it has right to hold such territory which was used as a base for attack on Israel until it is assured such aggression will not occur again. Also, President’s statement as to “recognized boundaries” not included in language present resolution nor is there any reference to security against territory destruction and war which likewise part of June 19 declaration. Again Bitan referred to draft’s mention of UN presence, a further difference from U.S. draft of June 20. Perpetuating UN in area, he said, is not perpetuating a bridge to Arabs but a wedge between Arabs and Israel. The PCC, he claimed, has shielded the Arabs from the necessity of agreeing to Israel’s existence and has perpetuated Arab intransigence. In short, insofar as next steps in UN concerned, Bitan reiterated that if we must discuss tactics rather than principles we should stick to U.S. June 20 resolution. It is in U.S. as well as Israeli interest to do so. Soviets are talking to U.S. as result of GOI’s victory. Soviets are in trouble in Egypt, Syria, and elsewhere. Hussein may also in time see it in his interest to talk to Israel.
Israel, Bitan summarized, is not in better military position than it has been before, is not asking for guarantees nor for massive armaments, only enough of latter to keep things as is, and will withdraw when it is convinced there will be no further aggression from the territories it occupies and not before.
Incidentally as to possible mediator, GOI considers it too early to consider at present. If at outcome of SC or GA, a mediator is appointed, he should be without terms of reference but merely with mandate to do what he can to bring parties together.
In conclusion, and with some diffidence, although nonetheless forthrightly, Bitan said he instructed to say on behalf Eshkol and Eban that in their view, if we persist along what they regard as our current line, we could be on collision course. They attempting current discussions with us to “persuade, not to argue,” but if necessary, prepared to pull out all the stops available to them to prevent erosion of principles enunciated in President’s five points and statement therein that solution on all five indivisible.
I remonstrated at this attitude, noting that outcome of Israeli collision with U.S. should not be very attractive to GOI but adding that, in any event, there no intention on U.S. part deviate from principles expressed by President regardless how GOI might interpret course our efforts implementation. I also said I hoped Israelis would not consider it in their interest, despite presently favorable situation they enjoy, to sit in Olympian grandeur and immobility in mountains of Jerusalem in expectation they could dictate settlement in Middle East without taking [Page 789] into account interplay of interests other powers in world. No power, great or small, can operate in the complete isolation it might regard as optimum to its national concerns in the world today. Israel cannot expect to call tune on Middle East settlement as if its interests were only factor involved in area and problem could be sealed off from wider world influences.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 ARAB–ISR. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Repeated to London, Moscow, and USUN. Received at 1042Z. Saunders sent a retyped copy to the President with an August 18 memorandum noting that it was the Israeli answer to Goldberg’s discussion of a possible UN resolution. He commented that a notion of impending confrontation was creeping into U.S.-Israeli conversations and added: “Some Israelis remember 1957 when we eventually put the heat on them to withdraw, and they see our military aid suspension as evidence that we may be preparing a similar move this time. The ugliness of the threat in paragraph 12 [paragraph 11 in the original telegram] suggests that they expect the worst.” A handwritten note from Rostow on the memorandum recommended that the President read the full text of the telegram. A handwritten “L” on the memorandum indicates the President saw it. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Middle East Crisis)
  2. See footnote 3, Document 415.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 417.
  4. See footnote 3, Document 332.
  5. See the attachment to Document 415.