430. Telegram From the Embassy in Israel to the Department of State1

613. Subject: US-Israeli Middle East Discussions. Ref: State’s 23821.2

At end of meeting arranged for discussion different subject (refugees return) reported separately,3 FonMin Eban, who is vacationing in neighborhood Tel Aviv, told me this morning he would like to make some general observations as to Israel’s views on broader problems, including particularly the situation in regard to the United Nations which has been subject of various discussions the last being that reported reftel.
By way of general observation Eban commented that he feels it important that the onus for initiative towards a Middle East solution remain with the other side. He believes this position to be the effect of the rejection by the United Nations in the last General Assembly of various resolutions which would have provided for Israeli withdrawal under particular circumstances. Unless there is a fundamental change among the Arabs toward Israel he sees no reason to expect Israel to do something. As to the pace of movement in the current situation, Eban recognizes that there has been some movement on the part of the Soviets but he believes there has also been considerable exaggeration as to the extent thereof. In public the Soviets continue to take line that the only course is unconditional Israeli withdrawal. Furthermore the Soviets do not appear to be tied to the US–USSR resolution which arose from tactical considerations. Additionally, Eban doubts the extent to which the Soviets may be helping the Arabs towards realism. Eban finds even less movement among the Arabs themselves, except for statements by Bourguiba and the possibility that Hussein may do something after the summit meeting, Eban concludes that this situation confirms the wisdom of the Arabs having to continue to confront a wall. If in fact something is growing he thinks it important we not pluck it before it has reached maturity.
Eban went on that the purpose and objective to which we must continue to be dedicated is recognition by the Arabs of Israel’s right to coexist with them in peace. It is not in his view time to seek agreed UN text or in fact texts covering specific language of possible settlement. In this connection Eban’s concrete views may be summarized under three headings:
We must still wait for time to exert pressure on the Arabs which will result in their coming to Israel.
As to the so-called US–USSR draft resolution, Israeli criticism of the text centers primarily on the problem of agreed national boundaries. Such national boundaries are essential conditions of peace and therein lies a crucial distinction. Boundaries cannot be based on any concept of a continuance of belligerency. In this regard Eban mentioned Bitan’s conversation with me (Tel Aviv’s 483).4 He said that Bitan’s presentation was from notes dictated by him (Eban) and that he confirms what Bitan had said about the strength of Israeli feeling. He urged complete candor between the US and Israel which he said is a duty of friendship. It is one thing for the US to interpret the President’s policy statements. Eban’s apprehension is that unless the clear language in that statement is closely adhered to others will take advantage to interpret alternative language to their own ends. Reiterating, he said the core of the problem is agreed boundaries, peace and security resulting from negotiations.
Apparently the operative section of the proposed resolution is the appointment of an emissary. Israel has as yet no firm position on the desirability of such an appointment. In any event, Eban is convinced that it is tactically unwise to tie the hands of any such emissary by specifying particular positions which both parties oppose. He should be left entirely free. Otherwise he will become the advocate of each side to the other.
Eban added that he is also concerned as to where we stand on the “working paper,” that is the draft of a possible resolution. It was his understanding that the draft had been circulated only to the British and Israel but he now is informed by a message today from Washington that it is also being distributed among some Arabs. He very much hopes the US will adhere to its own position as indicated in the President’s policy declaration of June 19 and as set forth by US speeches in the special General Assembly which he considers as apt at this time as they were then.
Finally, Eban said he believed next step contemplated was for further US-Israeli talks and when Argov, who was also present, said [Page 811] they just received a telegram that such talks were scheduled for Thursday the 31st in New York, the Foreign Minister indicated he will set forth his views as outlined above in somewhat more detail for Israeli presentation on that occasion.5
I urged Eban to make a particular effort to be forthcoming and forward looking despite GOI’s essentially negative attitude towards timing. I reiterated my previous comment to the effect that Israel cannot enjoy splendid isolation and that it essential we both concentrate on ways to contribute to progress towards settlement.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 ARAB–ISR. Secret; Exdis. Repeated to London, Moscow, and USUN.
  2. See footnote 3, Document 423.
  3. Telegram 604 from Tel Aviv, August 28, reported that Eban had given Barbour details of an Israeli decision to remove an August 31 deadline for refugees to return to the West Bank from the East Bank. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, REF ARAB) Eugene Rostow had urged extension of the deadline with Evron on August 25, and Barbour had made a similar approach to Argov on August 26. (Telegram 27794 to Tel Aviv, August 26, and telegram 594 from Tel Aviv, August 27; ibid.)
  4. Document 420.
  5. The text of an aide-mémoire that Rafael gave to Goldberg on August 31 was transmitted in telegram 644 from USUN, September 1. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 ARAB–ISR/UN) Additional text was transmitted in telegram 745 from Tel Aviv, September 8, in which Barbour reported that Bitan had given him the full text the previous day with the explanation that, through error, part of it had not been transmitted to New York. (Ibid.) The full text of the aide-mémoire, marked “New York, 30 August 1967, with addendum dated 6 September 1967, 7 September 1967,” is filed with a September 27 covering memorandum from Saunders to Walt Rostow noting that Eban had given it to Goldberg the preceding week. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Israel, Vol. VII) The aide-mémoire states that in May and June, the “external factors” on which Israel had been urged to rely for its security had proved “fragile or illusory” and that Israel could not be required or expected to yield its current security advantages for anything less than a stable peace settlement.