431. Memorandum of Conversation1

Minister Evron came in, at his request, to make two points on direct instruction from Foreign Minister Eban.

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1. The Macomber letter to Senator Fulbright of August 15, 19672

Eban respects the candor of our response to question 2 relating to commitments in the Middle East.3 He notes, however, the narrowness of our interpretation of our commitment to Israel. In the light of that statement he observes that Israel cannot be assured beforehand of help from the U.S. in case of attack. In his judgment, it follows that:

  • —the U.S. should continue its support for Israel in its search for a secure peace settlement as the only realistic and safe alternative to the present situation; and
  • —the U.S. should accept a responsibility for insuring a flow of necessary arms to Israel.

Evron also noted that the narrowness of this statement of the U.S. commitment to Israel could prove “pernicious”; that is, it might encourage the Arabs and the Soviet Union to engage in future aggression against Israel.

2. The UN Resolution

The heart of the Israeli objection to the joint U.S.-Soviet resolution is its implication that Israel must return to the territories occupied on June 4. Even in exchange for a peace treaty Israel is not prepared for a simple return to the June 4 boundaries. What Israel will seek by agreement with the Arabs are “secure” boundaries, in addition to maintaining the unity of the city of Jerusalem. When I noted that we had not accepted the June 4 date in the UN resolution, Evron said the resolution still contained the language: “withdrawal from all occupied territories.” He said that the Israeli Government was quite content with the carefully designed language used by the President with respect to boundaries, most recently in his communication with Tito; but it was essential that the U.S. position in the UN not clash with the President’s formula of “secure and agreed borders.”

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3. Egypt

In the course of a general conversation on events in the Middle East over the last month, Evron noted that their information about the political situation in Cairo was not very good. It was his feeling, however, that three forces were at work, all pushing Egypt towards a more moderate position:

  • —the economic situation;
  • —a growing feeling among Egyptians that they were becoming excessively tied to Moscow and losing their independence; and
  • —a deep struggle for power which Nasser could not or would not control—evidenced by open polemics in the Cairo press usually tightly controlled.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Middle East Crisis, Vol. IX. Secret. Rostow sent the memorandum to the President at 4:45 p.m. A handwritten “L” on the covering note indicates the President saw it. Copies were also sent to McPherson, Saunders, and the Department of State.
  2. The August 15 letter from Assistant Secretary of State for Congressional Relations William B. Macomber to Senator Fulbright set forth the Department’s replies to questions concerning U.S. commitments to foreign powers. For text of the letter and its attachments, see U.S. Commitments to Foreign Powers, Hearings Before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Ninetieth Congress, First Session (Washington: 1967), pp. 49–71.
  3. Question 2 asked whether the United States had a commitment to come to the military or economic aid of Israel or any of the Arab States in the event of an attack. The letter replied: “President Johnson and his three predecessors have stated the United States interest and concern in supporting the political independence and territorial integrity of the countries of the Near East. This is a statement of policy and not a commitment to take particular actions in particular circumstances. Unrest and conflict in the Middle East have been of serious concern to the United States for a long time. The use of armed force in the Middle East can have especially serious consequences for international peace extending far beyond that area. We have bent our efforts to avoid a renewal of conflict there. Thus, we have stated our position in an effort to use our influence in the cause of peace.”