449. Telegram From the Mission to the United Nations to the Department of State1
989/Secto 3. Following based on uncleared memcon, and subject to change on review, Noforn and FYI:
FonMin Eban accompanied by Ambassadors Harman and Rafael called on the Secretary September 25. Ambassador Goldberg, Sisco and Battle were present.
In reviewing current situation General Assembly, Eban said it too early to assess situation. Vietnam involves loss of life, and Middle East therefore secondary issue at moment. In preliminary conversation other delegations, Israel noted no major changes in basic convictions, although some tactical change evident. Secretary reaffirmed US position rests on President Johnson’s June 19 speech.
Secretary asked whether Israeli public opinion so frozen that it would be difficult for Israel to make peace. Eban replied that press more chauvinistic than actual public opinion. When opinion of Israeli people assessed, it is always more rational and responsible than press would lead one to believe.
Eban then assessed prospects for peace with UAR and Jordan respectively. He stressed there were no territorial issues with UAR, it was principally question of peace and natural results of peace, such as right to navigate international waters. Problem of Jordan more difficult, involving territory and history. Eban noted there were several points of view on this question in Israel.
- First, there is group that sees security in terms of territory.
- Second, this view balanced by those concerned over future character of Israeli state. Arab majority in Israel. At present only 3 or 4 members of Cabinet of 21 would vote for annexation in Eban’s opinion. There has been, however, no need to vote since positions to be taken on these issues are not before Cabinet as long as there are no negotiations with Arabs. Economic Ministers are all against.
- Third was possibility making deal with new Palestinian state which would be 14th Arab state. West Bank leaders have given evidence of desiring to discuss their future. Mayor of Hebron, for example, has evidenced interest perhaps because he sees an opportunity to exert leadership [Page 852] in a sovereign new state. Gleam of sovereignty among leaders in West Bank similar to attitudes evident in communities in Cyprus. This only an incipient movement, but some “state personality” could emerge on West Bank.
- Fourth, which had broad support, was to make best possible deal with Hussein. Hussein must recognize that he can make better deal sooner than later. If Hussein said he was ready to negotiate tomorrow, majority of Israeli people would support such move. However, Jordan cannot get back to June 4 situation. Emphasis in Jordanian settlement, however, would not be on territory but on security. Possibility exists for a free port, economic integration of Jordan. Eban also mentioned possibility of a demilitarization of West Bank with some kind of Israeli military presence.
Later in conversation, Eban made point that Iran and others had suggested more pressure be put on UAR to negotiate in first instance than on Jordan. Secretary acknowledged issue with UAR less difficult than with Jordan: availability of Voice of Arabs radio to support Egyptian decision to negotiate is of importance. Eban indicated Israel has passed message to UAR but not sure UAR understands clearly relationship between end of belligerency and territorial problems. Eban gave impression that Israel has tried to and will try again to make it clear to Egyptians that they could get substantial part of territory back in return for what Eban called a “juridical definition of relations between Israel and Egyptians”. Peace was issue with UAR, not primarily territorial problem. Israel must have relationship on a “contractual basis”, which includes recognition of Israeli sovereignty and “total non-belligerency”.
In response Ambassador Goldberg’s question whether some form armistice agreement precluded basis from which peace can be fashioned, Eban replied armistice cannot be intermediate step between war and peace. Eban made clear he was less concerned over “form or semantics” of peace, but more in substance of it.
Secretary asked Eban assess current attitudes British and French. Eban replied he had conversation with Couve in which latter gave evidence great despair. At beginning and end of any discussion with French is an opinion re US, that US is inordinately powerful and therefore under French reasoning ready “to make war”. French believe whatever happens in area must be within framework of Israeli recognition. Eban believes French may be moving away from position in last GA toward more reasonable position. He attributed this to two reasons: (a) adverse public opinion reaction in France; and (b) French pragmatism. Eban said French finding ways to continue delivery spare parts through commercial channels to Israel. Delivery planes less certain but French [Page 853] do not find it easy not to honor contracts. Eban opined French will probably be less active in UN, an instrument they never looked upon with favor. Present French representative to UN has leeway and does not share obsession re US.
In discussing UK attitudes, Eban stated Britain concerned with problem of Suez Canal and have probably exaggerated its economic importance to UK. Eban recognized Suez was a political issue in UK. He said UK fundamentally with US but wished to appear publicly more congenial to Arabs than is US. UK recognizes impossibility return June 4 and supports privately, though not publicly as yet, recent US statement on ME in GA. Eban said support of US is more than tactical problem and some delegations see substantive differences between US and UK. Expressed concern UK posture weakens solidarity and influences other Europeans. Eban referred to documents captured which indicated one reason UAR permitted situation get out of hand before war is conviction there was lack of coordination between Western powers. Expressed hope UK would make policy decision to support US, which would permit better tactical coordination.
In response to Secretary’s inquiry as to whether Israel expected initiatives at UN, Eban responded there would be some from extremist delegations which would not be troublesome. We should watch Latin Americans carefully, he said, and we could expect a UN move along lines of Tito proposal. Secretary also noted he and Amb. Goldberg would be talking to the Soviets on three separate occasions this week and there would be opportunity to ascertain their current position. Eban said Tito proposal so far below minimal acceptance level, he would not expect too much trouble dealing with it.
In discussing Suez Canal, Eban indicated FonMin Brown had possible separate solution in mind. Eban said Israeli requirements regarding Canal are equality and no discrimination. If UN ran the Canal, this would be a form of internationalization. Eban suggested to Brown that UK ascertain whether UAR would accept this position which would be a major shift for UAR. At same time Eban made it clear no proposal relating to Canal would be acceptable unless it included freedom of passage for Israeli ships from outset.
With respect current flareups along Canal, Eban stated Bull had not been able to define accepted movements of respective parties. Such definition imperative when two countries are as close together physically as UAR and Israel. Any moves in Canal area in such circumstances became troublesome and dangerous.
Secretary asked whether Israel would object to steps UK might take to clear Suez Canal. Eban replied that Israel did not close Canal and would not wish to get in position being responsible for difficulties [Page 854] caused Western friends. Any plan reopen, however, must include use by Israeli ships, and mutuality between Egypt and Israel. Eban also said UK would not need to get Israeli approval to get its ships out of Canal. Eban has indicated to Brown Israel’s belief that UK should reduce its reliance on Suez rather than retain past mystique regarding it.
Eban discussed current arms shipments of Russians to area stating they have apparently slowed down resupply and were being more selective, apparently based on desire not give aggressive capacity to UAR. Harman mentioned however, Russians have stepped up SU–7 deliveries. Israel believes UAR has more than twice number fighter bombers than pre-war, which suggests Arabs and Russians have drawn strategic conclusions from war. These conclusions similar to those drawn in Heikal article and is reflected in comments made Khartoum. In connection arms shipments Harman expressed hope US could act release pending shipments to Israel. Eban hoped US arms supply of Israel would be “pragmatic, normal, and commercial”. Secretary explained current Congressional difficulties, and said we could not know what US could do until Congressional action on aid bill is final.
In this connection Secretary Rusk asked whether Israel had dealings with Cuba, to which Eban replied negative. Secretary called attention paragraph in OAS resolution regarding action by “other friendly countries.” Suggested Israel let Latin American countries know directly that it had noted this paragraph and already fully complied.
Regarding strategy at UN, both Secretary and Goldberg indicated we had made no final determination and will discuss this matter over days ahead. Eban indicated that Middle East item would probably not be considered before mid-October. Eban agreed with Secretary’s observation that Soviets would probably not be leading pack in the regular session.
- Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 ARAB–ISR. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Repeated Priority to Tel Aviv. Received at 1808Z.↩