458. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Israel1

50528. Following are highlights of conversation during call by Israeli Ambassador Harman on Under Secretary Rostow October 4:


Middle East Settlement. Harman described recent “movement” on Arab side as tactical, designed present moderate face but without real substance. Essential goal remained agreement between parties which [Page 875] Harman said Israel considered central to President’s five points of June 19. Rostow said problem remained of finding route to settlement and emphasized importance of UN as backdrop for this effort. It was still our thinking that we should seek resolution linking withdrawal and non-belligerency and calling for UN mediator. It was essential to have someone talk seriously to both sides in order to get parties focusing on realities. We have been doing what we could in this direction and felt there were some signs that Arabs becoming more realistic. In response Harman’s expression of concern at UK pressure to “rush into Security Council,” Rostow said we had been discussing tactics with British and believed U.S. and UK were working together closely, and that reports of differences in approach were exaggerated.

Harman warned against dangers of seeking UN resolution at any cost, arguing that resolution subject to different interpretations would be worse than no resolution at all. Israel prepared accept UN mediator, although it not particularly enamoured of this idea, but thought USG agreed he should have no mandate other than to seek achieve agreement between parties. Difficulty with resolution linking withdrawal and non-belligerency was that “withdrawal” required precise action by Israel while “non-belligerency” was imprecise term which left open question of what was required of Arabs. UAR Foreign Minister Riad’s discussion of General Armistice Agreements in his UN address, which Harman described as “amazing performance,” underscored pitfalls in seeking “form of words” as substitute for direct agreement between parties. Such attempts to gloss over basic issues weakened UN. Despite its image of opposition to UN role, Israel in seeking true peace in spirit of Article 33 of Charter was in fact contributing to strengthening UN. (Without pursuing point, Harman wondered if totally new UN resolution could not be devised referring simply to Article 33.)

Israeli Settlements in Occupied Territory. Responding to Rostow’s query, Harman said two areas involved: (a) Baniyas, in DZ on Israeli side of international border; this was vital from security point of view, inter alia because it commanded Baniyas tributary of Jordan River; (b) Etzion area between Jerusalem and Hebron on West Bank; this was also strategic location. Harman emphasized that Israel described these projects as “strongpoints,” not “settlements”; they were being manned by Nahal units—military formations within Army which also engage in some agricultural work. Rostow asked whether these “strongpoints” could be evacuated if settlement reached. Harman replied he could not make prediction in this respect but would hope any settlement would not leave borders sealed, so that there could be Jews in Jordan as there were Arabs in Israel.

Refugees. In response Rostow question whether there had been progress on refugee problem, Harman said GOJ not interested in progress but only in scoring propaganda points. Hussein’s handling of West Bank situation as well as refugee return question did not contribute to resolution of problems. This connection Harman cited specifically Amman radio and other incitement for school strike on West Bank and GOJ criticism of Israeli action to excise anti-Israeli material from text books.

Rostow noted that Israeli position on refugee return was raising question in Arab minds whether Israel really wanted political settlement. It would help clear atmosphere in this respect if Israel offered take back all refugees who have left West Bank. It was important recognize that Khartoum Conference had changed matters; other Arabs now had stake—in form of financial subsidy—in seeking settlement. In response Harman’s comment that Israel does not agree with this interpretation of Khartoum and considers Hussein more inflexible than before, Rostow said our private contacts with Jordanians did not support Israeli interpretation.

Without responding directly to Rostow’s point re refugee return, Harman said with census occupied areas now completed, Israel may soon have something to say on overall refugee problem in context of peace settlement. Rostow stated we were ready to discuss refugee problem at any time with Israelis.

Arms Supply. Harman referred to his talk previous day with Battle re difficulties for Israel’s security situation arising from suspension of arms deliveries (septel).2 Rostow described serious difficulties with Congress on whole arms supply question, which had made it impossible so far to respond to Israeli requests and reinforced what Ambassador Battle had told him the day before, i.e., that the delays in arms supply decisions were caused by political realities here, and not by any other factor.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 ARAB–ISR. Secret. Drafted by Atherton on October 5; cleared by Grey and Battle, and in draft by Arthur R. Day (UNP); and approved by Eugene Rostow. Repeated to USUN, Amman, Jerusalem, and London.
  2. See footnote 3, Document 457.