459. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rusk to President Johnson 1

SUBJECT

  • Robert Anderson’s conversation with Foreign Minister Eban Wednesday, October 4, 1967

Foreign Minister Eban had a conversation with Robert Anderson yesterday in New York. Eban had asked several times to see Anderson, who checked with Gene Rostow and me before he accepted the invitation.

Their talk is summarized in the enclosed memorandum.2

In essence, Mr. Eban asked for Mr. Anderson’s advice about how to initiate private, secret, and indirect contacts between Israel and some of the Arab states of the Middle East. The implication is that Israel would like Anderson to act as a mediator. Mr. Eban must have had Egypt in mind, because of Mr. Anderson’s long connection with that country, and perhaps other countries in the Middle East as well.

Our advice is that we should encourage the possibility of Bob Anderson’s undertaking to continue his talks with Eban, and undertaking also to act as a go-between on a private, secret, and informal basis. In this connection, you should also know that in Rio, the Egyptians approached Anderson about a possible visit to Nasser. His response was that he would discuss the matter with the government, but that he could not consider going without a direct invitation from Nasser.

This could be the break in the Middle Eastern impasse we have been seeking for a long time. It could be a crucial development—to start a real exchange going on real questions, while we continue to work away on Resolutions in the United Nations.

There are risks of course in our undertaking even this limited responsibility for having an American act in this capacity. But I believe [Page 878]the risks of refusing to participate, and allowing the situation to drift, are definitely greater.

If you agree, we shall discuss possible procedures for initiating these talks with Mr. Anderson before he sees Mr. Eban again.3

Dean Rusk
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Israel, Vol. VII. Top Secret; Nodis. Walt Rostow forwarded the memorandum to the President at 7:35 p.m. with a covering memorandum briefly summarizing it and commenting, “My inclination is that we go ahead.”
  2. The memorandum, headed “Sandstorm,” a report of an October 4 telephone conversation between Robert Anderson and Eugene Rostow, is attached to the source text but not printed. A copy is filed with a memorandum from Eugene Rostow to the President stating that he had told Walt Rostow about Anderson’s telephone call and that Rostow wanted a copy of the memorandum of conversation to show the President. It also states that McNamara, Katzenbach, Kohler, Battle, and Sisco all agreed “we should go ahead on this line.” (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 ARAB–ISR/SANDSTORM)
  3. Neither the approve nor disapprove option is checked. An attached typed note, dated October 6 at 9:05 p.m., contains the President’s reaction: “Find out through Harry or somebody else how Evron, Eban, and Israel would look upon this.”