462. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson 1

SUBJECT

  • Letter from King Hussein 2

Attached is a long letter from King Hussein (key passages marked) reporting his view of the Middle East situation following the Khartoum Conference and recent trips to Cairo and Moscow. He hopes to visit the U.S. toward the end of the month.

It’s a strong but dignified letter and lays out Arab reasoning clearly. He expresses deep hurt at what he considers our basic pro-Israeli position. Insofar as we are trying to make the Arabs face up to the existence of Israel, he’s not just giving way to polemics. In much the same language as his Ambassador used with you at lunch last Wednesday,3 he laments the double standard we apply to Arabs and Israelis and says, humbly and sadly, he doesn’t find it worthy of a great leader or a [Page 883]great nation to discriminate this way. He told Ambassador Burns he had written because he felt “so personally let down by the USG in recent weeks.”4

He feels the Arabs at Khartoum reached a reasonable and responsible position. He says even Israeli passage through the Canal is negotiable if linked to redressing the wrongs inflicted on the Arab people of Palestine since 1948. Now he says it’s up to the great powers to act, since they were responsible for creating Israel in the first place.

He put two questions to Burns: (1) Will we support a resolution moving UN debate from the General Assembly to the Security Council? He fears that Assembly debate would cause some Arabs to take positions that would tie his hands. (2) Will we support a slightly revised version of the July US-Soviet draft resolution? He says the Soviets will but told him our position had hardened. What he refers to is Arthur Goldberg’s effort to work out a more precise understanding of what specific steps would follow such a resolution.

Nick Katzenbach already had his staff working on these questions before this letter came in. We will have an answer for you as soon as possible. But I want you to be aware that this potentially opens a new round of negotiations in New York on the resolution which we felt represents progress if properly interpreted but which the Israelis have objected to vigorously.5

Walt
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Special Head of State Correspondence File, Jordan, 8/1/67–7/31/68. Secret.
  2. The text of the October 7 letter was transmitted in telegram 1777 from Amman, October 8. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 ARAB–ISR) A retyped copy is attached but not printed.
  3. October 4; see Document 456.
  4. The quoted language is from telegram 1797 from Amman, October 9, which reported a conversation with the King that afternoon. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 ARAB–ISR)
  5. The following comment in President Johnson’s handwriting appears on the memorandum: “Ask Mc Bundy to read & comment. Could we see him soon? L.” Another handwritten note in Rostow’s hand states that the message was telephoned to Saunders on October 11.