467. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson 1
- US and Soviet Positions on Mid-East Resolution
We have had a series of talks with the Soviets this week on where we go in the UN.2 Arthur Goldberg—and apparently Dobrynin—thinks we’ve hit a dead-end. Since Secretary Rusk wants to discuss this with you soon, here is a preview of the argument.
A more detailed rundown of issues and positions is attached, but the key question is whether we make any concessions in order to revive the US-Soviet draft resolution of July.
The problem is that, despite our July agreement on the wording of that resolution, we and the Soviets were interpreting it differently. They want a loose resolution calling for Israeli withdrawal which states Arab obligations loosely enough that they can be disregarded.
Arthur told Dobrynin Tuesday3 that we are prepared to go ahead with the July draft subject to consultations by both us and the Soviets with the principal parties and provided we have a clear understanding on what the resolution means and what would be required in the way of affirmative acts by the parties. He said it must be clear that the resolution means that (a) Arabs renounce belligerency and that (b) if belligerency ends, the Canal would be open.
The question we haven’t solved yet is whether there’s a half-way position between Arthur’s hard line and moving to our fall-back position of a general resolution using language from the UN Charter and appointing a UN representative to see what he can work out.[Page 892]
Most of us feel we ought to try to salvage something from our July understanding with the Soviets, although we recognize that any dilution of our July position would bring us into a head-on clash with Israel.4 Also, we have to consider that the Israelis say we’ve already gone too far in committing ourselves in essence to withdrawal to 4 June boundaries. Only the Israelis are content to see time run on.
I will be having breakfast with Secretary Rusk and Arthur tomorrow, and we will try to report to you later in the morning.
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Agency File, United Nations, Vol. 8. Secret. A handwritten “L” on the memorandum indicates the President saw it.↩
- Telegram 51942 to USUN, October 11, recorded an October 10 conversation between Goldberg and Dobrynin. It states that the principal impressions to emerge from the conversation were that the Soviets wanted to negotiate down from the tentatively agreed U.S.-USSR draft and that they wished to avoid a specific interpretation of the resolution which would require affirmative acts by the Arabs to recognize Israel and renounce belligerency. Goldberg said the United States had been flexible but was not interested in negotiating down from the U.S.-USSR draft. Both sides would want to consult the parties concerned, and therefore talks should be on an ad referendum basis, but the negotiations had to be open-ended both ways; if one side could suggest changes, the other side must be free to do the same. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 ARAB–ISR/UN) Under Secretary Rostow and Soviet Minister Tcherniakov also discussed the Middle East at lunch and again later in the afternoon on October 11. (Memoranda of conversation, October 11; ibid., POL 27 ARAB–ISR)↩
- October 10.↩
- A comment in Bundy’s handwriting next to this sentence on his copy of the memorandum reads: “Nothing in it.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, NSC Special Committee Files, UN Resolutions)↩
- Rusk made this comment at his October 12 news conference. (Department of State Bulletin, October 30, 1967, p. 561)↩
- A comment in Bundy’s handwriting next to Section I on his copy of the memorandum reads: “U.S. need not be in a hurry. Agree with Eban.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, NSC Special Committee Files, UN Resolutions)↩
- A comment in Bundy’s handwriting next to paragraph II.B. on his copy of the memorandum reads: “Goldberg is no longer the ideal negotiator.” (Ibid.)↩
- A comment in Bundy’s handwriting next to paragraph III.A. on his copy of the memorandum reads: “This won’t happen.” (Ibid.)↩
- A comment in Bundy’s handwriting next to this paragraph on his copy of the memorandum reads: “Nonsense—refugees and Canal were not [illegible—tied?] till Nasser tied them.” (Ibid.)↩
- A comment in Bundy’s handwriting next to paragraph IV.B. on his copy of the memorandum reads: “Nonsense.” (Ibid.)↩
- A comment in Bundy’s handwriting next to paragraph V.A. on his copy of the memorandum reads: “U.S. and USSR cannot come to terms.” (Ibid.)↩
- A comment in Bundy’s handwriting next to paragraph V.B. on his copy of the memorandum reads: “Correct.” (Ibid.)↩