505. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Israel 1

65127. Rostow-Harman Conversation: Part I of III parts.2


At his request Ambassador Harman called on Under Secretary Rostow, requesting information about the Anderson talks in Cairo and Ambassador Goldberg’s talk with King Hussein in New York.

Begin FYI: Rostow’s object was to reiterate to Harman the strength of U.S. interest in the success of possible negotiations between Israel and Jordan, and to elicit firm Israeli statements about GOI interest in the negotiations, and their willingness to deal with Hussein, and to negotiate [Page 995] about Jerusalem, conveying a general encouraging sense of the situation without entering into negotiation positions or the negotiating process. End FYI.

Rostow started, referring to conversations during Eban visit, by emphasizing vital US interest in success of negotiations between Jordan and Israel, which we thought was equally in interest of GOI. This connection he noted our concern that Israeli doubts about Hussein’s policies may be leading Israel to turn its back on negotiations with Jordan. Rostow said we feel negotiations can make major contribution to peace, leading to solution of refugee problem, resolving Jerusalem issue to satisfaction of Christian and Moslem interests, eliminating Palestine problem as curse on Arab world, opening Middle East to Israeli economic cooperation, and ending Arab boycott. Successful negotiations with Jordan would also enable USG fulfill its territorial integrity pledge. We considered that any alternative to Hussein would be worse for both US and Israel and intended to make major effort to convince Hussein that he should enter negotiations.

Harman replied that Israel had not given up hope of settlement with Hussein. He recalled recent Eshkol statement offering to meet with King Hussein. What troubled Israel, however, were indications in Jordanian press and elsewhere that present Arab posture purely tactical, designed achieve return to pre-June 5 situation at minimum cost and by political rather than military means. Israel feared that Arabs, having achieved that aim, would return to earlier posture, claiming they retained freedom of action to solve Palestine problem in their way at the right time. He mentioned alleged Hussein statement in Germany that Arab mistake was to stick to original D-Day of August, 1968. In Israeli view, Arabs had made conscious decision to improve their international posture by avoiding talk of “destruction of Israel”; they were willing to pay price of words, which were cheap, to achieve that end. For these reasons, Israel considered it critical that any solution be “in context of peace,” that UN language and actions make this clear and that any UN resolution not prejudice final solution, especially with respect to territorial settlements which essential to Israeli security. There was question in Israeli minds whether there had been any real change in Hussein’s policy, and this was principal source of current doubts.
Rostow said we had made clear our view that there should be movement from General Armistice Agreements to conditions of peace and that this would involve some adjustments of Armistice lines as foreseen in Armistice Agreements. As we had stressed to Foreign Minister Eban, however, we expected thrust of settlement would be toward security and demilitarization arrangements rather than toward major changes in Armistice lines. We recognized that Jerusalem presented [Page 996] special case. Our position was that it should be open city, that is, a city without walls, with access assured to all. We had told everyone we would not enter into the negotiating process although our good offices would be used in the interest of helping to achieve a settlement compatible with our national interest in peace in the Middle East, and our historic policies towards the separate issues. We took note of Israeli position that Jerusalem should be an open city under unified administration but that the Jordanian interest in Jerusalem could be met through arrangements including “sovereignty”. We assumed (and Harman confirmed) that despite public statements to the contrary, the GOI position on Jerusalem was that which Eban, Harman, and Evron had given us several times, i.e., that Jerusalem was negotiable. Taking Israeli position and willingness to negotiate into account, we thought that with good will arrangements should be possible which would be consistent with interests of Jordan and international community.
Harman said Israel saw number of positive developments in recent weeks as result US position: (a) UAR was now saying that USG was decisive factor; (b) both Arabs and Soviets were now coming to USG rather than UN; (c) group of ten non-Perms including Bulgaria had agreed that context of SC resolution was chapter 6 of Charter; and, (d) in recent Israeli talk with Mali representative, latter had agreed any resolution must be acceptable to all parties. Important thing now, Harman said, was to resist attempts in New York to devise language prejudicial to direct contractual arrangements. Rostow said our view had been clear that Resolution must not be a substitute for negotiations, or a “solution”, but a framework for negotiations. To Rostow’s comment that there were many ways of concluding a contract, Harman said direct negotiations were basic principle; Israel interpreted President’s June 19 speech as recognition that contractual arrangements necessary. It also important that settlement be in “context of peace;” it must have this positive aspect rather than negative aspect implied by such concepts as non-belligerency. There could be no solution through verbal gimmicks, even if latter went further than Arabs had been willing to go for past twenty years.
In response to question, Under Secretary Rostow described November 3 Goldberg-Hussein meeting as satisfactory and said Jordanians apparently agreed. Rostow then summarized for Harman in general terms following portions of Goldberg-Hussein conversation (USUN 1973):3
Goldberg remarks on territorial integrity, withdrawal, adjustments in Armistice lines (but omitting reference to principle of mutuality) and Jerusalem;
Goldberg assurance that our influence would be available to help assure fair settlement;
Hussein’s comments on withdrawal and Jerusalem;
Hussein’s description of his October 17 agreement with Nasser;
Rifai’s discussion of UN negotiations.
Harman said Israel had impression from recent moves by Hussein that, if King did not get what he wanted from present efforts, he would be prepared to go it alone. In response to Rostow’s query whether Israel had direct indications to this effect, Harman said this was “more than general impression.” It possible that Arabs had concluded they would have to retreat from Khartoum line of no negotiations, no peace and no abandonment of Palestine cause. This underlined importance of resisting pressures generated by threat of renewed hostilities and of giving up nothing in UN. Any ambiguity in language of SC resolution would permit Arabs to hide behind divergent interpretation of that language and would make Arab-Israeli dialogue impossible.
Rostow summarized US position as follows: we now see opportunity to move toward conditions of peace. Whether or not Arabs enter settlement with mental reservations and see language of resolution as mask for future aggressive intentions, our goal should be to devise arrangements, for which parties assume responsibility, that create conditions in which peace can be achieved over time. We have never doubted depth of Arab feeling on Palestine question. Common effort of all who seek peace in Middle East should be to transform this environment over next decade or so in such ways that Arab dream of future victorious war will vanish. We do not view Security Council resolution as negotiations but only as providing basis for negotiations. For this reason we have adamantly resisted inclusion of June 4 withdrawal date. We need resolution which GOI, GOJ and UARG can accept as basis for negotiations, and this is focus of our present efforts in New York.
In response to Harman’s query about when we envisage next round with Soviets, Rostow said this not yet fixed. We do not want to talk to Arabs through Soviets and are therefore talking directly to Arabs as well as others in UN.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59 Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 ARAB–ISR. Secret; Priority; Nodis. Drafted by Atherton and approved by Eugene Rostow. Repeated to Amman Priority, and to USUN Immediate.
  2. Part II, Rostow’s summary of Anderson’s conversation with Nasser, made in response to a query by Harman, was conveyed in telegram 65128 to Tel Aviv, November 5. Rostow said the U.S. reading of the talks was “not discouraging.” (Ibid.) Part III, Rostow’s brief summary of Rusk’s November 3 meeting with Kuznetsov, made in response to a query by Harman, was conveyed in telegram 65129 to Tel Aviv, November 5. Rostow said the meeting had “not been very satisfactory.” Kuznetsov had “spoken in threatening tones about risks of renewed hostilities.” (Ibid.)
  3. Document 501.