530. Information Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (Battle) to Secretary of State Rusk 1

SUBJECT

  • Israel’s Peace Aims

The attached telegram (USUN 2191—Tab A),2 reporting the text of a resolution adopted by the Israeli Cabinet November 8, is the latest and presumably most authoritative statement of Israel’s peace aims. Its particular significance lies in the explicit exclusion, in a formal GOI policy statement not intended for public consumption, of any settlement not arrived at through “direct negotiations” and formalized by “peace treaties.”

Comparison of this Israeli position with earlier Israeli peace settlement objectives shows the evolution of Israel’s position since the war. Specifically, the November 8 Israeli Cabinet resolution reflects a marked shift from Israel’s earlier emphasis on the need for security from attack and acceptance by its neighbors to a pre-occupation with legalisms and an emphasis on the modalities of achieving such security and acceptance. In addition, freedom of passage for Israeli ships through the Suez Canal, which was not raised by the Israelis as a peace aim until some time after the end of the war, is prominently mentioned ahead of free passage through the Straits of Tiran, which was the immediate casus belli. Furthermore, paragraph 5 of the Israeli Cabinet resolution would appear to defer consideration of even a start toward solution of the refugee problem until after peace treaties are concluded.

The November 8 Israeli Cabinet resolution is in effect a prescription for “instant peace” entirely on Israel’s terms. In our judgment it is patently unrealistic and a far cry from the goal recently described to Ambassador Harman by Gene Rostow. As Gene so eloquently put it, that goal as we see it is to devise arrangements binding on and accepted by the parties which, while safeguarding Israel’s security, can create [Page 1044]conditions that will transform the Middle Eastern environment over time into one in which true peace eventually becomes possible.

The effect of the latest Israeli formulation is two-fold. First, it will further limit Foreign Minister Eban’s flexibility in the UN context. Second, it gives the GOI’s most formal stamp of approval—of much greater importance than similar public resolutions of the Israeli parliament—to a legally unassailable rationale for remaining in the occupied territories indefinitely, if the Arabs as seems likely, do not directly and immediately change their deeply ingrained attitudes of the past two decades and enter into negotiation of formal peace treaties. The Israeli Cabinet’s position thus lends considerable credence to Joe Alsop’s analysis in a recent Washington Post article (Tab B).3

Israel’s increasingly rigid emphasis on the modalities of a peace settlement is paralleled by expanding emphasis on the territorial elements of a settlement. In the papers handed Lord Caradon by Foreign Minister Eban over the weekend of November 11–12, the GOI states inter alia that “Israel would not reconstruct that map [the map of June 4]4 at any time or in any circumstances” and “we are less interested than in July in the non-belligerency concept.” It has become clear over the past months that Israel envisages its future boundaries as including not only the entire city of Jerusalem but also a good slice of the Syrian Golan Heights (which lie outside Mandated Palestine) and the entire Gaza Strip (whose half million Arab Palestinian inhabitants can by no means be assumed to prefer a future under Israeli rule). In addition, there are strong emotional and historical pressures for Israeli retention of the West Bank or at least substantial portions thereof, even though the official GOI position remains that border adjustments in that area will be based only on security considerations (which implies that they would be minor). Finally, there are other areas to which firmer claims may be in the process of maturing, such as the El-Arish area of the Sinai (where an Israeli paramilitary settlement is at present reviving the fishing industry).

While the precise nature of Israel’s minimum territorial demands remains unclear, probably even to the GOI, there is no doubt that Israel has come a long way from its position in June. On June 8, for example, Foreign Minister Eban told Ambassador Goldberg that Israel was not seeking territorial aggrandizement and had no colonial aspirations.5 On [Page 1045]June 13, in a speech to military units in Sinai, Prime Minister Eshkol said Israel had no intention of acquiring new territory as a result of the war.

We must, I think, assume that the Israeli Cabinet resolution of November 8 is not simply a bargaining position. Viewed in the context of growing Israeli territorial appetites, I find that resolution a profoundly disturbing development. If Israel insists on pursuing the “direct negotiations” and “peace treaties” course to the exclusion of all others, then I fear we do indeed face the prospect of permanent Israeli occupation of the Arab territories now held.

There is, it seems to me, a growing gap between what we and the Israelis mean when we speak of territorial “adjustments.” Given this fact plus Ambassador Goldberg’s statement to Foreign Minister Riad on November 12 (“Israeli preference would be peace treaties arrived at through bilateral negotiations, but we are not asking for this”),6 the enclosed Israeli Cabinet resolution would appear to put Israel and us on divergent courses.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 ARAB–ISR. Secret; Exclusive Distribution. Drafted by Atherton and Lambrakis on November 16 and cleared by Davies. Copies were sent to Popper, Katzenbach, and Eugene Rostow. A notation on the memorandum indicates Rusk read it.
  2. Telegram 2191 from USUN, November 12, attached but not printed, transmitted the text of a communication of the same date from Eban to Goldberg, transmitting the text of a resolution approved by the Israeli Cabinet on November 8. A copy is also ibid., POL 27 ARAB–ISR/UN.
  3. Tab B, a column by Joseph Alsop from the November 13 Washington Post, is attached but not printed.
  4. Brackets in the source text.
  5. See Document 227.
  6. No record of this conversation has been found.