103. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Israel1

125925. Subj: Jarring Mission.

Summary: Under Secretary Rostow and Assistant Secretary Battle called in Israeli Ambassador Rabin to urge that Israelis be flexible on steps needed for acceptance of November 22 SC Res and negotiating modalities and avoid actions likely prejudice Jarring mission. Noted Interior Ministry measures re West Bank had had bad effect. Rostow said US felt it should have opportunity to comment before Israel took measures affecting political atmosphere and chances for settlement. He requested Rabin convey to GOI importance we attached to approach Ambassador Barbour making re Jerusalem refugees, and other topics covered in his talk with Eban.

Under Secretary Rostow told Ambassador Rabin our talks with Jarring confirmed our impression he was not entirely happy with Israeli position re “acceptance” of SC resolution. We had impression that if things should blow up he would report critically on manner in which Israelis had expressed acceptance. Rostow said Jarring was trying to work out formula which hopefully would bring parties together. In dealing with acceptance question, Israel should be most careful to avoid being put in trap of having blame put on it if Jarring does not succeed. We agree Israel cannot accept thesis that resolution is self-implementing, Rostow said; we regard resolution as whole and as requiring negotiations. He emphasized however that present moment is critical in peace efforts. He said we could see no advantage in not being simple and definitive in accepting resolution and undertaking to implement it through agreement.
Rostow said Spanish had informed us March 4 that Riad during Madrid visit had said UAR did not insist on prior withdrawal and would accept resolution as package. At same time, Spanish reported UAR very reserved as to next step if Israel “accepts” resolution. We gave Spaniards message to convey back to UAR to effect that next step should be Rhodes-type meeting on Cyprus. We did not attach much importance to Spanish message.
Rostow then turned to recent Israeli orders re West Bank. Said they had caused commotion and turbulence affecting atmosphere of [Page 212] negotiations. Rostow said that, against background of talks between President Johnson and Prime Minister Eshkol, US felt it should have opportunity make its views known in advance when events of this kind arise. He pointed out that, though we and Israel were agreed on the issue of peace, we had been caught by surprise in this way on number of occasions. He mentioned as earlier example regulations re Jerusalem. We headed off consequences of such acts with great effort. In present case, we could not be persuaded that measures affecting West Bank were needed to fill legal void; any such void had existed so far and could do so a while longer.
Rostow informed Rabin that US was supporting representations being made by UK re return of new refugees to West Bank and re Jerusalem. He said expropriation and building in Jerusalem create doubt concerning negotiability of Jerusalem question. When Rabin raised question whether Israel in fact considered Jerusalem negotiable, Rostow said we were not seeking define Jerusalem policy at this juncture. We recognized it was the most difficult item and would have to be last on the agenda. We had been relying on formal Israeli statements (including Eshkol statement in Knesset Feb 26) which seemed hold open possibility of negotiations concerning it. Meanwhile, it was important avoid precluding such negotiations. He recalled that Under Secretary Katzenbach had told Eban that we would support position that City should not be redivided but that we took very serious view of interests of others including Jordan. Current Israeli actions on the ground cause doubt re negotiability he continued. Ambassador Barbour had been instructed to request that expropriation and construction be suspended. Rostow requested Rabin convey to GOI great importance that we attached to this question. He said Barbour would also be bringing up subject of refugees from West Bank. Security Council session could result from Israeli actions in any of these respects, Rostow said, and it could happen that US and Israel would be in divided position in SC. US wants to avoid that, he concluded.
Turning to question of Rhodes formula, Rostow urged Israelis not to stick to particular modality. He said we saw no advantage for Israel in insisting on face to face meetings with Arabs on Cyprus instantly or exclusively. Rostow referred to President Johnson’s statement June 19 that we were ready to see any method tried. President had appealed for adoption of no rigid views on these matters. Rostow said it would be disaster if this opportunity for peace—which might be the only one—foundered on an issue which not fully understood in the world and which not compatible with US position as stated on June 19.
Rabin replied that Israel interested in peace, but in real peace. He noted that in 1956 there had been no change in basic relationships. Israeli willingness to accept Rhodes formula represented withdrawal [Page 213] from earlier Israeli position on direct talks, but by Rhodes formula Israel meant that parties came to Rhodes for purpose of negotiating settlement between two sides. Israel prepared negotiate “practically everything” under Jarring’s Chairmanship. He claimed US position re Rhodes was departure from Rhodes model which was matter of history. Rostow replied US had not attempted define Rhodes formula. We had same purpose; negotiations among or between parties. On Rhodes parties met in various ways. Main thing was initiate process which would result in negotiations.
Rabin gave usual Israeli argumentation re return of West Bank refugees. He then added as personal comment that it was important recall that Israel had not initiated the war. To have peace, he said, Arabs must be taught that once you start war you lose something. Starting war meant not only taking risk of not achieving goal but also of suffering loss. Re measures in occupied territory Rabin conceded they might be mistake from public relations point of view but he insisted that they not intended change status of those areas in present or future. Rostow said that while they might not be intended to effect change of status, political consequences could be very serious and must be dealt with. He reiterated that we had asked Israelis to take steps to remove widespread feeling that Israelis did not intend to withdraw from occupied territory.
Evron referred to Riad’s statement reported by Spaniards and observed Riad had been talking through both sides of his mouth in last few weeks. Evron also noted Nasser’s March 3 statement, from which he said it was clear UAR wanted prior withdrawal and that next steps thereafter were very uncertain. Assistant Secretary Battle agreed that one could not draw any conclusions re final UAR position.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 ARAB-ISR. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Day (IO/UNP) on March 5, cleared by Battle and Atherton, and approved by Eugene Rostow. Repeated to Amman, Cairo, and USUN.