114. Memorandum From John W. Foster and Harold H. Saunders of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow)1

SUBJECT

  • More on Hussein

Just to make sure you don’t miss it, the attached2 from Harry Symmes deals with the other side of the question we wrote you about yesterday—what we might have to do to make it possible for Hussein to negotiate with Israel. Yesterday we considered whether it’s possible for him to go it alone and leaned toward concluding that chances of his talking alone are a good bit less than even. Now Harry is writing about how to improve the chances.

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Harry feels that, to get Hussein to the negotiating table, we would have to get a specific statement from the Israelis on the minimum they are willing to offer and would have to agree to protect Hussein from the dangers of talking to Israel. He specifically mentions contingency plans for helping to handle civil strife and efforts by other Arab states to interfere.

We’ll have to think this through, but it’s plain that Harry is not just talking about more barbed wire to use against infiltrators at the proper time. Hussein would probably want clear indication that we will do what is necessary to save him, not that we will make friendly gestures.

Obviously, we’re not going to be able to make him feel completely safe. The one thought I (HHS) have for bucking him up is based on an interesting comment to me the other day by an intelligent Lebanese. He says the Arab governments are increasingly reluctant to settle the broad Palestine question without the participation of the Palestinians. When I asked whether anybody really took seriously the thought that the Palestinians could organize a responsible representation in settlement negotiations, he said that the ouster of Shuquairy and the evolution of a collegial PLO leadership was designed to do just this.

The thought that occurs to me is that if Hussein needs support for negotiating alone the Palestinians might provide it. Jordan and Israel-not the UAR-are sitting on most aspects of the Palestine problem. If Hussein could say he was negotiating with or on behalf of representative Palestinians who wanted peace, he might have some added backing.

We’re still better off pursuing our present course-trying to get the UAR back on the Jarring track both directly and via Hussein. But if that fails, we’ll be looking for ideas like this. I’ve checked fairly widely in State and CIA and no one thinks this is a wild idea. In fact, Hussein himself is already trying to bring more Palestinians into his government. The problems are that: (a) Palestinian leadership is fragmented so he couldn’t hope to have unanimous support; and (b) if Hussein gets too involved with PLO-type Palestinians, it could mean the end of Jordan via encouragement for a separate Palestine. But Hussein today is a man with no attractive alternatives, and this risk may be less than the risk of no movement at all.

If we do get back into the area of Jordan-Israel negotiations, Jerusalem will be the main sticking point, and we will have to trot out again all the thoughts you had on Jordan-Israel economic cooperation.

  • John
  • Hal
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Jordan, Vol. V, Memos, 3/68-1/69. Secret;Nodis.
  2. Document 109.