149. Airgram From the Embassy in Lebanon to the Department of State 1



  • President Helou’s Views on Bringing about Stability in the Middle East

John J. McCloy paid a courtesy call April 13 on President Helou. The President availed himself of the occasion to summarize his present thinking on how the apparent impasse in Ambassador Jarring’s efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Middle East crisis might be broken. Emphasizing that he was speaking as a “Westernized Arab” the President stressed the need to understand basic Arab psychology. A fundamental prerequisite to achieving progress toward “peace” is a realization that no Arab leader could sign any agreement which would, in effect, give up what the Arabs hold to be their right to reclaim Palestine. As a direct consequence of this basic factor of life, real “peace” in the juridical sense of the word is not attainable; there can be no Versailles-type peace treaty. Therefore, it is unproductive to talk in such [Page 295] terms and, since the Israelis understand this aspect of Arab thinking, their persistent demands for direct negotiations leading to the signing of a peace treaty are considered only a pretext to retain the newly occupied territories.

Though true peace cannot be obtained, there may be a peaceful way out of the current impasse. The November 22 Security Council Resolution contains the elements necessary to reach a modus vivendi. Full implementation of all of the practical measures contained in the resolution would bring about an effective condition of “stability.” Neither direct negotiations nor the signing of a peace treaty figure in the resolution and they are not essential to attaining this “effective stability.” In the President’s view a prolonged period of such “effective peace” or “stability” would present opportunities to solve the many issues inextricably tied to a Middle East settlement. No progress could be made until the two sides were separated by demilitarized zones and a UN presence which could end the military confrontation and gradually reduce the emotions and hatreds which governed the actions of both sides.

Since the key to a peaceful solution is implementation of the provisions of the November resolution, it is incumbent upon the US to use its influence to obtain Israeli acceptance. The President acknowledged the limited effectiveness of US efforts to pressure Israel into taking specific actions and commented that UAR Ambassador Ghaleb had himself acknowledged this fact in a recent conversation with the President. As far as withdrawal is concerned, President Helou said that the Arabs accept the fact that some modification of the pre-June war boundaries is essential in the interest of security and stability. Furthermore, the President believes establishment of a demilitarized zone along the new Arab frontiers with Israel, in which international forces would be stationed, would contribute to maintaining the “effective stability” he believes attainable.

Mr. McCloy outlined current US public opinion on the Arab-Israel problem for the President. He stressed that many Americans consider justified Israel’s determination not to withdraw from the territories occupied during the June war until it obtains firm guarantees of peace and security. In the aftermath of the 1956 Suez campaign, the US used its influence to pressure Israel into withdrawing from the Sinai and Gaza. In the absence of effective international guarantees, ten years later war again broke out between the Arabs and the Israelis. This time more is required than perfunctory verbal or paper guarantees before the US should pressure Israel into making concessions.

Mr. McCloy told President Helou that, although he was not on an official mission in the Middle East, he hoped he would be able to pass the President’s views on to appropriate policy-making officials of the US Government.

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Comment: Once again President Helou was speaking in his now familiar role of the moderate Western-oriented Arab leader interpreting Arab thoughts and feelings to a Western audience. He, of course, is indeed the “Arab friend of the West” which he terms himself to be. His analysis of the current situation and appeal for a “practical” solution in terms of a provisional modus vivendi is almost word for word the story he related to David Rockefeller in February. He is convinced continued efforts to seek the impossible can only frustrate progress toward a practical solution.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 ARAB-ISR. Confidential; Limdis. Drafted and approved by Political Officer J. Thomas McAndrew and cleared in draft by Ambassador Porter. Repeated to Aden, Algiers, Ankara, Amman, Jerusalem, Jidda, Khartoum, Kuwait, London, Rabat, Tel Aviv, Tripoli, Tunis, and USUN.