154. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rusk to President Johnson1

SUBJECT

  • Middle East Situation

We are taking a fresh look at the present situation in the Middle East in light of the continuing differences between the Arabs and Israelis which have made it impossible for Jarring to get talks started and with a view to seeing whether we can recommend to you additional steps to give effect to the policy objectives of your June 19, 1967 speech. However, we have a more immediate short-range problem in the Security Council which begins Saturday to consider the problem of Jerusalem at the request of Jordan. Israel is holding an Independence Day parade which violates provisions of the Armistice Agreement2 and [Page 304] previous UN resolutions by introducing military forces into Jerusalem beyond those permitted in the Agreement.

The Jordanian objectives are threefold: (a) to get the Security Council to call on Israel to cancel the Independence Day parade of May 2; (b) to reinforce the Armistice Agreement framework, which is an anathema to the Israelis; and (c) to mobilize Security Council opinion against Israeli unilateral measures in Jerusalem which in the Jordanian view amounts to de facto annexation prejudicial to any ultimate settlement. Jordan has requested our support. (We persuaded Eban to say at the United Nations last summer that Israeli administration of Jerusalem is not an annexation, but municipal administration by the occupying power.)

There are basically two approaches we can take in the Security Council.

  • First, on the assumption we cannot develop sufficient common ground between the United States and Jordanian positions on Jerusalem, we could decide not to try to influence the Jordanians. In these circumstances, they would develop a resolution which would certainly go beyond what the United States could support. We would abstain in the vote, as we have on the two past General Assembly resolutions on Jerusalem, while restating in the Council the basic principles of our policy in essentially the same terms as in the past. Such a result would not disturb Israel too much since it attaches more importance to the United States vote than to the Security Council result. Israel would disregard such a resolution. It would go ahead with the parade and refuse to alter measures already taken in Jerusalem extending its control.

    Such a United States abstention would be exploited by the Soviets against our position in the area; it would further disillusion and weaken King Hussein; it would be played by the Arabs and his own people as another example that the King’s friendship with the United States is not paying off for him; it would further aggravate the difficulties which have prevented Jarring from getting a dialogue started.

    We believe, and Ambassador Goldberg concurs, there is a second approach which should at least be tried even though its chances of succeeding are slim.

  • Second, we would have Ambassador Goldberg meet with the Jordanians and probably the Pakistanis to see whether agreement can be achieved or a resolution based on the attached principles which are consistent with our present policy on Jerusalem.

We would have to vote “yes” on the resolution if it stayed within the limits of these principles, and we would have to give the Jordanians this assurance at the outset of the Security Council discussions.

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Ambassador Goldberg wishes in the first instance to make a major effort to convince the Jordanians to limit the resolution to principle 1: A Call on Israel to cancel the parade because it would aggravate tension and make the Jarring Mission more difficult. This would be consistent with past policy.

Ambassador Goldberg would also be given discretion to support principles 2 through 6 in a Security Council resolution if he thought it would be helpful. The reason we are being so gingerly about principles 2 through 6 is not because they are inconsistent with our policy but because an indication to the Jordanians of a willingness on our part to discuss them could lead to touchy and intricate political and legal issues being raised in the Security Council resolution. Israel is particularly anxious to avoid references to the Armistice Agreement in a resolution since their objective is to replace the unstable Armistice Agreement framework with a durable and stable peace by means of a negotiated settlement. We share this objective. We would leave it to Ambassador Goldberg’s judgment as to whether and when to inject principles 2 through 6 in the discussions. We agree with him that we should not support a resolution that has the effect of bulwarking an Armistice Agreement system that has proved unworkable in the past.

If we succeed along these lines we would avoid being isolated, it would be helpful to our position in the area, and it would help maintain an atmosphere in Jordan in which Jarring could continue his efforts. Both Eban and Jarring intend in the next ten days to concentrate in particular on the possibilities of Israeli-Jordan talks, since the recent hardening of the UAR position makes early progress in Cairo unlikely. As you know, Jordan and Israel are close together on Jarring’s approach while the UAR has thus far been very negative.

You should be aware there will be Israeli grumbling with this second approach. There will also be some domestic reaction in certain quarters, but it should be manageable since the recommended course does not involve any sharp change from past policy. We have long agreed to disagree with the Israelis on Jerusalem. We could balance this somewhat by reaffirming strongly the five principles you stated on June 19, 1967.

The fact is that the Israelis have acted very badly on this Jerusalem matter and have put us in a position of near isolation in the United Nations which in turn is having adverse repercussions on our overall position in the area. Those favoring a settlement in Israel would be strengthened by our position.

Recommendation:

That you authorize Ambassador Goldberg (a) to proceed along the above lines in the knowledge we would vote “yes” if the resolution is [Page 306] consistent with the attached principles; (b) to include a frank discussion with the Israelis, as well as the Jordanians, so that they understand our position clearly.

Dean Rusk

Enclosure

PRINCIPLES CONCERNING JERUSALEM

1. A call on Israel to cancel the parade because it would aggravate tension in an already inflamed situation and make the Jarring Mission more difficult.

Other Principles if Desirable

2. Unilateral actions by any of the states in the area cannot be recognized as governing the international status of Jerusalem.

3. Issue of Jerusalem should be considered in the context of a settlement of all the problems arising out of the June conflict.

4. A satisfactory solution for Jerusalem must take into consideration the religious, economic, and political interests at stake, including those of Israel and Jordan. Its future status must be worked out in consultation with all parties having an interest in the special character of the city.

5. Israel is obligated to observe the provisions of international law governing the rights and obligations of an occupying power in the newly-occupied sections of Jerusalem, as it is in the other occupied territories.

6. Pending a settlement, Israel should refrain from actions in the newly-occupied sections of Jerusalem which are prejudicial to the future status of the city or which impede progress toward a settlement.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Middle East, Vol. II, 4/68-1/69. Secret.
  2. Reference is to the General Armistice Agreement between Israel and Transjordan signed at Rhodes on April 3, 1949.