186. Editorial Note

By mid-1968, prospects for the UN-sponsored Jarring peace mission had clearly become very limited. The Johnson administration looked therefore to a renewal of secret contacts between Israel and Jordan as offering a more promising basis for a bilateral agreement, which might lead to a more general Arab-Israeli peace settlement. The United States encouraged and followed the progress of the contacts between May and November 1968. President Johnson’s Special Assistant Walt Rostow kept him informed about the progress of the talks. In a June 27 memorandum to the President, Rostow stated, “Whether we take a Middle East initiative depends, in fact, on whether Israel-Jordan talks work out.” Thus far, he said, the situation was “not hopeful,” but the talks were “not yet broken off.” In a September 30 memorandum, Rostow described the secret contacts as “the best hope” for peace. In November the Israelis proposed an agreement based upon the “Allon plan,” which posited Israeli control over the West Bank, while returning political control of some two-thirds of a demilitarized West Bank to Jordan. However, it soon became apparent that King Hussein was increasingly skeptical that Israel would offer peace terms that he could accept, and he eventually broke off the talks. It was also clear to U.S. policymakers that only the United States could pressure Israel to accept a peace settlement premised upon its withdrawal from occupied Arab territory.