191. Memorandum From Harold H. Saunders of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow)1

SUBJECT

  • Where We Are in the Middle East

Basically we are standing down for the moment to give Israel-Jordan negotiations a chance. This was Arthur Goldberg’s recommendation, and it is our instinct here.

However, we are not putting all our eggs in that basket. We are quite aware that the Israelis may be painting a rosier picture than their own negotiating position warrants. Negotiations may come to naught, or at least come hard up against a substantive impasse which Hussein may ask us to break.

Nick Katzenbach is slowly readying the basis for our moving in if we’re needed. I’m bootlegging this to you for background, so we’ll [Page 374] need to wait for State’s formal recommendation. But the approach includes these elements:

  • —Secretary Rusk’s dual emissaries. Goldberg is top candidate for Jerusalem. Extensive staff work is now putting together a collection of what Israeli officials have told us about terms of a settlement, and what we now consider satisfactory terms. These would provide the basis for proposing our own terms as a means for provoking a definitive Israeli response if necessary.
  • —Taking the line with the Israelis that we will not veto any Security Council effort to impose a settlement provided the terms seem fair and if Israel’s main objection is absence of direct negotiations. We haven’t refined this yet, but the purpose would be to put the Israelis on notice to make the most possible of whatever negotiating process is available.

We will be meeting Monday to preview the position we’ll take with Sir Denis Allen Thursday (preparation for Rusk-Stewart talk). It’s possible this might come up at next Tuesday’s lunch.

On Phantoms, we have pushed staff studies to the next level, and Luke has called a meeting next Wednesday. Meanwhile, Paul Warnke will have to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee next week, and we are working on his line.

Hal
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Middle East, Vol. II, 4/68-1/69. Secret; Nodis.