198. Memorandum of Conversation1



  • United States
    • The Secretary of State
    • Assistant Secretary Leddy
    • Mr. Getz, EUR/RPM
  • United Kingdom
    • The Rt. Hon. Michael Stewart, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
    • Mr. Frank Brenchley, Under Secretary
    • The Viscount Hood, Deputy Under Secretary
    • Mr. D. J. D. Maitland, Private Secretary to the Secretary of State


  • Part III—The Arab-Israeli Problem2

Mr. Stewart noted that Jarring was not making significant progress in his mission and he feared that a serious border incident could throw the matter again into the Security Council. Sanctions might then be voted and this could wreck all chances of a settlement.

The question now, said Stewart, is how to expedite Jarring’s work. The British understand that the Arabs may have made some proposals. If we are to move to some sort of timetable, or a series of steps on the installment plan which would require something for each side at each step, there would have to be some assurance that the entire program would move on to its end.

Secretary Rusk noted that Kosygin’s position last fall had been that Israel should first withdraw and then discussions on further steps could begin. Both Israel and Washington were suspicious that Arab proposals might fall into Kosygin’s pattern.

Stewart said the Soviets had shown a little movement when he recently talked with Gromyko in Moscow. While Gromyko said that Israeli withdrawal was the main point, Stewart said that equally important were the end of belligerency and the right of passage through the straits and the Canal as well. Gromyko did commit himself to the idea that once a phased program had started, it must go through to its end.

[Page 386]

Stewart thought we must push on the two parties at issue; the Soviets would probably have to push the Arabs, while the US and UK should press Israel to come up with some program ideas. Otherwise we risk letting the situation get out of control. The Secretary said he shared this sense of danger and realized that time was not working in favor of a settlement. One serious incident could have disastrous consequences.

The Secretary thought that there were several problems, including the fact that Jarring and the Secretary General were not bold enough in pressing for both substantive and procedural progress. Unfortunately, pushing on U Thant was like pushing on the end of a piece of spaghetti; nothing happens at the other end. U Thant has not made the parties realize how dangerous the situation is. Secondly, the internal situation in Israel is such that outside influence has little effect on the government, in which there is a contest for power. The US has tried often with no result. Eshkol is afraid to move with Dayan and others snapping at his heels.

Mr. Stewart said Lord Caradon feels that July is the critical month. Secretary Rusk was skeptical about fixing a flash point, but said there is great inherent danger in the situation. Stewart said Caradon thinks that even without a major incident, the problem could come back to the Security Council in July. U Thant has led people to believe that there will be a report from Jarring in July. The Arabs are counting on this and they are trying to show that they have moved while the Israelis have not. Brenchley noted that the Arabs still have the Security Council seized with the Jerusalem question, and they could use this device to open up again in the Council.

Stewart said that if it goes back to the Security Council, there will be pressure for the Council or the four permanent members to take charge away from Jarring. Brenchley thought the Soviets might aim at this development. Stewart noted that while Couve was still Foreign Minister he seemed to hold the same idea.

Mr. Stewart then suggested that the US and UK hold further talks on how to pressure the Israelis to make substantive proposals to Jarring and also to try to analyze the elements of a settlement. Secretary Rusk doubted that the Israeli Cabinet could agree to any realistic proposals. On the other hand, if Jarring made the proposals, we could then push on the Israelis to accept them.

Brenchley asked how we could get Jarring to move, and wondered if we should discuss this with him. Secretary Rusk noted that Jarring will be talking with the parties while he is on leave. For our part, the US has found Jarring extremely reserved and not disposed to reveal his hand. Brenchley stated the UK had a somewhat different line from Jarring. He had told them that he would welcome help from individual [Page 387] members of the Security Council, and that he needs assistance. Secretary Rusk thought that Jarring was inclined to accept suggestions, but then simply pass them along and blame the individual party (i.e., Israel) for rejection.

Mr. Stewart asked if in about 2 weeks the US and UK could consult on what we would both say to Jarring and to Israel. He saw little chance of this matter working itself out, and said that the question is whether we work through Jarring or through Israel. Secretary Rusk hoped the British would give further thought to the problem, but reiterated his concern about the extreme nature of any proposals the Israelis might be able to agree on among themselves. Mr. Stewart thought that if this situation persisted, Jarring would have to be the path.

Secretary Rusk said that Eshkol should be thinking over the longer range problem of how tiny Israel could live in a sea of Arabs, but he seems unable to do this. On the other hand, said Secretary Rusk, the Egyptians said last summer that the question of passage through the Canal and the straits could be resolved. But they did not say that on June 1, 1967. The Arabs had also blocked a cease-fire attempt on the first day of the war, which, if successful, would have averted the fighting with Jordan and Syria.

There was some discussion about the duration of Jarring’s mission, and Mr. Brenchley said he understood that Jarring would remain at least until the end of August.

It was agreed that the UK and US would talk again in a week or 10 days. Secretary Rusk said that even if they agreed on pushing Jarring, there would also have to be work done with the Arabs and Israelis.

With regard to the Canal, Secretary Rusk said that we think the World Bank could play a role. Mr. McNamara is thinking about this, along the lines of the Bank taking the Canal in escrow for a period of rehabilitation. Mr. McNamara would probably visit Egypt in August, and so far as we know, Nasser has not rejected the idea.

Secretary Rusk and Mr. Stewart agreed that the continuing raids and artillery attacks on Israel risked a major Israeli reaction.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Conference Files: Lot 69 D 182, CF 300. Secret. Drafted by Deputy Director of the Office of NATO and Atlantic Political-Military Affairs John I. Getz, and approved in S on June 24. The meeting was held at the Embassy in Reykjavik, where Secretary Rusk headed the U.S. Delegation to the North Atlantic Council Ministerial Meeting June 24-25.
  2. Separate memoranda on Rusk’s conversation with Stewart dealing with Berlin, NPT, Vietnam and Laos, Gibraltar, Southern Rhodesia, the U.S. defense budget, and future problems are ibid.