213. Telegram From the Embassy in Israel to the Department of State1

4534. Summary: In two-hour Ball-Sisco exchange with Eban,2 the following emerged:

Responsive to urgings of USG representatives, Eban indicated that GOI regarded direct bilateral negotiations not so much as a doctrinal [Page 411] pre-condition but primarily as an expression of belief that adequate contractual peace arrangements could not be achieved without direct dealing between the parties at some point.
Eban said GOI had decided probe UAR intentions and had therefore authorized Jarring put to UAR two questions concerning Egyptian concept of peace and nature of future UAR/Israeli relations.
Eban stressed that submission of Israeli questions through Jarring to UAR was an effort to sharpen issues and indicated willingness to proceed along this general line without waiting for prior Arab commitment to direct negotiations.
This represents effort shift Israeli strategy to concentrate on contractual nature of final settlement without insisting on formal bilateral negotiations as the first step in the road toward this objective.
In addition, for the first time Eban indicated that GOI would not necessarily insist on a peace treaty as the instrument at the end of road. He noted our suggestion of Japanese-Soviet declaration3 as a possible pattern of agreement. Without in any way committing his government he indicated further that if this meant the difference between settlement and no settlement, they would not necessarily break on this point.
Eban said that by the end of July or early August GOI would make clear to Jarring whether or not their present unofficial flirtation with Jordan was paying any dividends.
In later evening discussions with Ball, Eban reiterated GOI determination not to stick on procedural insistence on direct negotiations but try to sharpen the issues through indirect means on the clear assumption that some form of direct negotiation would be needed before final contractual arrangements could be developed in a situation so complicated as that of Arab-Israeli relations.
In later conversation with Sisco, Raphael revealed Jarring has been asked to suggest on his own that secret Israeli-UAR contact be established at “any level which commands respect of UAR decision makers” and that such contact would not be characterized by Israelis as either “negotiations” or “prenegotiations.” End Summary.
Ball and Sisco, accompanied by Ambassador Barbour, had two-hour sessions July 15 with Foreign Minister Eban and senior Foreign Office officials.
Ball opened with presentation along following lines:
USG concerned about Middle East problem in both long range and short range aspects. In longer run, USG desires satisfactory settlement [Page 412] of problems of Arab-Israel area. We recognize deep emotions on both sides and are sympathetic with Israeli desire for permanent settlement with recognized and secure boundaries. We agree there should be no further makeshift arrangements and understand Israel’s desire that settlement should be recorded in agreement among parties at interest. USG will continue support this concept. As Israel knows, we do not however believe formal peace treaties only way to conclude agreement and will want to discuss precise form settlement might take.
Immediate problem is how to get settlement process started. Long stalemate benefits no one: continued Israeli occupation of Arab territory is unnatural situation and new explosion in area could be highly dangerous. USG continues rely on Israeli assurances it desires reasonable settlement and is not interested in acquisition of territory. The more GOI can reaffirm this position the better standing it will enjoy in world public opinion and the easier its position will be to defend.
Looking at the situation in short term we must consider what we face in the next few months. We understand Jarring intends to submit purely factual report and desires avoid termination of his mission for return to Security Council. It now seems less likely than previously that Soviets and UAR seek return to Security Council but that risk, with accompanying pressures for imposed implementation of resolution, cannot be discounted.
Emphasizing that for talks to be useful they must be completely frank, Ball continued that immediate problem is to avoid Israel’s becoming isolated. GOI must give world an impression of a reasonableness and a will to peace. Arabs have recently conveyed appearance that they are more flexible and reasonable than Israel. This has been noted in Washington, in US public opinion and in other capitals. We do not know whether apparent Arab reasonableness is a mere tactical ploy or reflects substantive change. In circumstances however the implication is that Arabs want peace and Israel does not. The result is that USG has difficulty supporting Israeli position. We are particularly concerned about Israel’s dogged insistence on bilateral negotiations as only way to settlement. We understand need for contractual agreement but we are not persuaded that the insistence on direct bilateral negotiations is more than a procedural maneuver. If Israel continues to stick on this point, it will lose support of other countries. We do not think Israel will persuade Arabs to agree to bilateral negotiations at least at the beginning. We would have difficulty supporting this Israeli position in the Security Council.
Eban responded that GOI agreed on need for candid dialogue about appraisal of situation and how it can be influenced. There are some differences between US and Israeli appraisals. Israel has [Page 413] greater sense of confidence and tranquility than US appraisal would suggest.
“Atmosphere in Israel,” Eban said, “is dominated by memory of 1967 war and conviction Israel must not settle for less than peace within secure and recognized borders—i.e. liquidation of historic Arab-Israel conflict.” Recalling support of American people for Israel last year, Eban said that success of Arab design to destroy Israel would have had serious moral consequences for us and would have been enormous blow to USG credibility. Today, even USSR agrees that key to problem lies in Washington.
Eban continued that while there has been some Soviet penetration, particularly in Egypt, greater weight should be given to importance Arabs attach to US role and to existence of strains in Arab-Soviet relations. There have been several developments on credit side: doctrine of withdrawal without peace is discredited; Arab-Israel situation has had large impact in recent developments in Eastern Europe; and many Communist countries now regret having broken relations with Israel. In area itself, there is now intermingling of Israelis and Palestine Arabs which can never be reversed; logic of geographic proximity is beginning to prevail. Among governments concerned there is growing skepticism about efficacy of acrimonious public debate and GOI understands from Jarring that all parties including Soviets oppose return to Security Council.
Eban said foregoing are trends which should be permitted to ripen. Nothing radically dangerous has happened since November and we should not let delay plunge us into despair. Assumption that time not on Israel’s side is true only if one assumes that war is likely if present situation continues or if one assumes active Soviet intervention. Of all Arab states only UAR might seek renewed hostilities but this unlikely in any case this year or next; we are not on brink of conflict. Re Soviets GOI hears from Jarring, from Rumanian and other governments and from public statements that USSR is taking long view and urging patience on Cairo. As for terrorism, it constituted “hit and run nuisance of severe proportions” but could not change basic GOI political facts. El Fatah is far from being Viet Cong or Algerian liberation movement and has not prevented development of normal relations in occupied areas.
Looking at short term problem, Eban said it all important to focus on and sustain Jarring Mission. Time will continue to work on Arab mind. While UAR now talking differently for tactical reasons, it may some day act differently as well. Jordan has expressed interest in talks at Ministerial level but remains inhibited by desire for greater clarification of Israeli position and need for signs of acquiescence from Cairo.
Eban said he has told Jarring Israel expects have clearer idea of whether it can move with Jordan by end of July or early August. Logical [Page 414] place to move is in area where human issues are largest-i.e., with Jordan. Problems of Sinai are less urgent and Syria has eliminated itself.
Jarring has been telling GOJ Foreign Minister Rifai that he does not favor renewed debate with Soviets and not optimistic about getting better SC res. He (Eban) does not understand why UAR not pressing for return to SC if this would be as bad for Israel as USG indicates. In Eban’s view UAR does not have good case; in SC Cairo would have to say it wanted peace without negotiations, without signing anything, without explicit recognition of Israeli sovereignty-in brief, UAR wants to keep Palestine problem alive, liquidate results of last year’s defeat and again take up cry of liberation of Palestine.
Eban continued that Arab tactical ingenuity is breaking down. It becoming clear despite Arab denial that peace has juridical meaning and requires negotiations. If SC were only a tribunal of opinion, Israel would win on points; fact is that SC is a “packed court” and renewed SC session would constitute set-back to modest gains with Jordan.
Eban then summarized Israel’s assessment of UAR and Jordanian positions as follows:

UAR does not see peace as specific and formal but only as absence of war. It not only refuses to begin by direct negotiations but wishes avoid direct contact throughout. Instead of agreement between parties UAR wants greater part [great power?] guarantee; Israel learned in 1967 what guarantees mean and understands in any case that USG not enthusiastic about guaranteeing settlement which parties have not accepted. UAR willingness accept fact of Israel’s existence is meaningless; what is needed is judicial acceptance. UAR position falls short of what Israel, USG and SC have asked. Nasser has admitted internal weaknesses prevent his going further and Eban sees nothing much to do except to hope UAR situation changes. While UAR has admittedly achieved certain semantic gains, it began again in week of July 9 to come under world criticism, inter alia as result of break following Riyad’s reported Stockholm statement.

Eban at this point surfaced fact that Israel feels UAR should be put to test and therefore two weeks ago authorized Jarring to put following questions to UAR: “(1) Is Egypt prepared to exchange the state of war that she has maintained for 20 years for a state of peace consecrated by a binding instrument which contractually engages both parties? (2) What will be the content, quality and status of relations between Israel and Egypt after the two parties will have reached agreement regarding all points mentioned in the Security Council resolution?”

In presenting foregoing questions, Israel had told Jarring that for GOI peace means end of conflict analogous to settlements following [Page 415] World War II. This included, for example, Soviet-Japanese agreement. Israel also probing UAR through others (e.g., the Netherlands) and has sent letters which could be shown to UARG.

Re Jordan, Israel has better contact and therefore better idea of GOJ position. Jordan less obsessed by juridical and procedural inhibitions, but wants better idea of substance of Israel’s terms, i.e., will Jordan get back enough to make peace worthwhile? Israel has given Jordan some ideas and some, unfortunately, have also become public knowledge. Allon plan4 is example of effort devise arrangements to safeguard Israel’s security, but Eban emphasized that none of plans which are being publicized represent Israeli Government position. Re Jerusalem, Israel prepared work out formula giving juridical status to Christian and Moslem interests but within framework of the reality that Jerusalem has been Israel’s capital for 19 years and cannot be again divided.
Eban said Israel has seen some change in U.S. view of settlement with Jordan. Whereas U.S. supported idea of Israel-Jordanian agreement last fall, he (Eban) now senses U.S. skepticism re this idea. U.S. must take Israel’s word that advanced discussions are going forward at high level in hopes of beginning Ministerial talks in New York-perhaps during fall session of General Assembly. Situation is in flux and not all symptoms are negative.
Re U.S. concern about SC resolution, Eban said there have been too many Soviet initiatives in support of Arab interests and too few U.S. initiatives in support not of Israel’s but of American interests. Israel believes U.S. could again rally support against irresponsible efforts to upset “delicately and obscurely balanced” SC res.
Eban agreed need to refurbish appearance of Israeli position but saw no reason to move from basically good posture. Israel will not withdraw from cease-fire lines except in return for peace. Withdrawal must be justified to Israeli people. In some places peace and security have territorial implications, and Israel accepts U.S. view stated by Goldberg November 15 that permanent boundaries must be different from armistice lines. Israel cannot now say where boundaries would be; nature of peace settlement will influence nature of boundaries. As U.S. knows, there are tendencies in Israel to emphasize security in territorial terms.
Eban said Jarring agrees on usefulness of asking UAR how it interprets peace. UAR would probably answer by asking how Israel [Page 416] defines boundaries to which GOI would reply its aim is to devise agreement which will avoid military confrontation and assure free navigation. Re Tiran, no one has yet suggested way of assuring passage without Israeli presence at Sharm al-Sheikh. Re Suez, Israel must have full equality with all other nations. GOI doubts that UAR will develop dialogue further but has some hope with Jordanians.
Eban said GOI is flexible about form of peace settlement (e.g., Israel willing examine Soviet-Japanese formula) and sees territorial possibilities.
In Eban’s view, charge of rigidity re direct negotiations is not justified. Israel cannot be ostracized and in any event issues are too complex to be negotiated indirectly. Israel does not exclude third party good offices leading to fruitful negotiations—e.g., Jarring’s probing of UAR and its own contacts with Jordan. There could be a turning point if Israel had informal and disavowable channel with UAR as with Jordan and Lebanon, and GOI would be willing to state it would not consider this to be “negotiations”, or “pre-negotiations”. Rafael described this as a “clarification” approach.
Eban said there were number of things which could be done: U.S. could pursue active diplomacy, reasserting support for Israel as Soviets do for Arabs; U.S. could reaffirm that it wants a solution and not palliatives; U.S. and GOI could work in other capitals; U.S. could maintain balance of political and material strength in area—e.g., by providing aircraft. Even though aircraft would not arrive before 1970, decision would be important psychologically and politically to eradicate in 1968 the illusion of a military solution in 1969.
Ball said GOI decision to put questions to UAR and Jarring was useful step. Re description of Israeli negotiating posture as rigid, Ball said he wished to clarify this as follows: he inclined agree that no contractual agreement possible without parties sitting down together at some point, but much can be done to sharpen issues through intermediaries.
Sisco noted that it important to know what Jarring does with these questions, for them to be followed up by Israel. Israel now has moved down road towards substance as U.S. earlier suggested. It now important also to consider public relations aspect of this movement. Whatever UAR intentions are, fact remains that comparison of UAR and Israeli public statements gives impression of hardening Israeli position.
Ball said it desirable eliminate elements of ambiguity in order clear way for hard bargaining and latest Israeli questions to UAR represent progress. What is important is that a process be set in motion which Jarring can then guide as he thinks best. Israel seems to have made a start and we would urge that it press for continuing this process. So far as concerns negotiating procedures, our concern is that Israel not [Page 417] continue to insist that direct bilateral negotiations be prior condition for anything to happen. The insistence on direct negotiations should not be erected as a major principle; they should be viewed as something whose necessity becomes apparent to all as other processes are exhausted. This is point on which we differ with GOI.
Ball said there no change on US attitude towards negotiations with Jordan. Misunderstanding may have arisen from his statement to Argov in Washington that, so long as such negotiations must be kept secret that cannot help Israel’s public position. Continuation of dialogue with Jordan is useful although there are limits on how far Hussein can go without nod from Cairo [garble], however, that most difficult questions lie with Jordan and that these also weigh most heavily in world opinion. One could make case for not treating opening of Suez Canal as urgent matter but issues with Jordan are pressing. To help get negotiating process started, Israel should reiterate as often as possible its willingness to withdraw and its will for peace. It is important to counteract cynics who tend discount Israeli statements and conclude that Israel has territorial ambitions.
Eban said Jordanian Minister Rifai had told Jarring in London that (A) Jordan wants Jarring Mission to continue; (B) Jordan does not want Security Council session (which only Iraqi PermRep is pressing for). Rifai did not say that Israel was holding back but considers further clarification of Israeli position necessary, a clarification which Israel cannot for “technical reasons” provide before late July or late August.
Ball then described impressions of talks in London and Paris as follows:
UK is more impressed than USG with indications of Arab movement and has sense of urgency about opening Canal and releasing trapped ships.
French reiterated view that bilateral negotiations are unrealistic goal and only way to progress is through Security Council action and great power guarantee-in effect an imposed settlement. Sisco noted that new element in French position was that France does not preclude introduction of four power UN forces in area as part of settlement.
Eban said he had received letter from Foreign Secretary Stewart which brings British and Israeli relations closer. Stewart agrees nothing can be implemented that is not negotiated and agreed and clearly wants to avoid any impression of UK-Soviet alliance. Eban said he suspects UK wishes demonstrate it not tied to US; he says no fissures between Israel and UK, however. Israel agrees it would be better for Suez Canal to be open, but if this done without clarification of Israel’s rights a “May 22 casus belli situation” would be created.
Ball noted that UAR and Soviets are the most interested in opening the Canal. To extent that the Soviet insistence on opening Canal is not satisfied, it may be easier to influence Soviets to take positive attitude.
Eban said Jarring was in delicate position; he did not want too many mediators and Israel itself favors working through UN mechanism. In this process Israel should perhaps make clearer its willingness enter pre-negotiations.
In response to Sisco’s comment that Jarring needed to submit as non-substantive a report as possible, Raphael reported Jarring had told him he (A) will not submit substantive report but will talk of “movement,” (B) will not make new suggestions unless both parties agree and (C) will not assess blame on either side.
Re tactical problem, Eban said it would be useful to play out situation until Foreign Ministers are in New York in September. It could then be possible to explore not only what to do in public but to use UN as diplomatic cover. To get away from “procedural acrobatics,” it would help to press idea of “UN conference procedure with Jarring in the chair.” Israel understands that Jordan does not need equal movement on UAR side but does require some token movement.
Sisco thought Jordan would be influenced by what they learn in advance of Israel’s position on substantive issues. It would be dangerous for Jordan to engage in joint meetings without first having given Jordan some concrete indication on substance of settlement. Eban observed that in Palestinian community there was growing sense of nationhood and need for settlement. This is good in that it helps push Jordan toward settlement but is no substitute for interstate agreement.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, UN 7. Secret; Priority;Exdis. Repeated to Amman, Beirut, Jidda, London, Jerusalem, USUN, and Moscow.
  2. Ball and Sisco visited Israel July 14–16 as part of an orientation trip for Ball as the new Permanent Representative to the United Nations. The trip began in London on July 10 and included a stop in Paris before Tel Aviv. After leaving Tel Aviv, Ball and Sisco went to Amman July 16–17, Beirut July 17–19, and Jidda July 19–20. Their conversations in London, which included consultations about the Middle East, were reported in telegrams 10747 and 10803 from London, both July 12. (Ibid., POL 27 ARAB-ISR) The stop in Paris, which also included talks on the Middle East, was reported in telegrams 17949 and 17950 from Paris, both July 13. (Ibid.)
  3. See footnote 4, Document 207.
  4. The Allon plan, formulated by Yigal Allon, called for a line of fortified Israeli settlements along the Jordan River, with the remainder of the West Bank to be otherwise demilitarized.