218. Telegram From the Embassy in Lebanon to the Department of State 1

11145. Dept pass Cairo. To Secretary from Ball. Subject: Audience with King Hussein.

Sisco, Amb Symmes and I were received by King, Wednesday, July 16. Zaid Rifai was only other Jordanian present at beginning of conversation, but during course of discussion Prince Hassan joined group.
We were received with warmth and a perceptible sense of expectation. Throughout our discussion, the King displayed philosophical detachment, suggesting substantial resignation to the unhappy situation [Page 427] of his country but indicating at the same time that he was not discouraged though eager to find a solution.
After handing King President’s letter (Beirut 11146)2 for which he expressed gratitude, I underlined continuing US support of November 22 resolution and Jarring Mission. I also referred to US assurances made to King during discussion of November 22 resolution in NY and stated that “we still bore them in mind.”
I then outlined presentation made earlier to PriMin, placing emphasis on two questions Israelis had requested Jarring to put to UAR. Significance of these questions, I explained, was not so much their content but their value as evidence that Israel tentatively seeking to begin process of clarifying issues through means other than bilateral negotiations at outset. I made clear that this provided opportunity for Arab nations to move the situation off dead center provided UAR gave sensible and not merely dialectical reply to the Israeli questions. I suggested also that if UAR really wanted negotiating process to begin, it should accompany its response with submission of question of its own, implying this was test of Arab good-faith determination to seek lasting solution. To avoid misunderstanding, however, I made clear that I had not recently talked with Jarring and did not know how he intended to handle Israeli questions.
Israel was, I stated, clearly more interested in attempting to settle its relations with Jordan than with the UAR. It wanted to find a modus operandi with its closest neighbor as soon as possible, while being prepared to wait for unlimited time for solution of Suez and Sinai problems. It was in this context that I reviewed with King details of message that FM Eban had asked me to convey to the GOJ.3 In serving as an instrument of transmission, however, I made it clear that the USG was expressing no independent judgment as to merits or demerits of Israeli position. Moreover, the King should understand that we saw the Israeli proposals as representing merely an initial bargaining position.
The Israelis, I said, had retreated somewhat from their insistence on direct negotiations at the outset and were obviously prepared for some indirect exchanges with the GOJ in order to give the King some indication of Israeli thinking. At same time, the USG considered it imperative that the GOJ be prepared to utilize FonMin Rifai’s visit to the GA in September as the occasion for serious talks with the Israelis. I told the King that I had strongly pressed on Israelis that the [Page 428] position of doctrinal insistence on direct negotiations to exclusion of all other diplomatic exchanges was totally unrealistic and self-defeating. At the same time, the Arab world should understand that in our view no secure peace could ever be arranged unless the Arabs were prepared at proper point for some form of direct discussions leading to contractual arrangement. I pointed out that as I saw it, the GOI had not formulated a governmental position as to precisely what kind of a settlement with Jordan they envisaged. The government was in some disarray with sharply conflicting opinions among the members of the Cabinet and I thought the GOI incapable of making any precise plans until forced to do so by the necessities of an ongoing negotiating process. Time was working on nobody’s side and if any progress were to be made, the present excuses for inaction on both sides must be put aside. The only way to begin was to begin.
King Hussein responded with quite evident gratitude for President’s letter and for information we had brought him. He made brief general review of efforts he and GOJ had made to bring sanity into situation following the war. At the Khartoum summit, he had tried vigorously, but without success, to avoid the adoption of the conditions of no peace treaty, no direct negotiations and no diplomatic recognition, which today were not only obstructing Jarring Mission but also enabling Israel to exploit alleged Arab intransigeance. Since Khartoum, he had tried hard to find out what the Israelis really wanted but, again, without success.
Israel, the King said, had three faces. There was the religious group, the hard-line expansionist and the moderate realistic element. As a result, there was no consistent Israeli policy to which the Arabs could address themselves.
Jordan had made clear to Jarring and to its friends, including the US, where it stood on all aspects of the Nov 22 resolution, and the King felt that Jordan must stay within the framework of the resolution since there was no other clear guide to settlement. The King then asked me what in our opinion he could and should do to move the problem forward.
I answered by referring again to the possible significance of questions that Israel has asked Jarring to transmit to the UAR and emphasized need for a constructive Arab response. I referred also to Eban’s expressed hope that joint Israeli/GOJ meetings of some sort might be arranged in New York in September. The King appeared to agree with these ideas and both Sisco and I interpreted his reaction as a determination to do all that was possible along these lines.
In more general conversation in which Zaid Rifai participated, Sisco made point that the November 22 resolution is a package of principles, the details of which require discussion between the parties to reach a settlement.
At the conclusion of our long discussion, the other luncheon guests were brought in, including PriMin and FonMin. The conversation at luncheon was social in character, although toward the end of the meal, in replying to general question, the FonMin stated for the benefit of the whole table that he was not at all discouraged about the Middle Eastern situation and that “we have moved from first phase into second phase.” The FonMin then observed that “if we can move it to this second phase, we can start doing business.”
When we took our leave after lunch, King stated with great warmth: “I can’t tell you what it has meant to me or how grateful I am for your coming here and for what you have told me.”
Impression given during entire meeting was that King was tired and very serious, by no means despairing and eager and determined to get on with settlement. In course of conversation, the King made two statements which seemed particularly significant. One was that information we had brought him from Israelis gave him “something he could get started with.” The second was that Jordan and UAR had “different interests,” implying his willingness to press for a settlement of Israel/Jordan problem alone, regardless of UAR foot dragging.
It seemed significant that audience with the King did not include any Ministers and that at no time did tone or content suggest any of the more formalized Arab position we had been given by Rifai and PriMin in earlier meeting. Nevertheless, Sisco tells me Rifai seemed more attuned to King’s views than was case during detailed talks in NY last year.4
The King made no comments that tended in any way to corroborate Israeli contention that there were secret direct contacts between Israel and Jordan. In fact, implications of his statements were quite to the contrary.
The King also did not react specifically to any of Eban’s points, except to indicate that it would be most unfortunate if Jerusalem, as the city of peace, should be the single factor that obstructed a peaceful settlement. By what he did not say, he seemed to indicate that he personally has some flexibility on the question of Jerusalem and recognized there can be no return to the pre-June 1967 situation.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, UN 7. Secret; Priority;Exdis. Repeated to Amman, Tel Aviv, Moscow, Jidda, London, USUN, and Jerusalem.
  2. Document 219. The July 13 letter from President Johnson to King Hussein was transmitted in telegram 202036, Document 211.
  3. See Document 217.
  4. Documentation on King Hussein’s U.S. visit in November 1967 will be printed in Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, volume XIX.