221. Telegram From the Embassy in Jordan to the Department of State 1

5810. Subj: Bundy’s July 18 talk with King Hussein. Pass Ball/Sisco.

[Page 434]


In his July 18 talks with Bundy, King Hussein sought Bundy’s impressions of Israel, showing special interest in attitudes of Dayan. King stressed the importance of progress toward a settlement by the year’s end, and the necessity of having something tangible in the form of expectation of a “just” solution before he could directly confront the Fedayeen. Hussein also indicated a willingness to consider some territorial “give and take” in any settlement. The King was worried by the Iraqi coup, and appeared concerned that sooner or later Iraq and Syria might move closer together.
Bundy stressed that he believed the Israelis genuinely want peace. He encouraged the King not to waste any opportunity for indirect examination of the issues with key Israeli leaders such as Dayan; and he underlined the theme that all avenues leading to an exchange of viewpoints should be explored carefully. Bundy also conveyed Dayan’s warning that if Fedayeen forays into Israel continue, Israel might be forced again to strike at Jordan, causing further population displacement. Bundy advised the King that parties themselves have main responsibility for achieving settlement and should not expect USG or other outside govts to do it for them. Bundy said he sensed that the King has no currently active dialogue with Israelis but that he might, under some circumstances, undertake an initiative with the Israelis. Meanwhile King appears to hope someone else will do the job for him or at least get out in front. End of summary.
Bundy had audience July 18 with King Hussein. Crown Prince Hassan and King’s private secretary, Zaid Rifa’i, also were present. Bundy did not have opportunity before departure to clear following report of his conversation, which he gave us orally.
Bundy said his general impression was similar to that which he had acquired during King’s visit to Washington last summer. Hussein knows the problems that he faces, and he appears to realize that sooner or later he will have to make a stab at solving them. Bundy felt, however, that Hussein hoped someone else would achieve a settlement for him and that at least he, Hussein, would want someone else with him if not out in front. Bundy thought Hussein had regained some of the confidence he lacked during the summer of 1967, when Bundy found him “very shaky.”
Hussein asked Bundy to talk about his visit to Israel. Bundy said he thought the Israelis really meant it when they said they want peace but that of course they want it on a secure basis. Alluding to the fact that Amb Ball had conveyed to the Jordanians only the day before Eban’s comments on the outline of settlement, and his desire for a Jordanian response, Bundy emphasized that any avenue directed at feeling out the respective positions was worth exploring. Hussein commented that the [Page 435] Arab Foreign Ministers might be able to do this later in the summer in New York. The King also volunteered he considered highly important there be some meaningful progress by the end of the year. (But Bundy again felt that by progress the King did not mean Jordanian initiatives.)
King was most interested in Dayan. Bundy told him he thought that Dayan, in the absence of peace, was the firmest of Israelis; yet he would be the most moderate of all and essentially the most helpful to the Arabs once peace and Israel’s security was achieved. The King agreed with these comments. Bundy repeated to Hussein what Dayan had said to him about the cease-fire violations and Fedayeen raids. If Jordan were unsuccessful in controlling the Fedayeen situation in the Valley (implication being Beisan area), Israel would again have to take firm action and this might mean more Jordanians would be displaced. Bundy did not use Dayan’s argument that deeds, not words, were what counted, but he repeated Dayan’s comment that it would be in the King’s own interest to control the Fedayeen. Hussein responded that he could now meet any direct Fedayeen challenge to his authority but that he thought it was better to deal with the situation with indirect tactics for the time being. Hussein felt strongly that he had to have something tangible, the expectation of a “just” solution, in order to justify a direct confrontation with the Fedayeen.
Bundy commented to us that Hussein used the word “just” frequently and in much the same manner the Israelis used the word “peace.” A settlement in which all parties had confidence was the only solution, said the King. He obviously considers that Israel has given the Arabs thin soup so far. Nevertheless, he said he was continuing to pressure Nasser to continue the dialogue with Jarring (which Bundy took as a reference to the Israeli “two questions” posed to the UAR through Jarring), and said that some progress has been made since the Khartoum conference.
Before the King arrived at the meeting, Bundy had been told by Rifa’i that Israeli terms proposed for Jerusalem were “impossible.” When Jerusalem came up with the King, the latter was not so flatly assertive. Bundy referred briefly to President Helou’s idea of deliberately leaving the Jerusalem question “unsettled,” and obtaining agreement on all other issues first, but the King was unresponsive. Hussein repeated his frequently-used description of Israel as possessing three faces: the extremist one, which seeks the downfall of Jordan and Israeli occupation of the East Bank; the seemingly reasonable face, which wants a Palestinian entity; and the moderate face. The King said he has been trying to find the third face. He gave Bundy the impression that various territorial adjustments favorable to Israel could be considered, and that, for example, some territory could be given Israel in return for free Jordanian passage to the Mediterranean.
Bundy said he got no response from the King when he broached some of Eshkol’s ideas about a refugee solution. (Bundy noted wryly to us that Eshkol had sought his, Bundy’s, reaction to Ford financing of the settlement costs.)
Hussein pressed Bundy for information about political conditions in Washington. Bundy said that the US was heavily preoccupied with the war in Viet-Nam and with elections, and that there was little incentive to expend energy on a no-result exercise in the Arab-Israel contest. Bundy advised Hussein frankly not to depend on just the US and other outside states to find a way out, and he followed this up with the suggestion that Hussein should test the water with the Israelis, in any feasible, indirect way. Bundy mentioned that he thought Eban’s proposals, as conveyed through Ball, constituted an asking price, a bargaining position, and suggested Hussein not be discouraged by them. In addition he proposed specifically that Hussein not lose any opportunity to send a trusted emissary to talk to Dayan,2 for example, if the latter should travel to Europe. Bundy mentioned also that Teddy Kolleck, one of the most moderate men in Israel, was fortunately also Mayor of Jerusalem. This was another person with whom the Jordanians should get in touch.
Crown Prince Hassan, during the discussion of the possibilities of using US influence, proposed that the US apply pressure on Libya, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, all friends of US, to discourage them for subsidizing the Fedayeen. But the King dismissed these remarks as “minor point.”
Hussein revealed considerable uneasiness about the Iraqi coup. He said he was discouraged and worried, indicating that he thought that the new Iraqi govt, some way or other, sooner or later, would get close to the Syrian regime. Hussein regretted the fall of the Arif govt because he had been entertaining hopes of being able to deal with it effectively.
Summing up, Bundy said he gained the impression that Hussein ought [sought?] take an initiative with the Israelis if he saw a discreet opportunity to do so, but we should not count it. If we had to depend on Hussein to take the initiative, Bundy told us he was sure there would be little progress toward a settlement.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 ARAB-ISR. Secret; Exdis. Repeated to Beirut, London, Jidda, Rome, Tel Aviv,USUN, and Cairo.
  2. The Department reacted with concern to this suggestion. Telegram 207551 to Amman, July 23, warned that establishing a channel between the King and Dayan might pose risks for the King and could prejudice existing contacts between Israel and Jordan if Dayan was not aware of them. The Embassy was instructed to explain to the King that Bundy’s suggestion was not made at the behest of the U.S. Government. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country Series, Jordan, Vol. V, Cables, 3/68-1/69)