230. Telegram From the Embassy in Jordan to the Department of State1

6029. Ref State 214812.2

While I was waiting to see King Hussein on the third, his confidant, Zaid Rifai, invited me into his private office for what turned out to be a long conversation. After making his usual arguments for the need of US pressure on Israel to move more constructively toward a peace settlement, Zaid at one point commented the Israelis should know that Jordan would welcome secret and separate talks if Israel had something concrete to offer. He said that Israel would be surprised by how receptive Jordan would be to realistic, concrete proposals designed to bring about a package settlement with Israel. He then volunteered that there are not now and have not been in the past any contacts with Israel about specific matters of substance. Referring to messages that have been brought over by people like Hikmat al-Masri, Zaid said, “The trouble is the Israelis never get down to earth with us.”
Comment: Viewed in the gloomy aftermath of Israel’s air strike on August fourth, Zaid Rifai’s comments might not seem so significant as the day they were uttered. Nevertheless, I would judge they more than likely reflect the thinking of the King, and therefore should be treated seriously. Rifai’s reference to the need for concrete proposals from Israel underlines what has been said frequently by the FonMin and Hussein to recent American visitors such as Ball and Sisco. It reveals that if concrete, specific proposals were advanced by Israel, Jordan or, rather, the King would attach relatively little importance to the channel through which they might be transmitted, whether from Jarring, or through something like the Ball/Sisco medium, or the “secret and separate talks” which Rifai mentioned.
I understand why Dept does not wish to probe either Israelis or Jordanians with regard to “disavowable” or other type contacts they may have. If any contacts, whatever their nature, are to do any good so far as Jordanians are concerned, they will have to get concrete. Dept [Page 451] may wish therefore to consider passing Zaid’s comments to an appropriate Israeli official.3
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 ARAB-ISR/SANDSTORM. Secret; Nodis; Sandstorm.
  2. In telegram 214812 to Amman, August 3, the Department, in response to an Embassy suggestion, stated that while it had operated for some time on the assumption that secret contacts were underway between Jordan and Israel, it saw no reason to ask the Israeli Government about the contacts. The Department noted that the Israelis had indicated that they intended to offer a judgment as to the possibilities for progress with the Jordanians by early August. The Embassy was instructed to deny all knowledge or suspicion of such contacts. (Ibid.)
  3. Telegram 215397 to Tel Aviv, August 5, instructed the Embassy to pass along Zaid Rifai’s comments, as reported in telegram 6029 from Amman. (Ibid.) When Barbour conveyed the comments to Eban on August 8, Eban said that his government did have concrete ideas about a settlement, but felt that they should be disclosed directly to the Jordanians, either privately or in Jarring’s presence. He said he would speak to Jarring and offer Israeli cooperation, and added that the opening of the UN General Assembly offered the most propitious opportunity. (Telegram 4842 from Tel Aviv, August 9; ibid.)