233. Memorandum From Harold H. Saunders of the National Security Council Staff to President Johnson1


  • Ambassador Ball’s Report on Middle East Trip

We have already described for you the results of Ambassador Ball’s Mid-East talks, so you do not need to read his long report (attached).2 However, you may wish to read the main personal conclusions which are scattered through his report:

Some movement on the part of Israel is perceptible. However, without substantial and continuing pressure from the United States on both the Israelis and the Arabs, the Jarring Mission is not going to produce any significant movement toward settlement.
Unless compelled to move affirmatively either by events or external pressure the Israeli government is quite ready to live with the present situation of neither peace nor war for an indefinite time.
King Hussein desperately wants a settlement since he has lost half his country and is under terrible pressure; however, his freedom of action is severely limited not only by the Palestinian Arabs who constantly threaten him, but by the UAR.
Nasser is in a weak position and will almost certainly take no initiative toward a settlement. While the UAR economy is a shambles he continues to live off a dole from the Saudis, Libyans, and the Kuwaitis, which he can probably continue to exact so long as the Canal remains closed.
King Faisal is driven by religious passion, and deeply preoccupied with the protection of the Muslim Holy Places in Jerusalem. Hussein must certainly consult Faisal on any Jerusalem settlement, and, if not satisfied, Faisal would try hard to persuade Hussein not to go ahead. Ambassador Eilts believes, however, that if Hussein were to accept a settlement, even though it fell short of what Faisal would like Faisal would grumble but do nothing about it.
Kosygin told Jarring recently that he wants a political settlement. While the prevailing “no-war, no-peace” situation is not unattractive to the Soviets, we should not take this for granted—particularly in view of their interest in opening the Suez Canal. It seems doubtful that we can deflect the Soviet Union from its one-sided support of the Arabs, but we should at least make an effort, if for no other reason than that 100 countries will expect us to do so.

In addition, Ambassador Ball reports that the UAR and USSR are under great pressure to see the Suez Canal opened, as are the British, Italians and French to decreasing degrees. Regarding our interest, Ball concludes: “We should make a study in depth to determine our position with regard to the opening of the Canal. If that study should show—as it well might-that our interests are best served by keeping the Canal closed—thus frustrating Soviet strategic ambitions and raising the cost of Soviet supplies to North Vietnam—then we should be quite tough-minded in not joining in efforts to separate this issue from an overall settlement, in spite of the continuing expense to our British, German and Italian friends. Alternatively, if the study should show that these strategic considerations are only marginally important, we might make a real effort to trade our support for the reopening of the Canal for Soviet support of an acceptable final settlement of the Middle Eastern problem.”

Jarring begins his next round of talks by meeting Eban in London August 9. We have urged Eban to show enough new flexibility so that Jarring will tell the Egyptians he is ready to start talking about substantive [Page 456] issues. Our objective is to pave the way for serious talk when the U.N. General Assembly meets in late September.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Middle East, Vol. II, 4/68-1/69. Secret; Nodis. A handwritten notation indicates that the memorandum was received at the LBJ Ranch on August 9 at 1:45 p.m.
  2. A 12-page report on the trip from Ball and Sisco to President Johnson and Secretary Rusk, dated August 6, was attached.