252. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Israel 1

238798. Subj: Jarring Mission; Suez.

Summary. At his request Israeli Amb Rabin, accompanied by Argov and Raviv, called on Asst Secy’s Battle and Sisco Sept 13 to discuss Sov ME approach to US and Jarring Mission. Rabin said description of Sov approach given him Sept 11,2 although lacking details, sounded like imposed settlement. It appeared US could have had two purposes in telling GOI of approach: to alarm and warn GOI in order erode Israeli policy, or to indicate USG considering change in its ME policy. Battle and Sisco emphasized they informed GOI of Soviet ideas in belief it should know of approach even though USG position on it not yet determined and could not, therefore, be given Rabin. Had also considered it important pass on our view that, regardless USG position, Sov ideas would have considerable appeal among 124 UN members. Soviet ideas would be evaluated within framework of US policy as stated by President in June 1967 and this week.
In response Rabin’s repetition of query what US thought GOI should do to help move matters ahead, Sisco pointed out in absence Israeli peace plan ideas of other side pre-empted situation and had considerable [Page 496] appeal to many countries. Battle said GOI international support eroding and reiterated past urgings that GOI keep before world its willingness to withdraw in context peace settlement, since world increasingly believes Israel has no intention of withdrawing and is insisting on direct negotiations as cover to avoid withdrawal. Rabin replied Israel stood firmly for achievement real peace. Until Arabs ready for peace, nothing more to say.
USReps reiterated US deep concern over worsening situation along Suez and fact actions of both sides could exacerbate it. Rabin responded that there no doubt of new UAR military policy but that GOI not worried. He said Israel had found Arabs always see Israeli move to SC as sign of weakness. End summary.
Rabin first asked about US-UK talks of Sept 12-13.3 Battle said they had gone well and briefly indicated subjects discussed. He said we had reported Sov approach to UK in about same terms as to Israel. There had been review of status Jarring Mission and agreement to do all possible in its support.
Referring to Sept 11 meeting, Rabin said Israelis had given careful consideration to what had been said. He noted first that US had emphasized that time running out and there must be movement toward settlement. However, he had received no reply to request for specific advice or suggestions on what Israel should do.
Re Sov proposals, description given had been in general terms with no specific info on contents. Appeared US might be trying alarm and warn GOI with purpose of eroding policy. He wished make abundantly clear this would lead nowhere. Other possibility was US considering change in its ME policy as stated by Pres June 19, 1967 and reaffirmed by him Sept 10. It seemed strange conversation had come within 24 hours of President’s restatement of US policy. He emphasized, however, even if there change in US policy, there would be no change in basic GOI policy.
Rabin expressed view Soviets by changes in “scenery,” atmosphere and appearances trying make possible return to status quo ante the June war. Increased tensions along Suez, Sov approach to US, and UAR last message given Jarring supported this thesis and indicated effort to alarm USG and GOI. Israel, he said, was not at all alarmed. He saw no alternative to sticking to policy of no half measures or half solutions but real peace. This would call Soviet bluff. GOI had taken Ball/Sisco advice in Jerusalem and started indirect substantive exchanges; [Page 497] if this process stopped, it not Israel’s fault. He realized there might be tactical problem in UN, and he prepared discuss this, but basically he was optimistic. He thought we should not worry about Sovs.
Sisco agreed Rabin had not been given specific advice he requested Sept 11. This was in part because we wished avoid making specific comments on one point or another contained in detailed substantive exchanges parties conducting through Jarring. Reason we had stressed that time running out was importance we attach to what attention GOI giving to moving Jarring Mission along at time GA convenes and FonMins in NY. This consistent with our view of importance supporting Jarring. We had emphasized that to extent no real progress made through Jarring by parties, initiatives-not necessarily helpful-will come from others. We thus remain very interested in getting progress through Jarring, and we continue to urge GOI to examine carefully what steps it can take to help Jarring make progress toward agreement called for in SC resolution.
We had tried give Israel some idea of Sov approach, Sisco continued, and repeated four principal elements around which Sov proposals revolved. We had explained we had made no value judgment and were studying proposals. He and Battle not authorized say more. Battle emphasized his view, shared by Sisco, had been that, in light US-Israel relationship, it desirable inform GOI of Sov approach even before able report definitive US judgment. Sisco added had tried do this while pointing out Sov ideas would have considerable attraction among 124 UN members. If UAR gives Jarring its peace plan and it bad from Israeli point of view, it nevertheless will have good deal of attraction to others if it not possible point to alternative Israeli peace plan. Even if not acceptable, UAR ideas would preempt situation. As for possible change in US policy, Sisco noted he had told Argov, and we reaffirming this again, that we, of course, studying Sov proposals in framework of President’s policy, and Battle pointed out Sov proposals known to USG prior to President’s Sept 10 speech.
Battle considered question about what Israel specifically should do a very legitimate one. In reply he said he would repeat what he had said many times before over past weeks and months, totally without regard to Sov move. He had warned Israel to look ahead and not underestimate degree to which international support eroding. He had pointed out that, quite apart from facts of matter, Arabs were doing better in world propaganda battle. GOI was failing to keep before world its willingness to withdraw in context of a settlement. World increasingly believed Israel had no intention of withdrawing and insisted on direct negotiations in order avoid withdrawal. If there was one single factor that had given Arabs propaganda advantage, it was this. Sisco noted Rabin had referred, as in past, to tactical problem in UN. [Page 498] We viewed matter in much more fundamental way, as basic to whole question of achieving progress toward settlement, not just question of UN tactics.
In reply to Battle’s point, Rabin said perhaps Israel had nothing new to say and Arabs more capable of keeping headlines. But Israel had firm policy. It wanted peace settlement, and once this said there nothing more to add. He thought many understood need for achieving real peace. At urging of Ball and Sisco during ME trip, Israel had agreed try process of clarification through indirect exchanges but got no answer from UAR to question whether it ready for peace. If clarification process stopped, it not Israel’s fault. Key problem not what newspapers and other media said but that US believe real peace is what should be achieved. Sisco pointed out there no doubt of US view on this. President had just reiterated this; we want real not illusory peace in area.
Rabin continued as long as other side did not cross this line, other points such as boundaries, not important. Israel had tried through Jarring and other means to get answer on basic question of peace, but had gotten nothing. If UAR had said it was ready for peace, meaning a, b, and c, on assumption there would be agreement on boundaries, refugees, etc. he would have understood, but there was no use avoiding fact main issue between Israel and UAR was still peace.
Sisco informed Israelis on confidential basis that he and Ball, en route Brussels to brief NATO on UN problems, would stop in Paris to get Jarring’s latest assessment. He would find Rabin’s assessment of where things stand helpful for this talk. Rabin said he did not yet have details of latest UAR message through Jarring though Eban had said it no reply and couched in vulgar terms. Rabin thought it pertinent UAR had tried to deny publicly that there had been exchanges through Jarring and at Arab FonMins meeting had described Jarring Mission as instrument to gain a little time.
Reverting to question of four-power guarantees, Sisco noted UK position known to Israel. UK concerned re Suez and much more disposed than we to have it handled as separate problem. French have long favored 4-power approach. Sov position on its role as major power also known. Therefore, 3 powers were already well-disposed to 4-power approach. Linking this to what he had said earlier, he suggested that to extent there no progress by parties, there will be growing stimulation of 4-power approach.
Rabin referred to question of withdrawal and direct negotiations, stating even if newspapers took position Battle had suggested, US and other govts and Jarring knew from GOI it not question of willingness to withdraw but of where lines should be. He saw no problem, therefore, with govts and their policies. Battle, however, said he [Page 499] had repeatedly made point to reps of many govts that Israel ready act on various issues in context of settlement. However, despite what GOI and USG said, many suspected GOI using modalities to cover up lack of will to achieve peace. If Israel wished to keep international support it had to take account of this.
Battle said he about to make trip to Cairo for Abu Simbel ceremony. Though we doubted much would come of it, he would like idea of what he could say to Nasser that would be constructive and helpful. Rabin replied Battle should ask two questions Israel put to UAR through Jarring: what is Nasser’s interpretation of peace with Israel, and what sort of relations would Israel and UAR have when peace achieved. Heikal said UAR would ignore Israel, but GOI said they could not ignore Israel. Some said peace treaty just piece of paper but for Israel recognition, peace, open borders were only hope. Absence of war between neighbors not enough. There must at least be start to crossing Rubicon of recognition and open borders, otherwise war would come again after few years.
Argov said in US statements re Sov proposals one ingredient missing-that proposals unacceptable. He wondered if four categories mentioned weren’t per se in sharp contrast to President’s policy enunciated few days ago. Repeating we had no USG position to convey at this time, Sisco said question Argov raised was judgment USG had to make. Yardstick to be used to evaluate Soviet or other ideas would be President’s policy. Rabin thought 4-power guarantees sounded like substitute for one element of US policy—need for contractual agreement between parties. Sisco explained it not clear whether Soviets have in mind that 4-power guarantees would be supplement or bulwark to agreement achieved in accordance with SC Nov 22 Res or substitute for it. This was one point being studied. Battle emphasized again Israelis should not read into what was said things that were not said. When he gave Israeli reps USG position, they could be confident he not free-wheeling. In present case he unable give them USG position; ideas are being studied. Matter has been discussed with Secy, who will be happy talk to Rabin, probably early next week. There would be further consultations with Israelis when it possible provide clearer info. Rabin explained Israel simply wished make clear from very beginning where it stood and not be late in doing so.
Turning to Suez situation, Battle noted US had spoken earlier to Israel, as well as UAR, about dangers. We very concerned and wondered if Rabin had any new info. Rabin expressed view there could be no doubt UAR following new policy along Suez. This clear from quick reaction to slightest incident and declaration that Egyptian Army ready not only to defend but to conduct active offense. This was policy statement even if UAR preferred say it in newspaper rather than officially. Moreover, [Page 500] he thought Israel would face similar situation on other borders. Rabin analyzed reasons for change in UAR policy as effort gain confidence of army and public, to help Jordan and show participation against Israel, to regain prestige and position as defender of other members Arab world, and to create atmosphere of urgency for solution of basic question.
Battle emphasized US deeply concerned actions of both sides could exacerbate already bad situation. Both he and Sisco said US very worried. Rabin said Israel was not. In October 1966 it had made mistake of taking case of incident with Syria to SC instead of “doing something”. Israeli move to SC always seen by Arabs as sign of weakness. Sisco admitted Israel not getting satisfaction from SC. Rabin said he had personally never expected it would.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 ARAB-ISR. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Drafted by Officer in Charge of UN Political Affairs Betty Jane Jones, cleared by Sisco, and approved by Battle. Also sent to USUN and repeated to Amman, Moscow, Cairo, and Paris for Ball and Sisco.
  2. In a September 11 conversation with Rabin, Battle and Sisco outlined some of the ideas put forward in the Soviet proposal conveyed by Dobrynin to Rusk on September 4. They noted that there was an indication that the Soviet Union was thinking in terms of four-power guarantees. (Telegram 236989 to Tel Aviv, September 12; ibid.)