258. Telegram From the U.S. Interests Section of the Spanish Embassy in the United Arab Republic to the Department of State 1
Cairo, September 19, 1968, 1121Z.
3424. From Battle.2
- Accompanied by Bergus I called today on Foreign Minister Riad for one hour frank, very warm exchange views. After lengthy pleasantries, I said that I felt my visit should be one in which we looked not to past but to the future. I was concerned at increased tension in area which underlined need for getting on with an inevitable job before us. All of us had important roles to play. These roles vary. If there is no progress, we cannot forgive ourselves nor will history forgive any of us who might have contributed to progress. So far, no one had done as much as he could. The upcoming General Assembly with the key Foreign Ministers in New York was an opportunity which we must not lose. I asked what the Minister saw ahead of us.
- Riad agreed we must make special effort next few weeks. A critical stage has been reached and something must be done. Jarring is doing his best but what can be expected? The UAR has refused him nothing and the Israelis have insisted on direct negotiations and a peace treaty which no one in the Arab world can accept. This means Israelis don’t want settlement. Everyone talks about peace and a settlement but the meaning of these words, plus particularly the phrase “secure boundaries,” [is?] remote with everyone giving his own interpretation. While all express approval Jarring Mission, what it needs is “fuel.” Implementation of the resolution has been refused by Israelis and only [Page 511] Washington can tell Israel what to do. More and more arms are going to Israel from US. More and more planes are promised them. Both candidates are committed. How can there be movement if US insists Israelis must have air superiority. They can occupy and destroy and are in a happy position from which they can threaten others. They get all the money they need. Why should they withdraw? They hope to destroy the regime in UAR and in Syria. Riad hopes they can be convinced to find a just solution but he is not expecting much at UN. He had made suggestions at Stockholm which called for a timetable, a program, or call it what you will. The result in the Arab world has been critical and there had been suggestions for Arab summit to review position he had taken which underlines political problem in UAR and in Arab countries.
- I replied that we had both heard all arguments perhaps too many times about the past. I must underline that neither side had done as much as it could or as much as was necessary. There had been moments when it seemed to us the sides were close to a situation in which movement was possible but each side had passed the other in the night. Riad referred to US leverage; I must refer to Egyptian leverage. He said the world looked to the US; I said that the world looked to UAR and to Israel. There had been too much talk of modalities and inadequate testing by either party of the real substance of the position of the other party. I must point out that the Israelis now talked a great deal less about direct negotiations and peace treaty, indicating more flexibility on a key issue. In my opinion, for the UAR to continue to insist on no negotiations was as unrealistic as for Israelis to insist negotiations could only take one form. We had repeatedly stated our position on this matter, most recently in a very important speech by President Johnson which I wished to leave with him and which I hoped he would read with great care. Riad’s statement that he expected nothing in New York unless the US moved is in effect to dodge the issue and shatter hopes of mankind. Basic issue is whether Arabs and Israelis are willing to live with each other. What the Israelis want is acceptance of their existence and a contractual arrangement in a form the world can understand and support resolving the issue once and for all. This does not necessarily mean exchange of Ambassadors or diplomatic acceptance but it did mean willingness to live and let live.
- With respect to arms the US had over many years avoided being major supplier arms to area. We continued to follow this policy. We had both before and after the present war supplied arms but in much smaller quantities than requested. When UAR rearms itself in great quantities and increases personnel other countries this had resulting effect on US and on imbalance in area. We had shown great restraint and continued to do so. While I regretted such issues found their ways into domestic campaigns, I must point out that no statements by political [Page 512] parties confined themselves to issue of arms. In each statement there was strong expression need for settlement and peace and statements must be read in totality.
- US interests clearly dictated need to find road to peace and stability. There was essential requirement for parties find means accommodation. US has a role to play but, as in past, UAR tended believe our leverage greater in any situation than it was in fact. We wished find way to help and we want and need peace in area but such leverage as we had in situation not being utilized when both parties focused on modalities and when issues substance not dealt with in manner in which we could press parties effectively toward middle and common ground between their two extreme positions. Both sides, in absence negotiations, permitted their own public opinion to drift and positions harden and cheated themselves of leverage international community might exert towards settlement. Neither the Arabs nor Israelis could afford another round of military action. That Israelis must withdraw in context settlement had always been US position but we cannot say what boundaries would be agreeable. There are many forms negotiations and many forms of peace, as President Johnson’s speech so clearly recognized. Riad had referred to fact Israel “happy.” No one could find happiness in present situation and certainly not US.
- Riad replied there was no end to the arguments each side made. He agreed that there was need for boundaries although doubted term “secure boundaries” capable clear definition. When territorial claims Israel public and maps published by them reflected Sinai part Israel, difficult to believe Israelis had good intention. One had to only read public statements Dayan and others to be convinced Israeli intentions.
- I replied Israelis had repeatedly informed us they had no territorial ambitions for UAR territory, at which point Riad said “we don’t believe them.” I replied that it was impossible for me to believe all public statements made either in Cairo or Tel Aviv and that what was told to us privately often was at variance with public statements both sides. I urged UAR find a means test intentions.
- Riad agreed too much had been said. He pointed to Jordan as country which had attempted test intentions without success. Riad spoke in some detail with equanimity and indeed sympathy re contacts that had been going on between Israelis and Jordanians. He referred specifically to Israeli contacts Palestinian leaders. In response Israel had declined to discuss substance. At present Jordanians feared another Israeli attack. This could mean complete deterioration.
- I replied that some means must be found break circle of El Fatah activity and response by Israelis. UAR largest and most influential country in area and must find way help.
- Riad repeated that he had refused Jarring nothing. I knew emotions and feelings of people from my own residence in area. US had public opinion problems which led leaders to have to write letters or make statements to Zionists every day. UAR also had its problems. Only UAR and Jordan had accepted November 22 resolution. Algeria and Syria had refused and Algeria had abstained in Security Council vote yesterday because of reference to resolution which it had not accepted. UAR has accepted resolution but cannot go too far too fast or its voice in area would be of no value and would help nobody. In New York perhaps there will be more time. There must be more talk in New York and Riad hopes for concrete ideas from the US on how to deal with problem. We must not move in wrong direction.
- I replied that we had refrained thus far from offering plan and that we had no blueprint for settlement. I was not sure what lead Jarring would take in New York but we wished to help in any way possible in supporting him and anticipated he would take very active role.
- Riad said he was not asking for concrete plan but hoped that we would go beyond generalities to specifics. We need more frank discussions and must “dot the i’s.” The meeting ended with expressions some hope for New York. On way to car Mohamed Riad, who had been present, remarked that Foreign Minister had pointed some new directions, apparently referring desire concrete thoughts from USG.
- Comment: Both Bergus and I considered talk very useful although not changing course history. Excellent rapport existed and there was obvious pleasure that Riad had opportunity for such talk. There was also clear indication he wished continue explorations with us in New York and prepared make effort facilitate consultations Ambassador Ball.
- Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 ARAB-ISR. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Repeated to Amman, Tel Aviv, and London.↩
- Battle was in Egypt to represent the United States in ceremonies winding up the project to keep Abu Simbel and other monuments from being covered by the water rising behind the Aswan Dam.↩