268. Telegram From Secretary of State Rusk to the Department of State 1

6764. Secto 05. Subject: Secretary-Eban Mtg (I)—Arab-Israeli settlement.2 Following based on uncleared memcon, noforn and FYI subject to revision upon review.

Begin summary. In meeting with Secretary September 30 Israeli Foreign Minister Eban: (a) sought to discredit recent Soviet Middle East initiative, expressing concern re differing US and Israeli interpretations; (b) welcomed President’s September 10 speech, expressing view that reports on US-Israeli differences on approach to settlement were exaggerated; and (c) made clear Israel continues adhere to position that it will withdraw from ceasefire lines only following signature of contractual agreements negotiated face to face at some stage, either under Jarring’s auspices or otherwise. Eban discounted possibility of early progress toward settlement with UAR due UAR determination not make peace. Eban said Israel therefore now gives priority to agreement with Jordan. He outlined in more specific terms than heretofore concepts which Israel believes should govern settlement with Jordan, which he said have been conveyed authoritatively to GOJ outside Jarring context. Concepts as described by Eban suggest some variation of an Allon plan, though he did not so categorize them. Eban expressed hope for progress with Jordan while in New York, looking ultimately Jordanian-Israeli meetings under Jarring’s auspices. At the same time, Eban said Israel will continue for tactical reasons to probe UAR position. Eban indicated that effort will also be made to improve Israel’s public image. To this end, while not surfacing any concrete “peace plan,” he will seek make clear before General Assembly Israel’s concept of peace with respect to such issues as boundaries, recognition and security.

Secretary made clear that US not buying “imposed solution” approach but did not think Soviet positions necessarily frozen, and [Page 530] stressed importance of maintaining contact with USSR on Middle East and other major problems. Eban seemed reassured by Secretary’s comments including US response to Soviet approach as outlined by Secretary. Secretary urged Israel to pursue both direct and indirect routes as feasible, to continue utilize Jarring and not to give up on UAR. Failure find early solution could have serious consequences and provide further opportunity for Soviets in Middle East. End summary.

FonMin Eban, accompanied by Ambassadors Tekoah and Rabin and Minister Argov, had one and one-half hour meeting with Secretary afternoon September 30. Ambassador Buffum, Assistant Secretary Sisco and Atherton (NEA) also present.
Eban said he had clear picture of USG views from President’s September 10 speech and accounts of Secretary’s meetings with Allon and Rabin. Israeli Cabinet had met several times to consider what Eban could say to give others, including world opinion through General Assembly, clear idea of Israel’s position.
To begin with, however, Eban said he wished to focus on ways of keeping US and Israel together. Israel found President’s speech clear reiteration of June 19 principles with some welcome additions, particularly emphasis on concept that Security Council resolution not self-executing but only a basis for parties to reach agreement. This went to heart of diplomatic deadlock, given UAR position that resolution could be carried out by declamation. Behind diplomatic deadlock, however, lay political deadlock arising from UAR determination not to make peace.
Eban continued that, while there was broad area of agreement between Israel and USG on approach to Arab-Israel settlement, he was not sure we shared common view of international setting which was inseparable from area problems. Specifically Eban thought US and Israel had differing views of Soviet policy. Soviet action in Czechoslovakia had caused wide concern in much of world and some friends of United States were troubled by our reaction. Israel believed Soviets had seriously prejudiced their position in world and that it was a mistake to act as though normal relations with USSR could be maintained. Israel believed Soviet intentions should be exposed, including their increasingly truculent position in Middle East and new Arab arms buildup. Czech invasion should be on GA agenda. Israel found incongruous and demoralizing the idea that US would welcome Soviet signature on ME settlement. USSR should not be invited into ME. In Israel’s view, USG should not continue contacts with Soviets on ME.
Re specifics of Soviet proposal which Israel knew in detail, Eban saw no merit in proposal for some kind of multilateral document. Such document wld merely be substitute for Arab-Israeli agreement and provide Soviets basis for later intervention. Israel also viewed negatively [Page 531] proposal for four-power guarantee, especially in absence of agreement among parties. We should not afford USSR statutory basis to intervene in ME.
In summary, Eban said Soviet approach did not constitute peace proposal but merely proposal for return to situation of June 4, 1967, with better basis than previously for Soviet penetration. In Israel’s view, role for great powers should be to insist that responsibility rested with the parties. Once agreement reached, it would be natural for there to be international endorsement on pattern of 1949 armistice agreements, of which SC took note after they had been negotiated by parties under UN auspices.
Turning to status of Israel’s exchange of views with the parties, Eban reviewed past efforts to initiate negotiations with Cairo. UAR had backed away from every effort, beginning with period before Jarring Mission and continuing through Jarring’s efforts to organize joint meetings last March and latest Israeli effort to begin indirect negotiating process in July through Sept this year. Latter exercise, Eban said, represented change of Israeli policy. Israel had begun by asking UAR to define its concept of peace and had hinted that it would not be dogmatic about form of peace settlement. UAR had replied with conventional abuse when Israel had asked what Cairo meant by proposal to record agreement in declaration to SC.
Eban said Israel had concluded that UAR was in state of ideological rigidity, unable to negotiate in any form. Eban disagreed with argument of some USG officials that UAR was unaware Israel would withdraw from occupied territories. UAR knew that it would recover its territories in context of peace. Israel’s concern in Sinai was security and free navigation, and UAR has already made clear that it did not want Gaza. Problem, Eban said, was that UAR wanted return of territories without peace and may believe this is possible, either through 1957-type political solution or military solution based on buildup of UAR air force in absence replacement of Israeli air losses. Israel had concluded that it not feasible to begin with Cairo, though for tactical reasons it should continue to probe UAR in order to expose Egyptian responsibility.
Eban said that logical approach therefore was to give priority to settlement with Jordan. Palestine Arabs and Jordanian Government in any case more involved since Palestine was heart of problem. Exchanges with GOJ, which began in April through Palestinian leaders, had recently become more intensive, concrete and authoritative. Israeli-Jordanian dialogue existed with respect to peace, population and boundaries. While Israel had drawn no lines on map, Jordan had detailed conceptual picture of what Israel wanted. Israel sought maximum security with minimum change of territory and population. [Page 532] Those responsible for Israel’s security believed changes were needed in uninhabited areas of Jordan Valley. This could be accomplished without breaking territorial link between East and West Banks. Essential conditions, however, were that there be no Arab army West of Jordan River and that boundary be a “community boundary” mutually open as at present, with Mediterranean port facilities for Jordan through Israel and access for Israel to places of religious and historical interest to Israelis in Jordan. On Jerusalem, Israel envisaged Jordan as custodian of Moslem holy places with access agreements to be negotiated.
Eban said most of world would consider this Israeli position magnanimous, given Jordanian responsibility for hostilities last year. Israel awaited with interest Jordanian reaction and looked for progress in October. In response to Secretary’s question whether Israeli-Jordanian negotiations would be outside Jarring Mission context, Eban said Israel thought Jordan wanted to pursue informal contacts but also wanted to see if it could get in position to have direct contacts. Major question was whether Hussein had green light from Cairo. Meanwhile, Eban said he had not yet considered what to say to Jarring about contacts with Jordan. He thought Jarring understood why Israel preferred deal with specifics in private channels in order avoid either side’s becoming locked into fixed positions.
Re negotiations with UAR, Eban said Jarring had suggested two possible ways to break deadlock: (a) Israel could define its views on secure and recognized borders; or (b) parties could make declarations in SC on carrying out principles of resolution while reserving territorial questions for separate negotiations. Eban had told Jarring Israel had no objection to latter procedure but doubted Arabs would agree. Israel also suspected that UAR would want to formulate any declaration in general terms, avoiding specific recognition of Israeli sovereignty, Israeli rights, etc.
Secretary noted information we had received from London to effect that King Hussein had told British Jordan would enter negotiations with Israel under Jarring’s auspices if Israel would indicate acceptance of November Security Council resolution with qualification. Hussein had also said he had UAR green light to do this. (Eban noted that British had also passed this information to him.) In response to Secretary’s query whether it possible to get into specifics with UAR through Jarring as Israel said it was doing directly with Jordan, Eban expressed skepticism. Ambassador Rabin added that the basic difference was that Jordan was ready for peace and UAR was not; it was thus logical to move to second phase with Jordan.
Turning to US-Israeli relations, Eban said he believed reports of US-Israeli differences in Israeli press and elsewhere were exaggerated. Some alleged that US saw no need for negotiations—an interpretation [Page 533] which Eban did not accept. It was clear that peace could not be achieved without parties setting eyes on each other. Historically, transitions from war to peace always involved contacts. Opinion in Israel did not favor perpetuating ceasefire lines, but Israel could live with those lines if it could not have peace. Sacrifices of recent war had sharpened Israeli awareness of need for negotiated peace. Israel would multiply and diversify its contacts, however, putting concrete ideas on table. Israel also understood US argument that it must improve its public image. Eban said he had no “peace plan” to present to General Assembly but would use GA to clarify Israel’s concept of peace with respect to boundaries, acceptance of its right to exist and security. Re territorial questions, Eban noted that Goldberg’s formulation of November 15 and President’s statement on September 10 were close to Israel’s ideas.
Eban emphasized that all of foregoing still in tentative stage. He planned to devote October and, if necessary, some of November to these efforts and hoped for more detailed discussions with USG. He also hoped public polemics could be avoided.
Referring to Eban’s comments about Soviet policy, Secretary recalled that he had told NATO Ministers in Iceland that we faced dangerous summer. Even then USSR appeared moving away from peaceful coexistence. Given threat of Czech developments to maintenance of Soviet position in Eastern Europe, strong Soviet reaction was predictable. Soviets must have anticipated adverse world reaction although extent of condemnation of Soviet invasion was surprising. Secretary said USG not impressed by demands from others that US do something about Czechoslovakia while they continued business as usual.
With respect to situation in Mediterranean and Middle East area, Secretary said Soviets could be expected to attempt improve their position at expense of both Israel and moderate Arab states. Best way to contain Soviets in the Middle East was to find solution to Arab-Israel conflict.
Secretary continued that Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia had interrupted aspects of US-USSR dialogue. Other problems such as Middle East and Viet-Nam had not disappeared, however, and it important to maintain contact on these issues. Secretary then summarized US reaction to Soviet Middle East approach as conveyed by US to USSR (septel)3 and undertook to have Israeli representatives more fully briefed later. In general, Secretary said, we believed parties must find their own answer; solution could not be imposed. We would welcome [Page 534] it if progress with Jordan could be made through direct contacts. Jarring had role to play, however, and we would also welcome it if he could help with UAR. If solution not found, consequences could be serious and we therefore hoped there would be progress while Foreign Ministers were in New York.
Eban said US reply to Soviets as described by Secretary seemed close to Israeli views. Noting recent New York Times story on Soviet approach, Eban asked whether we intended to comment publicly. Secretary said we would limit public comment and were waiting to hear Soviet answers to our request for clarification of some points in their approach. He thought many issues were being re-examined in Moscow and, while not overly optimistic about the outcome, did not have impression that Soviet positions were fixed and frozen.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 ARAB-ISR/SANDSTORM. Secret; Priority; Nodis; Sandstorm. Repeated to Amman, Cairo, London, and Tel Aviv.
  2. Eban and Rusk also discussed the Israeli request for F-4 Phantom aircraft and the Israeli position on the Non-Proliferation Treaty during this conversation. Eban renewed the Israeli request for action on the request for Phantoms, pointing to the danger that the UAR might act assuming that it had achieved air superiority. On the question of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Eban said that Israel had not “gone nuclear” and had not decided not to sign the treaty. He stated that for the present Israel wanted “to swim in the international current” and work with those states seeking greater security assurances. (Telegram 6760 from USUN, October 1; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, DEF 12-5 ISR)
  3. See footnote 2, Document 266.