276. Memorandum From Harold H. Saunders of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow)1


  • SIG Meeting Yesterday2

[Here follow two paragraphs unrelated to the Middle East.]

The meeting then turned to the Arab-Israel problem with Joe Sisco outlining the positions of the parties as follows: [Page 550]

  • Israel believes that the UAR is not interested in peace but that Britain [Jordan] is. Eban realizes there is a relationship between the UAR and Jordan in that the UAR must be brought along if Jordan is to make a deal with Israel. Eban’s speech3 had two purposes—to improve Israel’s image by creating an impression of greater flexibility and willingness to withdraw and its commitment to keeping the Jarring mission live. Eban intends to follow up his speech with a written statement on specific proposals for peace terms to be given to Jarring in the next 24 hours. Israel apparently feels that the failure of the Jarring mission would make life more difficult for Israel.
  • Jordan is serious about peace and sees an opening in Eban’s speech-the willingness to explore substance without insisting on direct negotiations at the outset.
  • —The UAR’s position has hardened. The UAR appears to believe that the only answer is to get the problem back into the Security Council. [There’s debate in State about Joe’s conclusion.]4

Nick Katzenbach said he felt that, if the issue goes back to the Security Council, the best we can hope for would be to have the issue referred back to Jarring or somebody like him, perhaps with a slightly revised mandate. The worst would be a reasonable solution proposed by a majority of the members of the Security Council which would face us with a choice of going along against Israel’s wishes or abstaining.

It was generally agreed that the US should prepare itself quickly to inject its views on the substance of peace terms, though there was no decision that the time had actually come for us to do this.

There was also general agreement that perhaps we had worried too much in the past about urging Hussein into direct negotiations. Harry Symmes shared Nick’s view that Hussein was probably in a lot better position to go it alone if he had to than we had often given him credit for, though he unquestionably would like to have a UAR umbrella. The meeting concluded with agreement that we should bring out all past solutions on Jerusalem and West Bank demilitarization and put them in the best shape possible.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Agency File, SIG, Vol. 8, 45th Meeting, 10/10/68. Secret.
  2. A record of the discussions and decisions taken at the 45th meeting of the Senior Interdepartmental Group on October 10 is ibid.
  3. Reference is to Eban’s October 8 speech to the UN General Assembly. (UN doc. A/PV.1686)
  4. Brackets in the source text.