282. Telegram From the Department of State to the U.S. Interests Section of the Spanish Embassy in the United Arab Republic1

257501. 1. Rostow2 had informal conversation with Hassan Sabry al-Khouli at lunch given by Ghorbal Oct. 16. Hart, Davies, Parker and Atherton also present. Khouli reiterated UAR’s interest in peaceful settlement and desire to finish Palestine problem once and for all but was unwilling to be drawn into discussion of details of settlement, or to confirm that UAR was ready to make agreement required by para. 3 of Resolution. Took line that substance of settlement more important than modalities and that meeting requirement of “agreement” could be met in various ways, i.e., accepting Security Council Resolution.

2. Ghorbal said we should be in no doubt, however, that Mahmoud Riad in New York was anxious to proceed with settlement and would be prepared respond positively to any real gestures made by Israelis. In this connection, luncheon started off with report that Riad had just received from Jarring 12 page document from Israelis.3 Riad had not had time to read it and Egyptians did not know contents. Davies and Atherton stressed that Egyptians should look not at what was wrong with document but at what was right about it and should remember that Eban was having trouble with the cabinet at home. Khouli replied that Riad was having trouble with his cabinet too.

3. Rostow said that although he did not know contents of Israeli document, delivery was significant in itself and represented fruit of extensive US efforts to get Israelis adopt more accommodating position [Page 559] vis-a-vis Egypt. Egyptians now had historical opportunity and they should respond in the most favorable possible way to Israelis. We understood political problems which Egypt faced but Israel faced parallel problems. We had not supported the Israeli view that negotiations had to be direct, even though that position had seemed logical to us. At same time we did not think it was practical to rule out eventual direct confrontation between Israelis and Egyptians in signing of document which could be called something other than peace treaty but which would in fact establish peace not armistice, as required by Resolution of Nov. 22. If present opportunity was not seized, results would be tragic for all of us. It was not time to rake over past grievances but look to future. We would support any settlement on which parties agreed and President’s phrase in his Sept. 10 speech regarding the real possibility of just and dignified peace had been carefully considered and meant what it said in the light of our knowledge of the parties’ positions. But the parties themselves would have to take responsibility. They could not simply listen and ask US to do the job for them. We often heard charge that US policy was influenced by domestic political considerations. This was not the case. The need for peace in ME was one of factors in President’s mind in making his decision of March 31. US policy was based on US national interests. We had been using all our energy and imagination to fulfill it throughout this period. But we had had many disappointments.

4. Khouli said Egyptians were prepared for peace but past experience made them extremely suspicious. Israelis also had right to be suspicious of Egypt. This highlighted necessity for international role and guarantees particularly from US regarding any settlement reached. Rostow said he would not entirely rule out possibility of US guarantee to support agreement of the parties under Resolution. The question raised far reaching issues which required study. In any event, he could say at this point that we would certainly support Security Council endorsement of agreement reached by the parties to implement the principles of the Resolution.

5. Khouli made frequent reference to Phantoms and to unfortunate effect recent While House statement in this regard had had on Jarring Mission and Arab/American relations in general. Rostow said question of Phantoms had been carefully considered and Egyptians should realize statement represented USG judgment of the best way to deal with tensions surrounding process of reaching peace including the bargaining positions of parties and Soviet policy. Overwhelming preponderance of Soviet aircraft in area was cause of real concern. It could be argued that supplying Israel with more aircraft at this time would make them more flexible in dealing with Arabs. If their security was established through airpower they might be willing to take more risks [Page 560] on the ground. In this connection Rostow mentioned demilitarization of Sinai. Khouli unwilling discuss UAR position but noted that if UAR demilitarized Sinai, Israelis might seize it again, as they had occupied al-Auja.

6. Throughout conversation Khouli kept reverting to question US-UAR relations which he said were essential to both countries. He called attention to statement by Riad in October 10 news conference that UAR was very interested in resumption relations but US would first have to establish its impartiality by agreeing that Israel had committed aggression and by supporting withdrawal of Israel from all occupied territories. Khouli said that in his recent election campaign for ASU he had been struck by fact that fellaheen in all Egyptian villages kept asking why US was enemy of Egypt. He had not been back to Egypt since the White House announcement regarding the Phantoms but he expected an increase in the feeling of the Egyptian populace that the US was against them. Rostow pointed out that Nasser had told McCloy he fully realized responsibility for absence of relations was his, not ours. We believed in having diplomatic relations with UAR and wished to have good relations with that country. Our policy was not pro-Israel, or pro-Arab, but pro-US. We had pursued it steadily, agreeing with Arabs on some points, with Israel on others. On certain issues, like Jerusalem, nobody agreed with us. The problem now was to make peace under the Resolution, which we supported. We understood the UAR position to be that the Resolution required a package deal, linking withdrawal to all other issues. We agreed with that position.

7. Hart commented that he knew many Americans who were unable understand Egyptian actions against US, such as burning of libraries, speeches about drinking sea, etc. If Egyptians interested in good relations, a new leaf would have to be turned over. Khouli took it in good spirit.4

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 ARAB-ISR. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Parker and revised by Eugene Rostow, cleared by Davies, and approved by Eugene Rostow.
  2. Eugene Rostow.
  3. On October 15 Eban gave Jarring a document to be conveyed to the UAR. The text of the document, which expounded on Israel’s determination to “explore further the possibility of promoting agreement between the UAR and Israel on the establishment of a just and lasting peace,” was transmitted to the Department in telegram 7165 from USUN, October 17. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 ARAB-ISR) In an October 19 memorandum to the Secretary, Parker Hart of NEA and David Popper of IO summarized the Israeli document as containing little of substance beyond what Eban had outlined as the principles for a settlement in his October 8 speech to the UN General Assembly. They noted that the tone of the document was moderate and reasonable and at several points invited UAR comments or proposals, but it focused on the Israeli thesis that peace must rest on agreement between the parties involved, which should be in treaty form. Israel took the position that unilateral declarations or assurances by others would not substitute for a direct contractual agreement. (Ibid.)
  4. At USUN on October 18 Al-Khouli gave Buffum assurances that Nasser was personally very eager to have a peace settlement. Khouli said that his mission in New York was to ensure that no opportunity was lost to move toward settlement. (Telegram 7206 from USUN, October 18; ibid., POL 27 ARAB-ISR)