303. Telegram From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson in Texas1
Washington, November 4, 1968, 1902Z.
CAP 82679. Herewith Eban’s meeting yesterday with Secretary Rusk.
- In mtg with Secretary Nov 3, Eban said Government of Israel defining its position on territorial question vis-a-vis UAR in “functional” rather than geographical terms. GOI position would be governed by security including shipping through Straits of Tiran. While dealing through Jarring with UAR in tactical phase, Israel would make clear expansion not its purpose and that troops would be disposed according to secure and recognized boundaries and security arrangements.
- Eban said substantive position Israel would take if UAR willing to talk peace. He wanted US and US alone to know re Sinai, it all comes back strongly and sharply to Sharm el-Sheikh, the focal point of two wars. Israel could not accept something which might mean Israel would once again have to send men out to open Straits. Israel would want arrangement enabling Israel to be in Sharm el-Sheikh in order to protect Israeli shipping, with direct communication between Eilat and Sharm el-Sheikh. Rabin added: “Direct land communication.” Eban said he had not discussed this in juridical terms; control of territory without sovereignty had been factor in Japan-USSR and Japan-US agreements and in Cyprus settlement. Eban said especially if UAR asked for enclave positions for one reason for another, Israel would want to be there and in direct land communication with Eilat.
- Eban said what UAR might propose would be another matter, but Israel would not want to prejudice matters before negotiations begin. [Page 602] Therefore, Israel will give functional not territorial definition. Israel does not think UAR has right to stop Israel from asking for this; they can say no and then talk. This all Eban could say on Sinai. It was functional statement relating to security and navigation (in Tiran), but functional requirements could have territorial implications. Eban said UAR doesn’t raise question of Gaza, but he thinks they understand they not coming back to Gaza.
- Secretary said he thought what Eban outlined on Sinai non-starter. Alternative was in direction of improved international arrangements which were workable. Eban said UAR hadn’t suggested that or anything else. Israel’s experience with UN and any arrangement with veto unsatisfactory. Secretary said it important that there not be veto. He could understand Israeli dissatisfaction with arrangements to date, but Israeli presence would be point of infection such that there would be tension thereafter and hard to see how there could be peace. Wiggins said international presence would have to be such as to be terminated only by action of Security Council. Eban said he didn’t see if local sovereignty said international presence should terminate what country, including US, would stand against it. Secy referred to arrangements in Panama Canal and Okinawa where local sovereignty modified. Eban and Rabin said Israel ready to have such treaties.
- Eban said no point in going into this in detail now since not in negotiating situation. It necessary to hear what UAR would propose. Secy reiterated that as far as US attitude concerned, he had to put in reservation about Sharm el-Sheikh idea: US does not feel it could support that under present circumstances.
- Israelis asked that foregoing be very tightly held.
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, Walt W. Rostow, Vol. 103, 11/1-4/68. Secret.↩