320. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Israel1

270935. Begin summary: Under Secretary Katzenbach called in Israeli Ambassador Rabin November 12 for review of recent US contacts, in context Jarring Mission, with UAR and Soviets. Under Secretary also expressed our concern at indications GOI thinking in terms of peace settlement involving territorial acquisitions by Israel in Sinai and West Bank—a position we could not support. Under Secretary said we have based our position on understanding that Israel seeks adequate security arrangements and recognition of boundaries but, leaving aside Jerusalem and Gaza as special problems, seeks no territory from UAR and only minor adjustments, with compensation, in pre-June 1967 lines with Jordan. At same time Under Secretary made clear we continue firmly support position that Israel should only withdraw in context of contractually binding peace settlement embodying clear guarantees for Israel’s security and navigation rights, termination of belligerency and recognition of Israeli boundaries. Rabin argued that Israel’s security requirements dictated some territorial changes and expressed view that position outlined by Under Secretary represented change in US stand; Israel was being asked make further concessions and its bargaining position was being undermined while UAR had given no indication it wanted peace. Under Secretary said our position was that settlement must be agreed among parties and we had therefore avoided expressing views on specifics. Nevertheless, we had consistently made clear we could not go along with Israeli efforts acquire Arab territory, given our long standing policy of support for territorial integrity of all states of area. End summary.

Under Secretary Katzenbach called in Israeli Ambassador Rabin November 12 to review recent US activities with respect to Jarring Mission and our views on where we go from here. Assistant Secretary Sisco, Davies (NEA) and Israeli Minister Argov also present.
Under Secretary reported that Soviets have been interested in continuing discussion with USG. We remain willing carry on dialogue with Soviets, making clear that it must be in Jarring Mission context. Dialogue so far had not gone far beyond our expressing concern re slow pace of Jarring Mission and inquiring of Soviets how they thought [Page 634] it might move forward. We had told Soviets we considered November 4 Israeli note to Jarring more responsive than UAR note which we had found disappointing. We had also had some discussion of arms control problems. In general we had not found Soviets pessimistic about Jarring’s prospects. Sisco added that Soviets had reiterated desire see Jarring continue and had not interpreted latest Israeli and UAR notes as terminating Jarring Mission.
Under Secretary then summarized Secretary’s November 2 conversation with UAR Foreign Minister Riad along following lines, noting that we did not consider it totally negative: Riad had said UAR wanted Jarring to continue but had expressed concern that Israel not prepared to withdraw from Egyptian territory to pre-June 5 lines. Secretary had stressed that withdrawal to international borders must be in context of state of peace and had noted that while UAR said it wanted peace, it had given no concrete ideas re kind of peace document it would accept. Riad had indicated UAR would sign some kind of document but had said neither that it would nor that it would not sign same document as Israel. Secretary had emphasized view that UAR should sign document to which Israel would also be signatory. He had also said that Resolution in our view was not self-executing and details would have to be negotiated. Re refugees, Secretary had stressed need for solution based on individual and secret refugee choice without results of that choice being binding in advance on any state. (Under Secretary noted in this connection Secretary’s view that not many refugees would choose repatriation to Israel if choice were truly personal and secret.) Finally Secretary had stressed that there must be free passage through Straits of Tiran and Suez Canal with some kind of international peace keeping machinery at Sharm al-Shaykh. In stating these views to Riad, Secretary made clear he could not speak for Israel and was presenting US ideas.
Under Secretary continued that, as we saw it, most difficult questions related to territory on one hand and nature of peace on other. It was difficult for UAR and Jordan to say what they meant by peace without their having an idea of Israel’s views on territorial question. On basis of our many discussions with GOI, USG assumed Israel’s position was that, in context of peace, it would withdraw substantially to pre-June 5 lines, leaving aside Jerusalem and Gaza which were special problems. We had assumed there need be no changes with respect to UAR and with respect to Jordan only “really minor” changes on security grounds, with compensation for Jordan. Arabs had interpreted Israel’s concept of changes for security reasons, however, as involving significant territorial acquisitions by Israel. This caused problems for USG, given our basic position on territorial integrity. We had held this position consistently without going into details of how a peace settlement could be arranged. Instead, in light of 1957 experience and origins [Page 635] of 1967 war, we had based our position on need for peace agreed to among parties. As President made clear in his September 10 speech, however, we had assumed territorial question would be resolved without transfer of significant areas to Israel. We recognized that it would be difficult to devise adequate security arrangements but believed this was possible without territorial transfers.
Rabin asked for clarification—was it the US position that leaving Jerusalem aside, Israel should withdraw to June 4 boundaries? Under Secretary said this was our position, allowing for adjustments of the kind contemplated in General Armistice Agreements, providing there were satisfactory security arrangements and a context of peace. In response to Rabin’s comment that this was news to him, Under Secretary said this had been our position throughout. Ambassador Goldberg had said as much to King Hussein in November 1967 and had so informed Foreign Minister Eban at the time.
Rabin replied that Israel believed secure and recognized boundaries would require some territorial changes. Israel’s guideline was security; it was not seeking real estate for its own sake. Eban had made clear to Secretary that Israel did not interpret “withdrawal” to mean withdrawal from all occupied territories. With respect to UAR, Israel needed to provide full protection for free passage through Straits of Tiran and would require land communications to Sharm al-Shaykh and Israeli presence there. Re Jordan, certain territorial changes would also be required but their precise nature had not yet been decided, although principles governing such changes had been agreed upon within GOI. To counter Arab arguments that Israel would not withdraw, Israel had been pressed to accept principle of secure and recognized boundaries to be agreed upon among parties. Now USG was asking Israel to accept principle of settlement practically to June 4 lines even though UAR had refused indicate that it wanted peaceful settlement or that it would sign document with Israel. UAR could now conclude that, having succeeded in getting US to accept position that withdrawal should be to pre-war lines without itself having given up anything, it should now see what more it could get. GOI had made concessions in latest note to Jarring whereas UAR had given up nothing since passage of November 1967 Security Council Resolution when it had dropped insistence on prior withdrawal. UAR was seeking to erode the meaning of peace. Furthermore, it was clear there was no US-Israeli understanding on what peace means.
Under Secretary replied that USG had avoided speaking of June 4 lines since this would be misleading with respect to Jerusalem and kind of adjustments we have in mind. To us the words “recognized and secure” meant “security arrangements” and “recognition” of new lines as international boundaries. We had never meant that Israel could [Page 636] extend its territory to West Bank or Suez if this was what it felt its security required. We had always thought new map would look very much like pre-war map but with Israel’s security assured. We had assumed Israel had no territorial problems with UAR-only problems of security. If more than that was involved then US and Israel would be on divergent courses. Rabin read relevant portion of General Armistice Agreement to make point GAA placed no limitations whatever on territorial changes which could be made. Under Secretary said if it was Israel’s position that all territories were negotiable, such position on Israel’s part would confront USG with difficulties and we could not support it. Putting aside Jerusalem, Gaza and Syrian Heights for now, since they presented different kind of problem, we sought security for Israel not territory.
Under Secretary said he would put question another way: if Israel were satisfied with guarantees of demilitarization and navigation and obtained contractual agreements plus termination of belligerency plus recognition of boundaries, would Israel withdraw to the old lines?
Rabin said he did not believe Israel would be satisfied. In response to Under Secretary’s question whether Israel sought permanent presence at Sharm al-Shaykh or simply absence of any presence plus the right to assure the latter, Rabin said the lesson of the early 1950s and of May 1967 was that there should be Israeli presence at Sharm al-Shaykh. Otherwise, as experience had shown, UAR could deploy troops and thereby change situation without firing a shot. This put onus on Israel to fire first which caused it problems with big powers. Israel wanted to be in position to prevent interference with its navigation without having to shoot. Israel could not rely on UAR and international forces were of no use.
Under Secretary said he thought clear cut arrangements for Israel’s security could be made—e.g., terms of settlement could provide that presence of any country at Sharm al-Shaykh would be regarded as act of war justifying self defense under Article 51 of UN Charter. Rabin responded that 1957 arrangements were almost that precise but violation by UAR had only led to international debate. Lawyer could always find counter arguments to any legal device. In response to Sisco’s comment that this line of Israeli reasoning undermined Israel’s entire concept of peace based on treaties, Rabin said there was big difference between violation of boundaries, which would be clear to all and violation of security arrangements, which could be interpreted in various ways. To cite another example, Rabin said Jordan had promised USG not to deploy tanks on West Bank but this arrangement had been violated. Davies commented that there was important difference between Jordan’s telling US Ambassador it would put no tanks on West [Page 637] Bank and Jordan’s making formal commitment on demilitarization to Israel or Security Council.
Under Secretary said his main concern was that US and Israel not find themselves on divergent courses. Having taken position that Israel had no territorial demands if Arabs made peace, we would be in difficult position if it developed this was not the case. Time might come when Jarring would feel he should put forward proposals for settlement. Point had already been reached where USG, in pressing UAR to be more forthcoming, had said we did not anticipate territorial problems if UAR was prepared for peace. Sisco noted that Israel had told us many times there would be no territorial problems with UAR if latter agreed conclude binding contractual peace settlement. We were concerned that Israeli position had changed and that security needs were being linked with substantial territorial acquisitions.
Rabin asked what USG had received from UAR in return for giving UAR US position. Under Secretary replied that we had made clear to UAR that we were not speaking for Israel. Israel remained in occupation and this seemed to us a good bargaining position. Israel’s bargaining position depended on fact of Israeli occupation, not on question of how much or how little it wanted to retain.
Argov said he thought USG and GOI had agreed, in context of our discussion of Soviet approach in September, that USG did not endorse Soviet proposal for total withdrawal “except for a few miles here and there.” He feared position taken by USG with UAR had undermined Israel’s bargaining position. Under Secretary said this would be the case only if Israeli position was to seek territorial acquisitions. We had made clear to UAR where we thought responsibility for 1967 war lay and that our position as stated to UAR was premised on need for peace. Sisco added that Israeli bargaining position could not be undermined by US position based on binding peace and fulfillment of Security Council Resolution; Israeli leverage results from fact it is in occupied territories. US is not asking Israel to withdraw to international boundary in circumstances other than a satisfactory peace binding parties. Under Secretary expressed hope we could now proceed to useful discussion with Israelis of what the concept of peace means to Israel in specific terms.
Rabin concluded conversation by saying he had clearly understood Under Secretary’s message and would report to his government.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 ARAB-ISR. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Atherton, cleared by Davies and Sisco, and approved by Katzenbach. Repeated to Amman, Beirut, Cairo, Jidda, London, Moscow, and USUN.