322. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson1

SUBJECT

  • Recent Steps in the Mid-East

You should be aware of several recent steps Secretaries Rusk and Katzenbach have taken to clarify our position on a Mid-East settlement (Nick’s memo attached).2

In his last talk with UAR Foreign Minister Riad, Secretary Rusk summarized his interpretation of the UN resolution as it applies to a UAR-Israel settlement this way: [Page 641]

  • —Israeli withdrawal from UAR territory. [We never thought Israel had territorial designs in the Sinai.]3
  • —Formal termination of the state of war.
  • —Suez Canal open to ships of all flags.
  • —Refugee settlement on the basis of personal and secret choice of individual refugees on where to live (including return to Israel as one possible choice).
  • —International presence at Sharm el-Sheikh which could not be removed without consent of UN Security Council or General Assembly.
  • UAR should sign something in writing to which Israel also is a signatory.
  • —General understanding about level of arms in the area (though this not required in the first instance).

Nick spelled these out for Rabin a couple of days ago. Rabin feels we’ve changed our position and undermined Israel’s bargaining position.

The fact is that this has been our consistent position for over a year, but the Israelis have turned off their hearing aids on us. As for undermining their position, we can’t afford to go along with their bazaar haggling if we’re going to have any chance of peace. What’s more, we really would have undercut them if we had let them think we’d given them a blank check. It’s especially important as negotiations with Jordan reach a climax that they know where we stand.

Nevertheless, you may hear some strong protests.

Walt
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Middle East, Vol. II, 4/68-1/69. Secret;Nodis.
  2. Reference is to a November 15 memorandum from Katzenbach to the President with the subject heading: “Present Status of Middle East Peace Efforts.”
  3. Brackets in the source text.