334. Memorandum for the Record1


  • Near East South Asia IRG Meeting
  • Wednesday, 27 November 1968
  • Arab-Israel Action Paper
The Interdepartmental Regional Group for Near East and South Asia met 27 November 1968 to discuss a draft paper on the Arab-Israel problem designed to highlight action matters with which the new national administration may be faced during its first 90 days in office.2
The circulated draft stated there was little prospect that in the near future much progress would be made toward an Arab-Israel settlement. This conclusion was not challenged by anyone at the IRG meeting.
The draft went on to outline three alternative policies which the United States Government might follow given the impasse. Very briefly [Page 663] these were: (a) put real pressure on Israel to negotiate an agreement consistent with the reasonable meaning of the words of the 22 November 1967 Security Council resolution; (b) publicly support such a settlement in order to improve our position with the Arabs, but do not bring pressure on Israel to go along, thus virtually ensuring that no progress would in fact be made; and (c) continue as at present to back the Israeli position while urging Israel to be more flexible in both procedure and substance.
Assistant Secretary Hart expressed the opinion, which was generally supported by the IRG members, that a better format than presenting “alternatives” would be to explain our present posture and then outline progressive “steps” which might be taken to increase the prospects for an Arab-Israel settlement. He felt our present policy included many points of difference with Israel which should be mentioned, while admitting that in spite of these differences we are putting no meaningful pressure on Israel to change its stand where we disagree with it. The “steps” open to us all lead in the direction of withdrawing the blank check which Israel now holds from us, in order to move Israel toward a reasonable implementation of the Security Council resolution. An early one would be to advise Israel privately that if no progress is made toward implementation we would support some form of mediation or arbitration. Making a public statement to this effect would be a further step. An ultimate drastic step would be our actual active participation in an international effort to interpret and compel compliance with the Security Council resolution.
Procedurally, it was left to Assistant Secretary Hart to re-work the circulated draft along the lines he favored. This will go to Under Secretary Katzenbach and possibly be on a future SIG agenda.
The White House representative on the IRG/NEA, influenced by recent policy decisions in regard to aid to Biafra, favored a recommendation that the Arab refugee problem be cut loose from the rest of the Arab-Israel confrontation, and that we try to make progress on this issue as a separate matter. The general consensus was that the humanitarian aspect of the Arab refugee problem was completely subordinate to international political considerations, and that this was not a practical proposal. I expect, however, that the paper which eventually goes to the Under Secretary may contain some reference to this proposal, perhaps presenting it as a step which we might consider taking.
David H. Blee 3
Chief, Near East and
South Asia Division
  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Job 80-R01580R, DCI Executive Registry Files, Box 11, Folder 240, MFR. Secret. Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency on December 2.
  2. Not found.
  3. Printed from a copy that indicates Blee signed the original.