336. Notes on Meeting1
PRESIDENT JOHNSON’s NOTES ON MEETING IN THE CABINET ROOM
FOLLOWING WERE PRESENT
- Secy Rusk, Clifford, Smith, Fowler, Udall, Freeman, Cohen, Boyd, Atty Gen. Clark, Amb. Wiggins, The Vice President, PMG Watson, Under Secy Robert Wood sat in for Secy Weaver, Chairman Macy, Art Okun, Director Zwick, Bromley Smith, Charles Maguire, DeVier Pierson, George Reedy, Joe Califano, Harry McPherson, Ernie Goldstein, Harry Middleton, Bill Blackburn, George Christian, Tom Johnson, Jim Jones and Larry Temple, Charles Murphy and Amb. Averell Harriman
Secretary Dean Rusk said:
“It is an expression of an intention which is to a considerable extent understandable, and an attempt to emphasize to the Arabs that the continuation of these terrorist raids is not profitable and could lead to a buildup of hostilities. We will continue to do everything we can, and get others to bring their influence to bear to reduce these incidents, because it makes it more difficult to get an atmosphere in which a peaceful settlement will follow.
“The possibilities of a peaceful settlement are being fully explored by Ambassador Jarring. I wish, Mr. President, I could report more progress on the part of his efforts. He is now in the Middle East talking currently with the Governments of the States directly concerned to see if he can get some sort of movement by both sides to move us closer to a peaceful settlement.”
The Secretary added that for a long time there had been an obstacle on the procedural points. He said Israel has insisted upon talking directly with the Arab Governments in a direct negotiation face-to-face. He noted that the Arabs have indicated they would not do that [Page 666] and would only negotiate indirectly or discuss these matters indirectly in the Security Council or with Amb. Jarring.
Secretary Rusk said that in recent weeks Israel had taken two important steps. On the one side they have actually taken up with Amb. Jarring various points of substance having to do with a peaceful settlement, opening the way for indirect talks which the Arabs apparently have been saying they want to see.
Secretary Rusk continued:
“We are disappointed that the Arab side has not been more responsive to this change in attitude on the part of Israel. It has not been willing to talk seriously with Ambassador Jarring about the particular points of substance more than you have heard thus far.
“Secondly, Israel has now been talking about the need for a contractual settlement of the situation and has taken the emphasis off the term ‘peace treaty.’ This should open the way for a somewhat less formal arrangement, which would nevertheless bind all the parties but would be more congenial to Arab sensitivities. Again, that has not met very much response.”
The Secretary said that along with this issue there was the deep feeling among many Arabs that Israel is bent upon territorial expansion and similarly a deep feeling on the part of the Israelis that the Arabs are bent upon the destruction of Israel. That deep emotional commitment on both sides obviously gets in the way of a peaceful settlement.
The Secretary said:
“I think it is fair to point out that there are internal political problems on both sides. Some of the Arab leaders may well feel that if they take a dramatic step toward peace, they will be subject to assassination, and it may well be true that they do face such a problem. And there are internal debates going on in Israel today which make the position of the Prime Minister very difficult if he should translate dramatic moves toward peace on his side. So we may have one of those situations where the parties feel internally too weak to be wise. Unless there’s some unusual experience in diplomacy, that does complicate the situation.”
Secretary Rusk commented that fortunately, Amb. Jarring was going to serve further and is going to continue his efforts but that we needed the help, however, of the other powers, including the help of the Soviet Union. He reported that just yesterday Pravda issued a statement which was highly polemical in content, which associated Israel with the imperialist forces, which are supposed to be the bugaboo in the communist world. He said it did, however, point to Soviet support for the November resolution in the Security Council and support for Amb. Jarring’s mission.[Page 667]
Secretary Rusk said we would hope that although outside powers cannot settle this situation among themselves in the positive form, we could hope that all outside powers, including the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. and others would bring [all?] their influence to bear that they could on the parties, to try to get the parties to be more cooperative in Ambassador Jarring’s movement toward peace.
“So, Mr. President, we have the short-run model of trying to find ways to reduce these acts of terror and violence along the cease fire lines.
“We must try to get additional muscle behind Ambassador Jarring’s mission so we can draw a reluctant people on both sides more toward a serious peaceful solution because the Middle East not only is inflammatory in its own right in terms of its own territory, but because of many circumstances, including its geographical location, it is an area which could be inflamed depending upon whether the great powers could be engaged or highly involved with each other in a most dangerous fashion. We will continue to work for that just as hard as we can.”
[Here follows discussion unrelated to the Middle East.]
- Source: Johnson Library, Transcripts of Meetings in the Cabinet Room, December 4, 1968, 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. No classification marking. Prepared from a tape recording by either President Johnson’s secretarial staff or by his staff in Austin after the President had left office and begun research for his memoirs. The tape recording the notes are based on is ibid., Recordings and Transcripts of Telephone Conversations and Meetings. The notes have been corrected to accord with the tape recording. Secretary Rusk’s comments were preceded by a discussion unrelated to the Middle East. The tape recording picks up Rusk’s briefing at the point indicated.↩