339. Memorandum of Conversation1

SUBJECT

  • Reports of Israeli Plans For Settlements on Golan Heights

PARTICIPANTS

  • His Excellency Yitzhak Rabin, Ambassador of Israel
  • Mr. Shlomo Argov, Minister, Embassy of Israel
  • Mr. Moshe Raviv, Counselor, Embassy of Israel
  • Assistant Secretary Parker T. Hart, NEA
  • Assistant Secretary Joseph J. Sisco, IO
  • Deputy Assistant Secretary Rodger P. Davies, NEA
  • Alfred L. Atherton, Jr., Country Director, NEA/IAI

During a conversation primarily on other subjects, Mr. Hart referred to recent press reports that Israel planned to establish new settlements on the Syrian Golan Heights, allegedly to accommodate some 15,000 settlers. Such reports could only be interpreted as pre-judging the question of sovereignty over areas presently occupied by Israel, and we therefore trusted that these reports were erroneous.

Ambassador Rabin said that, when Under Secretary Katzenbach had set forth the US position on Israeli withdrawal, he had not mentioned [Page 673] the Golan Heights. Mr. Hart replied that we were talking about the principle of the non-acquisition of territory wherever it might be.

Ambassador Rabin noted that Israel had already established Nahals, which he described as military-agricultural settlements, on the Golan Heights and asked why we were raising this question now. Mr. Hart said that reports of new settlements carried implications of a permanent Israeli presence which was inconsistent with efforts to make progress toward peace.

In response to Ambassador Rabin’s comment that this issue could be tested in negotiations if the Syrians would negotiate, Mr. Hart said that he inferred from the Ambassador’s comment that the future of the Golan Heights was negotiable. Rabin replied that the Government of Israel had made clear everything was negotiable except Jerusalem. He could not say, however, what Israel’s position with respect to the Golan Heights would be. Meanwhile he saw no reason why Israel should not do what it wished to fulfill its responsibility for maintaining the territories under its control so long as Israel acted within the context of military occupation and abided by the Geneva Conventions.

Mr. Hart said we saw a difference between Israel’s utilizing the resources of occupied areas on the one hand and establishing permanent settlements on the other. Mr. Davies added that reports of permanent settlements tended to confirm Arab suspicions that Israel did not intend to withdraw; this could make the Arabs less willing to cooperate with Ambassador Jarring. Ambassador Rabin disagreed, saying that in his view the Arabs would be more eager to negotiate the more they saw a danger that they would not get their territories back.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 ARAB-ISR. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Atherton and approved in S/S on December 10.