346. Telegram From the Embassy in Israel to the Department of State1
Tel Aviv, December 11, 1968, 0845Z.
6445. Scranton Visit.
- This is report of meeting December 9 between Gov. Scranton and FonMin Eban cleared by Gov. Scranton. DirGen Rafael and Asst DirGen Bitan also present.
- Eban began by presenting his whole theory of global conflict. 1967 Arab-Israel war had been a great free world victory and global context was clear setback for Soviet penetration of ME. It was Sov policy to get Sixth Fleet out or to denuclearize ME. Chief agent of Sovs is Nasser. Since Israel has achieved success and has stopped Sov takeover of ME, US and Israel should join together as espousers of freedom.
- In Eban’s opinion USSR understands that US and Israel hope for freedom in area. Because of Israel’s successful policy, Sovs have instituted contacts recently and have realized that Israel is a large factor in ME and does not intend to be displaced. It is true that Sovs have strengthened their influence in ME, but only in those places where they were strong before, such as Iraq, Syria, Yemen, UAR, Sudan. Sovs would like to make Mediterranean a Soviet lake.
- Scranton asked whether Eban didn’t agree position of Jordan and Saudi Arabia was weaker than before. Didn’t they have more internal troubles on which Soviets could capitalize?
- Eban said in his opinion US was dominant power in ME and all eyes were on Washington. Suez Canal was our big card and we should play it for peace and not wish for necessity to reopen Canal in absence of peace. US should depend on and help continue Israel’s association with Iran and Ethiopia. If ever there was a clear exposition of Nasser’s Sov ties and intentions, it was Dulles’ written statement to Israel re UAR in 1957.2
- Eban’s next theme was how to get peace. This should be done between Israel and Jordan first. Israel and Eban strongly anti-Nasser; Hussein more reasonable. Israel’s two important principles were to “go forward” to secure and permanent boundaries that are recognized. There must be an agreed solution (“and US says this too”) and not one imposed from outside. In short, nature of peace most important. There [Page 686] must be an end to blockades, raids, etc. though not necessarily exchange of ambassadors. In short, settlement must be in terms of international law and order.
- Eban continued Israel was opposed to external guarantees. These never worked. Israel had had deepest commitment from France but this had not worked. Agreement must come from countries themselves. In Eban’s opinion, Nasser’s objective was to get territory back without peace or if this was not possible, wait until he was in position to go to war again.
- On territorial problem, Eban said, Nasser did not wish to allow Gulf of Aqaba to be international waterway. He had been completely unresponsive to Secretary Rusk’s seven points. Scranton pointed out this somewhat exaggerated and response not completely negative.
- Eban thought Egypt represented greatest rigidity. Sovs however not so rigid now. They had recently come to Israel, which is victory for Israel’s stand on strength and determination not to withdraw without real peace.
- Eban said Jordan was not thinking of another war. Hussein needs to settle soon or there will be an internal collapse because of Palestinian problems. He could make peace without Cairo’s assent, Hussein tells Israel, but he needs a peace good enough from his point of view as not to cause internal problems with Palestinians. Israel’s proposals re West Bank were that no Arab army should be west of Jordan River. Jordan would get back 90 percent of population and 85 percent of territory on West Bank. Only 17,000 Arabs would be left in the territory which Israel required. Re Jerusalem, it must remain united and capital of Israel. Good progress had been made with Vatican re Christian Holy Places and Israel would be glad to give sovereignty (sic) over Christian Holy Places to appropriate bodies. Any agreed sovereign (sic) for Moslem Holy Places would be agreeable to Israel but Jordan was nearest and second obvious choice.
- Asked by Scranton about talks which had gone on with Palestinians about possible West Bank state, Eban said GOI not optimistic. Did not like idea of buffer state. Most Palestinians wish to be with whoever is in charge of East Bank. Inference was that any such separate state likely to be only a temporary problem child.
- In response question about future of UAR and Nasser, Eban said anyone would be better than Nasser. If there were a change, at least whoever came after Nasser would be fresh and might do what Sukarno’s successors have done.
- Eban did not give clear picture of thinking on Gaza. Said UAR didn’t want it, Israel didn’t want it but also did not want Jordan to have it because did not desire to see Jordan-UAR border. Eban made [Page 687] vague references to Jordan’s having opening to sea through Gaza but was not committed to that.
- Eban noted he had made proposal for world conference on refugees but had been turned down.
- Dept repeat other posts as desired.
- Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 7 US/SCRANTON. Secret; Priority; Exdis.↩
- An apparent reference to the August 1, 1958, letter from Secretary of State Dulles to Israeli Prime Minister Ben Gurion. For text, see Foreign Relations, 1958-1960, vol. XIII, pp. 77–79.↩