361. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Israel1

292113. Following is full text of Israeli Aide-Memoire of December 232 commenting on Soviet communication delivered to Under Secretary Rostow by Soviet Charge on December 19:3

Begin Text: Paragraph 1. The document presented by the Soviet diplomat confirms that serious damage to Israeli vital interests has been caused by a USA-Soviet dialogue of this kind.4 In particular, it is shocking to find that the USSR could have misinterpreted the USA version of Israel’s position as in paragraph 1. It is basic to Israel’s position that peace requires secure and recognized boundaries and not return to the [Page 718] June 4 lines. Israel’s refusal to restore the June 4, 1967 situation is absolute, basic and irrevocable. To avoid returning to the June 4 lines is of supreme national interest which Israel considers worthy of all tenacity and sacrifice. We have attached importance and confidence to USA statements on this point including that of President Johnson on September 10, 1968. But in any case, Israel has the absolute right to be sure that its own position is not misunderstood by the USSR as a result of conversations in Washington. Can we have assurance that the Soviet representative will be given an accurate description of the Israeli and USA positions as hitherto formulated?

Paragraph 2. As against Israel’s proposal on navigation in the Straits of Tiran, it should be recalled that the U.A.R. has not even acknowledged international character of the Tiran Straits and has specifically rejected any permanent arrangement for protecting navigation more effectively than hitherto. The Soviet paper, too, is completely silent on the freedom of passage through the Straits. This strengthens Israel’s view that without Israel’s presence there would be a repetition of aggressive U.A.R. action of May 22.

Paragraph 3. U.A.R. reply to USA seven points is not “constructive” but destructive. Israel’s statement on the resolution in the November 4 memorandum is affirmative and legitimate. Israel will not make any declaration on the resolution which excludes the concept of “agreement” as the governing factor. Israel’s attitude on timetable is that after negotiations what is agreed would be implemented. There can only be a timetable after agreement is reached directly between the Arab States and Israel. At this time there can be no timetable since the Arab States have refused to negotiate any agreements. Furthermore, it should be clear that the establishment of peace is more than the “termination of the state of belligerency” and more than what is called a “political solution.”

Paragraph 4. Confirms that the USA-USSR dialogue is in danger of interfering with the Jarring Mission. We should like to be assured that the “Idea” to which “Moscow agrees” is not shared by the USA.

Paragraph 5. Falsely glosses over the UAR rejection of the USA seven points and confirms Israel’s apprehensions that the seven points would encourage the illusion and discourage realism both in Cairo and in Moscow, in addition to causing serious danger to Israel’s legitimate negotiating position.

Paragraph 6. Marks a retreat from previous hints given through Jarring that the UAR would accept demilitarization arrangement in Sinai. Israel rejects the Soviet-Egyptian idea of separate demilitarized zones “along boundaries.” The UAR policy is to keep open the possibility of making Sinai a springboard and base for future assaults or intimidation.

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Paragraph 7. Israel is a sovereign state exclusively responsible for its own security and does not need to be “influenced” in the direction of realism. Its positions as stated on November 4 are realistic and legitimate and it is now for the UAR to show a genuine interest in the establishment of peace. The Soviet document does not even discuss the establishment of a permanent or serious peace between Israel and the UAR. End Text.

Rusk
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 ARAB-ISR. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Atherton, cleared by Day and Hart, and approved by Eugene Rostow. Repeated to Amman, Moscow, Cairo, and USUN.
  2. The original of the aide-memoire is ibid., POL US-USSR.
  3. Document 354.
  4. On December 20 Assistant Secretaries Sisco and Hart briefed Israeli Embassy officials on the contents of the Soviet note. (Telegram 291089 to Tel Aviv, December 21; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 ARAB-ISR) Minister Argov telephoned Atherton on December 20 to register his dismay over the U.S.-Soviet exchanges on the Middle East. Argov expressed concern that the Soviets would use the exchanges to further erode the Israeli position. (Memorandum from Atherton to Hart, December 20; ibid., NEA Files: Lot 72 D 39, Israel, July 1 through Dec 31, 1968)