364. Telegram From the Embassy in Israel to the Department of State1
Tel Aviv, December 26, 1968, 0900Z.
6600. Ref: State 290330.2
- I have studied with great interest Amman’s thoughtful message 79923 assessing the current Arab-Israel situation and recommending tactics in the next stages of our search for a solution. If I read it correctly, it seems to me that that analysis concludes that there are courses essentially of a tactical nature by which the parties might be brought to accept an arrangement providing the elements of a measure of real stability, security, and tranquility in the area with some prospects of enduring.
- Unfortunately, in my view, such an assessment must, at least by implication, be based on a fundamentally non-existent major premise which would be that the Arabs (read Egypt principally) desire or are capable of being made to accept a settlement providing real security for Israel, her recognition not only juridically but morally as having a right to permanent existence, and her genuine acceptance, again morally as well as juridically, as a Middle Eastern nation.
- I do not believe that procedural tactics of whatever kind, which merely paper over the cracks of abysmal differences in these respects, can hope to achieve a settlement providing that degree of stability which will avoid the continuation of American involvement in the Arab political mire indefinitely.
- Obviously, the present situation is not without dangers. However, I think it is possible to and, if I am not mistaken, US public information media do, exaggerate the present possibilities of renewal of large scale hostilities. Israel’s security position is obviously better on all fronts than in May 1967; her casualties in the guerrilla clashes and from sabotage, while serious, are regarded by the public here as consistent with and not in excess of the price they are prepared to pay for existence; and except for an aberrationally inspired air attack on Tel Aviv there is little the Arabs could do to start a new configuration.
- The Israelis are, of course, concerned with the Soviet role in the area. But if our assessment is that the Sovs are not prepared militarily to support with Sov forces a new Arab initiative, it seems to me that [Page 725] the threat of a US-Sov confrontation, which would be greatest in the event of renewed hostilities in circumstances where Israel would be likely to lose and we would be called upon to prevent her annihilation, is not immediate nor need it be over the longer time, even if no solution is found.
- My apprehension is that the Sovs succeed by diplomatic maneuver to which we give verisimilitude in convincing the Arabs that us support for Israel is less than firm. I believe strongly that we have been correct to date in our refusal to be drawn into a negotiating posture with regard to a solution and (in declining) to participate in any moves toward an imposed settlement. Negative as it may sound, my view is that, while we can and should nudge the parties toward each other, so long as there is no fundamental change in the Arab inability to seek a genuine viable peace on borders clearly defensible against Arab attack, our best course is to make our basic sympathy toward Israel unmistakably clear, and to continue to avoid becoming a broker in a deal where one party refuses to trade.
- Foregoing was drafted before receipt of State 292074,4 with which it does not appear to conflict on major points.
- Assume Dept will repeat Amman.