374. Telegram From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson in Texas1

CAP 82960. The Soviets brought in to Secretary Rusk this afternoon a general policy statement on the Middle East accompanied by a so-called “plan” for the solution of the Middle East situation.2

Secretary Rusk’s preliminary comments and the documents follow. His further comments, as well as mine, will follow tomorrow.

For the President from Secretary Rusk.

Mr. Tcherniakov, Charge d’Affaires of the Soviet Union, came in to see me at 6:30 p.m. this evening to bring two documents from his government. The first was a general policy statement on the Middle East to accompany the second document which is a so-called “plan” for the solution of the Middle East situation. I emphasize that both of these documents now being transmitted are unofficial translations. We will get to you an official translation, taken directly from the Russian text, sometime tomorrow.

Mr. Tcherniakov said that he did not believe that the Soviet Union was planning to make this communication public. I asked him to confirm this with Moscow and that we would assume that it is not being made public unless we hear to the contrary from him. He also said that the same communication is being given to the British and French Governments.

Mr. Tcherniakov added that the USSR is of the opinion that the UAR is in agreement with the plan which they are now submitting. This undoubtedly reflects the outcome of Mr. Gromyko’s visit to Cairo. You will recall that we had from Egyptian sources the Egyptian impression that Gromyko would be in touch with us following his visit to Cairo.

I told Tcherniakov that I would not wish to reply off-the-cuff and that I would get this communication to you as soon as practicable. He [Page 741] knows that you are in Texas. I would like to study it very carefully before giving you my considered opinion. My first reaction is that it looks a bit toward what we could accept as a final settlement but is not yet good enough. I have in mind such matters as the handling of the passage of the Suez Canal and the continued insistence that the withdrawal of Israeli forces to the lines of June 4th is, in effect, a prerequisite to agreement on all other subjects. There is no flexibility in this present Russian plan for any modification of frontiers. On the other hand, the present Russian communication does seem to accept the idea of a package and that may give us some basis on which we can pursue the conversation.

First Document (Unofficial Translation)3

In continuation of the exchange of opinion with the American side with regard to the situation in the Middle East I am instructed to state the following to be transmitted to President Johnson.

Moscow takes with serious concern the situation now developing in the Middle East in view of the absence there of any real movement towards achieving a stable political settlement. The pertinent facts are well known to the US Government and there is no need to dwell upon them.

The Soviet Union in the course of the entire present Middle East conflict has consistently advocated its settlement by political means and consequently has maintained and continues to maintain contacts with the governments of Arab states which we believe has facilitated a constructive evolution in the approach on the part of those countries towards the problem of settlement with Israel.

The Arab states, first of all the UAR, are known to have formally recognized the UN Security Council resolution of November 22, 1967, and declared with all clarity their readiness to implement the provisions therein. Moreover, the UAR, as is known, has spoken in favor of working out a time-table for stage-by-stage implementation of the resolution, i.e. all its provisions and has put forward concrete considerations in that regard, which the American Government has already examined earlier.

Finally, one cannot but note the constructive nature of the UAR Government’s answer to the “7 points” introduced by the US Secretary of State last November.

That answer, while confirming the already noted positive aspects in the UAR position, in addition specifies the Egyptian position on such questions of principle as termination of the state of belligerency, freedom of navigation, refugee problem, guaranteeing implementation of [Page 742] the commitments with regard to the settlement, UN participation in implementing the settlement. The UAR answer is in full accord with the November 22 Security Council resolution.

Thus, there can hardly be doubt in anyone’s mind as to the good will on the part of the Arab states and their readiness for a just political settlement of the conflict which would ensure stabilization of the situation in the Middle East.

Now, what is the Israeli position? Are there any real positive changes in her position?

One should state, that, in fact, there are no such changes. Moreover, the Israeli forces do not cease armed provocations in the areas of the Suez Canal and Jordan River; public statements by the leaders of Tel-Aviv testify to the fact that expansionist mood influences more and more the policy of Israel.

The basic question of the Middle Eastern settlement is, undoubtedly, the necessity of complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Arab territories seized by them. As we understand the US Government also realizes the primary importance of the solution of this question. Notice was taken in Moscow of the statement by Under Secretary of State Mr. Eugene Rostow in the conversation with the Soviet Ambassador on November 8 to the effect that Israel has no territorial claims against the Arab countries and is ready for settlement on the basis of the demarkation lines under the Armistice Agreement in 1949.

However, subsequent statements by the Israelis themselves have in fact disavowed such an assertion. This clearly follows, for example, from the remarks made by Israeli UN Representative Mr. Tekaoh in the conversation with Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of the USSR Mr. Semenov that took place in New York at Tekoah’s initiative. Incidentally other remarks by Mr. Tekoah in this conversation do not show any reasonableness and soberness on the part of the Israelis either.

Moscow would like to hope that the US Government understands to what dangerous consequences could lead in the long run such a defiant behavior of Israel.

The Arab countries show their readiness for a peaceful settlement and for contributing constructively to its achievement. The conversation between the Foreign Minister of the USSR and the leaders of the UAR, which took place recently, fully confirms such a conclusion. At the same time one should keep in mind that in the circumstances of the continued aggression on the part of Israel the Arab countries, naturally, have taken and are taking maximum efforts to strengthen their military power. And nobody can blame them for doing so in the face of such a position of Israel.

In Israel, and not only in Israel, one can hear arguments to the effect that time, perhaps, works for Israel and therefore they could be in [Page 743] no hurry with the settlement on the conflict. This is a dangerous delusion. And if Israel does not show prudence, one can not exclude any surprises, such a turn of events that would be not only contrary to the interests of the Middle Eastern countries, naturally including Israel, but also would create a situation of crisis extending beyond the limits of that area.

Under these circumstances, it is the duty of all states, sincerely interested in stabilizing the situation in the Middle East, to take urgent and determined measures to prevent a new flare-up there through speediest achievement of a just, peaceful settlement on the basis of the resolution of the Security Council unanimously adopted on November 22, 1967. We proceed also from the assumption that Mr. Jarring’s mission serves these purposes and in our opinion it should be supported in every possible way.

The Soviet Union, in pursuing its policy of strengthening international peace and security, which was demonstrated anew by its contribution to the beginning of settlement of the Vietnam conflict, will continue to do everything depending on it to prevent a flare-up of a new crisis in the Middle East.

Attainment of a real progress in the political settlement of the Middle East conflict as well as a further progress in peace settlement in Vietnam would undoubtedly affect in a most positive way the entire world situation and would create more favorable conditions for the development of Soviet-American relations.

The main obstacle in the way of attaining a Middle East settlement continues to lie in the negative position of Israel. Therefore, hope is expressed in Moscow that the US Government will regard with all seriousness the considerations we set above and will take urgent measures to exert proper influence on Tel-Aviv so as to make them adopt, at last, a realistic position.

To facilitate finding a solution to the Middle East crisis the Soviet Government has prepared a plan containing new proposals, which are fully based on the above mentioned resolution of the Security Council and take into account the recently emerged moments favorable to the achievement of agreement on a peace settlement in the Middle East.

We are ready to continue further exchanges of views with the American side on the questions of a Middle Eastern settlement.

Second Document (Unofficial Translation)

Israel and the Arab countries-neighbours of Israel, that would be prepared to participate in the implementation of such a plan, reaffirm their adherence to the Security Council resolution of November 22, 1967, and declare their readiness to implement all its provisions.

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They agree further that there will be worked out by way of contacts through Mr. Jarring a timetable and an order for the withdrawal of the Israeli troops from the territories occupied during the conflict of 1967 and that there will be outlined an agreed plan for the implementation by the sides of other provisions of the Security Council resolution, having in view the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East, under which each state in that region will be able to live in security.

The purpose of these contacts could be to agree upon specific arrangements to implement the above Security Council resolution.

1.
An agreement be reached on simultaneous declaration by the Government of Israel and by the governments of the Arab states—neighbours of Israel which will participate in the implementation of the plan, of their readiness to terminate the state of belligerency between them and attain a peaceful settlement after the withdrawal of the Israeli troops from the occupied Arab territories. In this connection Israel states her readiness to begin, starting from a fixed date, the withdrawal of troops from the Arab territories occupied as a result of the conflict in summer of 1967.
2.

On the day of the beginning of the withdrawal of the Israeli troops, to be carried out by stages under the supervision by the UN observers, the above mentioned Arab countries as well as Israel deposit with the U.N. appropriate documents on the cessation of the state of belligerency, on the respect for and the recognition of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of each state in this area and of their right to live in peace, in secured and recognized boundaries, i.e. in accord with the above mentioned resolution of the Security Council.

In accordance with an agreement to be reached through Mr. Jarring provisions would also be agreed upon concerning secured and recognized boundaries (with appropriate maps attached), concerning the ensuring of freedom of navigation through international waterways in the area, a justful settlement of refugee problem, the ensuring of territorial integrity and political independence of each state in the area (possibly through measures, including establishment of demilitarized zone).

It is understood that such an agreement will be viewed in accordance with the resolution of the Security Council as something of a whole, relating to all the aspects of a settlement throughout the Middle Eastern area, as a “package.”

3.

The Israeli forces within the subsequent month (as an example) withdraw from a part of Arab territories to certain intermediate positions on the Sinai Peninsula, on the western bank of the Jordan River (as well as from the Syrian territory-from the area of El Quneitra).

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On the day when the Israeli forces reached predetermined lines on the Sinai Peninsula (for instance, 30-40 kilometers from the Suez Canal), the Government of the UAR brings its forces into the Suez Canal and begins clearing operations for the resumption of navigation.

4.

Within the second month (conditionally) the Israeli forces are withdrawn to the lines which they occupied prior to June 5, 1967, upon which administration of the respective Arab countries is completely restored on the vacated territories, its troops and police forces are introduced.

On the date of the beginning of the second stage of withdrawal of Israeli troops the UAR and Israel (or the UAR alone if her government agrees) declare their agreement to the deployment of UN troops near the line which existed before June 5, 1967, on the Sinai Peninsula, at Sharm al Sheikh and in Gaza sector, that is a situation which existed in this area in May 1967 is restored.

The Security Council takes a decision to dispatch UN troops in accordance with the UN Charter and confirms the principle of freedom of navigation through the Tiran Straits and the Gulf of Akaba for vessels of all countries.

5.
After the completion of withdrawal of Israeli troops to the lines of state demarkation through the Security Council, or through signing a multilateral document, the documents of the Arab countries and Israel, deposited earlier, are finally put into effect.

The Security Council, on the basis of the UN Charter provisions, takes a decision to guarantee the Arab-Israeli boundaries (as a variant, guarantees by the four powers-permanent members of the Security Council, are not excluded).

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, Walt W. Rostow, Vol. 112, 12/26-31/68. Secret; Sensitive.
  2. A memorandum of Rusk’s December 30 conversation with Yuri Tcherniakov, with a translation of the note given to Rusk by the Soviet Charge, is in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 ARAB-ISR. Tcherniakov also met on December 30 with Robert Ellsworth, an assistant to President-elect Nixon, and gave him two documents for Nixon that were virtually identical to the two given to Rusk. A memorandum of the conversation between Tcherniakov and Ellsworth and the two Soviet notes are ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, HAK Administrative and Staff Files-Transition, Robert Ellsworth.
  3. The translations of the two documents are as received from the Soviet Embassy.