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

CAP 82970. Following is a memorandum to me from Hal Saunders on responding to the Soviet Middle East initiative. Sec. Rusk will be formulating his view in the next day or so.

“I believe the time has come to pick up where we left off on November 22, 1967. An intense period of negotiation with Russians, Arabs and Israelis produced the UN resolution. Then we stepped back to give [Page 748] Jarring a chance to arrange agreements that would carry out the resolution’s intent. So far he has failed. Most of us, I believe, feel he will need more direct help from us and the Soviets if he’s to get anywhere. Only the Israelis argue today that mounting tension will bring the Arabs closer to negotiation, and their eye-for-an-eye judgment is questionable.

The issue today is whether we move toward another period of intense five-or-six-cornered negotiation to establish a scenario for working out agreement under the resolution. When Dobrynin delivered a similar memo2 right after the Czech invasion, we answered by urging the Soviets to get behind Jarring. That was reasonable because Jarring was just starting his New York phase. But that produced little, and now he needs help.

If we go down this course, these points are crucial:

Our first effort should be to impose a negotiation-not a solution. The Soviet note3 speaks of contacts through Jarring to work out a timetable for withdrawal and resolution of other issues in the resolution. The purpose of this document, therefore, might be to arrive at an agreement to negotiate a timetable. Perhaps this could be an elaboration of the first page and a half of the Soviet memo. Then we would have a three-step process:
Declaration of intent.
Negotiation of details of elements of a settlement.
Final agreement on a timetable, meshing those elements.
We must bring the Israelis with us as we did in October-November 1967. We have lost their confidence since November 1967. They’re bitterly suspicious of our past exchanges with the Soviets. Yet our main contribution to imposing a negotiation would be to bring the Israelis along. Therefore, I would urge giving Rabin the Soviet memo today, telling him that we are going to prepare a counterdraft and asking him to study and return to discuss an appropriate counter. I think State will do this.
The Soviets must bring the Arabs along. Gromyko obviously has Cairo behind this memo. But the point is that Moscow must be willing to keep Cairo behind subsequent negotiations.

These are just rough initial thoughts. The central point is my belief that we should now move back into intense involvement in the negotiation process.

/S/Harold H. Saunders

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, Walt W. Rostow, Vol. 112, 12/26-31/68. Secret.
  2. See Document 245.
  3. See Document 374.