44. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Israel 1

98261. Deliver to action officer Saturday morning. Ref: Tel Aviv 1980.2

Front page NYTimes today reports GOI “expropriation” 838 acres in crescent reaching from Mount Scopus to Sanhedrin sector of Israeli Jerusalem. About 225 acres privately owned by Arabs, remainder GOI property. GOI Finance Ministry said property destined for public institutions, roads, parks and 1,400 housing units, including 400 residences for Arabs who were removed from Old City. Requisition order signed by Pinhas Sapir as Acting PM. Land assigned to GOI Land Administration for lease according to need.
NYTimes Jan 10 reported GOI announced detailed plans for restoration of Jewish Quarter of Old City. Projected work now begun will take more than a year for completion and will include restoration of buildings, construction of urban facilities and transfer of religious institutions. About 75 Arab families remaining on site will be moved and compensated. Compensation grants of $25,000 have already been [Page 103] paid. Article also reported Mayor Kollek as saying master plan for city will be completed by midsummer. Plan will call for reduction in congested Old City population.
On urgent basis request you verify these statements and supplement them with any additional pertinent information.
Unless NYTimes reports are false, you should at earliest opportunity express to Foreign Minister Eban deep concern of USG over these Israeli measures, which ignore and directly conflict with often stated USG position on Jerusalem. We have repeatedly made clear that we do not recognize unilateral action affecting the status of Jerusalem and that its status must necessarily be considered in the context of all problems arising out of the recent conflict. Of particular pertinence, the President and Prime Minister privately in their Texas talks instructed the Secretary and Eban to consult on ways of advancing the cause of peace, and the Secretary plans to write Eban shortly in this connection. Israeli actions appear to undercut that assignment before it has begun. Further, Israeli actions affecting status of Jerusalem have direct bearing on chances for success of Jarring negotiations and are thus inconsistent with language of joint statement of the President and Prime Minister endorsing UNSC Resolution and mission of Ambassador Jarring. As Israelis should be aware, Jerusalem will be a critical issue in any peace settlement. Consequently Israeli measures described in NYTimes article will further strengthen Arab suspicions that Israelis are not serious about an equitable peace settlement and will discourage Arabs from a serious posture towards negotiation.3
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 ARAB-ISR. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Drafted by Precht; cleared by Battle, Atherton, and Houghton, and in L in draft by Neuman; and approved by Acting Secretary Katzenbach. Repeated to Amman, Beirut, London, Cairo, Paris, Jerusalem, and USUN.
  2. In telegram 1980 from Tel Aviv, December 31, 1967, the Embassy commented, as background to the Eshkol visit, on a December 20 article in the Washington Post reporting that Eshkol had stated that a number of government departments and several hundred Israeli families would be relocated to the Arab section of East Jerusalem by the end of December. The Embassy stated that the report was oversimplified and misleading. (Ibid., POL 7 ISR)
  3. Katzenbach returned to this issue on January 20 in a personal message to Ambassador Barbour. Katzenbach stated that Israeli measures in East Jerusalem were creating a situation in which a decision to annex East Jerusalem was becoming increasingly irreversible. He felt that some modification of Israeli policy was essential if there was to be an agreed Arab-Israeli settlement. He was concerned that the Israeli Government might be underestimating the strength of the U.S. views on this issue, and he instructed Barbour to take every opportunity to stress the U.S. position. (Telegram 102224 to Tel Aviv; ibid., POL 27 ARAB-ISR)