45. Telegram From the Department of State to the U.S. Interests Section of the Spanish Embassy in the United Arab Republic 1

98453. 1. Ashraf Ghorbal, newly arrived officer in charge UAR interests section Indian Embassy, called at Department for marathon discussion January 12. Burden his remarks was that Arabs had come a long way to meet our requirements since last summer but US continued unalterably pro-Israel and upped the ante every time Arabs showed any sign of reasonableness. Said he had seen both Zakariyah Muhieddin and Mahmoud Riad on eve his departure and was authorized by both of them to say UAR sincerely interested in peaceful settlement and would like to remove Palestine problem from agenda. Toward this goal they thought they following Secretary’s advice to be wise and reasonable, but they genuinely perplexed to know what USG wanted.

2. Ghorbal maintained that since last June there had not been one public statement of US appreciation for moderation being shown by Arabs. Furthermore we had announced we were giving offensive aircraft to Israel immediately following its inhuman attack on Suez, and now President Johnson had told Eshkol he understood latter’s problems in trying to obtain peace in Middle East, because he was having same sort of problem in Viet-Nam. This was unfortunate comparison. Fact was Israelis were ones who did not want peace and it had been Israelis who invaded Egypt, not vice versa. Egypt had been looking for peaceful way out of dilemma and had been ready to send Muhieddin to Washington, when Israelis had attacked. Egyptians had listened to our warnings not to attack, but Israelis had not heeded them. Now Egypt wanted peaceful settlement but Israelis were consolidating their gains and US not doing anything to stop them. For Egyptians, sine qua non of peaceful settlement was Israeli withdrawal, and only US could effect that. If we not prepared exert our influence to that end, entire area would be irretrievably lost to West.

3. Deptoff replied we still prepared put our full weight behind settlement within terms November 22 UN resolution, but we could not impose solution on any of parties. Package must be something everyone could live with. It quite true we had put no pressure on Israelis to withdraw, and would not do so in absence reasonable proposals for [Page 105] settlement. Israelis maintained with reason that they could not be expected to fight war of national survival every ten years and could not return to unstable status quo ante. They had also indicated however that their stated positions not inflexible and there was room for bargaining. We saw Jarring’s task as that of exploring positions of both sides and establishing outlines of settlement. We hoped he would come up with something workable, but had taken decision not to get involved ourselves at this stage because we did not wish to affect chances of settlement by having proposals identified as ours. Although questions of Jerusalem, Suez and Gaza posed difficulties, we thought honorable global settlement was possible. Settlement would include non-belligerency and withdrawal to agreed boundaries. We had reached no firm position on what those boundaries should be, but assumed armistice lines would be basis. There would have to be some rectifications however and there would have to be some demilitarization. Essential element in getting such settlement was that UAR have some faith in our intentions.

4. Ghorbal said Deptoff remarks confirmed Egyptian suspicions we were in fact supporting Israelis in their efforts to dictate terms. We were saying in effect that Israelis would not withdraw until they had what they wanted, and that we supported them in this. We could not expect Egyptians to put any faith or trust in us under these circumstances. Comment: Ghorbal personally somewhat depressed by problems setting up house in Washington and dealing with American public opinion and his remarks reflect this. They also appeared reflect however genuine sense of frustration on part UARG that implementation UN resolution proceeding at such leisurely pace and that Jarring not showing more dynamic approach to problem.

Katzenbach
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 ARAB-ISR. Secret. Drafted by Parker and approved by Davies. Repeated to Tel Aviv, Amman, Beirut, London, Jidda, USUN, and Jerusalem.