61. Memorandum From Harold H. Saunders of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow)1


  • Where Jarring Is Now and What We Do About Him

There seem to be two schools of thought about Jarring’s performance. One considers him a skilled diplomat, tackling the easier problems first to stay in business while he gets a grip on the harder ones. The other notes his refusal to describe himself as a mediator or to propose solutions himself. One feels he is beginning to bore in; the other talks of “stalemate” and “impasse.”

We are trying to help him break through his first roadblock by leaning on the Israelis to say they accept the November resolution.2 We’re doing this on our own because it’s so obviously important. But how much we get into his act generally is a tougher problem.

Before he left, Jarring told us he would not contact us in the field, so we feel some constraint against contacting him. Without consulting him, we hesitate to get too involved in passing positions back and forth—as Eppie suggested-lest we undercut some phased presentation he wants to try. We’re trying to come to terms with this problem in New York via Bunche so we can make Rusk’s letter to Eban3 on peace initiatives as useful as possible, but preoccupation with North Korea has slowed us.

The case for prodding Jarring into action isn’t clearcut. He has made some progress:

  • —Movement toward release of ships trapped in the canal.
  • —Egyptian-Israeli prisoner exchange, apparently including six Israelis long held by the UAR (the main Israeli goal in the exchange and one which the USG and private American groups have long tried to achieve).
  • —Enough lessening of Egyptian resistance to talks so that there are vague reports that some sort of Rhodes-type negotiations4 are in the wind. (The UAR official position is still pretty hard, however.)
  • —Israeli proposals to the Arabs through Jarring and without direct talks, and possibly a vague agreement that there are other ways to get at the problem than a formal peace conference.
  • —Probably most important, enough weakening of the Jordanian position so that Hussein is proposing methods of getting around the withdrawal-direct talks impasse.

The difficulty with Jarring’s method is that he is running out of gap-fillers. If he can win Israeli acceptance of the resolution, he will have climbed his first range of mountains. That would increase the flow of ideas, at least from the Arabs. However, he would still have one more procedural obstacle to handle-the mechanics of talks.

The main question for us is how to encourage the parties to move from the general to the specific without pushing either them or Jarring too hard. This depends in part on whether we believe Jarring will come out of his shell or will remain essentially a telephone booth. How much perseverance he has, we just don’t know yet.

My own feeling is that he is digging in gradually and that we owe him a little more time. That doesn’t mean we can’t weigh in on obvious issues like Israeli acceptance of the resolution, and we must go ahead with our Rusk-Eban initiative stemming from Eshkol’s visit. But I’d be inclined not to push him yet.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Israel, Vol. VIII, Cables and Memos, 12/67-2/68. Secret.
  2. According to a memorandum for the record prepared by Saunders on January 26 of a meeting that day between Walt Rostow and Ambassador Harman, Rostow urged that the Israeli Government accede to the Arab request made through Ambassador Jarring that Israel accept the November 22 UN Security Council resolution as the basis for negotiation. Rostow pointed out that the United States had “bled in the halls of the UN” to establish the position that all elements of the resolution must be treated as a package. (Ibid., Files of Harold H. Saunders, Israel, 11/1/67-2/29/68)
  3. See Document 79.
  4. Reference is to the negotiation of armistice agreements between Israel and the Arab states January-March 1949. The negotiations took place at Rhodes with Ralph Bunche serving as UN Acting Mediator. The negotiations involved separate meetings by Bunche with each delegation on substantive items until discussions reached an advanced stage, whereupon joint informal meetings were held.