81. Telegram From the Embassy in Israel to the Department of State1

2524. Jarring Mission. Ref: State’s 114277.2 Department pass Cairo.

At Israelis’ invitation I met early last evening (Feb. 13) with Foreign Minister Eban and MFA DirGen Rafael to discuss latest Jarring Mission developments. During course hour talk with both and separate following conversation with Rafael: (A) I conveyed the Secretary’s [Page 164] personal message (Eban read it, but said he would have to study it further before commenting). (B) Eban gave me copy modified GOI position he had provided Jarring February 12, explained rationale for modification and suggested what US could do to help. (C) Eban and Rafael speculated re Jarring next steps and discussed relation of Jordan to current moves. (D) At outset conversation Eban remonstrated about Department officer’s remarks in recent conversations on Jarring state of play and I reminded him of some of our apprehensions at continued lack of progress in recent discussions of UAR and Israeli position.
Following is text describing Israeli position given Jarring February 12. GOI agreeable that full text be passed by Jarring to pass para (F).
  • “(A) Israel has cooperated and will cooperate with you in your mission. We accept the Security Council’s call, in its resolution of November 22, 1967, for the promotion of agreement on the establishment of peace with secure and recognized boundaries.
  • (B) Once agreement is reached on a peace settlement it will be faithfully implemented by Israel.
  • (C) As I indicated to you on 1 February 1968, Israel is prepared to negotiate on all matters included in the Security Council resolution which either side wished to raise. Our views on the problems of peace and our interpretation of the resolution were stated by me in the Security Council on November 22, 1967.
  • (D) The Prime Minister of Israel, in a statement on January 8, indicated Israel’s respect for the Security Council’s resolution as an expression of the international interest in an agreed and final peace settlement. We now understand that the U.A.R. too is prepared to respect the Security Council’s resolution and to establish a just and lasting peace, and for this purpose to discuss the resolution taken as a whole.
  • (E) The next step should be to bring the parties together. I refer to the agreement which I expressed to you on 14 February for the special representative of the Secretary-General to convene the two governments.
  • (F) We do not consider that accepted settlements of intricate problems can be reached by a procedure which avoids the establishment of contact. Apart from our views on the principle of negotiation, we cannot commit our most vital interests to an inefficient procedure.”
This, Eban said, was a statement Israel was ready to defend before world opinion. Israel had used words in this formulation it understood were necessary to get things moving: “accept,” “respect,” “implement.” The essential element was agreement. Israel could not return to 1957 type formulations. For Arabs the key seemed to be “implementation;” very well, this was mentioned in the Israeli statement. But we must always come back to idea of agreement. The SC Res mentioned it. The GOI speaks the same language as that resolution: we are ready to “reason together.”
The GOI, Eban continued, is hopeful that the USG will regard this as a forward movement. It represented quite an effort on the GOI’s part in view of the fears of what others were trying to read into the UNSC res. He hoped that the US could consider using its influence on behalf of an efficient negotiating procedure. Jarring, he said, was afraid that Egypt would want to keep him running.3 Jarring thinks this is technically impossible. (Later, separately, Rafael, “strictly off the record” said he gathered from his discussion with Jarring that latter felt he had enough substance on which to build a formula for convening the two parties; and that he close to point of inviting reps of parties to Nicosia; he could not go on with this game of ping pong with himself as the ball.) Eban noted that there was no mention of direct negotiations in the Israeli statement. In answer to my question as to whether the Israelis remained willing to have a meeting convened by Jarring have the appearance of the two parties talking to Jarring rather than to each other, Eban replied that they had reaffirmed their readiness to begin talks on the Bunche-Rhodes formula.4 He said that during the first week of those talks the two parties had sat in the same room but had not addressed their remarks to each other. After about a week this all changed and there were direct talks with Bunche continuing in the chair. Rafael said the Israeli desideratum for talks was “same time, same space.”

At the beginning of our talk Eban said that recent conversations in Washington had given him cause for concern. According to their report Dep Asst Sec Davies had described to Evron Department’s understanding of stiff and unyielding Egyptian position (no formal peace, no negotiation, no formal recognition of Israel, no Israeli canal navigation until refugee problem solved), without expressing any Department reservations and in terms seeming to advise acceptance of Egyptian formulations.

If this was Department understanding of Egyptian position, it was all the more disturbing to have report of Asst Sec Sisco-Evron conversation5 in which Sisco suggested that unless Israel accepted Egyptian formula there might be Security Council meeting in which Israel [Page 166] could not assume US support. This was surprising to Eban, he said; he was not aware that the US and Israel had departed from their common views. The tone was not a tone of partnership; it seemed to suggest that “we should all fall down and accept what the UAR wants.” As a matter of fact, Jarring had said that Egypt was doubtful about going back to the Security Council. “Our estimate is that if this were to happen the Council would not draft a new decalogue.” The point was that the US seemed to be trying to get Israel to accept Egyptian formulas. At the same time, Eban continued, the Israelis had reports that Egypt was telling third parties that Egypt had been given the understanding that the US was exercising pressure on Israel. This was very disturbing and might explain why the Egyptians had held out on the Israelis’ February 1 formula.

Eban then went on to specific objections to the Sisco suggestions. Israel, he said, could not accept the November 22 Res “in accord with interpretations put on it by its principal sponsors.” One of the sponsors, the UK, was notably “wobbly” of late, though it seemed to be trying to get back on firmer ground. Israel had to interpret the resolution as it understood it and Egypt could accept or reject this interpretation as it wanted. Israel had had enough bad historical experience along this line. Besides, Jarring himself would not like this idea; with each side quoting its own interpretative authority, he could get caught in the middle of a dispute between the powers, which he clearly wanted to avoid.
I told the Foreign Minister that I thought there had been a misinterpretation of Asst Sec Sisco’s views and I reviewed with him State 114278 (we have not yet received a report of the Davies-Evron conversation). We were concerned that the UAR and even Jordan was making hay in the world’s capitals out of the continuing Israeli refusal to accept the SC res. The Arabs have told us that the Israelis were playing with words: right or wrong, their arguments were cogent to a degree. Our apprehensions re Jordan were heightened by the fact that the factual situation regarding Jerusalem, of such concern to them, was being eroded. We were concerned about a return of Middle East problems to the Security Council where, as Sisco put it, the Arabs would try to re-write history, where the pressure of shifting world opinion would make it difficult to achieve a resolution as favorable as that of November 22. Eban expressed the doubt, as he was to do again later in the conversation, that the Arabs would take affairs to the Security Council again. I assured the Minister that we were not buying the Arab line but I reiterated our concern about world opinion and our desire to avoid Israel’s being in an indefensible posture if there is another SC session.
Later, with Rafael, I asked where Jordan stood in all of this. He said that Jarring reported that he was sure that if Egypt were to agree [Page 167] to attend a Jarring convened meeting, then Jordan would follow immediately. Jordan did not feel it could move first but it certainly did not want to be left behind. Rafael said that the GOI had authorized Jarring to convey the Israel February 12 formula. The Israelis had asked him also suggest that the Jordanians look a little more closely at the Israeli agenda for talks originally presented and rejected by Jordan. There [were listed items?], for the Jordanian interests in Jerusalem in addition to interests of religious authorities. Jarring, he said, was glad to have this. Rafael went on to ruminate that if the Jordanians thought this was a good time to take the Israelis to the Security Council under conditions favorable to Jordan, they were mistaken. There was great pressure in Israel, Rafael said, to take care of Israel’s current security problems along the Jordan border on strictly military terms. He hoped Jordan would not try to seek a political advantage through Security Council action.

Comment: I, of course, expressed pleasure at the new Israeli formulation and agreed with Eban in hope that some of the concern we have felt and which was evinced in the Department conversations he referred to will be alleviated by knowledge of the modifications that the Israelis have effected. It will be noted that the Israelis still have not simply accepted the resolution. However, especially from Rafael, I thought I detected a cautious but real optimism that these latest concessions from earlier Israeli positions will be enough to get talks going in Cyprus. He expressed the hope that we might be able to stimulate Jarring to decision to formulate proposal to parties but I, of course, noted that Jarring not directly in touch with us and consequently, there difficulty in our taking such steps.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 ARAB-ISR. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Repeated to Amman and USUN.
  2. Document 79.
  3. Jarring met with Foreign Minister Mahmoud Riad in Cairo on February 13 and conveyed the Israeli position as put forward by Eban on February 12. Riad responded that he saw no progress in the Israeli position. He stated that the UAR would have nothing to add until Israel indicated a willingness to implement Resolution 242 and reiterated that the UAR would not engage in direct negotiations with Israel. (Telegram 1636 from Cairo, February 14; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 ARAB-ISR)
  4. See footnote 4, Document 61.
  5. This conversation, which took place on February 12, was summarized in telegram 114278 to Tel Aviv, February 13. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 ARAB-ISR)