88. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson 1

SUBJECT

  • NSC Discussion of the Near East—Noon, Wednesday, February 21

You have heard Gene Black’s description of how our position in the Near East is eroding. Your ambassadors agree, and critics are playing up Soviet gains in the area. The purpose of this meeting is to review the situation and to discuss what more we can do to reverse the trend.

We can take some steps like sending arms to Jordan or renewing relations with Cairo. But the Arabs will mainly measure us by our success in promoting an Arab-Israeli arrangement which would lead to Israeli withdrawal. In this quarter there are two main issues:

1.
How to get the Jarring mission moving. Jarring is trying to persuade the Israelis and Egyptians to “accept” the November 22 UN resolution as a basis for talks. The Israelis are evasive because they fear Cairo will interpret their acceptance as agreement to withdraw before negotiating other issues like permanent boundaries. Israel wants to be sure talks will follow their acceptance. The Egyptians say they “accept” the whole resolution but won’t commit themselves to talks until Israel “accepts” the resolution. Ambassadors Goldberg and Barbour and Joe Sisco are discussing the problem in detail with the Israelis, and Secretary Rusk has written Abba Eban. We don’t think you need to weigh in yet, but the question is how much harder we press Israel to break this impasse.
2.
How to stop Israeli incorporation of Jerusalem. The Arabs see Israeli acts in Jerusalem as proof that Israel doesn’t intend to negotiate an honest settlement. The Jordanians threaten to bring the matter to the Security Council in the next few days. Secretary Rusk wrote to Abba Eban; a few days later President Shazar said publicly that Israel would never give up Jerusalem. Entirely apart from Israel’s eventual negotiating position on Jerusalem, we want them to lie low on moves that further alienate the Arabs, upset Jarring and make it more difficult for us to play a constructive role. State may possibly ask you soon to weigh in with Eshkol asking him to lay aside plans for developing land in former Arab Jerusalem which Israel expropriated. There is no recommendation [Page 181] yet, but this discussion will give you the full picture of how these issues all fit together.

W.W. Rostow 2
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, Walt W. Rostow, Vol. 63, 2/17-21/68. Secret.
  2. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.