13. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Israel1

38852. 1. Following is uncleared account of Secretary’s response to Eban’s March 12 presentation reported septel,2 and of Eban comments thereon. It is subject to change on review, FYI, Noforn.

2. After expressing condolences on Eshkol death and congratulations to Mrs. Meir,3 Secretary said new administration fully aware of special US-Israeli relations which it has no intention of changing.

3. Secretary continued that he agreed with much of what Eban had said and could assure Eban there was no lessening of US support for Israel’s objective of contractual settlement which is lasting and fully protects Israel’s security.

4. US stands firmly on concept of agreement between parties. Our purpose in Two Power and Four Power talks is to support Jarring efforts with parties, not substitute for them.

5. Secretary said we do not think parties have made sufficient effort, however, to get into substance of a settlement. We do not wish to argue question of blame but want to move things along. We are not asking Israel to make proposals which undermine its negotiating position but feel we have obligation to help parties move toward permanent peace.

6. We hope Israel will be forthcoming in its replies to Jarring.4 We also hope Arabs will say what they mean by peace. This is fundamental and we agree with Eban’s analysis of the concept of peace.

7. In urging Israel to be forthcoming, we mean we hope Israel will be willing to specify boundaries to which it will withdraw. We will not [Page 46] suggest to anyone, however, that Israel withdraw without receiving an Arab assurance on peace.

8. As concerns Israel’s position, we see territorial question as guts of issue. We are convinced that agreement binding Arabs to peace, bulwarked by arrangements for demilitarization and by international guarantees, can more adequately insure Israel’s security than can continuation of present unstable no-war, no-peace situation. On this point, Secretary said, we and Israel may have differences. We sometimes have impression Israel may think present situation is better than peace.

9. Secretary continued that now is time to make determined effort. We view Security Council Resolution and Jarring Mission as proper focus for search for peace settlement. We plan to move next week in bilateral and Four Power contexts since we believe Jarring has reached impasse and that major powers can now play helpful role.5 We are making no conclusive judgments about Soviet and French intentions and realize we must be skeptical, particularly re Soviets, although latter may have their own reasons for wanting to move. We hope Israel will give French their detailed views on French proposals.6

10. Secretary then handed Eban copy of USG description of principles which we feel should govern peace settlement and which we plan to submit to other three powers next week.7 (Text will be made available to posts after further discussion with Eban.) We would appreciate Israel’s comments on these principles and could perhaps discuss them further next day.

11. Elaborating on statement of principles, Secretary said we do not favor imposed settlement and believe precise boundaries are for [Page 47] parties to work out. As we have said before, however, we do not consider either Qte Allon Plan End qte or Israeli retention of territory at Sharm al-Sheikh consistent with our principles.

12. Secretary continued that we would find it useful to hear how Israel envisages relations with its neighbors following peace settlement. In our view, type of relations existing between neighboring states that have long lived in peace is unattainable in Middle East at this stage in history. We think juridical peace, buttressed by international guarantees, can be attained and could evolve into fully normal relations Israel seeks. It also possible that quite different relations might emerge between Israel and Jordan on one hand and between Israel and UAR on other.

13. Eban responded that, with respect to Secretary’s suggestions about giving Arabs GOI concept of boundaries, question is at what stage this should be done. If Israel did so before Arabs reached decision to make peace, latter would simply reject Israeli proposals. Jarring himself has said that Israel should not give Arabs a map. Secretary commented that agreed boundaries must clearly be related to Israel’s security.

14. In response to Eban’s query re status of document handed him by Secretary, latter said it was still in-house document on which we want Israel’s comments. Eban replied that, while he had no difficulty with our use of word Qte minimal End qte in discussing boundary changes among ourselves, to give this formulation to others as basis for discussions would erode US position further. On quick reading of our principles, Eban said several points caught his eye which would undermine Israel’s position. Secretary agreed we could discuss principles paper further next day.8

15. Commenting on Secretary’s statement re continuation of status quo, Eban said Israel by no means considers present situation perfect; it is better, however, than to withdraw from cease fire lines without peace. Israel agrees it should not simply stand pat. US should not be too impatient, however. Status quo can continue for some months without danger of hostilities.

[Page 48]

16. Secretary referred to indications that Israel believes face-to-face negotiations are necessary to make progress. We agree that direct negotiations desirable but believe agreement could also be produced by negotiations through Jarring which parties could then commit themselves to. Eban replied that Israel agreed some months ago to move from insistence on direct negotiations to a phased approach. Decision re when to move from indirect to direct negotiations could be made empirically but he could not see how peace could be achieved without meetings between parties. Eban added that GOI had even been prepared to give Jarring draft of what contractual agreement might look like and might still do so later, but for present would stay with Jarring’s question and answer exercise.

17. Turning to French proposals, Eban said they were even further than Soviets from concept of agreement. Sisco noted that we had given French our preliminary comments and that French were refining their proposals and had given us some elaboration previous day. Sisco said we were aware of French-Israeli discussions in Paris and knew that GOI was weighing question of giving French substantive reactions. Eban replied that Israel had pointed out certain fatal flaws in French proposal which invalidated the rest.

18. Sisco made point that French will develop their position with or without Israeli views. We believe Israel can influence French position by making its substantive views known, regardless of what it thinks about procedure French are proposing.

19. In response to Ambassador Rabin’s query why USG paying such attention to French, Secretary said we had made clear to French that settlement must be a package and we would not agree on phased approach. Was anything to be gained, however, by treating France as enemy? Rabin said Qte France is Israel’s enemy End qte. Eban added that French are outside of European consensus re Middle East. Dutch Government, for example, does not like our giving France the role of representing Europe. In Israel’s view US will get more cooperation from British. In response to Secretary’s questions whether he had talked to British, Eban said he had seen Prime Minister Wilson briefly in transiting London and would have longer talk with him on return trip. Secretary noted that British seemed to wish to stay close to USG.

20. Eban asked if our position was that Four Power talks would take place only if and when bilateral talks became convergent. Secretary said this was not quite our position. We have said nothing is excluded but we want to have advance idea of what will happen before moving to Four Power forum. We have also made clear we will con [Page 49] tinue to consult with Israel and others. Four Powers have agreed their talks will be low-key and private. Eban expressed skepticism, saying anything we give Soviets will appear in Cairo press.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 604, Country Files, Middle East, Israel, Vol. I. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Drafted by Atherton, cleared in IO, and approved by Sisco. Repeated priority to Amman and to London, Paris, Moscow, Cairo, USUN, Jidda, and Beirut.
  2. Telegram 38981 to Tel Aviv, March 13; ibid., Box 613, Country Files, Middle East, Jordan, Vol. I.
  3. Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol suffered a fatal heart attack on February 26. The Labor Party selected Meir as the “consensus candidate” to suceed Eshkol rather than endure a fierce tug-of-war between Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and Deputy Prime Minister Yigal Allon for control of the party. “I honestly didn’t want the responsibility, the awful stress of being Prime Minister,” Meir wrote in her autobiography. But “I had no choice. . . . It was enough that we had a war with the Arabs on our hands; we could wait for that to end before we embarked on a war of the Jews.” (Meir, My Life, pp. 350–352)
  4. See Document 12.
  5. Sisco had his first substantive talk with Dobrynin on March 18 (see Document 15), and he spoke with French Ambassador Charles Lucet and British Chargé d’Affaires Edward Tompkins separately on March 20. (Telegram 43763 to Paris, March 21; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 614, Country Files, Middle East, Jordan, Vol. III, and telegram 43764 to London, March 21; ibid., Box 726, Country Files, Europe, United Kingdom, Vol. I)
  6. On March 14, Ambassador Sargent Shriver informed the Department that, since Nixon’s visit to Paris, “serious” discussions about the Middle East had occurred at the highest levels of the French Government. The previous day, Luc de la Barre de Nanteuil, Chief of Levant Affairs at the French Foreign Ministry, had told Shriver that France’s ideas on the Middle East would be put into final form before the next Four-Power meeting on March 24. (Telegram 3685 from Paris; ibid., Box 644, Country Files, Middle East, General, Vol. I)
  7. See Document 17.
  8. The paper that Rogers handed to Eban is not identified, but presumably it was a version of the paper prepared for the Four-Power talks, Document 17. According to the Israeli record of the March 13 meeting, Eban’s response to the paper was negative: “The idea that the U.S. should submit a document of this kind to the other three powers or to anyone else is profoundly shocking. I request formally and solemnly that this not be done and I ask that this request be made known to the President.” (Israel State Archive, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 4780/2)