181. Paper Prepared by the National Security Council Staff1


Options for Moving Toward a Mid-East Settlement


Attached is Sisco’s paper, “Middle East—Where Do We Go From Here?”2 This suggests mainly trying to develop a joint strategy with Israel for trying to get talks started on the basis of some UAR political concessions (e.g., agreement to a POW exchange or to Jarring talks at the Foreign Minister level, which Israel wants). This considers none of the other options which have been suggested. These are detailed below for the sake of establishing a broader framework for discussion.

Inventory of Steps that Could Be Taken

Listed as major headings below are the broad options described in the IG paper. Under them are noted the principal operational proposals related to each one. These are proposals from all quarters; the IG paper does not go into this much operational detail. They are included here as a step toward looking at exactly what steps are available in the present situation. The arguments on these options are deferred to the next section of this summary.

1. We can make a specific proposal to the UAR and Soviets for rectification of the standstill violations, and to Israel to resume talks under Jarring once such rectifications have taken place.

—We could suggest UAR redeployment of missiles (without razing sites) outside a 20 km. zone next to the Canal but within the 50 km. zone.

—There has been a proposal for mutual withdrawal of all forces on both sides of the Canal to lines 25 km. back. This has sometimes been coupled with a proposal to begin clearing the Canal.

2. We could press Israel to resume talks under Jarring’s auspices without rectification of the violations.

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—We could take the line that any shifts in the military balance as a result of the violations has been redressed by subsequent U.S. military assistance to Israel. We could also mention:

—$500 million in military assistance.

—New aircraft and other military equipment for delivery in 1971.

—We could promise Israel that we would not press the U.S. formulations put forward by Secretary Rogers on December 9, 1969,3 and in the U.S.–USSR talks in any negotiation that might begin.

—We could try to negotiate some new standstill agreement.

Jarring could call for talks on this subject just to get the parties engaged.

—The U.S. and USSR could attempt to work out a new agreement.

Jarring could be urged to issue an invitation to talks at the Foreign Minister level (which Israel wants) and we, in connection with new arms aid, could let Israel know that we expected it to find a way to accept.

—We could try to get outside the Jarring framework and stimulate a call for a peace conference. One suggestion has been to have this a meeting with the permanent representatives of the UN Security Council (the Four Powers under their formal UN hats).

3. We could resume active substantive negotiations in the two and four power talks.

—While there is little pressure for this in U.S. councils, it could perhaps be envisioned in connection with one of the steps listed above. There is Malik’s informal suggestion of talks on US–USSR guarantees (rather than on settlement terms).4

4. While continuing to hold out for rectification and against shifting the negotiations to the four powers, we could explore a “Palestinian option”—i.e., the possibility of an Israeli-Jordanian-Palestinian settlement. [The operational suggestions for this option are dealt with more fully under the analytical summary of the Palestinian background paper.5 The thoughts below are in addition to those described there.]

Jarring could be asked to invite Jordanian and Israeli (and perhaps Palestinian) representatives to begin talks on the foundation that the standstill violations do not apply to Jordan.

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—An economic program could be launched involving the Palestinians as a possible prelude to their greater involvement in peace talks. For example, there might be a refugee commission to begin arranging the details of compensation; Israel might make an offer in this connection; the U.S. might relate its economic rehabilitation program in Jordan to phasing UNRWA functions into Jordanian and Palestinian hands.

5. While taking a number of interim steps and holding out for rectification, we could in effect mark time on all fronts with respect to a peace settlement until the forces set in motion by recent events in the area have become clearer and the parties have adjusted themselves to this new situation. This would presumably require some steps that would permit the UAR to justify continuing the ceasefire past the present extension.

—The U.S. or Jarring might start circulation of working drafts of portions of a final settlement on their own. This could be called preliminary work while the standstill was being renegotiated, for instance.

—An effort could be made to arrange secret UAR-Israel contacts which could then be merged into Jarring talks. This might be enough to encourage Israel to find a formula for resuming talks under Jarring.

—Steps on the refugees described above could be taken with a possible Israel offer of some controlled program for permitting those who left the West Bank in 1967 to return to their homes. This might be characterized in some way so as to relate it to eventual West Bank freedom.

—Two power talks would be resumed to discuss U.S.-Soviet modalities for avoiding confrontation rather than for an Arab-Israeli settlement.

—An Israeli withdrawal of occupation forces from the populated areas of the West Bank (while maintaining security positions along the Jordan River) if connected with other moves toward the Palestinians might provide a sense of movement on that front. A related move would be arrangement for freer flow of people and commerce, especially to Jerusalem. Israel might even turn over to West Bank Muslim authority control of the Islamic holy places.

Issues for Discussion

The above operational possibilities raise the issues below. The major arguments presented in the IG paper for and against each option are reflected below.

1. Should the U.S. press to get Jarring talks started soon? The alternative is marking time either until the new situation in the area is clearer or at least until Israel makes up its own mind to begin talks as a means of keeping the ceasefire going.

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Pro. The main argument for our pressing to start talks now are (1) that the U.S. does have an interest in not completely losing the momentum of the summer initiative and (2) that some movement in peace talks is necessary if the UAR is to continue the ceasefire after the present extension.6 Behind these arguments is the feeling that we should capitalize on the fluidity in the present situation in Cairo.

Con. The main longer term arguments for moving more slowly are that neither Sadat nor Hussein is now strong enough to deliver his country to a compromise settlement and that the U.S. must allow some time to pass in order that the USSR and UAR can demonstrate their intention to be constructive. It is difficult to imagine any other “rectification” of the situation arising from the standstill violations. The more immediate argument for standing back is that the Israelis must recognize that the UAR cannot continue the ceasefire indefinitely without talks. It would be better for Israel to start talks for its own reasons than for us to press.

2. If the U.S. chooses or is forced by circumstances to mark time, are there realistic interim steps that could be taken that would permit the ceasefire to continue?

Pro. A variety of steps is described in paragraphs 3–5 of the previous section. A major argument for moving ahead with some kind of Jordan-Israel talks, for instance, would be to ignore the UAR because of the standstill violations and yet put pressure on them by moving ahead with talks that might command some Palestinian support and therefore make it difficult for the UAR to disrupt. One could even argue that movement on the Palestinian front would hold greater promise of success, if constructive, than immediate resumption of Jarring talks.

Con. Any interim steps except those that can pass as an honest effort at negotiation will be regarded in the Arab countries as stalling tactics. They would, in fact, run more parallel to Israeli than to Arab interests.

3. If the U.S. decided to press for Jarring talks, should those talks be the only focus of our efforts to achieve a settlement? The alternative would be to let the talks proceed but to supplement them in ways that may have more chance of success.

Pro. Both sides have accepted a basis for talks after three years, and we cannot afford to throw that away. Eban has reconfirmed Israel’s acceptance of that basis in the recent UNGA debate. Everybody seems to recognize that the standstill provision of that agreement is dead. Time will take us past the rectification problem, so there is no good reason [Page 622] for giving up what has been gained. We can be as active as necessary behind the scenes.

Con. The passage of November 5 provides an opening for unhooking us from the precise arrangements of the standstill agreement. Some people would like to get rid of Jarring, and now might make a logical time. While we do not want to throw away the advantages gained this summer, it is not in the U.S. interest to have prospects for peace completely tied to a process of formal talks that is likely to stall. We need more strings to our bow, even if we choose to maintain the Jarring framework as an umbrella. Principally, the Palestinian-Jordanian-Israeli settlement is so complex that Jarring is not likely to make a dent in it. Therefore, it would make sense to tackle this problem separately. If progress were made, it could be brought into the Jarring framework if that seemed useful, either for the sake of appearances or to bring a UAR arrangement into tandem.

One Conclusion

Without attempting to load the argument, it may be useful to state one general conclusion from the above as a focus for further discussion:

The Jarring talks by themselves do not seem likely to produce a settlement. There are some crucial issues that will have to be dealt with outside that framework. Two of these are: (1) the role of the U.S. and USSR in guaranteeing a settlement and (2) the role of the Palestinians.

If one agrees with this proposition, then one might conclude that the June initiative and the Jarring talks are not sufficient by themselves—that they need the support of complementary tracks. Specifically, it might be regarded as essential now to:

—develop a complementary but separate negotiating strategy for an Israel-Jordan settlement;

—develop a plan for movement on the refugee question in support of the above;

—develop options for U.S.-Soviet, Four Power or other international guarantees for a settlement.

What at root is questioned here is the viability of the 18-month-old strategy of seeking a UAR settlement first and letting the Jordan-Israel settlement follow. The fact is that Sadat is not likely to sign an agreement before the Palestinians are satisfied. A UAR-Israel agreement on boundaries and peace would not by themselves bring a settlement, though it might pave the way. Besides, the U.S. should have more interest in getting a settlement for Hussein than for Sadat. Therefore, it seems essential now to turn our attention to a Jordan-Israel settlement while pursuing Jarring talks between Israel and the UAR.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–049, Senior Review Group Meetings, Senior Review Group—Middle East 11–13–70 (1 of 2). Secret; Nodis. All brackets are in the original.
  2. Undated; attached but not printed.
  3. See Document 73.
  4. Not further identified, but on October 30, Malik addressed the UN General Assembly and called for the immediate resumption of Arab-Israeli peace talks. (New York Times, October 31, 1970, p. 1)
  5. See Document 182.
  6. UN General Assembly Resolution 2628 extended the cease-fire for 3 months beginning on November 6; see footnote 8, Document 177.