185. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Jordan1

190308. Eyes Only for Ambassador.

1. We have recently made a thorough review of the Palestinian question2 since the GOJ–fedayeen confrontation of some weeks ago. In recent weeks, you undoubtedly have noted that various U.S. spokesmen have made statements indicating our general sympathy for the Palestinians.3 It is our belief that it likely to be desirable that Palestinians at some appropriate stage become participants in the negotiating process as well as partners in any peace settlement if that peace settlement is to stick. We have noted also that many Palestinians have focused on some form of entity. Nevertheless, the present Palestinian leadership is fragmented and divided, the question of who speaks for the Palestinians is no clearer today than it has been in months past, and what the majority of the Palestinians would consider a satisfactory resolution of the problem is very unclear, to say the least. As a result of our review, we have decided that for at least the time being, we should continue to operate on the assumption that the Palestinian objective can best be met through negotiations by the principal parties concerned (UAR and Jordan) with Israel under the aegis of Ambassador Jarring4 in accordance with Security Council Resolution 242.

2. At the same time we believe that increasing attention to the Palestinian factor will be required since if we were to disregard it, this would tend to dash hopes of those whom we believe hold moderate views and could eventually be brought around to a policy of seeking a [Page 647] political solution based on coexistence with rather than destruction of the state of Israel.

3. There is an immediate operational question with which we must deal. Through other channels a representative of Fatah whom we consider to be bona fide, proposed recently on behalf of Arafat that a confidential meeting somewhere in Europe be held between senior Fatah officials and one or more senior U.S. Government officials. The Fatah official listed a number of items which the Fatah wished to discuss with us. [1½ lines not declassified] We made contact through other channels with this individual, keeping the channel open but indicating that practical factors prevented a speedy response to Fatah’s proposal to establish a dialogue, and no such meeting has taken place.5

4. We therefore request that you have a very confidential conversation with King Hussein, purpose being exchange assessments as to how he sees the Palestinian factor in the future, how he intends to deal with it, and whether there are ways in which we can be helpful. You should level with him and indicate that Arafat has sought a direct meeting for some of his colleagues with U.S. officials. You should indicate to Hussein that we, of course, have not agreed to any such meeting and that we would wish to receive his views as to how we could be helpful, if at all, at this juncture in dealing with the Palestinians. You should, of course, avoid giving any impression that this approach to him reflects any loss of confidence on our part in him or the leadership of his government.

5. We obviously do not want to do anything that would undermine King Hussein and until we know how Hussein plans to deal with the Palestinians we do not wish to press the question of separate U.S. contacts. If after hearing his reply, we decided contact would serve our interest, we would propose your sounding him out at next discussion of the subject. If he felt, for example, that contact at that juncture with Fatah (we would if we went ahead have in mind some individual who was not an official of the government in the first instance and who could be disavowed if necessary) would undermine him and be unhelpful we obviously would take this fully into account (without necessarily giving him a veto over such a decision).

6. In short, we are asking you to undertake for the first time a serious dialogue with King Hussein with respect to the Palestinian factor which we are convinced must be taken more fully into account in weeks and months ahead. Here are some things which we think you can raise:

A. Are there ways for King Hussein to make more explicit and to define in more detail for benefit of the Palestinians his ideas regarding [Page 648] the future political role of the Palestinians? What are his views in this regard?

B. Is there something more that we can do to demonstrate that the US has very much in mind the interests of the Palestinians in any negotiation and in any settlement?

C. If negotiations under Ambassador Jarring’s auspices get started, which we hope can be the case in the next few weeks, does the King feel that it is desirable, and at what stage, to bring in Palestinians in the negotiating process or does he feel that taking such a step would tend to enhance one faction as against another?

D. Most fundamentally, does he feel that the bulk of Palestinians in Jordan in particular can be brought to the fundamental notion of a political solution based on co-existence with Israel and how can we best contribute to that particular process?

E. Does he feel that we should begin to broaden our contacts with Palestinians in various capitals in the Arab world?

7. Above questions are only illustrative. They are intended to provide you with some thoughts to explore, though there are obviously a good many others. Principal purpose of this talk is to let the King know that we have been approached, to give him confidence that we are consulting him fully before making any decisions and to get him thinking more in terms of what kind of a strategy has to be pursued vis-à-vis the Palestinians, and what sort of a role we could play complementary to his that would be helpful. He should know that we have not taken any position re the idea of a Palestinian entity and we believe that this is matter between King and the Palestinians. However, your talk with King will offer you the opportunity to explore what precisely King may have in mind when he says that in a post-settlement situation the West Bank of Jordan would be given self-determination.6

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 616, Country Files, Middle East, Jordan. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Sisco; cleared by Kissinger, Johnson, and Helms; and approved by Rogers. All brackets are in the original except those indicating text that remains classified.
  2. See Documents 182 and 183.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 174 and footnote 12, Document 182.
  4. On November 18, U Thant announced through his spokesman that, until the talks with Jarring could be resumed, there was “little more” that the Special Representative could do at UN Headquarters in New York. As a result, he was “well advised” to return to his post as Swedish Ambassador to the Soviet Union in Moscow. (Telegram 3244 from USUN, November 18; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1157, Saunders Files, Middle East Negotiations Files, June Initiative Volume V) Jarring had confided in Yost that he had been “growing increasingly fed up with his long and useless vigil in New York,” adding that Israel’s refusal to even “call and talk with him” had “aggravated his bitterness.” He characterized Meir’s November 16 Knesset speech (quoted at great length in telegram 6323 from Tel Aviv, November 16; ibid.), in which the Prime Minister declared that Israel would not return to talks under Jarring until the United Arab Republic rectified its cease-fire violations, as the “last straw.” (Telegram 3184 from USUN, November 16; ibid.)
  5. See Documents 174 and 180.
  6. In telegram 6712 from Amman, November 23, Brown reported that he had had an “exploratory talk” with Hussein on the morning of November 22, during which he broached the subject of the Palestinian question, as instructed by the Department. Brown described the discussion as “long and complicated,” reporting that the King would have been “delighted” to find a Palestinian entity to which he could turn. Hussein also commented that he had “no real objection” to the United States initiating limited and guarded contacts with Fatah representatives, although he decided that he wanted to “think it through” and discuss the matter again later. He mentioned that he knew that U.S. officials were meeting with Palestinians in Amman and Beirut, had “no objection” to it, and was interested to know what these officials believed the Palestinians were thinking. The King also wanted to see “Palestinianism” defined further, having not yet decided when and if Palestinians should be brought into the Jarring talks. Finally, he said that he would be “expanding on his ideas for self-determination” in the West Bank when he visited the United States. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 616, Country Files, Middle East, Jordan)