19. Memorandum of Conversation1

PARTICIPANTS

  • President Nixon
  • King Hussein I of Jordan
  • Henry A. Kissinger

The meeting was very cordial. The President began the conversation by expressing his great and high regard for the King and expressing his appreciation for the moderation and wisdom that the King had shown. The United States was interested in a just and fair settlement of the Middle East crisis. To this end, the United States had engaged in a more active diplomacy than the preceding Administration in the hope of having the four powers formulate some proposal that the parties might find reasonable. The President added that there were, of course, limits beyond which one could not push the parties and the United States recognized this.

The King replied that he had always attempted to be a force for moderation in the area. He had made great progress in building up his country for fifteen years and then the terrible tragedy of 1967 destroyed this progress. Two-thirds of the population of his country were now refugees. The situation was getting more and more desperate. If there were no solution within six months, he was afraid the extremists would gain the upper hand all over the Arab world. He appreciated the President’s interest in a settlement, but it had to be just and honorable. The [Page 65]Arabs had learned that Israel’s right to exist was now unchallenged and they were prepared to accept this. He also was in a position to say on behalf of Nasser that the Arabs were prepared to sign any document with Israel except a formal peace treaty. But the major problem was to get the Arabs somehow to sign. He had tried to be moderate and reasonable with respect to Israel. But, unfortunately, the Israelis had not formulated any concrete proposal that was acceptable.

The President replied that the United States wanted a settlement which both parties could accept so the suffering of all the people in the Middle East would end. He asked the King whether he could formulate his ideas on borders.

The King replied that the Security Council Resolution of 1967 was a good starting point. He could speak for Nasser in expressing their sincere commitment to it. On the various items in the Resolution the King said that the 1967 borders should be re-established, but he recognized that some rectifications might be necessary. He said that if the Israelis were less vague about Gaza, these rectifications could be fairly substantial. The King added that the problem of Jerusalem was very difficult. It was not his to negotiate because it had been Arab for 1200 years and he held it in trust. However, he stated if the Israelis recognized his right in Jerusalem he was prepared to be very flexible in working out complete arrangements and to turn Jerusalem into what it was meant to be: A place of reconciliation for Arabs and Jews instead of a place of conflict. He recognized Israel’s security concerns and was willing, in principle, to consider demilitarized zones but there had to be a certain equivalence. Israel, of course, would have free access through the Suez Canal and the Gulf of Aqaba. He repeated that Nasser endorsed these proposals.

The President asked the King to be a little more specific about Nasser. The King said that he and Nasser had always been at opposite poles of the Arab world. However, in recent months their policies had grown identical. Both were under the same pressures from the extremists. Also, the oil producing countries subsidizing them were getting restive. He added that Nasser was eager to re-establish diplomatic relations with the United States.2 The President said this should be done but without conditions by either side. The King said the conditions would present no difficulties.

The President then spoke of his hope for economic development of the area and his desire to stay in close touch personally with the King.

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At the end of the meeting the President invited the Jordanian Ambassador and the Secretary General of the Royal Court to join the group. He reiterated what he had said during the conversation, that he would ask nothing of Jordan that might undermine the King’s position and also his desire for the closest friendship between the two countries.3

Henry A. Kissinger
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 928, VIP Visits, Jordan—Visit of King Hussein, Vol. II. Secret; Nodis. The meeting took place in the Oval Office. King Hussein made an official visit to Washington April 8–10.
  2. The United Arab Republic formally broke diplomatic relations with the United States on June 6, 1967, citing “US air support for Israel” during the Arab-Israeli war. See Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume XIX, Arab-Israeli Crisis and War, 1967, Document 178.
  3. Hussein met with Rogers the next day, and both expressed pessimism about the prospects for peace in the Middle East, concluding that the situation had become “dangerous.” Rogers noted, however, that the United States believed that the Two- and Four-Power talks offered some hope for progress. He also assured the King that the United States did not agree that Israel should keep West Bank territory, nor did it agree with Israel’s assessment that conditions in the region were “not explosive.” (Telegram 54258 to Amman, April 9; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 928, VIP Visits, Jordan—Visit of King Hussein, Vol. II) Later that day, the King’s delegation met with Laird and other U.S. officials, including Ambassador Symmes, in the Secretary’s office at the Pentagon to discuss the possibility of Jordan obtaining additional military equipment from the United States—that is, arms beyond the package already approved but not yet delivered to Amman. To the chagrin of the Jordanians, Symmes argued, and Laird agreed, that it was “preferable” to “sign what [could] be signed” regarding the previously approved package and “leave open the issue of additional items for amendment of sales cases as required.” (Memorandum of conversation, April 10; Washington National Records Center, ISA Files: FRC 330–72A–6309, Box 21, Jordan)