2. Telegram From the Department of State to Certain Diplomatic Posts1

7299. 1. Following is text our reply to recent Soviet approaches on Middle East which Secretary gave Soviet Chargé, Wednesday, January 15. Final version had been modified in minor respects to take account of some but not all comments received from Israelis and British (French comments not received at time final text prepared.)

2. Amman should give copies confidentially to GOJ. In doing so should note that it must be regarded as reply to specific Soviet communications and not as broad and comprehensive statement of US policy. (FYI The necessity to rebut and get straight Soviet arguments and assertions inevitably gives the reply a flavor which the Arabs may interpret as being unbalanced against them. We should endeavor make context clear without being defensive about text.) Amman should also emphasize US desire that US–USSR consultations and exchanges regarding ME be carried on in context of support for Jarring Mission and SC No [Page 6] vember 22 Res. All our efforts continue be directed to assisting Jarring in carrying out his mandate and are designed to improve his chances for success.

3. We are providing copies to Israelis, British and French here.

4. Embassy Moscow should make copy available to Jarring.

5. Begin text: We have studied the communications of the Soviet Government presented to Secretary Rusk on December 30.2 These communications have been brought to the attention of President Johnson who requests that this response of the US Government be transmitted to Chairman Kosygin.

The United States Government has also studied the oral communication on the ME presented to Under Secretary Rostow by Minister Tcherniakov on December 19, 1968.3

The US Government welcomes the desire of the Soviet Government to cooperate with it in assisting Amb Jarring in his efforts to promote agreement on a peaceful and accepted settlement of the conflict in the ME. The United States values the continuing exchange of views with the Sov Govt concerning the ME, in particular since a continued impasse contains dangers of violence that could threaten the state interests of the United States.

The US Govt has noted certain constructive elements in the latest communications from the Govt of the Soviet Union, particularly the recognition reflected in those communications of the principle that a settlement should be based upon agreement among the parties to establish a just and lasting peace in the ME, in accordance with the provisions and principles of the SC Res of Nov 22, 1967.

The US Govt notes that certain other aspects of the Sov Govt’s communications reiterate positions and opinions which do not accord with US views on responsibility for the hostilities in June, 1967, and for the impasse in the Jarring Mission, and on the proper interpretation of the SC Res. The US considers it important that there be no misunderstanding with the Soviet Union on this vital subject, and therefore offers the following comments:

1. The US regards it as a matter of the highest priority that the Soviet Union, and US and other countries use their full influence to arrest the dangerous increase in Arab terrorism in the area. Terrorism leads inevitably to reprisal. The cycle of terrorism and reprisal, in the judge [Page 7] ment of the US, may imperil the very possibility of reaching a peaceful settlement pursuant to the SC Res of Nov 22, 1967. Terrorist activities supported or tolerated by some governments, and the reprisals they provoke, constitute a most serious violation of the cease-fire resolutions of the Security Council.

2. The Sov communications raise again the question of Israeli acceptance of the Nov 22 Res and its readiness to implement it. In the view of the US, Israel has accepted and agreed to implement the Res by means of agreement.

It seems evident that the Arabs interpret these terms differently from the Israelis. In the view of the US, the parties should now pursue the process of clarifying their positions on key substantive issues rather than debating this point further. The US takes the plan given to us by Min Tcherniakov on Dec 30 as an indication of Sov agreement with this position.

3. The US Govt is glad to note that the Sov Govt considers that the points made to FonMin Riad by Sect Rusk contain constructive considerations. It would like to emphasize, however, that all the points made by the Secretary, including specifically that related to Israeli withdrawal, were based on the assumption that withdrawal would be part of a settlement agreed between the parties which brought a just and lasting peace to the area. The US does not share the view, expressed in the Sov communication, that the UAR responded positively to Sect Rusk’s remarks.4 It had expected that the UAR would be prepared to move further in clarifying its position than it has so far been willing to do. The US continues to hope that the Secretary’s statements will ultimately have this result.

4. Both the Sov communications of Dec 19 and Dec 30 misconstrue the views of the US on the significance of the Israeli reference to the armistice agreements in FonMin Eban’s statement to Amb Jarring of Nov 4.5 The armistice agreements clearly specified that the armistice demarcation lines were not definitive political boundaries but could be changed by agreement in the transition from armistice to a condition of true peace. As the US emphasized in its communication of Sept 29, 1968,6 the heart of US policy since June 5, 1967 has been that this transition must take place. This continues to be US policy. At the same time, it has been and remains US policy, as Pres Johnson said on Sept 10, [Page 8] 1968,7 that the secure and recognized boundaries required by the SC Res of Nov 22, 1967, cannot and should not reflect the weight of conquest. These principles are reflected in the SC Res which calls for the establishment of a just and lasting peace but does not specify that the secure and recognized boundaries to which Israeli forces would withdraw should be identical with the lines held prior to June 5, 1967, or on any other date. In the view of the US, the essential purpose of the Res is to accomplish this transition to a condition of peace, and agreement between the parties on its elements, and not return to the status quo ante. The US is convinced that continuation of the fragile armistice of the last twenty years would be a burden to world peace. The US cannot speak for Israel, but believes it important to make its own views on this matter clear once more to the Sov Govt.

5. In its communication of Dec 30, the Sov Govt states that inner qte the fundamental problem End inner qte of a ME settlement is a withdrawal of Israeli forces from inner quote the End inner qte Arab territories they occupy pursuant to the cease-fire reses to the armistice demarcation lines of June 5, 1967. The US does not regard this as a correct interpretation of the Res of Nov 22, 1967: That Res does not use the language employed in the Soviet note. The Res, in the view of the US, requires Israeli withdrawal Begin inner qte from territories occupied in the recent conflict End inner qte to secure and recognized boundaries, to be established by an agreement of the parties pursuant to para 3 of the Res. We believe this is the intendment of para 2 of the Sov plan given the US on Dec 30.

6. That plan seems in form to be an agreement to make an agreement—a provisional agreement among the parties dealing with the issues specified in the SC Res of Nov 22, 1967. This provisional agreement expressly calls for further consultations between the parties, to be organized by Amb Jarring, through which the definitive provisions of the final agreement required by para 3 of the Res would be reached.

The US finds the idea of a preliminary agreement or understanding between the parties a useful one, which could make it possible for Amb Jarring to hold productive meetings with the parties, and assist them to reach agreement on a definitive plan for fulfilling all the provisions of the SC Res, and on an agreed time schedule for carrying out such a plan. The US is of the view that the agreement contemplated by the plan should comprise all aspects of the settlement between Israel and each of its neighbors, as a Begin inner qte package End inner qte, before any steps for implementing the settlement be carried out.

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7. The US has found certain problems of textual interpretation in analyzing the Soviet draft plan. For example, para 2 speaks of agreed provisions with regard to secure and recognized boundaries (with corresponding maps attached), while para 4 contemplates withdrawal to the armistice demarcation lines of June 5. Paragraph 2, again, recognizes the possible utility of demilitarized zones, as mentioned in the Res. But para 4 calls for the introduction of Arab troops into territories from which Israel withdraws. Para 4 mentions restoring the situation on the frontier between Israel and the UAR which existed in May, 1967. But that situation, in the view of the US, was the proximate cause of the war. And the preamble of the Soviet plan calls for a condition of peace, not of armistice. Para 4 also makes no mention of freedom of navigation for Israeli vessels in the Suez Canal. Para 5 suggests that Israeli troop withdrawal should be completed before the obligations undertaken by the Arab governments become binding on the latter. This procedure appears inconsistent with para 2 which recognizes the principle of a Begin inner qte package End inner qte settlement, and with the secondary introductory para which recognizes the need for agreement on a plan for fulfillment of other provisions of the SC Res at the same time as there is agreement on a timetable and procedure for Israeli withdrawal.

8. The US is prepared to discuss the form in which the two governments could embody their views on how to achieve a Begin inner qte package End inner qte agreement among the parties, to be negotiated in detail not by the Soviet Union and the United States, but by the parties, meeting with Amb Jarring.

9. The United States and the Soviet Union are agreed that while both governments should do everything in their power to assist Amb Jarring and the parties to reach agreement, peace cannot be imposed by them, but should be established by the agreement of the parties. The United States has no objection to an agreed timetable for Israeli withdrawal, if such a timetable is made part of the agreement of the parties. It considers that a timetable for fulfilling the agreement of the parties should be one of the problems taken up by Ambassador Jarring with them.

The United States should, however, comment at this point on two problems of security raised in the Soviet communications.

10. The Soviet statement of December 19 in paragraph 2, refers to the United States comment of November 8 regarding Israeli territorial claims respecting the UAR and adds the remark that Israel has raised Qte the question about the necessity of stationing her forces at Sharm-al-Sheikh. Unqte In the view of the United States, the process of reaching agreement and achieving a peaceful and accepted settlement, as provided in the November 22, 1967, resolution, must involve negoti [Page 10] ation of the means for carrying out all the elements of a settlement as set forth in that resolution, including the guarantee of maritime rights dealt with in paragraph 2 (a) of the resolution. It must be clearly appreciated that the June, 1967, conflict was touched off by the issue of rights of passage through the Straits of Tiran. Only the most secure arrangements for the guarantee of these rights will make possible the realization of our hopes for peace. The choice among possible means of implementing paragraph 2(a) of the Security Council Resolution is for the parties, working with Ambassador Jarring.

11. With respect to demilitarization of the Sinai, the eventual decision on this point also will depend on the parties themselves. The United States finds it difficult to believe, however, that the partial demilitarization suggested by the Soviet Government would provide the conditions of security necessary for the establishment of peace. The 1967 war began as a direct result of events in Sinai, and activities in this area had led to the outbreak of hostilities ten years earlier. It is difficult to see, in the face of this history, how a lasting peace can be based on only partial demilitarization of this sensitive area.

12. The United States continues to believe that an understanding with respect to armament levels and arms limitation is a vital aspect of the quest for peace in the Middle East. It continues to regret Soviet policy in this regard, and urges that the problem be viewed as an indispensable element of the peaceful settlement of the Middle Eastern crisis. End text.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Middle East, Box 147, Jordan, Cables, Vol. V, 3/68–1/69. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Drafted by Arthur R. Day (Deputy Director, Office of U.N. Political Affairs), cleared by Atherton, and approved by Sisco. Sent to Amman, Cairo, Tel Aviv, USUN, London, Paris, and Moscow.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 1.
  3. The note from the Soviet Union, handed to Rusk by Tcherniakov on December 19, 1968, was a formal response to “recent statements made by American officials in conversations with Soviet representatives in Washington and New York regarding the problems of a Middle East settlement.” For the text of the note, see Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume XX, Arab-Israeli Dispute, 1967–1968, Document 354.
  4. See footnote 3, Document 1.
  5. For a description of Jarring’s discussion with Eban, see Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume XX, Arab-Israeli Dispute, 1967–1968, Document 307.
  6. Ibid., Document 266.
  7. In a speech that Johnson gave on the occasion of the 125th Anniversary Meeting of B’nai B’rith. The list of guests included Deputy Prime Minister of Israel Yigal Allon. (Public Papers: Johnson, 1968–69, Book II, pp. 944–950)