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

33688. Subj: Preliminary US Comment on Israeli Reply to Jarring.

Summary: Sisco Feb 26 received from Israeli Amb Rabin text of Israel’s reply to Jarring (text septel).2 Sisco gave personal and preliminary comment that Israeli reply is inadequate and unresponsive to the positive step taken by the UAR; that it does not address itself specifically to question put by Jarring; that it will prejudice extension of cease-fire; will stalemate negotiations; cause difficulties for US in Four-Power talks; result in Security Council meeting in which US would find it difficult to support Israel; and will facilitate Soviet expansion in M.E. Sisco reviewed accomplishments USG and Israel had achieved during past year and then asked what USG and Israel can do further together to help GOI overcome reluctance to face needed hard decisions on territory. Rabin repeated principal arguments he made to Secretary Feb 24 (State 31741).3 End summary.

1. In call on Asst Secy Sisco late afternoon Feb 26 Israeli Amb Rabin gave copy of Israeli paper earlier handed Jarring in New York. Asked if Rabin had comment to make, Amb pointed out UAR had not given precise, clear-cut response to Jarring paper and said that just as Israel does not consider UAR position as precondition for Israel, neither does Israel expect UAR to consider Israeli position as precondition. In his view there are enough points for Jarring to continue discussions; there is [Page 766] no reason why meaningful talks between parties should stop. As he had noted to Secretary, Israel wishes start from lowest common denominator.

2. After reading Israeli paper, Sisco said its nature and contents do not come as any surprise since Israel’s position was forecast clearly in earlier meetings with both Sisco and Secretary.4 He said text of Israeli paper will be communicated promptly to Secretary and President, and we will give GOI our considered judgment later. Comments Sisco will now make are preliminary and personal.

3. While he is in no position to commit President and Secretary, Sisco continued, his preliminary reaction will be against background of full review of Israeli position at NSC meeting this morning.5 What he will say will be more in sorrow than in anger and will come from a friend who has believed very deeply in Israel’s expressions of desire for peace. Israeli paper is, of course, for Jarring, and we will not seek to influence Jarring’s judgment. However, he would be greatly surprised if Jarring’s views differed from what he is about to say preliminarily.

4. Sisco then made following points re Israeli paper:

A. Israeli reply in his view is inadequate and unresponsive to the positive step taken by UAR. It does not address itself concretely and specifically to question put in Jarring paper. In his question, Jarring did not seek commitment to total withdrawal from all occupied territories to the pre-June 5 lines but asked whether Israel would give commitment to withdraw to former international boundary provided satisfactory arrangements are made for establishing DMZs and practical security arrangements at Sharm al-Sheikh.

B. Reply does not do what Prime Minister Meir indicated to Amb Barbour Israel prepared to do; i.e., if Egypt is willing to sign a peace agreement, Israel would face up to the question of territory.

C. Reply will come as deep disappointment to all concerned in US and world generally. He expressed fear that Israel will be held responsible for not having grasped this best opportunity for peace since creation of state of Israel.

D. Sisco said he believed Israeli action will set matters back seriously: it will jeopardize extension of cease-fire; will stalemate negotiations and result in early meeting of Security Council in which it very difficult to see how US could support Israel.

E. He said reply will cause major difficulties in Four Power talks where we have been able to manage situation satisfactorily from US [Page 767] and Israeli point of view as long as we could demonstrate serious process of negotiations was in train.

F. More fundamentally, he noted, Israeli reply will provide Soviet Union with precisely the instrument it needs to make further inroads in the area contrary to interests of both US and Israel. We have tried to make clear we consider our vital interests involved in the area and consider our interests directly involved in Israeli response.

G. In our judgment Israeli reply will weaken forces in Cairo and Amman favoring political solution. It will be broadly interpreted in the world as evasion of Israel’s responsibility to face up to hard decisions now needed.

5. Sisco then reviewed developments of past year in which USG, with Israeli cooperation, had made extraordinary efforts: we helped bring about cease-fire, negotiations, commitment from UAR to recognize and make peace agreement with Israel and to spell out specific reciprocal undertakings. Furthermore for two years, in view of Israel’s reservations, no action has been taken in Four Power talks to which Israel could take exception.

6. Sisco continued he wished to put serious question to Rabin and GOI: what is it we and you together can do to help Israeli Government get over its reluctance and face up to hard decisions now required? Obviously there are differences between us but we have important mutual interests. USG wants to help. We understand Israel’s need for security and have said privately we would be willing put American boys under UN umbrella in order to meet Israeli concerns. This is most serious undertaking. Rabin should also note sentence in President’s state of world message that US willing play a major role in providing supplementary guarantees.6 Sisco repeated question what more can we do to help Israel face up to what we consider is reality of situation?

7. In response Rabin noted that during past year Israel had agreed to accept most of US advice re procedures and other matters. Rabin also reiterated GOI position as endorsed by President Nixon that question of defensible boundaries should be negotiated between the parties. Israel has tried to start such negotiations but cannot accept conditions demanded by Egypt.

8. Sisco interjected to remind Rabin of precise question put by Jarring, and asked if Israeli leaders are aware that we are not pressing [Page 768] them to commit themselves to total withdrawal from all occupied territories to the pre-June 5, 1967 lines.

9. Rabin then read from Egyptian paper, pointing out that Egypt wants Israel to give commitment to implement all conditions of Res 242 and withdraw from all of Sinai and Gaza Strip. Rabin said Israel had not hidden from USG its firm position that it would not accept as a condition Israeli withdrawal to former international boundary.

10. Sisco recalled Secretary’s comment that Israel’s position states what it is against and not what it is willing to do on question of borders. Rabin responded this would come in give-and-take of real negotiations.

11. Sisco reiterated USG fully appreciates difficulties GOI faces. We have great understanding and sympathy for Israel and recognize there are differing views within GOI. However, we feel time has come for Israel to face up to decision which we consider inescapable. Sisco continued that our heart aches that for twenty years Israel has never known peace. If present trend continues it will never know peace. Arab-Israel conflict is history of lost opportunities. This is now a critical opportunity.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 609, Country Files, Middle East, Israel, Vol. IX. Secret; Priority; Nodis; Cedar. Drafted by Theodore A. Wahl (NEA/IAI) and approved by Sisco. In a February 26 telegram, Rogers explained that the “Nodis/Cedar” and “Nodis/Cedar Plus” classifications were created to protect the “most sensitive traffic on the current peace negotiations on the Middle East” and that they would “receive extremely limited distribution in Washington within the Department and the White House and to principal officers of other agencies involved in NSC discussions of subject matter.” Nodis/Cedar Plus messages would “be distributed only to White House and within Department on strict need-to-know basis” and that officials in Tel Aviv, Cairo, and New York should give such telegrams “similarly restricted distribution.” (Telegram 32414 to USUN, Tel Aviv, and Cairo; ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27–14 ARAB–ISR)
  2. Telegram 33689 to Tel Aviv, February 27. (Ibid., Box 1161, Saunders Files, Middle East Negotiations Files, Middle East—Jarring Talks Edited and Indexed, February 27–28, 1971) The reply was handed to Jarring on February 26 and made public by the Israeli Government on March 8. For the text, see Israel’s Foreign Policy: Historical Documents, volumes 1–2, 1947–1974, Chapter XII, The War of Attrition and the Cease Fire, Document 28.
  3. The telegram is in the National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27–14 ARAB–ISR.
  4. See footnote 5, Document 208.
  5. See Document 209.
  6. Reference is to the part of Nixon’s “Second Annual Report to the Congress on United States Foreign Policy,” delivered on February 25, in which he said: “The lack of mutual confidence between Israel and the Arab countries is so deep that supplementary major power guarantees could add an element of assurance. Such guarantees, coupled in time with a reduction of the armed strength of both sides, can give the agreement permanence.” (Public Papers: Nixon, 1971, p. 289)