270. Telegram From the Department of State to the White House1

223761. Tosec 21. Please pass Peter Johnson in the Azores for Secretary Rogers.2 For Secretary from Sisco.

[Page 960]

1. We expect a vote on the Middle East resolution within the next two or three hours and I want to tell you, as a follow up to our conversation on Sunday,3 where matters presently stand and my recommendation.

2. The resolution is essentially the same as the one you reviewed on Sunday (septel).4

3. As you know, Egyptians are pressing us to vote affirmatively, whereas Israelis have made a major pitch to have us vote negatively.5 While resolution in septel was originally sponsored by 18 countries, including twelve Africans, we understand four of the Africans have withdrawn their sponsorship. Since then, Egypt has picked up a few other non-Africans and the sponsorship is around 23. They will probably be able to get at least 65 votes for this resolution. The Africans have suggested some changes to the Egyptians to bring their resolution more in line with its own report.6 Whether Senegal or other Africans are submitting amendments or not is problematical. The important thing is that some difference has occurred within the African group and this [Page 961] will probably be reflected by some abstentions among them though how many is very difficult to say.

4. Yesterday, Bush put to Riad the changes which you reviewed on Sunday. Without going into technical details, you recall this was an attempt to move the references to the February 8 Jarring memo,7 the characterization of the Egyptian and Israeli replies,8 and the call on Israel to reply positively on the preambular paragraphs. As we expected, Riad turned them down.

5. Candidly, I do not believe there is any satisfactory vote for us. Whichever way we go, we will be criticized by one side or the other. Our basic posture has been, as you know, that diplomatic alternatives will be required in the post-GA period. The resolution is likely to carry regardless of how the US votes.

6. I recommend an abstention coupled with the explanation of vote along the following lines:

A. The US agrees with much of the resolution sponsored by the 23 countries.

B. However we abstain in the belief that the resolution distorts the balance of Res 242 and will not get Jarring’s mission restarted but rather would help to reenforce the impasse.

C. In our efforts we have tried to influence the substance of the resolution in the direction of the OAU report. We regret that the resolution does not approximate more closely that report.

D. We suggested changes in the resolution which would have maintained the balance of Res 242 and, by referring to Jarring’s initiative in the preamble, would have reflected the reality that his initiative had not succeeded and would have left open a wider range of options for resumption of his efforts in the future. Regrettably our suggestions were not acceptable.

E. I hope that all of us can draw one lesson from the Assembly proceedings on this matter. The US continues to believe that the way to practical progress towards a peaceful settlement and an interim agreement is by means of quiet diplomacy. We do not believe that the Assembly at this point or the SC subsequently can make a practical contribution to this end at this time. We hope that at the conclusion of these proceedings the parties concerned will come to the common judgment that diplomacy must find a way.

7. There remains one further contingency which we might have to consider. The British on behalf of WEO’s may suggest to Riad this [Page 962] morning that sixth operative paragraph be amended to read: Qte Calls upon Israel to make a response to the Special Representative’s aide-mémoire of February 8, 1971, that would enable the search for a peaceful settlement under the auspices of the Special Representative to continue. Unqte This is essentially the formulation contained in the SYG’s report and follows Jarring’s suggestion as a means of finessing the impasse and giving the Israelis a means to get off the hook. With this change, the resolution would undoubtedly receive a greater majority of affirmative votes but it nevertheless leaves res basically faulty in other respects noted above, and we would intend to abstain in this contingency even though a smaller group will be with us.

8. We voted against a similar GA res last year9 which was even less strong than this one. Moreover, vote comes at time PM Meir is reporting at home that things have been patched up between us, and affirmative vote would tend undermine publicly and psychologically constructive results of President’s talk with PM Meir. On other hand, I recognize that Sadat will be deeply disappointed and Arabs will play our vote as a backoff from our support of the Jarring initiative.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1166, Saunders Files, Middle East Negotiations Files, Middle East—Jarring Talks, December 1–14, 1971. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Sisco, cleared in IO/UNP, and approved by Sisco. Repeated to USUN.
  2. Rogers accompanied the President to the Azores December 13–14 for meetings with French President Pompidou.
  3. December 12. No record of the meeting has been found.
  4. Reported in telegram 223760 to the White House, December 13. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27–14 ARAB–ISR) The UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 2799, which had been proposed by 21 members, on the evening of December 13 by a recorded vote of 79 to 7, with 36 abstentions. The United Kingdom, Egypt, France, Jordan, Lebanon, and the Soviet Union voted for the resolution; Israeli voted against it; the United States and Syria abstained. The resolution reaffirmed the inadmissibility of acquisition of territory by force, set forth the principles for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East, and called for the reactivation of Jarring’s Mission. The text of the resolution is printed in Yearbook of the United Nations, 1971, pp. 176–177, and Bush’s report on its adoption was sent in telegram 4996 from USUN, December 14. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1166, Saunders Files, Middle East Negotiations Files, Middle East—Jarring Talks, December 1–14, 1971)
  5. Regarding the General Assembly debate, Eban told Bush on December 7 that Israel and the United States would have to “make best of situation” and prevent “certain things from happening” rather than trying to “achieve any specific steps.” Eban was adamant that: 1) there be no changes to Security Council Resolution 242; 2) that Israel was under no “obligation” to “accept Egyptian interpretation” of Jarring’s February aide-mémoire; and 3) that there be no “support for sanctions.” (Telegram 4826 from USUN, December 7; ibid., Box 658, Country Files, Middle East, Middle East Nodis/Cedar/Plus, Vol. IV) The Department instructed Bush to tell Eban that it agreed on the issue of Resolution 242 and sanctions, but that “it is clear that any resolution which omitted all reference to Jarring memorandum would be non-starter for Egyptians and would obtain virtually no support in assembly.” (Telegram 221645 to USUN, December 9; ibid., Box 1166, Saunders Files, Middle East Negotiations Files, Middle East—Jarring Talks, December 1–14, 1971) Eban responded to Bush’s presentation on December 9 by saying that he “appreciated that parliamentary reasons may dictate need for something” but feared that a “call might be made for Israel to respond to Jarring.” (Telegram 4900 from USUN; ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27–14 ARAB–ISR) The debate was held in plenary sessions December 3–14. See Yearbook of the United Nations, 1971, pp. 170–175.
  6. A Committee of Ten African Heads of State conducted an inquiry on behalf of the OAU and submitted proposals to the Secretary General aimed at breaking the impasse in the Middle East. See ibid., pp. 169–170.
  7. See footnote 2, Document 205.
  8. For the Egyptian reply, see footnote 4, Document 206; for the Israeli reply, see Documents 211 and 213.
  9. See footnote 8, Document 177.