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

73819. Ref: Tel Aviv 1735.2 For Ambassador from the Secretary.

1. Ambassador Rabin delivered to Sisco morning May 9 message from Eban referred to para 1 reftel (text by septel).3 We believe interim oral message to Eban might be helpful to him and to other moderates before normal Sunday Cabinet meeting at which time we assume possible communication from Prime Minister to President will be considered. Purpose of this message is to make clear our intention to continue our discussions in two and four power context while at same time providing assurances we not intending to give away any vital Israeli interests. In short, we believe Israelis ought to hold their fire to give us an opportunity to do what we are trying to do: to probe directly Soviet in [Page 99] tentions as to whether they want peace in the area and of equal importance whether they are willing to press Nasser to this end. As a major power, and in light of conditions in the area which continue to deteriorate, we have a responsibility in our own national interest to do everything in our power to try to achieve peace in the Middle East. We feel strongly that we would be abdicating our responsibility if we did not persevere in our present efforts. It is self evident another renewal of hostilities in the area carries risk of possible US–USSR confrontation. We are not saying renewed general hostilities are imminent, but we believe early movement toward peace is imperative if situation in area is not to develop in direction which will make eventual hostilities unavoidable.

2. Following is the oral message from me to Eban:

QTE Ambassador Rabin has delivered your message, and I have read Ambassador Barbour’s report requesting that US–USSR talks be interrupted to permit GOI time to prepare and send letter to President explaining its views.

QTE We feel that your comments on specific language we have been discussing with Dobrynin reflects misunderstanding of the effort we are making. We do not accept the view that our formulations indicate a retreat by the United States from the principle of binding reciprocal contractual agreement establishing peace and that they simply reflect the juridical doctrine of the 1949 Armistice Agreements. Our formulations on a permanent peace, based on a binding agreement between the parties, would require the UAR to undertake positive obligations which go far beyond the Armistice Agreements in the very fundamental sense that they relate in specific terms to a state of peace, not a state of armistice.

QTE We have made no conclusive judgment as to whether Soviets are prepared to apply the necessary influence on Nasser which would meet both the Israeli and the US requirements for a permanent peace. We are not asking Israel at this juncture to agree to any of the formulations which we are discussing with the Soviet Union. We have never expected and do not now expect Israel to withdraw its forces except in the context of a binding reciprocal contractual agreement establishing peace.

QTE. We are trying to find common ground on a framework which will afford Ambassador Jarring an opportunity to renew discussions with the principal parties concerned. We are not trying to write a detailed blueprint because a number of critical elements of a permanent peace can only be agreed to and worked out by the parties themselves. In this connection, in our next meeting with the Soviets on Monday, [Page 100] May 12th,4 we intend to submit a proposal making clear the view which I expressed to the Foreign Minister during his Washington trip that in our judgment no final peace is possible unless the UAR commits itself to enter into direct negotiations at some stage with Israel.

QTE. We are probing the Soviets to see whether they are prepared to support an unequivocal commitment to a reciprocally binding peace through agreement between Israel and the UAR and are able to deliver the UAR on such a commitment. If they are not, it is important both to your interests and to our own for us to know this.

QTE. One final point: Israel and the US enjoy a special relationship. We cherish and attach great importance to this special relationship. We appreciate fully that the vital interests of Israel are involved. The reason we have made every effort to keep in step with Israel, to consult you all the way along, and to invite your specific comments on a day-by-day basis, is that we would like to move together towards a permanent peace in the area. We believe that the record of the last twenty years fully justifies greater faith in the constancy of our support for Israel’s vital interests than present GOI criticism of our policy indicates. END QUOTE.5

3. Ambassador may use his own discretion in fortifying the above with such arguments as he deems appropriate. He might also reiterate to Eban with reference to para. 1 of Eban’s message sent septel that there is no USG “paper.” Our hope is that the above interim reply will either deflect GOI from sending any high-level letter or at a minimum help moderate its contents.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 653, Country Files, Middle East, Sisco Middle East Talks. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Drafted by Sisco, cleared by De Palma and Walsh, and approved by Rogers (per Walsh).
  2. In telegram 1735 from Tel Aviv, May 9, the Embassy reported that Rabin had been instructed by his government to request that the Sisco-Dobrynin talks be interrupted to permit Israel time to prepare and send a letter to Nixon explaining its “negative views.” (Ibid., Box 649, Country Files, Middle East, Middle East Negotiations)
  3. In his message, Eban described Sisco’s initial formulations for a joint U.S.-Soviet document on the Arab-Israeli dispute as a “retreat by the United States from the principle of a binding reciprocal contractual agreement establishing peace.” He also protested that the formulations would “prejudice Israel’s vital interests” and argued that the United States should not formally present them to the Soviet Union. (Telegram 73744 to Tel Aviv, May 9; ibid., Box 653, Country Files, Middle East, Sisco Middle East Talks) Eban’s message was prompted by Sisco’s May 7 briefing of Yitzhak Rabin on his meetings with Dobrynin. (Telegram 71862 to Tel Aviv, May 8; ibid.)
  4. See Document 28.
  5. Barbour passed Rogers’s message to Eban during a meeting with him on May 10. (Telegram 1745 from Tel Aviv, May 10; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 604, Country Files, Middle East, Israel, Vol. I)