32. Telegram From the Embassy in Jordan to the Department of State1

2710. Ref: Amman 2534, State 085782.2 Subj: Jordanian-Israeli Contacts: Reiterated Need for Active US Mediation. For Sisco Personal from Ambassador.

1. On June 7, Zaid Rifai told me he had been instructed to convey King Hussein’s deep concern that detailed information about secret Jordanian-Israeli contacts which had been passed by Zaid to you in Tehran3 should be carefully controlled in USG. Rifai said that he had passed this highly sensitive information to you personally, on King’s authorization, because King feared that Israeli might be misleading you and other high-level USG officials as to true state of affairs in these talks. Specifically, by going into details, he wanted you to know that these contacts had made almost no progress whatsoever.

2. Rifai said King was worried lest this detailed information be treated in routine fashion, and might be further distributed within USG. He wondered particularly if US reps in Cairo and Tel Aviv would [Page 109] be informed. As he continued, it became clear that what truly was bothering him was the possibility that the names of the parties involved, the dates, the places of meetings, etc. (referred to in para four of your message in State 85782) might have more widely circulated within the USG.

3. I then assured Zaid that my reference to the qte quite full unqte report I had received from you on the meeting had not included the details such as those to which he was referring. I said you had simply noted the fact that contacts had continued but had not resulted in substantive progress. I emphasized that the meat of your report was Rifai’s plea that the US somehow intervene to break the logjam. Further explained in detail the extraordinary precautions we have taken in regard to Sandstorm matters, both in the Embassy and in the Department. I pointed out that we handled the occasional messages exchanged between Israelis and Jordanians on other matters with the same sensitivity. I added that the extent of my personal knowledge of the contacts was confined almost exclusively to what the King himself had told me; and I reminded Zaid that we had carefully refrained from probing, even when such reference as qte the Hamadiyah region unqte in the recent Meir-Hussein exchange4 had aroused understandable curiosity. Embassy officer Draper, who had accompanied me to this meeting with Zaid, said he had normally typed himself the messages to and from Israelis, for example.

4. Rifai was clearly relieved and indicated he was completely satisfied with my explanation. I told him that he could assure King Hussein that details of the special confidences that had been relayed to you had gone no further, even to me. I stressed that we had always been exceptionally careful not to compromise the King or Rifai in any way, and that our record had been good in this respect. The important thing, I reiterated, was that the Jordanian plea for US intervention in this [Page 110] matter had been communicated in a thoroughly clear manner. It was being given the most serious consideration and complete protection.

5. Rifai then redescribed the Jordanian view that the moment was ripe for US intervention. He did not think that the Israelis would budge without such pressure from the US, which he said should include, if necessary, suspension of Phantom deliveries, etc. He stressed that Jordan had done all it possibly could to narrow the gap between their position and the Israeli, but it was as wide as ever on Jerusalem and withdrawal generally. He claimed that the Israelis were going right ahead with the Allon Plan.5

6. Rifai stressed again, incidentally, that under no circumstances should Sandstorm matters be discussed or even alluded to with GOJ Ambassador Sharaf in Washington or, for that matter, with anyone other than himself or King Hussein. Beyond Sandstorm, he noted that exchanges with Israelis are not known by or discussed with anyone outside the palace.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 619, Country Files, Middle East, Jordan Nodis/Sandstorm. Secret; Priority; Nodis; Sandstorm.
  2. In telegram 2534 from Amman, May 31, Symmes reported that he had assured Rifai that he need not worry that any details he had provided on secret contacts with Israel had been improperly disclosed. “We had always kept this knowledge restricted to very small [circle] within the US Govt.” (Ibid.) In telegram 85782 to Amman, Tel Aviv, and USUN, May 28, Rogers informed Symmes that Hussein had instructed Rifai to give Sisco a full account of the secret contacts between Jordan and Israel that had occurred over the previous year, writing: “Rifai was very detailed and what came out was that none of Israeli proposals are starters.” (Ibid.)
  3. Not further identified, but see Document 30.
  4. The exchanges occurred over a three-day period, beginning with a May 29 letter from Meir to Hussein in which she raised the issue of what she described as the “very serious deterioration” that had been taking place on the cease-fire and frontier lines between Jordan and Israel. (Telegram 2046 from Tel Aviv, May 30; ibid., Box 613, Country Files, Middle East, Jordan, Vol. I) On May 31, Hussein replied: “I have received your message of May 29, 1969, and I wish to assure you that all possible measures are being taken as a result of my clear and definite instructions to the chief of staff of our armed forces to insure that Jordanian armed forces pay particular attention and a maximum endeavor to insure that settlements in the north of the valley as well as those by the Dead Sea works south the Dead Sea and the works themselves as well as the Rilat area are not subjected to firing from across the border or cease fire positions. The armed forces will only return fire if subject to it and to its sources only or otherwise if civilian targets are subjected to Israeli fire.” (Telegram 2521 from Amman, May 31; ibid.) Meir concluded the exchange on June 1, writing: “Tranquility on the borders and ceasefire lines and the maintenance of the ceasefire arrangements will contribute to the achievement of the permanent peace which is our common objective.” (Telegram 2066 from Tel Aviv, June 1; ibid., Box 1237, Saunders Files, Israel)
  5. See footnote 8, Document 4 and Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume XX, Arab-Israeli Dispute, 1967–1968, Documents 186 and 213.