73. Editorial Note

On December 9, 1969, Secretary of State William Rogers delivered a speech to the Galaxy Conference on Adult Education in Washington, in which he publicly unveiled the Department of State’s plan for an Arab-Israeli peace settlement that had been in the works with the Soviet Union since the beginning of the Two-Power talks in March. Rogers declared that the United States had adopted a “balanced and fair” policy in the Middle East consistent with UN Security Council Resolution 242. He argued that the Arabs must accept a “permanent peace” with Israel based on a “binding agreement” and maintained that any settlement between Israel and the Arabs must contain a “just settlement” of the Palestinian refugee question that took into consideration “the desires and aspirations of the refugees and the legitimate concerns of the governments in the area.” Regarding Jerusalem, Rogers stated that it should be a “unified city within which there would no longer be restrictions on the movement of persons and goods. There should be open access to the unified city for persons of all faiths and nationalities.”

Perhaps the most important part of the speech, however, had to do with the future borders between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Rogers put the United States firmly on record as supporting Israel’s with[Page 237]drawal from Arab territories occupied in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war in exchange for security arrangements that would include demilitarized zones. “We believe that while recognized political boundaries must be established and agreed upon by the parties, any change in the pre-existing lines should not reflect the weight of conquest and should be confined to insubstantial alterations required for mutual security. We do not support expansionism. We believe troops must be withdrawn.” The full text of the speech is in the Department of State Bulletin, January 5, 1970, pages 7–11. It was also published in the New York Times, December 10, 1969, page 8.

Although the details of the speech were largely a reflection of the October 28 “Joint US–USSR Working Paper” (Document 58), and were known to the Soviets, Egyptians, and Israelis, Rogers went forward with the speech at the urging of Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs Joseph Sisco. In a November 6 memorandum to Rogers, Sisco argued that “the principal purpose of the speech would be to expose some of the substantive positions that we have taken during the past months, which are much more balanced than the impression the world has of them.” From a public point of view, Sisco added, “we have suffered in the area generally because we have not revealed more of the substance, while the Soviets have pegged out the most extreme position publicly—total withdrawal of Israeli forces from all the occupied territories to the pre-June 5 lines. We can never hope to beat this in the Arab world from a propaganda point of view, but exposing more of our substantive positions, and in particular placing on record our views on the question of withdrawal, should help to ease some of the increasing pressures in the Arab world and take a little sting out of the emotionalism.” Sisco concluded by explaining to Rogers that “the speech is both necessary and desirable whether or not the U.S. and the USSR find common ground on a document.It will not satisfy the Arabs and will draw some flak from Israel, but it cannot be objectively attacked from either side. It gives us a solid basis to stand on for some time to come.” (Memorandum from Sisco to Rogers, November 6; National Archives, RG 59, Records of Joseph J. Sisco, Lot Files 74 D 131 and 76 D 251, Box 27, Two Power Talks, 10/28/69 Démarche)

The following month, during a December 4 telephone conversation with the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Henry Kissinger, Sisco again reiterated the need for the speech. The transcript of their conversation reads in part:

“K said what is the advantage of giving it [the speech]? S said it’s geared to upcoming summit meeting. S said it’s within the framework of our present policy. K said assuming what the P doesn’t yet accept . . . that we have to keep pushing negotiations. S said the speech goes [Page 238] down in whatever foreseeable purpose we could have in the future. S said we haven’t said anything substantive since March; we haven’t taken a balanced stand in the discussions; we think it will bolster the Jordanians, Moroccans and Libyans; it makes our position reasonably clear in circumstances where we are not likely to get a political settlement.

“K said he is not at all sure from talking with the P that he believes we are on the right track. K said the P wants to reserve judgment until the NSC meeting. [See Document 74.] S said it’s a statement of policy on what we’ve done. K said he has passed it on. S said he thought this was based on the assumption that the NSC meeting would be today. K said the more he thought about it he thought to make a major policy decision without the Secretary of State present . . . If it were arms supply for Pakistan or something . . .

“S said he has come to two conclusions: 1) we’ve got to operate on the assumption that we are not going to get a consensus; 2) as long as we’re not going to get a consensus, it’s better in the area having the disagreement part of the overall disagreement in a four power context rather than we being pushed into a corner where it’s 3 against 1 and we can’t produce the Israelis. K said I don’t understand. S said he is going to try to get this down on paper. S said on the Jordan aspect, we ought to decide what the outer perimeter of what our views are on the Jordan settlement: hope to maintain a toehold on Hussein; consistent with Jordanian security. S said secondly, if Charlie [Yost] is armed with that—can say that’s our position—it’s unlikely to get a Russian agreement. If that’s the case we can stand firm on the October 28 document. We can say we think it’s a reasonable and fair proposal. We say these proposals stand; there’s no purpose in talking further until a closer meeting of the minds can be achieved. K said are you doing this as a formal proposal or personal. S said he can’t do it as formal. S said he talked with Elliot [Richardson]. K said Elliot agrees with you. K said do you mind if I show it to the President? S said he’s only going to make it personal first; only going to give to Elliot and K. S said what he would do for example: the assistant to the King wants to talk with S—just a friendly chat on December 12; the Secretary is going to talk to Eban on the 16th. S said it’s an opportunity to consult generally along these lines. Say this is fair; as far as we are going to go. It’s not the Russians playing lawyer for the Egyptians and we for the Israelis. S said we’ve got to get something if we’re not going to let Hussein go down the drain. K said he’s just concerned about letting the Russians in on [omission in the original]. S said the opening meeting of the four powers indicates that they’ve pegged out their most extreme position; paper asked for total withdrawal of Israeli forces from all occupied territory. K said including Syria? S said yes, on Syria the President spoke to Golda Meir in a way that would [Page 239] make it tough. K said yes he remembered.” (Transcript of telephone conversation; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 3, Chronological File)