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

210193. Subject: Under Secretary’s Meeting with Israeli Ambassador on US Proposal in Four-Power Talks for Jordanian Settlement. Reference: State 209946.2

Following is based on uncleared memcon, Noforn and FYI, subject to revision upon review.

Summary: Following tabling in Four Powers yesterday of our proposal for Jordanian aspect of an Arab-Israel settlement,3 Under Secretary Richardson called in Israeli Ambassador Rabin to hand him copy of proposal and to review for him its essential elements and our reasons for tabling it. Under Secretary stressed that absence of any indications of movement between Israel and Jordan in our talks with Eban, and need to preempt other initiatives, to strengthen Hussein and to dilute Soviet involvement all led us to conclude that we had no alternative to moving ahead in Four Powers. Under Secretary also emphasized that we believe our proposal fully protects Israel’s security, its basic goal of peace and principle of negotiations. Rabin’s reaction was strongly negative. Without entering into detailed discussion prior to referring our proposal and Under Secretary’s comments to his Government, Rabin said he could state that proposal would be “totally unacceptable” to Israel. End summary.

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1. Under Secretary Richardson provided Israeli Ambassador Rabin copy of US proposal on Jordanian aspect of settlement afternoon Dec. 18 and conveyed to Rabin points in para. 2 reftel. Minister Argov and Asst. Sec. Sisco also participated.

2. After reading proposal, Rabin said he saw two turning points in US approach to Arab-Israel settlement: (a) decision to enter Four-Power talks in March, which undermines goal of agreement between parties and which Israel opposed and continues to oppose; and (b) Oct. 28 formulations on UAR4 aspect which specifically defined secure and recognized boundary; Israel believes this should be left to parties.

3. Re US-Jordanian proposal, Rabin said its submission to Four Powers had further aggravated situation. There would be great concern and disappointment in Israel that USG is discussing details of Israel-Jordan settlement in Four Powers. He would refer document to his government and was meanwhile not in position to discuss it in detail but could say that it was “totally unacceptable.” Rabin added that he was sure our proposal was prepared prior to Eban’s visit5 and he could not understand why it had not been shown to Eban before we submitted it in New York.

4. Under Secretary replied that we had not submitted document first to Eban because discussion of document between us would have obliged US and Israel to say that they had consulted on document in advance. As things now stand, we can say that document reflects our position and represents our best judgment on how to reach settlement. Israel free to take its own position.

5. Re Rabin’s characterization of turning points in US policy, Under Secretary said we have evolved a position which we think is more secure today than when we started. We now have position we can stand on. Israeli position, on other hand, is not secure internationally. We think it a mistake that Israel will not be more forthcoming about its terms for a settlement. We and Israel therefore have difference of judgment. We want to support Israel’s security but cannot confuse Israeli and US interests. We think Israel’s security rests on its occupation of territory which it is not obliged to give up except in conditions of peace and security.

6. Under Secretary continued that US wants a settlement but recognizes there is substantial chance we may not get one. Meanwhile we are in dynamic international situation affecting our overall position. Given situation in Four-Power talks and our position generally, we think our proposals, which are a blend of the general and the specific, offer best [Page 264] chance of getting negotiations started. Our objective is to keep Four Powers from turning toward greater specificity on terms of settlement.

7. Rabin replied that failure to reach Israel-Jordan settlement not due to lack of communications but to fact that Jordan cannot be first Arab country to reach settlement. US has created situation permitting Soviets to champion Jordanian interests.

8. End result of US proposals, Rabin said, would be to undermine Israeli security. No Israeli government will take position under which (a) Jerusalem would not be under Israeli control except for special provisions for holy places as explained by Eban and (b) Jordan River would not be Israel’s security border.

9. Rabin reiterated that he not in position to give detailed, authorized GOI reaction to US proposal. In any case, there no use in doing so since US has now submitted proposal and is committed to it.

10. Sisco asked that Rabin specifically report to his government that our proposal leaves question of control and sovereignty over Jerusalem for Israel and Jordan to negotiate. Rabin said he would do so but considered that our Jerusalem formulation represented further erosion of US position. In May paper US had said that Jordan should have civic, economic and religious role in Jerusalem.6 Now we said both Israel and Jordan should have such role, thereby putting Jordan and Israel on equal basis. Sisco reiterated that we had not addressed question of sovereignty. Under Secretary asked whether our present formulation might not be considered an improvement rather than an erosion since previously we had not mentioned Israeli role. Rabin said it was definitely an erosion given fact that larger part of Jerusalem had always belonged to Israel and all of Jerusalem was now in Israeli hands.

11. During conversation Rabin also focused briefly on two other points in US proposal: (a) Point 10 re deposit of final accord with UN after signature, and (b) addendum re Four Power action in Security Council in support of settlement. Re (a), Rabin asked why emphasis is on action vis-à-vis UN rather than on agreement between parties. Sisco stressed that proposal calls for signature by parties and makes clear parties must undertake obligations to each other; deposit with UN has added advantage of giving agreement the aspect of a treaty. Re (b), Rabin asked what purpose is of language on Four Power action in Security Council. He was told this was simply way of expressing concept [Page 265] which has always been inherent in major power discussion of settlement, of associating Security Council with final settlement.7

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 650, Country Files, Middle East, Middle East Negotiations. Secret; Priority; Nodis. Drafted by Atherton, cleared in U, and approved by Sisco. Repeated to Amman, Beirut, Cairo, Jidda, Kuwait, London, Moscow, Paris, and USUN.
  2. Telegram 209946 to Tel Aviv, December 19, authorized Barbour to provide the Government of Israel with the text of the U.S. proposal on the fundamental principles of a settlement between Israel and Jordan that Charles Yost presented in the Four-Power meeting at the UN the previous day. The telegram also included oral comments for the Ambassador to make as he delivered the proposal to Israeli representatives. (Ibid., Box 605, Country Files, Middle East, Israel, Vol. III)
  3. Reported in telegram 4583 from USUN, December 19. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 ARAB–ISR)
  4. See Document 58.
  5. See Document 77.
  6. An apparent reference to the U.S. working paper that Charles Yost presented to the Four Powers in March. See Document 17.
  7. In an interview in Jerusalem on December 22, Meir expressed her anger at both the U.S. proposal for an Israeli-Jordanian settlement and the Rogers Plan. (New York Times, December 23, 1969, p. 1) Earlier that day, the Knesset released a statement rejecting the Rogers Plan, asserting that the “proposals submitted by the US cannot but be construed by the aggressive Arab rulers as an attempt to appease them, at Israel’s espense.” For the full text of the statement, see Israel’s Foreign Policy: Historical Documents, volumes 1–2, 1947–1974, Chapter XII, The War of Attrition and the Cease Fire, Document 10.