12. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1


  • Secret Israel–Jordan Talks

As general background for your coming meetings with King Hussein (February 6) and Prime Minister Meir (March 1) you will want to be aware of a report [less than 1 line not declassified] on a January 3 meeting between the two leaders at a location in Israel south of the Dead Sea.

The full report is attached,2 but the following are the highlights of their discussion:

—[1 paragraph (10 lines) not declassified]

Hussein gave Mrs. Meir a paper setting forth the basic principles that he feels must govern a peace settlement. In doing so, he admitted that it was largely a rehash of old positions discussed in earlier Jordanian-Israeli meetings. Mrs. Meir agreed but affirmed that they must keep trying to reach an agreement. She did, however, suggest one new concession in the form of possibly allowing a separate Jordanian corridor to East Jerusalem so that the Muslim holy places could be visited without crossing Israeli territory but insisted that all of Jerusalem must be under Israeli sovereignty. Mrs. Meir did acknowledge that the subject of “occupation” will be the issue in the coming Israeli elections. The Jordanians also felt that she indicated receptivity to Gaza’s becoming part of Jordan with a corridor linking it to the West Bank, but there may be an element of wishful thinking in that Jordanian assessment.

[Page 27]

Hussein is sending Mrs. Meir a message informing her of his plans to restore diplomatic relations with Egypt and Syria. In it, he assures her that this will not alter Jordan’s policy in any way, especially concerning resumption of hostilities or opposing the fedayeen.

King Hussein’s position paper concerning the terms of a peaceful settlement between Israel and Jordan sets forth these basic principles:

—Jordanian leaders are prepared to sign a formal peace treaty with “all necessary international guarantees.”

—They would accept total demilitarization of the West Bank and would guarantee that no outside Arab armed forces would be stationed anywhere on Jordanian soil.

—They would agree to eventual establishment of normal diplomatic, commercial and economic relations between Jordan and Israel, including joint development projects in the Jordan Valley.

—There could be agreement on some form of resident alien permits to allow nationals of each country to reside inside the other with freedom of movement back and forth.

—No lasting peace is possible, however, if the solution to the Middle East problem is to be based on outright annexation of Arab territories. Rectification of the pre-1967 border can be negotiated with some reciprocity in ways that would permit its establishment as a permanent boundary.

—Jerusalem must be an open city, not divided and with free access to all people. It cannot, however, be a united Israeli city. The return of the Arab section of Jerusalem to Jordanian sovereignty is the cornerstone for peace in Jerusalem, but an exchange of sectors could be considered. The Jordanians believe that dual sovereignty is the only answer. There could be complete freedom of movement within the city. Two municipalities with a joint council to administer affairs of common concern might provide a method for joint administration of the city.

—The solution to the Gaza problem does not lie either in independence or in Israeli annexation. Jordanian leaders believe that the best solution would be for it to become part of the West Bank region of Jordan’s United Arab Kingdom, with a corridor linking it to the West Bank.

—Palestinian refugees from 1967 would return to their homes in the West Bank. Refugees from 1948 would be given the right of repatriation to present day Israel or compensation. Limits on the numbers to return to Israel proper could be agreed.

This does not represent a significant change in the Jordanian position from the one King Hussein presented to you last March during his [Page 28] visit.3 The interesting point is that the top two leaders are discussing issues like Jerusalem and Gaza which would have to be addressed in a serious negotiation. Although the questions of borders and Jerusalem remain major obstacles to agreement, this discussion takes place against a background of renewed talk on both sides about practical elements of a settlement. According to one of Hussein’s chief advisers, Hussein would be prepared to agree to the stationing of Israeli para-military settlements on the West Bank for a specified period as the first phase in an overall peace settlement until the Jordanians proved their ability to maintain security. On the Israeli side there was extensive debate within Mrs. Meir’s Labor Party last fall on how prolonged occupation of Arab-populated areas would dilute the Jewish nature of Israel.

During his visit, Hussein will probably seek US support for his gaining a maximum response from the Israelis. The broad choice of strategy that he faces is a choice between (1) trying to gain a negotiated settlement along these lines, possibly implemented over a prolonged period and (2) living for some time with the present situation while working tacitly with the Israelis to assure increased Palestinian autonomy on the West Bank. In the latter course, it would be possible for Israel and Jordan to agree that no formal settlement is possible now but that the Israelis would prepare the West Bankers for eventual autonomy and choice on their association with Jordan. This is a choice which Hussein is going to have to make for himself, and we will want to have some feeling from him on how far he is prepared to go before Mrs. Meir comes.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 137, Country Files, Middle East, Jordan/Rifai, January 3, 1973. Secret; Sensitive; Outside the System. Sent for information.
  2. Attached, but not printed.
  3. Nixon met with Hussein at the White House March 28, 1972. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary) The memorandum of conversation is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXIII, Arab–Israeli Dispute, 1969–1972.