5. Telegram From the Embassy in Jordan to the Department of State1
6532. For the Secretary from Atherton. Subj: Meeting With King Hussein August 12.
1. Summary: In my talks in Amman with King Hussein late afternoon August 12 and earlier in the day with Abdul Hamid Sharaf and Acting Foreign Minister Abu Odeh, I did my best to dispel concern over their perception that there has been erosion in the U.S. position on a Middle East peace settlement. All three voiced this concern, and Hussein spoke more frankly than I have ever heard him of his apprehension that the U.S. appeared to be pulling back from its position on meaning of Resolution 242 conveyed to him over the years since 1967. He said at one point that these past months have been “the most distressing of my life.” I assured them that our positions have not changed and that the positions we will take at Camp David in September will be consistent with those the President and the Secretary have conveyed to Hussein. His demeanor implied that he will believe it when he sees it. What he said, however, was that he welcomes the Camp David meeting, adding that even if it brings no progress it will be useful as long as it produces a U.S. position compatible with Resolution 242. I emphasized the importance of our friends in the Arab world expres[Page 10]sing publicly their support for the President’s initiative. I said we were very pleased over Fahd’s statement, which had been helpful as well in making the Saudi position clear in the U.S., and I hoped Hussein would give consideration to finding a way for Jordan, too, to show its support. (I had earlier said to Sharaf that Jordan’s reaction will be closely watched in the U.S.) Hussein reiterated that he hoped for the success of the Camp David meeting and, turning to Sharaf said “we will see what we can do”. Hussein, hence, did not tip his hand on question of Jordanian public support. He may wish to consult his cabinet on issue, and we will just have to wait and see how this matter develops. In all these meetings I was accompanied by Suddarth and Korn. End summary.
2. Question of Jordanian perception of an erosion of U.S. position came up and was discussed at length in my morning meeting with Sharaf, who expressed concern that U.S. position on the West Bank and Gaza was very [garble] to the Begin plan.2 I told Sharaf I thought there had been misunderstanding in both Jordan and Saudi Arabia of what I had said in my previous visit in July. My purpose had been to set out our thoughts coming out of the Leeds talks3 on the Egyptian and Israeli West Bank/Gaza proposals; in doing this it was in no way my intention to imply that West Bank/Gaza arrangements should be made without prior agreement on a broad framework of principles covering all the major issues, withdrawal, peace, security and the Palestinian problem. I assured both Sharaf and Abu Odeh that this is our goal and that our positions remain as the President and the Secretary had earlier stated them in talks with King Hussein. With both Abu Odeh and Sharaf I made a strong pitch for some public expression of support from Jordan for the President’s Camp David initiative. I said this was not only important for President Carter and Sadat, but for U.S.-Jordanian relations.
3. In the meeting with Hussein, which lasted about 40 minutes, I covered all the points in the talking points you approved for my stops in Saudi Arabia and Jordan. I emphasized in particular that the President felt we are at a critical juncture in the Middle East (Hussein agreed), that an effort was needed to break the impasse and the U.S. was the only one that could do so. I explained at length why direct negotiations are necessary. I said that our objective at Camp David will be [Page 11]to get agreement on a broad framework of principles. We cannot promise success but at least by the time the Camp David meeting ends U.S. position will be clear. I explained that the President intends to make an all-out effort and is ready to continue the talks at Camp David as long as necessary. I also assured Hussein that the Camp David meeting was our own idea and that we had not discussed it with anyone else. Begin and Sadat first learned of it when the Secretary arrived in Jerusalem and Alexandria4 (Suddarth had told me the King might be sensitive about the absence of any advance consultation.)
4. I said I realized that the impression existed in the Arab world that there had been an erosion in our position. The Secretary wanted me to assure His Majesty that is not the case. We continue to believe that a framework of broad principles has to be the starting point, and the ideas and suggestions that we will put forward at Camp David will be consistent with those the Secretary and the President have discussed with Hussein. I pointed out that the Camp David initiative was an act of great courage on the part of the President, just as was Sadat’s acceptance of the invitation, and the President deserves the broadest possible support. I said I hoped Jordan would consider ways it could show its support.
5. Hussein thanked me for coming and said that, speaking as a friend of the U.S. and in spirit of our relations, he had to say that the recent period had been a very confusing one. Hussein said what he had heard not only after the Leeds conference but before that time had caused him to have doubts about the steadfastness of the U.S. In 1967 the U.S. spoke of Israeli withdrawal with minor border modifications. Now we hear of a 5 year period “that would lead to we don’t know what” and the possibility of Israeli forces staying on the West Bank with Jordan providing a “cover” for their activities. Hussein said U.S. ideas did not appear to bring in the Palestinians sufficiently, and he stressed the importance of involving the Palestinians fully in the settlement effort. Hussein said in the post 1967 period the U.S. and Jordan had differences on only two issues, Jerusalem and the need for minor border modifications to be on a reciprocal basis. In recent years, however, differences seemed to have multiplied.
6. In sum, Hussein said, he felt there had been a “very serious erosion in the U.S. position” and that it had damaged the U.S. image in the Middle East. At one point he said the past few months had been “the most distressing of my life.” (Comment: Hussein never alluded to his [Page 12]desire to visit the U.S., but I suspect this also was implied in this remark.) However, Hussein said he was glad to have our assurances that U.S. positions remain unchanged and welcomed the President’s Camp David initiative. Even if Camp David does not bring progress, Hussein said, it will be important and helpful if it produces a U.S. position compatible with Resolution 242. “We look forward to hearing the best possible news from Camp David” Hussein added. I said I had had a good talk with Prince Fahd5 and we had been very much heartened and pleased by Fahd’s statement6 of support for the President’s Camp David initiative. I noted that Fahd’s statement had also helped a great deal in the U.S. in dispelling doubts about Saudi Arabia’s position. Turning to Sharaf, Hussein said “we will see what we can do.”
7. At end of this part of conversation, I reminded Hussein that during my previous visit I had said it would be helpful to know more precisely what Jordan needs in a statement of principles to be able to join negotiations. It would be particularly helpful to have his thoughts on this before September 5. I subsequently underlined this point with Sharaf. Both were non-committal.
8. With this the conversation on Middle East peace efforts ended. There followed a brief discussion of Lebanon, which is being reported separately.7
9. As regards the question of a Jordanian statement of support for the President’s Camp David initiative, Hussein did not tip his hand in any way. Later in the evening Abu Odeh remarked that he did not think we should expect anything “yet”. Suddarth’s guess is that Hussein will wait to consult his cabinet before formally deciding anything, at least for appearances sake.8
- Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P850093–2458. Secret; Niact Immediate; Exdis Distribute as Nodis. Sent for information Immediate to Cairo, Tel Aviv, and Jidda.↩
- During meetings with Carter in December 1977, Begin presented a plan for Palestinian “home rule” in the West Bank and Gaza. The plan called for the establishment of a Palestinian administrative council through free elections, while leaving security of these areas to Israeli authorities. The plan also called on Israel to hold in abeyance for five years its sovereignty claim to the West Bank; at the end of that period Israel would review the arrangements to see how well it had worked. For documentation on the Begin plan, see the attachment to Document 177 and footnote 6, Document 180, in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. VIII, Arab-Israeli Dispute, January 1977–August 1978.↩
- See footnote 3, Document 3.↩
- Vance met with Begin August 5–7 in Jerusalem, and Sadat August 7–9 in Alexandria where he presented both leaders with invitations to meet with President Carter at Camp David. See Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. VIII, Arab-Israeli Dispute, January 1977–August 1978, Documents 285–288.↩
- See footnote 10, Document 3.↩
- The Embassy transmitted the text of Fahd’s statement as well as a proposed response by Atherton on August 11. (Telegram 5849 from Jidda, August 11; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780328–0836)↩
- For Atherton’s August 12 summary of his discussion of the situation in Lebanon with Hussein, see telegram 6533 from Amman, August 12. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780331–0444)↩
- An official Jordanian statement expressing Hussein’s support for the Camp David talks was broadcast on August 12. The Embassy transmitted the text of the statement in telegram 6534 from Amman, August 13. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780331–0274)↩