1967, September 29: Initial U.S. Diplomatic Response to Settlement

From: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968, Volume XIX, Arab-Israeli Crisis and War, 1967, Document 451.

Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Israel/1/Washington, September 29, 1967, 1952Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 ARAB-ISR. Confidential. Drafted by Lambrakis, cleared by Atherton, and approved by Battle. Repeated to Amman, Beirut, Jerusalem, Jidda, London, Moscow, Paris, and USUN.

46190. 1. Ambassador Harman and Minister Evron called on Assistant Secretary Battle September 28 for tour d’horizon. In reply to query, Battle repeated assurances given Israelis in New York that Secretary’s meeting with Jordanian Foreign Minister/2/ took routine course and produced no surprises. Could not explain basis for reportedly optimistic statement made by Jordanian to press following meeting. (2) Battle referred to indirect report of unknown reliability through third Embassy sources in Cairo to effect high Foreign Ministry official now regretted that US-USSR draft resolution had not been adopted by Arabs in the first place. Battle offered up his own estimate that Soviets have not entirely moved away from that draft but wish to avoid taking lead at present in UNGA and are concentrating on rebuilding their position with Arabs. They may eventually move back to where they were at end of special GA but no evidence yet. Harman agreed Soviet tactic seems to be give full public backing to Arabs and not get out in front. He recalled GOI feeling that US-USSR draft open to varying interpretations.

/2/Rusk met with Jordanian Foreign Minister Muhammad Adib Al-‘Ameri on September 26 in New York. A memorandum of the conversation is ibid., POL JORDAN-US.

3. Touching on outcome of Khartoum, Harman stressed GOI need to get “nothing less than contractual relationships” with Arab states. He asked for US assessment, in light recent Heikal articles. Battle said original nebulous reports of growing moderateness after Khartoum have so far not been borne out by any concrete Arab steps. Would appear that pledges of financial support made Nasser at Khartoum have helped him to put off facing realities again. Heikal articles and other recent talk on Arab side of continuing the war are extremely disturbing.

4. Moving on to question of announced establishment Israeli settlements on West Bank and Syrian border,/3/ Battle said he wished to stress two points. First is need to avoid airing differences of opinion between us in public press. On other hand, in all honesty it is extremely important GOI actions during this period not provide ammunition for those at UN who would interpret GOI position as hardening in direction of territorial acquisition rather than negotiated settlement. Battle himself is telling all inquirers that GOI has assured USG all options remain open for negotiation. Question had come up only last night at a reception when two Congressmen separately expressed concern to Battle about the Israeli settlements. Evron interjected that it is not only reports from Israel of contemplated GOI actions which can cause such alarm among Congressmen but also reports in US press, such as Hedrick Smith article in NY Times, which allege official USG unhappiness at GOI measures. Battle admitted these part and parcel of same thing, but reiterated that concern in Congress and elsewhere among American people can be stirred up by raw facts alone, even if USG kept silent on subject. In fact, he confided, Department already being criticized in some press circles for reacting in overly cautious manner to Israel’s announcement./4/ Also, many delegations in UN ready to pounce on story and dramatize it. Harman and Evron agreed there is much truth in this.

/3/Press reports that Eshkol had announced plans for establishment of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories near Baniyas in the Golan Heights, at Etzion between Bethleham and Hebron, and at Beit Haarava on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea are summarized in telegram 43163 to Rio de Janeiro for Eugene Rostow, September 25. (Ibid., POL 27 ARAB-ISR)

/4/Telegram 44390 to Rio de Janeiro, September 27, recorded an exchange at the Department press briefing that day between Department spokesman McCloskey and New York Times reporter Hedrick Smith, who asked about the reports of plans for Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. McCloskey replied that the U.S. position on territorial matters in the area remained as stated by the President on June 19. He stated that if the plans to establish permanent Israeli settlements had been accurately reported, they would be “inconsistent with the Israeli position as we understand it–that they regard occupied territories and all other issues arising out of the fighting in June to be matters for negotiation.” He replied to a further question that the United States had not been informed officially of any change in that policy but was attempting through diplomatic channels to clarify the Israeli position. (Ibid.)

5. Harman adverted briefly to NY Times story that morning alleging serious US discussions are underway with Soviets on area arms limitation. He thought he saw implication in article that Soviets had not provided Arabs much new equipment, thus Israel needed none. Battle said he thought that story fell wide of the truth in many respects. He expressed reservations about possibilities for even a tacit agreement with Soviets on area arms limitation in near future. Harman and Evron concurred.