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Leaked Cables on Israel:
McGovern Visit Spotlights Palestinians

(April 11, 1975)


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U.S. Embassy reports on visit of congressional delegation and controversy stirred by Senator George McGovern. He met with Israelis, both official and private, across entire range of political spectrum and listened attentively to all views. Israelis considered visit controversial from the outset, both because of well-publicized visit with Arafat before arrival and because first order of business (due to coincidence with Passover) was visits with several West Bank Arabs not considered by Israelis to be part of "establishment". Inevitable result was that visit focused Israeli attention anew on Palestinian issue in rather provocative manner. Israelis nevertheless proved to be gracious hosts and showed polite tolerance for what senator had to say.

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40
ACTION H-03

INFO  OCT-01  NEA-06  ISO-00  SS-07  NSC-06  /023 W
---------------------     092369
R 110932Z APR 75
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 6273
INFO AMEMBASSY AMMAN
AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
AMEMBASSY CAIRO
AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
AMCONSUL JERUSALEM
AMEMBASSY JIDDA

C O N F I D E N T I A L TEL AVIV 2183

DEPT PLS PASS AMB KEATING

E.O. 11652: GDS
TAGS: OREP (MCGOVERN, GEORGE)
SUBJ: CODEL MCGOVERN THROWS SPOTLIGHT BACK ON
PALESTINIANS

1. SUMMARY: CODEL MCGOVERN PURSUED EXTREMELY FULL
SCHEDULE DURING VISIT TO ISRAEL APRIL 2-7. HE MET
WITH ISRAELIS, BOTH OFFICIAL AND PRIVATE, ACROSS
ENTIRE RANGE OF POLITICAL SPECTRUM AND LISTENED
ATTENTIVELY TO ALL VIEWS. IN ISRAELI MIND VISIT WAS
CONTROVERSIAL EVENT FROM OUTSET, BOTH BECAUSE OF
WELL-PUBLICIZED VISIT WITH ARAFAT BEFORE ARRIVAL AND
BECAUSE FIRST ORDER OF BUSINESS (DUE TO COINCIDENCE
WITH JEWISH PASSOVER) WAS VISITS WITH SEVERAL WEST
BANK ARABS NOT CONSIDERED BY ISRAELIS TO BE PART OF
"ESTABLISHMENT". INEVITABLE RESULT WAS THAT VISIT
FOCUSSED ISRAELI ATTENTION ANEW ON PALESTINIAN
ISSUE IN RATHER PROVOCATIVE MANNER. ISRAELIS
NEVERTHELESS PROVED TO BE GRACIOUS HOSTS AND
SHOWED POLITE TOLERANCE FOR WHAT SENATOR HAD TO SAY.
END SUMMARY.

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2. SUBSTANCE OF SENATOR'S MESSAGE WAS CONVEYED
INDIRECTLY IN FORM OF QUESTION WHICH HE INSERTED
EARLY IN MOST DISCUSSIONS: WHAT WOULD BE HARM TO
ISRAEL IF IT WERE TO STATE PUBLICLY ITS WILLING-
NESS TO WITHDRAW TO SLIGHTLY MODIFIED 1967
BORDERS AND WERE TO ACCEPT THE VALIDITY OF AN
INDEPENDENT PALESTINIAN ENTITY SOLELY ON THE
CONDITION THAT ALL ARAB STATES RECOGNIZE THE
PERMANENT AND INDEPENDENT EXISTENCE OF ISRAEL
AS A JEWISH STATE? DESCRIBING HIMSELF AS A
CONSTANT FRIEND OF ISRAEL, HE AT SAME TIME, HIGHLIGHTED
THE NEED FOR BETTER RELATIONS BETWEEN US AND THE
ARAB WORLD AND THE NECESSITY OF ENCOURAGING
FORCES OF MODERATION WITHIN ARAB WORLD.

3. MOST DISCUSSIONS QUICKLY FOCUSSED ON PROSPECTS
FOR PALESTINIAN STATE. (EXCEPTIONS WERE
DISCUSSIONS WITH SENIOR ISRAELI LEADERS WHICH
TENDED TO CONCENTRATE MORE ON CURRENT NEGOTIATIONS-
TEL AVIV 2052). ISRAELIS OF ALL PERSUASIONS
ATTEMPTED TO CONVINCE CODEL OF OVERIDING NEED FOR
PRIOR RECOGNITION BY PLO OF LEGITIMATE RIGHT OF
ISRAEL TO EXIST AS INDEPENDENT STATE, WITH MANY
CITING CONTINUING PLO ADHERENCE TO PRINCIPLES OF
PALESTINIAN COVENANT AS EVIDENCE THAT ISRAEL WOULD
BE FOOLISH TO TAKE FIRST STEP TOWARD BREAKING
NON-RECOGNITION BARRIER. FOLLOWING IS BRIEF RESUME
OF POINTS MADE TO CODEL.

4. ONLY TWO ISRAELIS WITH WHOM CODEL DISCUSSED
ISSUE AGREED THAT GOI SHOULD TAKE INITIATIVE
VIS-A-VIS PLO: PHILOSOPHY PROFESSOR AT HEBREW
UNIVERSITY WHO DESCRIBED SELF AS SUPPORTER OF
MOKED PARTY, AND MK LOVA ELIAV, WHO RECENTLY
BOLTED LABOR PARTY. BOTH ARGUED THAT ISRAELI
INITIATIVE WOULD HELP RESTORE ISRAEL'S CREDI-
BILITY IN INTERNATIONAL ARENA AND WOULD
PLACE DECISION-MAKING BURDEN ON BACK OF PLO
WHERE IT BELONGS.

5. ABBA EBAN MADE IT CLEAR HE PREFERRED NEGOTIATING
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WEST BANK SETTLEMENT WITH JORDAN. IF THIS PROVED
IMPOSSIBLE BECAUSE OF THE RABAT DECISIONS, HOWEVER,
HE WOULD OPT FOR AN ISRAELI INITIATIVE ON
RECOGNITION AS OPPOSED TO LEAVING THE PUBLIC
RELATIONS FIELD TO THE PLO.

6. ON THE ROLE OF WEST BANKERS, SENATOR WAS
ASSURED BY MANY ISRAELIS THAT HE HAD SPOKEN WITH
"UNREPRESENTATIVE" ELEMENTS DURING HIS AFTERNOON
ON WEST BANK AND WOULD HAVE PROFITED MORE HAD
HE MET WITH MEMBERS OF THE "POWER STRUCTURE",
I.E. MAYORS OF LARGER TOWNS. CODEL RECEIVED
EXPECTED VIEWS ON THIS SUBJECT FROM SENIOR OFFICIALS.
ALLON EXPRESSED HIS LONG-HELD OPINION THAT MORE
SHOULD HAVE BEEN DONE IN THE PAST TO ENCOURAGE
INDEPENDENT POLITICAL EXPRESSION ON THE PART
OF WEST BANKERS, BUT THAT IT WAS PROBABLY
TOO LATE FOR THAT NOW. PERES HELD OUT HOPE THAT
WEST BANK LEADERS COULD STILL BE ENCOURAGED TO
ASSUME MORE RESPONSIBILITY FOR MANAGING THEIR
AFFAIRS, BUT DID NOT PRESS POINT. RABIN SAID
MANY ARRANGEMENTS ARE POSSIBLE ON WEST BANK BUT
THAT SECURITY OF ISRAEL MUST BE ASSURED, GOAL WHICH
HE WAS CONVINCED LEFT NO ROLE FOR TERRORIST
ORGANIZATIONS.

7. CODEL ALSO HAD OPPORTUNITY TO HEAR BASICALLY COMPLE-
MENTARY VIEWS ON WEST BANK FROM NATIONAL
RELIGIOUS PARTY (NRP) AND OPPOSITION LIKUD. YEHUDA
BEN-MEIR (LEADER OF NRP YOUTH FACTION) TOLD CODEL
THAT, WHILE ISRAEL HAD NOT SOUGHT WAR IN 1967 WHICH
LED TO "RETURN" OF JUDEA AND SAMARIA, JEWISH
PEOPLE SHOULD NOT NOW RELINQUISH LAND TO WHICH
THEY HAVE HISTORIC RIGHT. ARIK SHARON (LIKUD)
CITED INEVITABILITY THAT WEST BANK PALESTINIAN
STATE WOULD ACQUIRE MODERN WEAPONS AND BECOME
PERMANENT THREAT TO ENTIRETY OF ISRAEL, AND
EXPOUNDED HIS BELIEF THAT PALESTINIANS SHOULD BE
GIVEN EAST BANK. HE ALSO ASSURED CODEL THAT RABIN
GOVERNMENT WILL FALL IF IT ATTEMPTS
WITHDRAWAL ON WEST BANK. BOTH BEN-MEIR AND
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SHARON ADVOCATED RETENTION BY WEST BANK ARABS OF
CITIZENSHIP IN EAST BANK STATE AND THEIR FULL
PARTICIPATION IN ITS POLITICAL LIFE, EVEN SHOULD
THEY CHOOSE TO RESIDE IN JEWISH STATE.

8. CONVERSATIONS WITH LEADING ISRAELI ACADEM-
ICIANS TENDED TO TURN ON QUESTION OF WHETHER OR
NOT ARAFAT AND PLO ARE SINCERELY WILLING TO
RECOGNIZE LEGITIMACY OF EXISTENCE OF JEWISH STATE.
MOST CITED ARAFAT'S CONTINUING ESPOUSAL OF "SECULAR
DEMOCRATIC STATE" AS EVIDENCE THAT HE IS NOT
WILLING. SENATOR MCGOVERN INVARIABLY REFERRED
TO FACT THAT ARAFAT HAD TOLD HIM THIS WAS A
"VISION" WHICH WOULD ONLY BE REALIZED IN DISTANT
FUTURE AFTER PROCESS OF "INTELLECTUAL DEVELOPMENT
AND POLITICAL PERSUASION". NEARLY ALL ISRAELIS
REACTED TO THIS AS PROOF OF THEIR POINT, STATING
IN VARIOUS WAYS THAT ADVOCACY OF DISAPPEARANCE
OF ISRAEL IN WHATEVER TIME FRAME CONSTITUTES
DISAVOWAL OF ITS LEGITIMACY.

9. ISRAELI MEDIA GAVE CODEL EXTENSIVE, AND
FOR MOST PART QUITE FAIR, HARD NEWS COVERAGE,
BEGINNING AT ALLENBY BRIDGE. EDITORIALS TOOK
AS THEMES TENDENCY OF ARAFAT TO TELL "NAIVE"
AMERICANS WHAT THEY WANT TO HEAR; UNDER-
STANDING THAT SENATOR IS WELL-INTENTIONED BUT
DOESN'T HAVE TO LIVE IN ISRAEL; AND NECESSITY FOR
GOI TO DEAL WITH APPARENT EROSION OF
CONGRESSIONAL SUPPORT FOR ISRAELI POSITIONS.

10. COMMENT: SENATOR MCGOVERN CONVEYED TO
ISRAELIS WITH WHOM HE CAME IN CONTACT THAT HE WAS
MORE CONCERNED WITH HEARING ISRAELI VIEWS THAN IN
TRYING TO CHANGE MINDS. LARGELY BECAUSE OF
HIS ABILITY TO LISTEN AND TO RESIST SERMON-
IZING, WE FEEL THAT SENATOR'S VISIT ON BALANCE
SERVED AS USEFUL REMINDER THAT, WHILE OTHER
MATTERS MAY SEEM TO HAVE MORE IMMEDIACY, PALESTINIAN ISSUE
REMAINS TO BE DEALT WITH. A NUMBER OF ISRAELIS
REMARKED THAT THEY WERE GLAD THIS ISSUE WAS FINALLY
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OUT IN OPEN AND COULD BE DISCUSSED - IN ISRAELI TERMS-
REALISTICALLY.
DOZIER

 

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Sources: Wikileaks

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