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Lyndon Johnson Administration: Memorandum on Conversion with Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban

(October 12, 1966)

This memorandum is a summary of the Secretary of State's meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban to the Embassy of Israel. In it, the Secretary praised Abba Eban's speech on Vietnam; Eban reported that the Arab world was in disarray as Nasser is not focusing on internal problems but instead expressing hostility towards Israel, Israel expressed its concern about Soviet influence with Syria and the United Arab Republic; Israel expressed its hope to direct the refugee problem toward rehabilitation and resettlement, Israel expressed the position that stance on permitting Arabs into Israel depended on the numbers. Israel declared it was not looking to expand its territory and the Secretary of State expressed an unwillingness for the U.S. Government to get involved in the Soviet Jewry issue, as he felt it was an internal Soviet issue.

Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Israel/1/

Washington, October 12, 1966, 7:27 p.m.

64853. Following are highlights uncleared memcon of Secretary's talk with Israeli FonMin Eban October 8./2/

1. Vietnam. Secretary praised Eban's speech as constructive contribution in helping focus world attention to problem of initiating process negotiation. Eban indicated Israel believes onus of beginning negotiations now clearly rests with Hanoi. Secretary expressed doubt whether SYG would play any role in establishing contact between various parties as had been suggested in Eban speech.

2. Near Eastern Tour d'Horizon. Eban said he had never seen Arab world in such disarray. Question still remained whether Nasser would settle down and confine himself to UAR's pressing internal problems. Nasser had clearly not changed basic objectives toward Israel, but GOI believed magnitude his other problems would keep him from undertaking new provocations against Israel at this time. Eban characterized GOI relations with Lebanon and Jordan as good and felt that even with Syria there was good chance of keeping conflicts localized. Israel most concerned at growing Soviet influence in Syria and UAR. Israeli requirements were continued effective balance of strength between itself and Arab states and support of status quo by great powers. Question mark is attitude of Soviets. Gromyko had recently reiterated it possible for USSR have good relations with both Israel and Arab states. He had also reaffirmed that Soviet doctrine on non-use of force to effect territorial changes applied to Near East. Secretary observed Gromyko had shown no interest in dampening down arms race in area, excepting nuclear weapons.

3. South Arabia. Secretary said US was concerned at Soviet activities in southern end of Red Sea. Eban said Israel shared this concern because of Israeli shipping lines through Red Sea. GOI believed that after British withdrawal emergence of non-independent government in south Arabia was inevitable.

4. Palestine Refugees. Eban said while refugee problem was in political deadlock GOI still hoped shift emphasis somewhat toward resettlement and rehabilitation. Agreed, however, best that could be hoped for this session UNGA was to hold line against Arab pressures. Secretary raised question of polling refugee preferences. If two out of ten refugees wanted return to Israel, would they be accepted? Eban jocularly said he thought he could swing two in cabinet. He stressed difficulty carrying out fair polling in light of Arab political "psychosis" on this issue. Secretary said nonetheless he felt it possible gnaw away at refugee problem. Eban said any Israeli commitment on refugees would have to be based on knowledge of number refugees who might wish return.

5. Israeli Territorial Limits. In response Secretary mention of Arab concerns over Israeli expansionism, Eban stated Israel accepts present frontiers as inviolate. Arab contention Israel needs more land for economic reasons not logical since Israeli economy not agricultural but closer to that of Benelux countries or Switzerland. As for 3 million Soviet Jews, even if USSR opened doors wide, some would choose to stay in USSR, some would go to countries other than Israel, and only portion would come to Israel.

6. Soviet Jewry. Secretary said he thought Soviets might move on Soviet Jewry problem if they were pressed through non-governmental channels. Government-to-government approaches not likely be productive since USSR considers this internal matter.

7. Southwest Africa. Secretary and Eban agreed to desirability some gesture from South Africa to help head off Afro-Asian resolution and enable General Assembly come up with realistic moderate resolution.


/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL ISR-US. Secret; Priority. Drafted by Sterner, cleared by Symmes, and approved by Hare.

/2/Memoranda of the conversation are ibid., Conference Files: Lot 67 D 305, CF 83.

Sources: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968, V. 18, Arab-Israeli Dispute 1964-1967. DC: GPO, 2000.