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Lyndon Johnson Administration: Memorandum on Nasser Refusing to Make Compromises

(April 8, 1968)

A narrative of negotiations with King Hussein and Gamal Nasser. The account details Nasser's unwillingness to compromise with Israel.

Dept pass Cairo. Subj: Jarring Mission. Ref: 143077, 3214.

1. Summary: King Hussein called me and Emboff to Palace evening 7th for briefing on Jarring talks with Nasser. Only after several hours of difficult discussion had he obtained Nasser's agreement even to consider accepting the Jarring proposal. Catch now is that Nasser insists Jarring must come up with some alternate phraseology to substitute for "I have invited the two govts to meet with me for conferences" on March 10 proposal. Jordan and UAR therefore will try to get Jarring to develop his own proposal along lines "I plan to meet with representatives or delegates of the parties in New York." Nasser is adamant that meetings can be held only in New York and must be lowest key possible. Abdul Munim Rifai stayed behind in Cairo to join with UAR Fon-Min Riad in meeting with Jarring on 8th.

2. King said his April 6-7 meetings with Nasser had been the longest and most arduous he had ever had with any leader. Jordanians had expected some difficulties in these discussions but were stunned by Nasser's opening position which was totally negative to concept of any peaceful solution. As far as Jordanians could see this position was shared by all of Nasser's advisers. Nasser had begun by saying flatly that Jarring Mission could not succeed, that only military solution was feasible and that UAR military was therefore preparing for that solution. Nasser repeatedly said Egyptian people would not stand for the humiliation of dealing with Israelis through Jarring in terms of latter's present proposal. Nasser in fact considered Jarring's present formula as "an American trick." He indicated to the King a greater mistrust of US policy than ever and stressed he is unwilling to resume diplomatic relations with the US. According to Nasser he had just turned down opportunity to restore relations and would continue to do so.

3. Nasser told Hussein that six other Arab states have stated to him they have not accepted the SC resolution and oppose a political settlement. The six are Algeria, Syria, Sudan, Kuwait, South Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Nasser said Faisal through Omar Saqqaf had just urged him to agree to announce failure of the Jarring Mission. Hussein observed parenthetically to me "Your friend Faisal is more opposed than anyone to peaceful settlement."

4. King probed Nasser for indication to when UAR would be ready to take Israel on militarily, if Nasser seriously meant that the military alternative was the only one available to the Arabs. Nasser said he would be ready "before eighteen months had lapsed." King then countered with question how UAR proposed to help Jordan militarily since Israeli attacks on Jordan are occurring right now. Nasser replied unfortunately he was in no position to give any help. Jordanians thereupon reminded Nasser he had told them he felt personally responsible for loss of West Bank and was prepared to do anything possible to help King recover his lost territory. King pressed this point home with comment "Now you say no political solution and yet you cannot help us militarily." King said he pointed out to Nasser that whether UAR liked it or not Jordan did not intend to continue to bear alone the brunt of Israeli military attacks and would call for assistance other Arab states, specifically UAR. Thus, King continued, UAR would become involved militarily against Israel but once again 'in circumstances where Israelis would be dictating the time and place. This would undoubtedly mean another disastrous defeat for the Arabs. King observed he thought this stage in discussion had been turning point in his efforts to get Nasser to consider accepting Jarring proposal. The two delegations thereupon settled down to review Jarring's formula.

5. To Jordanians' surprise Nasser passed over the "to devise arrangements" phrase without hesitation. This was point on which GOJ had expected most trouble. King said he had reserved as his fallback position insertion of phraseology "readiness to implement" but found this was unnecessary. Nasser balked only at the penultimate sentence of Jarring's formula and stated that call for meetings in way Jarring proposed was "impossible".

6. Jordanians' first thought was that they must then begin all over again with their argumentation. They pointed out that the meeting with Israelis under Jarring's auspices was whole object of exercise. Nasser countered with statement if he accepted Jarring's "I have invited the two govts to meet with me for conferences," there would be a "revolution in Egypt tomorrow." Nasser stated that Cyprus as meeting place was out of the question. Jordanians then suggested possibility of New York as meeting place. Nasser was intrigued with this idea and, overriding the objections of some of his advisers, said he could accept this and added New York would be the only place where UAR could meet.

7. It was clear to the Jordanians that they had pushed Nasser as far as was possible. They felt at conclusion of discussions Nasser would stick to his position even though this put him in opposition to some of his advisers including Mahmoud Riad who throughout the meetings was particularly rigid and outspokenly anti-American. Nasser and Hussein agreed that Abdul Munim Rifai would remain in Cairo to meet with Jarring and Mahmoud Riad on Monday April 8. They would explain difficulty of "inviting the two govts" and would urge Jarring to develop a substitute phrasing of his own. Nasser indicated for example that he would not object to Jarring saying he had "arranged to meet with representatives (or delegates) of the parties in New York." Nasser also agreed with Hussein that such meetings by no means need to be confined to permanent UN representatives of the countries involved. What he could not accept was a reference to "govts" or "conferences."

8. Hussein said he was convinced Nasser both fully intends to proceed with "indirect talks" with Jarring and recognizes that talks are necessary "to devise arrangements for implementations." Hussein said as far as he is concerned he will send Abdul Munim Rifai and or Dep PriMin Ahmad Touqan, together with other aides, to talk in New York and will be prepared to move as fast as possible. Jordan's al-Farra would not be GOJ representative.

9. After reviewing the foregoing, King Hussein said "This really is our last chance. You must persuade the Israelis to keep quiet and to go along with whatever Jarring proposes in place of the present invitation to the govts." The King kept saying that "there will be talks and they can be broadened later if we can only get the meetings started." He also said that although Nasser and he remain adamant against proceeding to a formal peace treaty, they had discussed various formulas through which permanent and secure guarantees of a peaceful settlement could be established- The King recognized the problem of proposing changes in the present proposal. For that reason, Rifai and Riad would not propose any specific language to Jarring but would explain the problem and try to stimulate him to come up with language of his own that would solve the problem for the Arabs and at the same time be acceptable to Israel as Jarring's own ideas.

10. Comment: We consider results of Hussein's talks to be encouraging, They were not conclusive in terms of getting final agreement from Nasser to Jarring's formula but we believe nonetheless we are within reach of getting talks started. We leave to other addressees whether there would be benefit in giving GOI run down on Hussein-Nasser talks until it is clear what Jarring intends to do next. He may need pushing from U Thant or Bunche if we are to have any quick action. Because of Jarring's less than activist approach to his mission we recognize that proposed revising of penultimate sentence in his formula may risk considerable delay and even Israeli rejection.

Sources: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968, V. 20, Arab-Israeli Dispute 1967-1968. DC: GPO, 2001.