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Lyndon Johnson Administration: Secretary Rusk Seeks Analysis of Israeli Politics Toward Peace

(June 28, 1968)

This document relates Secretary of State Dean Rusk's view that America should take a more active role in Israeli-Arab peacemaking. It also talks about the complexites of making peace.

193637. For Ambassador from Under Secretary.

1. As report of US-UK talks indicate (State 188982) we will in days immediately ahead be looking at possibility of more active US role in support of Jarring Mission with view trying to move matters, even slightly, towards a settlement of Arab-Israeli dispute. It may be necessary to make direct efforts to break present Jarring Mission impasse if drift in area is to be stayed, opportunities for increased Soviet penetration minimized, and detrimental and retrogressive new Security Council round avoided. We assume Jarring not likely to make significant progress in his current trip. He is due to return to New York about July 15 and we will want to move promptly to help him before we are thrown into SC on basis UAR idea of timetable.

2. We envisage effort of this sort would involve carrying our substantive dialogue with GOI further than we have to date to ascertain more clearly Israeli ideas on a settlement to see whether we can convince them to make some substantive or procedural suggestions which would help break present impasse and to see whether through intensive consultations we can reach agreement on public or private approaches which we or they can take in the interest of peace-ways of achieving UAR agreement on Rhodes pattern; transmission of ideas of substance through Jarring or through us; etc.

3. Many factors would determine effectiveness of such effort and hence would be critical in deciding nature of any move on our part--e.g. situation in UN, Arab (especially UAR) and Soviet positions, and status of Jarring efforts. Central to any decision on approach to GOI and on manner of such approach, however, would be our assessment of Israeli domestic political situation and impact thereon of US initiative with GOI.

4. We recognize difficulties of making this assessment particularly when so many relevant factors are unclear. We, nevertheless, need your best analysis of political forces now at work in Israel, especially as they would relate and react to such a US initiative with Israel in first instance to facilitate settlement with Arabs. Such initiative at outset would probably need to focus on problem of getting substantive negotiating process started and would most likely aim at getting GOI to present some substantive ideas on a settlement without first having obtained a categoric Arab commitment to face-to-face negotiations and eventual peace treaty. In taking such initiative with GOI we would take pains to reassure Israelis that any explorations with them are within framework of June 19, 1967 policy statement and November SC resolution and we would try to make dear depth and seriousness of US concern with present situation for reason stated para. 1 above. Despite such assurances and explanation, we assume that serious and forceful USG effort in this direction would increase tensions within GOI, perhaps to point of forcing Cabinet crisis. Among questions which occur to us are following:

(a) What would such USG initiative with Israel do to present alignment of forces within GOI?

(b) What should timing be--is present Eshkol-Dayan dispute likely to make GOI more or less receptive to USG initiative?

(c) Would US initiative help resolve Cabinet division in favor of more flexible approach or in favor of greater rigidity?

(d) How bound is Prime Minister by November 8, 1967 Cabinet position on direct negotiations and by subsequent Knesset pronouncements on this subject?

(e) Would favorable decision on Israeli request for F-4 Phantoms have any effect one way or other on GOI position vis-a-vis negotiations and terms of settlement with Arabs? Conversely would further delay in decision have significant effect?

5. Other questions may occur to you and we do not want to predetermine or limit framework of your analysis and recommendations. Given timing considerations set out para. 1 above, we would appreciate prompt reply, in any event no later than July 1.


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