34. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rogers to President Nixon 1

SUBJECT

  • Soviet Counterproposal on Arab-Israeli Dispute

The Soviets submitted to us on June 17 a written counterproposal (TAB A)2 and explanatory “oral comments” (TAB B)3 for a settlement of the Arab-Israeli dispute following Foreign Minister Gromyko’s visit to Cairo.4 It moves in our direction beyond previous Soviet positions by introducing new elements and omitting certain objectionable points contained in the December 30th Soviet plan, although a number of our fundamental requirements are not met. A detailed analysis of the Soviet plan is attached (TAB C).5

The plan we submitted to the Soviets (TAB D)6 envisaged: (a) an acceptance of the principle of withdrawal by Israel from the UAR to a final border to be worked out by the parties, in exchange for (b) an Arab commitment to a contractual peace and a willingness to negotiate di[Page 114]rectly at some stage under Jarring’s auspices. In our plan the possibility was left open, but not made explicit, that the final border between the UAR and Israel would be the former international frontier which existed before the June war, and the parties would themselves be expected to work out the practical security arrangements in Sharm al-Shaykh and Gaza. Our whole strategy was based on the assumption that if we could tie down both the Soviets and the Arabs to a contractual and negotiated peace, we would have some leverage with the Israelis to encourage them to withdraw from UAR territory.

The new Soviet plan moves in this direction. Like our own, it is a negotiating document. It adopts the concept of a reciprocally binding agreement between the parties, as a package, and signed by the parties. It is insufficiently explicit, and the Israelis will certainly think so, on the binding commitment to a state of peace, and this is one matter on which we feel we are in a position to press the Soviets further in subsequent discussions. The Soviet plan also fails to accept our proposal for direct negotiations under Jarring’s auspices, but interestingly enough, leaves open this possibility. We feel that this point also can be pressed further with the Soviets.

Our conclusion is there is sufficient in the Soviet document, perhaps more implicitly than explicitly, for us to develop a further counter document which would take into account some of the Soviet views.7 I do not wish to give you the impression that these are the only serious problems that remain. There are others as our attached detailed analysis indicates. However, our judgment is that as a minimum the Soviet reply reflects a desire to continue the dialogue with us. This is consistent with the hints Ambassador Dobrynin has given to Assistant Secretary Sisco that the Soviets see value in discussions with us as an element of restraint in the Middle East and as an important ingredient in overall US–USSR relations.

In addition, we feel there are other important reasons to continue the Soviet-American dialogue: we have greater control in the bilateral context than in the Four Power discussions; as long as we and the Soviets continue consultations, the risk of a direct military confrontation between us is diminished; a general renewal of hostilities between the Arabs and the Israelis is less likely; the possibility is enhanced that the present “no war, no peace” situation will not escalate beyond the present pattern of incidents, retaliation, and controlled tension.

We will undoubtedly have great difficulty with the Israelis since they will take the most pessimistic interpretation of the Soviet reply and contend that this confirms their strongly held judgment that nei[Page 115]ther the Soviets nor the UAR want the kind of peace they require. They will make a further all-out effort to use this reply to get us to kill the Two Power and the Four Power talks. We must resist this.

The latest Soviet plan contains a number of elements that are difficult for the Arabs, and particularly for the Israelis. While it has major deficiencies and no doubt will be unacceptable to Israel, it will appear reasonable in many respects to others. For example, the substantial UN role envisaged will be attractive to many who feel that a continuing Israeli presence in the occupied territories is expansionist and unrealistic. The public relations aspect is another reason why we believe it is necessary for us to prepare a counterproposal of our own.

The Soviets have also proposed that we move our talks to Moscow. You will recall that we left this possibility open when we insisted at the outset that the talks begin in Washington. Our tentative thinking is that Assistant Secretary Sisco would present any counterproposal, with full explanation of our approach, to the Soviets in Moscow,8 remain a very brief period of time, and we would await their further reply and discuss it either in Moscow or Washington or both, depending on the timing of Dobrynin’s return.

We will be developing a counterproposal at an early date and will submit it to you for your approval.

William P. Rogers
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 651, Country Files, Middle East, Middle East (1969). Secret; Nodis.
  2. Attached but not printed at Tab A is telegram 101232 to Tel Aviv, June 20. In telegram 99315 to Moscow, June 18, the Embassy reported Tcherniakov’s presentation to Rogers and the Secretary’s response, including the comment that the Soviet plan represented “very little movement” and consisted “largely of recasting” of the December 30 Soviet plan “plus some modifications given to Sisco orally by Dobrynin.” Tcherniakov also told Rogers that he had been instructed to propose that the U.S.-Soviet talks be moved to Moscow. (Ibid., Box 649, Country Files, Middle East, Middle East Negotiations) Telegram 99315 is printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XII, Soviet Union, January 1969–October 1970, Document 58.
  3. Attached but not printed at Tab B is the undated “Oral Comments on ‘Basic Provisions’ of a Middle East Settlement.”
  4. Gromyko visited Cairo beginning on June 10. Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research Thomas L. Hughes informed Secretary Rogers on June 11 that a Soviet Embassy source in Washington had intimated that Gromyko’s visit to Cairo was “connected with the Sisco-Dobrynin discussions on the Arab-Israeli settlement problem and that it will enable the Soviets to make a new presentation to the US in the near future. There is other good evidence as well that this is the main purpose of Gromyko’s trip. Although the evidence is sketchy regarding the extent of Moscow’s optimism, it seems likely that Moscow in sending Gromyko was confident that the consultations would produce a useful position which the Soviets could take in Washington, and that the trip does not signify Soviet consternation over a totally negative UAR attitude toward further Soviet settlement talks with the West.” (Ibid., Document 54)
  5. Attached but not printed at Tab C is the undated “Detailed Analysis of the Soviet Plan of June 17, 1969. For the December 30 plan, see Document 1.
  6. Attached but not printed at Tab D is the U.S. plan, which Sisco presented to Dobrynin in “piecemeal fashion” on May 6, 8, and 12, as described in Document 28.
  7. See footnote 4, Document 39.
  8. Sisco visited Moscow July 14–18. See Document 39.