The United States Initiative

Throughout 1969 the United States sought a framework for an agreed settlement through bilateral talks with the Soviet Union and in the multilateral channel of the Four Power talks, as well as through continuing consultation with Israel, Jordan and the U.A.R. We sought to work out common guidelines which Ambassador Gunnar Jarring, the U.N. Secretary General's Special Representative, could use as a catalyst for talks between the parties.

By May of 1970 these efforts were stalled. And while they had proceeded, the intensity of the conflict had again reached the critical level. Fighting was taking place daily along the Suez Canal. In retaliation, Israeli air power had reached deep into Egypt. Fedayeen attacks had provoked serious incidents on the ceasefire lines between Israel and Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. The Soviet Union had taken steps to alter the military balance in the U.A.R.'s favor. Forces opposed to any kind of settlement were increasingly assertive in many Arab countries.

Obviously, the situation was once again about to go out of control. A new approach in the search for a settlement was urgently required.

Our experience over the past year had convinced us that no serious movement toward peace was possible unless the parties to the conflict themselves came to grips with the issues between them.

On June 19, therefore, the United States launched an initiative to get both sides to re-establish the ceasefire; observe a military standstill in an agreed zone on both sides of the Israel-U.A.R. ceasefire line; agree on a set of principles as the basic starting point for Arab-Israeli talks under the auspices of Ambassador Jarring.

The essence of this proposal was described by Secretary Rogers publicly on June 25 as a major political initiative "to encourage the parties to stop shooting and start talking." The U.A.R., Jordan and Israel accepted the proposal, as did the Soviet Union. Our initiative produced significant results:

It halted the bloodshed along the ceasefire line, and thereby helped reduce national passions to a level more conducive to sober consideration of a political settlement.

It obtained, for the first time, agreement by Israel, Jordan and the U.A.R. to seek "a just and lasting peace between them based on (l) mutual acknowledgment by the United Arab Republic, Jordan and Israel of each other's sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence, and (2) Israeli withdrawal from territories occupied in the 1967 conflict, both in accordance with" the U.N. Security Council Resolution of November 22, 1967.

However, the ultimate goal of our initiative, a serious peace negotiation, did not follow immediately. For the Soviet and Egyptian buildup of military forces along the Suez Canal continued after the ceasefire went into effect on August 7, in violation of the agreement for a military standstill. The fragile opening toward peace was further endangered in early September by the actions of Palestinian groups which attempted to force the government of Jordan to withdraw from the effort to reach a settlement.

The situation in Jordan deteriorated into open conflict, and the subsequent intervention of armored forces from Syria created the gravest threat to world peace since this administration came into office.

More was at stake than Jordanian policy. As always with dangers avoided, it is not easy in retrospect to demonstrate how close to greater dangers the world really came. But the prospect which threatened can be described: If Jordan had succumbed to either internal subversion or external aggression, the danger of another full-scale Middle East war would have been at hand. With the Soviet Union so deeply involved in the military operations of the U.A.R., and with firm U.S. support for the survival of Israel, the risk of great-power confrontation would have been real indeed.

The United States had no responsible choice but to prevent events from running away with the ability to control them. We took a firm stand against the Syrian intervention. We acted to stabilize but not to threaten, to discourage irresponsibility without accelerating the momentum of crisis.

The Syrians withdrew, the government of Jordan re-established order and a fragile agreement was reached on the future role of the organized Palestinians.

This sobering experience should demonstrate to all the parties involved the extreme volatility of the present state of affairs. The entire world has seen how precarious is the balance and how great the danger in the Middle East.