Oct 2014

As the Nixon administration got into gear by the latter part of 1969, the first failures of peace emerged after the six day war. A proposal was on the table for at least Egypt and Jordan. Syria was left out because of their total rejection of Res. 242 and an unwillingness to negotiate with Israel on any level.

Egypt wanted its land back so it agreed to the framework of UN Res 242 after Nixon took office in 1969. Although every thing Nasser did pointed to someone who was not looking for a negotiated settlement.

For Example, when Golda Meir took over as Prime Minister in March she sent the following message to the Arab world that same day.

“We are prepared to discuss peace with our neighbors, any day and on all matters.” Nasser’s answered  this within 72 hours was, “There is no voice transcending the sounds of war… and no call holier than the call to war.” The Syrians and the Jordanians were both silent, I guess letting Nasser speak for them also.

To put this in context, only a few weeks later in the first week of April  Nasser announced the end of the cease fire and this marked the beginning of the War of Attrition. So, maybe Nasser was planning this all along.

Even the Jordanians, perhaps with Syria and Egyptian prodding as Nasser did seem to have influence over Hussein during this time period, seemed more emboldened to back off any negotiations for peace.

It will be remembered George Ball, UN ambassador under Johnson had met with King Hussein of Jordan in July of 1968. He had been “Authorized by the Israelis that they were prepared to return the West Bank, with minor modifications to his authority in return for peace.” Quandt, Peace Process,  p. 410, n. 89.

Ball had reported back to the Johnson administration that Hussein seemed encouraged and was amenable to moving forward. But, barely a year later the Jordanians were having second thoughts of making peace with the Jews.

In June a Jordanian newspaper said in response to Golda’s offer back in March, “Mrs. Meir is prepared to go to Cairo to hold discussions with President Nasser but, to her sorrow, she has not been invited. She believes that one day a world without guns will emerge in the Middle East. Golda Meir is behaving like a grandmother telling bedtime stories to her grand children.”

Granted this mocking of the Israeli prime minister is a newspaper op ed and not an official government response but something like this couldn’t get printed without at least tacit approval from the King. Furthermore, it does show the mood on the Arab street’s continued denial of Israel’s victories on the battlefield.

In October the Nixon administration proposed a four point plan for a negotiated peace based on Res. 242. Israel will return all of the land it got in the war to Egypt, in return for 1) a formal end to the state of war between Israel and Egypt,2) the establishment of demilitarized zones with a return to former international boundaries between Egypt and Israel at the end of the Palestine Mandate, including Gaza, 3)Egypt would affirm the right of all nations the use of the Suez Canal, including Israel, 4) and that Israel and Egypt would agree to mutually respect each other’s sovereignty and the right to live in peace within secure boundaries .

Even though the plan met all of Nasser’s demands he could not get himself to accept number four of the proposal. Not prepared to recognize Israel as a legitimate country, he turned it down. With no hope to move this forward Israel turned the deal down in December hoping for a revision later that would phase the return of the Sinai based on Egyptian compliance of the last three points.

On the Jordanian tract the United States proposed a comprehensive plan based again on 242. Jerusalem however was a sticking point. The Israelis had always said that they wanted Jerusalem for their capital. Even though they accepted partition in 1948 they said they would work towards making Jerusalem their capital in the future. That realization came during the 1967 war. Within three weeks of the war ending Israel had annexed east Jerusalem to the West and declared it the undivided capital of Israel.

But, the Rogers plan had indicated that Jerusalem’s final status would be worked out between both King

Hussein and the Jews. Israel had no problem with these negotiations on West bank returns in exchange for recognition, but Jerusalem was not up for negotiation.

Israel protested the wording of the plan to American officials but to no avail. It went forward. King Hussein was very pleased with the plan. Israel rejected it, saying that it would not be forced to accept something that was unacceptable.

That first Rogers plan failed miserably. But, it would be resurrected in the months to come with certain changes in the landscape that breathed new life into a negotiated settlement between Israel and its enemies. The Israelis, for their part were more than willing to see what the Americans would come up with, as long as Jerusalem remained off the table.


Photo at top courtesy of tiger.towson.edu

Please come to my website at hartnation.com for more articles, history, op eds, news reports reviews and more.


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