was his role in the negotiations?
A: First of all, it was called
a conference and he was the Chairman of the conference. We were
beginning to talk in a sort of formal framework. Well, if he's
the Chairman of the conference, he has influence. And when he
saw that the parties were not reaching agreement, he did something
very important: he drafted proposals. He said, the Israeli position
and the Arab position are apart or different, not all that different,
let's split the difference. And he would make actual proposals
for the text and both the Israelis and the Egyptians, and later
the Syrians, Lebanese, and Jordanians could accept from a trusted
third party proposals that neither of them could initiate himself
or accept from his rival. And he understood, therefore, that
he had a great power in that he could write those parts of the
agreement which could be accepted by the parties, with some
show of reluctance, but which neither of them could possibly
have drafted themselves. So it was a very active role indeed.
I would say it set a new fashion, a new tradition in United
did he maintain his neutrality in the negotiations?
A: I think his dilemma here was
a part of the mediatorial function. Since he had to put up a
facade of objectivity, that meant that he couldn't speak to
each of us in the same language, and obviously his job as a
mediator was to persuade us that we should give him our confidence
because he was aware of the Jewish tragedy, he could see the
struggle. And, of course, we knew what he was saying to the
Arabs. He was saying to them, words of sympathy with Arab nationalism.
Well, that's the paradox of mediation.
went back and forth between both sides. Would you call it "shuttle
A: Well, it wasn't quite shuttling
because they were all on the Island of Rhodes, within a few
yards of each other. Not as Kissinger developed later when he
used to go from one Arab capital to another. But the technique
was that Bunche would have separate meetings with the Israelis
and the Egyptians, and later the other Arab states, and he'd
get them very close to an agreement and then put in his pocket
those things which were already agreed, and then brought them
together to see what could be done with the things which were
not agreed, which were sometimes very sensitive issues.