83. Editorial Note

On December 17, 1970, Henry Kissinger met a number of reporters from the Washington Post in the offices of the newspaper. In the course of responding to a variety of questions relating to foreign policy, Kissinger addressed the complex problems posed by tensions in the Middle East, and the likelihood that a stalemate in the Arab-Israeli dispute was “inevitable”:

“There are three basic issues when one looks at the Middle East. First, one can look at it solely as an Arab-Israeli problem; secondly, one can focus on the significance of the Soviet presence there; or thirdly, one can also focus on the nature of the Arab states, their autonomy. Our objective has been to try to get each of these issues in phase with each other. Some however think that only the first issue is of any consequence and it is therefore the key. They believe that if it can be solved, the rest will fall in place.

“We believe however that each of these issues is related; that there are a number of problems which have to be resolved or at least addressed. A good example is the likelihood of a stalemate once negotiations are started.

“In fact, stalemate is really inevitable. It seems to be an obsession in Washington to focus only on the next step. One of the things that surprised me most when I came here was the singlemindedness with which the immediate step was addressed and the lack of attention paid to what was going to happen next. Starting negotiations is of second order priority; breaking the stalemate is really the critical issue. Examples of the questions we should address are: With whom are we going to deal when there is a stalemate? Is it going to be in a four-power forum, two-power forum, the Security Council at the UN? Are we going to move alone? There are numerous other crucial questions which have to be answered, but they will not be addressed until the problem is on top of us.” (Memorandum for the Record, December 17, 1970; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 269, Memoranda of Conversation, 1968-1977, Chronological File)

The reporters who questioned Kissinger included Donald Oberdorfer, Marylin Berger, Chalmers Roberts, Murrey Marder, Meg Greenfield, and Henry Hubbard.