47. Editorial Note

On September 18, 1972, President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Kissinger phoned Senator Hubert Humphrey (D–MN) to discuss the issue of exit fees for Jewish emigrants from the Soviet Union. The transcript of their telephone conversation reads in part: “ K[issinger]: Nice to talk to you. I’m calling you about the letter you wrote the President a week or so ago about the Jewish problem in the Soviet Union. H[umphrey]: Yes. K: And I just wanted to tell you personally I don’t want to have it made public that I did raise it in a number of meetings. H: Fine, Henry. K: The problem is that I think we’ve got to lower the visibility of the debate because they can’t yield to pressures from a foreign country. I’m not saying they’re going to yield anyway. I’m not asking you to lower this. H: Listen, I understand that. K: As a government we have to do it in as quiet a way as we can. We could score a lot of points in the campaign by saying what I said and to whom I said it. H: Yes. K: But we’re not going to say anything publicly. I wanted you to know though that something has been done.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Telephone Conversations (Telcons), Box 15, Chronological File)

On September 21, Kissinger phoned Secretary of Commerce Peterson regarding the protests of Senators Percy, Ribicoff, and apparently Javits about the Soviet exit tax. According to the transcript of the conversation, Kissinger told Peterson: “everyone’s feeling here—including my own—is we just don’t want—it’s just not easy to have a discussion with these three guys. I am going to get it quieted down by Rabin. My experience with Percy is when he says he’ll help, he says something that hurts. He is running for reelection and I don’t think he is going to do anything that would hurt him. P[eterson]: What do you think about Ribicoff? K: I think Rabin can handle Ribicoff, but I don’t see what there is to gain from Ribicoff. I am going to talk to Javits alone today.” Noting that “a guy named Vanik [Congressman Charles Vanik (D–OH)] is putting a rider on the foreign aid bill,” Kissinger said that it “would be useful” if “we could try to stop them from putting on legislation long before MFN ever comes up.” The transcript continues: “K: But I just don’t think you can do it with that gang. I mean they are the less likely group—Ribicoff is a devout Jew and on what basis is he not going to do it? P: Well, is there anything you can tell him about what you said to the Soviets? Part of it is they don’t think we’re doing anything. K: Well, my frank opinion is I would just as soon isolate them [Page 175] gradually and we will get them through the Israelis. P: Uh-humm. Do you get any response, Henry, from the Soviets on what their attitude is? K: Well, I think if we all would shut up, there’s a chance of getting them—slowing down the administrative implementation.” (Ibid., Box 16, Chronological File)

On September 21 at 3:11 p.m., Congressman Leslie Arends (R–IL) (misidentified as Aarons in the original transcript) phoned Kissinger: “A[rends]: I hate to bother you but you know about the Vanik Amendment which he is going to offer to this— K: Oh, about the Jews? A: Yeah. K: Well, in rough terms. A: The unfortunate part about it though—Gerry [Gerald R. Ford, House Minority Leader (R–MI)] and I have just been sitting here trying to figure out something—Gerry will be back in a minute—is that the Parliamentarian is apparently going to say that this is germane. That’s hard for me to believe, but this is the last word. And I’d like to read this thing to you in just a minute. It says, ‘None of the funds appropriated or made available pursuant to this Act for carrying out the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended, may be used to provide loans, credits, financial and investment assistance or insurance guarantees on sales to or investments in any nation which requires payment above nominal and customary costs for exit visas, permits, or for the right to emigrate.’ This is tough. K: You know our view on this. A: I know the view on the thing. Now the question is in my mind and that Gerry and I discussed is did you get hold of Rabin yesterday? K: Well, the one thing I cannot afford is to have spread all over the Capitol Hill whatever I may discuss with Rabin. A: That’s right, that’s right. And we don’t want you to tell us what Rabin said or anything but I mean you were going to— K: I have talked with him and will work on him. A: Alright. K: But for Christ’s sake, don’t mention it.” (Transcript of telephone conversation, September 21; ibid.)

At 3:19 p.m. on September 21, Kissinger phoned Israeli Ambassador to the United States Yitzhak Rabin: “K: Mr. Ambassador, I have just been told that Congressman Vanik is putting forward a Resolution cutting off all assistance, guarantees and so forth to any country that has emigration fees. R[abin]: Congressman? K: Vanik. And I’m getting desperate [calls] from Gerry Ford and others saying they’re all being put into a horrible fix. I really believe this is going to backfire against the Jewish Community as soon as people get their breath. R: I should say to you I know it’s not so easy to find out because as a matter of fact I’m not aware of any real demand by any Jewish organization about it.” Kissinger noted that “our people are really getting concerned and I don’t know what you can do and I don’t want you to do any one thing.” Kissinger mentioned “general public pressure,” and added, “people don’t mind, but if it happens to help the opposition candidate—.” Rabin replied, “I understand.” (Transcript of telephone conversation; ibid.)