32. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Yitzhak Rabin, Prime Minister of Israel
  • Simcha Dinitz, Ambassador of Israel
  • Mordechai Shalev, Minister, Israeli Embassy
  • Mordechai Gazit, Director General, Prime Minister’s Office
  • Brig. Gen. Ephraim Poran, Military Advisor to the Prime Minister
  • Eli Mizrachi, Deputy Director General, Prime Minister’s Office
  • David Tourgeman, Counselor, Israeli Embassy
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Amb. Robert Ingersoll, Deputy Secretary of State
  • Joseph J. Sisco, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
  • Amb. Ellsworth Bunker, Ambassador at Large and Chief US Delegate to Geneva Peace Conference on the Middle East
  • Amb. Kenneth Keating, Ambassador to Israel
  • Lt. General Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Alfred L. Atherton, Jr., Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern & South Asian Affairs
  • Harold H. Saunders, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern & South Asian Affairs
  • Walter B. Smith, II, Director, Israel & Arab-Israel Affairs
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff

[Rabin, Kissinger and Dinitz first conferred alone in the Secretary’s Office from 11:30 to 11:45 a.m., when the plenary meeting convened in the conference room.]

[Omitted here is discussion of bilateral relations and of the Arab-Israeli peace process.]

[Rabin:] I don’t want to raise now the question of emigration from the Soviet Union. I know it’s in the stage of negotiations between you and a group of Senators. I hope a solution will be found. It’s an important source of immigration for us.

I brought a letter from the families of prisoners.2 The harassment should stop, and there is a cut in the numbers up to now.

[Page 82]

Kissinger: Due to the behavior of the Jewish community in America.

Rabin: I don’t think the Russians will do anything for goodwill.

Kissinger: First we had the assurance that they’d keep it at 35,000 . . .

Rabin: It is not being kept.

Kissinger: No, but because . . .

Dinitz: It is more complicated, Mr. Secretary, because the harassment issue wasn’t solved.

Kissinger: We can debate. We brought it from 400 to 35,000 before the pressure started, then the pressure started. Some of those who did this may not be so interested in the issue—that doesn’t apply to the Jewish community.

Dinitz: We wanted that on the record.

Rabin: The Russians have not contributed to a political settlement in that area. They have done everything to create an atmosphere of tension. They will continue—through Syria, through Iraq, through the PLO, maybe through certain elements in Egypt—to prevent movement towards peace. Détente has not moved to the Middle East, in their sense.

To sum up, there will not be a new status quo. It is either way—war or political settlement. We are ready to participate in a political settlement, either overall or interim—we see no possibility of interim with Syria—but we do it from the position of strength and we need the fulfillment of the present commitment.

Kissinger: Let me make a few observations. I’ll start with the latter issues first.

First, with respect to the Syrian Jews. There were no conversations with the Syrians in which we didn’t raise it. But there is no escape from the conclusion of your own analysis that the Syrians have the least to get from the negotiations. We don’t object. But this diminishes the Syrian incentive. Maybe through economic relations with us, it is possible. But we support your desires regarding Syrian Jews.

I must say the Syrian analysis of the condition of the Jews there isn’t the same! Realistically, I don’t expect progress. There is no issue between us.

On the Soviet Jews: The American Jews—Lowell, Rabbi Miller—are not a problem. But it has become a political issue. The question for some here is getting credit for it. The Soviets told us there would be no restrictions, no harassment, and no exception except cases of national security, which can in no case be more than 1% of the total. They will either keep it or not keep it. We will know. Maybe not. But now some want to go into excruciating detail about administrative regulations. [Page 83] But in a police state there is no legal way to force compliance. One Senator wants a document that will look good in the U.S., but will have no practical effect.

The other issue is waiver authority. We agreed to leave the Jackson Amendment in the bill, which is a great concession for us, but with waiver authority. They want the waiver to be renewed every year. We want the waiver to continue subject to Congressional veto every year.3

Third, they want to publish the letter from me to Jackson. It has already leaked, which isn’t fatal, but the publication of a formal letter will force the Soviets to do things.

It really depends on U.S.-Soviet relations. We can write letters until we’re blue in the face. We can write a beautiful document and they can still find administrative ways to keep people in if that is what they want.

We’re willing to take it out of domestic politics. They can have the credit. If the Soviets prize détente, particularly with the new President who may be in office for six years, they may do it. We saw it in one case of one man [Kudirka]. Otherwise the number can drop.

They [the Senators] want us to write down a number—60,000. If we want a demagogic game, we can do it. If we write a number which leaks . . .

You have good enough contacts with the Jews in the Soviet Union to know how it is being implemented. They told us there would be no geographic discrimination—they won’t all be from Georgia or Moldavia. If they stop harassment, the numbers should go up. If the number doesn’t increase, we’ll know why.

A new system should be established as early as possible in the new Administration, so there will be a substantial increase and then we will have a higher yardstick to measure by. If it takes a year, a year and a half, it will go down to 12,000 and that will be the yardstick.

[Page 84]

On the substance, we’re close enough to reach an agreement now. Some want to put in details which can be significant only in domestic politics.

The three months now are the best time to establish this emigration figure.

You don’t have to answer—it is not an Israeli problem—but you ought to know our thinking.

The Jewish groups have been allies.

[Omitted here is discussion of the Arab-Israeli peace process.]

[Kissinger:] Now, the overall situation. One problem is that your Ambassador’s intelligence system is so good that he calls me with a critique 15 minutes after every Congressional presentation. So you know our strategy.

If there is a stalemate, it will lead to a coalescence of all the forces and there will be another war, with very serious consequences for the U.S. and disastrous consequences for Israel.

You see what Europe did in the Cyprus crisis. Europe will be unanimous against Israel, and hostile to the U.S. The Soviet Union will be infinitely more active, and we will have to resist it in conditions more precarious domestically and in Europe. Whether it will be possible politically to restart an airlift on the same basis as before . . .

Rabin: If you supply us now, there will be a reduced need for an airlift, though we can’t foresee the future.

Kissinger: I’ll get to that in a minute.

So we agree with you that some progress is necessary. What do we mean by progress? It is essential, even more for you than us, to prevent Soviet influence in the area, and perhaps reduce it. I don’t agree that détente has not spread to the Middle East. The Soviet Union as a result of détente paid a substantial price in the Middle East. The correct statement is that the Soviet Union, which is led by mediocre . . . statesmen, did enough to make war possible, but not enough to take a commanding position. Since ’73, they have not done enough to prevent American actions. They tried, but somewhat incompetently.

Unfortunately, I think they’re now listening more to Dobrynin than to Gromyko. So they’ve been more subtle. Gromyko would charge ahead with legal . . .

You know we dragged them through two summits. They weren’t unrestrained; they will be less restrained in the future.

[Omitted here is further discussion of the Arab-Israeli peace process and of military assistance to the region.]

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Lot File 91D414, Records of Henry Kissinger, 1973–77, Box 20, Classified External Memcons, 9/73–4/74 (Folder 2). Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Rodman. All brackets, except those inserted by the editor to indicate omitted passages, are in the original. The meeting was held in the Secretary’s Conference Room and the Madison Room in the Department of State.
  2. Not found.
  3. Ford and Kissinger raised the issue during their meeting with Rabin at 12:15 p.m. on September 13: “President: We would like help on the Trade Bill. Rabin: I had a meeting with the Senators. I kept out of it, and said we couldn’t speak to the trade bill. Kissinger: The Soviet Union won’t accept a positive renewal each year. President: If Dinitz could help. We want a bill. Rabin: Jackson and Javits said they were on the verge of agreement. President: Not exactly. We need some help.” (Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversations, 1973–1977, Box 5) In his memoirs, Kissinger recalled: “In frustration, I appealed to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to intercede with the Senators. It was, of course, somewhat degrading for a Secretary of State to have to ask a foreign leader, however friendly, for help on what was essentially an American domestic issue.” “But Rabin, who might need the Senators for the annual vote on Israeli appropriations and as a safety net in the event of disagreement with the administration, was too prudent to get involved.” (Kissinger, Years of Renewal, pp. 257–258)