51. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Max Fisher’s Group of American-Jewish Leaders (List at Tab A)2
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Leonard Garment, Counsel to the President
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff

Fisher: Did the press give you a hard time [at the press conference preceding the meeting]?3

Kissinger: No.

I meet with you periodically to bring you up to date on what concerns Israel and the Jewish community.

I don’t have any special concerns to give you, but there are three things I do want to discuss.

—First, the relationship of the Israeli Ambassador to this building, and to me.

—second, my trip to the area.4

—third, just a few, brief comments on the Jackson Amendment.

[Page 147]

[Omitted here is discussion of U.S.-Israeli relations and Kissinger’s upcoming trip to the Middle East.]

[Kissinger:] Let me say a brief word on the Jackson Amendment. I have never wanted to put this group into the position of choosing between Jackson and the Administration. Second, I’ve never said anything but supportive things of him. I can’t say the same on his side!

The problem is this: We have assurances on no restrictions on applications, on harassment and on administrative procedures which, if carried out, assuredly will lead to an increase. But the Soviets won’t give figures.

I can give assurances that they haven’t given. We have enough communication with the Jewish community there to know when there is harassment. If we ask for numbers, that is such an interference in their domestic affairs that they may disavow the whole thing.

The issue is the third letter. I’m delighted to get anything I can get from the Russians. One Senator said to me, “They offered 45,000 but we want 75,000. Let’s compromise on 60,000.” How can I compromise on this?

We don’t want a victory for the Administration. We are prepared to give him credit—although, to be honest, all the assurances we have now we had in March and he has held it up for months. We will leave it in legislation, labeled the Jackson Amendment. So it is a soluble problem. We will work something out. I’m meeting with them tonight. We will go in with the attitude that we will do the maximum that is possible, but not what I haven’t got. We will work something out—especially if Jackson doesn’t bring his staff members. I’m not asking you for anything.

Miller: You say you’re not asking us for anything. And we have no advice to give you, except that the people who have suffered all this time aren’t you or the Congress, but the people in the Soviet Union.

Kissinger: I agree.

Miller: So we hope this will be settled this evening. Not only will it give a lift on your trip . . .

Kissinger: Not in Riyadh. [Laughter]

Miller: But in one corner of it, plus a great hope for the Jews in Russia. So we hope you will be flexible.

Kissinger: I can sign anything today, but my concern is this: Jackson wants to publish the letters. That may be unavoidable, because it will leak anyway. But if this happens and then the Soviets disavow it, we are worse off. The other concern is if next year the Soviets don’t live up to it, we don’t want to be accused of misleading the Congress. Between these two limits, I will agree to any solution.

Mrs. Jacobsen: If you can’t give assurances on these, how are we better off?

[Page 148]

Kissinger: No, they [the Soviets] were prepared to give an assurance of 35,000 and it was rejected. Second, they have agreed to no restrictions on applications and no harassment, such as losing jobs or an apartment.

Mrs. Jacobsen: I see.

Kissinger: Some of them now want other refinements—to specify that parental consent can’t be used to block it. They [Soviets] also agreed that we can call specific cases of harassment to attention. If we enumerate 20 pages of administrative regulations and they want to keep the Jews in, they will find ways. We can’t take them to court. It really depends on the state of our relations. I have the impression there is enough contact with the Jews in the Soviet Union so we would know. I’m counting on this group, and the Conference,5 to tell us whether it is being met.

Blumberg: In the meeting we had with President Nixon,6 you said there were some things which depended on trust. Is that true on this one too?

Kissinger: My view is that Soviet actions will depend on their self-interest. I don’t trust the Russians. But we had it at 35,000; now it is 15,000. So we would like to get it up as high as possible.

At one point they said 45,000, which my verbatim records confirm. Then they said we misunderstood them, and that they can’t agree to a number as a matter of principle.

They agree it should be higher than 35,000. They claim—which I can’t judge—that the number of Jews who want to go to Israel is down.

Mrs. Jacobsen: Then they should agree.

Kissinger: But they say a number is a matter of principle.

If they agree to no harassment, no restrictions, and a limit on the number of national security cases—which is the third problem—it should be clear what is happening.

Fisher: We hope you can work it out today.

Kissinger: But I have to tell you, as a friend, I don’t find the Soviets particularly honorable people, and the result depends on the state of our relations. When Dobrynin met with President Ford,7 I must say he brought a reaffirmation of the assurances we had had since April, from Brezhnev. That was a new element in a sense.

[Omitted here is further discussion of U.S.-Israeli relations.]

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Lot File 91D414, Records of Henry Kissinger, 1973–77, Box 5, Nodis Memcons, Nov. 1974, Folder 1. 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 at the Department of State.
  2. Attached but not printed at Tab A is a list of 18 Jewish leaders. In addition to Fisher, the attendees included: Elmer Winter, President, American Jewish Committee; Melvin Dubinsky, Chairman, United Israel Appeal; Rabbi Israel Miller, Chairman, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; David Blumberg, President, B’nai B’rith; and Charlotte Jacobsen, World Zionist Organization-American Section, Incorporated.
  3. During his press conference on October 7, Kissinger answered a question on the status of his talks with Senators Jackson, Javits, and Ribicoff on the Trade Bill and Soviet emigration: “[T]he negotiations between the Senators and myself, the difficulty, such as it is, arises from the fact that there are some assurances that have been given to me that I can defend and which I can transmit. There are some interpretations of these assurances which some of the Senators would like to make. And that is their privilege. And we understand that they would apply their interpretations as a test of Soviet good faith. What I cannot do is to guarantee things that have not been told to me. And so the question is whether we can work out something which makes clear that we take the Senators’ views very seriously but which does not put us into a position of having to guarantee something beyond what has been discussed.” (Department of State Bulletin, October 28, 1974, pp. 567–568)
  4. Kissinger left Washington early on October 9 for a one-week trip to the Middle East, which included stops in Damascus, Amman, Tel Aviv, Riyadh, Cairo, Algiers, and Rabat.
  5. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
  6. President Nixon met with the Jewish leaders on April 19, 1973; see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XV, Soviet Union, June 1972–August 1974, Document 99.
  7. See Document 12.