55. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Yitzhak Rabin, Prime Minister of Israel
  • Yigal Allon, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Shimon Peres, Minister of Defense
  • Simcha Dinitz, Ambassador to the United States
  • Mordechai Gazit, Director of Prime Minister’s Office
  • Gen. Mordechai Gur, Chief of Staff, Israel Defense Forces
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Joseph J. Sisco, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
  • Amb. Kenneth Keating, U.S. Ambassador to Israel
  • Peter W. Rodman, National Security Council Staff


  • Immediate Defense Needs; U.S.-Soviet Détente; Negotiating Strategy; Long-Term Arms Supply; PLO Vote in the UNGA

[Omitted here is discussion of U.S. military assistance to Israel.]

US-Soviet Détente

Allon: Shimon said if we had European neighbors, we could cut our weapon necessities by half. In fact we do have a European neighbor—the Soviet Union. By its political presence and military advice, particularly in Syria. This raises two questions. Give me a lesson. Does détente cover the Middle East or not? I mean, can you on behalf of the spirit of détente approach the Soviet Union and say “You can’t outflank Europe?”

Kissinger: Détente covers the Middle East partly in the sense we are sustantially competative. In the situation in the United States, which may make it the case that any serious foreign policy can’t be conducted, our strategy was to create a network of risks so they would have to give up something if they run the risks. There is a campaign in Congress to cut off everything positive we could do, plus the intellectual community is destroying détente. I have no illusion about the Soviet Union. Our policy is the most anti-Soviet policy that can be sustained. To avoid what happened with Vietnam.

[Page 155]

When Schmidt goes to the Soviet Union, he will give substantial credits to the Soviet Union. This is my prediction. Then we will be in the brilliant situation where we have gotten the Europeans into an economic relationship with the Soviet Union and will have gained no leverage for us. The gas deals would take fifteen years, giving us constant . . . The credits—we have only given $250 million. What can we tell them they will lose? We can confront them, but that we could do in the Cold War. They cut off credits; we barely managed to save the Trade Bill.

Take the European Security Conference. The Europeans will cave the first time there is a crisis. If there is a Berlin crisis, they will rush to Moscow. We can’t even deliver the end of the European Security Conference because the Europeans scream treason. It is the biggest fraud. The Europeans think they can undermine the Soviet system without the Soviets noticing, by newspapers and exchange of families. When I lived in Nazi Germany you could buy the London Times in the train station of Fuerth, for God’s sake. They are undermining détente, the very people who don’t have the guts to see it through. If SALT fails, the NY Times and Post and Senator Church2 will deluge us. Like Vietnam. If Jackson prevails, there will be a polarization of our society.

In the last war, we got the Soviets to behave more cautiously than we had reason to hope for. They sent Kosygin to Cairo; certainly it is the Arab perception the Soviets didn’t do enough. If there is a next war, they will be more risk-taking. How they will do it, I don’t know—whether ships, troops are sent to Syria. I don’t base this on Macovescu.3

Allon: This puts us in a dilemma. We accepted détente as a good thing for the world.

Kissinger: But the Jews in America worked against it.

Allon: I am afraid the only victim of a far from perfect détente will be Israel.

Kissinger: Why? Suppose there is no détente, what will be different?

Allon: You have important interests with the Arabs, which I understand very well. I know some in the US begin to doubt after the Yom Kippur war whether we were an asset. But if we had lost the war, God forbid, everyone would go to the Russians, not the Arabs, for oil.

I must say very frankly, when we negotiated with the Syrians, the Presidential assurances on military supply, financial obligations and the Golan Heights were the decisive thing. Now we have to bargain [Page 156] over every weapon. And I think we did the right thing, but the Syrians needed it at least as much as we.

We had to act like beggars, not allies. We would like to feel more at home in Washington. We know better than all your experts on the Arabs. It is good to know we have the same interests. The bloody Europeans are trying to get the best of both worlds, with the Arabs, the Soviets, because they know you will do the dirty work.

You are going to Russia.

Kissinger: On the 22nd [of October].

Allon: I was speaking in New York at the Council of Foreign Relations. There was a question about the October alert, from an oil man.

Dinitz: McCloy.4

Allon: He was suggesting we were dragging the US into a major war. And I said that it saved America’s position as a world power. Therefore to avoid another alertness [sic], I say as a friend that you should tell them any Soviet involvement will mean a confrontation with America. Otherwise they will delude themselves that America has gotten soft.

Kissinger: If America has gotten soft, it is because the very groups that accuse us of selling out are the ones who are opposing America’s strength. We can’t be strong only for Israel. Our policy has been that whenever Russia puts a toe accross the line, we cut it off. We have to do a complex policy. We have the best potential for being tough by seeming to be soft.

Where have the Soviets gained anything? They know what’s happening in the Middle East. Jewish newspapermen and Jewish congressmen are more responsible for America’s weakness. They [the Soviets] believed the alert because thay had seen Nixon and me behave like maniacs. We are falling into a Kennedy period, if there is the impression that we are weak and our authority is undermined. If we had been able to carry out our policy of two years ago, to build a network of relationships, and there was a war in the Middle East, what could we say we could cut off? Congress already cut it off, for nothing.

If the Soviet Union intervenes in the Middle East, we will react. They will know it. Our credibility in the US now—what would you conclude? Under Nixon, even in Watergate, the people thought he might be crazy. I’m serious. They thought he might do something.

Now take this Chile thing. What is wrong with undermining a Communist Government in Chile. The other Latin Americans are re[Page 157]lieved! Only Americans are complaining. We just found out the Russians put $2 million behind the Communist Party in Greece. We can’t do it, because our people are scared to death.

The alert—it’s absurd. They sent a message, which you saw. I called Dobrynin to say, “Don’t do anything, we are having an NSC meeting.” He didn’t say they wouldn’t do anything. I called him three times—he had three opportunities to say they weren’t doing anything. He said only “I’ll report to Moscow.”5

In 1970 we did an alert, better. This time some Pentagon guy called AP. An alert can’t get out in two hours. In 1970 it came out when the crisis was over.

Our policy was to be of one piece. [to Rabin] We always agreed if we lost on Vietnam we would lose in Israel.

Allon: With the Egyptians we can see the beginning. With the Syrians we are moving to confrontation. The Russians will be more active.

Kissinger: That is my judgment.

Allon: That makes it easier. Help us!

Kissinger: You can’t face the Russians. With the Lance missiles even. We will make a major effort if the Soviets behave threateningly. That has always been my strategy. If we have the right psychological climate. If we want to move, we are better off doing it from a posture of having been betrayed, because then peaceloving Americans will be with us. Don’t you think?

Keating: American Jewish writers are the main troublemakers against détente.

Dinitz: Church and Eagleton6 aren’t Jewish!

Kissinger: Richard Perle.

Dinitz: Just so the record doesn’t show the Jews are responsible for World War III, let it be clear there is no connection between Jews and anti-détente or Israel and anti-détente.

Keating: There are right-thinking and highminded Jewish leaders who back détente.

Kissinger: Forget what the Jews do or not do. It is in the interest of the peace of the world and of this country that the authority of the American Government not be impaired. Not just this Administration.

[Page 158]

[Omitted here is discussion of the Arab-Israeli peace process, military assistance, and representation for the Palestine Liberation Organization at the United Nations.]

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Lot File 81D286, Records of Henry Kissinger, 1973–77, Box 22, Classified External Memcons, December 1974–April 1975 (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 Prime Minister’s Residence.
  2. Senator Frank F. Church III (Democrat, Idaho).
  3. Gheorghe Macovescu, Romanian Foreign Minister.
  4. John J. McCloy, former Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations; as a partner at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, he also represented a number of multinational oil companies, including Exxon.
  5. The decision to move U.S. forces to a DEFCON III alert was made in an NSC/JCS meeting the night of October 24/25 after the Soviet Union warned that it might take unilateral military action in the Middle East. For a record of the meeting, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXV, Arab-Israeli Dispute, 1973 War, Document 269.
  6. Senator Thomas F. Eagleton (Democrat, Missouri).