170. Paper Prepared by the National Security Council Staff1


Mid-East Options


The Interdepartmental Group paper at the next tab consists of three parts:

—A good collection of thumbnail sketches of the policy situation in the UAR, Jordan, Israel, the USSR and among the Palestinians. These do not, however, analyze why each side has acted as it has toward the U.S. peace initiative. This analytical summary attempts to fill that gap.

—The general options for extending the cease-fire are described. These are summarized and elaborated below.

—The range of options for launching talks is described with pros and cons. These are summarized and elaborated below.

In short, the IG paper can serve as a framework for discussion, but you will want to narrow the discussion very quickly to focus on central issues. What should come from the meeting2 is guidance for a second paper laying out precise courses of action from which to choose.

I. The Situation

A. The IG paper identifies these as the practical problems the U.S. faces:

—at a minimum, how to keep the cease-fire going;

—beyond that or in combination with it, how to move the situation toward negotiation. [In dealing with this question it concentrates more on the diplomacy of dealing with conditions in the Near East than on the broader global framework for any negotiations.]

B. The key questions to pin down in analyzing the present positions of the parties seem to be these:

—Whose interests are served by continuation of the cease-fire?

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—How have shifts in the military balance affected readiness for negotiations? This is a question not only of the Israel-UAR balance but of the US–USSR balance as affected by the wider US-Soviet relationship and by US actions during the Jordan crisis.

—How have developments in Jordan affected prospects for an Israel-Jordan settlement? What political process might be devised for drawing responsible Palestinians into a settlement?

—Whose interests would be served by talks now?

C. Since the IG paper presents a static picture of the new Policy situation in the UAR, Israel, Jordan and the USSR, a brief statement on each is appended at the end of this summary.3 The important point is what conclusions are drawn from that analysis. The following are stated as hypotheses that need to be tested as a basis for policy decisions:

—Both sides probably have an interest in extending the cease-fire beyond November 5 with these qualifications:

—Israel’s interest in the cease-fire will begin to run out when it believes that the UAR is preparing actively for resumption of offensive activity, either artillery attacks or actual efforts to cross the Canal. Israelis know resumption of attacks will be costly for them.

—The UAR’s interest will begin to run out when it feels that there is no near prospect of negotiations and that the great powers are slipping into a frame of mind that would permit the Suez cease-fire line to solidify into an accepted fact of international life. The UAR’s military preparations are less costly while there is a cease-fire.

—The standstill arrangement as conceived on August 7 is probably dead. Another way of putting this is that the present military situation in the Canal area is probably not reversible (except for our additional assistance to Israel).

—The UAR makes little attempt to hide what it has done (although it is trying to throw the responsibility on the U.S. and Israel). The new government seems adamant on not removing a single missile.

—Israel says the situation must be restored as of August 7, although Eban hinted that Israel would listen to proposals for getting the talks started.

—Given those postures, it would be surprising if either party volunteered a compromise sufficient to get talks started on the basis of the U.S. initiative as originally formulated. Yet the U.S. cannot be in a position of sweeping Soviet/UAR violations under the rug and has generally paralleled Israel’s insistence on rectification. The U.S. would be in[Page 574]terested in a compromise solution but not at the expense of appearing to cover up Soviet sins.

King Hussein does not seem to have come out of the September crisis with the ability by himself—i.e. without a political process for involving the Palestinians—to commit Jordan to an enforceable settlement with Israel.

—The UAR seems still tentatively willing to enter talks on the terms suggested by the U.S. in June and accepted by the UAR in July4 but on the basis of the present military balance. Israel remains reluctant to enter talks on any political basis—like the U.S. formula of June–July—that would limit the range of discussions. Israel may probe quietly the Palestinians, Hussein and the new leadership in Cairo to see whether private unconditional talks are possible, but even that would cause serious debate in Israel.

—The USSR seems unlikely to press the UAR or take any serious initiative to alter its missile defense complex significantly for the sake of getting talks started.

[You will not find all of these conclusions stated as such in the IG paper. The statements that the standstill is dead and that King Hussein alone is unable to commit Jordan to go beyond what is said in the IG paper, although it explicitly does not rule out the possibility of a separate Jordan-Israel settlement if the terms are reasonable from Hussein’s viewpoint. The conclusions above on the UAR and Israeli attitudes toward talks and on the Soviet position are consistent with views stated in the IG paper.]

II. Options.

The IG paper deals separately with the questions of (a) how to arrange extension of the cease-fire which expires November 5 and (b) what actions, if any, to take with regard to peace talks. Two comments must be made about this portion of the paper:

—The options in both sections are sweeping. More detailed courses of action will be necessary for eventual decision. The broad options are summarized below, but some suggestions for more specific courses are also included [and identified as such].

—When it comes to defining precise courses of action, both the cease-fire and the talks will probably have to be dealt with as parts of the same course of action rather than separately. But for your convenience, this summary follows the outline of the IG paper.

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A. Options for extending the cease-fire.

The IG Paper identifies three broad options:

1. A unilateral U.S. initiative with Israel and the UAR proposing extension of the cease-fire.

Pro. The U.S. should take no chance that the cease-fire breaks down just because no one takes the lead in assuring its renewal. The U.S. was the original negotiator and is probably the only reliable re-negotiator.

Con. We should not seek to do this too elaborately. Both parties have already said they are willing at least to avoid being the first to shoot.

2. An initiative by Jarring.

Pro. This would keep Jarring engaged with the parties and give him an opening to explore ways of getting the talks started.

Con. Jarring is too formal a negotiator and might make the job more complicated than it really is.

3. Extension by tacit agreement rather than by explicit commitment.5

Pro. Both sides have said they will not be the first to shoot. The uncertainty thus introduced might cause the UAR to be a little more careful with its forward deployments lest the Israelis attack, undeterred by any agreement not to.

Con. This is too risky. The parties probably will not shoot, but so much is at stake that it is safer to be more certain.

[The principal refinements of the above not included in the IG paper include:

—Stimulating U Thant to note the statements by both sides that they will not be the first to shoot and to make a statement (after consultation) that these had been conveyed to him as statements of policy.

—Try to use the UNGA resolution the UAR may promote as a general reaffirmation of the cease-fire. It is conceivable (though difficult to achieve) that there might be a resolution that both the UAR and Israel could vote for.

—Couple renewal of the cease-fire with some of the efforts described below to get talks started.

What is needed on this question is a more precise statement than in the IG paper of several specific scenarios including extension of the cease-fire as well as a posture on beginning talks.]

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B. Options for furthering a settlement.

The IG paper lists six theoretically possible options. Two of these can be laid aside: #2 in the IG paper is to press Israel to resume talks; #3 in the IG paper is to resume two-power or four-power negotiations. A third—suspending participation in the Four Power talks (#6 in the IG paper)—is a tactical move that could be taken to reinforce other possible moves described below.

Therefore, the main options are the four described below. The first three of these appear in the IG paper; the fourth below, not included in the IG paper, seems the area that ought to be explored if the hypotheses stated in paragraph I C above are judged valid and a course of action is to be built on them.

1. Partial rectification of standstill violations. [This is option #1 on p. 13 of the IG paper.] This would be a course like that discussed over the past weekend—enough missile rollback to give symbolic satisfaction to Israel with enough redeployment in the zone to save face for the UAR.

Pro. If both sides really wanted talks to start, they might be satisfied with such an approach.

Con. While the U.S. should not stand in the way if Israel wanted talks badly enough to accept such a proposal, that is not the case. This would put the U.S. in the impossible position of covering up Soviet violations.

2. Leave the UAR front alone for a time and turn to a Jordan-Israel settlement, exploring especially the “Palestinian option.” [This is option #4 on p. 17 of the IG paper.] State should be asked to prepare a paper on the Palestinian aspects of a settlement in any case. The issue here is whether Nasser’s death and Hussein’s renewed determination offer opportunity for movement on a Jordan settlement that might induce Egyptian movement over time in fear of being left out.

Pro. The Palestine question can only be settled with the Palestinians. The UAR-Israel confrontation is a geopolitical one of a different order. While Hussein might not be able to blaze a trail to the end on his own, just the appearance of his starting could make the UAR somewhat more interested in negotiating.

Con. While this should be explored the complications are such that only Hussein and the Israelis can set the pace. It is not an option for the U.S. Hussein, in any case, cannot go too far on his own—either ahead of the Egyptians or ahead of the Palestinian guerrillas. He did not emerge strong enough from the September crisis to move on his own, and he has not yet found a way of bringing a significant number of Palestinians with him.

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3. Mark time on all fronts while the dust settles on the new situation; concentrate only on extending the cease-fire for the time being. [This is option #5 on p. 19 of the IG paper.] This would be an interim strategy, not precluding others later. It could also, however, be prelude to return to the pre-1969 policy of letting pressures build on the parties.

Pro. This may be the only realistic choice given the uncertainty of King Hussein’s authority and the likely inability of the new Egyptian leadership to make any of the decisions that would be essential to a serious compromise.

Con. This course risks that, as time passes, radical forces in the area will begin to consolidate their forces and the more moderate ones who took the risk of accepting the U.S. peace initiative will be undercut. Also, the judgment made in February 1969 is still valid—that it is too dangerous to let local forces play themselves out without restraint.

4. Establish a new base—other than the U.S. June initiative—for getting the Jarring talks started. [This is the option to which analysis of the situation leads but which is not included in the IG paper.] The standstill agreement has been killed, but there is an inclination on both sides to continue the cease-fire. It might be possible for both sides to refuse formal extension of the cease-fire (thereby gaining the political advantage of dissociating themselves from an agreement which did not work) but to say they will not be the first to shoot. They would tacitly accept the new military situation—the UAR buildup and Israel’s additional assistance from the US. The question then is whether Israel would be prepared to enter talks on this basis.

Pro. Continuation of the cease-fire is more in Israel’s interest than in the UAR’s since Israel has an interest in the status-quo. Israeli opponents of talks could use UAR violation of the standstill as an excuse for avoiding talks, but at the same time there would be the same pressures to talk that existed in July and Israel would have received some compensation (military package plus $500 million in financial assistance) for the UAR buildup. The UAR buildup is probably irreversible, and Israel cannot forever use that as a reason for not negotiating. The U.S. by decoupling the resumption of Jarring talks from the June initiative would have withdrawn the incentives it offered the Arabs in June (restraint on assistance to Israel) as the penalty for the standstill violations. The political situation would have been restored to the more general one existing before the U.S. initiative—the three-year effort to get talks started—and Israel could say it remains ready to talk to Jarring as it has for the past three years.

Con. Israel on balance would probably prefer not to risk talks. There would not be enough positive in this proposal to permit Israel to back away from its position that it would not talk until the UAR rolled back its missiles. It would be difficult to persuade Israelis that this is [Page 578] anything but a disguised effort to get them into talks without a UAR rollback.

This approach will be unpopular internally because it would declare the June initiative at least half-dead. That, of course, does little more than recognize the facts and start from where we are. It removes the temptation to toy with ideas of partial rectification. It leaves us with a cease-fire and tacitly with the replies of July to the U.S. political formula.6 The Israelis could insist that theirs is nullified by breach of the standstill arrangement, but that remains a question. More work would be required to flesh out details since this is essentially a back-to-the-drawing-boards approach. But it seems the only one that clears the air, recognizes the situation as it is and could be a starting point for plotting several realistic courses of action.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–048, Senior Review Group Meetings, Senior Review Group—Middle East (NSSM 103) 10/15/70. Secret; Nodis. The IG–NEA paper on which this summary is based, “Middle East Policy Options” (in response to NSSM 103), is ibid., Box H–176, National Security Study Memoranda. All brackets are in the original. NSSM 103 is Document 164.
  2. See Document 172.
  3. Not printed.
  4. See Documents 127, 129, and 136. The June initiative led to the August 7 agreement, Document 145.
  5. Above this sentence, Kissinger wrote in the margin: “Why not U.S.-Soviet?”
  6. For the Israeli reply, see Document 140.