177. Minutes of a Senior Review Group Meeting1


  • Middle East (NSSM 103)2


  • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
  • State
  • Mr. U. Alexis Johnson
  • Mr. Joseph J. Sisco
  • Mr. Alfred L. Atherton
  • Defense
  • Mr. David Packard
  • Mr. G. Warren Nutter
  • Mr. James Noyes
  • CIA
  • Mr. Richard Helms
  • Mr. William Parmenter
  • JCS
  • Gen. Richard T. Knowles
  • Adm. William St. George
  • NSC Staff
  • Mr. Harold H. Saunders
  • Col. Richard T. Kennedy
  • Mr. D. Keith Guthrie


1. The State Department would provide before day’s end a draft resolution for possible use in the UN General Assembly.3

2. The State Department will submit by October 30 a memorandum on the prospects for the General Assembly debate on the Middle East, the kind of resolution likely to emerge and the issues which the United States will face in voting on a resolution.4

Dr. Kissinger: We have two problems on the agenda today. We need to discuss our immediate tactics in the UN General Assembly debate on the Middle East and to consider how we might go about dealing with the Palestinians. There is one other item I would like to discuss with only the principals plus Joe Sisco.

Mr. Johnson: (handing Dr. Kissinger a draft cable)5 Here is the answer on tactics. The [NSSM 103] options paper6 is considerably outdated.

[Page 600]

Dr. Kissinger: What did Riad have to say this morning?7

Mr. Johnson: Perhaps it would be a good idea to have Joe [Sisco] give us a rundown on where we stand on the whole question at the moment.

Mr. Sisco: As a result of the consultations we have been conducting in New York during the last ten days, two or three conclusions have become obvious. First, no possible formula can be found to break the impasse on standstill violations. For that reason we have not put forward any formula of our own. Second, it is clear the Egyptians have decided they need a show. The show began this morning in the form of the General Assembly debate. We have to look toward a damage control operation in the General Assembly with the objective of ending up in the best possible position to exert influence after the debate—particularly on our Israeli friends. We have to realize that we have little leverage on the outcome of the debate. To the extent we adopt a reasonably helpful posture toward the Israelis during the debate, this will give us a leg up in dealing with them afterward.

The Egyptians want a resolution extending the cease-fire for sixty days and calling for the resumption of talks on the basis of the US proposal—but without reference to rectification. They want to use the debate to put pressure on the United States to write off the standstill violations. They have linked the beginning of talks under Jarring’s auspices with the extension of the ceasefire although the Al Ahram article indicates there may be some softening of their position in this regard.

Dr. Kissinger: What is the Al Ahram article?

Mr. Sisco: It indicates that the linkage the Egyptians are making between starting the Jarring talks and extending the ceasefire may not be as strong as had been indicated earlier.

If the General Assembly adopts a resolution along the lines the Egyptians desire, then the U.A.R. will buy a ceasefire. The Israelis will refuse to accept the resolution and ceasefire but will declare that they won’t shoot first. Thus, there will be a sort of de facto ceasefire.

As to how to play the issue in the General Assembly, it appears that the Africans and the Egyptians may introduce a more extreme resolution which would undermine the 1967 Security Council resolution, [Page 601] include a number of pro-Arab provisions, and be critical of the Israelis. Israel has asked us to put forward another resolution as a counterpoise. This would be our maximum position. It would provide for extension of the ceasefire, call for resumption of talks on the basis of the US proposal, and say something about rectification. I think it would be a good idea to go along with the Israelis on this. It would put us in a good position later on to deal with them.

Dr. Kissinger: They got in touch with me yesterday. They said they wanted to resume talks on the basis of all previous resolutions and the US peace proposal. I talked to the Secretary [of State] about this.

Mr. Sisco: Our proposal does what the Israelis desire.

Dr. Kissinger: Do you mean that the Israelis don’t know their own desires? What they were saying to me doesn’t indicate what they want?

Mr. Sisco: What I am saying is that they may have phrased it differently when talking to you but that our proposal is in line with what they want.

We need to do a paper for you on how we vote when we come out with the expected resolution in the General Assembly.

Mr. Johnson: Are there not some signs that the Egyptians are amenable to some modification of their resolution? They are anxious to have us along on it.

Dr. Kissinger: If the final resolution provides for a sixty-day ceasefire and resumption of the Jarring talks but makes no mention of rectification, we will have spent much of our capital with the Israelis.

Mr. Sisco: That’s right. What we will work for is a resolution that is absolutely neutral on the question of rectification and violations. This would call for “all parties” to cooperate in creating the conditions that would permit resumption of talks.8

[Page 602]

Dr. Kissinger: Is the General Assembly debate the place to spend our capital with the Israelis? Would it not be better to try to earn some capital there?

Mr. Sisco: I agree.

Dr. Kissinger: If forced to make a choice, one could make a case for the proposition that the best way to get Israel to resume negotiations is not to line up against them in the General Assembly. Then we could put pressure on them to negotiate afterwards.

Mr. Sisco: That is our approach.

Mr. Packard: We have allowed the Israelis to make more of the violations than is justified. We don’t really know whether there are more missiles in the ceasefire zone than there were on August 10. We know that a lot of sand has been bulldozed. Besides, we have given the Israelis a great deal of equipment to help them out.

We got in this box. I don’t know if we can back out now. But if we can make the violations seem less troublesome, it would make things easier.

Dr. Kissinger: Is it in fact true that we don’t know that there are more missiles than before?

Mr. Packard: We can’t prove it absolutely. There were 53 sites on August 10; I think there are 61 today. However, we don’t know whether they actually brought in more missiles.

Mr. Johnson: We know that there are missiles ready to fire that were not there in August. As for SA–3s, there were five and there are now twenty-one.

Mr. Packard: There is no doubt there have been changes. But our data is not good enough to draw precise conclusions.

Dr. Kissinger: (to Helms) This is a factual question. What do you think about it?

Mr. Helms: Secretary Laird also mentioned this to me. We are making a study of the balance of forces, but that will not really answer the question, which is how many missiles were in the ceasefire zone before but hidden under tarpaulins or buried in sand. We know that there are now more missiles ready to fire.

Dr. Kissinger: We would be in a weak position if we were to end up arguing with ourselves that something which happened didn’t happen.

Mr. Packard: I am not saying there were no violations. But we should take into account that Israel is now better off as a result of the equipment we have provided them.

Dr. Kissinger: I can see how we might come to the view that no matter what happened the talks will resume. We should not say that [Page 603] because there were violations, the talks will end for all eternity. As for the aid we have furnished Israel since the ceasefire, we would have provided some of this in any event.

Mr. Sisco: What about the psychological-political situation? We have to remember that an understanding between the US and the USSR is involved, and also one with the U.A.R.

Mr. Packard: We don’t have to say that there were no violations. We can say that the violations were not significant enough to require rectification.

Dr. Kissinger: I think that might be a dangerous thing to say. We are likely to end up trying to arrange a settlement that involves having Israel give up territory in return for promises by the US, the USSR, and the Arabs. To the extent that the value of such promises is depreciated, we are going to make such a settlement more difficult to attain.

I believe that everyone agrees it is desirable to resume the negotiations. We have to consider how we are more likely to be able to do so—by taking an anti-Israeli position in the General Assembly or by avoiding doing so.

Mr. Packard: We could take a more moderate position. We could say, “Yes, there have been violations, but they can’t be rectified. Now we have to have an arrangement to insure that there will be no violations in the future.”

Dr. Kissinger: What do you mean—that we say, “You get one violation free?”

Mr. Packard: We could try to get better inspection arrangements. We have got to set this up so that it can be better verified.

Mr. Johnson: What do you propose to do?

Mr. Packard: We could try on-site inspection.

Dr. Kissinger and Mr. Johnson: What would that tell us that we don’t already know?

Mr. Johnson: What we have to do is build a bridge between the positions of the two sides. Egypt refuses to extend the ceasefire unless the Israelis start talks, and Israel says there can be no talks unless there is rectification.

Mr. Packard: What do you mean by rectification? If the Egyptians move back, then there would be some reason for us to move back in terms of what we have supplied to the Israelis.

Dr. Kissinger: The two things are not equivalent. We never promised not to deliver equipment to Israel.

Mr. Packard: Our position should be that there have been violations and that we have to fix things so that there are no more violations in the future.

[Page 604]

Dr. Kissinger: There are two separate questions. What do we say once negotiations are started again? (That could be along the lines of what you have just been saying.) What do we say publicly at this time in order to get through the General Assembly debate? The issue is whether we can adopt a position in the debate such that we do not adversely affect what happens afterward.

Mr. Johnson: The Israelis want us to say something about rectification, but we are not proposing to do that. (to Packard) I don’t think our positions are too far apart.

This draft cable states what we are proposing. It states that the parties will exert their best efforts to generate conditions that will lead to a resumption of negotiations.

Mr. Sisco: This is our first or maximum position.

Dr. Kissinger: What do we retreat to?

Mr. Sisco: To a formula that is neutral on violations. It would avoid a direct call to resume negotiations. This would be left till after the General Assembly concludes its debate.

Dr. Kissinger: How does this differ from your first position?

Mr. Sisco: Let’s not get into this now. To do this you have got to read the precise language, and this is not the place to discuss wording.

Dr. Kissinger: When in hell are we going to get into it?

Mr. Sisco: This is not the right place to work out the language.

Dr. Kissinger: Then what are we talking about?

Mr. Sisco: It would be all right to try to define the subject matter of our resolution, but we should not seek to establish the precise language here.

Dr. Kissinger: But what do we talk about then?

Mr. Johnson: The issue is our general position in the General Assembly debate and whether we should try to build up some capital with Israel during the debate.

Mr. Packard: We ought to consider whether we should build up some capital with the rest of the world.

Mr. Johnson: The Israelis are the ones we have to bring to the table, and the Israelis have no desire to go to the table.

Mr. Packard: They are making hay. They are taking advantage of us.

Mr. Johnson: What do you propose that we do?

Mr. Packard: Just not come down so hard in support of the Israeli position. We need to figure out where we are going to come out on this.

Mr. Sisco: That is what we have been doing. We want to get in a position to achieve what we want after the debate.

[Page 605]

Mr. Packard: Then let’s not talk about building up capital with the Israelis. Instead, we should be building up our capital with the rest of the world.

Mr. Johnson: What you want to end up with is not much different from what we are seeking.

Mr. Packard: I think we should soften our support for the Israelis.

Mr. Kissinger: We had a major crisis in September. As long as I am going to be in this, we are not going to slide into another crisis. We have to get the facts and make sure that everyone is singing from the same sheet. What we do about it is another matter, but we need an agreed statement on what has happened.

Mr. Packard: The difficulty is that we didn’t have a good enough data base to begin with.

Dr. Kissinger: We had some good data during the first week.

Mr. Sisco: We should review the US Government’s public record on this. The Secretary of State said in a press conference that the violations are conclusive.9

Dr. Kissinger: He also said so privately on a number of occasions.

Mr. Sisco: We have also said that some rectification is required. The Secretary left the definition of rectification ambiguous and referred only to “what the parties can agree to.” That leaves open whether there should be total, partial, or no rollback. The Secretary went further and stated that there had been three kinds of violations. There were new sites where none had been before. Positions previously initiated had been completed. Missile equipment had been brought in, and there had been forward movement within the ceasefire zone. That is the policy of the United States as stated by the Secretary of State.

What Dave [Packard] is referring to is that we stated on August 19 that in the period around the start of the ceasefire something happened but our evidence on violations was not conclusive.10

Mr. Packard: What I am talking about is what I saw last week—the change in sites from 53 to 61.

Mr. Johnson: The Secretary [of State] spent three hours going over the data. He wouldn’t accept what Joe [Sisco], Dave [Packard], Dick [Helms], or Ray Cline said.

[Page 606]

Mr. Packard: I am just saying that we don’t know how serious the violations are.11

Dr. Kissinger: This is important also in terms of our relations with the Soviet Union. They have to make a big decision on how they are going to deal with us on the big questions including the Middle East. They will have to choose between adopting a hard line and waiting for us to shift our position, or making some movement themselves in order to reach an agreement. I believe that they are at least considering making a few concessions with a view to seeking bilateral agreement rather than relying on unilateral action.12 However, if we adopt the wrong posture on the ceasefire violations, they might conclude that there is no need for them to make any shifts and that they are home free.

Mr. Sisco: We have three options in the General Assembly. We can agree to the Egyptian position. We can hold to our position. Or we can try for something in between that doesn’t prejudice our position that there have been violations and doesn’t wash out the question of rectification. I believe that there is a two-thirds vote in favor of washing out rectification. In the event it turns out that this is the case, we will have to decide how we are to vote and that will be a very difficult decision.

Dr. Kissinger: Can we have a memorandum by Friday on this?

Mr. Sisco: We would like to see how the debate evolves.

Dr. Kissinger: Even if we take an extreme position in favor of rectification as a negotiating gambit, that would not mean that we would take the same position after the General Assembly debate is over. My guess is that as an ultimate position we will wind up very close to [Page 607] where Dave [Packard] wants to go, that is, trying to get the Israelis to negotiate without rectification.

Mr. Sisco: The best way to get there is not to say now that the violations are not important.

Dr. Kissinger: We have two problems—the public record, and the effect on our relations with the Soviets. There has been a considerable change from August to September in the tenor of US-Soviet relations. We don’t want to bring the Soviets back to their August mentality.

Mr. Packard: What I am saying is that the data on the violations is somewhat imprecise. Over the last two readings, the description of some missiles was changed from “operational” to “probably operational”.

Dr. Kissinger: (to Helms) Can you give us a conclusive reading?

Mr. Sisco: It is true that the estimates do change.

Dr. Kissinger: We still have the Palestinian paper to consider.13 However, I have a matter that I want to discuss with only the principals.

(At this point the Senior Review Group went into restricted session with only Mr. Kissinger, Mr. Packard, Mr. Johnson, Mr. Helms, Mr. Sisco, General Knowles, and Colonel Kennedy present.)14

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–111, Senior Review Group, SRG Minutes Originals 1970. Secret; Nodis. The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room. All brackets are in the original.
  2. See Document 164.
  3. A U.S.-backed “Latin American” draft resolution was rejected on November 4 by a roll-call vote of 45 in favor, 49 against, with 27 abstentions. The text of the resolution is printed in Department of State Bulletin, November 23, 1970, p. 663. The General Assembly debate on the Middle East began on October 26.
  4. Not found.
  5. Not found.
  6. See Document 175.
  7. Speaking at the United Nations on October 26, Egyptian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Riad accused Israel of adopting a policy of territorial expansion since its establishment as a state in 1948. He also said that the United States, by providing Israel with weapons during its occupation of Arab territory, had become an accomplice in Israel’s “aggression.” (New York Times, October 27, 1970, p. 1)
  8. On November 4, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 2628, “deploring the continued occupation of the Arab territories since June 5, 1967.” It reaffirmed the principles of Security Council Resolution 242 and urged the “speedy implementation” of that resolution. It also called for the resumption of peace talks under Jarring and recommended that the cease-fire between Israel and the United Arab Republic be extended for another three months. Among the 57 countries that voted for the resolution were the front-line Arab states, some of the Arab states of the Middle East and North Africa that did not border Israel, the Soviet Union, and France. Among the 16 that voted against it were the United States and Israel, while the United Kingdom and 38 others abstained. States that did not register a vote at all included Algeria, Iraq, Yemen, South Yemen, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. The complete text of the resolution as well as the list of countries present for the roll-call vote is printed in Yearbook of the United Nations, 1970, p. 261.
  9. At an October 9 press conference, Rogers responded to a question about U.S. evidence regarding missiles in the cease-fire zone saying: “Yes, we have evidence that they have moved missiles in. And the evidence is conclusive that they have moved missiles in. When I say ‘they,’ I mean there have been SA–3 sites constructed since the day of the cease-fire, and we are convinced, I think beyond a doubt, that the Soviet personnel are there to assist in the construction and manning of those sites.” (Department of State Bulletin, October 26, 1970, p. 474)
  10. See footnote 2, Document 154.
  11. Rogers telephoned Kissinger at 12:16 p.m. on October 27 and said, “I was amazed to hear that the Defense Department says that they are not sure that the missile violations amounted to much,” to which Kissinger responded, “It’s outrageous.” Later in the conversation Rogers remarked: “If we have a story that leaks out that we don’t know what we are talking about, it will kill us with the world,” and then added that the President would “go through the roof.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 7, Chronological File) Kissinger raised the issue with Laird in a telephone conversation at “1:45 pm-ish,” noting that if Packard’s argument leaked, “it could be disastrous.” Laird replied that there was “no question of violations,” but that analysts could not prove, based on aerial photos of the Sinai, that missiles had been moved into the new sites that they had counted, and, thus, he had asked for a paper accounting for any missile increases in the cease-fire zone. (Ibid.) Kissinger telephoned Rogers at 5:15 p.m. to report his conversation with Laird and said that there was “no sense in arguing with” the Defense Secretary and that “the only thing to do” was to “get an agreed intelligence statement. And then have no one deviate from the guidance.” Rogers agreed. (Ibid.)
  12. Kissinger and Dobrynin discussed negotiations on October 23. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XIII, Soviet Union, October 1970–October 1971, Document 29.
  13. See Document 176.
  14. No record of the meeting has been found.