183. Minutes of a Senior Review Group Meeting1


  • Middle East


  • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
  • State
  • U. Alexis Johnson
  • Joseph J. Sisco
  • Haywood Stackhouse
  • Thomas Thornton
  • Ray Cline
  • Defense
  • G. Warren Nutter
  • James H. Noyes
  • Armistead I. Selden
  • Lt. Gen. Donald Bennett
  • CIA
  • Richard Helms
  • David H. Blee
  • JCS
  • Lt. Gen. Richard Knowles
  • Rear Adm. William St. George
  • NSC Staff
  • Col. Richard Kennedy
  • Harold Saunders
  • Jeanne W. Davis


It was agreed that:

1) Palestinian participation in a peace settlement in some form would be important at some stage;

2) State would prepare a telegram of instruction for a discussion with King Hussein on a possible approach to the Palestinians;2

3) after we had the King’s reaction, we would decide on the next step;

4) Mr. Saunders and Mr. Sisco would prepare a new strategy paper;3

5) The IG would put together a proposed aid package for Israel covering the next two years, with a clear statement of the opposing State and Defense views;4

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6) the statement on stand-still violations would be distributed to agencies as an agreed statement of the factual situation;5

7) CIA would submit proposals for a higher budget for satellite photography.6

Mr. Kissinger: We have three problems to consider: The general Middle East situation including the Palestine option, where we go from here, and the question of U–2 flights, which I think are on the track now. I would like to spend ten minutes on the intelligence problem since I intend to get an agreed statement on this. Since this is a factual matter, it has to be possible for us to get an agreed description of what we believe. Following the Middle East discussion, we will have a report from Charlie Meyer on Chile and then I have one item for the 40 Committee.

Let us go first to the Palestinian option. This is a very good State Department paper7 but it raises a number of basic questions. Essentially, the question is what kind of Palestinian outcome would be in our interest. This raises various issues which are probably best explored in the State Department paper on Working Hypotheses and Recommendations for a Palestinian Solution. I refer you to page 1, paragraph 2 of this paper which, along with other statements in the paper, makes it clear that Palestine can no longer be treated as a refugee problem. I note, however, two contradictory tendencies in the paper: (1) that nothing short of a seat at the peace table can meet Palestinian aspirations; and (2) that these aspirations can probably be met only part way and that this will probably have to be done through King Hussein. I wonder whether it is possible to stop part way. Once we recognize the fedayeen as a semi-autonomous political entity are events still under our control? Can we stop short of independence or political autonomy? Of course, we may want that. But do we really believe that a semi-autonomous status can be maintained?

Mr. Sisco: I recognize the risk you cite, but I believe the prospect of its being manageable depends on the manner in which it is done. If we work through Hussein, with the King taking the lead, and leaving open further steps toward self-determination in an unspecified future, I believe there is a hope and indeed a possibility that it can be done in some limited form. If Hussein can make some proposal to the Palestinians, saying “here’s the deal” and then organize it in some form, it may stick. The situation, of course, will never be completely stable. The option to break away from any kind of federation would always be there for the [Page 635] fedayeen. Its success would depend on Hussein’s conditions, on the mutuality of interests between the East and West Bank, on the degree of freedom of movement, etc. If there were freedom of exchange leading to a degree of economic viability the two banks might be better off together. The possibility of an overall Jordanian state depends on whether Hussein can take the lead and can deal with a fedayeen leadership that is able to consider a limited approach. Such an agreement might stick for five years, then who knows?

Mr. Kissinger: Would we ask Hussein if he minds if we deal with the fedayeen? This is like a wife asking her husband if he minds if she commits adultery. Would our very asking of the question be enough to shake Hussein’s confidence?

Mr. Sisco: That depends on how we ask the question. I agree there is some danger that the question itself would be prejudicial. But I think we could put it to Hussein along the following lines: (1) We have come to the conclusion, and we think you have too, that we must take the Palestinians into account; (2) you have begun to put a government together with some Palestinian representation; (3) you have indicated that you are willing to give some self-determination once a settlement has been reached. We must convince Hussein that any discussions with Arafat or another fedayeen leader would be in the context of complementary US efforts toward common objectives. It would be a delicate operation. We don’t want to give Hussein a veto, but if we do not move in concert with the King, even an initial contact with the fedayeen could be undermining.

Mr. Kissinger: Granted that we believe a Palestinian entity is desirable and that we should talk to the King, should we also talk to the Palestinians? Is the King likely to take the position that how he arranges his country is his business? How would he look on our political contact with the faction that led an insurrection against him with its implication of a relationship to a group which was subversive to his authority? Could we accept Joe’s (Sisco) idea but without any mention of talking to Arafat or any other fedayeen representative?

Mr. Sisco: Unless we are ready to go all out with the Palestinians, and to see the King go down the drain, we should not contact Arafat if the King is not sold on the idea that it is complementary to his own actions.

Mr. Kissinger: I don’t know how the Arabs react but I do think they can be pretty devious. Suppose the King acquiesces in our suggestions but then draws his own conclusions as to our real intent?

Mr. Johnson: We shouldn’t decide on talking with Arafat until we have talked with the King.

Mr. Helms: I agree—we should take one step at a time.

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Mr. Sisco: Our next step should be to talk to Hussein, keeping under review the possibility of talking to Arafat.

Mr. Kissinger: Are we agreed then that we should open the possibility of talking to Hussein about a Palestinian entity in the context of a settlement?

Mr. Johnson: The entity could be either geographic or political.

Mr. Kissinger: By political, you mean representation at the peace settlement?

Mr. Nutter: If consideration of a Palestinian entity is important, we can’t possibly keep it away from the King. We couldn’t proceed without his knowing about it.

Mr. Kissinger: Trying to proceed without his knowledge would be the worst thing we could do unless we should decide that we don’t care what happens. We could, of course, conclude that the Palestinians have to be brought in but that we should not play a dominant active role in bringing this about. This has been our strategy up to now—we have left it to the Jordanians.

Mr. Nutter: This runs the risk that it won’t come up otherwise.

Mr. Kissinger: One argument for a particular Palestinian entity is that they are the best group to guarantee a settlement involving the greatest number of Arabs. The problems of the Egyptian border are easier than those of the Palestine border. On the other hand, they are also the group which has the greatest interest in the destruction of Israel since more of the territory belongs to them than to any others.

Mr. Sisco: The Fedayeen have adopted this posture. However, I think the Palestinians—not necessarily the Fedayeen—can be brought around in the hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Mr. Noyes: I feel the same way. Our sympathetic approach to the Palestinian problem could undercut Fedayeen influence and could offer an opportunity for the more moderate Palestinians.

Mr. Kissinger: What sort of boundaries would the moderate Palestinians have in mind?

Mr. Sisco: The Arabs will certainly think of a Palestinian entity as including some piece of what was Arab Jerusalem. This is a very tough problem. We have revised our paper in this regard, and will do a telegram on this for all of you to look at.

Mr. Johnson: I think there is a growing sense of realism and a desire for peace among the Palestinians.

Mr. Kissinger: Will Israel accept the 1967 borders? Will the Palestinians accept the 1967 borders or will they insist on the 1947 borders?

Mr. Sisco: We can’t operate on the assumption of the ’47 borders—this would be no deal. It might be possible, however, to develop some [Page 637] leadership on the basis of a Palestinian entity based on the ’67 borders, minus Jerusalem. This would be a feasible objective; indeed no other objective makes sense. We will have trouble convincing Israel to go with the ’67 borders. They certainly wouldn’t buy the ’47 borders.

Mr. Helms: I agree.

Mr. Kissinger: So we are agreed to work for a Palestinian entity in some form.

Mr. Helms: Either political or geographic.

General Knowles: I agree, provided we take one step at a time, starting with an approach to King Hussein. Of course, it would be better if he suggested it.

Mr. Kissinger: May I sum up my understanding of the situation. We are agreed that Palestinian participation in a peace settlement in some form would be important at some stage. We don’t have to decide now what that entity should be. It might be the political participation of the Palestinians in the peace negotiations. The first step would be to put the question to King Hussein in the terms outlined by Joe Sisco. We could ask for his reaction and how we might be helpful. Depending on his reaction, we could then consider the next step.

Mr. Sisco: There is one related development. The new Jordanian government is giving some thought to the refugee question. The King’s brother has asked us to set up a small working group with them to see what might be done. This is the first realistic indication that the Jordan Government is trying to organize itself to get at the problem. Such a Jordanian initiative would fit in with such a proposal.

Mr. Helms: I think we should go ahead.

Mr. Kissinger: (to Mr. Sisco) You draft a telegram outlining an approach to the King for us to look at. After we have an answer from the King, we can decide on the next step.

(to Mr. Sisco) Will you sum up where we stand diplomatically? Both the President and the Secretary have said publicly that we want to try to get the negotiations started again. I have the feeling that Israel is not fighting for rectification of the standstill violations with the same intensity as before.

Mr. Sisco: The General Assembly consideration of the question concluded with considerably less damage than we had feared, due largely to our damage-control operation.8 In my judgment, the talks will start in a few weeks. I base this on three factors: 1) the Israelis have [Page 638] now come to the conclusion that the time is propitious to resume the talks; 2) they have concluded that rectification of the standstill violations is not possible; and 3) the statements by Moshe Dayan9 reflect a change in the Israeli attitude.

Mr. Kissinger: I don’t believe Dayan’s statements are as unguided as they appear to be.

Mr. Sisco: I think they indicate the general thrust of the Israeli Cabinet. The Secretary’s conversation with Eban makes clear their strategy.10 Their Parliamentary debate opens Monday and will continue for several days. Following the debate there will be further internal conversations. Then Israel will come to us and say that they are prepared to get the talks started, and they are grateful for our military assistance and our support in the GA debate. They have submitted a specific request for additional military assistance over the next 18 months which is now being considered in the IG. It is a substantial request, but there is evidence that the financial people in Israel have gotten to the military on the request. I think they will make three proposals: 1) that the US indicate that we are prepared to make a positive response to their military assistance request; 2) that we do what we can for them in terms of credit; and 3) that we give them some assurances that we will give them reasonable freedom of movement.

Mr. Kissinger: After we give them that assurance we can still regulate deliveries of the material.

Mr. Sisco: There is no question that our leverage will be needed in the context of the negotiations and the deliveries are our leverage. I believe, however, that we can get further with the Israelis in the context of confidence than by threatening to withhold their equipment.

Mr. Kissinger: (to Mr. Helms) What do you think of that?

Mr. Helms: I have no comment on Joe’s presentation.

Mr. Kissinger: Do you agree on the strategy?

Mr. Helms: I think it’s the only one available to us.

Mr. Kissinger: We could say they won’t get anything more from us until they start negotiations, then dole it out to them two months at a time.

Mr. Helms: I think if we want to get on with the talks, we should get on with everything.

Mr. Nutter: It amounts to 150 planes.

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Mr. Sisco: Fifty-four Phantoms and 120 others, also certain supporting equipment and some other things they have asked for such as personnel carriers, it amounts to $600 [million] over the next 18 months. That is in addition to the current $500 million request. This would take us to June 1972.

Mr. Helms: I didn’t understand that this was in addition to the $500 million already requested.

Mr. Johnson: What if peace breaks out in the next 18 months.

Mr. Sisco: We will say we would look at the situation.

Mr. Kissinger: Any new frontiers might be more bearable to the Israelis if they have this package.

Mr. Sisco: The Arabs don’t care about what equipment Israel gets if a settlement is achieved. The next 18 months will be a no-peace situation; we can’t plan any other way.

Mr. Kissinger: So Joe (Sisco) believes we can get more from the Israelis by confidence; and we can get more from the Russians by convincing them that no matter what they pour in, they will not get a military advantage. On the other hand, DOD believes that if we give Israel these weapons, they will not have the incentive to negotiate, and we should keep them on leaner rations with no long-term committment.

Mr. Nutter: Paying them $600 million to get them to the table gives them a free hand. If the talks bog down, what next?

Mr. Kissinger: We can regulate deliveries.

Mr. Sisco: I meant a free hand in the early stages of the talks. The US must play a pressure role at some stage.

Mr. Kissinger: Neither side is in a position domestically to make peace. They will both need pressure. Could we make the term of the package a little longer? Having it end in the middle of an election campaign is not an ideal situation.

Mr. Sisco: Would it help if we stretched it from 18 to 24 months? I recognize that the IG meeting exposed a gulf between the thinking of State and Defense; I understand there are real problems.

Mr. Kissinger: I think the worst possible way of giving aid is the way in which we have done it over the last three months. By being forced to consider a new request every month or so we ended by giving more than if we had agreed on a sizeable package in April or in June.

Mr. Sisco: I agree. Let’s try to put together a package for decision by the President that can carry us for the next two years.

Mr. Kissinger: Yes. Let’s make it possible for the President to say “I have done this and I won’t talk to any other group about this question.” If we do it, we should do something to tie the package to the negotiations so that we could use it as leverage.

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Mr. Sisco: We must make this crystal clear to the Israelis.

Mr. Kissinger: Let’s get the issue defined so as to get it to the President so we can then authorize an integrated approach to the Israelis.

Mr. Nutter: It is very important that we stretch the time to 24 months.

Mr. Johnson: That is reasonable.

Mr. Kissinger: I just invented the 24 month period, but I would hate to see it end in June of 1972.

Mr. Sisco: This makes a lot of sense.

Mr. Noyes: I will be discussing this Wednesday with the second man in the Israeli Air Force.

Mr. Kissinger: Let’s get a statement of the views from the IG.

Mr. Sisco: We will try to put down the two approaches to the problem in the fairest possible way.

Mr. Kissinger: I would like to raise a question on the strategy of the Jarring talks.

Mr. Sisco: We must be careful not to fall into the Soviet trap. They are circulating in New York the idea that we should start talking about guarantees. Any substantive discussion in either the two-power or four-power forum before negotiations between the two parties begin is a diversion and would be bound to make the Israelis nervous. I have sent a cable to Yost indicating that we would have no problem talking about guarantees at the right time.

Mr. Kissinger: Why is this Soviet trap? Don’t they want to get the talks started?

Mr. Sisco: They want to get on with the four-power discussions and mobilize the other powers to isolate the U.S. The French position is even worse than it was before, and the UK is very wishy-washy. Golda Meir’s talks in London were a disaster.11 There has been a marked deterioration in both the French and British positions, which means even greater danger in the four-power context.

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Mr. Kissinger: Even if the discussions were on a subject the Israelis should like, it would set the precedent of confronting them with four-power negotiations on the subject.

Mr. Sisco: Let’s wait until talks start between the two parties; then we could consider the strategy of marking time in the four-power talks. We certainly should not renew the U.S.-Soviet talks.

Mr. Kissinger: We must first establish that the principal parties are talking.

Mr. Sisco: Jarring will certainly need help right away. He will probably put together some formulation in two or three weeks. We will all have to focus on this formulation; then we should talk to the Russians about it in concrete terms.

Mr. Nutter: I agree. The first talks should be between the Israelis and the Arabs.

Mr. Kissinger: Our June proposals and much of our strategy since has been on the basis that a settlement with Egypt was a pre-condition to a settlement with anyone else. Should we look at this again? We are certainly not less interested in an Egyptian settlement, but should we give equal priority to a Jordanian settlement? The Soviets will get the credit for an Egyptian settlement.

If it were possible to get a Jordanian settlement either before or at the same time as an Egyptian settlement, it would mean that our friends—and a more moderate regime—would be helped first. With the death of Nasser, Jordan may not still be that dependent on Egyptian approval. Should we give more emphasis to the Jordanian part of the settlement?

Mr. Sisco: I don’t think Hussein wants to get out in front, even now. I think both settlements have to move together. Jordanians would prefer that the principal focus in the talks be on Egypt. In time, if the situation in Jordan continues to improve, we may then give them equal treatment. For now, however, we should focus on Egypt, although not exclusively. Jarring will certainly consider both.

Mr. Johnson: An Egyptian settlement is easier than a Jordanian settlement.

Mr. Helms: That was our reason for doing it this way in the first place.

Mr. Kissinger: (to Mr. Sisco) Joe will you and Hal Saunders work together on a paper that ties this strategy together? We can then give it to the President for information and decision. It should of course, be consistent with what the President and the Secretary have said publicly. [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Johnson: [5½ lines not declassified]

Mr. Helms: [2½ lines not declassified]

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Mr. Sisco: [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: [1 line not declassified]

General Knowles: [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Helms: [3½ lines not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: [7 lines not declassified]

Mr. Helms: [2½ lines not declassified]

(4:40 p.m.—Mr. Cline and General Bennett joined the group)

Mr. Kissinger: Can we turn once more to the question of standstill violations? If our principals are to make meaningful judgments, based on our intelligence, we should be sure that our intelligence reflects the facts and is not a tool to be used in fighting the policy argument. I am trying to get a statement of the standstill issues. It is now a moot point of course, but both the President and the Secretary have made public statements. The paper left the implication that a large number of missiles could have been hidden in the zone before the violations occurred. The violations would have been no less real, of course, since the agreement barred such placement. Whether they were hidden or not is immaterial. In addition, we have the situation where no one saw any missiles move in. We can’t prove that they were moved in after or that they were not moved in before. You can’t prove why something hasn’t happened. I have had some systems analysis done on this. The amount of sand that would have to have been moved to conceal the equipment for 45 SAM batteries would have left a hole big enough to put the White House and the Executive Office Building in together. We saw no such engineering equipment in the standstill zone. Also, we have checked the cubic feet of all the hangars in the standstill zone and it is simply not enough to hide 45 batteries. In addition, why would they have hidden weapons in a standstill zone that didn’t exist when it was permitted to do so, and take them out and put them in place when it was prohibited? How can we explain the ships and the flatcars loaded with SAM equipment? I have asked Mr. Helms to do another memo, so now we have two papers to consider; the joint statement on which all were agreed, and a new CIA paper which covers the question of where the missiles came from.12 Can we look at the new CIA paper. If we agree this is a fair statement, we will send it out as an agreed position.

Mr. Sisco: (referring to the CIA memorandum of November 12) I think the first paragraph is very good. Also, with regard to point 5, I think the evidence on the timing is even stronger. Riad told the Secre [Page 643] tary that he was out of town when the agreement was presented and, when he returned and read the agreement he thought it was unfair. He also indicated that they had expected that the material would be turned over to Jarring and that they would negotiate for three to four weeks.13 They were surprised to be presented with an agreement the next day. They obviously expected three or four weeks to give them an opportunity to do what they wanted to do in the standstill zone.

Mr. Helms: Do we have this in writing?

Mr. Sisco: If we don’t, I will put it in writing.

Mr. Kissinger: The statement that he would not have agreed to the agreement was in an outgoing cable, but I have not seen in writing the statement about negotiating for three or four weeks. (to General Bennett) Is this statement all right with you?

General Bennett: We have tried to challenge it in every possible way and I believe it is a logical presentation.

Mr. Kissinger: Is there any other presentation of the issue? I want to be sure we have a fair statement of the issues.

General Bennett: I agree with the statement in paragraph 1 that we have found no evidence to support the claim that the SAM equipment was present in the zone before August 7.

Mr. Cline: I agree with the CIA paper. It is true that we can’t prove beyond any doubt that the missiles weren’t there. You can’t prove a negative. But given all of the evidence, it defies reasonable expectations. I am convinced that they carried out their original plan over a period of several weeks.

General Knowles: How would this paper be used?

Mr. Kissinger: We would circulate it and say that this is an agreed estimate on the basis of which each department will operate.

General Bennett: We might point out that the lower figures used in discussing the number of SAM sites are those which were fully operational. We should footnote this point.

Mr. Kissinger: Let’s do it and distribute the paper.

Mr. Cline: I have one nitpick: In paragraph two of the agreed statement [less than 1 line not declassified] you speak of a net increase of 55 and then mention two-thirds of the sites. Do you mean two-thirds of the increase?

Mr. Helms: Yes.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–111, Senior Review Group, Meetings Minutes Originals 1970. Top Secret; Codeword. All brackets are in the original except those indicating text that remains classified. The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room.
  2. See Document 185.
  3. Saunders’s analytical summary of the new strategy papers on the Middle East is printed as Document 198.
  4. See Document 194.
  5. See Document 178. No statement was found.
  6. Not found.
  7. See Document 182.
  8. The General Assembly debate on the Middle East and especially the cease-fire violations took place in plenary meetings from October 26 to November 4, culminating in the adoption of Resolution 2628. See footnote 8, Document 177. For a summary of the debate, see Yearbook of the United Nations, 1970, pp. 254–260.
  9. On November 6, Dayan announced that Israel no longer had to adhere to commitments associated with the U.S. peace initiative.
  10. See footnote 2, Document 169.
  11. Meir met with British Prime Minister Edward Heath and British Foreign Secretary Sir Alec Douglas-Home on November 4 and 5. According to a November 4 record of their conversation, Meir made a “plea” to Heath to reject the “Arab” resolution in the UN General Assembly “deploring the continued occupation of the Arab territories since June 5, 1967.” (Resolution 2628, adopted November 4) Meir insisted if the UN adopted the resolution, “as far as Israel was concerned Security Council Resolution 242 was dead, and Israel would have nothing more to do with that resolution or with the Jarring Mission.” She also said she was “shocked” at the Foreign Secretary’s recent Harrogate speech, objecting to his reference to Israel’s future frontiers with the UAR, Jordan, and Syria. Meir went on to criticize the term “formal state of peace,” a Soviet term in her view, and also the reference in the speech to the “political aspirations of the Palestinians.” (The National Archives (United Kingdom), PREM 15/540, The Middle East, 1970–1971)
  12. The paper, “SAM Equipment in the Egyptian Ceasefire Zone,” is in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–049, Senior Review Group Meetings, Senior Review Group—Middle East 11–13–70.
  13. See footnote 3, Document 169.