187. Letter From President Nixon to Israeli Prime Minister Meir1

Dear Madam Prime Minister:

Your letter of December 1, written in the spirit of the close friendship and understanding which exists between us, our governments, and our people, has been most helpful in clarifying your present views and concerns.2

I am responding to you immediately since I sense that you share our view of the importance of resuming the Jarring talks at an early date. As you know, we believe present circumstances are particularly favorable for this. There have been profound changes in the Arab world since September, whose implications can only be tested in negotiations. In addition, both our governments have by our actions clearly demonstrated that the violation of agreements is not without its political and military costs to those who seek to win unilateral advantage in this way. It seems to me that a move now by Israel into negotiations would be a move from a position of strength and would be clearly perceived as such by others.

The concern of your government to maintain that position of strength as the negotiating process goes forward is one which we fully understand and appreciate in light of our own national experience in difficult negotiating situations. I want to assure you, Madam Prime Minister, we will be responsive to your needs and we will continue to take into full account Soviet support—military, economic, and political—of the UAR as specific decisions are taken by us.

With respect to your long-term military equipment needs, including aircraft in particular, I believe the principle of a continuing military supply relationship between our two governments has been firmly established. Given the requirements of our own services and our many obligations around the world, the process of working out in specific terms what is possible in response to your long term requests will [Page 652] require additional time. I have asked that your requests receive priority and sympathetic consideration,3 and the additional information recently received from your representatives will help expedite our examination. Meanwhile, I can assure you that the question is not whether we will maintain the supply and financing relationship already established but simply how to do so most rationally and effectively. The fact that, of the total supplemental appropriation for military assistance worldwide which I have requested from the Congress, almost one half is for Israel,4 should leave no doubt about the importance we attach to your needs.

As for the course of the negotiations under Ambassador Jarring’s auspices, I want to reiterate what I said to you in my message of July 23:5 We will not press Israel to accept the positions of the UAR that there must be total Israeli withdrawal from the territories occupied in the 1967 conflict to the pre-June 5 lines or that there must be a refugee solution based exclusively on the strict application of paragraph 11 of United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194 (III).6 Our position on withdrawal is that the final borders must be agreed between the parties by means of negotiations under the aegis of Ambassador Jarring. Moreover, we will not press Israel to accept a refugee solution which would alter fundamentally the Jewish character of the State of Israel or jeopardize your security. We will also adhere strictly and firmly to the fundamental principle that there must be a peace agreement in which each of the parties undertakes reciprocal obligations to the other and that no Israeli soldier should be withdrawn from the occupied territories until a binding contractual peace agreement satisfactory to you has been achieved.

It is true, as you point out, that our perceptions differ as to what may be possible in a final settlement. I believe our relationship is based on such a degree of mutual respect and confidence, however, that it can accommodate differences of judgment. The point I want to stress is that, in our view, the primary focus of the Jarring talks must be on the negotiating positions of the parties directly concerned. We believe those negotiations must be given every reasonable opportunity to proceed without outside interference. We will act in this spirit.

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It follows from the foregoing that we could not be a party to an attempt by the Security Council to substitute its judgment for that of the parties with respect to the territorial and other detailed aspects of a settlement.

You have also raised the question of what this government would do in the event of direct Soviet military intervention should the UAR resume large scale hostilities against Israel. The United States under a series of Administrations has made clear in word and deed the importance it attaches to the security and survival of Israel. I believe the Soviet Union fully understands this. However, we will take an early occasion to make certain the Soviet Union is under no misapprehension in this regard.

Finally, Madam Prime Minister, I want to thank you for suggesting that it would be useful for us to exchange views with your Minister of Defense. I personally look forward to meeting with General Dayan, as do Secretaries Rogers and Laird, when he comes to Washington next week.7

It is our desire and intention to stay in close consultation with you and your government as the difficult process of negotiations under the aegis of Ambassador Jarring goes forward in the days and weeks ahead. As Secretary Rogers conveyed to Foreign Minister Eban on my behalf,8 I hope the talks will begin promptly.9 I cannot emphasize too strongly my conviction that the present moment is one of opportunity in our continuing search for a binding peace agreement based on reciprocal commitments between the parties.


Richard Nixon
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 756, Presidential Correspondence 1969–1974, Israel Prime Minister Golda Meir 1970. Secret; Nodis. Copies were sent to Haig, Kennedy, Sonnenfeldt, and Saunders. Telegram 197609 to Tel Aviv, December 4, instructed Barbour to deliver the letter promptly to Meir. (Ibid.)
  2. The letter, written on November 29, was delivered to Sisco by Rabin on December 1. In it, Meir addressed Israel’s desire to: 1) receive further arms shipments from the United States; 2) enter into territorial negotiations without being tied to the proposals that the United States advanced in the fall of 1969; 3) have the United States “communicate to the Soviet Union the full weight of its commitment to the survival and security of Israel;” and 4) clarify the framework of the cease-fire agreement with “concrete arrangements.” (Text in telegram 197609 to Tel Aviv, December 4; ibid.)
  3. Military assistance to Israel was discussed at the December 3 Senior Review Group meeting and then again at the January 11, 1971, Senior Review Group meeting; see Documents 188 and 195.
  4. The President earmarked $500 million for Israel in the $1.03 billion supplemental foreign aid package that he sent to Congress on November 18. (New York Times, November 19, 1970, p. 11) For the text of his message transmitting the proposal to Congress, see Public Papers: Nixon, 1970, pp. 1074–1079.
  5. See Document 136.
  6. See footnote 6, Document 136.
  7. See footnote 9, Document 188.
  8. According to telegram 190011 to Tel Aviv, November 19, Rogers conveyed the President’s message during a 45-minute meeting with Eban in Washington on the afternoon of November 18. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1158, Saunders Files, Middle East Negotiations Files, June Initiative (Memos Only))
  9. After discussing the President’s letter at a December 6 Cabinet meeting, Israel decided to defer its decision to return to the Jarring talks for two weeks. Israeli newspapers reported that the government would probably participate in the talks in January, following further “clarifications” between Israel and the United States. (Telegram 6696 from Tel Aviv, December 7; ibid., Box 1157, Saunders Files, Middle East Negotiations Files, June Initiative Volume V) Meir informed Barbour of the decision during a meeting on December 7 at which she also “expressed appreciation for spirit of friendship and understanding expressed in President’s letter.” Regarding the Jarring talks, the Prime Minister stressed Israel’s “need for assurance” that the United States would support Israel during “sensitive points” of the negotiation process, given the Soviet Union’s support of the United Arab Republic. Furthermore, while she found Nixon’s letter “reassuring in tone on military supplies,” she “needed to know Israel would be receiving steady deliveries of Phantoms and Skyhawks after January 1.” (Telegram 6726 from Tel Aviv, December 8; ibid.)