188. Minutes of a Senior Review Group Meeting1


  • Middle East


  • Chairman—Henry Kissinger
  • State
  • U. Alexis Johnson
  • Joseph J. Sisco
  • Alfred L. Atherton
  • Talcott Seelye
  • Defense
  • David Packard
  • James S. Noyes
  • Gen. Devol Brett
  • CIA
  • Thomas Karamessines
  • David Blee
  • JCS
  • Gen. Richard Knowles
  • Adm. William St. George
  • NSC Staff
  • Col. Richard Kennedy
  • Harold Saunders
  • Jeanne W. Davis


. . . The options paper on military assistance to Israel2 should include the tactical question of whether to offer the package before or after the Arab-Israeli talks have started.

. . . The request for December 4 U–2 flights would be withdrawn; but, if arrangements can be made for training flights and aircraft maintenance, we should keep the U–2s on Cyprus, raising the matter with Prime Minister Heath, if necessary.3

. . . The package on military assistance to Jordan should be processed in the same way as the Israeli package—i.e. an options paper to be considered by the SRG and presented to the President for decision.4

[Page 655]

Mr. Kissinger: This was intended to be a relatively brief meeting to bring ourselves up to date before the decisions have to be made over the next few weeks. (to Mr. Sisco) Can you run down some of the problems?

Military Assistance for Israel

Mr. Sisco: Our principal objective is still to try to get the Israeli-Arab talks started. The President has received a letter from Golda Meir5 expressing two concerns: (1) the look of the future as it relates to US military and financial support for Israel; and (2) some assurance that they will be left free to take a reasonable approach to the negotiations. They were, of course, deeply concerned over the US plan developed in the October-December 1969 period, at least as it involved the border with Egypt. We do not interpret this letter as laying down conditions for resumption of the talks. It expresses Israeli concerns and appears to be aimed at developing a general understanding between the US and Israel. We believe it should receive a prompt reply so as to give the Israeli Cabinet a chance to consider it at their meeting on Sunday.6 Secretary Rogers believes that the reply should be somewhat general in nature, with no specific commitment.

With regard to the work on our recommendations for providing Israel with the equipment she has requested, the Defense Department has completed a good technical options paper.7 We are beginning to look at it, and will put together two or three possibilities, taking the political factors into account, for submission to the SRG. We can look at these options and, hopefully over the next few weeks, shape them so they can be presented to the President for decision. We believe we should make no specific commitment to the Israelis prior to the beginning of the talks. Following that, we should try to be reasonably responsive.

Mr. Kissinger: I have a tactical question. Let’s leave aside what we should do, assuming we should do something for Israel and that whatever we do will give us trouble with the Arabs. Would it be tactically better to give Israel something before the talks commence and then present it as a quid pro quo for Israeli agreement to enter the talks? If we give them equipment while the talks are going on, we might be criticized for introducing an arms package into the talks. Or, we might give Israel an excuse to say that, because of the talks, she has an even greater need. I was troubled by the June formula which had us telling the Israelis that if it appeared that the talks were not getting anywhere, then [Page 656] we would give them arms. This would have given the Israelis an incentive to stall in the talks. Tactically, wouldn’t it be wiser to put ourselves in a position to claim that the arms package was a way of getting them to talk?

Mr. Sisco: You can make a case that a prior commitment would be an inducement. I’m aware that the kind of general response, short of a commitment, we are suggesting may not do the job. I think we should try, however.

Mr. Kissinger: The reply to Mrs. Meir’s letter is a different problem. If we reply in the way you suggest, do you think their response will be to enter the talks?

Mr. Sisco: Not necessarily.

Mr. Packard: I am troubled by how much we have had to do to get the Israelis to talk. We have already done a good deal for them.

Mr. Kissinger: I agree. But if we are going to give them arms anyway, wouldn’t it be tactically wise to give them before the talks and then present the act as a quid pro quo for their entering the talks, even if it was not. I’m worried about the Arabs.

Mr. Sisco: I see your point, but I think presenting the arms package during the talks would be manageable because: 1) the Arabs are more concerned about the use of the arms than about the fact that Israel is getting them; and 2) the arms package could still be related to the stand-still violations and to the ongoing effort by the USSR for Egypt. The Arabs will be concerned but it will be manageable. If we can come up with reasonable arms packages, somewhat extended in terms of time and money, we would have established an ongoing military relationship with Israel in a reasonably quiet way.

Mr. Johnson: This is based on the assumption that the Soviets will continue to support Egypt. What the US is doing for Israel would be part of the response to Soviet help for Egypt.

Mr. Sisco: Yes, although I don’t entirely accept the Israeli theory of an open-ended relationship between the USSR and Egypt.

Mr. Kissinger: Have there been substantial Soviet deliveries?

Mr. Sisco: Not recently. There were two periods of intensive supply in April and August of this year.

Mr. Packard: We should also watch what kinds of things the Russians are supplying Egypt. Are they supplying air defense equipment or equipment which will enable them to cross the Canal and mount an attack. We should consider what they are getting as well as how much?

Mr. Johnson: If the Soviets put a ceiling on what they are supplying Egypt, we would certainly take this into account.

Mr. Kissinger: We would have to.

[Page 657]

Mr. Sisco: A general response to Mrs. Meir’s letter may not do the job. However, I think the Israelis have made a decision to resume the talks shortly before the Jarring report is due on January 5. I don’t think the Israelis really expect an explicit commitment from us. We should try to get the talks resumed without a commitment. If we can’t, we may have to link our arms package with the talks.

Mr. Packard: We should see how far we can get with them before using the arms package.

Mr. Kissinger: This has nothing to do with the Meir letter, since we cannot include a commitment on military assistance in the President’s reply. We are talking now about our general posture and whether to make the material available before the talks or after they have started. This is independent of the Israeli decision unless it becomes necessary to use the arms package to get them to the talks.

Mr. Packard: There’s also the question of how much we should give them. This will vary according to what the Soviets do.

Mr. Sisco: We are putting together an options paper on the variables, based on the very good Defense paper. There are three options: do nothing; do something; and give them everything they want over an extended period. Secretary Rogers generally agrees with a formula that would meet their requests in a substantial way, but extend the response over some period of time.

Dayan Proposal8

Mr. Kissinger: I have two questions on the Dayan visit.9 Do we believe the Israelis will reach a decision before Dayan returns.

Mr. Sisco: We’re not sure. They may try to reach a decision at Sunday’s Cabinet meeting, before Dayan returns. This is what Golda should do. If a decision is postponed until after Dayan returns, he will get the credit for it.

[Page 658]

Mr. Kissinger: Assuming you would get any credit for this in Israel.

Mr. Sisco: You would. I believe Dayan’s statements are closer to the pulse of Israeli sentiment than Golda’s. There is strong feeling among the Israeli people that they must get on with the discussions. Dayan’s statements are based on a more accurate reading of Israeli public opinion than Golda’s are.

Mr. Karamessines: [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: I just don’t know. Perhaps Dayan is positioning himself to appear more reasonable—which brings me to my second question: is Dayan saying that the standstill has to be renegotiated in terms of his demilitarized zone proposal?

Mr. Sisco: We must be very careful about this. Mrs. Meir’s letter indicated Dayan wants to talk about a new agreement on a cease-fire, assuming adequate machinery can be developed. The President must be very careful. He should say “yes we will talk about this, but we believe the Israeli-Arab talks must begin.” Otherwise, Israel will say they will sit tight until we can achieve a new cease-fire agreement. And I am convinced that no new cease-fire agreement can be negotiated. We will have to be completely frank with Dayan—tell him that a new standstill agreement is not possible. Dayan will suggest that a thinning out of forces on either side of the Canal would be part of a cease-fire agreement. We should reply that the idea is worth exploring, but it should be done in the Israeli-Arab negotiations as part of a political settlement. It should not be a condition for the negotiations.

Mr. Kissinger: Is Dayan serious about his proposal?

Mr. Sisco: Yes, but he has no support in the Israeli Cabinet. Most Israelis feel very strongly that there should be no movement from the cease-fire lines until a peace settlement has been achieved. The Israelis have told Dayan that if he wants to discuss this idea with anyone, to discuss it with the Americans. The Egyptians would never agree to a thinning out of forces. They don’t mind Dayan’s discussing it with us, since everyone is convinced that someone else will knock the idea out.

Mr. Kissinger: At one point, when there was some press talk about a 30-mile demilitarized zone on either side of the Canal, Don Bergus came back with a telegram saying “make it 15 miles and you have a deal.” This was presented as an alternate to a cease-fire, I believe.

Mr. Sisco: Egypt has already taken a public position against this.

Mr. Kissinger: There are two questions: 1) is it a good idea, and 2) what forum should be used? State’s recommendation is not to tie Dayan’s proposal to the beginning of the negotiations. If it is a good idea, it should be discussed in the Jarring talks. We don’t have to take a position now. I can see where the idea might have some attraction for [Page 659] the Russians if it opens the Suez Canal. If it does not, I don’t see any attraction for anyone.

Mr. Sisco: If Israel should pull its forces back 20 or 30 kilometers, Allon says they would have to increase the strength of their positions beyond the zone in Sinai, and that they could not do this without partial mobilization.

Mr. Packard: They have no good defensive line there now.

Mr. Kissinger: If neither Israel nor Egypt wants this, it would be very hard for us to do anything about it.

Mr. Sisco: Dayan should return from his talks in the US saying he didn’t find much enthusiasm for the idea here.

Military Assistance for Israel

Mr. Kissinger: Could we review the status of military assistance for Israel. You have completed your technical studies. Then it goes through the IG, which makes its recommendations to the SRG,10 including the question of tactics as to whether to offer the package before or after the talks have started assuming, of course, that the talks have not already started.

[Omitted here is discussion of the U–2 flights that monitored the cease-fire zone.]

Assistance for Jordan

Mr. Kissinger: May we now turn to the question of assistance for Jordan.

Mr. Sisco: I think State and Defense are generally together on the package. All we need is money.

Mr. Seelye: We are preparing a joint memorandum to the President from the Secretaries of State and Defense which will enable him to decide in principle, subject to the availability of funds, on a package, along the lines the Jordanians have requested and that our survey team agrees is sound for the new mission of the Jordanian Army.11

Mr. Kissinger: What is that new mission?

Mr. Seelye: Before the civil war, the King had thought more in terms of defense—anti-aircraft, etc. Now, following the Syrian intervention, the King believes he needs a more mobile force and his priorities have changed—in the direction of tanks, for example. The problem is money, and this can’t be resolved before the King comes here.12 An [Page 660] attachment to the State-Defense memo will indicate our thinking on what we might do in the next two years to help in the financing. We have $30 million in MAP included in the supplemental. This is inadequate for the package the King is talking about, which is around $186.6 million. We could of course, pare this down, phase it over two or three years, and subject it to annual review so that we are not providing equipment at a time when it should not be provided. We could offer the King something as a first slice while he is here, but he is talking about a 6–9 month time frame.

Mr. Kissinger: Where is the money coming from?

Mr. Seelye: We have the $30 million in the supplemental. I believe we should consider reinstituting our program of budgetary support to Jordan. Until 1967, we were supplying $30 million annually in budgetary support. We discontinued it because our general aid philosophy moved away from the idea of budgetary support and because the Arab countries agreed to provide Jordan with regular subsidies. We are still not completely satisfied that we have a true picture of Jordan’s economic and financial situation and its needs. In the next two weeks, we will sit down with Jordanian financial experts to see what the situation is and what they could do to tighten their belts. We will have a better idea of exactly what gap we have to plug after we see how much Jordan can do.

Mr. Sisco: The President can tell the King we will do the best we can for him but that we have a funding problem.

Mr. Kissinger: We should put the Jordan package through the same process as the Israeli package. We can tell the King the same thing we are telling Mrs. Meir—a general expression of sympathy, and we will see what we can do. Then we can put the requests through our machinery and come up with a recommended package.

Mr. Noyes: The President is committed publicly to make good Jordan’s losses.

Mr. Kissinger: That is no problem. I am talking about the larger two or three year package which should be put through the machinery.

Mr. Seelye: Jordan still needs $9.8 million for replacement of their losses. They will tell us they don’t have it.

Mr. Kissinger: Doesn’t that come out of the $30 million?

Mr. Sisco: No, this is beyond that.

General Knowles: They could give up something out of the $30 million package.

Mr. Kissinger: There would be no policy objection to taking it out of the $30 million.

Mr. Noyes: But the President would be going back on his word.

Mr. Kissinger: Then find the money.

[Page 661]

Mr. Sisco: It may have to come from some future increment. We could commit ourselves to X amount.

Mr. Kissinger: I agree. We will tell the King he will get something. We can give him the $9 million which he needs now. By the time the $30 million is being spent, we will have a slice of the larger amount. We won’t have to face the issue.

General Knowles: By that time we will be in a new fiscal year.

Mr. Seelye: The King wants the equipment in 6–9 months time.

Mr. Kissinger: Where the money comes from is our internal bookkeeping problem.

Mr. Noyes: The King was going to give us cash for some of this but then his country blew up. We have already spent some of the $30 million making up his losses.

Mr. Kissinger: There is no policy issue here. Either find the $9 million or juggle the books.


Mr. Sisco: We will have another thorough discussion with the King on Palestine next week. We don’t need anything more on this until after that discussion.

Mr. Karamessines: I would like to call your attention to a series of reports over the last two or three weeks, and particularly some in the last two or three days. Rifai is now acting as political adviser to Fatah. There are indications that the Palestinians are planning to announce formation of a Palestinian entity, independent of the State of Jordan, and request the stationing of Iraqi troops. They would take over the East Bank “by popular acclaim.” In other words, they would kick the King out and take over. Fatah will initially denounce formation of the entity, but once it is established, they will move in and take control. We have summarized these reports and I wanted to focus your attention on them. (Handed the attached summary paper around the table.)13 You will note the King’s suspicion of the UAR.

Mr. Kissinger: We will have a separate meeting on the Palestinian question.14

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–111, Senior Review Group, Meeting Minutes Originals 1970. Top Secret; Nodis. All brackets are in the original except those indicating text that remains classified. The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room.
  2. An analytical summary of the paper is Document 194.
  3. Nixon met with Heath on December 17 and 18 one week after the administration had decided to withdraw the U–2s from Cyprus, as reported in telegram 202028 to London, December 11. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1157, Saunders Files, Middle East Negotiations Files, June Initiative Volume V) Thus, the U–2 issue was not addressed in their conversations; see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XLI, Western Europe; NATO, 1969–1972, Documents 334 and 335. [Text not declassified]
  4. An analytical summary of the paper is Document 191.
  5. See footnote 2, Document 187.
  6. See Document 187. The Cabinet met on Sunday, December 6.
  7. An analytical summary of the paper is Document 194.
  8. In a November 22 Israeli Cabinet meeting, Dayan outlined a plan for a long-term cease-fire agreement with the United Arab Republic based on a thinning out of forces along the Suez Canal, but encountered strong opposition among the other Ministers. (New York Times, November 23, 1970, p. 7) Four days later, he discussed this idea, along with the equally controversial notion that the United Arab Republic could be encouraged to open the Suez Canal before a peace agreement was reached, in an interview on Israeli television. (Ibid., November 27, 1970, p. 9) One observer described the Defense Minister’s “thinking out loud” over the last few weeks of November as “shattering the political calm and seeming immobility of the Israeli government” and sending “respected political commentators, diplomats, and even Cabinet ministers scurrying around to figure out what he is up to.” (Ibid., November 29, 1970, p. 196)
  9. Dayan met with Nixon on December 11; see Document 190. He also met with Rogers and Laird that day, as reported in telegram 202635 to Tel Aviv, December 13. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1158, Saunders Files, Middle East Negotiations Files, June Initiative (Memos Only))
  10. The Senior Review Group next held a meeting to discuss this issue on January 11, 1971; see Document 195.
  11. The memorandum is attached to and summarized in Document 191.
  12. Hussein met with Nixon on December 8. See Document 189.
  13. “Summary of Significant Reporting on Jordan,” undated, covers the period October 14–December 2 and includes the subheadings: “I. Creation of a Palestine Entity,” “II. Jordan-UAR Relations,” “III. Relations with Other Arab States: Views on a Peaceful Middle East Solution and Khartoum Payments,” and “IV. Iraqi Troops in Jordan.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1260, Saunders Files, Subject Files)
  14. The Senior Review Group discussed the Palestinian question on December 17; see Document 192.