202. Paper Prepared by the National Security Council Staff1


The Sisco-Atherton paper at the next tab—marked “Diplomatic Options”2—is quite good, and you will want to read it through yourself. Therefore, instead of reviewing the background with which you are familiar, the following summary concentrates on those elements of the paper which characterize the possible deadlock and spell out the principal options with arguments for and against each.

The deadlock will have these two principal elements:

1. The UAR and Jordan, while having accepted the general principle of ending belligerency and recognizing Israel’s right to sovereign national existence, remain unwilling to discuss in detail the obligations [Page 730] which they would accept in a peace settlement until Israel first renounces any claims to territory beyond its 1949–1967 borders.

2. Israel remains unwilling to discuss specific final borders until the UAR and Jordan define those obligations.

While progress must be made in both of these fronts if negotiations are to continue, the territorial question seems the more intractable. [ Saunders comment. It would seem possible for Jarring (or the U.S.) to consolidate positions in the current exchange of documents and past U.S. and Soviet documents in order to reach agreement on the obligations of peace. If the U.S. were to decide to press Israel to take a more specific position on borders, tactically the first step might well be to take to Cairo a consolidated statement on what obligations the UAR would assume in making “peace with Israel”—the commitment Eban says would open the door to discussion of refugees and borders—and press for a UAR agreement in return for a U.S. promise to take the next step with Israel.]

The Sisco paper recalls that the memos leading up to the U.S. peace initiative last June pointed out that implicit in such an initiative was the willingness to bring Israel along in the context of negotiations on an interpretation of the territorial aspects of a settlement which approximated that of the USSR and the Arabs (Jerusalem being the principal exception). The paper suggests that we may now be approaching the point where it will be necessary to face up to that implication of the strategy adopted in June. It concludes its introductory presentation with the statement: “If the negotiations deadlock, the basic issue will be the gap between the Arab and the Israeli positions on the territorial aspects of a settlement.” The options presented proceed from the assumption that the deadlock can only be broken by eliminating the issue of territory and final borders (Jerusalem and “insubstantial changes” excepted)—but not the issue of the terms and conditions for withdrawal—from the agenda of issues to be negotiated.

[ Saunders comment. This assumes, as I have commented above, that it should be possible to get the UAR to make the required commitments on its obligations. That is obviously easier because, as we all know, they are paper commitments while the Israeli concessions on borders would be concrete. State’s point, I think, is not that the issue of borders is unrelated to the security arrangements to be negotiated but that the negotiation, if it is to bring the Arabs into it seriously, would have to move to the following plane: If Israel is prepared to withdraw to essentially pre-war borders, what security arrangements would be possible? In other words, if the Arabs could feel they were negotiating the terms and timing of withdrawal and not whether there would be withdrawal, a realistic negotiation might be possible.

The point I will make in a comment below after summarizing Sisco’s options is that it may not be able to persuade the Israelis all in [Page 731] one step to move the negotiations decisively to that plane. To move Israel that far we would have to seek its commitment now (as in Option 2 below) to withdraw essentially to pre-war borders. If it is not possible for Israel to move that far all in one step, then we must look for a shorter step, such as a partial withdrawal in return for an interim Arab commitment to something less than total peace. There are strong arguments against this—continued uncertainty and a built-in deadline that would increase tension later. But it may be better than a total breakdown in negotiations and the consequent increased likelihood of resumed hostilities.]

The paper outlines two basic policy options: (1) disengaging from an active role in pressing negotiations; (2) making a serious effort to break the deadlock by trying to move Israel on the territorial issue.


We could decide to live with a deadlock and in effect disengage from the active role we have pursued in the past two years in an effort to promote progress toward a settlement.

The disadvantages in this course would be:

—The Jarring talks would quickly atrophy and soon be suspended.

—The cease-fire might well hold a bit longer, but the risk would progressively increase that the UAR would be compelled to resume the war of attrition with all of the familiar dangers of escalation. The Soviets would be under pressure to raise the level of their involvement.

—A stalemate in the peace talks and resumption of hostilities could embolden the fedayeen to seek to recoup their losses, with an increased threat to the regimes in Jordan and Lebanon.

—Tensions in U.S.-Arab relations would rise, especially if American-supplied Israeli weaponry were being used again against Arab territory. This would carry the risk of violence against American installations.

There are three principal arguments for this option:

—It would confront both Arabs and Israelis with the difficult choice between renewed hostilities and modification of their positions on a settlement. It might lead them to reassess their alternatives more realistically. [Given the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, however, both sides without wanting war could well be unable to make the concessions necessary to avoid it.]

—It would avoid the kind of serious U.S.-Israeli confrontation which would result if we sought to move Israel toward the Arab (or even the U.S.) position on territory. [Comment: In Presidential decision-making terms, this is probably the more important consideration, although Sisco insisted on putting the above first.]

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—It would avoid putting the U.S. in the position of pressing Israel to accept a settlement in which it had no confidence. It would avoid a situation in which, if the settlement broke down after U.S. insistence that Israel accept it, the U.S. would have incurred serious moral responsibility to uphold the settlement unilaterally.


We could make a serious effort to break the deadlock by steps designed to move Israel on the territorial issue. This would involve pressing for Israeli agreement that, with limited and specified exceptions, it will withdraw to the pre-war line in return for contractual Arab commitments to peace and agreed guarantees and peace-keeping arrangements, including security arrangements at Sharm al-Sheikh. The exceptions to total withdrawal would relate primarily to the unfinished business of the partitions of Palestine—the status of Jerusalem, the status of Gaza, and rectifications in the West Bank armistice line as well as in the Golan Heights area of Syria if the latter accepted Resolution 242. The paper identifies two sub-options.


We could move in the Four Power talks to begin to work out a detailed blueprint based on our 1969 documents.3 We would fill in the gaps in those documents to the extent necessary to obtain agreement with respect to guarantees of free navigation and borders, the DMZs and peace-keeping forces, Gaza, the West Bank armistice line and Jerusalem. [Attached to the State Department paper is a draft which illustrates the general lines of the kind of position we might realistically aim for in this process. This is an amalgam of the UAR-Israel and the Jordan-Israel U.S. documents of October and December 1969 with a few more details than before, but their main outlines are not changed. Mr. Sisco emphasizes this document is strictly a working paper and not even intended by him as a final product.]

The main argument made for this approach would be that it would be most acceptable to the Arabs and most likely to elicit the kind of Arab commitments on peace, navigation and refugees that Israel has long sought.

The main argument against this approach would be that it would be the most difficult of all on which to deliver Israel, and yet failure to do so would leave us no better and probably worse off in the area than we are now. A second major disadvantage would be that we would be making a judgment, in opposition to Israel’s, that the final settlement thus achieved would in fact be viable. If we pressed Israel to accept [Page 733] such a settlement against its will, we would assume a heavy responsibility to assure Israel’s security if it broke down. [It must be remembered, however, that we would be involved politically with Israel if any settlement broke down.] A side effect could be the end of any hope of persuading Israel to renounce nuclear weaponry.


We could undertake steps on our own with Israel, the Arabs, and Jarring to generate a genuine give-and-take negotiation in the Jarring talks. The State paper outlines three ways of going about this:

1. Press the UAR and Jordan to make the first move by responding positively to the document on “Essentials of Peace” put forward by Israel on January 8.4 [Sisco is even now—with the Israelis about to surface another Jordan document—considering pressing Hussein to produce a document which includes the commitments Eban wants. He would urge Hussein to take the tack we would like to see the UAR take. This could produce Israeli engagement on the subjects of refugees and Jerusalem.]

2. Press Israel to modify its position on the territorial aspect of this settlement as a carrot to the Arabs to be more forthcoming on peace and withdrawal. [This would seem the least attractive course by itself until we get what Eban wants from the Arabs. One tactical variant here is really to make up our minds to press Israel but go first to the Arabs and use our decision to elicit what we need before going to the Israelis.]

3. We could put to Israel and the UAR in the first instance, and discuss with Jarring at the same time, a proposition analogous to our June initiative. By this approach both sides would be asked simultaneously to accept a formula in identical language including these three components: (a) both sides would reaffirm their acceptance of Resolution 242; (b) the UAR would accept Israel’s “essentials of peace” as a basis for negotiating the detailed conditions for withdrawal; (c) Israel would agree to accept the former international frontier as the final border subject to negotiation of a package settlement.

The first of the preceding courses would be difficult to sell to the Arabs and the second would be hard to sell to Israel. The third has the difficulties inherent in both of the first two, particularly on the Israeli side since it would cause the Israelis to face up to the main territorial issue. It would have the advantages of simultaneity. It would also leave the Israelis free to negotiate the timing and the conditions for their complete withdrawal.

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Saunders Comment on Options 2A and 2B

Option 2A—going to the Four to negotiate a blueprint—should be dropped. It is totally unpalatable to the Israelis. If we want to go that route, it would have more potential effect to go back to the US–USSR channel. This option is not mentioned.

Option 2B raises the question of whether we should try to get an Israeli commitment to near-total withdrawal now out of the present negotiations. The three sub-variants are choices among tactics, and realistically Sisco would probably end up combining all three approaches if he detailed a scenario.

The key question is whether we can now imagine any presentation to Israel in which we would be in a reasonable position to press Israel to accept near-total withdrawal. [If we were to make the decision to go ahead on this course, I would recommend going to Sadat first and getting as much as possible from him.]

In terms of our decision-making, therefore, the next step, in my mind, is to spell out in detail—in precise detail even with Congressional consultation behind it—exactly what we would offer Israel in this presentation, as well as what we would seek from Sadat.

As you see, I am suggesting that the time has come—if we are to choose OPTION 2 rather than OPTION 1—for the U.S. to become the broker for a final agreement. This would be done secretly in the first instance and details could be negotiated under the Jarring umbrella. The end-product could be the third tactical choice under OPTION 2B above, but it would not be just another tactical move. [Your talking points lead up to a proposal for putting together this package to look at.]

A second question is whether we can expect the Israelis to take the full step to commitment to near-total withdrawal all at one time. There has been enough talk about partial withdrawal schemes from both Israelis (Dayan) and Egyptians (Amin) to make this worth talking about. I do not necessarily advocate this as a first step, but I do think it could offer a serious fallback. This is spelled out in greater detail at the next tab which is marked “Third Option.”5

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–051, Senior Review Group Meetings, SRG Meeting—Middle East 2–8–71. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Saunders. All brackets are in the original.
  2. Attached but not printed is the February 1 paper entitled “Policy Options in Event of Deadlock in the Jarring Talks.”
  3. See Documents 58 and 78.
  4. See footnote 5, Document 195.
  5. Attached but not printed is the February 3 memorandum to Kissinger outlining Saunders’s third option, an “immediate fallback” position if the second option of “pressing Israel to accept near-total withdrawal” was not successful. This plan encompassed “partial withdrawal in return for something less than full peace.”