204. Minutes of a Senior Review Group Meeting1


  • Middle East


  • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
  • State
  • U. Alexis Johnson
  • Alfred L. Atherton
  • Thomas Thornton
  • Defense
  • David Packard
  • G. Warren Nutter
  • James S. Noyes
  • CIA
  • Richard Helms
  • William Parmenter
  • JCS
  • Adm. Thomas H. Moorer
  • Adm. William St. George
  • NSC Staff
  • Harold Saunders
  • Col. Richard Kennedy
  • Jeanne W. Davis


It was agreed:

—that Israel should be allowed to commence negotiations for the sale of 18 A–4s;

—that the State Department would prepare a paper on the combination of pressures and promises that would be required to get Israel to withdraw close to the 1967 borders.2

Amb. Johnson: We have a new message, as you know, and Joe Sisco is with the Secretary discussing it. Rabin is coming in at 5:45.3 This [Page 737] situation is moving so fast and in so many different directions that these papers4 are really overtaken.

Mr. Kissinger: They are good papers, but one problem is that this new overture5 may become the dominant factor. The first option of disengagement seems purely theoretical at this point. And the option of moving into the Four-Power context also seems highly unrealistic.

Amb. Johnson: I agree.

Mr. Kissinger: This leaves us with Option 2B6 which is basically what Jarring is doing now.

Mr. Atherton: It’s really 2B3.

Mr. Kissinger: (to Amb. Johnson) Alex, what do you recommend? I hate to be in a position where we are proceeding on purely tactical grounds without knowing what we want to accomplish.

Mr. Packard: We have a different situation here. There is no longer the solidarity among the Arabs that formerly existed. We might try to get Israel to deal with the UAR and keep the issue related to Syria completely separate. Also, the Jordanians have done a good job, and we might try to isolate that aspect of the problem. We could try to move with the UAR on the Canal first.

Amb. Johnson: You’re not suggesting we deal with Hussein ahead of the UAR?

Mr. Packard: No, we should move first toward some pull-back to reopen the Canal. Let the Palestinian issue sit for a while, then work on it independently. Also, the Golan Heights problem is almost a separate issue.

Amb. Johnson: I agree. This is just about what we are doing.

Mr. Kissinger: I had intended to steer this meeting in the direction of the paper which, as I read it, sees the options as total Israeli withdrawal with a total Arab commitment to full peace, or disengagement. Prior to the Sadat overture, I was going to ask if it wouldn’t be better to try for partial Israeli withdrawal and a partial Arab commitment. The Sadat speech gives us the opportunity to explore exactly that.

(Mr. Kissinger was called from the room)

[Page 738]

Amb. Johnson: (to Mr. Packard) We have no differences with you. The Sadat proposal gives us an opportunity. The Egyptians really seem serious about this.

Mr. Atherton: It certainly needs exploring, but we will have to look at the fine print.

(Mr. Kissinger returned)

Mr. Kissinger: What you want from Rabin today is to keep Israel from slamming the door?

Amb. Johnson: Yes.

Mr. Kissinger: I think any formulation under Option 2 is doomed to failure. I’m sympathetic to what we’re doing now which, of course, wasn’t available when the paper was written. If we are agreed that this is the right strategy, let’s see what develops. We might also reflect on what other partial schemes we might see, now that the door is open.

We also have the paper on the aircraft issue.7

Amb. Johnson: May I ask a question about this? (to Mr. Packard) Your paper indicates a need for various amounts of money. Is there a problem of funding?

Mr. Packard: I don’t think so. We can let Israel go ahead and negotiate the sale of 18 A–4s which would keep the production line going. Israel will buy these planes.

Mr. Atherton: You propose to let them negotiate for the sale of 18 of the 100 planes they have requested—in other words, a partial go-ahead.

Mr. Packard: We can figure out the funding. You may assume we can handle it.

Mr. Kissinger: (to Mr. Packard) You are recommending we agree on 18?

Mr. Packard: Yes, I think we should give Israel the go-ahead to start negotiations now. Essentially, this is a commitment to let them buy A–4s.

Mr. Atherton: It still leaves open the question of the other 82 A–4s.

Mr. Packard: Yes. We will need another decision in 6 to 9 months to keep the line going.

Mr. Kissinger: We want to make our decision by July anyhow. We certainly won’t turn down the whole package.

Mr. Atherton: Why did you decide on 18?

[Page 739]

Mr. Packard: It was an arbitrary number.

Mr. Noyes: That is one squadron.

Mr. Packard: On the F–4s, we have various alternatives in case of a crisis. We could divert them from our own inventory, so it would be basically a problem of internal counting in the Air Force. There is money in the ’72 budget for F–4s.

Mr. Kissinger: Are we all agreed to let them go ahead on the 18 A–4s?

All agreed.

Mr. Packard: The F–4s are more of an internal Air Force problem. We will initiate long lead-time procurement and be prepared for the number of F–4s they will need.

Mr. Kissinger: Isn’t Jarring really going ahead with Option 2B3?

Mr. Atherton: He is agonizing over it.

Mr. Kissinger: Should we try to get him to hold off?

Mr. Atherton: The two things aren’t mutually exclusive. The danger in the partial approach is that Israel may see it as taking pressure off them, while Sadat may have conceived it as a way of putting pressure on Israel. If Jarring goes ahead with his proposal, the partial approach might look good to the Israelis.

Mr. Kissinger: If Option 2B3 is somewhere down the road anyway, what inducements or pressures would be needed to get both sides, particularly the Israelis, to that point. The negotiating process won’t do it.

Mr. Packard: We’d just have to tell them.

Mr. Kissinger: When, and tell them what? That we would continue to supply them? That we would give them certain guarantees? Let’s have State do a scenario. When we reach the point of making recommendations to Israel, what exactly would the Secretary say to Eban.

Mr. Atherton: In other words, write the talking points now.

Mr. Kissinger: Let’s lay out the combination of promises and pressures that would be needed to get Israel back close to the 1967 borders.

Mr. Packard: You don’t say how close.

Mr. Kissinger: We can assume that any settlement which is acceptable to the Arabs would push Israel back further than they want to go. A partial withdrawal could happen without or with very little American pressure. I’m thinking of the next phase—a permanent settlement. What combination of pressures and promises would that require?

Mr. Packard: That depends on what we mean by a final solution. There are some other things that might be viable. If there is a partial settlement and the UAR is happy, they might not be so worried about Jordan. There might be a little flexibility and things wouldn’t have to move so far so soon.

[Page 740]

Mr. Atherton: At least not so soon. It would certainly create a delay which would provide time for a reappraisal.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–112, Senior Review Group, SRG Minutes (Originals) 1971. Top Secret. The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room.
  2. For an analytical summary, see Document 207.
  3. During Rabin’s February 8 meeting at the State Department, Sisco informed the Israeli Ambassador that the United States had received a message from Sadat delivered by an “impeccable source” in the UAR Government. The source reported that Sadat was concerned at the “absence of USG reaction” to his proposal on partial withdrawal and the reopening of the Suez Canal. (See Document 203) The source added that Sadat believed his proposal “could take the danger out of this present situation” and wanted to assure officials in Washington that “the proposal was not a Cold War exercise. There was no Soviet pressure on him to make this proposal.” Sadat asked the United States to “exercise influence” on Israel to consider his proposal, insisting that this was “a matter of substance.” Sisco asked Rabin that Israel provide a “constructive, positive reaction” to Sadat’s proposal. (Telegram from Rabin to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, February 8; Israel State Archive, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 6810/8)
  4. The three papers were the Department of State’s “Diplomatic Options” (see Document 202), Saunders’s “Partial Withdrawal Options,” and the Department of Defense’s “U.S. Options in Preserving/Restoring Ceasefire,” which are in the 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.
  5. Reference is to Sadat’s speech before the UAR National Assembly on February 4; see Document 203.
  6. Reference is to Option 2B in the Department of State paper summarized in Document 202.
  7. The attached paper presented options for meeting Israel’s outstanding request for 100 A–4M Skyhawk jets and 42 F–4E Phantom jets in such a way that minimized their procurement by Israel, thereby giving the President flexibility in timing his decisions without delaying their delivery.