207. Paper Prepared by the National Security Council Staff1


Options Vis-à-vis Israel

The Sisco Paper

At the next tab is the Sisco paper entitled, “Scenarios for Seeking to Obtain Modification of Israel’s Position on Withdrawal and Borders.”2 This is a summary of that paper and its arguments plus Saunders’ discussion at the end of the issues it omits.

You should read the Sisco paper in the following sequence:

1. the first page and a half which sets the stage;

2. go to the last three lines on page 10 and read to the end because this describes the probable political process in Israel;

3. then return to the middle of page 2 and begin reading the scenarios.

The reason for this reading is that the three scenarios describe the elements in three different postures toward Israel. They do not describe a sequence of approaches to Israel. Hence it is more realistic to think about them first as elements of a posture to be displayed in the course of an ongoing political process in Israel. Then a second decision would relate to the tactics of how this posture is revealed to Israel.

If our general posture toward Israel can be set, then we will have a framework within which we can be flexible. We will get away from the simplistic notion that we should cut off military supply if Israel does not swallow the Jarring formula3 all in one bite.

The Situation

The situation described in the paper has three familiar elements:

1. Israel is now faced with a Jarring memo which seeks Israeli commitment to withdraw to the pre-war international boundary between the UAR and Israel, subject to agreement between the two sides on security arrangements. [Text of Jarring memo is attached at end of Sisco memo.]

[Page 745]

2. No quick Israeli decision can be expected. Even if Israel made a positive decision on this issue and negotiations continued, we would still be faced with the problem of bringing Israel along on a whole series of follow-on issues—Jerusalem, Gaza, West Bank boundary, refugee repatriation, DMZs, peacekeeping arrangements (including at Sharm al-Shaikh), to say nothing of the Golan Heights. We cannot “shoot our wad” with Israel at the outset, yet there must be enough Israeli movement to keep the peace talks going.

3. The proposals for partial withdrawal from the Suez cease-fire line offer the prospect of buying needed time. In fact, Israel itself may well attempt to shift the focus from the Jarring talks to this issue. An interim agreement, of course, would not remove basic pressures for further Israeli withdrawal.

Three Possible Approaches to Israel

The Sisco paper is written to address a situation in which for the purpose of presentation it is assumed that Israel seems about to reply negatively to the Jarring proposal and conventional diplomatic representations show no signs of persuading the Israelis to change their minds. The paper groups possible US postures (“scenarios”) under three headings: inducive, inducive/coercive, and coercive. They are elaborated as follows:

1. Inducive.

Reliance under this approach would fall primarily on diplomatic argument, responsiveness to Israel’s present material and financial requirements and readiness to commit the US to long-term support of Israel’s security.

The US would tell Israel that if Israel agreed to the Jarring memo the US would take the position that:

—The parties should now be given a free hand and reasonable opportunity to come to grips themselves with security arrangements and DMZs.

—No option should be excluded from negotiation, including proposals for demilitarizing the entire Sinai, including Israeli representatives in any verification system, continued Israeli presence at Sharm al-Shaikh in a manner not transferring sovereignty.

—The US would be prepared to include a US contingent in any force at Sharm al-Shaikh and to insist that termination of that force should be barred for a specified period (5–10 years).

—Supported Israeli passage through the Canal.

—Allowed return of refugees only in numbers satisfactory to Israel.

[Page 746]

—Barred return of Gaza to UAR control and introduction of any Arab military forces.

The US would continue military support on concessional financial terms and offer to discuss with Israel possible executive and Congressional declarations in support of Israel’s security, formalization of bilateral defense consultations, contribution to refugee resettlement and to conversion of the Israeli economy to peacetime lines.

The main argument for the inducive approach is conviction that an Israel confident in itself and in US support is more likely to be flexible than an Israel made uncertain by US efforts to exert pressure. A case can be made that Israel’s acceptance of the US initiative last summer was a partial demonstration of the effectiveness of this approach, although the pressure generated by the Soviet military presence played an important role. This approach is also attractive because it would avoid a difficult confrontation with Israel.

The main argument against this approach is that it is questionable whether mere inducement is sufficient to persuade Israel to give up what it regards as central to its negotiating position—freedom to trade one part of the Sinai for other parts it regards essential to its security. The possible inefficacy of inducements is compounded by the fact that we have already provided substantial inducements for marginal Israeli moves that their effect tends to be blunted. They may well feel, too, that they can get these things from us whatever they do.

Comment: No single inducement—aircraft, financial assistance, a diplomatic position—is likely to “buy” an Israeli change of position on an issue Israel regards as literally vital to its survival. However, the sum of these—the whole US-Israeli relationship—is very important to Israel, and the US as a deterrent to Soviet attack on Israel is vital. While this is connoted in the Sisco paper’s allusion to further US executive and Congressional declarations in support, it seems to me the key question to be addressed with some degree of decisiveness is what the US is now prepared to promise Israel in regard to standing off Soviet collaboration in a future Arab attack if a peace agreement is reached and then breaks down.

There is an argument which states that if we are going to rely on inducements to produce a major Israeli step, we have to make major decisions now on our future security relationship with Israel. We may not want ever to have a closer relationship, but if we are prepared to, now may be the time for that decision—at least perhaps to explore a tentative decision with key Congressional leaders. Otherwise we may be asking too much from Israel for too little.

2. Inducive/Coercive.

Under this approach we would offer the positive undertakings described above. But we would make clear to Israel that Israeli unwill [Page 747] ingness to compromise would lead to US re-examination of certain aspects of our relationship. The US would keep the Congress informed of its view that the Israeli position is now the major stumbling block to a settlement.

Specifically, the USG would brief Congress and the press; solicit support from the US Jewish community; slow down arms shipments and be unreceptive to new requests without actually rejecting them; retain a public posture of basic support for Israel’s security.

The main arguments for this approach are that it would underscore the seriousness of the USG position in taking some domestic political risk and raise questions in the Israeli mind as to whether US support can be taken for granted regardless of Israel’s position. At the same time, it avoids the risks of full confrontation.

The main arguments against this approach are: It might strengthen the hands of the Israeli hawks by arousing latent fears that ultimately Israel must stand alone. The Arabs might be encouraged to greater belligerence if they thought the US was deserting Israel. The Soviets might be encouraged to be more venturesome. Yet Israel might not be intimidated at all.

Comment: It may be premature to think of open confrontation with Israel or slowing down arms shipments as the State Department paper proposes. The point might best be made by offering such key inducements as a commitment vis-à-vis the USSR and then making clear that such support will not be possible if Israel insists on holding territory because the likelihood of breakdown in the agreement would be too great.

3. Coercive.

Under this approach all the elements of the inducive/coercive option would be exhausted and then arms shipments would be halted or drastically curtailed; discussion of arms and credits would be halted; steps would be taken to halt the transfer of funds to Israel; the President would explain these steps to the public.

Comment: It seems (a) too early in the game to think in these terms and (b) unrealistic in any case to assume that the US can virtually break the US-Israeli relationship.

The Issues

The Sisco paper ends at this point. However, it seems worth continuing here to suggest that it is important now to be as precise as we can be in our own minds about the answers to these two questions:

—What is the most we are prepared to offer Israel concurrent with a peace agreement as a bilateral assurance of US support for Israeli security? The promise of continued military supply and financial assist [Page 748] ance seems almost a foregone conclusion. But can we promise that US forces will react directly if the Arabs with the support of Soviet combat forces attack Israel? If so, should we be prepared to formalize this in some sort of arrangement with Senate concurrence?

—What is the farthest we are prepared to go in reducing US support for Israel as a means of pressing Israel to accept an agreement that we think would be viable?

When we think in these terms, it becomes apparent that the Sisco paper before us today is not subtle enough or precise enough in addressing the key questions:

—a specific proposal to be made to Israel on the nature of the US-Israeli security relationship that would exist if there is a peace agreement with the pre-war Israel-UAR border;

—a specific proposal for (or against) participation of US forces in a peacekeeping force;

—specific talking points to be used with Mrs. Meir in offering the above and in making clear that the US offer vis-à-vis the USSR would not be available if Israel retains territory.

[NOTE: All of the above is written in the context of the Jarring negotiations. It is fully recognized—as has been presented in other memos—that the partial withdrawal proposal remains a means of avoiding total settlement of the boundary issue all in one step now.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–052, Senior Review Group Meetings, SRG Meeting—Middle East/Chile 2/25/71 (1 of 2). Secret; Nodis. All brackets are in the original.
  2. Undated; attached but not printed.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 205.