208. Minutes of a Senior Review Group Meeting1


  • Middle East, Chile


  • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
  • State
  • Under Secretary John N. Irwin
  • Mr. Joseph J. Sisco
  • Mr. Alfred L. Atherton
  • Mr. Thomas Thornton
  • Defense
  • Mr. David Packard
  • Mr. Armistead I. Selden
  • Mr. James S. Noyes
  • CIA
  • Mr. Richard Helms
  • Mr. David H. Blee
  • JCS
  • Adm. Thomas H. Moorer
  • Adm. Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr.*
  • R/Adm. Wm. R. St. George
  • NSC Staff
  • Col. Richard T. Kennedy
  • Mr. Harold H. Saunders
  • Mr. Arnold Nachmanoff*
  • Mr. D. Keith Guthrie
  • *Present for Chile discussion only.


1. Strategy toward Israel. The IG/NEA will prepare a scenario for a US strategy toward Israel in the event that the Israeli reply to the Jarring proposal is not sufficiently forthcoming on boundaries.2 The scenario should set forth measures which the United States might use to move Israel toward productive negotiations and should analyze the consequences of each measure. The scenario should be focused on the forthcoming three weeks and should outline anticipated developments during that period.

[Omitted here is discussion of Chile.]

Middle East

Dr. Kissinger: (to Sisco) Can you sum up where you think we stand right now in the Middle East? I want to be sure that the next time I see Ambassador Rabin at a dinner party I will know what is going on.

[Page 750]

Mr. Sisco: We have been pursuing three tracks. The first relates to the negotiations under Jarring’s auspices. You have all seen the latest UAR reply to Jarring’s questions.3 Jarring formulated on a contingency basis the kind of peace commitments heretofore sought by Israel and put to the Israelis the specific question whether Israel is willing to withdraw from UAR territory to the previous international boundary provided satisfactory arrangements can be made on Sharm-al-Shaykh and demilitarized zones in the Sinai. He made no mention of Gaza or of the principle of total Israeli withdrawal to the pre-June 1967 lines.

The Egyptian response is the first serious indication that they will say explicitly that they are willing to enter into a peace agreement with Israel if there are satisfactory security arrangements. The Egyptians have called on Israel to get out of both Sinai and Gaza.

The Israelis are considering the situation. They are having a cabinet meeting Sunday.4

Ambassador Rabin said he expected that Israel would acknowledge privately and publicly that the Egyptian position represents a step forward and would recognize the principle of withdrawal to secure, recognized boundaries. He thought the Israelis would express a willingness to negotiate but would categorically bar total withdrawal to the armistice lines.5

In our judgment this evades Jarring’s key point, which was to invite a clear Israeli position on borders. All Israel will be doing is to come back with a negative statement.

[Page 751]

Dr. Kissinger: Let me make sure I understand what you take to be the Israeli position. They are barring total withdrawal to the 1967 boundaries but not withdrawal to one of the 1967 borders. Their position is not inconsistent with withdrawal to the previous boundary with Egypt. The Egyptian line per se is not unacceptable.

Mr. Sisco: That’s what we don’t know. Rabin was not very explicit about this. I asked him if he was barring the 1967 boundaries in every instance and he replied: “Yes, insofar as it relates to the peoples we are fighting.” I then asked him: “If you don’t want the 1967 line, then what is the line you want? This is what Jarring wants to know.” Rabin replied only that “we are willing to negotiate.”

We have to recognize that the Israelis have serious internal political problems. They can only agree on what they are against. They can’t even define the concept of total withdrawal against which they are expressing themselves. They are not able to put forward anything concrete or formal. The Secretary made all the points I have mentioned, and we know that Rabin sent back a further strong message to Jerusalem.

Dr. Kissinger: Was he asking for a change in their position?

Mr. Sisco: He was asking them to be more precise. In his press briefing before leaving for Israel, he said in effect that the only position for Israel is the Rogers position. However, we have to remember that he is not Golda Meir or Moshe Dayan. Dayan’s statement the other day is a very bad way to present the Israeli position.6

The Israelis are on the defensive at the moment. Golda Meir told Wally Barbour the other day that “if the Egyptians say they are in favor of a peace agreement, Israel will have to face up to the territorial problem.”7 The Israelis recognize that this is where there are serious differences between Israel and the United States.

Dr. Kissinger: Maybe she did [face up to the problem].

Mr. Sisco: We have never pressed the Israelis on this. Now we can’t evade the border question. The other side has met the principal Israeli concerns in the most explicit terms. Now we are in great danger of losing what it has taken us one year to put together: a cease-fire, continuation of the negotiations, and exercise of control over the four-power talks. We are in for serious difficulties unless we can bring the Israelis around. The moment of truth has arrived. We are trying to get our [Page 752] points across to the Israelis. We are not trying to draw the President in; we want to save him for the crucial time.

Dr. Kissinger: There will be a briefing on the Middle East on the NSC agenda tomorrow,8 but no decisions. At that meeting you can tell the NSC members what might be coming up soon.

Mr. Sisco: If there are positive elements in the Israeli reply, we can emphasize these in an effort to get things moving. But if the reply, as seems likely, is negative, there is likely to be a Security Council meeting and there will be no alternative but for the US to join with other Security Council members in saying that the Israeli response is inadequate and that something further is required from the Israelis. We will also be under increased pressure in the four-power talks. We have taken the position that the four powers should make no conclusive judgments until it is known exactly what we are talking about.9 The other three are willing to hold the line as long as there are serious indications that negotiations will take place.

Dr. Kissinger: What do we want from the Israelis?

Mr. Sisco: We want a reply to Jarring that says “Yes, we are willing to withdraw to the boundary you specified provided we are satisfied on Sharm-al-Shaykh and demilitarized zones. We are sending our foreign minister to negotiate.”

Mr. Irwin: It would be all right even if they don’t go that far but just say that they will withdraw and mention Sharm-al-Shaykh and the demilitarized zones. The point is that they give some specifics.

Dr. Kissinger: I remember that some Israeli (I think it was Rabin) told me once that they wanted a line straight north from Sharm-al-Shaykh. Were they to say that, we would still be in the Security Council wouldn’t we?

Mr. Sisco: We would at least for the first time be moving on negotiations on the concrete question of where the border is to be located. [Mr. Sisco indicated on a map the two possible alignments mentioned by Israel for tracing the boundary north from Sharm-al-Shaykh.]

Dr. Kissinger: Let’s take the case where the Israelis say: “This is our notion of a line.” The question then goes to the Security Council, and we vote that the Israeli proposal is not satisfactory.

Mr. Sisco: We have got to see the actual Israeli reply before discussing this.

[Page 753]

Dr. Kissinger: But suppose the Israelis make a conciliatory reply except on the question of borders.

Mr. Sisco: That would not be satisfactory.

Dr. Kissinger: This is getting us to the position where the only acceptable Israeli reply is to accept the 1967 borders. The Security Council would be judging the situation, and we would be edging toward an imposed solution. Anything else [i.e., besides the 1967 borders] will elicit a Security Council condemnation. If things develop that way, we will have a hell of a time getting any support.

If we feel we may have to support the Israelis, we have to consider what is going to happen in the Security Council. If we vote against Israel in the Security Council and a war starts and we have to support the Israelis . . .

Mr. Sisco: First of all, the Security Council is not about to get into precise judgments of that sort. If Israel does not express itself concretely on the subject of boundaries, our strategy in the Security Council should be to limit any action to the general thrust of exhortation. Our position would still be that it is still for the parties to sort out the dispute and that we should not have the Security Council making a substantive judgment of the situation. This would be a bad precedent for resolving other elements of the dispute.

Dr. Kissinger: Isn’t that what is going to happen?

Mr. Packard: You may have it developing that way. The trouble is that we are awfully close to attaining the goal we have been seeking if we can just go the distance that remains. We will get more credit if we keep the matter in our ball park rather than the Security Council. Besides, we will also have more influence with the Israelis that way, and our relations with the Arabs will be better.

Mr. Sisco: I recognize Henry’s [Kissinger’s] point. Anything substantive the Security Council says will be unacceptable to the Israelis. Our position is that the best thing for the Security Council to do is to encourage the negotiating process rather than itself to make substantive judgments.

Mr. Irwin: There are several possibilities. The Israelis may come back with the answer Joe [Sisco] says we want to have; that is, they may match the forthcoming attitude of the Egyptians. From everything we hear, we don’t expect that to happen. The Israelis may also come back with a specific boundary proposal. This would be an advance, and we could treat it as a negotiating position. We would then be better able to withstand pressure in the Security Council.

Dr. Kissinger: The Israelis have said they favor withdrawal to secure boundaries. That sort of a reply won’t advance the negotiations [Page 754] much. If the negotiations blow up, the Egyptians will be under great pressure to re-start the war.

Mr. Sisco: Our own judgment is that in this kind of a situation the Soviets are a restraining influence. The Egyptians are not likely to start shooting in a serious sort of way.

If they move into the Security Council, they will not make an all-out effort to direct the Security Council. This is a political process the Egyptians will feel they need to pursue. One thing a Security Council resolution might contain would be a call for an extension of the ceasefire. It could note the Israeli position, as for continued negotiations, and call for an extension of the ceasefire.

I mentioned earlier we were pursuing three tracks. The second is to pursue the Suez Canal proposal further, and the third has to do with four-power discussion of guarantees. The Suez Canal proposal could provide a short-run show of progress. Sadat made this proposal over the objections of his advisers. We have offered to provide assistance to both sides, and both have indicated that they wanted us to serve as middleman. Sadat talked about opening the Canal, and Golda Meir referred to military deescalation in the canal area. We have a good idea what the Israelis might bite on, but we have held back because of not wishing to encourage the forces in Israel that prefer to go the partial route in order to relieve pressure to face up to the boundaries problem.

There is going to have to be some public US dissociation from Israel if the Israeli reply is negative.

Dr. Kissinger: But there will be no short fuse on this.

Mr. Sisco: Yes, there will.

Dr. Kissinger: Joe [Sisco] has stated the issues well. The question is how we are going to move the Israelis. The President is going to have to take the heat on this. I think we are going to be heading toward a greater or lesser confrontation with Israel. My instinct says the Israelis are not going to accept the 1967 boundaries easily.

Mr. Sisco: I agree regarding the Egyptian front.

Dr. Kissinger: The question is how we are going to get them there. We need to know what the consequences of alternative forms of dissociation are. What if the war does start again, the Israelis clobber the Egyptians, and the Russians come in—not massively, but with active military forces?

Mr. Packard: We are faced with the problem of getting the cattle through the gate. If we don’t do it now, it will take three weeks. They are almost there.

Dr. Kissinger: The question is how to do it and what the consequences will be.

Mr. Packard: I think we ought to push pretty hard.

[Page 755]

Dr. Kissinger: That is one proposal we have had. We need to consider what measures will move the Israelis. We had a paper here that set forth inducive and coercive tracks.10

Mr. Sisco: Yes, the questions posed are addressed in this paper. However, it is premature to decide these things now. The paper you asked for made the following assumptions. It says: “The scenarios in this paper rest on the following assumptions: (1) we have word from Jarring that the UAR has accepted the terms of his Aide Mémoire without reservation as a basis for continuing negotiations on the UAR-Israeli aspect of a settlement, and (2) Israel has either declined to reply or indicated it intends to reply negatively or with major reservations to the Jarring proposal.” The three tracks are inducive, inducive-coercive, and coercive.

Dr. Kissinger: I have the impression you favor Option 2—inducive-coercive.

Mr. Sisco: I have not opted for any of them. We have got to proceed carefully on a step-by-step basis in putting pressure on Israel. We want to keep the pressure as much as possible in the private domain. We could make a major quiet effort after the Security Council. There may have to be some public dissociation from Israel. We have to say frankly if the Israeli position is not acceptable in terms of our approach.

Mr. Packard: When do you expect an answer?

Mr. Sisco: We had thought we would have something tomorrow. But I think it will be delayed.

Dr. Kissinger: It will be a week at the latest.

Mr. Sisco: Yes.

Mr. Packard: Have we ever said to them that if they accept one of the lines, we won’t push on the others. That is an approach that might help.

Mr. Sisco: We have spelled this out in the Rogers proposal by saying that we agree there should be a united Jerusalem and that there should be “insubstantial” adjustments in the border along the Jordan River.

Mr. Packard: What about the Golan Heights?

Mr. Sisco: We have said nothing because Syria is not involved in these negotiations. Syria does not accept the Security Council resolution.

Mr. Kissinger: We are all agreed that we will have to apply pressure of one sort or another. We need a scenario showing how this is going to evolve so we are not asked to make one decision after an [Page 756] other—a note now, a letter later, etc. The scenario should set forth the full combination of pressures that might be used. For example, it might include Dave Packard’s proposal that we indicate that acceptance of the pre-1967 Egyptian frontier would not be a precedent for all other frontiers. We would ask the President to consider a scenario that would spell out how we see things evolving over two or three weeks. It would explain how we get the cattle through the gate.

Mr. Helms: We have information that the Israelis are already getting ready to respond to what they think will be our position. They are collecting statements and quotes to use. This is all the more reason why we should decide what we want to do.

Mr. Kissinger: (to Irwin and Sisco) Would you have the IG put together a proposal such as you have described covering the next three weeks? That way the President will have an idea of the sort of decisions that might come up. We will not have to develop our strategy one cable at a time.

Mr. Packard: But Joe (Sisco) is going to need some flexibility.

Mr. Irwin: He will need a lot of flexibility.

Mr. Kissinger: I have noted that Joe doesn’t seem to feel restrained whenever he feels something should be done. We could put in the document that it is always possible to make new proposals.

Mr. Sisco: I think it is only fair to say that many people are beginning to believe that the cupboard is bare insofar as any new proposals are concerned.

Mr. Kissinger: We are coming to a confrontation.

Mr. Sisco: We are arriving at the point we have been aiming at for eighteen months.

Mr. Kissinger: This is all the more reason for us to see how the situation is going to evolve. We never had any illusions that Israel would go back of its own volition. We knew that pressure would be needed. Can you get this paper prepared by next week?

Mr. Irwin: The President is going to be personally involved to a considerable extent.

[Omitted here is further discussion of Chile]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–112, Senior Review Group, SRG Minutes (Originals) 1971. Secret; Nodis. The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room. All brackets are in the original except those indicating text omitted by the editors.
  2. See Document 214.
  3. See Document 206.
  4. February 28.
  5. Rabin met with Sisco on February 23 to discuss Israel’s imminent reply to Jarring’s aide-mémoire, as reported in telegram 30820 to Tel Aviv, February 24. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1161, Saunders Files, Middle East Negotiations Files, Middle East—Jarring Talks Edited and Indexed, February 19–26, 1971) He also met with Rogers the following day to discuss the matter further. (Telegram 31741 to Tel Aviv, February 25; ibid.) According to the Israeli record of their conversation, Rogers emphasized that it is now time for the Israelis to “face up to the decisions” of responding positively to Sadat’s overtures and to Jarring’s memorandum. “It is only a matter of time before your hand will be disclosed. Sooner or later you will have to face up to it,” he said. Rogers added that if Israel responded negatively to Jarring’s memorandum “everyone will say that you did it to evade a decision. If you say yes we are willing to withdraw and now wish to negotiate, then you have said nothing new. They have said a lot. Unless you indicate what you are speaking sbout you are not saying anything. It is going to put us in a terrrible spot. We feel very strongly your answer should be positive to Jarring. They will laugh us out of the room in the Sec[urity] Council if you are only going to say that which you have indicated. You must have a position of your own, not just quote no unquote. We are concerned because we made progress. We are most concerned because it all might be lost.” (Israel State Archive, Previously Classified Material, 7021/4)
  6. According to the New York Times, at a private dinner, Dayan said that “given the choice between a peace treaty and an Israeli presence at Sharm el Sheik to ensure passage through the Strait of Tiran, he would prefer the presence at Sharm el Sheik.” (February 19, 1971, p. 1)
  7. Meir and Barbour met on February 12, but the comments that Sisco ascribed to her were not included in the record of that meeting; see Document 205.
  8. See Document 209.
  9. In telegram 23650 to USUN, February 11, the Department provided “broad guidelines for carrying out our strategy in dealing with supplementary guarantees question in Four Power talks.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1158, Saunders Files, Middle East Negotiations Files, Middle East Negotiations—Four Power Talks, August 13, 1970–November 15, 1971)
  10. See Document 207.