216. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • State Department Game Plan on the Middle East

Here is the State Department’s game plan which we requested for trying to break the Arab-Israeli impasse.2

The details of the proposal are in the attached summary. The essence of the proposal is an approach to the Israelis asking them to make a fundamental change in their policy to accept the 1969 US position on boundaries in return for substantial and concrete assurances of continuing US support.

The procedure for approaching the Israelis would be for Secretary Rogers first to call in Ambassador Rabin and for Ambassador Barbour then to follow up with a parallel presentation to Foreign Minister Eban. Neither you nor Prime Minister Meir would be directly involved at this first stage.

The advantages of this paper are:

—It is a game plan for one possible course of action which has often been advocated. It enables you to see what an all-out effort to move Israel would look like and to assess its chances of success.

—The proposed approach would let the Israelis know what the US is for, not just what we are against. The Israelis seem unlikely to make piecemeal concessions in the absence of understanding what Israel can count on from the US in return. Getting all the cards on the table could help them develop a total position that could be presented in Israel as a package to assure Israel’s security and US support.

—It contains a substantial carrot in the form of security assurances the US would offer Israel in a settlement. There is the implication of the stick in the probability that we would not provide them if Israel failed [Page 784] to change its policy as we requested. However, the carrot is more prominent.

The disadvantages of this plan are:

—This procedure would result in a major approach to the Israelis that they have almost no choice but to reject. It would ask them to accept US positions which they have already rejected. You will recall the violent Israeli reaction of January 1970 against the US positions of the previous October and December.3

—The US-Israeli confrontation that would result would make achieving a settlement even more difficult than it already is. It might provoke such a negative Israeli reaction and stalemate in the Jarring talks that the ceasefire would be jeopardized in a short time. If Israel remained adamant in resisting the US approach, the US choice would be to back down or to show the USSR/UAR that we were separating ourselves from Israel. Chances of reducing the Soviet presence would be reduced.

—The implications of this approach are that the changes in the West Bank border and in the Golan Heights border would be minimal.

An alternative to this approach would be to press the partial withdrawal from the Suez Canal in order to buy time. This might permit the Israelis to establish direct contact with the UAR, which they want. This would give them a chance to test UAR intentions. Meanwhile, it would give us a way of avoiding confrontation, restoring Israeli confidence in us and then exploring with them quietly positions that might be negotiable on some of the other issues.

I personally feel that a confrontation with Israel now would virtually end chances of any negotiated Arab-Israeli arrangement for the next year or so.4 I share the view expressed in the State Department paper that we do not want to lose the opportunity of the present mo[Page 785]ment. I fear the approach to Israel described in the game plan would produce the result no one here wants.5

Whether or not this alternative could succeed would depend on whether it is correct to judge that Sadat can work with anything less than an Israeli commitment now to total withdrawal. Given uncertainty on that point, the only way to find out is to test his position by having a specific Israeli proposal put to him. Given the certainty of Israeli reaction to a major effort to change Israel’s position, such an approach to the UAR would seem a worthwhile risk.



Following are the two main elements in the State Department proposal:

1. Israel would be urged to accept the following positions:

Sharm al-Shaikh. An Israeli presence at Sharm al-Shaikh will be unacceptable to the UAR. Israel’s security concerns there can be fully met by American military participation in a UN presence there. Termination of that force should be barred for a specific period (e.g., five years) and subject thereafter to approval of the Security Council. We would not exclude using our veto to prevent such termination.

Security arrangements and DMZ’s. The parties should be given a free hand and a reasonable opportunity to come to grips themselves in the Jarring talks with the problems of security arrangements and DMZ’s. No reasonable option should be excluded from discussion, including: demilitarization of most of Sinai and inclusion of Israeli and UAR representatives under a UN umbrella in any system for verification. An effective mechanism could be devised which would engage the major powers and at the same time avoid placing Soviet forces on Israel’s borders. We would envision an overall UN peacekeeping [Page 786] mechanism with both major and small powers represented in the headquarters but with observer units on the ground along the UAR-Israeli border limited to representatives of small powers (e.g., Dutch, Danes, Canadians). We would support one of the following two alternatives on demilitarization: (a) Israel would accept the presence of UN observers on its territory if Egypt accepts total or almost total demilitarization of the Sinai; (b) if Egypt is willing to accept only a more limited area of demilitarization on its side of the border we would not press Israel to accept demilitarization or a UN force on its side.

Gaza. Israel should have a voice in determining the final disposition of Gaza which at a minimum would bar its return to UAR control and the introduction of any Arab military or para-military forces. It would be supervised by a UN force made up of small powers. We would favor Jordanian acquisition of Gaza but would not exclude an interim UN administration.

Freedom of Navigation. We would support the absolute right of Israel in parity with other nations to freedom of navigation through the Suez Canal and the Straits of Tiran.

Refugees. A solution allowing for return of refugees to Israel only in such numbers and at such rates as are satisfactory to it. We would support an understanding that Israel would be expected to accept no more than 100,000.

West Bank. Anomalies in the border should be corrected and considerations of local security and of administrative and economic convenience should be taken into account in making “insubstantial alterations.” Such alterations should be based on the 1949 armistice lines and could not encompass retention of Israeli positions on the Jordan River. The entire West Bank should be demilitarized. The parties should be given reasonable opportunity to work out security arrangements for verifying demilitarization and controlling fedayeen activities on the West Bank, perhaps with joint Jordanian-Israeli arrangements under some kind of UN umbrella. If that did not work out, we would support a UN force consisting of small power representatives with the same guarantees against termination as in the case of the UAR border and Sharm al-Shaikh.

Jerusalem. The city should be united with free access and movement within the city. There must be administrative arrangements which will leave Israel in a position to assure that these principles are not violated while giving Jordan a meaningful role in the administration and economy of the Arab part of the city.

Golan Heights. We would continue to hold that there is no basis for taking up the question of a Syrian-Israeli settlement in the absence of Syrian acceptance of Resolution 242. If the Syrians did join the negotiations, we would support the principle that in negotiations Israel has [Page 787] a right to seek some alteration of the Syrian-Israeli boundary to assure Israel a permanent position on the Golan Heights.

Negotiating procedures. We would support immediate escalation of negotiations to the foreign minister level.

2. If Israel were prepared to concur in these positions, the US would enter bilateral arrangements with Israel as follows:

—Long-term arrangements to satisfy Israeli arms requirements under generous financial terms within the context of any arms limitation agreements to which Israel and its neighbors might subscribe. Specifically: delivery beginning this July of the F–4 and A–4 aircraft Israel has requested; $500 million in military sales credits in FY 1972; $500 million in credit and grant in FY 1973.

—Further unilateral US declarations in support of Israel’s security by both the Executive and the Congressional branches.

—Formalization of bilateral defense consultations against the contingency that the peace settlement appears on the verge of breaking down. Specifically: (a) a commitment formalized by exchange of letters between the President and Prime Minister to consult on possible joint or parallel action to be taken in the event Israeli security is jeopardized; (b) a formal consultation arrangement between our military representatives for the fullest possible exchange of intelligence information on a continuing basis.

—Major US financial contribution to resettlement of refugees.

—A major US financial contribution to the conversion of the Israeli economy to peace time lines and to regional development schemes.

—A US commitment to undertake diplomatic exchanges with the USSR to seek an understanding that a final Arab-Israeli settlement would be paralleled by a US-Soviet agreement not to base operational combat forces on the territory of Israel or any neighboring Arab country. This would require that Soviet air and ground operational units and personnel be withdrawn from the UAR. This would not, however, be a precondition to a settlement along the above lines.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 129, Country Files, Middle East. Secret; Nodis; Cedar. Sent for information. A stamped notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it.
  2. According to Haldeman, Kissinger and Haig called him on March 6 and 7, respectively, “worried about the developing situation vis-à-vis Rogers again.” He wrote in his diary: “Apparently, he’s [Rogers] moving to take some unilateral action on the Middle East that Henry feels would be disastrous, and that the P[resident] has ordered covered by a senior review group which Rogers is going to bypass, apparently. Haig suggested we try to outfox Rogers’ maneuver by putting a special meeting on this right at the tail end of the NSC tomorrow, which I told him to go ahead and try to set up.” (Haldeman Diaries: Multimedia Edition, March 7, 1971)
  3. See Documents 58 and 78. For the Israeli reaction, see footnote 6, Document 84.
  4. At 5 p.m. on March 9, Rogers held a meeting in his office with Laird, Sisco, Kissinger, Helms, and Moorer to discuss this issue. Moorer drafted a memorandum of the conversation, but because he arrived a half hour late his record is incomplete. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 647, Country Files, Middle East, Middle East (General)) In a memorandum to the President, March 10, Kissinger wrote: “The meeting went just about as expected. Secretary Rogers, supported by Secretary Laird, pushed hard for its approval, with the full realization that the scheme means a total confrontation with Israel. This outcome was understood by all of the attendees.” (Ibid., Kissinger Office Files, Box 129, Country Files, Middle East) On March 8, Kissinger had told Haldeman that he did not want to attend the meeting “because if he ends up in agreement with Rogers’ position, then he and Rogers will confront the P[resident] with a lack of options, and he’ll [Kissinger] have to go along even if he has a different view.” Kissinger further explained that “if he disagrees with Rogers, he’ll then be in a position of having to force the P[resident], or try to, to his position.” (Haldeman Diaries: Multimedia Edition, March 8, 1971)
  5. In a conversation with the President in the Oval Office that afternoon, Kissinger told Nixon: “My view is that I just can’t go on under these conditions. You will just lose control. And the next issue is going to be as hard as this one, so I might as well draw the line now.” He continued: “But the really basic point, Mr. President, is that I feel that if a Presidential assistant, for whatever reason, becomes himself such a controversial figure, and if the bureaucracy continually challenges him even if he’s totally right, I think then one should seriously consider leaving. This has nothing to do with right or wrong, but I think the necessity of Presidential assistants is that they have to speak for the President without challenge.” Later he added: “And that doesn’t mean it’s anybody’s fault. I understand Rogers’s view, and I know he’s got proud people at State, and I have as much ego as anybody else, but I really believe that it might be in the interest of everybody if we began to think of a terminal date for my stay here.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Oval Office, Conversation No. 464–17)