219. Telegram From the Department of State to the Interests Section in the United Arab Republic1

54323. Please deliver following message from President Nixon to President Sadat:

Quote: Dear Mr. President:

Thank you for your messages of March 52 and 17.3 I deeply appreciate this thoughtful, personal and candid presentation of your views.

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I am keenly aware of the problems that you face and the steps you have taken recently to help facilitate the negotiations currently being pursued under Ambassador Jarring’s auspices. The steps you have taken with such political skill have strengthened your nation’s international position and moved your people closer to peace.

For its part the United States wants one thing: a just and lasting peace agreement that meets the legitimate concerns of both sides and that both sides can accept with honor, dignity, and confidence in their future security. I am under no illusions, Mr. President, that the clouds of suspicion that exist between the Arabs and the Israelis will be easily dispelled. Both sides view the issues as fundamental. But I am struck with the fact that some modest progress has been made during this past year on which, hopefully, more progress can be built in the days ahead.

There is an opportunity today which has not existed since the June war. The political climate and the situation generally in the Middle East have been evolving. I wish there were a better prescription than time, but some time must be allowed for the changes which are occurring to be fully understood by leaders and peoples who live in the area.

Moreover, we both know there is a political process involved, both in Egypt and in Israel. Patience and determination will be required to overcome the difficulties in a manner that best preserves public support for the painful decisions which could eventually make a peace agreement possible. From your own skillful management of your nation’s foreign affairs, I believe you understand this point. For our part, I hope I made it clear in my February 25th message to Congress4 that we intend to remain fully involved and to help both sides move toward a peace agreement which could mean so much for all peoples in the area and for my own country.

I welcome your reaffirmation of the proposal for a partial Israeli withdrawal and the reopening of the Suez Canal. We have told the Israelis that in our view your statement of February 5 on this matter and that made by Prime Minister Golda Meir on February 95 are worth careful study. I hope that further explorations can proceed in the days ahead.

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I appreciate very much your confidence in alerting me to the developments which you foresee and mentioned in your message of March 17. We will also give careful consideration to the specific views you express on the disposition of Gaza and the question of demilitarization.

Once again, Mr. President, I would like to thank you for bringing to my personal attention your concerns at this stage of our peace settlement efforts. I place high value on the direct communication we have established in these messages and want to assure you that I reciprocate the sincerity which they so clearly convey.

With my best personal wishes, sincerely, Richard Nixon Unquote.6

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 656, Country Files, Middle East, Middle East Nodis/Cedar/Plus, Vol. I. Secret; Priority; Nodis; Cedar. Drafted by Sterner and Sisco; cleared by Jon Howe, Sterner, and Atherton; and approved by Rogers. A stamped notation on the telegram reads: “Sent to San Clemente.”
  2. See footnote 4, Document 215.
  3. Sadat asked Bergus to meet with him on March 17 primarily to convey to Nixon his reaction to the news conference that Rogers held the previous day. A transcript of Rogers’s news conference is in the Department of State Bulletin, April 5, 1971, pp. 478–486. He wanted the President to know that: 1) he could not agree to the total demilitarization of the Sinai; and 2) Egypt did not intend to annex Gaza but that there should be a vote by its inhabitants to determine its future. He added that he nonetheless “greatly appreciated all Rogers had said regarding borders.” Sadat also wanted to make two other points to Nixon, “in an absolutely personal message,” first complaining that his March 5 comments to the President “had not been closely held” and then informing him that his soldiers were getting restless as he awaited Israeli action regarding his partial withdrawal proposal. (Telegram 588 from Cairo, March 17; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1162, Saunders Files, Middle East Negotiations Files, Jarring Talks—Middle East, March 17–24, 1971)
  4. See footnote 6, Document 211.
  5. That day, Meir officially responded to Sadat’s partial withdrawal proposal in a policy speech before the Israeli Knesset, saying that Israel was ready to discuss re-opening the Suez Canal in conjunction with a mutual demilitarization of the Sinai. She reiterated the point, however, that Israel would not withdraw its troops from the Suez Canal zone until it reached a peace agreement with the United Arab Republic. (New York Times, February 10, 1971, p. 1) For the text of her February 9 statement, see Israel’s Foreign Policy: Historical Documents, volumes 1–2, 1947–1974, Chapter XII, The War of Attrition and the Cease Fire, Document 29.
  6. Bergus met with Sadat on April 1 for 1½ hours, beginning their discussion by reading Nixon’s message to him. In response, Sadat asked Bergus to convey his thanks to the President, remarking that he was “pleased by its warmth.” Later, he said that he realized that the U.S. Government “needed time to bring the Israelis around” but added that “there would be no progress along lines his initiative without real pressure on Israelis from US.” Sadat believed that he also “needed time to change mental attitudes in Egypt and in Arab world.” He declared that he wanted to “make it clear” to Nixon that, in the meantime, “if Israel raided Egyptian heartland, he would raid the interior of Israel.” At the end of the conversation, Sadat commented that the “most dangerous idea being floated by Israelis was Eban’s statement that ‘tenacity’ had paid off with Egyptians and that Egyptians would soon be ready to cede territory.” Egypt, Sadat concluded, “would not kneel.” (Telegram 712 from Cairo, April 1; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 656, Country Files, Middle East, Middle East Nodis/Cedar/Plus, Vol. I)