223. Editorial Note
On April 20, 1971, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Yigal Allon held separate meetings in Washington with Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Henry Kissinger and Secretary of State William Rogers. The main purpose of Allon’s visit was to “assess the temperature” with respect to 1) a possible interim agreement providing for the opening of the Suez Canal and the partial withdrawal of Israeli forces from the East Bank of the Canal in Sinai; 2) the achievement of an overall settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict; and 3) the U.S. attitude with respect to future military and economic assistance to Israel.(Memorandum from Kissinger to Nixon, April 26; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 999, Haig Chronological Files, April 24–28, 1971) Allon held the first meeting with Kissinger at the Israeli Ambassador’s residence beginning at 7:45 a.m. According to a record of the conversation prepared by Israeli Minister Shlomo Argov, Allon presented the essence of the Israeli consensus on a possible Canal agreement as follows:
“1. Israeli forces will withdraw at the most 7–12 kms from canal in order to be able to act against possible Egyptian breach.
“2. Israel would receive safeguards for maintenance of its fortifications along the canal.
“3. No Egyptian or Soviet forces to cross the canal.”
Allon said that while he had confidence in U.S. interest in preventing a Soviet effort to take over the area, the Israeli Government was less confident about its performance in preventing a “salami tactics” takeover, which was why Israel would want U.S. guarantees.
Kissinger responded by telling Allon that the reasoning and need for guarantees was beside the point. “The question is with whom you do it,” he said. “You have to understand what you are up against. The situation you confronted in December 1970, and which you confront today [Page 815] is that everybody in the U.S. Government wants to impose a settlement on you at least along the Rogers lines. Get that into your heads. You can get all the formal assurances from Sisco and they would be worthless. Right now the need is to prevent war now that the Arabs think they may have carte blanche for you . . . You Israelis don’t seem to understand that you have only one single hope—the President. Everybody else wants at least the Rogers Plan.If some of them could settle your problem on the Biafra model—they would.” Allon then asked Kissinger if Israel was a “liability” in the eyes of the State Department, to which Kissinger responded:
“Yes! Most of the Arabists are colonialists who remember the Arabs in their pre-war image and long for those days again. And the State Department is not the worst of the lot! You have today a totally united Government against you. You have never been in such a position here before. If you should be divided on your end then it will be impossible to save you. You must talk to the U.S. with one voice.I know that if the Soviets win big in the M.E. it will be a disaster for the U.S. Others don’t understand this. Therefore at this moment the question of 7–12 kilometers is irrelevant. The main thing is to agree on a strategy. First thing to understand is the seriousness of your position. Today at lunch you will be told many things. You are considered the dove who will take care of delivering the [Prime Minister] and ultimately of bringing about an acceptance of something close to the Rogers Plan. They say the same thing about your Ambassador. They say he was embarrassed to present some of his Government’s positions and some of the papers he had to submit on its behalf . . . The main thing is that you have to avoid being maneuvered into a position in which you are totally in the wrong. The ideal thing is for you to prove that if you are treated with confidence you can be reasonable. The tricky pattern is to reach a crisis point in which the White House has to come in, as was the case during the Jordan crisis. At the end of February it was a matter of barely two hours before a public condemnation of Israel by the U.S. was announced. I got this reversed by convincing the President that we should start an honest dialogue with Israel, so that she may tell us what she really wants. A Suez deal is important because if you just stay along the Suez war is inevitable, and I could not guarantee what we could do.”
After a brief exchange on what the reaction in Cairo would be, the discussion continued regarding what Israel’s strategy should be in the negotiations with the United States and the Egyptians:
“Allon: Let us assume we agree to a partial arrangement involving end of belligerence, partial withdrawal, no Soviet-UAR crossing of canal etc., and State Department then tells us it is unacceptable, can we then at least explain our position to the President?[Page 816]
“Kissinger: The great illusion in Israel is that you can always come over here to explain everything to the President. This is not so. This is not the way to impress him. He is not interested in your problems in the abstract, but only as to how they may affect next year. What impresses him is the kind of pressure that was brought to bear this February and last March. He was also impressed by your performance in Jordan. Two weeks before the Jordan crisis I advised that war was on the way and we had two options:
“1. To use American troops
“2. To use Israeli troops
“I recommended Israeli troops. The President was furious with me and wrote on my memorandum to him: ‘No! These are pro-Jewish sympathies.’ He would not talk to me. I flew to Chicago to try to explain things to him. Then the crisis came and he asked me to get in touch with Rabin.
“Allon: What do we do now?
“Kissinger: You should aim at having complete deadlock with us for two weeks or a month. Then Rogers will come in and ask for pressure on you. By then you should have your Jews organized properly. Then I can come in and intervene, provided of course that you have a fallback position that we can all agree on.
“Allon: Suppose we accept a fallback position. What guarantees will you give us against the Russians?
“Kissinger: On every big decision he himself has made the President has stood firmly, e.g., Cambodia, Laos, etc. He has not yet engaged himself on the M.E.—for obvious reasons. If you can bring about a situation in which he becomes personally involved then he will have a personal stake in it. In March, 1970 your Ambassador came in and made an eloquent statement on the dangers you were going to face (as a result of decision not to supply planes). In July—after Soviet violations—I came in and reminded him of this and he acted—issued a statement and ordered dispatch of Sidewinders etc. We had to bomb the Pentagon to get them out of there.
“Allon: Isn’t the pressure already on? Phantom deliveries have stopped. No answer to Rabin’s request. If we get a positive answer it will be very important psychologically. It will give Israel a feeling it is not being subjected to pressure. The President will understand the importance of this.
“Kissinger: You will not get the President to touch it before there is a real deadlock.
“Allon: Can’t you get in the picture earlier than that?
“Kissinger: All I can say is that without me you are dead![Page 817]
“Rabin: Sisco said he may propose a letter from President to P.M. supporting an overall settlement along lines he described to me (international force along canal, Americans in Sharm, billion dollar credits etc.) He expects it to be rejected by us.
“Kissinger: This is the first I have heard of it. I think I can prevent this. My influence is that I have always been right on the Middle East. The President is very good on big strategic issues. He has no particular love for Jews. He does not give a damn for Israel in the abstract. It interests him only within the strategic context of the Middle East. He told me so. He has a good conception of the strategic significance of the Middle East.
“Rogers will now be coming to the area. You will find that Sisco will promise you everything. They will want to come back with a triumph. If Sisco gets into the dominant position again then the implementation of anything he brings back will be his as was the case in July of last year.
“Allon: What about a letter from the President?
“Kissinger: If you get anything through Barbour then it means State Department, and then it does not mean a damn thing. Unless you get it from the President directly, or through me, or unless I advise the Ambassador (about its significance) then it does not mean a thing. If you settle with Sisco on this trip he will control things and you will never know the truth. There is no way of telling what he is telling the Egyptians today.
“After the violations were obvious I still could not for three weeks convince people of them and had to commission people to prepare all kinds of studies to prove my point. (Kissinger gave various examples.) They kept saying the missiles were already there. The President was all that time assailed by the others. Now if he had given the assurances to Rabin (instead of Sisco) then he would have felt that in violating the standstill the Soviets had double-crossed him and would have acted accordingly. Sisco will agree to any verbal guarantee and will then work to prevent it. If the President makes a deal with you he will watch it. He is tough.
“Allon: What can he give us?
“Kissinger: You must have the right to move in case anybody crosses. You can get something against Russians.
“Allon: Can he act as Commander in Chief without Congress?
“Kissinger: Yes. You can get the President to act if he is convinced that the Soviets are moving against you for great power reasons. He will act provided you don’t alienate him before.
“Allon: Is it illogical for the President to accept notion of non-belligerence together with our acceptance of continuation of Jarring?[Page 818]
“Kissinger: No question in my mind that Sisco wants to play the Jarring mission so as to impose a settlement on you.
“Allon: How about non-belligerence?
“Kissinger: I think you should have a demilitarized zone on the canal and I would ask for it and be totally unyielding on it. Otherwise what would keep the Egyptians from crossing it. You have to get the President involved personally on this. At the moment the State Department is acting semi-autonomously on M.E.
“Allon: May I give you my personal thinking on the territorial issue and get your reactions.
“1. Golan Heights: important to us not only because kibbutzim, but for reasons of strategic defense for entire irrigation system of the Jordan Valley. Some territorial compromise can be arranged there too. Part of the Heights can be given back.
“2. Jordan: the main principle is not to annex areas that are heavily populated, this should be part of the solution of the Palestine problem, or may go back to Jordan in return for peace. The major point is to have the changes where there are no Arabs.
“Kissinger: You want to annex that?
“Allon: Yes. We shall hold on to valley and first range of mountains and leave them a desert.
“Kissinger: If you could get that will you go back to the old line with Egypt?
“Allon: Can you connect these?
“Kissinger: I believe that if a complete breakdown takes place and a complete deadlock is brought about then I can get the President with a proposal like this, but only if you wish it. I shall not do anything and shall not be involved in any settlement not acceptable to you. I have always believed that you could not accept the old Egyptian line because it would set a precedent for all the other sectors. If this gets into complete deadlock then it will be necessary to talk to the President directly.
“Allon: We cannot go back to old mandatory lines with Egypt. We must have an airfield west of Eilat, the only place where we can have a field for long range operations. In addition we must have Sharm, Gaza, and Rafah.
“Kissinger: How about giving Gaza to Jordan in return for Allon Plan?
“Allon: My position is that Greater Gaza can be given to Hussein for the Jordan Valley provided he agrees to peace and to considering Palestine refugee problem settled. We have to have less than one third of Sinai, less than one third of West Bank and Jerusalem united under [Page 819] Israeli sovereignty, giving Jordanians special rights on their holy places there.
“Kissinger: In my view we have to agree first with the Soviets.
“Allon: But before that with us.
“Kissinger: Exactly. Dobrynin is after me to do just that. I won’t do it unless we have an understanding with you first. I will never do it unless I spoke to you first. State Department cannot deliver on this. The way to [get] purchase in Jordan is with concessions in Sinai. I will not get involved unless you agree.
“Allon: Do you think this is a good plan (workable)?
“Kissinger: It has a chance. No problem with Golan. Sinai I have to think more. If you want to move on this talk to me. You will face a major problem soon. You will be confronted with a list of promises (by Sisco). Your policy must be to get them from the President. You are in mortal danger.
“Kissinger: Yes, mortal. And those who will make easy promises to you are only out to get the Rogers Plan implemented.
“Allon: Our defense must be viable. We want to be less dependent on you. We need your political support and deterrence of Russians. Personally I think a bilateral military pact with U.S. must be achieved.
“Kissinger: You will be crazy to want that! It will explode enormous public debate. The Joint Chiefs will fight it. It will only expose you to enormous pressure. You will not be able to act when you have to. You will lose your freedom. A formal U.S. guarantee is counter-productive. A pact is against your interests. Right now your policy must be to resist Rogers. Be tough on Suez opening and if you are ready to make any concessions make them only to the President and only to him.” (Israel State Archive, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 9352/3)
Secretary of State Rogers and Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs Joseph Sisco held a meeting at the State Department with Allon and Israeli Ambassador Yitzhak Rabin later in the day beginning at 1:02 p.m. (Personal Papers of William P. Rogers, Appointment Books) Allon began the meeting by explaining Israel’s reasons for opposing the interim Canal settlement and its reluctance to cooperate with the Jarring mission. He said the Israelis were under the impression that the opening of the Suez Canal did not serve U.S. interests and therefore Israel did not wish to upset its strongest ally. He also said that because the 1949 armistice lines were “indefensible borders” Israel could not consider any proposal that envisioned a withdrawal to those frontiers. Rogers, however, did not accept Allon’s answer, insisting that the United States wanted more cooperation from [Page 820] Israel. “We don’t like your rejecting everything as when your [Prime Minister] rejects this and then rejects that,” he said. “You should have some regard for our interests. We do hope you will see this is a time to work out peace. Because of Soviet involvement this has become a major problem giving us the right to play a major role. We don’t wish to be rejected . . . The PM’s territorial conception as reported in the London Times and the Rogers Plan is not great. Assuming demilitarization and security arrangements on Sharm and Gaza can be worked out satisfactorily then there are no great differences between us. You never insisted on annexation before and when you do so now you talk to us as if you don’t want a settlement . . . By talking annexation you are making it impossible for Sadat to negotiate.”
Allon then asked why Israel should submit a proposal that the United States did not support when it would just lead to a confrontation between officials in Washington and Jerusalem. But Rogers insisted that “the confrontation already exists.” The issue, he told Allon, is coming to the UN Security Council. “If you insist on territorial changes we will vote against you. We took you at your word when you said all you wanted was peace. We made presentations to Arabs and others on their grounds and said that if peace is accomplished you will not insist on annexation.” Rogers then added that the United States did not understand why Israel’s response to Jarring’s February 8 aide-mémoire was in such “arrogant adamant terms.” Israel has “created the impression that you were trying to undermine his (Jarring’s) mission. You could have answered positively . . . You could have said ‘Yes provided we have a presence in Sharm el Sheikh, security for Gaza and demilitarization of Sinai.’ The way you put it seemed a retrogression. Every nation says this to the US.” Sisco agreed, adding “You are alone in the world. You have no friends. Even the Dutch reject your position. You haven’t got anybody. We want to support you but have other interests.” (Telegram from Washington to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, April 20; ibid., 5971/6)