244. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Israel1

131519. 1. At Rabin’s request, Sisco had a long session with him at lunch preparatory to Sisco’s trip to Israel next week. Principal purpose of the lunch was for Sisco to seek any advice that Rabin wished to convey as to how best to handle the trip in our mutual interests.

2. Sisco made the following principal points:

A. We reviewed the current situation in the Middle East with the President and the Secretary at San Clemente2 and Sisco has full authority to discuss both the elements of an interim settlement and the question of outstanding Israeli requests for arms.

B. Both the President and the Secretary will be interested to receive full report from Sisco as to what the current attitude of Israel is on the principal elements of an interim settlement and their current assessment of the present balance in the area.

C. Sisco is prepared to discuss the question of arms fully and to consider carrying back with him recommendations for top level consid[Page 890]eration in the United States Government. His approach will be sympathetic taking into account all factors, including President’s commitment to maintain the balance. Arms question must also be considered in context of fundamental importance which the United States attaches to avoiding any action which will destroy its role in trying to achieve an interim settlement. We believe interim settlement required if deterioration to hostilities in 1972 is to be avoided.

D. Sisco would like to have exchange of views on recent developments in the area, including the Soviet role and impact politically and militarily of the Soviet-UAR treaty.3

E. Sisco has had the benefit of a full detailed Department of Defense intelligence briefing on the question of Soviet arms supply to Egypt and Syria. He would benefit from a similar detailed intelligence briefing from Israel as a preliminary basis for our detailed talks on Israeli arms requests.

F. On the political side, while he assumes that the Prime Minister will wish to meet with him at the outset for a general overall review, Sisco hopes that arrangements can be made for an in-depth exchange with relevant Minister or Ministers or officials—quietly and deliberately—in which ideas on interim settlement can be explored without either side feeling that it is irrevocably committed. Sisco indicated that he intended to fill in the Prime Minister in greater detail and specificity on the current exchanges with Sadat.

G. Sisco will not be carrying a detailed blueprint with him, but he will want to explore various substantive ideas as to how the principal remaining difficulties can be met and would be prepared, if it is appropriate, to try his hand together with Israeli officials to put together certain formulations. This would be without prejudice as to when and how any formulations would be presented to the other side. In this connection, it would be well if the in-depth discussion would attempt to make a common judgment as to what the final elements of an interim settlement would look like; and secondly, how the situation might be played tactically to arrive at that point.

H. Finally, Sisco hopes that the minimal amount will be said to the press of a substantive character by either of us. What he would like have come out of the discussions publicly is that we have had a detailed in-depth talk, that he would report fully to his government, and on this basis the United States will decide what further steps it is to take on an interim settlement and with respect to the Israeli arms request. Sisco expressed hope that ways would be found to prevent leaks; purpose is private, quiet diplomacy. Sisco intends to keep press contacts to an ab[Page 891]solute minimum. Would hope that the whole visit can be played in the lowest possible key. Finally, he would hope that social engagements would be kept to an absolute minimum since he would prefer this to be as much a working visit as possible.

3. Rabin said he is doing everything possible to dampen down undue expectations on arms stimulated by recent statement of Foreign Minister.4 In response to Sisco’s thought that he not make any statement upon his arrival in Israel so as to keep matters in lowest possible key, Rabin demurred. He said this would be interpreted as US pouting over fact that Israeli press in the last couple of weeks have expressed some doubts regarding desirability of Sisco trip at this time. Rabin suggested that Sisco make brief statement indicating he pleased to be in Israel, indicating his intention to have in-depth discussions in a friendly and understanding spirit on all aspects of Israeli-American relations and interim Suez Canal agreement. Rabin thought this was the right atmospheric note to strike. Rabin also said that it ought to be possible to explore a number of the specific points of an interim settlement as Sisco indicated he wished, but he cautioned Sisco not to put his queries in the form of a definitive US position. Rabin said his advice would be for Sisco to explain the Israeli position on a given point, the Egyptian position on the same point, and then express any judgment that Sisco might have as to what would be required to meet the differences in the two respective positions. Sisco indicated that he had this kind of an approach very much in mind. When Sisco indicated that he recently had the benefit of a full, detailed Department of Defense intelligence briefing on the military balance, Rabin indicated GOI intention to give a comparable briefing to Sisco based on their own intelligence sources.

4. FYI: Sisco told Rabin he expects talks to be deliberate and detailed and expects to remain at least a week in Israel and probably longer. Number of meetings a day should be very limited (perhaps no more than one) and ample time allowed between meetings for reflection by both sides on ideas expressed. End FYI.

5. Rabin felt it important for Ambassador Barbour to make all of foregoing points to appropriate Israeli official since he will only report it in briefer form orally on his return.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1164, Saunders Files, Middle East Negotiations Files, Middle East—Jarring Talks, July 16–August 1, 1971. Secret; Nodis; Cedar Plus. Drafted and approved by Sisco. Repeated to Cairo.
  2. See Document 243.
  3. See Document 235.
  4. Speaking before the Knesset on July 19, Eban appealed to the United States for more Phantom aircraft, saying: “This need is most important and urgent in the light of facts which have been revealed by authoritative American sources that the Soviet Union has been supplying aerial weapons to Egypt and Syria at a very accelerated tempo.” (New York Times, July 20, 1971, p. 32)