256. Telegram From Secretary of State Rogers to the Department of State1

3269/Secto 87. Dept pass AmEmbassy Tel Aviv and USINT Cairo.

1. In a somber mood, Rabin, at his request, met with Sisco in an early morning breakfast meeting. It was obvious that Rabin was under instructions to reflect a very deep and disquieting concern of GOI over Secretary’s speech.2

2. Rabin said that Egypt had now achieved two very important goals: (A) they had succeeded in getting the U.S. to stop supplying aircraft to Israel; and (B) while it is true that there was nothing in our speech that could be called a proposal, nevertheless, Israel believed there was an erosion in the position of the U.S. on an interim agreement.

3. Rabin said that Israel sees Secretary’s speech as a significant departure, a first move by the U.S. to begin to adopt substantive positions on the six points referred to in the Secretary’s speech; substantive positions which more closely approximated the Egyptian view; positions which would give Israel great difficulty. Rabin singled out three things in the speech: (A) A re-affirmation by the U.S. of our position on the overall settlement as laid down in the Secretary’s December 9, 1969 statement;3 (B) the question of the ceasefire; and (C) the question of Egyptian forces crossing east of the Suez Canal. Rabin, in a posture more in sorrow than of anger, said he could not emphasize enough the concern that our statement has caused back home. He maintained that the UAR will see in the U.S. speech a turning point, a further move toward them substantively, and would encourage the Egyptians to sit absolutely tight. He stressed that Egypt had not made any concessions from the position that was adopted by them last May.4 He said that we could not point to any position by the Egyptians on any of the six headings cited by the Secretary where the Egyptian position today is different than that expressed to us in May.

4. Specifically on the question of the ceasefire, while due note was taken that we had said that six months was too short, they interpreted [Page 919] our statement to rule out a ceasefire with an indefinite duration. Insofar as Egyptian forces east of the Canal, he admitted that we had stated that both sides hold opposing views, but was disturbed at the reference that we thought this issue could be compromised.5

5. Sisco said insofar as U.S. attitude overall settlement is concerned, it remains what it has been for the last two years. As to an interim agreement, there had been no erosion of our position; we made no proposals in the Secretary’s speech and carefully avoided surfacing any of the ideas which were discussed with the GOI in July of this year.6 Moreover, Sisco pointed out that in adopting the strong public view that Egypt could not expect to get an Israeli commitment of total withdrawal in the context of interim agreement, we were expressing a view which Israel holds. Just as we ruled out that kind of a commitment on the Egyptian side, so we believe it is equally realistic to expect a permanent ceasefire that has the effect of lifting the state of belligerency. Between these views there ought to be found some common ground between the two sides. On the question of Egyptian forces across the Canal, Sisco stated that this is probably the most sensitive point and the most important from the Israeli point of view. But here too while Sisco could understand the concern of Israel in that we indicated our belief that some acceptable compromise could be found, we had been very careful to avoid mentioning any specific proposals in this regard.

6. Sisco readily acknowledged that the Riad speech7 was intended to apply pressure on the U.S. and to apply additional pressure on Israel. Sisco also acknowledged that as a minimum, the Egyptian strategy is to get the U.S. committed substantively as close as possible to their view, if not for the purpose of achieving an interim agreement of the kind Egypt has in mind, but at least to divorce or divide the United States substantively from Israel on the interim agreement in the same way which we are divided on the overall settlement, but Egypt did not get this in our speech. Sisco expressed regret that Israel did not find it possible in July to have given him even minimal flexibility on one or two of the points which he raised with them. Sisco said this was a mistake by the Israelis. Sisco noted that Eban had said in the last conversa [Page 920] tion8 that Israel would be prepared to consider any new flexibility from Cairo on any one of the six points. We would be meeting with Riad on Friday,9 and obviously would probe this matter further, and in particular the whole question of the relationship between an interim agreement and an overall settlement.

7. Rabin then turned the discussion to Sadat’s Moscow trip10 and there was an exchange as to whether Sadat would seek and get additional commitments of arms. Rabin indicated strongly he did not feel this was the main point. He stressed that what is more important to Sadat is the Russian commitment to intervene militarily in the defense of Egypt in the event the war of attrition is renewed. Rabin pointed out that unless Israel could in such circumstances strike in depth, costs of the war of attrition to them would be greater. He stressed that the Soviets are committed to this kind of defense to Egypt. He assumed that Sadat would get further arms commitments from the Russians but underscored that this was not as important as the Russian commitment to help the Egyptians defend themselves against in-depth operations. Sisco said our information indicates Soviets counseling restraint.

8. Sisco then raised the question of the Israeli vote on the Chirep question11 and Rabin was very non-committal, suggesting a discussion with Eban on this matter. Sisco got the distinct impression that Rabin and Eban were at odds on this matter. Rabin has weighed in against an Israeli position which would have the effect of contributing to the expulsion of the Chinese Nationalists. He did not deny reports we had been receiving from other sources that Eban favors abstaining on the Important Question resolution.

9. Sisco said we would view such a vote very seriously since if the principle of expulsion by a majority vote were established, Israel could [Page 921] not be very far down as a candidate for possible expulsion in circumstances where many in the UN favor application of sanctions. Rabin was unusually mum on this and he clearly gave the impression of a man under wraps. Sisco asked Rabin to convey his view to the FonMin and asked that he be informed that Sisco would be available to discuss this at his convenience.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 658, Country Files, Middle East, Middle East Nodis/Cedar/Plus, Vol. IV. Secret; Nodis; Cedar Plus.
  2. See footnote 3, Document 255.
  3. See Document 73.
  4. See Document 227.
  5. Specifically, Rogers said: “The question of an Egyptian military presence east of the Canal is one on which the parties hold opposite views. But here too the possibilities of some compromise are not negative.”
  6. Reference is to Sisco’s meetings in Israel from July 28 to August 6. See Document 245.
  7. Riad addressed the General Assembly on October 6. See footnote 2, Document 254.
  8. See footnote 4, Document 253.
  9. See footnote 4, Document 255.
  10. Sadat was in Moscow October 11–13 for talks with Soviet leaders. Kissinger informed the President in an October 16 memorandum that, judging from the public statements and speeches made in Moscow, “Sadat gained assurance of continued military assistance. How specific this is in terms of new equipment remains to be seen.” Moving to the Arab-Israeli situation, Kissinger stated that “it is not clear what occurred in Moscow. The speeches and communiqué seem to reflect Soviet-Egyptian differences. Sadat’s tough language about the use of force to pressure Israel was not endorsed in the communiqué, and the Soviets generally avoided talking about the dangers of war.” The memorandum concluded that “the Soviets will evidently provide some further aid but have continued to hold to the position that a military solution is not feasible at this time.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 637, Country Files, Middle East, UAR, Vol. VII) For additional analysis of Sadat’s trip to Moscow, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XIV, Soviet Union, October 1971–May 1972, Document 5.
  11. Reference is to the anticipated vote in the UN General Assembly on Chinese representation in the United Nations, specifically the issue of expelling the Republic of China and admitting the People’s Republic of China.