263. Telegram From the Department of State to the Interests Section in Egypt1

203152. For Bergus from Secretary. Subject: Briefing Sadat on Status of Interim Agreement Efforts.

1. FYI: Mrs. Meir’s reply,2 [Page 939] conveyed November 1 to Ambassador Barbour, in effect leaves our proposal for negotiations in proximity in abeyance while seeking clarification on questions of (A) when Israel can expect decision on Phantoms and (B) whether Quote six points Unquote in Secretary’s UNGA speech3 will be basis for negotiations. Other Israeli officials have been more explicit in making clear that positive decision on Phantoms, and assurances that six points will not be basis for negotiations, are necessary before Israel will agree to New York talks. We will be considering what our next steps should be in face of this reply, but for moment we must assume that our proposal for intensified negotiations is stalled. We note that Sadat has now set in motion series of meetings to dramatize that decision-making is at hand, and that he is also scheduled to make speech to People’s Assembly November 11.4 We agree with you (Cairo 2637)5 as to advantages of giving Sadat some kind of progress report before his speech so that at least we don’t come in for criticism that he hasn’t heard from us recently. We see little further advantage in not telling Sadat with considerable degree of candor what political facts of life are on our interim agreement efforts. We want to be sufficiently frank to leave him with feeling that we are not trying to hide anything from him; at same time we want to make it clear we have not given up on interim agreement, even though this may take longer than we expected. Additional reason for seeing Sadat is to seek to clarify where Egypt stands on idea of negotiations in proximity. Last word we had from Sadat was that he was attracted to this idea and thought New York was best locale. We have therefore been operating on assumption that, if Israelis agreed, prospects were reasonably good that Egyptians would also go along with our proposal and send negotiator to New York. Heykal’s November 5 Friday sermon ( [Page 940] Cairo 2724 and 2729),6 in which he says it is impossible for Egypt to accept this proposal, throws that assumption into considerable doubt. Before reaching decision on what further approach to make to Israelis, we need best possible current reading of Sadat’s attitude toward our proposal. End FYI.

2. You should try to get appointment to see Sadat personally for this approach. If necessary we can convey what we have to say to Ismail, but this is one occasion when we think it important for President to have full flavor of our comments, and for us to receive first-hand his reaction and further thoughts. If there appears to be any problem about meeting with President, therefore, you should say that on this occasion Secretary Rogers hopes you can see President personally.

3. Begin talking points. We have now received Israeli reply to our proposal for new phase of intensified negotiations in New York. We are still studying response and what our next steps might be in the light of it, but in meantime we want to give President progress report.

4. As recent Israeli public and press statements have made clear, Israeli Government has not yet agreed to our proposal for Quote negotiations at close proximity Unquote in New York. Israelis say their hesitation is based on two concerns: (A) Absence of US decision with respect to Israel’s request for future aircraft deliveries. On this point, Sadat should be told candidly decision on arms in Egyptian-Soviet communiqué7 has made our task more difficult. (B) Israel is concerned over six points on interim agreement set forth in Secretary RogersUNGA speech, which Israelis interpret as giving Egypt advantage in negotiations. Like Egyptians, Israelis too are pressing us to clarify further our position on six points. In addition, each side wants other to make next move. It was against this background that we put forth idea of proximate and intensive negotiating procedures, which we still believe would provide opportunity for better give-and-take between views of two sides and for some simultaneous progress on issues where differences in position must be resolved if interim agreement is to be achieved. We are not asking either Egypt or Israel to abandon their present positions prior to entering such talks. Purpose of talks is to explore whether middle ground on key issues can be arrived at. While [Page 941] USG has no blueprint of its own on these issues, Secretary has indicated parameters in GA speech within which we think agreement must be sought. In process of seeking such agreement, we would expect to play more than passive mailman role and would do our best to promote agreement between parties on terms which they find advantageous. In brief, we would envisage playing role of active catalyst.

5. We are carefully studying Prime Minister’s response and expect to press this matter further with Israelis in hopes process of negotiations in close proximity can get started at early date in New York, latter site having been suggested by Sadat.

6. As result of President Sadat’s reaction to Quote negotiations in proximity Unquote idea during his meeting with Bergus on October 7,8 we have been proceeding on assumption that he is interested in this idea and that, if Israelis agree to send representative to New York for this purpose, President Sadat will be favorably disposed toward doing the same. But Heykal article November 5 gives a different impression. We will soon be responding to Israel’s request for clarifications but first, in light of Heykal article, we need to know: Is Egypt still interested in an interim agreement and in entering negotiations in proximity? We must be certain that Egypt is still interested in further efforts on our part with Israel are to be taken seriously by them. End talking points.9

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1165, Saunders Files, Middle East Negotiation Files, Middle East—Jarring Talks, November 1–15, 1971. Secret; Immediate; Nodis; Cedar Plus. Drafted by Sterner, Atherton, and Sisco and approved by Rogers. Repeated Priority to Tel Aviv.
  2. As part of her reply, Meir asked, as instructed by her Cabinet: “Does US agree with Israeli concept that negotiations for partial settlement are basically different from negotiations for overall settlement, in that some Israeli withdrawal from Canal is presupposed in former, which is Israeli concession made in advance involving risks and requiring Israel to insist on certain conditions, whereas in latter set of negotiations, there can be no conditions, only positions?” (Telegram 6602 from Tel Aviv, November 1; ibid., Box 658, Country Files, Middle East, Middle East Nodis/Cedar/Plus, Vol. IV)
  3. See footnote 3, Document 255.
  4. In the speech, Sadat suggested that Egypt and Israel could reach an interim agreement if Israel would withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula, as Jarring had asked Israel if it would have been willing to consider doing during his exchanges with both parties in February. Furthermore, Sadat criticized the United States for what he described as its detachment of his plan for re-opening the Suez Canal from the larger goal of achieving an overall settlement. (New York Times, November 12, 1971, p. 9)
  5. Dated October 26. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 658, Country Files, Middle East, Middle East Nodis/Cedar/Plus, Vol. IV)
  6. In telegram 2724 from Cairo, November 5, Bergus recommended that the Department study a piece by Heikal in that day’s Al-Ahram, which he noted came “perilously close to slamming the door on negotiations in proximity.” He added: “Sadat may be having substantive doubts about value of negotiations in proximity, but more importantly, I believe he deeply resents fact that we have had nothing to tell him since mid-October, while our subsequent discussions with Israelis have been source of continuing series of reports in Israeli, Arab, and world press.” (Ibid.) Telegram 2729 from Cairo, November 5, reported the contents of Heikal’s weekly column in detail. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27–14 ARAB–ISR)
  7. See footnote 10, Document 256.
  8. See footnote 5, Document 255.
  9. Bergus presented the talking points to Ismail at 1:15 p.m. on November 8. Ismail explained that he and Sadat would need time to reflect on the presentation and that the Egyptian President would probably meet with Bergus on November 10. Nonetheless, Ismail had a preliminary response to Bergus’s remarks, asking if the U.S. Government planned to adhere to the six points that Rogers raised in his October 4 speech to the UN General Assembly. He also said that he had hoped that the United States “would be coming up with something which could be a basis for discussion if Egyptians and Israelis started talking in proximity.” Otherwise, proximity discussions “would be useless,” he said. He also addressed the U.S. Government’s imminent decision on aircraft for Israel, commenting that “linking aircraft deliveries to negotiations in proximity was a most ‘illogical’ step and a most ‘illogical’ request from Israel,” as Israel had previously argued that an interim agreement would undermine Israel’s security. (Telegram 2757 from Cairo, November 8; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 658, Country Files, Middle East, Middle East Nodis/Cedar/Plus, Vol. IV)