271. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Ambassador Yitzhak Rabin
  • Minister Avner Idan
  • Assistant Secretary Joseph Sisco
  • Mr. H. Stackhouse

Sisco said the President had directed that discussions begin with Ambassador Rabin as a follow-up, through the Ambassador, of the conversation the President and the Prime Minister had had December [Page 963] 2,2 the purpose being to work out an agreement as it relates to Phantoms and Skyhawks.3

First, Sisco wanted to tell the Ambassador what production schedules were under normal circumstances. If we were to proceed on the basis of new production, that is, new Phantom production with which Israel could tie in (we were talking here about 42 Phantoms), this would mean that Israel could receive aircraft from new production beginning in April, 1973. Regarding Skyhawks, on the basis of our production line, delivery could begin from new production in July, 1973, as an add-on to the 18 Skyhawks now scheduled for delivery November 1972–June 1973. If we were to proceed on the basis of new production schedules, there were contingencies that could affect delivery, that is, that would dictate earlier delivery to Israel:

A. If we conclude that Soviet deliveries to the Arabs threaten to turn the military balance against Israel;

B. If the Arabs resume the war of attrition or otherwise initiate active hostilities;

C. If there were an interim agreement or some kind of agreement involving Israeli withdrawal, it was obvious this would involve additional military risk for Israel.

Sisco was aware, he continued, that the Prime Minister had talked to the President in terms of a delivery schedule beginning in 1972. Rabin interjected that that was what the Prime Minister had told him. Sisco said that if the Ambassador were going to be in town for a few more days he could have gotten additional information as to what the possibilities were regarding earlier deliveries. Sisco said he would be in touch with the Pentagon while Rabin was away and would see what was possible. Anything in the way of deliveries before the dates he had described—that is deliveries other than those based on new production—would have to be done by diversion from our own inventory. By the time Rabin returned, he hoped to be able to give him some indication as to what might be possible, but he had not had the opportunity to explore this fully with the Pentagon.

Sisco then recalled that the Prime Minister and the President had also discussed political aspects of the situation, the Jarring mission, and the interim agreement. Regarding reactivation of the Jarring mission, Sisco would summarize our position as follows: We see advantage in [Page 964] some Jarring activity if for no other reason than that it reinforces the continuance of the ceasefire. It gives Cairo an opportunity to point to ongoing diplomatic activity; such activity tends to blur deadlines which have been of concern to the United States and Israel. So we see reactivation of the Jarring mission as desirable. If there were some new response to Jarring from Israel which would take into account, for example, the OAU approach,4 this would be helpful not only in reinforcing the ceasefire’s continuance but in creating a more satisfactory climate generally. Sisco expressed the hope that Israel would look at this.

Regarding the interim agreement, Sisco went on, our position remains that we remain available to the parties if they desire it. On November 1 the Prime Minister had asked Ambassador Barbour for clarifications.5

The first clarification requested was with respect to aircraft. In this regard, Sisco had said what he could say at this time.

The second clarification was regarding the six points the Secretary had outlined in his address at the UNGA.6 On this, our position was described clearly in the Secretary’s interview in the November 22 issue of U.S. News and World Report, in which the Secretary said:

“I outlined in my (United Nations) General Assembly speech a few weeks ago the six areas where there are differences. I want to make clear we have made no proposals of our own and we have not adopted any substantive position on any of these six parameters that I outlined. We have no blueprint of our own that we have put forward.

“Both sides have put forward some positive ideas; both sides adhere to certain points strongly, and both sides will have to make adjustments in their positions if an interim agreement is to be achieved.

“There are a number of difficulties, but I would single out one in particular: the nature of any Egyptian presence east of the Canal. On this key point, I also want to make clear that both sides hold strong views, one insisting that military forces cross and the other taking an opposite view. While I expressed in my general debate speech the hope that this and other points might prove reconcilable, I want to make clear that we have taken no substantive position. The fact that I hope the reconciliation is possible should not be understood to mean that we have made a judgment or expressed a substantive view on how it should be resolved. That is a matter for the parties.”

This was our response on this point.

[Page 965]

Sisco said the third clarification related to:

(a) whether the U.S. agrees that negotiations for an interim settlement are basically different from negotiations for an overall settlement; and

(b) what role the U.S. would play in these negotiations.

As to (a), we do not believe there should be any preconditions for entering into negotiations in close proximity. As far as we were concerned the principle of no imposed settlement applies to an interim agreement as it does to an overall settlement. As a minimum, the objective of close proximity talks should be to reinforce the ceasefire; therefore, the pace of these talks should be geared to avoid false deadlines resulting in new crises.

As to (b), the U.S. will seek to identify common ground between the positions of the two sides and use our good offices with both parties to help them develop such common ground. Israel can be assured that we will consult fully step-by-step with it in the spirit of the special relationship that exists between our two countries.

Now in light of these clarifications that we have provided, we seek confirmation that Israel is now prepared to enter into the negotiations at close proximity suggested earlier by the United States Government.

Sisco then said that we requested that Israel review the “Minute of Oral Discussion” of August 2, 19717 (this was the paper, he noted, he had left with the Prime Minister) and, in particular, point one of that paper dealing with the relationship of the interim agreement with the final settlement. At this point Sisco said he wanted to say a word about the Egyptian position. We have had no new indication of a change in the Egyptian position regarding an interim agreement. The last formal conveyance by the Egyptians to us, Sisco continued, linked the beginning of proximity talks with a further reply on the part of Israel to the February 8 memorandum of Jarring. When the U.S. first approached Egypt in October regarding talks in close proximity the Egyptian reaction was positive. We did not press for a formal, categorical, 100 percent acceptance of the proximity talk proposal because we wanted to be sure Israel would go along. We had suggested to Israel a specific time and place for such talks. But in view of Israel’s reservations, we did not carry the matter further with Egypt. We wanted Israel to know precisely what our understanding was of the Egyptian position on close proximity talks. The last privately conveyed Egyptian position shortly before the opening of the Middle East GA debate (in mid-December) was one of linkage between proximity talks and a further Israeli reply to the Jarring February 8 memorandum.

[Page 966]

Finally, if Israel was ready to proceed to proximity talks, Sisco said, we would appreciate any thoughts it might have as to time and place.

Sisco said we had chosen to convey all of this to the GOI and to have Rabin carry this back personally in order to diminish the risk of any leaks. It was essential that there be no government leaks and speculation as it related to these talks and in particular as it related to military assistance.

There was a technical point Sisco wanted to mention. In the President’s discussion with the Prime Minister she had referred to F4Fs. Rabin said that this was a two-seat trainer not equipped for fighting but which the Israelis wanted to equip for fighting. Rabin said she had said Israel wanted during 1972 40 A4Es and 10 F4Fs. In 1973, in addition to the 18 A4Ns already scheduled, Israel wanted another 32. As for Phantoms, Rabin continued, Israel wanted three per month, with deliveries beginning early in 1972 and continuing in 1973. Mrs. Meir had talked about beginning deliveries in January. Rabin said that on the political side of Sisco’s presentation he preferred not to say anything at the present, but he obviously would report fully to Jerusalem. On the military side, Rabin made clear in several ways Israel’s very strong view that deliveries should begin in 1972 and that he could not agree to a later delivery schedule. In short, Rabin again reiterated he would take what Sisco had said back to Israel and Sisco in the meantime would explore matters with the Pentagon. This is a start of talks, Sisco said.

Regarding handling of press queries on this meeting, Sisco and Rabin agreed that nothing would be volunteered to the press. If there was any query from the press to Rabin he would confirm that a meeting had taken place and that there had been a regular, routine exchange of views. If asked whether there had been any discussion of clarifications, Rabin said he would “stay out of it.”

In closing comments Sisco asked that General Zeira not raise these matters with the Pentagon in the interim. This was being held very closely within the USG. Rabin reassured Sisco on this point.

[Page 967]


1972 1973
Feb 2 Feb 2
Apr 2 Apr 2
Jun 2 May 4
Aug 2 Jun 4
Oct 2 Jul 4
Dec 2 Aug 2
12 Sep 4
Oct 2
Nov 2
Dec 4
TOTAL = 42

NOTE: Majority of aircraft incorporate leading edge slats

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 12–5 ISR. Secret; Nodis; Cedar Plus. Drafted by Stackhouse (NEA/IAI). The meeting was held at 9 a.m. in Rabin’s residence.
  2. See Document 268.
  3. A copy of Kissinger’s December 28 memorandum to Rogers directing him to begin talks with Rabin is attached to Document 272. On February 2, 1972, after the fifth and final meeting between Sisco and Rabin, Rogers sent Nixon a memorandum to update him on the outcome of the talks. For Kissinger’s summary and analysis, see Document 277.
  4. See footnote 5, Document 270.
  5. See footnote 2, Document 263.
  6. See footnote 3, Document 255.
  7. See footnote 5, Document 245.