308. Telegram From the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig) to President Nixon at Camp David, Maryland1

WH27332. Memorandum for: The President. From: Al Haig. Subject: Rising Tensions in the Mid-East.

Pursuant to your instructions, I conveyed to Israeli Minister Idan (in the absence of Ambassador Rabin who was en route to Israel) our strong concern for the retaliatory action taken by the Government of Israel yesterday against refugee terrorist camps.2 I added that this action was inconsistent with the assurances given by Ambassador Rabin to Dr. Kissinger yesterday that Israel would do nothing to upset the [Page 1046] “trend of tranquility” in the Mid-East. Idan replied that Israel intended to abide by the assurances given but that this did not mean that Israel would stand by idly and not take some action against known terrorist bases. He implied that the targets were precise and well identified beforehand. He estimated that there may have been as many as 90 to 100 casualties inflicted.

Idan pointed out that today’s air action over the Golan Heights resulted from efforts by the Syrian Air Force to bomb Israeli territory. During these air battles, which involved as many as 90 aircraft, three Syrian SU–7s were shot down and a fourth was damaged but landed safely. Idan stated that today’s actions were purely defensive in nature and that he did not foresee any change in the assessment given by Rabin yesterday. I again reiterated to him that you were concerned and hoped that Israel would not jeopardize the good will built here as a result of the improving situation in the Mid-East, and the sympathy for Israel which had been engendered by the tragic events in Munich. It was made clear to Idan that a continuation of clearly unprovoked military aggressiveness on the part of Israel would not be understood nor condoned by the White House.3

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 609, Country Files, Middle East, Israel, Vol. X. Secret; Sensitive. Stamped notations on the first page indicate that the telegram was received at Camp David at 4:35 p.m. and that the President saw it.
  2. On September 8, Israeli fighter jets struck 10 Palestinian guerrilla bases deep in both Lebanese and Syrian territory in retaliation for the killing of the Israeli athletes in Munich on September 6. (New York Times, September 9, 1972, p. 1)
  3. Nixon wrote “good” next to these last two sentences. In a September 11 memorandum, Butterfield informed Haig that the President read this telegram and “was especially pleased to note that you made it clear to Minister Idan that a continuation of unprovoked military aggression on the part of Israel would not be understood, or condoned, at this end of the line.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 609, Country Files, Middle East, Israel, Vol. X) On September 16, Kissinger told Idan: “But if you do not stop these actions—I must tell you, you are running an enormous risk in your relations with the President. You launched an action the day before I go to Moscow and you launch an action the day after I come back at a time when we are taking an all-out diplomatic position in your defense and are preventing—going into actions. We cannot take this. Now there is no President who has done more for you, and I can tell you, I have just come from the President and he asked me to call you.” (Transcript of telephone conversation, 1:28 p.m.; ibid., Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 15, Chronological File)