314. Telegram From the Interests Section in Egypt to the Department of State1

2772. Subject: What Chance Middle East Peace? Ref: USUN 3818 (Secto 73), USUN 3723 (Secto 63), USUN 3651.2

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Summary: Our interim reassessment of the GOE position and policy on Middle East peace finds no prospect of a change in what they continue to regard as the central issues, territory and negotiations, absent evidence of change in US or Israeli positions thereon. The GOE regards such change as something the USG, not the GOE, must produce—or induce.

1. Prompted by reports of New York conversations about Middle East in reftels, among others, we have reassessed what we know and can infer about GOE position on Middle East peace. The fundamental elements of that position continue to be that “peace” or even “progress towards peace” are for Sadat and co. secondary in importance to the territorial issue and the “direct negotiation” issue. Compelling as the logic of the case for unfreezing matters is to us Anglo-Saxons, the logic for the Egyptians and other Arabs closest to their councils is that the present state of affairs is better, or at least no worse, than “submission” to Israel and the United States or either or both of them on what they see as the central issues.

2. The resultant impasse was succintly described by Jarring to Bush (USUN 3651). It strikes us as interesting that Jarring seems to have adopted the Egyptian view of the importance and nature of a “new US initiative” to breaking his efforts loose. “New US initiative” in this part of the Arab world we see as a euphemism for US pressure on Israel; it also has the advantage of passing the buck for doing something from the Govt. of Egypt to the Govt. of the US. Moreover, alas, the more we talk about the need for movement involving either of the central issues, and about opening the Suez Canal, the more Sadat and co. tend to conclude that the US cares more about changing the present state of affairs than they do; ergo, the more they tend to sit tight and await a “US initiative” to change the Israeli position, at least on the territorial issue. As Sadat continues to reiterate, he will not agree to give up one inch of Arab territory—all he has been and is willing to negotiate are the modalities and timetable of Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 border. The “direct negotiation” issue, is in his view a reinforcement for the territorial issue—indeed, they are mutually reinforcing.

3. We have not so far been able to think of any form of inducement or compulsion on GOE open to the United States that would yield Egyptian flexibility in the absence of Israeli agreement to full withdrawal, whether or not overtly induced by a “new US initiative.” In ei [Page 1064] ther event, the scenario would also have somehow to dispose of or at least neutralize the Egyptian view that “unlimited” US support of Israel—especially military—underlies Israeli intransigence on the central issues. A show of Israeli agreement that was not accompanied by some reassurance about the military dimension might not be enough to budge Sadat. Conversely, of course, a show of US compulsion of Israel would further entrench the Israelis, as the Egyptian leadership well knows even though they do not readily acknowledge it.

4. Our efforts to think of inducement or compulsion open to other governments in better communication with Sadat than the US is are not much more promising. Indeed, the renewed Egyptian effort to restore their political, psychological, and especially economic relationship with the Soviet Union, while cultivating Western Europeans too, looks to us to be calculated to help them hang on in the present impasse without losing or giving away anything of value to them.

5. The importance of these relationships is reinforced by the importance to Sadat of his relationship with Qaddafi. The latter’s munificence in return for stonewalling Israel is a major determinant of Sadat’s policy and posture, at least as strong as any purely Egyptian factor. The Saudi influence in the opposite direction is there, but the money does not talk as loudly. And while, as Saqqaf said (Secto 73–USUN 3818), Sadat no doubt wants a political solution, the solution he wants, by all the evidence, rhetorical and circumstantial, is one involving a degree of Israeli flexibility that, to put it mildly, is not visible from here.

6. In assessing all this, we have tried to allow for the customary posturing and polemics of the UNGA context, intensified this year by the US election campaign. There are, of course, other issues that are important to Sadat and his friends, and that efforts to move matters would have to take into account; the Palestinian refugees is prominent among these. But one does not, we believe, get to these further issues until the central issues are disposed of—as long as Sadat is in charge. Even with the current context stripped away (or lived through), however, we do not perceive an alteration in the Egyptian constellation of forces that would alone get even an interim solution going. And even if, as Hafez Ismail once enjoined me to remember, “the Arabs are very unpredictable,” they can be just as unpredictable in living up to an agreement they do not want or like, as they might prove to be in purporting to make one.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1169, Saunders Files, Middle East Negotiations Files, Middle East—Jarring Talks, October 1–31, 1972. Secret. Repeated to Amman, Jidda, London, Moscow, Paris, Tel Aviv, Tripoli, and USUN.
  2. In telegram 3818/Secto 73 from USUN, October 11, Rogers reported his and Sisco’s October 6 meeting with Saudi Foreign Minister Umar Saqqaf, who, after the Secretary’s presentation on why the United States continued to support the idea of proximity talks, said he had planned to speak with Egyptian officials on the subject. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27–14 ARAB–ISR) In telegram 3723/Secto 63 from USUN, October 6, Rogers reported his and Sisco’s October 5 conversation with Mohammed Riad and Mohamed Zayyat, who had recently been appointed Foreign Minister, which considered how Egypt and Israel could make progress toward an interim Suez Canal agreement. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1169, Saunders Files, Middle East Negotiations Files, Middle East—Jarring Talks, October 1–31, 1972) In telegram 3651 from USUN, October 4, the Mission reported that Jarring had told Bush that all the negotiating tracks in the Arab-Israeli dispute were “blocked” and that, unless the United States could “assume initiative” after the November Presidential election, he feared that the Middle East “would become increasingly unstable.” (Ibid.)