316. Telegram From the Embassy in Israel to the Department of State1

7357. Subject: US-Israel: Dayan Visit to Washington.2

Summary: Dayan is the one Israeli leader who continues to focus on possibility of interim Suez Canal settlement and by all indications to want it. We believe he should be encouraged. However, Dayan like rest [Page 1068] of GOI is probably convinced that Sadat in due course will take his own initiative to bring about such settlement and that nothing should be done meanwhile which might sidetrack him. Dayan also must be concerned about current unrealistic mood of expectation in Cairo that US, with elections over, will help solve Egypt’s problem with Israel. GOI for this reason may charge Dayan with making strong pitch in Washington for USG to do and say nothing about Arab-Israeli problem in coming weeks. As for substantive questions involved in interim settlement, it would not be surprising if Dayan’s authority to talk with Americans about such matters at this juncture is severely limited; PriMin Meir would not want to risk mistaken impression in Washington that GOI is ready to send signals to Sadat. Dept might consider using occasion of Dayan’s visit rekindle his desire to start moving now toward Canal settlement—and to strengthen his hand within GOI as leading proponent of such move—by renewing assurances of US willingness to be helpful in spheres of advance intelligence coordination monitoring and subsequent for any Canal settlement, possible limited observer role in such settlement, and fending off undesirable outside Middle East initiatives in meantime. End summary.

1. Dayan is the one Israeli leader who from the fall of 1970 to the present day has wanted strongly to see a partial Suez Canal settlement and who appears to remain convinced that one is achievable. Presumably his strong interest in disengagement with Egypt arises from Dayan’s responsibility for military situation at Canal, his appreciation of normalization of life in Israel made possible by past two years of ceasefire at Canal, and his dread of unpredictable situation to which renewed shooting could lead. Dayan therefore is the right Israeli leader for US to encourage on subject of interim Canal settlement.

2. There is no reason to think, however, that Dayan does not share conviction of rest of Israeli leadership that Sadat is being led inexorably by flow of events toward taking an Egyptian initiative aimed at Israelis themselves (and not US). While recognizing that disarray in Cairo’s relations with USSR and Egypt’s internal unrest have weakened Sadat at the moment, making initiative toward Israel harder for him to undertake, we suspect Israelis like Dayan look upon Sadat’s current troubles with his own military and his Soviet allies as sealing once and for all, in Sadat’s mind, notion that Egypt can afford to delude itself that it has any military option against Israel for foreseeable future.

3. Israelis clearly have sensed mood of unrealistic anticipation in Cairo, which Minister Greene has so succinctly reported (Cairo 2933),3 that USG after elections may take major new initiative in Middle East [Page 1069] entailing pressure on Israel to bring about settlement acceptable to Egypt. Israelis undoubtedly view such mood not only as regrettable sidetrack for gradual evolution of Egyptian policy in realistic direction, but also as serious potential danger because of instability to which Cairo’s inevitable disappointment with US can lead. We therefore believe that if Israeli leadership charges Dayan with conveying any message in Washington on November 14, it will be to emphasize need, as GOI sees it, for US in coming weeks to do and say absolutely nothing concerning Arab-Israeli problem.

4. As we are reporting separately, Israel’s pre-election campaign is now getting underway, and Dayan is involved. How involved he is personally is hard to judge, since his numerous supporters have been applying all their talents to do battle for him and may have to some extent helped to create the emanations we are getting to effect that a sparring among leading personalities is underway within Labor Party. Suffice it to say here, in any case, that Washington should not be surprised if Dayan’s lips are tightly buttoned Nov 14 with respect to substantive issues involved in any interim Canal settlement. Fact that Dayan at first regretted and later accepted Secretary’s invitation to come to Washington during his visit to US could conceivably mean that Dayan’s colleagues in Cabinet have hammered out with him set of guidelines for his talks with US officials. Given Dayan’s propensity to speak his mind on terms of an accommodation with Egypt and GOI’s concern not to encourage US to say anything on this subject because of Cairo’s current mood of expectation, one of guidelines might well be injunction to stay off subject of Suez Canal.

5. If Dayan while in Washington cannot be drawn out on substantive aspects of Canal settlement, and if as we expect he takes view that US and Israel should do absolutely nothing at this time to prime the Egyptian pump, US talks with Dayan Nov 14 can still be turned to good advantage, in our view, if they serve the purpose of reviving and strengthening Dayan’s interest in seeing Canal settlement come to pass. Dept might therefore consider renewing to Dayan assurances of US readiness to: A) Enter into detailed discussion with Israel at any time of intelligence aspects of interim settlement, to give Israel added assurance that it can safely carry out partial withdrawal; B) provide Israel with meaningful, ongoing assistance in monitoring good performance on obligations undertaken by Egypt in any Canal agreement, if desired; C) serve in limited supervisory or observer capacity on ground as part of Canal settlement arrangements, if desired; and D) assist Israel meanwhile in fending off any unhelpful outside initiatives on Middle East arising in UN or other contexts.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 658, Country Files, Middle East, Middle East Nodis/Cedar/Plus, Vol. V. Secret; Nodis; Cedar. Repeated to Cairo.
  2. Dayan visited New York and Washington November 12–14. The memorandum of conversation of Dayan’s meeting with Department of Defense officials is Document 319.
  3. Dated November 1. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27–14 ARAB–ISR)