317. Memorandum From Harold Saunders of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • A Proposal for a New Step Toward Arab-Israeli Peace Negotiations—How to Use This Book

A table of contents immediately follows this memo.2

The purpose of this book is to give you a take-off point for thinking about where we might go from here in looking afresh at the Arab-Israeli problem. I have done this (a) by putting together one possible approach to Israel followed by approaches to the Egyptians and Jordanians and (b) by giving you a series of variations which could suggest modifications to the basic approach. I am not pushing any one approach, but I thought it would be most helpful to put something together as a starting point for discussion.

Many refinements would be necessary if this were to become a basis for any kind of action. But it seemed desirable to start looking at general approaches now.

There is more material included in this book than you will need initially. I suggest that you glance over the first memo under the next tab marked “Strategy—Considerations and Approach.” Then read fairly carefully Sub-tab 1 marked “Israel,” which is a full set of talking points for an initial approach to the Israelis. This will give you a sense of the essence of the approach put forward for discussion. The heart of the proposal is at the red tabs in those two papers. Following the Israeli talking paper are similar papers for use with the Egyptians, Jordanians and Soviets, but they are all elaborations of the approach initially outlined to the Israelis.

If you want to pursue the subject in more detail, you can later move on to the other tabs which outline the main broad options for settlements between Egypt-Israel and Jordan-Israel.

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While the approach below will sound as if it is directed primarily at an Egypt-Israel settlement, it is one of the premises of the papers in this book that we should simultaneously develop strategies toward both the Jordanian and Egyptian fronts, even though those strategies may be quite different.

In a nutshell, the proposed approach on Egypt-Israel negotiations would differ from the Rogers Plan in three important respects.

1. It would begin by trying to establish with Israel a genuinely reciprocal alliance relationship, in substance though not in name. This would require a change in style from the past four years. Instead of hitting the Israelis with a big initiative on a more or less take-it-or-leave-it basis, we would move through a period of consultation with them before putting a new initiative in final form for presentation to the Egyptians or Jordanians.

2. Then, it would move to try to reach an understanding in private talks with both sides on the general objectives of a negotiation before either negotiating details or going public. Any interim step will founder, as in 1971, on these issues eventually anyway.

3. Since it is unlikely that the central issue of borders can be resolved before negotiation, this approach would seek a statement of objective that could help meet Sadat’s need while actually accepting the fact that he cannot reach final terms without negotiating. We would try to shift the issue from “withdrawal” to “restoration of Egyptian sovereignty” so as to allow flexibility for phasing withdrawal and even the stationing of Israeli troops on Egyptian soil. Thus, we would not commit ourselves in advance of a negotiation to total Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai.

The following are the main elements of what I have put forward as a suggested approach on the Egypt-Israel front:

—Any new initiative would start with an approach to Israel:

We would propose dealing with Israel as an ally in substance, if not in name. The purpose would be to increase confidence and response since we would make clear that any such relationship would have to be reciprocal.

—We would buy the Israeli strategy of stretching the settlement process over as long a time period as possible with the pullback of troops staged through agreed phases, but at the same time we would state that our interests require that some process of negotiation begin soon. We would say that we are prepared to press for mixed direct and indirect negotiations as early as possible so that the role of outsiders would be minimized.

—We would say that, before launching a new initiative, we want to consult with the Israelis in detail on the nature of that initiative. [This is significantly different in style from what State is initially considering.]

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—During those consultations, we would seek Israeli authorization for us to convey a message to President Sadat outlining the agreed approach. We believe it is essential to tell him that Israel will negotiate without preconditions and will not at the outset of negotiation preclude any particular outcome, including restoration of Egyptian sovereignty in the Sinai. We would tell the Israelis frankly that this would be our preference but that we will not try to force it on Israel. In using the word “sovereignty,” we would deliberately try to shift the issue from “withdrawal” to the question of sovereignty because this would allow flexibility for maintaining Israeli troops on Egyptian soil over agreed periods while perhaps beginning to meet Egyptian requirements for getting most of their land back. Its purpose would be to provide enough discussion of a final settlement to try to meet Sadat’s need and then to permit detailed negotiations on a first step, presumably opening the Canal and pulling Israeli troops away from it.

—We would say that, while the (probably secret) talks on general objectives would have to precede any negotiation of a partial settlement on the Canal, we would be prepared to see them continue simultaneously with more open talks on a Canal settlement.

—To Egypt we would privately convey the position outlined above. We would promise that this new initiative would be tightly controlled from the White House and would outline our philosophy of not promising to deliver more than is possible to achieve. We would offer several secret talks on overall objectives and on procedures for getting talks started if the Egyptians wish. With Israeli concurrence, we would tell the Egyptians that we see the objective of negotiation as the restoration of Egyptian sovereignty in the Sinai, but that we are not prepared or able to force this objective on Israel. If the approach is to work, Sadat will have to decide that the time has come to negotiate, but he will have to have some confidence that we are serious about pushing beyond an interim settlement on the Canal.

—Unlike previous initiatives, we would propose paying simultaneous attention to moving negotiations on both the Jordanian and the Egyptian fronts. Over the past three years we have concentrated almost exclusively on the Egyptian front. We should now at least do what we can to facilitate parallel negotiations between Israel and Jordan. King Hussein will be here in February to see the President and to ask what support he can count on, and we will have to be prepared for that. The main choice to be discussed with Hussein at that time is between:

—a settlement that might be called “interim,” would give Hussein much less than he wants on the West Bank, but would let him start building his United Arab Kingdom with its autonomous Palestinian province there and

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—a strategy whereby Israel, in agreement with Jordan or not, would prepare the West Bank for autonomy and ultimate choice of allegiance over time.

—We would inform the Soviets of our general approach to the problem, indicate willingness to go on discussing the approach outlined last May, but suggest that we leave details to Egypt and Israel and concentrate our own talks on issues which are appropriate for the superpowers to address. These might include the nature of major power or Security Council guarantees, the nature of US and USSR support for UN observer missions in the Sinai, and perhaps the nature of our ultimate military relationship to the Middle Eastern nations.

—We would leave the Syrian front aside for the moment. Our primary interest is to keep Syria from preventing progress on other fronts and to avoid deep Soviet involvement. This may require that we offer the prospect of an eventual Syrian involvement in a settlement provided the Syrians themselves are interested. However, if the Jordanians wanted to try drawing the Syrians into an interim settlement, then we might find ourselves sounding out the Israelis on a token pullback or partial demilitarization on the Golan Heights.

If you wished to develop this idea, two sets of approaches would have to be made which are not included in this book:

—We would want to develop support for Sadat and Hussein in those other parts of the Arab world where we have access.

—We would want to develop support in key European countries.

One final point is that timing will be critical. We will lose Israeli confidence if we move too quickly because they do not want us to do anything that will lighten the pressure on Sadat to negotiate with them. On the other hand, pressure on Sadat will mount to heat up the Suez front, perhaps before the next US–USSR summit, in order to force the superpowers to act.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1190, Saunders Files, Middle East Negotiations Files, Arab-Israeli Negotiations A Review of the Present Situation and Options for the Future Mr. Saunders. Secret. All brackets are in the original. This memorandum is attached to a November 14 covering memorandum from Saunders to Kissinger under the subject heading, “The Middle East, 1973–1976,” which begins: “I have prepared this book over the past couple of months with the thought that new attention would have to be given to the Middle East—one way or another—after the President’s re-election. It is consistent with your desire for memos on where we might go over the next four years.” The book is attached but not printed.
  2. Attached but not printed.