43. Letter From the Representative to the United Nations (Yost) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

Dear Henry:

I found your letter of July 22, in response to mine of July 9,2 awaiting me on my return from Europe. I should hope very much we might get together soon to discuss this problem. Do you expect to be on the West Coast during most of the next month or will you be in Washington?

At this time I shall only comment on the two points you make. I think the difference in our approach may lie in the fact that you quite naturally look on our Middle Eastern negotiations primarily as one of a number of factors in our relations with the Soviets, while I am more concerned at this juncture with their effect on our relations with the Arabs. This is because, as long as we can prevent a direct military confrontation between the Soviets and ourselves in this area—and I am sanguine that we can—developments there will not be decisive in our relations with them. Developments there over the next year could very easily, however, be decisive in our relations with the Arabs, not only with the radicals but also with the moderates from Saudi Arabia through Jordan and Lebanon to Tunisia and Morocco.

If the conflict gradually sharpens over coming months—as it certainly will without a settlement—and if our negotiating position continues to be as one-sided as it has been—insisting on Arab acceptance of legitimate Israeli desiderata without any apparent willingness on our part to support legitimate Arab desiderata—, there are likely to be three consequences. First, the sharpening conflict will move more and [Page 153] more of the Arab governments into the radical posture, and threaten the survival of some that don’t move.

Second, the already badly impaired U.S. position in the area will be further and heavily eroded. Third, more and more of the Arab governments will turn to the Soviets, as the great power supporting them most firmly and tangibly.

In answer to your specific question, I should therefore say that our loss from the passage of time is likely to be much more serious than that of the Soviets. Indeed the whole balance of power in the Arab world could in a relatively short time shift to our disadvantage.

All of this is without regard to who started the Six Day War and who should suffer for it. My own view is that the Israeli judgment of the best way to maintain their security is sadly mistaken and that in the long run, unless they change their policy, they will suffer more decisively than the Arabs because they cannot afford to suffer as much.

Of course it may well be that they are in no mood to be persuaded of this at the present time, either by us or anyone else. All that I am urging is that we work out rapidly with the Soviets, British and French the main outlines of a fair and reasonable settlement—“a just and durable peace”—and submit them to the parties through Jarring. This was the policy outlined by the President at the first NSC meeting I attended last winter3 and I am still convinced it is the right one.

I believe moreover that we could complete the negotiation of such an outline with the other three within six weeks if we treated it as a matter of utmost urgency—which I am convinced it is. Whether the parties would thereafter accept it is quite another matter. But at the very least we would have demonstrated our bona fides and our impartiality, and thereby some of the dire consequences I fear flowing from the maintenance of our present immobility would be avoided.4

Sincerely yours,

Charles W. Yost5
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, Subject Files, Box 5, Confidential Files 1969–74. Secret & Personal.
  2. On July 9, Yost wrote to Kissinger about his disappointment over the instruction that Sisco await further concessions before demonstrating any flexibility in his discussions with Soviet representatives regarding an Arab-Israeli settlement. In his July 22 reply, Kissinger wrote: “The Soviets and their clients bear a substantial responsibility for bringing on the 1967 war, and they lost it. The issue, therefore is: If there is to be a compromise settlement rather than full acquiescence in their demands, should we bear the onus for proposing the specific terms of the compromise or should they? Is it not their job—rather than ours on their behalf—to persuade the Israelis that they are ready to make peace? The other question your letter leaves unanswered is this: While time may not be working in our favor, will our loss from the passage of time compare with the USSR’s?” (Both are ibid., NSC Files, Box 1170, Saunders Files, Middle East Negotiations Files, Middle East Settlement—US–USSR Talks, July 16–September 30, 1969)
  3. See Document 4.
  4. On September 6, Yost wrote a memorandum to Nixon arguing the same point, explaining that if U.S. efforts failed, “the United States would at least have made clear to all concerned that it had joined in presenting and supporting proposals which are fair to all, and its responsibility for failure, if they were rejected would be minimized.” He added: “The Soviets would not be, as they are now the sole beneficiaries of the deepening crisis.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Box 644, Country Files, Middle East, Middle East—General, Vol. I)
  5. Yost signed “Charlie” above his typed signature.