51. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1
- The Israeli Position [less than 1 line not declassified]
[1 line not declassified] The Israelis have often used this channel for revealing their real thinking. These are his main points:
1. The Arabs are now waging a war of attrition. Israel’s present military strategy is to show Nasser that this will cost Egypt heavily. The latest raids have greatly damaged Nasser’s personal prestige.
2. The Israelis think that if they continue their present course of military action, Nasser may well fall. Nasser’s fall would open the way for a new play of forces in the area.
3. If Nasser falls, his successor will be less dangerous to Western interests because he will not have Nasser’s personal charisma. Moderate Arab leaders will be more free to make peace.[Page 177]
4. The USSR has exploited Arab frustration with Israel’s and Egypt’s ambition to dominate the Arab world by leading the attack on Israel. The present struggle is above all an Egyptian-Russian struggle against Israel. Israel’s very existence prevents total Soviet domination over the region.2
5. The Soviet Union, therefore, can have no interest in a real Arab-Israeli peace. With peace, the Arab states would divert their major energies to economic and social development. Soviet capacity to compete with the US in that field is small.
6. The Soviets hope that the war of attrition in the Mid-East will make the US weary of the situation and ready to accept a compromise peace formula.
7. The war of attrition makes heavy demands on Israel’s resources. Prime Minister Meir will discuss additional military and economic aid with you. The “identity of interests between the US and Israel” justifies US material support for Israel’s strategy.
This is a forthright statement of Israel’s strategy—change the overall situation in the Mid-East by removing Nasser. It is also a clear example of Israel’s assumption that our interests and Israel’s are identical. The questionable points about this thesis are:
1. The [less than 1 line not declassified] himself points out that the USSR profits from tension and the US can outrun the USSR in peaceful competition.
2. Therefore, for us to have an interest in supporting Israel’s strategy, that strategy must promise peace.
3. It is not at all certain that Hussein will be any more able to make peace without Nasser than with him. The fedayeen or the radical governments of Syria and Iraq may prove just as much of an inhibition as Nasser.
4. It seems more likely—and some Israelis admit this—that Israel’s purpose is to surround itself with weak Arab governments so that it can weather prolonged tension behind its present borders.3
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 644, Country Files, Middle East—General. Secret. Sent for information. All brackets are in the original except those indicating text that remains classified. Haig sent Kissinger’s memorandum back to him on October 7 to alert him to comments that Nixon wrote on it.↩
- Nixon highlighted this paragraph, underlined from “Egyptian-Russian struggle” to the end of the paragraph, and wrote “correct” underneath it.↩
- At the bottom of the memorandum, Nixon wrote: “K—Can’t C.I.A. handle Nasser?!”↩