77. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • My Talk with Foreign Minister Eban

Foreign Minister Eban came in to see me the morning of December 16 before his afternoon talk with Secretary Rogers.2 He said that Prime Minister Meir is disturbed by a “sharp atmospheric change” since her visit3 evinced in the resumption of Four Power talks,4 the Secretary’s policy statement5 and the “cancellation” of the desalting project.6 [I hope I laid this last to rest by stressing that they had over-read our position on the desalting project and that, to the contrary, you had just approved going ahead with the test module.]

I assured him that there had been no change in attitude toward Israel and that your objective remains the enhancement of Israel’s long-term security. I explained exactly where we stand in our analysis of [Page 261] their substantial aid requests and said we would be replying within a reasonable period.

Eban’s main concerns were:

1. Borders. By getting into the issue of where the UAR-Israel border should be, he felt the US had hampered Israel’s freedom to negotiate a position at Sharm al-Shaikh. I told him that it might have been better if Israel had confided that objective to us a long time ago because most of the US Government had long labored under the misunderstanding that Israel put more stock in Arab recognition than in territory. He conceded that it had taken time for Israeli thinking to evolve but insisted that Israel must have a position at Sharm al-Shaikh.

2. Tactics. He repeated several times the advice to “let the other side sweat a little.” His main point seemed to be that resumption of the Four Power talks let the USSR off the hook too soon and that we should have held up resumption until Moscow had responded to the October 28 US position paper.7 While he objected to the US formulation, he acted almost as if that were now taken for granted and that the US should have been content to stand on it.

3. Jordan-Israel. He particularly did not like involvement of the Soviets or the Four Powers in this aspect of a settlement. I told him that we fully appreciated this concern and that if they felt the US could be useful as a mediator we would much prefer this role to either the US–USSR or the Four Power talks. He replied only that the problem with Jordan was not communication but whether Hussein could make an agreement and keep it.

4. US–USSR dialogue. He felt that we should limit ourselves to (a) discussing how to prevent war (Soviet agreement to non-intervention and maintenance of Israeli strength) and (b) bringing the belligerents to the negotiating table. He repeated several times that we should confine the big-power talks to the questions of how, where and under what conditions the belligerents should begin negotiation.

In short, he recalled his talk with you last March8 and your statement that we had to try consultations with other major powers to see what could be achieved.9 With ten months of experience behind us, he

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felt it was time to stand back from that experience to see what lessons it taught. This sort of joint stock-taking was the purpose of his visit.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 605, Country Files, Middle East, Israel, Vol. III. Secret; Nodis. Sent for information. All brackets are in the original.
  2. Reported in telegram 209262 to Tel Aviv, December 18. (Ibid.)
  3. The Prime Minister was in the United States September 24 to October 6. See Document 52.
  4. See Documents 72 and 75.
  5. See Document 73.
  6. On November 21, Saunders asked Leonard Garment to inform the Government of Israel that the November 20 “cancellation” of the desalting project did not “close the door” on it. (Memorandum from Saunders to Garment, November 21; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1238, Saunders Files) For U.S. policy on the desalting project, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXIV, Middle East Region and Arabian Peninsula, 1969–1972; Jordan, September 1970, Documents 4, 5, 9, 12, and 14.
  7. See Document 58.
  8. See Document 14.
  9. An apparent reference to Nixon’s March 4 press conference, at which he said: “from the four-power conference can come an absolute essential to any kind of peaceful settlement in the Mideast, and that is a major-power guarantee of the settlement, because we cannot expect the Nation of Israel or the other nations in the area who think their major interests might be involved—we cannot expect them to agree to a settlement unless they think there is a better chance that it will be guaranteed in the future than has been the case in the past. On this score, then, we think we have made considerable progress during the past week. We are cautiously hopeful that we can make more progress and move to the four-power talks very soon.” (Public Papers: Nixon, 1969, p. 185)