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


  • Status of the Four Power Talks

Since pressure is building for a new departure in the Four Power talks2 and as an outgrowth of your talk with Prime Minister Wilson,3 I thought you might find useful a brief analysis of the situation.

The tactical situation is that we have stood firm on our December 18 formulations for an Israel-Jordan settlement.4 The British have given us strong support on all of the major issues and have refrained from presenting any specific ideas of their own. The pressure arises from the fact that the French, who were earlier helpful in keeping the pressure on the Soviets to respond to our proposals for an Israel-UAR settlement, have now tabled their own proposals on the Jordan aspect5 and most recently have launched an energetic effort to have the Four draft a paper reflecting the “common ground” achieved in the talks. The Soviets, having taken a flat stand against our position6 but feeling some compulsion not to be completely negative, have moved almost entirely to the original French proposals.7 These are unacceptable to us and, even more important, to the Israelis.

The major substantive issues which the Four have concentrated on concern Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank, rectification of boundaries, the nature of the negotiations to be held between the parties, the [Page 291] obligations of a binding peace and the Palestinian refugee problem. Much of the recent discussion of these issues has been in working meetings of the deputy permanent representatives rather than of the permanent representatives themselves, and that may account for some of the flexibility. Nevertheless, on the issues of withdrawal, boundaries and refugees all four positions seem close enough to give hope that, if everyone negotiated in good faith and with some flexibility, mutually acceptable language might be found, though there are still some minor differences to be resolved.

More important, however, the Soviets remain adamant on the two most important issues for us—the obligations which each side would have to assume in committing themselves to coexist peacefully and negotiating procedures. Specifically:

Peace. We have made virtually no progress with the Soviets on the commitments that would be undertaken in a state of peace. The basic disagreement is on how specific the Four Powers should be in spelling out the obligations that the parties would assume. The British have supported our position that the obligations of peace, especially regarding control of the fedayeen, must be specified. The Soviets, reflecting the Arab desire not to be made responsible for future fedayeen actions, continue to resist on the grounds that this is unnecessary since the fedayeen will fade away after a peace settlement. They show no inclination to take as much distance from the Arabs on this key issue as we have taken from the Israelis on withdrawal and boundaries. The French have recently tried to shift tactically in our direction, but their proposal seems a non-starter.8 Their idea is that Israeli withdrawal would come in two phases. The Arab armies would end hostilities as withdrawal began, but the Arab governments would not assume responsibility for controlling the fedayeen until the Israelis had withdrawn part way. This in effect would legalize fedayeen attacks while inhibiting Israeli retaliation.

Negotiating Procedures. The basic problem here is to find a formula that leaves open the interpretation that there will be direct contacts at some stage. For us this is a key issue since unless the Israelis believe that there will be direct talks—preferably at the beginning—there is no chance of getting any kind of negotiations underway. For lack of anything better we are still pushing the Rhodes formula. The Soviets have so far been most unhelpful on this issue, refusing to consider it of sub[Page 292]stantive importance. The British have supported our position and the French are searching—so far without success—for new language that everyone can accept.

Conclusion. For all practical purposes the Four Power talks are deadlocked on the most important issues—specifying the obligations of peace and negotiating procedures. Our December 18 proposals made substantial concessions to the Soviets on the issues that they and the Arabs see as most important (Israeli withdrawal and boundary rectification) but they have not budged on the issues most vital to us and the Israelis. The British have provided useful support, although if the impasse continues they will most likely feel compelled to present their own ideas which could further complicate the situation. The French appear to be moving closer to us on some questions, but their tactic of searching for the common ground has provided the Soviets with a convenient way to ignore our proposals by supporting French positions rather than discussing ours.

The new front that presents itself is Jordan’s desire—with Nasser’s concurrence—to talk with us directly about our documents. This could open the theoretical possibility of trying to win Jordanian and Egyptian acceptance of our formulations directly, although on balance it seems unlikely that Nasser will feel able to go along.

At Tab A I am attaching a State Department analysis which explains the differences in the various positions point by point.9

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 650, Country Files, Middle East, Middle East Negotiations. Secret. Sent for information.
  2. The UN Permanent Representatives of the Four Powers met on January 23 and February 2, as reported in telegram 107 from USUN, January 24, and telegram 162 from USUN, February 3. (Both ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27–14 ARAB–ISR)
  3. President Nixon met with Prime Minister Wilson at the White House January 27–28. Regarding Arab-Israeli issues, the President stressed “the imperative need of sticking together on the Middle East.” Wilson replied that it was not their position to “outflank” the United States with concessions. “Britian may have to restate its view in slightly different language, but since Israel has already described the U.S. plan as a sellout, there’s no sense in going further.” (Memorandum of conversations, January 27–28, 1970; Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XLI, Western Europe; NATO, 1969–1972, Document 320) Kissinger discussed the Nixon–Wilson meeting in White House Years, pp. 416–417.
  4. See footnote 5, Document 76.
  5. See Document 75.
  6. See Document 80.
  7. Nixon underlined “Soviets” and “have moved almost entirely to the original French proposals” in this sentence.
  8. In telegram 162 from USUN, the Mission reported that the French Representative advanced what he described as “new information on peace,” focusing on the issue of Israeli withdrawal from territories occupied during the 1967 war, in the hope of breaking the “deadlock” in the Four-Power forum. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27–14 ARAB–ISR)
  9. Attached but not printed.