The Foreign Relations of the United States series presents the official documentary historical record of major foreign policy decisions and significant diplomatic activity of the United States Government. The Historian of the Department of State is charged with the responsibility for the preparation of the Foreign Relations series. The staff of the Office of the Historian, Bureau of Public Affairs, under the direction of the General Editor of the Foreign Relations series, plans, researches, compiles, and edits the volumes in the series. Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg first promulgated official regulations codifying specific standards for the selection and editing of documents for the series on March 26, 1925. These regulations, with minor modifications, guided the series through 1991.

Public Law 102–138, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, established a new statutory charter for the preparation of the series which was signed by President George H.W. Bush on October 28, 1991. Section 198 of P.L. 102–138 added a new Title IV to the Department of State’s Basic Authorities Act of 1956 (22 USC 4351, et seq.).

The statute requires that the Foreign Relations series be a thorough, accurate, and reliable record of major United States foreign policy decisions and significant United States diplomatic activity. The volumes of the series should include all records needed to provide comprehensive documentation of major foreign policy decisions and actions of the United States Government. The statute also confirms the editing principles established by Secretary Kellogg: the Foreign Relations series is guided by the principles of historical objectivity and accuracy; records should not be altered or deletions made without indicating in the published text that a deletion has been made; the published record should omit no facts that were of major importance in reaching a decision; and nothing should be omitted for the purposes of concealing a defect in policy. The statute also requires that the Foreign Relations series be published not more than 30 years after the events recorded. The editors are convinced that this volume meets all regulatory, statutory, and scholarly standards of selection and editing.

Structure and Scope of the Foreign Relations Series

This volume is part of a subseries of volumes of the Foreign Relations series that documents the most important issues in the foreign policy of the administrations of Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford. This volume documents U.S. policy toward the Arab-Israeli dispute be[Page IV]tween January 1969 and December 1972. During his first term in office, President Richard Nixon was confronted with the challenges posed by the outcomes of the June 1967 Arab-Israeli War, most notably Israel’s acquisition of territory from its Arab neighbors in the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights, and the West Bank; lingering hostilities between Israeli and Arab forces; the rise of the Palestine Liberation Organization under Yasser Arafat; and growing Soviet influence in the Arab states. Although this volume primarily traces the administration’s efforts to broker an Egyptian-Israeli peace settlement while seeking to preserve a precarious regional balance of power between the belligerents, it also covers other aspects of U.S. bilateral relations with Israel, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan, including nuclear matters and arms sales. It should be noted that, because of the hour-by-hour nature of the decision-making among U.S. officials during the September 1970 Jordan Crisis, this event is covered separately in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXIV, Middle East Region and Arabian Peninsula, 1969–1972; Jordan, September 1970. Moreover, to see how the Nixon administration’s handling of the Arab-Israeli dispute fit in with its broader Middle East policy, this volume should be read in conjunction with the other Middle East compilations in the subseries. For documentation on the administration’s broad view of the region, including regional defense, and its political relations with Saudi Arabia and the countries of the Arabian Peninsula, see ibid. The nexus of oil matters and the Arab-Israeli dispute, including the Arab oil embargo of 1973, is covered in Foreign Relations, volume XXXVI, Energy Crisis, 1969–1974. U.S. relations with Iran, with which the Nixon administration developed close ties, are covered in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume E–4, Documents on Iran and Iraq, 1969–1972. Substantial documentation on U.S.-Soviet discussions of a Middle East settlement can also be found in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volumes XIIXV, Soviet Union, January 1969–October 1970; October 1970–October 1971; October 1971–May 1972; and June 1972–August 1974.

Focus of Research and Principles of Selection for Foreign Relations, Volume XXIII

The Foreign Relations series has documented U.S. policy toward the Arab-Israeli dispute since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. Until the Suez crisis in 1956, when Israel participated with Britain and France in the tripartite invasion of Egypt, the series dealt with the dispute in its “Near and Middle East” volumes as one among many regional issues that concerned U.S. policymaking. Since then, the series has dedicated entire volumes to the subject, focusing on U.S. efforts to manage crises, reduce the level of violence in the region, and provide support to its allies, namely Israel, Jordan, and Lebanon. This volume, which covers a majority of the period between the Arab-Israeli wars of [Page V] June 1967 and October 1973, documents the first Nixon administration’s attempts to grapple with the intractable issues that frustrated previous Presidents and their staffs. In this case, however, Nixon and his advisors had to contend with the most important consequence of Israel’s overwhelming victory in the 1967 war: its acquisition of neighboring Arab territory (including the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip from Egypt, the Golan Heights from Syria, and the West Bank from Jordan). Although Nixon’s predecessor, Lyndon B. Johnson, certainly had to consider this issue during the last year and a half of his administration, land questions framed the policymaking environment from the moment Nixon took office and did so throughout his presidency. In common with all recent Foreign Relations volumes, the focus of the volume is devoted primarily to the policy formulation process whereby the Nixon administration addressed these challenges.

The administration’s efforts to persuade Israel and the front-line Arab states to begin negotiations for a settlement—along the lines of the land-for-peace framework established by U.N. Security Council Resolution 242—occurred in a variety of arenas and were conducted by multiple parts of the bureaucracy. However, over the course of this volume, a number of salient themes are highlighted. The first is the bureaucratic balance of power within the Nixon administration’s foreign policymaking apparatus. Somewhat uncharacteristically for foreign policymaking in the Nixon years, responsibility for Middle East policymaking initially resided largely with the Department of State. Indeed, the administration’s first attempt to settle the simmering war of attrition between Egypt and Israel was named for its chief advocate, Secretary of State William P. Rogers. Over time, however, the influence of the White House and specifically that of the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Henry A. Kissinger over U.S. policy toward the Arab-Israeli dispute continued to grow, reflecting the administration’s concerns over the balance of power in the region following the collapse of the Rogers Plan. This influence exacerbated further the already tense relations between Kissinger and Rogers. By the end of Nixon’s first term, Kissinger had circumvented the Department of State by opening a separate backchannel to Egypt in the hopes of breaking the diplomatic stalemate.

The second theme highlighted by this volume is the extent to which the Nixon administration viewed the Arab-Israeli dispute through the lens of the Cold War. For Nixon and Kissinger, in particular, no settlement was possible without taking into consideration the Soviet Union, whose influence—and indeed, presence—in Egypt had spiked dramatically following Israel’s June 1967 victory. Beginning in 1969, the U.S. worked directly with the Soviet Union to bring Israel and Egypt to the negotiating table.

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The first chapter of this volume predominantly concerns the Nixon administration’s decision, early in 1969, to offer specific proposals for a settlement between Egypt and Israel. In January and February, National Security Study Memoranda (NSSM), the papers generated in response to them, and the National Security Council (NSC) meetings that considered the issues raised by the papers reveal the thinking that paved the way for the series of talks that occurred in April and May between Assistant Secretary of State for Near East and South Asian Affairs Joseph Sisco and Soviet Ambassador to the United States Anatoliy Dobrynin. In these discussions, Sisco unveiled, in piecemeal fashion, a U.S. proposal for the framework of an Israeli-Egyptian accord to be negotiated under the auspices of the Special Representative of the United Nations Middle East Mission, Gunnar Jarring, and co-sponsored by the United States and the Soviet Union. The plan, delivered to the Soviet Union on October 28 and publicly announced in Washington by Secretary of State Rogers on December 9, presented the specific outlines of a settlement. As his memoranda to the President make clear, Kissinger doubted the usefulness of such an approach, and, indeed, the chapter concludes with the Soviet Union rejecting the “Rogers Plan” because it considered the document “one-sided” and “pro-Israel.” The Israeli Government also rejected the plan—as it did a proposal for a settlement between Israel and Jordan—because it believed that U.S. officials had gone too far in appeasing the Arab states. Nixon and Kissinger viewed the dispute between Egypt and Israel, in part, as a cold war proxy battle in which the Soviet Union and the United States could use their influence over their respective clients to achieve a settlement. However, the first chapter reveals there were limits to the extent that the President and his National Security Adviser were willing to push Israel to negotiate—a theme that persists through the volume.

While the U.S.-Soviet talks that culminated in the Rogers Plan and its eventual rejection provides the narrative thread that ties the first chapter together, there are also other, smaller, sub-narratives. One underlying storyline is the Nixon administration’s efforts, beginning with NSSM 40 in April 1969, to assess Israel’s nuclear program, in part by trying to persuade the country to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). By February 1970, after making no headway in this effort beyond pressuring Israeli Ambassador Yitzhak Rabin into making the vague assurance that Israel would not be the first country to “introduce” nuclear weapons in the Middle East, Nixon and his advisors dropped the issue altogether. The administration’s response to arms requests—particularly by Israel and to a lesser extent Jordan—is also a recurring theme, not only in this chapter but also in the rest of the volume. Another narrative thread is that of U.S. participation in attempts to reach a settlement between Israel and its neighbors in the U.N. con[Page VII]text—that is, in the Four Power discussions with Britain, France, and the Soviet Union, in which U.S. Ambassador Charles Yost took part. The chapter also refers to Jarring’s work on behalf of the United Nations, and it documents the Nixon administration’s contingency planning in response to Palestinian fedayeen-instigated crises in Lebanon.

Chapter 2 focuses on the aftermath of the Rogers Plan’s demise and the evolution of the process that led to the Egyptian-Israeli cease-fire in August 1970. The February Washington Special Actions Group (WSAG) meetings that considered Soviet moves to strengthen Egyptian military defenses sets the tone of the chapter, which finds the Nixon administration confronting balance-of-power issues in the region, particularly as it weighed giving additional financial and military assistance to Israel. Nixon’s decision in March to defer Israeli aircraft requests greatly disappointed Israeli officials, who responded with an intelligence briefing on the participation of Soviet pilots in operational flights in Egypt—a new level of Soviet involvement in that country’s air defenses. Consequently, in April, Nixon sought a re-examination of U.S. policy options in the Middle East, including possible political initiatives and a reassessment of Israeli assistance requests, in light of the recent Soviet activity in Egypt. At a June NSC meeting, Director of Central Intelligence Richard Helms confirmed that the Soviet Union was constructing surface-to-air missile sites and manning them with Soviet personnel. This prompted Nixon to approve steps recommended by Rogers in a June 9 memorandum to get Egypt and Israel to “stop shooting” and “start talking,” resulting in a cease-fire accord on August 7—also referred to as “the standstill agreement.” The transcript of an acrimonious telephone conversation between Kissinger and Rogers on the cusp of the agreement’s announcement is one of the chapter’s most provocative documents, laying bare the notoriously tense relationship between the President’s chief foreign policy advisers.

As with the first chapter, other issues arise in chapter 2 that are not related to its larger narrative. The June WSAG meetings concerning a fedayeen uprising in Jordan foreshadowed the crisis that the Nixon administration would confront the following September. Along with Israeli arms requests, the administration also had to consider military requests from Jordan and Lebanon. And, finally, the United States continued to participate in the Four Power talks at the United Nations, where, after the failure of U.S. settlement proposals in December 1969, a state of paralysis—usually with the United States and the United Kingdom on one side and France and the Soviet Union on the other—prevented the forum from producing anything substantive.

Much of chapter 3 details U.S. efforts to monitor the cease-fire zone along the Suez Canal and then to grapple with the violations that were discovered, particularly the relocation of surface-to-air missile batteries [Page VIII] within the zone. The violations prompted diplomatic approaches to both Egypt and the Soviet Union as well as a request by Nixon for two study memoranda: the first to outline how the United States could support Israel against Soviet and Egyptian missile defenses west of the Suez Canal; and a second to review U.S. options in the Middle East before the resumption of any significant activity to produce a diplomatic settlement. The President asked that the latter study take into account violations of the standstill agreement as well as the major Palestinian fedayeen uprising that occurred in Jordan that September and the Soviet response to it. In the three months following the uprising—and primarily in response to it—the administration considered policy options regarding the Palestinians. It also made contact with Fatah, the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s leading faction, through the CIA, and discussed providing further military assistance to both Israel and Jordan. The second part of chapter 3 uses Presidential recordings to document U.S. attempts to broker an interim settlement between Egypt and Israel, as proposed by Sadat in a speech to Egypt’s National Assembly in February. The administration’s efforts were hampered by what U.S. officials described as Israel’s inadequate response to Ambassador Jarring’s attempts to restart talks between Egypt and Israel. While Rogers advocated pressuring Israel to be more conciliatory, Kissinger believed that Israel would reject such an approach and virtually end any chance of a negotiated agreement over the next year.

The fourth and final chapter documents the Department of State’s mission to launch “proximity talks” between Egypt and Israel, while, unbeknownst to the Department, Kissinger carried on a secret back channel conversation with Hafez Ismail in Egypt. Concurrently, the President and Kissinger continued their dialogue with the Soviets, presenting to Chairman Leonid I. Brezhnev a new proposal for a Middle East settlement during the Moscow summit in May 1972. For its part, the Department of State pressed ahead with efforts to bring the Egyptians and Israelis to the negotiating table, a plan the NSC and White House viewed as unimaginative, even counterproductive. Other issues covered in the chapter include the administration’s policy toward aircraft sales to Israel, Israeli clashes with fedayeen based in Lebanon, the killing of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics by members of the Palestinian group Black September, and Jordanian involvement in achieving a post-peace settlement arrangement in the West Bank.

Editorial Methodology

The documents are presented chronologically according to Washington time. Memoranda of conversation are placed according to the time and date of the conversation, rather than the date the memorandum was drafted.

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Editorial treatment of the documents published in the Foreign Relations series follows Office style guidelines, supplemented by guidance from the General Editor and the chief technical editor. The source text is reproduced as exactly as possible, including marginalia or other notations, which are described in the footnotes. Texts are transcribed and printed according to accepted conventions for the publication of historical documents in the limitations of modern typography. A heading has been supplied by the editors for each document included in the volume. Spelling, capitalization, and punctuation are retained as found in the original text, except that obvious typographical errors are silently corrected. Other mistakes and omissions in the documents are corrected by bracketed insertions: a correction is set in italic type; an addition in roman type. Words or phrases underlined in the source text are printed in italics. Abbreviations and contractions are preserved as found in the original text, and a list of abbreviations is included in the front matter of each volume. In telegrams, the telegram number (including special designators such as Secto) is printed at the start of the text of the telegram.

Bracketed insertions are also used to indicate omitted text that deals with an unrelated subject (in roman type) or that remains classified after declassification review (in italic type). The amount and, where possible, the nature of the material not declassified has been noted by indicating the number of lines or pages of text that were omitted. Entire documents withheld for declassification purposes have been accounted for and are listed by headings, source notes, and number of pages not declassified in their chronological place. All brackets that appear in the source text are so identified by footnotes. All ellipses are in the original documents

The first footnote to each document indicates the source of the document, original classification, distribution, and drafting information. This note also provides the background of important documents and policies and indicates whether the President or his major policy advisers read the document.

Editorial notes and additional annotation summarize pertinent material not printed in the volume, indicate the location of additional documentary sources, provide references to important related documents printed in other volumes, describe key events, and provide summaries of and citations to public statements that supplement and elucidate the printed documents. Information derived from memoirs and other first-hand accounts has been used when appropriate to supplement or explicate the official record. The numbers in the index refer to document numbers rather than to page numbers.

Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation

The Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation, established under the Foreign Relations statute, reviews records, [Page X] advises, and makes recommendations concerning the Foreign Relations series. The Advisory Committee monitors the overall compilation and editorial process of the series and advises on all aspects of the preparation and declassification of the series. The Advisory Committee does not necessarily review the contents of individual volumes in the series, but it makes recommendations on issues that come to its attention and review volumes, as it deems necessary to fulfill its advisory and statutory obligations.

Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act Review

Under the terms of the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act (PRMPA) of 1974 (44 USC 2111 note), the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has custody of the Nixon Presidential historical materials. The requirements of the PRMPA and implementing regulations govern access to the Nixon Presidential historical materials. The PRMPA and implementing public access regulations require NARA to review for additional restrictions in order to ensure the protection of the privacy rights of former Nixon White House officials, since these officials were not given the opportunity to separate their personal materials from public papers. Thus, the PRMPA and implementing public access regulations require NARA formally to notify the Nixon estate and former Nixon White House staff members that the agency is scheduling for public release Nixon White House historical materials. The Nixon estate and former White House staff members have 30 days to contest the release of Nixon historical materials in which they were a participant or are mentioned. Further, the PRMPA and implementing regulations require NARA to segregate and return to the creator of files private and personal materials. All Foreign Relations volumes that include materials from NARA’s Nixon Presidential Materials Staff are processed and released in accordance with the PRMPA.

Nixon White House Tapes

Access to the Nixon White House tape recordings is governed by the terms of the PRMPA and an access agreement with the Office of Presidential Libraries of the National Archives and Records Administration and the Nixon Estate. In February 1971, President Nixon initiated a voice activated taping system in the Oval Office of the White House and, subsequently, in the President’s office in the Executive Office Building, Camp David, the Cabinet Room, and White House and Camp David telephones. The audiotapes include conversations of President Nixon with his Assistant for National Security Affairs, Henry Kissinger, other White House aides, Secretary of State Rogers, other Cabinet officers, members of Congress, and key foreign officials. The clarity of the voices on the tape recordings is often very poor, but the [Page XI] editor has made every effort to verify the accuracy of the transcripts produced here. Readers are advised that the tape recording is the official document; the transcript represents an interpretation of that document. Through the use of digital audio and other advances in technology, the Office of the Historian has been able to enhance the tape recordings and over time produce more accurate transcripts. The result is that some transcripts printed here may differ from transcripts of the same conversations printed in previous Foreign Relations volumes. The most accurate transcripts possible, however, cannot substitute for listening to the recordings. Readers are urged to consult the recordings themselves for a full appreciation of those aspects of the conversations that cannot be captured in a transcript, such as the speakers’ inflections and emphases that may convey nuances of meaning, as well as the larger context of the discussion.

Declassification Review

The Office of Information Programs and Services, Bureau of Administration, conducted the declassification review for the Department of State of the documents published in this volume. The review was conducted in accordance with the standards set forth in Executive Order 12958 on Classified National Security Information, as amended, and applicable laws.

The principle guiding declassification review is to release all information, subject only to the current requirements of national security as embodied in law and regulation. Declassification decisions entailed concurrence of the appropriate geographic and functional bureaus in the Department of State, other concerned agencies of the U.S. Government, and the appropriate foreign governments regarding specific documents of those governments. The declassification review of this volume, which began in 2006 and was completed in 2013, resulted in the decision to withhold 0 documents in full, excise a paragraph or more in 5 documents, and make minor excisions of less than a paragraph in 25 documents.

The Office of the Historian is confident, on the basis of the research conducted in preparing this volume and as a result of the declassification review process described above, that the documentation and editorial notes presented here provide an accurate and comprehensive—given limitations of space—account of the Nixon administration’s policy toward the Arab-Israeli dispute from 1969 to 1972.


The editor wishes to acknowledge the assistance of officials at the Nixon Presidential Materials Project, located at the time of research at the National Archives and Records Administration (Archives II), at College Park, Maryland. The editor also wishes to acknowledge the [Page XII] Richard Nixon Estate for allowing access to the Nixon presidential recordings and the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace for facilitating that access. Special thanks are due to Scott Koch, formerly of the Historical Staff of the Central Intelligence Agency, who was extremely helpful in arranging full access to the files of the Central Intelligence Agency. John Haynes of the Library of Congress was responsible for expediting access to the Kissinger Papers, including the transcripts of Henry Kissinger’s telephone conversations. The editor was able to use the Kissinger Papers, including the transcripts of telephone conversations, with the kind permission of Henry Kissinger. The editor would like also to thank Sandra Meagher at the Department of Defense.

Steven Galpern collected documentation for this volume and selected and edited it, under the supervision of Edward C. Keefer, the former General Editor of the Foreign Relations series. Susan C. Weetman, Carl Ashley, and Dean Weatherhead coordinated the declassification review. Keri E. Lewis, Kristen Ahlberg, Margaret Ball, Aaron Marrs, and Mandy Chalou did the copy and technical editing. Do Mi Stauber, Inc. prepared the index.

Stephen P. Randolph, Ph.D.
The Historian

Bureau of Public Affairs
August 2015