151. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • President Nixon
  • King Faisal
  • Camille Nowfel, Interpreter
  • Isa Sabbaugh, Interpreter

[Note: The following record represents the gist of each party’s remarks from interpreter’s notes, not a verbatim transcript.]

President: We’re interested in seeing to it that the relations between our two countries continue to be as friendly as they have been and to grow stronger and closer in the future. I would be interested in Your Majesty’s views on matters relating, not only to the Middle East, but to other areas of the world. We wish to listen to Your Majesty’s opinions and wise counsel.

[Page 481]

King: I am grateful for Your Excellency’s reference to the good relations between our two countries and for your desire that these relations be strengthened in the days ahead. We share this hope with you not only because it is in our mutual interest that the bond of friendship between us be strengthened, but also because that would be in the interest of other countries and peoples. We do believe, however, that further strengthening our relations is of primary importance to us.

President: Does His Majesty wish to discuss any matters pertaining to our bilateral relations, or does he feel that such matters can be taken up at other levels of our governments, such as the Department of Defense or the State Department?

King: I would like to say that the relations and the cooperation between us are most gratifying. Of course, there are certain matters with respect to which we would hope to have US assistance, but I would not want us to impose on you, Mr. President.

We are accused in the area of being the agents and lackeys of the US. In fact, we are accused of even actually conspiring with the US against the other countries of the area. This kind of accusation, however, is really inspired by both Communism and Zionism, which we consider as twins. I mentioned to Secretary Rogers during our meeting in Saudi Arabia2 that I believe that Communism is the child, the offspring of Zionism. Zionism is in collusion with Communism for the destruction of the world. I would like to repeat what I said to Secretary Rogers in Saudi Arabia—that we are in fact worried about what Zionism is seeking to bring about in the US. It is trying to shatter the high principles and values held so dearly in the US. God forbid that such attempts be successful, but they may be unless we heed the warning. All these things we read and hear about—disturbances among labor, student demonstrations, civil unrest, anti-war marches, etc.—are the result of clever calculation on the part of Zionism and Communism in order to bring about a social and political upheaval in the US and to weaken the US in its struggle against Communism.

By seeking to bring the US to throw in its lot with Israel, Zionism hopes to bring about an irreparable estrangement between the US and the Arab world. Of course, we in Saudi Arabia would not permit such an attempt to affect our relationship with the US. Even if greater and more serious accusations are leveled against us, we will not allow that or anything else to influence our relations with the United States.

Unfortunately, world Zionism is in alliance with Communism, and it has sought to portray the US as the Arabs’ arch enemy. By insisting and publicizing the notion that Israel is the only ally the US has in the area [Page 482] and that therefore the US is helping Israel to defeat the Arabs, Zionism is only helping Communism achieve its objectives in the Middle East.

What I have said to Secretary Rogers and am repeating now— namely, that Israel should disappear as a political entity, as a name— does not mean that we are advocating the destruction of the Jews. We’re talking only about the Zionist state.

From what we read and hear, we get the impression that much of the turmoil in the US (civil disturbances and anti-war demonstrations) is the result of Zionist activity in the US, and this extends to the government, to labor, and to business. We appreciate the difficulties you face, Mr. President, in having to cope with these pressures and influences.

As far as the Palestinian question is concerned, our ultimate aim is that there be established the State of Palestine, which is neither Arab/Moslem nor Jewish nor anything else, but a state where the Palestinians will be able to live on equal footing with everybody else, where there will be no discrimination between Muslim, Christian or Jew. Such a state would make it possible for the Palestinians who are strewn all over to be brought back together. The Palestinians, both Muslims and Christians, could coexist with the Jews within such a state.

In response to Secretary Rogers’ inquiry as to whether or not I thought that Communism was deeply entrenched in the UAR, I replied— and would like to repeat here—that we believe that the resolution of the Arab-Israeli problem in a just and right way would be the most effective and surest step toward the removal of Communist presence in the UAR. I should like to emphasize, Mr. President, that now is precisely the time to render help and support to the Egyptian leadership.

President: Does His Majesty believe President Sadat will continue in power?

King: This would depend on what develops as far as the Arab-Israeli conflict is concerned. If Sadat is given the needed assistance and support at this juncture in such a way as to expedite the settlement of the problem, then he would have the necessary strength to stand up against any counter-revolution and to stem the tide of any movement that might rise for his overthrow. Otherwise he will be vulnerable. The army is on his side. He should be given the support he needs to ward off any threat that may be directed against him.

President: Is it His Majesty’s opinion that the same thing is true of King Hussein?

King: Precisely so. Communism is striving to bring down King Hussein.

President: Let me talk very candidly about our policy. I am sure His Majesty is aware of the fact that this is a very emotional issue. Before Secretary Rogers took his trip and throughout my administration, [Page 483] I have insisted that our decisions in this respect should not be politically motivated. I have told the members of my administration that our purpose should be the establishment of good relations with all the countries of the Middle East. We shall continue to stand by our commitment—that Israel has the right to exist and have secure borders. But we in this office—as I have told all my advisers—we shall follow a policy that is fair to all concerned and not tilted in a direction in favor of one country. This is difficult, but I believe His Majesty should know that we have an administration which is fair and even-handed and interested in reaching a settlement as soon as possible. I supported Secretary Rogers’ plan and have directed Secretary Rogers to seek a settlement quickly. We want to normalize our relations with the UAR, with Sudan, and with other countries in the area. Also we want His Majesty to know that we believe it is important that he is pursuing a policy which aims at preventing the radical elements from having their way in the Gulf area. Also we support the Shah’s effort in this respect. We realize that both China and the USSR are trying to infiltrate this area. We want you to know that we support your efforts also. Which of the two influences does His Majesty consider the more dangerous in the area—the Chinese or the Russian?

King: The source is one and the same. Communism is Communism, irrespective of the means it uses. It is unfortunate that such countries as Turkey, Iran, Kuwait, the Philippines, Greece, Italy, and others, which were once very closely allied with the US’ policy, are now establishing relations with mainland China. I should be candid enough to say in this connection that there are those who say that this is being done at the behest of the US. There is an increasing advocacy for the establishment of relations with Communist China. Lebanon, South Arabia and others are now leaning in this direction. It seems that the Chinese are concentrating their efforts now on South Arabia so as to make it a jumping board for increased activity in other parts of the area. We are trying, and we need your help, to stem this tide and eradicate this unwanted influence. We have helped the Yemen Arab Republic to combat Communist influence. I would urge the US to extend help in this respect—to lend your helping hand to the Yemen Arab Republic, even in the absence of diplomatic relations with that country.

As to the domestic factors with which you have to cope in the US, I do appreciate your problem, Mr. President, and realize that in your decisions you seek not to be influenced by internal political considerations. I wish the American people could understand the predicament which their President is in when he has to make decisions in the interest of the US without regard to domestic political pressures. This is a fact I always mention to Americans who visit me.

As for your observation regarding Israel, Mr. President, I should like to point out that Israel was the aggressor. It was Israel that started [Page 484] the war. And Israel must withdraw from the territories it occupied. We believe in the principle that no profit should accrue from military aggression. If this principle is followed, then the results of the 1967 aggression can be eradicated. This does not mean that I will recognize Israel. But we have no objection to a settlement which is acceptable to the contiguous Arab countries. I believe that an expeditious settlement could deal a fatal blow to Communist influence in the area. If a settlement is not reached quickly, I believe it will be impossible to deal successfully with Communism later. Unless a solution of the problem is found soon, the pro-Soviet elements in the Arab countries will have their hand strengthened. These are the observations I wanted to bring to your attention, Mr. President.

President: Your Majesty and I have a good understanding of our respective positions. We will, at the highest levels of our governments, support progress in our mutual interest. As for the Middle East as a whole, we here want to pursue all efforts in the direction of peace in that area.

King: I would like to express my best wishes for Your Excellency’s success in your endeavors.

[At this point Prince Nawwaf, Amb. Suwayel, Dr. Pharaon, Mr. Sisco, and General Haig were invited to join the discussion.]

President: His Majesty and I have had a very good discussion. We find that our bilateral relations could not be more friendly. We discussed the more difficult problem of the broad area of the Middle East and Persian Gulf/Indian Ocean area. I have found the discussion very profitable. This administration is committed to a policy of seeking the normalization of the situation there. His Majesty understands our internal problems, but Secretary Rogers, Mr. Sisco and all of us shall continue to strive toward the settlement of the problem in the interest of peace and justice in the area.

King: I do appreciate the President’s problems and difficulties, but hope that further efforts can be made so that we may not have to continue to live under the Communist threat. Otherwise it will be too late. If things are allowed to drag on, then the Communist influence in the area will become too strong for us to cope with.

President: I share His Majesty’s concern about the danger of letting things drag on and the need for expeditious progress. The State Department is proceeding on this basis.

King: I would like to talk about Israel’s demand for secure borders and the Israeli insistence on the retention of the Golan Heights, Sharm el-Sheikh, Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. What, in fact, are secure borders? As far as Jerusalem is concerned, we will never agree that it continue to be under Israeli domination. Israel occupied these [Page 485] territories by aggression. We demand that Israel go back to the pre 1967 borders. Then the details of secure borders can be discussed.

As for the Suez Canal, it would be in our selfish interest to have it reopened. If the Canal is reopened, trade between us and other nations will be facilitated and our financial aid to Egypt will be discontinued. The advantages of reopening the Suez Canal are plentiful, as far as we are concerned. But the Communists are advocating the reopening of the canal because that will facilitate their entry into the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean areas. It will be easier for them to spread their influence throughout that area.

Mr. Sisco: The reopening of the Suez Canal will benefit the USSR and give access to the US. But we feel that an interim agreement cannot be a substitute for the overall solution. It does not touch other vital matters which are part of the problem—Jerusalem, the Palestinians, etc. But we are interested in keeping the initiative going. The political efforts of the President, bulwarked by US power, can create the kind of political condition (climate) which would be favorable to our interests and where Soviet influence can be reduced.

King: The reopening of the Suez Canal will not check the Soviet danger. Israel will continue in occupation of Arab territory, no telling for how long. The danger I have talked about will therefore continue to loom high in the interim.

President: There is no disagreement between us on the urgency of reaching a settlement. I am sure that Your Majesty and we are going to continue working on an urgent basis. We shall have the chance to talk further at the luncheon.

King: One more point I would like to make. Should Israel be made to feel that if she continues to spurn all efforts for peace she will lose the US’ support, then she might become more flexible. But on the other hand, if she feels that, no matter what position she takes, she can nevertheless count on US support, then she will do nothing to help the cause of peace. It seems to me that Israel is more representative of the Communist world than she is of the free world, although the general impression is that Israel is the bulwark of democracy in the Middle East. The Soviets were more ardent in their support for the creation of Israel than the US was. Should a miracle occur and the US discontinue its support of Israel, I predict that the Soviets and all Communists will make a roundabout turn in their stand vis-à-vis Israel and rush to her help and preservation. It is advantageous for the Communists to have Israel remain as a thorn in US–Arab relations. Golda Meir is now on her way to Finland to attend a Socialist convention. The Socialists meeting in Finland are the same as Communists.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL SAUD–US. Secret; Nodis. The meeting took place in the Oval Office. All brackets are in the original. King Faisal was in Washington for an official visit May 27–30. Kissinger sent the President briefing papers on May 26 for his meeting with Faisal. (Ibid, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 937, VIP Visits, Saudi Arabia King Faisal Visit, May 1971) The President and King Faisal met over lunch. (Memorandum of conversation, May 27; ibid.) Eliot handed a copy of the memorandum of conversation to Faisal before his departure. (Memorandum from Davis to Eliot, May 29; ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL SAUD–US)
  2. See Document 149.