11. Editorial Note
In his memoirs, President Nixon recalled: “Now that the Vietnam war had ended, we could turn our attention to the other area of the [Page 25]world where war was always imminent and where the danger of a great-power nuclear confrontation was far greater than in Southeast Asia.” On February 3, 1973, he wrote in his diary:
“I hit Henry [Kissinger] hard on the Mideast thing. He now wants to push it past the Israeli elections in October, but I told him unless we did it this year we wouldn’t get it done at all in the four-year term.
“The Egyptian [Hafiz Ismail] is coming over. What he works out I don’t know, but I feel that some way we have got to get the Israelis moved off of their intransigent position. Needless to say, we can’t move to the all-out Egyptian or Arab position either, but there is some place in between where we can move. The interim settlement is, of course, the only thing we can talk about—that’s the only thing the Israelis will ever go for—and the Egyptians are just simply going to have to take a settlement of that sort—or the Arabs are—with the assurance that we will do the best we can to get a total settlement later.
“I spoke to Henry about the need to get going on the Mideast. I am pressing him hard here because I don’t want him to get off the hook with regard to the need to make a settlement this year because we won’t be able to make it next year and, of course, not thereafter with ’76 coming up. He brought that up himself so apparently the message is getting through. What he’s afraid is that Rogers, et al. will get ahold of the issue and will try to make a big public play on it and that it will break down. This is the point that I made to Heath—that we couldn’t go to the summit here and fail and, of course, the British understand this totally.
“On the other hand, Henry has constantly put off moving on it each time, suggesting that the political problems were too difficult. This is a matter which I, of course, will have to judge. He agreed that the problem with the Israelis in Israel was not nearly as difficult as the Jewish community here, but I am determined to bite this bullet and do it now because we just can’t let the thing ride and have a hundred million Arabs hating us and providing a fishing ground not only for radicals but, of course, for the Soviets. I think actually the radicals are our greater danger because the Soviets will have their people be somewhat responsible whereas the radicals are likely to act in totally unmanageable ways.
“As I told Bob [Haldeman], I thought Henry was having a letdown now because he realized that he had participated in the three great events perhaps of the postwar era—the Soviet, the China, the Vietnam—and that everything else would pale by significance. The Mideast he just doesn’t want to bite, I am sure because of the enormous pressures he’s going to get from the Jewish groups in this country.
“Henry needs to have another great goal. Haig feels strongly that it should be Europe. Henry I noticed had picked up this theme in my last [Page 26]talk with him. I kept hammering, however, with Haig the necessity of doing something about the Mideast.” (RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon, pages 786–787)