115. Memorandum of Conversation1

PARTICIPANTS

  • Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State
  • Mordechai Shalev, Israeli Chargé
  • Lawrence S. Eagleburger, Executive Assistant to Secretary Kissinger

SUBJECT

  • Middle East Situation

Chargé Shalev: I have two messages to deliver to you from the Prime Minister. First as to the situation as we now see it in Israel, the Prime Minister has the following message for you:

“Our military people estimate, and I rely on their estimates since they have never deceived themselves or the government before, that we are engaged in heavy battles but with our reserves of men and equipment the fighting will turn in our favor. We are fighting on two fronts and the heavy concentration of SAM 3s and 6s on both fronts makes actions by our air force difficult. Tremendously powerful forces are arrayed against us, but the full activation of our air force should bring a turn in the situation.

“You know the reasons why we took no preemptive action. Our failure to take such action is the reason for our situation now. If I had given the chief of staff authority to preempt, as he had recommended, some hours before the attacks began, there is no doubt that our situation would now be different.

“I appreciate all you have done for us thus far and agree with your negative view of General Assembly involvement in this issue. As to the Security Council, we do not desire a confrontation there when our position is still difficult. Thus we believe it would be best if you postpone [Page 341]any action in the Security Council until Wednesday or Thursday.2 I have reason to believe that by that time we will be in a position of attack rather than defense. I am sure you will do all in your power to enable us to achieve this position.

“I would not have come to you if I did not think the situation would improve within the next few days.”

That is the first message. The second message is as follows:

“The Prime Minister requests that the equipment urgently requested of the United States Government be supplied. This is especially important because of the quantitative superiority of the enemy, and because we have been forced to adopt a defensive strategy.”

Mr. Secretary a jumbo jet is now on its way to New York and could pick up this equipment and take it to Israel.

Secretary Kissinger: Let me talk first about the Security Council problem. It is a difficult situation; we nearly had a vote yesterday asking for a simple ceasefire.

If someone else comes in with a simple ceasefire resolution first, we will be in a difficult situation. It would be far better for us to ask for a ceasefire and a return to the status quo ante. Such a resolution would, of course, fail but it would take time.

I should tell you that it has been the President’s intention to call for an urgent meeting of the Security Council late today. If we call for the meeting and put in our resolution, we would be the first to speak and ours would be the first resolution on which there would be a vote.

If we are forced, in the first instance, to veto a simple ceasefire resolution, it will not be understood.

We would intend to move slowly; we are in no hurry to get to a vote. Surely if there is a debate others will be called in to speak, including Foreign Minister Eban. I am confident that he could speak for at least two hours without getting through his introduction. I think this is the best way to go. We would tell our man in New York to go slowly as well.

If we don’t do it this way, we will be dragged into a meeting where we have to veto a simple ceasefire. That would be very difficult.

Chargé Shalev: The main thing, of course, is to gain a period of time.

Secretary Kissinger: I understand. The President originally wanted the Security Council meeting yesterday morning. It will be hard for me to delay much longer.

[Page 342]

Chargé Shalev: If the matter should come to a vote on a ceasefire without a return to lines preceding the attack, we will not accept the resolution.

Secretary Kissinger: We would not vote for such a resolution. The question then is whether we would veto or abstain. At this point I cannot give you a one hundred percent guarantee how we will go. The important thing is how quickly you can get on the offensive.

Chargé Shalev: We are doing that now. You understand, of course, that the Prime Minister’s message was written after your talk with Foreign Minister Eban last night.3

Secretary Kissinger: Is that so? You must tell the Prime Minister that we will do our utmost to get her the time but we will have to maneuver this.

The Soviets are already on the defensive because of our suggestion of a ceasefire and a return to the status quo ante. They have refused our suggestion but they have done so gently.

But I am not sure we can delay until Wednesday. That would be tough. I don’t see how we can delay so long. We may start the Security Council action tonight and then be able to delay a vote until Tuesday perhaps. Maybe we could put the resolution in late today, debate tomorrow, vote on Tuesday and then return to debate again on Wednesday.4

On the other thing (the requested arms) I will see what we can do.5

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27 ARAB–ISR. Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Eagleburger. The meeting took place in the Secretary’s office at the Department of State. According to Kissinger’s Record of Schedule, the meeting began at 9:20 a.m. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76)
  2. October 10 or 11.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 113.
  4. At 10 a.m. on October 7, Eban telephoned Kissinger to say that he had two things to add to what Shalev had told him and that he would be getting a report on the military situation very soon. The night had not been particularly good and more forces had been sent over. Eban said he was talking about Sinai, but noted that even in the north there had been further penetration and that the Israeli garrison had fallen at Mt. Hermon. He asked Kissinger if he had requested a special Security Council meeting that night, and Kissinger said yes, noting that this was done to pre-empt somebody else introducing a straight cease-fire resolution. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Kissinger Telephone Conversations, Transcripts (Telcons), Chronological File, Box 22) Printed in Kissinger, Crisis, pp. 87–88.
  5. Kissinger called Schlesinger at 1:30 p.m. to urge that the Defense Department provide some of the military equipment requested by Israel without the action leaking. Schlesinger thought it could be done and that Sidewinder missiles were what Israel desperately wanted. At 3:45 p.m., Kissinger again called Schlesinger to tell him the President approved supplying the Israelis with the equipment. (Both in National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Kissinger Telephone Conversations, Transcripts (Telcons), Chronological File, Box 22) These transcripts are printed in Kissinger, Crisis, pp. 93–94.