166. Memorandum of Conversation1
- Simcha Dinitz, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S.
- Mordechai Shalev, Minister of the Israeli Embassy
- Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State
- Major General Brent Scowcroft, NSC Staff
- Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff (notetaker)
Dinitz: On the military side, I’ll give you just the most important things. From the most recent cable, which I received one hour ago, they tell me this: “On the Egyptian front, there is only one significant thing—they continued organizing themselves on the eastern side and defending themselves. But they moved 24 batteries of artillery on the eastern side.” With this there, they can protect the tanks. The game is that the artillery protects the tanks, and the missiles protect the artillery. It is the first sign that they might be moving the missiles across.
Our losses in the air were five Israeli aircraft, all on the Syrian front: two Phantoms, two Skyhawks, one Mirage, and one helicopter, probably hit by a Strela. The total figure—it is only rough—is 70, plus 40 grounded, which makes 110.
Kissinger: How deep are you in there?
Dinitz: Thirty kilometers from Damascus, or twenty miles.
Kissinger: How far is that from the border?
Dinitz: Damascus is sixty kilometers from the border.
Shalev: So half way.
Kissinger: [to Shalev]: Have you heard from your family?
Shalev: Yes, all of them. They are all right. Thank you for asking.
Dinitz: But the brother of one of the secretaries in the Embassy was killed.
Kissinger: How many casualties total?
Dinitz: I asked the Prime Minister on the phone; she wouldn’t say.
We have detected one Iraqi armored division in Syria, and one militarized armored regiment. We suspect that parts of them have al[Page 459]ready taken part in the battle. A Jordanian regiment is about to enter Dar’a.
Kissinger: We told you that.
Dinitz: We heard it from him through our own channel.
We shot down 29 Syrian planes today. The Syrian Air Force evidently is on its way out.
Now, in the framework of the Soviet airlift, there are five additional AN–22’s, four AN–12’s, and on the way to Egypt are an additional ten AN–12’s. Tonight an additional 21 AN’s are departing—six to Syria, and at least four additional ones to Egypt.
Now to the political scenario, or I can tell you about my conversation with Schlesinger?2
Shalev: [reading from cable]: “And Syria suffers from an oil shortage.”
Kissinger: Let’s talk about Schlesinger first, briefly, because he already spoke to me.
Dinitz: On the political scenario, I’m instructed by the Prime Minister to say that we are prepared to stick with it. We told you we would be in a certain situation by Friday night,3 and we are there.
Kissinger: It won’t actually start now until tomorrow night.
Dinitz: The Prime Minister also thought that in your contact with the Russians on the political situation, you shouldn’t right away promise that we won’t take Damascus.
Kissinger: I agree. I haven’t promised anything.
Dinitz: But you should keep it as a card.
Kissinger: I agree with her.
Dinitz: But from our point of view, it can start now.
Kissinger: If the Russians hadn’t made threats today, it might have started today.
Dinitz: I will communicate that to her. You made a wise move.
Kissinger: Do you want us to start it tonight? Did you make the offensive today? I have the impression no.
Kissinger: If we could synchronize our moves better—I think the urgency will disappear if there are no military moves tomorrow. If I knew there was no offensive today, I would have started earlier.
Dinitz: I must tell you: Our decision whether to start a new offensive or not depends on our power. We thought we would have by now in Israel the implements to do it—the bombs, the missiles, etc.[Page 460]
Kissinger: So did I. What exactly is the obstacle?
Dinitz: It is not I.
Kissinger: [picks up phone]: Brent, come in. [General Scowcroft enters]
Dinitz: I had one of my most difficult conversations with Schlesinger. He said I could bring my military attaché. Everybody was there—Clements, Sumner, all the generals. I came alone because my military aide is a military man and not a political man.
Schlesinger gave a briefing, showed charts and maps, and then asked me if I wanted to say something. I gave him a piece of my mind, to use a simple expression.
Kissinger: Brent, do you think they are dragging their feet?
Scowcroft: Until last night, yes. But now there are real difficulties.
Dinitz: He told me, “We have to keep a low profile—this is the President’s decision. There are two planes a day, but then we have to watch every day for the Arab reaction. So it is not necessarily two every day. It comes to an average of one and a half a day.”
On the things we needed—missiles, bombs—we lost four days.
Kissinger: I know. Why?
Dinitz: We had seven El Al planes, and we have the equipment for fifty plane loads. Then we worked to get charters. We worked with State.
Kissinger: Did State drag their feet? I’m responsible for State.
Dinitz: No. For a day or so we worked through Sisco. Then Schlesinger. Schlesinger said he first allowed El Al in, but we had to get charters. Then he was surprised to see that the U.S. Government couldn’t get charters. The companies didn’t want to fly to the Middle East. Then the Defense Department planes wanted to but couldn’t. So then they told us they could go to the Azores and we had to pick them up.
So I have to tell you, on the authority of the Prime Minister, that the reason we change our strategy is that we are depleted.
Kissinger: [pauses] It’s a disgrace.
Dinitz: The Prime Minister wanted to telephone the President.
Kissinger: It would be senseless.
Dinitz: I know. I stopped her.
Kissinger: I heard the President tell Schlesinger to get it moving. [to Brent]: Do you think it’s sabotage or objective difficulty?
Dinitz: If I may interrupt, it is not objective difficulty. Objective difficulties can be found out in half a day, not four days.
Scowcroft: I think there was no enthusiasm until yesterday.
Dinitz: But we misled our people. If I had any dignity, I would leave here. We misled them. We cabled them that the President had decided on immediate supply.[Page 461]
Kissinger: That was the decision.
Dinitz: We cabled it back, and there was great jubilation.
Kissinger: I had Haig call Schlesinger every night. Scowcroft did too.4
Dinitz: I must say I raised this with you twenty-five times.
I am duty bound to inform you we need twenty planes in two to three days or we are subject to an Egyptian attack in Sinai.
Kissinger: We authorized the C–130’s to which you are entitled to carry the stuff. I told Schlesinger all this.
Dinitz: The thing is to get the damn stuff into Israel, rather than wait for seven planes to fly ten times to and from Israel, or to pick it up in the Azores.
Kissinger: Since Tuesday morning I had no reason to think it wasn’t moving. Every day I go to bed knowing twenty planes are authorized, and the next morning I find they’re not moving.
Dinitz: I’m not blaming you, God forbid, but I’m bound to report to you.
Scowcroft: I called you last night, too, and told you the planes would move.
Dinitz: The Prime Minister asked me to tell you we have based our operations on this basis, and as well as what we . . .
Kissinger: Can I tell this to Schlesinger now?
[Picks up phone]: Get me Schlesinger.
To save a little of the situation—I’m not talking about an initiative, but about saving the situation—the planes must fly directly to Israel.
Kissinger: There will be a mutiny here. That’s impossible.
Dinitz: So help me, I must tell you, there will be a mutiny here if there are no planes. The Jewish community, and many friends, and the labor movement and the press. I’ve been making no comment. I can’t do it. I have no right, no historical right; we are dealing with the destiny of people.
Kissinger: [talks to Schlesinger on phone] Hello Jim.
[Schlesinger: Hi Henry.]
Kissinger: I’ve just been meeting on an urgent basis with Dinitz, who says they are running out substantially of ammunition. They based their strategy on the assumption that they would get the ammunition replaced this week, as the President had promised them on [Page 462] Tuesday,5 and that they are stopping their offensive in Syria because they can’t move because of lack of supplies. And the Egyptians have transferred artillery over and now they are saying there is a problem of a major thrust into the Sinai. And it is true we gave them our assurances.
[Schlesinger: Well, what do you want to do?]
Kissinger: Well, I don’t know what I want to do. I just feel that we did make some undertaking—you know it would help us. I was raising hell with them for not keeping their offensive going for a day while we were setting up the scenario on diplomacy. And now they have got to stop it.
[Schlesinger: Well, we can . . .]
Kissinger: Are you sure that your people—I know that you are serious, but I frankly have no confidence that Clements and Hill and Company aren’t sabotaging this every step of the way. If you want my candid opinion.
[Schlesinger: Well . . .]
Kissinger: I just don’t find the initiative. If they wanted something to happen, then it would happen.
[Schlesinger: You mean on the obtaining of charter flights?]
Kissinger: Well, on just getting—you know some way in four days could have been found. I don’t know what it is, it isn’t my job. I just don’t see. Except for you I don’t know anyone over there who has any intention of making this happen. You know that Clements would just as soon move them the other way.
[Schlesinger: Well, he will do what the President wants.]
Kissinger: Yeah, but the way he interprets what the President wants is not necessarily what the President wants.
[Schlesinger: Well, we have the possibility of just telling the US aircraft to go on whatever they need.]
Kissinger: I just find it hard to believe that every company would refuse to charter unless somebody sort of told them in a half-assed way.
[Schlesinger: Well, the problem with that is that they have good business outside. Unlike other circumstances, back during the Vietnamese war when they agreed to charter, they were going around with their feet—equivalent half empty on the charter flights.]
Kissinger: For example, did anyone talk to—you know I never objected to the question by the fella I had—who is head of Continental Airlines? Six?[Page 463]
[Schlesinger: Six, right.]
Kissinger: Bob Six. Now I know Goddamn well he is a great patriot, and if somebody told him we needed airplanes, I just can’t believe that he wouldn’t do it, unless you winked at him and said but if it doesn’t happen until next week my heart won’t be broken.
[Schlesinger: Well, it is—what is—when are they going to start running out of reserves?]
Kissinger: They are out now. They have stopped their offensive. And they are now in deep trouble in the Sinai. I am basing this on a message from the Prime Minister to the President.6 And you know maybe it is not true, but it is a hell of a responsibility to take.
Dinitz [interrupting]: It’s a helluva responsibility to . . . [Kissinger motions him to be quiet].
[Schlesinger: Well, if we started now and really turned the screws on these guys, I suspect that we can collect a few aircraft for tomorrow. But I think if you want to do something about it, you better let a US aircraft fly all the way in.]
Kissinger: That I would have to discuss with the President.
[Schlesinger: Or another thing we could do . . .]
Kissinger: But can’t we turn the screws on these charter companies? I am just convinced that if the screws were turned, they would have produced.
[Schlesinger: I think that may be right. We never went back at them again because of the decision to go with the Military Airlift Command.]
Kissinger: Well, then, they could then pick it up in the Azores if they wanted to. It is already there.
[Schlesinger: The stuff’s in the Azores. What do you mean they? Are you talking about the charters?]
Kissinger: Well, if the charters picked it up here and the Israelis picked up what is already in the Azores, that would at least put some steam behind it.
[Schlesinger: Well, how much do they need?]
Kissinger: I have no estimates of that.
[Schlesinger: OK, let me see what I can do. One thing we could do we could take these ten or twelve C–130s that we are planning to give them and load them up and let them go all the way.]
Kissinger: Well, let’s do that. Well, I will call Dinitz and tell him to have his military guy get in touch with you.
[Schlesinger: OK.][Page 464]
Kissinger: But will you tell Sumner, for Christ’s sake, to get off his ass, because if a catastrophe happens there is going to be some accounting. For our scenario we needed the Israeli offensive moving and if the Israelis are on their knees tomorrow night, we are not going to . . .
[Schlesinger: Well, Henry it would have been desirable for them to tell us that they were going to run out of ammunition.]
Kissinger: Well, on the other hand I must tell you we told them every day that this stuff was coming. There wasn’t a day that we didn’t tell them that they would have 20 aircraft in the morning and then they didn’t have them in the evening.
[Schlesinger: I really can’t say that that was the case. Until the night before last it was assumed that these guys were going to be able to haul them themselves along with the aircraft that they would round up. It wasn’t until yesterday that we—the night before—that we started this search for aircraft on their behalf. So, ah, the situation . . .]
Kissinger: We can reconstruct what went wrong later, but now can we see what we can get going there?
Kissinger: Because this whole diplomacy is going to come apart if they look impotent. It can only work if they look as if they were gaining, not if they look as if they were losing.
[Schlesinger: OK. The first thing to do is to have those C–130s that we turn over carrying ammo. Do you want US pilots to fly in those C–130s? I don’t see any reason why not.]
Kissinger: I’ve never thought this thing through from that point of view. Why don’t you work that out with their military attaché?
[Schlesinger: OK, very good.]
Kissinger: OK, good.
Kissinger: Thank you.
[Schlesinger: You bet.]
Kissinger: [hangs up, turns to Dinitz]: They’ll give you ten C–130’s immediately, and will load them with ammunition. And probably fly them with American pilots.
[To Scowcroft:] Now he admits it; we could have gotten the charters if we’d put the screws on. You know what Clements did.
[Picks up phone:] Get me Haig.
Scowcroft: I spent all morning and all afternoon on it.
Kissinger: Who negotiated it?
Dinitz: Sisco, Atherton, Stackhouse.[Page 465]
Scowcroft: Then Brinegar. I think he was in good faith.
Kissinger: These air companies wouldn’t dare turn it down if we said we had to have it and they wouldn’t get the next rate change if we didn’t.
Kissinger [picking up phone to talk to Haig]: Hello?
[Haig: Hi, Henry.]
Kissinger: Al, you know we are now having massive problems with the Israelis because the sons of bitches in Defense have been stalling for four days and not one airplane has moved.
[Haig: Oh no.]
Kissinger: Oh yes. After the decision on Tuesday, not one Goddamn shipload—not one—has moved. And they are now out of ammunition. They are stopping their Syrian offensive. The Egyptians have transferred artillery to the other side of the Canal.
[Haig: Oh boy.]
Kissinger: And may start an offensive tomorrow. So now the question is whether they are going to collapse in the Sinai, and you know what this does to the diplomatic scenario I described to you.
[Haig: Yes, yeah.]
Kissinger: Which absolutely required an Israeli offensive.
Kissinger: And they told us they were running out of ammunition. They conducted the operation on the assumption that it would be replenished by the end of this week. That is a combination of Clements, Hill and Noyes. Now my orders apparently just aren’t carried out over there.
[Haig: All right. Do you want me to call Jim right away?]
Kissinger: Well, I have called Jim. Will you call Clements and throw the fear of God into him?
[Haig: Yes, sure.]
Kissinger: And also throw the fear of God into Schlesinger.
[Haig: Right, I will do that.]
Kissinger: You know that doesn’t mean they should now pour American airplanes directly into, but they should do something now. They can round up charters. I do not believe for one minute that they can’t get charters if they tell these charter companies that the next time they need a rate change they won’t get it.
[Haig: Charter aircraft.]
[Haig: Yes. OK. Let me do that right now Henry.]
Kissinger: Good.[Page 466]
[Haig: All right.]
Dinitz: Even with the charter, it won’t make it. The only thing now is to get American planes in, without markings. Even with the charter tonight, it won’t make it in time. I warn you again, and I want it on the record.
Kissinger: [pauses] Okay. What other problems?
Dinitz: We need 40 planes, in two to three days. We can’t wait for two planes in six days. There may be a misunderstanding; maybe I’m to be blamed.
Kissinger: Our basic misunderstanding was that you were going to win.
Shalev: We would have, with the equipment.
Dinitz: Our strategy was to hit Syria, then go against Egypt.
Kissinger: Now, we never promised you a large number of aircraft; we promised replacements.
[Shalev starts to speak]
Dinitz: Mordechai, stop.
Kissinger: You want to discuss the political thing? It will start tomorrow night. It depended on your having the offensive tomorrow.
Dinitz: There won’t be an offensive.
Kissinger: That may be true.
Dinitz: We won’t have the offensive if we won’t have the equipment. I never dreamed we would get two planes in six days.
Kissinger: I told you Tuesday you’d get five F–4’s and all the consumables.7 Now they dragged us through the charters, which was a disaster.
I put out the Soviet figures on Wednesday because I assumed our stuff would cover it Wednesday.
How many planes have gone?
Dinitz: The seven El Al.
Kissinger: Weren’t there six the other day?
Dinitz: There couldn’t have been. El Al doesn’t have more planes.
Kissinger: Do you want to speak to me alone for five minutes?
[Dr. Kissinger and Ambassador Dinitz confer alone 12:03–12:23.]
- Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box TS 33, Geopolitical File, Middle East, Middle East War Chronological File, 9–15 Oct. 1973. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting was held in Kissinger’s office at the White House. All brackets are in the original.↩
- No record of this conversation was found.↩
- October 12.↩
- No records of these telephone calls were found.↩
- October 9. See Document 141.↩
- Not further identified.↩
- See Document 141.↩