187. Minutes of the Secretary of State’s Staff Meeting1


  • Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State
  • Kenneth Rush
  • William Casey
  • William J. Porter
  • Curtis W. Tarr
  • Walter J. Stoessel, Jr.
  • Jack B. Kubisch
  • Joseph J. Sisco
  • Arthur W. Hummel, Jr.
  • David D. Newsom
  • Robert J. McCloskey
  • George S. Vest
  • Thomas R. Pickering
  • Willis Armstrong

[Omitted here is material unrelated to the Middle East war.]

[Secretary Kissinger:] Let me say one word about where we stand in the Middle East right now.

We did not put anything into the Middle East from Tuesday to Saturday night, except to permit El Al to pick up I think six planeloads of stuff here that was carried in converted Boeings, and was very minor. The Soviets put in 284 planeloads between Wednesday morning and yesterday evening, amounting to about 4,000 tons. And moreover, they dragged their feet on negotiations to bring about a cease-fire. Under those conditions we felt—first, the Israelis were facing an acute shortage, and actually running out of ammunition to a point where they were asking pilots to land their planes loaded—if they did not hit their targets, their pilots were required not to jettison their bombs, but to conserve them and land the planes loaded, which as you know is an extremely risky procedure.

So we felt we had no alternative except to start an airlift of our own, which is a risky operation.

But the only hope we saw for a cease-fire was to convince the Soviets that we could put in things faster than they could, and into hands perhaps able to use it more rapidly than their clients. And judging by the relative restraint that has been shown in the Arab world up to now and by some other signals we have, there may be a chance that this is working.

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What is essential is that we all keep discipline here and not wring our hands. Because basically we have only two choices—either to do something or to do nothing. If we do something half-heartedly, it doesn’t take the risk away; it compounds it.

We are trying to force the Soviets now into a more moderate stand, and we are trying to convince the Arabs that if there is to be a settlement, they have to deal with us, and that they cannot jeopardize their relationships with us beyond a certain point.

We think that is a better protection for our supplies, than to be caught between both sides, of not doing enough for the Israelis, and in the final analysis getting no credit from the Arabs, who have the Soviet supplies.

Partly due to the Soviets it has reached this point. But now that it has reached this point, we really have no choice. There was nothing that presented us with another choice, except to proceed.

I must say the Department has behaved extraordinarily well. We have had absolutely a unified position in the field and here.

So I am saying this for your information—not in any way a request to change anything.

We will find out in the next two or three days. The Soviets and to some extent the radical Arabs have it in their power to kick it one way or the other and to turn it into a confrontation or into a watershed towards a settlement.

After the cessation of hostilities, it is obvious that we will then have to move towards a more permanent solution. The conditions that existed between 1967 and 1973 cannot be permitted to be repeated. But for us to have an influence on that settlement, we must be perceived by the Israelis to be the source of almost their survival, by the Arabs as strong enough to be a major factor, and yet openminded enough not have gone beyond what was imposed on us. And that is a tricky operation, that we have managed to maintain for eight days.

Joe, do you have anything to add to that?

Mr. Sisco: No. I think it will be interesting to see, now, over the next forty-eight hours, Mr. Secretary, just whether the intensity of the propaganda aspect really escalates or not.

Secretary Kissinger: So far they have not said anything. If we could keep the intensity of the propaganda effort down on our side, it would help a bit, too.

[Omitted here is material on the press policy on the airlift and issues unrelated to the Middle East war.]

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The Secretary decided:

p. 4, 5 1. That we should begin negotiations with the Portuguese on the Azores Bases and also inform them of PL–480] grain we are providing.

p. 10, 11 2. That Marshall Wright should inform key Members of both the House and Senate of the relationship between the resupply of Israel and our relations with Portugal.

p. 14, 15 3. That we should make strong statements at a high level to our NATO allies on the Middle East situation specifically asking them whether they think it is in their interest to encourage an adventurist Soviet foreign policy.

[Omitted here is material unrelated to the Middle East.]

Thomas R. Pickering
Executive Secretary
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Transcripts of Secretary of State Kissinger’s Staff Meetings, 1973–77: Lot 78 D 443, Box 1, Secretary’s Analytical Staff Meetings. Secret.
  2. Secret; Nodis.