218. Telegram From the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft) to Secretary of State Kissinger1

Tohak 22/WH32552. The President called me in again to talk about a message he wanted to send you in line with the statement to Brezhnev (Tohak 14)2 that he was doing. He talked at considerable length about what he wanted in the cable and asked me to draft something up for him to look at. The cable quoted below is my draft of his thoughts, which he has looked over and approved for dispatch. I cite all this background so that you will understand the message basically represents his thoughts with some of the rougher edges rounded off.

To: Secretary Kissinger

From: The President

1. I have just written a note to Brezhnev3 emphasizing to him that you speak with my full authority and the commitments you may make in the course of your discussions with him have my complete support. I [Page 628]also told him that you would be conveying to him my strong commitment to devote my personal efforts toward bringing a lasting peace to the area.

2. I believe that, beyond a doubt, we are now facing the best opportunity we have had in 15 years to build a lasting peace in the Middle East. I am convinced that history will hold us responsible if we let this opportunity slip by.

3. The current Israeli successes at Suez must not deflect us from going all out to achieve a just settlement now. There is no reason to believe that Israel will not win this war now, as it has won all the previous ones, but you and I know that, in the long run the Israelis will not be able to stand the continuing attrition which, in the absence of a settlement, they will be destined to suffer.

4. It is therefore even in Israel’s best interests for us to use whatever pressures may be required in order to gain acceptance of a settlement which is reasonable and which we can ask the Soviets to press on the Arabs.

5. Our greatest foreign policy weakness over the past four and a half years has been our failure to deal decisively with the Middle East crisis. This is due to three reasons:

(A) The intransigence of the Israelis.

(B) The unwillingness of the Arabs to engage themselves in discussions on a realistic basis.

(C) Our preoccupation with other initiatives, preventing us from devoting the time required to the issue.

6. I now consider a permanent Middle East settlement to be the most important final goal to which we must devote ourselves. U.S. political considerations will have absolutely no, repeat no, influence whatever on our decisions in this regard. I want you to know that I am prepared to pressure the Israelis to the extent required, regardless of the domestic political consequences.

7. Please convey to Brezhnev the following:

(A) Tell him that this is an area, as distinguished from MFN, where I can deliver on commitments without the requirement for Congressional approval. Point out to him that if he and I together can be reasonable and achieve a Middle East settlement it will be without question one of the brightest stars in which we hope will be a galaxy for peace stemming from the NixonBrezhnev relationship.

(B) Tell him that each of us have very difficult clients and that we must therefore keep our commitments in as general terms as possible. Assure him, however, that our reluctance to be specific is not the result of any intention to avoid reaching a settlement but that it is based on [Page 629]our conviction that this is the only way he and I will be able to get our clients in line and thereby achieve a settlement.

(C) You can also inform him that I remember our discussions on the Middle East in my home at San Clemente4 and that I realize now that he was right in his concern about the danger of an imminent explosion in the Middle East. One war in the Middle East in 20 years would have been too much. To have had four wars during this period is intolerable, and we must now take decisive action to resolve the problem. Only the U.S. and the Soviet Union have the power and influence to create the permanent conditions necessary to avoid another war. If we fail, history and the thousands of brave men who die in the next war, as well as their widows and children, will hold us accountable.

(D) Now is the time for both of us to face up to the hard choices which we have not confronted in the past. Neither of us, nor any of those nations which we support can have a solution fully to its satisfaction. There must be give on both sides. The Israelis and Arabs will never be able to approach this subject by themselves in a rational manner. That is why Nixon and Brezhnev, looking at the problem more dispassionately, must step in, determine the proper course of action to a just settlement, and then bring the necessary pressure on our respective friends for a settlement which will at last bring peace to this troubled area.5

Warm regards,

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 39, Kissinger Trip Files, HAK Trip—Moscow, Tel Aviv, London, TOHAK 1–60, Oct. 20–23, 1973. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only; Flash. Sent to Peter Rodman with instructions to deliver in a sealed envelope to Eagleburger.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 217.
  3. Document 217.
  4. See Documents 73 and 74.
  5. In telegram Tohak 35/WH32566, October 20, 2343Z, Scowcroft informed Kissinger that during one lengthy meeting that day, after philosophizing about the Middle East in general and the course of the war, Nixon had directed sending this cable (Tohak 22) to the Secretary, which Scowcroft said had already been sent. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 39, Kissinger Trip Files, HAK Trip—Moscow, Tel Aviv, London, TOHAK 1–60, Oct. 20–23, 1973)