230. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Prime Minister Golda Meir
  • Mordechai Gazit, Director of Prime Minister’s Office
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff

[The Prime Minister and Dr. Kissinger conferred alone for about 15 minutes after Dr. Kissinger’s arrival. Mr. Gazit and Mr. Rodman were then invited in to take notes.]

The Prime Minister: This is the guest house for particular guests. I’m always here, or at my daughter’s kibbutz, when something starts. I was away when the Libyan plane incident happened,2 and then this.

Dr. Kissinger: Madame Prime Minister, you have to understand the situation with 242. This conversation stays only . . .

The Prime Minister: Yes.

Dr. Kissinger: First, during the summit, one method we used to avoid agreement was to refer to 242, and we succeeded. So in the President’s mind, getting a reference to 242 is a success. And you have to remember that the war is not seen in the same way in the United States. Secondly, he has been under tremendous pressure from the Arabs and from the oil people for a return to the 1967 borders. For two weeks I kept him from doing this by saying simply 242.

[Page 655]

So, to refuse a reference to 242 would have been absolutely impossible in those conditions. And the reference to 242 gives you reference to secure and recognized borders, which is in 242.

In Moscow we started with two parts of the resolution, 242 plus the cease-fire.

I want to tell you there are no side understandings on 242. I’ll be prepared to show Dinitz when we get back the verbatim protocols of the meeting of the day we negotiated that.

If you compare the Egyptian position of last Tuesday3 . . .

The Prime Minister: Sadat.

Dr. Kissinger: Sadat’s demands. Plus we got a message every two days from Ismail. Plus the Saudis.

When I gave a luncheon for the Arab diplomats in New York, I said I thought the 242 language was a joke. It talks about “just and lasting peace,” and “secure and recognized borders.” That is still my view. Because the phrases mean nothing. What it means is what is to be negotiated.

In the debate in the Security Council in July, the Arabs refused even 242.

When I negotiated on the Summit with Gromyko, they kept refusing our proposals, which had references to 242—including the proposals you gave us.

So for us to reject a reference to 242 would have been impossible. He [the President] saw the text we started with.

I think your problem is not 242, but what I will talk to you about alone. But you have gotten a tremendous point: more Arab territory, and direct negotiations.

Brezhnev screamed for more than 242; he wanted “full implementation of all UN resolutions.”

The Prime Minister: But the resolution doesn’t say “direct negotiations.” [She reads text:] “negotiations . . . between the parties concerned under appropriate auspices aimed at establishing a just and durable peace.” That’s what bothers us. What does this mean?

Dr. Kissinger: Nothing. Until there are negotiations.

The Prime Minister: That’s it. But what’s the relation between paragraphs 2 and 3? It says full implementation of 242 as well.

Dr. Kissinger: But it’s for negotiation.

The Prime Minister: Do the Russians know that is your interpretation?

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Dr. Kissinger: Yes. In fact I wanted it in the text and the Russians said it was not necessary because it was already there.

The Prime Minister: Scali said that, and that was good.

Dr. Kissinger: I drafted it.

The Prime Minister: I thought so.

Dr. Kissinger: I’ll give a press conference when I get back, probably Wednesday.4

The Prime Minister: Wednesday?

Dr. Kissinger: Maybe tomorrow.

The Prime Minister: We have an all-party meeting of the Knesset tomorrow. We will be asked about that.

Dr. Kissinger: I will give you our formal assurance, which I will repeat publicly, that there are no side understandings on 242.

The Prime Minister: I need your assurance. I believe you.

One other thing we can’t live with, that is the POW’s.

Also, Malik used the words “practical fulfillment” of 242.

Dr. Kissinger: Let me tell you how this came about. They said there is no Russian word for “implementation.” So we said, if the English word is “implementation” you can use “practical fulfillment” in Russian.

The Prime Minister: On the prisoners. We have over 1,000 Egyptians and Syrians, among them pilots and officers.

Dr. Kissinger: I have the word of honor of Brezhnev. That is not worth much, but we can use it. I made clear to him that we couldn’t possibly get your concurrence without that. He said he couldn’t get agreement in twelve hours. He gave me his solemn word as the leader of the Soviet Union that they would get it. I said, could we bring it about in seventy-two hours? He said he would use his maximum influence.

This morning, I had breakfast with Gromyko and I presented a written understanding. He said he couldn’t initial it without the Politburo—which I actually believe—but he repeated the solemn assurance. If they don’t live up to it, we will call it to public attention.5

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The Prime Minister: This means a great deal to us. And no one has greater experience with prisoners of war than you.

Dr. Kissinger: If I were you—I’m not advising you—I would not begin negotiations until it happens. You’d be entitled to do nothing.

The Prime Minister: I can’t live with it.

Dr. Kissinger: You don’t have to live with it.

The Prime Minister: How can I face the mothers and wives of these men? The Cabinet and I decided to make it a condition of any ceasefire. The Arabs, they couldn’t care less. We’ve given them a list of the prisoners we hold, and they have never even given us a list. They just don’t care about human lives. Sadat doesn’t have to meet the wives; I do.

Dr. Kissinger: My strategy in this crisis, as I explained to Dinitz several times, was to keep the Arabs down and the Russians down.

The Prime Minister: I know what you did. Without you, I don’t know where we would have been.

I went to the airfield the other day and I watched the planes come in. It was more than I could ever have dreamed.

Dr. Kissinger: We have had many exchanges with the Egyptians—as a part of this—and I think they’re a little shaky.

The Prime Minister: The Egyptians?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes. I showed Dinitz. At the very beginning, they sent us a message in which they stated all their maximum terms. I said, “These are your ultimate aims. What is your present position?” He then gave me the same line.

I told Zayyat, “In a few days you will think our proposal of October 8 to return to the ceasefire lines was the best possible terms.”

The Prime Minister: We would have been in a better position in a few days. But that doesn’t matter so much.

We have a trauma about a standstill ceasefire. From the August 1970 experience, when we agreed to a standstill and they moved their missiles up.

Dr. Kissinger: Did you get our message that if you needed a few hours at the other end . . .6 Did you get it?

Gazit: We did but it was garbled. It was in the context of the Security Council debate, and we thought it meant we could filibuster. But we couldn’t.

Dr. Kissinger: The message we intended—but we had to say it carefully because we were using State Department channels and we had had a communications breakdown . . .

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The Prime Minister: What does a standstill ceasefire mean?

Dr. Kissinger: Frankly we haven’t thought it through.

The Prime Minister: The Soviets will give him all the equipment they need and don’t need.

Dr. Kissinger: I asked Gromyko after the war was over, what does Sadat think of this? He said, “It makes no difference, he is a paper camel.”

The Prime Minister: But he doesn’t live in the world of fact. He thinks he won. We have a source there who has told us that when Sadat talks about getting territories back even if it costs a million men, he really means it.

Dr. Kissinger: How can he think he has won?

The Prime Minister: The other day, the turning point . . .

Dr. Kissinger: Sunday.7

The Prime Minister: Bar-Lev told me we had nothing to worry about.

Dr. Kissinger: Let me tell you the objective fact, what I think it is. You have won the war, though at a very high cost. The objective reality is that for six years the Egyptians have been given the most modern weapons, communications, everything, and have achieved nothing. Now you have the West Bank of the Canal. They and the Syrians lost many thousands of missiles.

The Prime Minister: The Russians will resupply them.

Dr. Kissinger: But it doesn’t change the basic situation.

The Prime Minister: We’re on the road to Damascus. But we didn’t want to go there. I told you that.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes. I didn’t communicate it to anybody.

The Prime Minister: The Egyptians and Syrians haven’t said anything. They have said that the fighting continues.

Dr. Kissinger: You won’t get violent protests from Washington if something happens during the night, while I’m flying. Nothing can happen in Washington until noon tomorrow.

The Prime Minister: If they don’t stop, we won’t.

Dr. Kissinger: Even if they do. . . .

The Prime Minister: There is one other matter I want to ask you about. There are 4,000 Jews left in Damascus, who are living in terrible conditions. We would like the Red Cross to come in and take them out.

Dr. Kissinger: I would raise that publicly.

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The Prime Minister: Scali said the ceasefire means not only Egypt and Syria but all the others involved in the area.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes. We have an understanding with the Russians, and I will say that publicly.

There are two things I will raise with the Russians: the prisoners of war and that.

The Prime Minister: When the war began, they made a blockade of the Straits of Bab Al-Mandab. It has Egyptian destroyers, but it is a Yemeni command.

Dr. Kissinger: I’ll raise it with the Soviets. I didn’t know that.

You can state it publicly as a demand. It is important that I not appear as your spokesman. It is better if I state it first, than if you do. I can’t give it tomorrow.

The Prime Minister: Let us turn to something very basic. What happens to the airlift?

Dr. Kissinger: I have given orders that it is to continue. It will be justified because of what the Soviets are doing. Because if we offered, they wouldn’t stop it.

There are twenty ships now being loaded. Forty A–4’s—that is definite—will arrive. I have ordered 44 Phantoms. The airlift as of now is continuing. I’ll be under tremendous pressure. There is no unanimity—to put it mildly. But as long as the Soviets do it, I may be able to do it.

The President last Thursday ordered the sealift to go on at high speed.8 We submitted that military request Friday for $2.2 billion, which has established a certain momentum.9

The Prime Minister: But there is a phrase in there about “if the war ceases, the funds won’t be expended.”

Dr. Kissinger: But you have a commitment from the President to replace all your losses. That you have.

I haven’t talked with the President about it. It will be very difficult. It will basically be settled between General Haig, General Scowcroft, and those Senators. As long as those maniac Senators don’t start attacking me. Which isn’t the smartest thing. We can handle it.

Keating is unhappy about being excluded from this. If I may suggest, if you could talk to Keating alone while I talk to Dayan.

The Prime Minister: I can talk to him about what we have discussed.

It is interesting that they haven’t said anything, Egypt and Syria. What did the Russians say?

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Dr. Kissinger: The Russians really were very nasty about the Arabs. They said they hadn’t asked them. They said they only talked to Cairo. Brezhnev went like this [made a dismissing gesture] every time he mentioned the Arabs. One of my colleagues said to me, how would you like to have the Russians as an ally?

A word about the objective situation. I believe you have won, and I believe we have won. Every Arab now knows, whether they hate us or not . . . I met Bouteflika last week.10 He told me a long lecture about guerrilla war. He said we had to get involved. I said I was flattered, but if they didn’t settle soon the Israelis would beat them, and then they would have to come to me because no one else can do anything. I said the Soviets can give them equipment, but not a settlement. I will get involved but not until objective reality makes it possible. So, whether they hate us or not, they have to talk to us.

I will send a note to the oil-producing countries Thursday, stating that we don’t conduct diplomacy under pressure.11 So unless we get our oil shipments back we’ll do nothing.

I don’t think Sadat can survive this, do you?

The Prime Minister: I do. Because he is the hero; he dared. The people in command, on the spot, are afraid to report the truth. Like with Nasser. So in Egypt they think they won.

Dr. Kissinger: Gromyko took me aside and said the only danger in Egypt is panic, that your force across the canal isn’t very large. This is what they told me. He said that if some steadiness could be produced, maybe your force would collapse.

The Prime Minister: They [the Egyptian forces] didn’t collapse. But they’re in disorder. But it is not like 1967.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 76, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Kissinger Trip to Moscow, Tel Aviv & London, October 20–22, 1973. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting was held in the Guest House in Herzliyya near Tel Aviv. All brackets are in the original.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 22.
  3. October 16. See footnote 3, Document 190.
  4. October 24. Kissinger held a press conference on October 25. The transcript is printed in The New York Times, October 26, 1973.
  5. At 8:30 a.m. EDT, October 22, Scowcroft conveyed a message to Vorontsov by telephone that reads: “The only way we were able to get our friends to agree to the cease fire order was on the assurance of an early exchange of POWs. We are therefore counting on the Soviet Government to deliver their friends and early (as soon as possible).” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 70, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Exchange of Notes Between Dobrynin and Kissinger, Vol. 7)
  6. See footnote 2, Document 227.
  7. October 21.
  8. See Document 198.
  9. See footnote 7, Document 208.
  10. See footnote 1, Document 195.
  11. October 25. No such letter has been found.