24. Conversation Between President Nixon and his Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

Kissinger: Rogers called.2 He says he sees a great breakthrough coming here with Egypt, which is total nonsense. And he wants you to tell—

Nixon: Yeah?

Kissinger: —the Egyptians3 that he, Rogers, is authorized to speak for you, to make a strong pitch to them. Now, the trouble is—

Nixon: We’ve got to take a very strong line with the Israelis. I know that. We’ve got to take a very strong line with these people.

Kissinger: Now, my worry is—

Nixon: But we—but we are not going to, we’re not going to—we can’t be in the position of telling these people anything until we’ve talked to the Israelis, too.

Kissinger: It took us 18 months to get these guys coming to us. If we now act like over-eager puppies, pleading with them to be permitted do something, we’re dead.

Nixon: What’s he want me to tell them?

Kissinger: That he is your spokesman, and he’s going to make a big offer to them. Moreover—

Nixon: What’s his offer?

Kissinger: Moreover, it’s going to confuse the issue totally, because—

Nixon: No, I’m going to tell him to do the private thing. I—I’ve gone through the paper here,4 and I’ve marked down some things I am concerned about. One thing I’m really, terribly concerned about: we—we’re going to meet, and I’m going meet with them—we’re going to put her—him in this channel with you.

Kissinger: Right—

Nixon: I’ll do that today. He’ll understand. The second point is that I’d tell her—we’ve got to be in a position, Henry, where we—we cannot [Page 68] let Mrs. Meir come here and take the same hard-nose line about the election. That’s all done now. Right now, this is going to be settled. And we—

Kissinger: Well—

Nixon: We’re going to move. I mean, she’s got to—if she comes here with that, and I go over and prepare—and propose the usual toasts, and all that sort of thing, and, “We’re all working for peace,” et cetera, just to—it just, it just isn’t the time to do that. I’ll propose the toast and the rest, but I want you to be sure Rabin knows that she must not come here and say, “Well, we’re ready to wait.” [unclear]—

Kissinger: Well, I’ve told him that yesterday, already.5

Nixon: See, I want, I want—Henry, understand: publicly, I don’t want to say anything. I don’t want to embarrass the Israelis. The Israelis privately have got to know if we’re going to play this game with these people, they got to play a more conciliatory game with us. They can’t, because they’ve given nothing—the Israelis.

Kissinger: Well, they’re going to—

Nixon: These people are trying to give something.

Kissinger: Well, I’m not sure what they’re willing to give, but we’ll know that after I’ve talked to him. And then, we’ll know how hard we can lean—

Nixon: The Egyptians? That’s right.

Kissinger: —on the Israelis. But, in any event, the Israelis have to take a more conciliatory posture; there’s no question about it.

Nixon: They can’t come in and say we—we should be letting—

Kissinger: But the thing that kills us always in the Middle East is when State goes running like crazy without knowing where it’s going. The things we’ve done well is when we kept maneuvering people until—we always had more options than they until somebody cracked. I mean every negotiation: SALT, Berlin, Vietnam; every one that has worked has been when we maneuvered them—

Nixon: Right. I know. [unclear] What is the—

Kissinger: I just don’t want him to start playing State again—

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Conversation No. 862–9. No classification marking. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Nixon met with Kissinger in the Oval Office between 11:14 and 11:21 a.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files) The editors transcribed the portion printed here specifically for this volume.
  2. No record of the conversation was found.
  3. Hafiz Ismail.
  4. See footnote 3, Document 8.
  5. See Document 23.