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29. Editorial Note

On February 26, 1973, President Nixon met with his Assistant for National Security Affairs, Henry Kissinger, in the Executive Office Building, from 6:31 to 7:15 p.m., for an assessment of Kissinger’s recent meetings in New York with Egyptian Presidential Adviser for National Security Affairs Hafiz Ismail. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary) Kissinger began by telling Nixon that Ismail was “not emotional and he didn’t give us the old Arab—Arab procedures.”

Turning to the details of his 4-hour “cross-examination” with Ismail, Kissinger stated, “I thought the most important thing, that he’s never said to anyone and won’t say to anybody,” was that the Egyptians were “willing to make a separate Egyptian-Israeli deal, because they know that afterwards the Jordanians and Syrians are going to follow the same procedure.” Kissinger added, “But that means the Jordanian-Syrian thing could follow a year or two afterwards.” Kissinger acknowledged that “the problem is with the Israelis, who are going to be tough enough to budge on one of them rather than on all three of them simultaneously,” but felt that the United States could “get the Israelis to start agreeing to thinking about it [an interim settlement].” After discussing additional details of a possible interim agreement, Kissinger added: “If we can get them over the hill, this is not a bad process. It’s the first time—up to now, they’ve always taken the view, the Egyptians and the Russians, that the whole package must be done as one: Syria, Jordan and Egypt.”

Kissinger and Nixon also discussed the negotiating process for the spring and summer, with particular reference to how the Middle East discussions could be linked to the June 1973 summit between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Kissinger: “So, I think if we can get some talks started on the interim settlement—frankly, until this weekend, I didn’t know how to do it. I was—I had no concept of how to get this thing done.”

Nixon: “Yeah, yeah.”

Kissinger: “I now see a glimmer of how we might do it. If I—if we can get some thinking started on the interim settlement, have that in the bank, then after that, down the road a bit, throw in the principles. Now, if the Arabs cooperate with us and keep the principals working on it, so that the Israelis can’t [unclear]—”

Nixon: “Um-hmm.”

Kissinger: “—the negotiating thing either, then we put the two together, it’d work right into your summit. It gets the Russians off our back, because last May, the Russians said, ‘We already worked out some principles that are joined—’” (See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XIV, Soviet Union, October 1971–May 1972, Document 284)

Nixon: “Um-hmm.”

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Kissinger: “That was how we played—bought them off last year. If the Israelis would accept those principles, we can claim the Russians are involved there, too. Then you make those as a recommendation [unclear]. Then the Egyptians have a face-saving formula of saying they’ve got their interim agreement, and then, by September 1st—”

Nixon: “All right.”

Kissinger: “—we have two things going: an interim settlement and direct negotiations between the Arabs and the Israelis. And it will look lovely, and it will be a tremendous boon.”

The conversation then turned to the prospects of an interim agreement. Nixon pointed out that the situation in the Middle East “couldn’t be any worse than when we exit Vietnam.” Kissinger replied, “Not worse, yes. On the other hand, we had more assets, and we can’t bomb there.” Nixon agreed, and Kissinger continued, “To threaten to cut off aid to Israel is—we could do it,” but such action would lead to “an uproar.” Nixon responded, “We know we have very few assets there.” Kissinger suggested, “I think we could get responsible members of the Jewish community and turn them around against Israel.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Conversation No. 413–33)