30. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • King Hussein of Jordan
  • Zayd Rifai, Adviser to the King
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger
  • Peter W. Rodman

Kissinger: Are you going directly back?

Hussein: I will stop in Morocco first to see what the situation is.

Kissinger: I want to do two things. One, to talk about the conversation the President had with the Egyptians.2 And second, to see if we can [Page 87] be more specific for my own thinking about a possible Israeli settlement. [2½ lines not declassified]

My impression is the Egyptians don’t know anything about it.

Hussein: No.

Kissinger: We, of course, did not say anything. They asked us and we told them frankly that most of our conversation concerned economic assistance, and that a peace settlement was discussed only in the most general terms.

First, on the aid thing, we can do the $15 million budgetary support. But we would like the $5 million now and let you go to the Saudis and Kuwaitis to see if you can get more from them, but with the understanding that if you cannot you will get the other $10 million from us. Just as a way to put pressure on them. If you don’t like to do this, we can get you the $10 million.

Rifai: You mean $15 million between now and July?

Kissinger: Our idea is $5 million now, then you go to the Saudis.

Rifai: His Majesty went to them just before coming here. Faisal has just agreed to provide 7 million dinars, or $20 million, but only as an advance on the 1973 subsidy. We will have extensive talks when we go back in order to have it not considered as an advance on the subsidy. So it is unlikely he will agree to a new $10 million for any reason.

Kissinger: Can we leave it that you will try?

Rifai: All right, sir.

Kissinger: The $55 million in supporting assistance is in Fiscal Year 1974; that is really after July. The total package is either $55 or $65 million in supporting assistance, depending on what we decide here.

Rifai: The problem is to receive a guarantee of $15 million this year before July. The $40 million from July to December is all right; the $10 million for January 1974 is all right. But we have this critical period between now and July which we simply cannot manage without some help.

Kissinger: I will have to let you know this afternoon.

Rifai: Fine, sir. Our calendar year is also our fiscal year, so we are in Fiscal Year 1973. The $40 million allotted in your FY 1974 which we receive in July will take care of July through December. We realize you have a problem finding money in the current fiscal year. We may have to change our fiscal year in order to make all this easier!

We had asked for a total of $70 million in calendar year 1973. Now you are saying $65 million.

Kissinger: I think we can do it in Calendar Year 1973, but after July.

Rifai: That is what I think. This is a hell of a problem. If we can get that $15 million before July it will be a great help. I remember last year [Page 88] we invaded Cambodia’s funds for it. [laughter] So the total for calendar year 1973 is $65 million, or $55 million if we can get $10 million from the Saudis and $65 million if we cannot.3

Kissinger: Right.

Rifai: Thank you very much, sir.

Kissinger: Let’s talk a bit about a settlement.

The Egyptians, when talking to the President, and a little less explicitly to the Secretary of State,4—and I had a brief conversation with Ismail—their line went something like this: They would like some general principles agreed upon, as vague as what Dean Rusk said in 1967. I frankly do not remember what Dean Rusk said in 1967.

Of course, this is strictly between us. But His Majesty has certainly proved his ability to keep secrets.

They are willing to make a separate agreement on an Egyptian/Israeli settlement. I asked whether they had a preference on whether an Egyptian settlement should precede a Jordanian settlement or not. I think they would prefer an Egyptian settlement first, but it is not a major issue to them. Then they said that after their settlement, Jordan and Syria should both be done. They are more concerned with the Syrian one because they feel no special obligation to Jordan. And Syria is a member of their Federation.

After all these are settled, the future of Palestine has to be settled. So I asked them, is Jordan competent to deal with this?

They were very vague. We took the position that we could not make a Middle East peace dependent on who speaks for the Palestinians. So then they said you could speak for the Palestinians, but that afterward they would reserve the right to express their view of your relations with the Palestinians. But it was not a requirement of peace in the Middle East that the relationship of Palestine and the East Bank be conclusively settled. On Gaza, they had no objection if Gaza went eventually to Jordan but they wanted a voice in the negotiation and some sort of plebiscite.

[Page 89]

On the settlement terms with Israel, they were a little more flexible—or a little more vague. There was some willingness to consider security arrangements. But none of this is probably news to Your Majesty.

We are very reluctant about getting engaged before we know where we are going.

Is there anything new here?

Hussein: No sir. We are very interested in a solution in order to find a way out of our dilemma. At Nasser’s time, their approach was very different than it is now. They felt more responsibility for Jordan. I did send President Sadat something to tell him I would be in touch with him when I got back from Washington. What I would do is press quietly in terms of positions and statements and see if anything happens.

Kissinger: My problem, as I told you and Mr. Rifai—we are very seriously considering getting involved. But here are some of our problems: The negotiations I have conducted always take a certain time to mature. For example, the Vietnam negotiations took several years. Secondly, in all the other negotiations I controlled all the assets. We could decide when to press and so forth. In the Middle East our assets are not that immediate. Thirdly, there are many different parties in the Middle East. And Your Majesty knows that while we have influence in Israel, it is not unlimited. If we were to consider getting into a position where we might pressure Israel, the only possibility would be if there were some new element that was introduced that justified this. Many of Israel’s demands you are meeting in your case—such as meeting directly.

Hussein: Yes.

Kissinger: You are prepared to negotiate directly?

Hussein: Yes.

Kissinger: So then the question is what new element is conceivable? One problem is that if you give me a new element and we tell it to the Israelis, they will bank it and make a new demand.

There is no problem for Your Majesty in recognition of Israel?

Hussein: No, it is part of 242. The only question for opening negotiations is, under what umbrella? Our approach is to try to find what we can agree about, in order to help the negotiations.

Kissinger: I have reread your paper [the Rifai paper of May 15, 1972, Tab A].5 Have you discussed it with Israel? I have never discussed it with them. Is total demilitarization a new element?

[Page 90]

Rifai: We never gave them detailed positions. But many subjects came up, including demilitarization. We tried many ideas to try to soften their position. Whenever we offered a concession, they would take it and not change their position.

Hussein: Which remains very unclear.

Rifai: This unfortunately is true also with respect to Egypt. Their general principles would include total withdrawal. A partial settlement, to the Egyptians, would be only an implementation of the final settlement.

Hussein: Their position is that Jerusalem is totally out of the picture?

Kissinger: That is their position.

Hussein: They want a security corridor down the Jordan River on the West Bank. We have said if this is a question of security, what does this line of settlements mean? What about our security?

They are willing to give us the population centers back. But Jerusalem is out of the picture. There can be no forces on the West Bank. They say, take it or leave it. And there is nothing about Gaza.

On our side we have proposed the United Arab Kingdom idea, which was a way to come to grips with the Palestinian issue. To get the entire issue out of the hands of other governments—who exploit it—and foreign governments. To get all the Palestinian settlement under one umbrella.

But we have never got anything from Israel. You see how far the gap is. Our objective is a peace that will last and that will survive those who follow us. But we get nothing from Israel. We see the U.S. concentrating on this.

Kissinger: If you could make our policy, what would you like us to do?

Hussein: We would like to work with you, sir. I think frankly that the last chance is before us, the next two or three years.

Kissinger: You know our admiration for you. Without the courage you showed in 1970, the whole Middle East would still be in turmoil.

Let me ask a difficult question. I recognize there has to be something on Jerusalem for Jordan; it is almost inconceivable for you to settle without something on Jerusalem.

Hussein: Yes.

Kissinger: Your position in the Arab world would depend on it. It is inconceivable that there could be some sort of military posts in the Jordan Valley if everything else could be done?

Hussein: I suppose it could be done. But what about Gaza?

[Page 91]

Kissinger: In my mind I would think the logical connection of Gaza is to Jordan, not to Egypt. I agree with the concept of your paper, to group all the Palestinians under one umbrella. What would a plebiscite in Gaza yield?

Hussein: Our relations are quite good now.

Rifai: It depends on what choices are given. To join with Jordan? Or Israel? That is not conceivable. Or to be independent? Or to join with Egypt?

Kissinger: What if the Egyptians say there should be three choices, namely; join with Egypt, or Jordan, or be independent?

Rifai: They would choose Jordan.

Kissinger: They would choose Jordan. Is it possible in these conditions for them to make a rational choice?

Rifai: Yes. There is not that much room for agitation.

Hussein: And they had previous experience with Egypt.

Rifai: Without Jordan they cannot operate. They need our passports to travel.

To go back to your original point, I wish to submit very humbly what you earlier suggested. The best way to make progress is to present Israel not with Jordanian proposals but with American proposals.

Kissinger: I agree with that. But there is no sense our making proposals to them which you reject.

Rifai: Right, that’s why we sent you the paper, for your consideration. To see how it can be improved, and adopted as your position. Therefore we want you to make suggestions to us, to improve it, so that you can either sell it or pressure them.

Kissinger: The trouble with you Jordanians is that you are so reasonable! What do you mean by (F) here [in Section III of the Rifai paper, Tab A]—“some form of resident alien permits to allow Israelis to reside in Jordanian territory near Jewish religious shrines.”

Rifai: This is something the late Dr. Herzog6 mentioned, having to do with Hebron and Nablus, where there is strong religious feeling on the part of the Israelis about the sites there. They have no desire to annex these but there is a strong desire of many Israelis to live there. I said it would be possible for Israeli citizens, including Orthodox Jews, to reside there close to their religious shrines. In a state of peace. The trouble with the military settlements is that they want to annex a part; [Page 92] they want sovereignty. This is an obstacle. If they want some arrangement to reside there, that is different.

Kissinger: That is what I thought you meant.

Rifai: That is the key. Jordanian sovereignty. Jerusalem too. His Majesty cannot give up sovereignty over the Eastern sector. But without sovereignty anything can be considered. In Jerusalem there can be a Jewish quarter and there can be an Arab quarter.

Kissinger: Have the Jews moved back in?

Rifai: Yes. Most of the new building is in the Eastern part. We will not kick them out.

Kissinger: Aside from Jerusalem, if the principle of sovereignty could be preserved in some way, then the presence of settlements on security grounds can be considered. I am not asking you to accept now.

Rifai: Yes, it can be considered. And it will be more acceptable if connected with a timetable. A sort of phased-withdrawal type of arrangement. We could start the withdrawal from the interior and ultimately—in an actual state of peace—go from there.

Kissinger: Have you ever put this to the Israelis in this way?

Rifai: Not in such detail, only in principle. Their Prime Minister always says that the Allon Plan7 is the most moderate Israeli proposal. Their current position is more extreme. And it would take a split in the Cabinet and in the Parliament, so she says, if they were to accept the Allon Plan.

Kissinger: But you could go far toward the Allon Plan, aside from Jerusalem.

Rifai: But they want to annex a strip along with Jordan.

Kissinger: The Allon Plan involves annexation and not just security arrangements?

Rifai: Yes.

Hussein: Again, that is with respect to the Jordan Valley. Then there is the connection with Gaza. It has got to be balanced. A very weak President is going to be challenged some day.

Rifai: As for the demilitarization of the East Bank, we don’t really see what their security problem is. They can always reoccupy the West Bank in no time at all if Arab troops move into the East Bank.

Kissinger: If Gaza could be made part of Jordan—there is no reason to suppose Israel would agree to it . . .

Rifai: Gaza has been annexed, to all practical purposes. They are moving people in. They consider it part of Israel. It is one of these [Page 93] non-negotiable subjects; like Sharm el-Sheikh and the strip down the coast of Sinai.

Kissinger: Is it possible that any Arab state will ever accept that?

Rifai: Rogers once asked why the Arabs care about a few miles of desert; let the Israelis have it, he said. This misunderstands the Arab world. It is impossible that any Arab leader will give up territory just for peace.

The Prime Minister asked me, “What will you give me?” I said, I recognize your right to exist. She said, “I don’t need that.”

Hussein: But I don’t think they have thought it out.

Kissinger: I think His Majesty is right. They have not systematically addressed themselves to the questions.

I will talk to the Prime Minister. I won’t get anywhere. I have to say honestly that this is a very fair paper. I would push it a little towards Allon Plan. It is not in our interest to push you into a settlement that makes you vulnerable in the Arab world.

What is your view of what the Egyptians are really up to? Will they challenge you if you settle first?

Hussein: Yes, but we can face that.

Kissinger: You think you could handle any Egyptian challenge?

Hussein: Yes.

Kissinger: If one could somehow separate the security issue from the sovereignty issue, would that make the security issue much easier to solve?

Rifai: Yes. As you separated the military issues from the political issues. [laughter]

Kissinger: And now they won’t give us back our POW’s!

Rifai: The Egyptian challenge will really depend on the terms of the settlement. If they are honorable, there will be no problem.

Kissinger: Has Israel ever stated the outline of the borders it wants?

Rifai: Only generally. It means no Jerusalem, no Gaza, extension of the line to El Qualquilya, and annexing part of the Jordan Valley. There is no reciprocity. They publish these maps. If they would consider an exchange of territory, so it would not be one-sided, that would be better.

Kissinger: There could be an extraterritorial corridor to Gaza? How long will that be, 100 miles?

Hussein: Much less. Only 20 kilometers.

Rifai: We have been thinking that the Americans will build us an elevated highway so that we can get to Gaza without going through Israel!

[Page 94]

Kissinger: Mr. Rifai, you could come over here if we ever get somewhere in these talks?

Rifai: Oh, yes.

Kissinger: We are seriously considering it. If you are prepared to go first, at least we can have a rational discussion with you. What is Your Majesty’s estimate of the time we have left for a settlement? One year, two years?

Hussein: Two years at the most. Then the extremists will take over.

Rifai: What worries us most is a resumption of the fighting.

Kissinger: Who could do that?

Rifai: It could happen by accident. Of course they would be beaten, but they could get desperate.

Kissinger: What should we do with Egypt?

Hussein: Keep going with it. Keep it quiet.

Kissinger: And they won’t be able to play the United States off against the Russians, because the Russians and we have more important common interests than Egypt.

Hussein: And you can keep the Russians out. If Israel is intransigent now, it would be much worse with the Russians in.

Kissinger: Could a settlement actually last without making you totally vulnerable?

Hussein: It can last.

Kissinger: We will take your paper very seriously. I will talk to Mrs. Meir and take the liberty of getting in touch with you and Mr. Rifai.

Hussein: There is another development I would like to raise with you. The situation in Oman is getting very difficult. They have asked for help, in the form of helicopters, transports and supplies, from the Saudi Arabians and us in order to prevent a disaster there. They are also asking us the position of our friends in the United States if the situation collapses, or if there is more open intervention by South Yemen.

Kissinger: What can we do?

Hussein: Our Saudi friends have the resources but not the imagination.

Kissinger: [1 line not declassified]

Hussein: [1 line not declassified]

Kissinger [to Rodman]: Peter, make sure that Scowcroft does too. We are seeing Helms today. He will have a special responsibility in this area. We want something done. Peter, have Scowcroft tell Schlesinger that we want something done.

Hussein: I want to discuss our military modernization program.

[Page 95]

Rifai: We want to know where this stands.

Kissinger: Peter, have Scowcroft tell Defense that we want to see what the next three-year military assistance program looks like for Jordan. We will force them to develop a program and to discuss it with you. We will be very sympathetic on all of these things.

Rifai: Ironically, we will have to be stronger in the case of a peace settlement than if, God forbid, another war broke out.

Kissinger: You are right. There will be turmoil if there is peace.

Your Majesty was cooler in September 1970 than many of my colleagues. The night after we moved the aircraft carriers in, after the Syrians invaded, a senior colleague of mine called me and said, “You are responsible for starting World War III.”

Rifai: Here is the paper we gave General Brett on our military assistance needs. [Tab B]8

Kissinger: [To Rodman] Tell Scowcroft to send a memo to Defense. We want to see their program.

[The meeting then concluded.]9

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box TS 32, Geopolitical File, Middle East, Chronological File, 27 Feb 73–16 May 73. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. All brackets except those that indicate omitted material are in the original.
  2. See Document 26.
  3. On March 3, Kissinger sent Secretary Rogers a memorandum stating that the President had directed that the Government of Jordan be informed that the level of budget support provided from Supporting Assistance funds in CY 1973 should be $55 million, pending renewed Jordanian efforts to increase the level of assistance from other donors. The President had further directed that the United States be prepared to provide an additional $10 million in the second half of 1973 if the response of other donors proved inadequate. In addition, the U.S. Government was to make an effort within the approved total of assistance being provided to Jordan to help the Government of Jordan meet its shortage of funds before July 1, 1973. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 618, Country Files, Middle East, Jordan, IX, January73–October 73)
  4. See footnote 3, Document 27.
  5. Attached, but not printed.
  6. Yaacov Herzog, Director General of the office of former Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol.
  7. See footnote 4, Document 8.
  8. Not attached, and not found.
  9. Kissinger recalled: “Hussein repeated his willingness to make peace with Israel. But despite secret contacts he faced an impasse. Hussein symbolized the fate of Arab moderates. He was caught between his inability to sustain a war and his unwillingness to make common cause with the radicals. He was prepared for a diplomatic solution, even a generous one, but Israel saw no incentive for negotiations so long as Hussein stood alone.” Kissinger added that “Hussein . . . was profoundly mistrustful of Egypt, fearing that Sadat’s volatility might do harm to Jordan as had Nasser’s” and noted that what “turned out to be a tragedy for the peace process in the Middle East [was] the personal distrust between Sadat and Hussein.” (Years of Upheaval, p. 219)