31. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Ambassador Rabin
  • Henry A. Kissinger
  • Peter Rodman

Dr. Kissinger: What is the chief significance of that document you gave me?2

Amb. Rabin: It’s one of the fullest talks that covers all the issues between the two countries on the Arab side with Brezhnev. They reviewed the past, but talked about the future. He summed it up, and there is the memo he prepared for Sadat after he met with Brezhnev. And the letter.

Dr. Kissinger: You will get everything I tell them too? I said nice things about you! I told the Egyptians how dovish you are.

Amb. Rabin: There is a letter by Brezhnev committing himself to the MIG’s—but warning them not to go to war without coordinating with the Russians. Therefore, I would say there are efforts of restraint on the part of the Russians. For that they will get a lot. He mentioned ground-to-ground missiles. Secondly, there was still a political option, but for that you have to mobilize the other Arab states, Brezhnev said, including the use of oil. Third, they are not against talking to you but it has to be done with very close consultation. Then Brezhnev and Ismail discussed the political approach, which was exactly as he put it to you.

The Prime Minister has read it. Her first reaction was, are they crazy to come with such a proposal to the Americans? It’s the Russian proposal of 1969.3 There is nothing new here.

Dr. Kissinger: That’s all there is. In our discussions4 there was something about staging and so forth, which I will give you orally.

Amb. Rabin: It’s the toughest Egyptian position we have ever had.

Dr. Kissinger: Let me give you my impression. The factual situation. The position of Israel. There are not five Israelis who understand [Page 97] the American position, though three million think they do. You are one of the five.

I let him present his case. You will see the transcript. I asked questions, saying, “You want us to do something, therefore I have to know what you are talking about.” So it was mostly cross examination by me. I did not express any view of the American position, except to say there has to be a new element. On a number of issues he said he would study it very carefully. This summary I sent you [Tab A]5 was done by Saunders.

I said there had to be some concreteness on security arrangements. So I did discuss whether special security zones could be discussed. He said, “What do you have in mind?” I summed up for him an article by the son of Rafael, which was in Orbis last year. He said he would study it.

Secondly, if I understand their proposal, they and we and you—but obviously they mean we deliver you—

Ambassador Rabin: This is how they discuss with the Russians.

Dr. Kissinger: —on general principles. Like, for example, what Dean Rusk said in 1967, it doesn’t have to be more specific than that. Then after that they claim they would be willing to have more direct negotiations with Israel about the content of the principles and simultaneously begin the negotiations on Syria and Jordan. Unlike the Soviets. They said they would settle Egypt first and the others could come along close behind.

Amb. Rabin: That is nothing new.

Dr. Kissinger: I am just telling you. It’s new to me but that doesn’t make it new.

On the first day he took a hard line on the Palestinian issue. On the second day he retreated and said that the Jordanians could settle it, but he left it open that Egypt could raise the Palestinian issue within Jordan.

My impression is that in the context of total withdrawal they would agree to . . .

Amb. Rabin: To whatever stages of implementation.

Dr. Kissinger: They would not insist on demilitarized zones on the Israeli side, I think.

Amb. Rabin: Symbolic zones, it said.

Dr. Kissinger: But I think they would accept. On Sharm el-Sheik, he tried to indicate some flexibility on that. In the context of total withdrawal. Israeli international observers.

[Page 98]

Amb. Rabin: He said that to Sisco two years ago.

Dr. Kissinger: You look at the transcript when we get it done. The major point we have to come to some understanding on before you meet with the President is not to get into your Prime Minister’s head that this is a triumphal tour of the United States. This is not how he is approaching the problem. Long speeches about how the status quo is the best will not help you. You do what you want, but I am telling you the facts.

Amb. Rabin: In the long run, I think she will say that we should try the lines we have tried. Of course, she will raise maintenance of the balance.

Dr. Kissinger: Continuation of the deliveries of planes?

Amb. Rabin: Yes, for 1974 and 1975. And the question of production.

Dr. Kissinger: What did Richardson say?

Amb. Rabin: We are meeting you first, before we see him.

[1 line not declassified]

Dr. Kissinger: How did it go?

Amb. Rabin: I think he is not committed to anything.

Dr. Kissinger: The practical question the Prime Minister should focus on now is whether we can develop again a concrete strategy as we did in January.

Amb. Rabin: I asked myself, why do we need a new strategy?

Dr. Kissinger: Because there will be the Brezhnev meeting. One is the Egyptian strand; he will be back in touch with us.

Amb. Rabin: It is interesting in here: Brezhnev mentioned his talks with the United States—he did not say at what level—and wondered if the Soviets could continue contacts with the United States. He said he got the President to agree to 242 last year, in the communiqué.6

Dr. Kissinger: The Egyptians told me they had or would tell the Russians that they did not want the Russians to get into detailed negotiations with us, only give general support.

What you have to think about tomorrow morning is this: I can see some advantages in being in touch with the Egyptians and keeping the Russians out until summer. This is separate from what we talk about to the Egyptians.

Amb. Rabin: Did they say that as long as we are in touch you should not supply arms to Israel?

[Page 99]

Dr. Kissinger: They didn’t put it that crudely. He said it would be a big contribution.

[At this point Dr. Kissinger and the Ambassador conferred alone for the last five minutes.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 135, Country Files, Middle East, Rabin,Vol. 3, 1972. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting took place in the Map Room at the White House. Brackets are in the original.
  2. Not attached.
  3. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XII, Soviet Union, January 1969–October 1970, Documents 58 and 60.
  4. See Document 28.
  5. Attached, but not printed.
  6. The text of the May 29 communiqué issued at the conclusion of the U.S.-Soviet summit is printed in Public Papers: Nixon, 1972, pp. 635–642. Both sides reaffirmed their support for UNSC Resolution 242.