319. Memorandum From Harold H. Saunders and William B. Quandt of the National Security Council Staff to Secretary of State Kissinger1


  • Israeli and Egyptian Positions on Ceasefire and Disengagement Stage

This memo deals initially with Israeli and Egyptian positions on stabilizing the ceasefire and then concentrates on options for a step of disengagement. The two have to be looked at together because the Israelis and Egyptians have different views about the phase to which some of the terms belong.

Stabilizing the Ceasefire Israeli and Egyptian positions are quite far apart on terms for stabilizing the ceasefire and for moving on to a “disengagement stage.” The official Israeli position only deals with the immediate issues of prisoners, resupply, the blockade at Bab al-Mandeb and the October 22 lines. Their position is detailed and filled with conditions. It has not yet been approved by the Israeli cabinet. By [Page 887]contrast, the Egyptians have officially put forward a general outline dealing not only with near-term issues, but also with a disengagement phase and an overall settlement. Their position lacks the detail of the Israeli position and predicates everything on Israeli withdrawal to the October 22 lines. For purposes of comparison, these are the two official positions at this point:

Ceasefire Stage

Israeli Position

1. Israel agrees to temporary resupply of 3rd Army while Secretary en route to Cairo, provided wounded Israeli prisoners are released; a full list of prisoners is provided; Red Cross is allowed to visit prisoners.

2. Israel agrees to system of nonmilitary resupply of 3rd Army under joint UN-Israeli inspection, provided all prisoners are returned and the Bab al-Mandeb blockade is lifted.

3. When all this is achieved, Israel will agree to discuss with Egypt alone the issue of the October 22, 1973, ceasefire lines.

Egyptian Position

1. Israel must withdraw to the October 22 lines as called for by UNSC.

2. Egypt will then release all Israeli prisoners.

3. Egypt will also then agree to arrangements for the permanent non-military resupply of the 3rd Army under UN auspices.

4. Israeli forces would then disengage to a line east of the passes, leaving a zone to be filled by UN forces.

5. When Israeli forces proceed eastward to the disengagement zone, the blockade of Bab al-Mandeb will be lifted.

The full texts of the Israeli and Egyptian positions are at Tabs A and B.2

Points made by the United States to the two parties include:

—The US acknowledges to Israel that it does not know where the October 22 lines are; that it will make this position known at the UN [Page 888]and elsewhere; that it will do its best to see no pressure is brought to bear on Israel on the issue of the October 22 lines. The parties will be left to negotiate this issue.

—The US has assured Egypt that it will oppose any Israeli offensive beyond the October 22 lines.

In order to move on to the issues of disengagement of forces under a first stage of a settlement, which President Sadat apparently wants to raise with you, the problems of securing the ceasefire will have to be dealt with first. The changes that we might try to secure in the positions of the two sides in order to accomplish this could be:

—Israel would agree on an interim basis to the continuation of non-military resupply of the 3rd Army without conditions, at least until you have talked with President Sadat.

—Egypt would agree to release Israeli prisoners as soon as a permanent system for resupplying the 3rd Army under UN and Israeli inspection is arranged. As a gesture of goodwill, Egypt should release wounded prisoners, supply lists of prisoners and allow visits by the Red Cross immediately. Israel would agree in principle to return to the October 22 lines and to discuss arrangements with the Egyptians.

—Both Egypt and Israel would instruct their military representatives to work out on the ground the arrangements for establishing the October 22 lines. As soon as agreement is reached, Egypt would lift the blockade on Bab al-Mandeb. [In practice, return to the October 22 lines could be interpreted as Israeli evacuation of Suez City and areas to its south and opening a supply line to the 3rd Army under UN and Israeli inspection. Israeli participation in inspection could be the trade-off for moving Israeli forces off the road.]

—The United States would seek assurances from Israel, and would convey these to Egypt, that Israel will not advance beyond the lines agreed to by the military representatives, provided Egypt does not resume full-scale hostilities.

—The United States would take no substantive position on the location of the October 22 lines, except that they should be compatible with arrangements for non-military resupply of the 3rd Army.

With the completion of this ceasefire stage, the following will have been accomplished:

—Egypt and Israel will have exchanged all prisoners of war.

—Arrangements for the permanent non-military resupply of the 3rd Army, including UN and Israeli inspection, will be worked out.

—Egyptian and Israeli military representatives will have agreed on the October 22 positions, which will thereafter become the agreed ceasefire lines.

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—The Egyptian blockade of Bab al-Mandeb will have been lifted.

—The US will have given Egypt private assurances that Israel will not launch an offensive beyond the October 22 lines.

If this can be accomplished, attention can turn to the disengagement stage.

Here the positions are less precise, but they consist essentially of the following:

Disengagement Stage

Israeli Position

1. Egyptian forces would withdraw from the east bank of the Canal; Israeli forces would withdraw from the west bank.

2. Both sides would then thin out their forces along the Canal.

3. Egypt would undertake to clear and reopen the Canal to international shipping.

Egyptian Position

1. Israeli forces are to withdraw to a line inside Sinai which in principle would lie east of the passes.

2. A disengagement zone, as wide as possible, would be created between Egyptian and Israeli forces in Sinai. UN forces would be stationed in such a zone. Egyptian forces would remain in their present positions east of the Canal.

3. When Israeli forces reach the disengagement zone and UN forces are stationed therein, the operation of clearing the Canal would begin.

4. At the time the disengagement phase is set up, a peace conference would be convened under UN auspices.

The prime difficulties at this stage will be:

—The Israelis are asking the Egyptians to give up territory on the east bank of the Canal which is the only tangible sign of Egypt’s military successes early in the war. We can expect Egypt to reject this proposal, with the possible exception of the 3rd Army.

—The Egyptian position will be unacceptable to the Israelis because it moves too quickly on the issue of withdrawal. Some sort of negotiation will presumably be necessary on the overall framework of an Egyptian-Israeli relationship before the Israelis will pull forces back from the Canal.

Despite these difficulties, there are some points of general agreement that might provide the basis for progress. For example:

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—Both sides appear to be willing to consider the concept of disengagement of forces.

—Both sides appear to agree that Egypt should begin work on clearing the Canal at an early date.

One possible compromise on a preliminary disengagement phase might be the following:

—The 3rd Army would withdraw to the west bank of the Canal; the Israeli forces would withdraw to positions on the east bank.

—Egyptian forces north of Ismailiya would remain in place. Between them and the Israeli forces a disengagement zone would be created in which UNEF forces would be stationed. Specific arrangements would be worked out through direct Egyptian and Israeli contacts.

—Egypt would announce its intention to begin work on reopening the Canal and would acknowledge Israel’s right to use the Canal once it is open.

—A Middle East peace conference would be convened to open negotiations on the implementation of Resolution 242. Israel would announce that it sets no preconditions for negotiations and will not preclude any outcome that will assure secure and recognized borders for all states in the area.

Alternative disengagement scenarios might include:

—The Egyptian forces that remain on the east bank of the Canal during the disengagement phase might be subject to various resupply restrictions that could be monitored by UN (as well as Israeli and Egyptian) teams. For example, limits on numbers of troops, types of weaponry (especially heavy weapons), and even on non-military resupplies might be arranged. This could serve to reduce Israeli objections to leaving Egyptian forces on the east bank.

—If Israeli forces leave the west bank of the Canal in the disengagement stage, it might be possible to demilitarize the area they occupied so that Egyptian forces could not move up to the Canal between Ismailiya and Suez City. This might be an interim measure and would require UNEF forces to compel compliance.

—A first step might be arranged whereby the 3rd Army presence east of the Canal is reduced at the same time that the Israeli forces from the west bank are thinned out. UNEF forces would take up positions in both areas, with the objective of creating a zone on both banks that would be free of Egyptian and Israeli forces. This disengagement zone could extend on the east bank to the north, creating a buffer between Egyptian and Israeli forces now in place. In a subsequent phase, the zone on the west bank of the Canal would be reduced in size as it is extended toward the passes on the east bank.

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Combined with these arrangements on the ground, the Egyptians and Israelis might make other concessions to give Israel justification for some withdrawal and Egypt justification for formal negotiations. For example,

Egypt could:

—Declare an end to the state of belligerency.

—End the third-party boycott of Israel.

—Acknowledge Israel’s right to exist within secure and recognized borders.

—Agree to formal direct negotiations at an international peace conference.

—Work on reopening the Canal and reconstructing the cities along the Canal; recognize Israel’s right to use the Canal as soon as it is open to international shipping.

Israel simultaneously could:

—Declare that this first stage of disengagement will not be the last if negotiations continue.

—Agree not to preclude any arrangement that will provide secure and recognized borders.

—Acknowledge a responsibility to work with others to resolve the problem of the Palestinian refugees.

—Recognize that an Arab civil and religious role with a unified Jerusalem will be needed.

—State that Israel’s security needs can be met without prejudice to Arab sovereignty in areas occupied by Israel since June 1967.

—Cease construction of new civilian settlements in occupied areas; relinquish control over the oil fields in Sinai; allow repatriation of civilian refugees to occupied areas in Sinai, the Golan Heights and the West Bank.

At this point, the negotiations themselves could take up the terms of a broader settlement and further withdrawal, which itself might be staged.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 40, Kissinger Trip Files, HAK Trip—Mideast, Islamabad, Peking, Tokyo, Seoul, Nov. 5–16, 1973, Misc. & Memos. Secret; Sensitive. Sent for information. A handwritten notation on the memorandum states that it is a briefing paper for Kissinger’s Mideast trip. Brackets are in the original.
  2. Attached, but not printed. Tab B is the attachment to Document 303.