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

Nixon: Hi, Henry.

Kissinger: I had a breakfast with Rabin and Golda Meir2 [unclear]—

Nixon: I thought that’s where you were. I told Ron, I said, “I’ll bet you he’s out [unclear]—”

Kissinger: I took—well, you wrote it on—slipped that I should talk to them before they came in to see you.

Nixon: Well, particularly in the light of your other conversation3 [unclear]—

Kissinger: That’s right; I gave them a brief summary of that.

Nixon: —what they’ve been saying is—

Kissinger: And also told them—

Nixon: You see, if they come in with a straight stonewall, and so forth, first, it’s going to leak. And then—

Kissinger: No, I told them that that was impossible, and that they had to come—

[Page 100]

Nixon: Well, they have begun. They’ve shifted their position, which I think was absolutely correct from the standpoint of their world initiative on the plane thing,4 which I’ll have you know, when you get—when you get caught with your hand in the cookie jar, you’ve got to [laughs], you’ve got to do it. They were on a bad wicket there. But, the other thing is more fundamental—more fundamental.

Kissinger: Well, I’m trying to see whether I can get them to tell you some details—

Nixon: Something—

Kissinger: —of an interim settlement they’d be willing to accept, so that we can get that thing started.

Nixon: Rather than the head—rather than the points.

Kissinger: Well, then, to agree in principle to a continued exchange—

Nixon: But you’re aware—

Kissinger: —without telling them exactly what’s going to be in that exchange until [unclear]—

Nixon: Yeah, yeah. I meant, though, I thought the interim settlement is much more difficult than getting the agreement on the general principles.

Kissinger: No, I think—

Nixon: With all the other—the second is the language thing, which the Israelis are brilliant at. The first is the substance thing, which they just don’t want to give anything on.

Kissinger: No, they’re so afraid that once they agree to general principles they’re going to be pressured into an overall settlement. They were more receptive this morning to giving details on an interim agreement. I told them—

Nixon: We just couldn’t stand here on this. You just can’t say, for example, for them to come in, Henry, which is obvious from what I have seen, from [2 seconds not declassified], and then they in—they want more planes. They’re not going to get ‘em. They’re not going to get ‘em with—and not offering anything, because we’ve done it for four years and nothing has happened. Now, this doesn’t mean we’re going to force them, but we can’t be in a position of saying to the Congress, “Look, more planes.” What about the settlement? Nothing. Diddling us, they—they already have. They can get ‘em if they need ‘em. I asked Helms. You said to suggest—to ask him, you know, whether—what the balance was, and he said they can—he said that they could lick any and all of their enemies, provided the Soviet stays out, for five years [Page 101]without any more planes, because their, he says, the advantage is enormous. But, he says, they don’t—they won’t admit it, which is a great tribute to how good they are. At least that’s his analysis, for whatever it’s worth.

Kissinger: They’re certainly superior now. It depends how much the Russians put in. That’s really what it depends upon—

Nixon: That’s what Helms pointed out. He said that the Russians—the Russians, particularly in personnel [unclear]. And—but Helms’s point seems to be that—which we’re all aware of—that the Israelis are just so damn good with what they have than their damn, poor, stupid neighbors that can’t act without the Russians. Maybe—

Kissinger: Well, if they don’t get any planes, then they’re going to be bastards in negotiations. So, the question is—

Nixon: What’s the point? No, I’m all for—I’m all for quid pro quo. I mean, we got to. But you see, before, we said, “Give ‘em the planes and keep giving them so that they will not be bastards in negotiations.” We’ve given them the planes, and they’ve still been bastards in negotiations.

Kissinger: Yeah, well—

Nixon: Up to this point.

Kissinger: With the Jordanians. With the Egyptians, neither side has really done anything.

Nixon: Not too much.

Kissinger: But—but I agree that they have—

Nixon: If I were they, I’d do the same thing, but it’s this position that we can’t be in because of other games we’re playing—

Kissinger: I agree.

Nixon: —on the world scene. That’s the point, I mean, as you well know—

Kissinger: I agree completely.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Conversation No. 865–22. No classification marking. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Nixon met with Kissinger in the Oval Office between 11:07 and 11:52 a.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files) The editors transcribed the portion printed here specifically for this volume.
  2. According to his Record of Schedule, Kissinger met Meir and Rabin on February 28 from 8:15 to 10:55 a.m. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 238, Miscellany, 1968–1976) Rabin later recorded that Meir expressed to Kissinger “Israel’s willingness to advance toward both an overall settlement and a partial agreement for the reopening of the canal. But Kissinger’s only response was that ‘in the absence of any new ideas or proposals, there will be no progress.”’ (Rabin, The Rabin Memoirs, p. 215)
  3. See Document 28.
  4. See footnote 2, Document 22.