324. Editorial Note
Secretary of State Henry Kissinger met with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat on November 7 at the Tahra Palace in Heliopolis to begin discussion of the possible disengagement of Israeli and Egyptian forces, the resumption of U.S.-Egyptian diplomatic relations, and Egyptian participation at the forthcoming peace conference in Geneva. No record of Kissinger’s discussion in Cairo has been found. In his memoirs, however, Kissinger described his 3-hour meeting with the Egyptian President:
“Sadat had emerged, dressed in a khaki military tunic, an overcoat slung carelessly over his shoulders . . . He was taller, swarthier, and more imposing than I had expected. He exuded vitality and confidence. . . . Sadat then ushered me into a large room that served as his office. On one side were French windows overlooking a lawn in which wicker chairs had been placed in a semicircle for the benefit of our aides. ‘I have been longing for this visit,’ said Sadat and started filling a pipe. I have a plan for you. It can be called the Kissinger plan.’
“. . . Before we talked about the business at hand, I said, would the President tell me how he had managed to achieve such a stunning surprise on October 6? . . . Sadat told his tale of lonely decision-making, his conclusion after the failure of the 1969 Rogers Plan that there would never be a serious negotiation so long as Israel was able to equate security with military predominance. It was impossible for Egypt to bargain from a posture of humiliation. He told me how he had grown disenchanted with the Soviet Union. Moscow prized its relations with the United States above support of Egypt; the bland treatment of the Middle East question in the communiqué of Nixon’s 1972 summit in Moscow had removed any lingering doubts on that score.”
“Why had he been so persistent, I asked? Why not wait for the diplomatic initiative we had promised? To teach Israel that it could not find security in domination, replied Sadat, and to restore Egypt’s self-respect—a task no foreigner could do for it. Now that he had vindicated Egyptian honor, Sadat told me, he had two objectives: to regain ‘my territory,’ that is to say, to restore the 1967 boundary in the Sinai, and to make peace.”
“... I turned for the next half-hour to a conceptual discussion. . . . History had shown, I said, that progress toward peace depended on two factors: an Arab leader willing to relate rhetoric to reality and an America willing to engage itself in the process. We would not exercise our influence under pressure; our actions had to be seen to reflect our choice and not submission to threats. We had no incentive to be forthcoming to clients of the Soviet Union. Nasser’s policy of trying to extort concessions by mobilizing the Third World against us with Soviet sup[Page 906]port had not worked in the past and would not be permitted to work in the future. Peace in the Middle East could not come about by the defeat of American allies with Soviet arms—as we had just shown. But an Egypt pursuing its own national policy would find us ready to cooperate. We sought no preeminence in Egypt. I could discern no inevitable clash of interests between us.
“‘And Israel?’ asked Sadat. Israel, I insisted, need not be a source of conflict. No Egyptian interest was served by the destruction of Israel; no Arab problem would be solved by it. Egypt had lost thousands of lives for a cause that had never been reduced to terms America could possibly support. We would never hold still for Israel’s destruction, I continued, but we were willing to help allay reasonable Arab grievances. All we had ever heard from Arabs were sweeping programs put forward on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. Experience had shown that this course guaranteed deadlock. Israel was indeed stubborn, occasionally infuriating. But as someone who had spoken so movingly of national dignity, he had to understand the psychology of a country that had never enjoyed the minimum attribute of sovereignty, acceptance by its neighbors.
“I urged Sadat to think of peace with Israel as a psychological, not a diplomatic problem. If, as he rightly insisted, Israel could not base its security on physical predominance, it also could not be secure without confidence. And that was the contribution required of the most influential Arab nation, Egypt. . . . Sadat listened intently to these heresies of Arab thought, impassively puffing on his pipe. He showed no reaction except: ‘And what about my Third Army? What about the October 22 line?’
“... He had two choices, I replied. Relying on the declaration of the European Community and Soviet support, he could insist on the October 22 line. It would be difficult, even embarrassing, for us. Eventually, we might be induced to go along. But weeks would go by, and for what would he have mobilized all these pressures? To get Israel to go back a few kilometers on the west bank of the Suez Canal—a process that would then have to be repeated under even more difficult circumstances for a real separation of forces leading to an Israeli retreat across the Suez Canal. The better course was to live with the status quo, made bearable by a system of nonmilitary supplies for the Third Army. With immediate tensions defused, the United States would do its utmost to arrange a genuine disengagement of forces, moving the Israelis back across the Canal—although not as far as in his scheme, probably not even beyond the passes. Still it would be the first Israeli withdrawal from Arab territory occupied for any length of time; it would create the confidence for further steps. The diplomacy to induce Israel to return to the October 22 line was about the same as the persuasion needed to [Page 907] produce a disengagement scheme and we would not be able to accomplish both in a brief period. Paradoxically, forgoing the October 22 line would speed up Israeli withdrawal from the Canal. Sadat should choose. I would do my best either way.
“Sadat sat brooding, saying nothing for many minutes... then he astonished me. He did not haggle or argue. He did not dispute my analysis. He did not offer an alternative. Violating the normal method of diplomacy—which is to see what one can extract for a concession—he said simply that he agreed with both my analysis and my proposed procedure. It had been folly for Egypt, he averred, to seek its goals through harassing the United States. Egypt had had enough of war; there was no intention to destroy Israel. Having restored his nation’s self-respect, he could now turn to the peace for which his people longed.”
“The Third Army, Sadat added, was in any case not the heart of the matter between America and Egypt. He was determined to end Nasser’s legacy. He would reestablish relations with the United States as quickly as possible and, once that was accomplished, he would move to friendship. . . . He was prepared to announce his intentions immediately—upon the conclusion of our meeting, in fact. In the meantime, he would raise the head of his Interests Section to the status of Ambassador. He hoped that we would join such an announcement. We had sought for four years to restore relations; I had brought with me a proposal to do so. We agreed that the ambassadors would assume their functions immediately, operating from Interests Sections indistinguishable from Embassies.”
Before the meeting concluded, Sadat and Kissinger agreed to a six-point plan that incorporated the agreement that the two had reached during their conversation. The six points were: 1) Egypt and Israel would observe the UN Security Council cease-fire; 2) discussions between Egypt and Israel would begin immediately on a return to the October 22 line and on the disengagement and separation of forces; 3) the town of Suez would receive daily supplies of food, water, and medicine; 4) there would be no impediment to the movement of non-military supplies to the East Bank; 5) United Nations checkpoints would replace Israeli checkpoints on the Cairo–Suez road; and 6) exchange of prisoners of war would take place following the establishment of the United Nations checkpoints on the Cairo–Suez road.
When they had finished going over the six points, Sadat asked an aide to call in Assistant Secretary Joseph Sisco and Foreign Minister Ismail Fahmi, who would refine what Kissinger and Sadat had discussed into formal language. As they waited for their two assistants to arrive, Sadat made one final remark: “Never forget, Dr. Kissinger. I am [Page 908] making this agreement with the United States, not with Israel.” (Kissinger, Years of Upheaval, pages 635–641)
In Sadat’s account of his November 7 meeting with Kissinger, he wrote that he told Kissinger that he wanted a return to “the cease-fire lines of October 22. I have 800 tanks, while Israel has only 400; for each Israeli tank I have one and a half rockets; the Israelis are besieged, and the gap they’ve cut open between our armies—4 miles wide—could close and so spell the end of them. There can be no question about that.” Sadat added:
“We had a three-hour session, during which we agreed on six points, one of which was that Egyptian-Israeli talks for disengagement of forces and a return to the lines of October 22 would start at Km. 101. . . . The first hour made me feel I was dealing with an entirely new mentality, a new political method. For the first time, I felt as if I was looking at the real face of the United States, the one I had always wanted to see—not the face put on by [John Foster] Dulles, Dean Rusk, and [William] Rogers. Anyone seeing us after that first hour in al-Tahirah Palace would have thought we had been friends for years. There was no difficulty in understanding one another and so we agreed on a six-point program of action, including a U.S. pledge of return to the October 22 cease-fire line within the framework of the forces’ disengagement.
“Our agreement on the six-point program of action marked the beginning of a relationship of mutual understanding with the United States culminating and crystallizing in what we came to describe as a ‘Peace Process.’ Together we started that process, and the United States still supports our joint efforts to this day.” (Sadat, In Search of Identity, pages 267–268 and 291–292)
Following the meeting, Kissinger transmitted the agreement to resume diplomatic relations and the six-point proposal to the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs Brent Scowcroft in telegrams Hakto 14 and Hakto 15, November 7. The Secretary instructed Scowcroft to inform Israeli Ambassador Simcha Dinitz and ask him to communicate the proposal to Prime Minister Golda Meir immediately. He also asked that the agreement and oral understanding be passed to Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin upon Sisco’s arrival in Tel Aviv and that the Ambassador be informed that Egypt had accepted joint U.S.–USSR auspices for the peace talks as well as the Security Council procedure that the Secretary had discussed with Dobrynin earlier. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 41, Kissinger Trip Files, HAK Trip–Mideast, Islamabad, Peking, Tokyo, Seoul, HAKTO 1–69, Nov. 5–16, 1973)
Scowcroft sent President Nixon a memorandum, November 7, describing Kissinger’s conversation with Sadat:[Page 909]
“We have just received a brief report from Secretary Kissinger upon the conclusion of a three-hour session with President Sadat of Egypt. Agreement has been reached on the following proposal, which will be communicated to the Israelis.
“1. Egypt and Israel agree to observe scrupulously the cease-fire called for by the UN Security Council.
“2. Both sides agree that discussions between them will begin immediately to settle the question of the return to the October 22 positions in the framework of agreement on the disengagement and separation of forces.
“3. The town of Suez will receive daily supplies of food, water, and medicine. All wounded civilians in the town of Suez will be evacuated.
“4. There shall be no impediment to the movement of non-military supplies to the East Bank.
“5. The Israeli check points on the Cairo–Suez road will be replaced by UN check points. At the Suez end of the road, an Israeli officer can participate with the UN to supervise the non-military nature of the cargo.
“6. As soon as the UN check points are established on the Cairo–Suez road, there will be an exchange of all POWs, including wounded.
“There is also an oral understanding which states that Egypt undertakes to ease the blockade at Bab El-Mandab. Assistant Secretary Sisco is flying to Tel Aviv now to seek the concurrence of the Israeli government.
“An oral message has also been transmitted from you to Prime Minister Meir in advance of Assistant Secretary Sisco’s arrival.
“Secretary Kissinger has informed me of the agreement he has worked out with President Sadat and which has been sent to you for your consideration. In addition, there is an oral understanding between the United States and Egypt regarding the blockade at Bar El-Mandab which Assistant Secretary Sisco will convey to you. Having read the records of your conversation with Secretary Kissinger, it is my firm conviction that the agreement reached will be satisfactory to you.
“Agreement has also been reached in principle on the resumption of diplomatic relations between Egypt and the United States, and the following announcement will be made by Ron Ziegler at noon today.
“The Governments of the United States and of Egypt have agreed in principle to resume diplomatic relations at an early date. The two Governments have also agreed that in the meantime the respective interests sections of the two countries will be raised immediately to the Ambassadorial level. The Government of Egypt has named Ambassador Ashraf Ghorbal. The United States has designated Ambassador Hermann Eilts. They will take up their posts promptly.” (Ibid., Box 639, Country Files, Middle East, Arab Republic of Egypt, Vol. X, Nov. 73–Dec 31, 1973)[Page 910]
In telegram Tohak 40/WH37256 to Cairo, November 7, the President wrote to Kissinger: “Congratulations! Great job!” (Ibid., Box 41, Kissinger Trip Files, HAK Trip—Mideast, Islamabad, Peking, Tokyo, Seoul, HAKTO 1–69, Nov. 5–16, 1973) In telegram Tohak 41/WH37258, November 7, Scowcroft informed Kissinger that the agreement to restore diplomatic relations had been very well received. He reported that Dinitz had observed that the proposed agreement had some “rough spots” but had seemed to react to it fairly favorably. Dobrynin had commented that the Israelis ought to accept it since it included everything they had been asking for. Scowcroft added that he wanted to express his own admiration for a proposal that he had feared would be impossible to achieve. (Ibid)