342. Memorandum From Harold H. Saunders of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft)1
- US Role in Egyptian-Israeli Talks to Implement the Ceasefire
This memo is simply to record a few reflections on the Egyptian-Israeli-UN battle in the last two days over the checkpoints on the Cairo–Suez road.[Page 945]
In establishing a posture for ourselves, there are two conflicting interests to keep in mind:
—On the one hand, it is necessary that we not get involved in the argument over each detail. Above all, not being on the ground, we are not in a position to make sensible judgments about the practices that should be followed in implementing the terms of the ceasefire.
—On the other hand, the US has an interest in seeing both sides behave in such a way that a pattern of reasonable exchanges is established before the peace talks begin. If the Israelis seem to be acting in an obstructionist or harassing manner, we have no interest in appearing to acquiesce. We must bear in mind that the Israelis read silence as assent. Therefore, when they behave as they did yesterday,2 we should let the record show that they do not have our support in that behavior.
One other major point needs to be kept in mind. The balance we strike between helping to develop general principles of substance and behavior and negotiating practical details will set a precedent for the balance we strike in the peace negotiations. The Israelis will be watching us very carefully to see whether we are going to give them a reasonable chance to negotiate the kind of settlements they want or whether we are going to be inclined to involve ourselves in every detail, limiting their freedom. It is in our interest to give them a feeling that they will have a fair amount of freedom and that our involvement will be reserved for the major issues and the general principles when outside help becomes necessary to break stalemates.
What this boils down to as the Egyptian-Israeli-UN talks at Kilometer 101 proceed is a careful watch from our side and a practice of registering our general concern when Israeli behavior appears obstructionist without getting ourselves into the details.
I will leave it to you to decide whether the above thoughts are worth passing on to Secretary Kissinger.