[Page 982]

359. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Ambassador Simcha Dinitz of Israel
  • Minister Mordechai Shalev
  • Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff

Dinitz: First a point of explanation. These questions weren’t with me last time.2 They just had a government meeting. Otherwise I wouldn’t have asked to see you again. I remember your crack at the dinner the other night that if the Israeli Ambassador doesn’t see you four times a day he thinks Israel is discriminated against.

Kissinger: Nahum Goldmann said the campaign against me has begun in Israel.3 I thought it wouldn’t be before January.

Dinitz: It’s over now. There were nasty things before—and about the Prime Minister and myself also. You’re not the only one.

I want to start with a piece of information you might find interesting. Armand Hammer was in the Soviet Union and saw Brezhnev on November 16 for two hours.4 This is from him.

Kissinger: It’s probably true.

Dinitz: During their conversation, Brezhnev told him, on his own initiative, that the Soviet Union was interested in peace in the area and a solution acceptable to both sides. Brezhnev asked, “What can the Soviet Union do to advance peace?” Hammer replied that the most important thing would be to renew diplomatic and economic relations with Israel. He thought a face-to-face meeting with the Prime Minister would create favorable conditions for the improvement of relations.

Kissinger: He doesn’t know the Prime Minister!

Dinitz: I expected that remark.

Hammer said Brezhnev talked about the U.S. military alert but said he had forgiven the U.S. Hammer also thought a meeting with the Prime Minister would also help persuade Senators like Jackson to ease [Page 983]their stand on MFN—which is Hammer’s main interest. According to Hammer, Brezhnev made it clear throughout that the Soviet Union’s main interest in its foreign policy was détente with the United States.

We informed Hammer that we thank him, and we asked him not, repeat not, to take any initiative. If they want relations with us, they know where to reach us.

Kissinger: I think it is possible that they might renew relations.

Dinitz: I think they will make feelers on this after the conference starts, so they will be in a position to talk to both sides.

Kissinger: I agree. Exactly.

One of the pressures we do have with them is economic deals. If your friends in the Jewish community weren’t so demented . . .

Dinitz: I must say, in the frankness with which I usually speak to you, I’m not sure we have such control over the Jewish community, or that the Jewish community has such control over the Senators.

Kissinger: Since any settlement is not going to be pleasant for you—we’ve talked about this before—these economic deals might help get a more moderate Soviet position.

Dinitz: But conditions could make this easier in the Congress.

Kissinger: To be concrete, if the House passes the Vanik amendment, they lose credits as well as MFN.5 Then there is no chance for the Senate–House conference. The House bill will be the same as the Senate bill.

Dinitz: Did you make progress with Jackson when you saw him?

Kissinger: No. I don’t expect to.

Dinitz: I thought that at the right moment a meeting might advance things.

Kissinger: Not now.

I have to make an inventory of the assets I have. If there is no Title IV in the House bill, it allows only the theoretical possibility of credits—but it could keep the Soviets dangling for six months.

Dinitz: If I were the Soviets, I would renew relations with Israel.

Kissinger: But by then we will have missed the House session. Our people think that will kill the trade bill altogether.

Dinitz: Wasn’t that one idea once?

Kissinger: That is what we have to do, because the bill isn’t right.

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Dinitz: That’s not our fault.

Kissinger: No, I don’t blame you. I don’t blame Israel for that.

Dinitz: The Government has decided in principle to accept the Peace Conference in Geneva and the 18th.

Kissinger: Yes, I heard. The formal proposal says the 17th or 18th,6 but I prefer that you accept the 18th. You will be shown it formally tomorrow.

Dinitz: In that document there are references to an invitation to the parties in the following language: “to start negotiations under appropriate auspices aimed at establishing a just and durable peace in the Middle East.” This is almost a quotation of 338, except for the deletion of “between parties concerned . . .” The Prime Minister says this is an important omission.

Kissinger: I’ll have to raise it. I see no difficulty.

Dinitz: It also says “without prejudice to possible additional participants at a subsequent phase.” We understand this means it is left to later.

Kissinger: Yes.

Dinitz: It doesn’t say that it requires the consent of the parties concerned. Therefore, we suggest to delete the sentence.

Kissinger: Impossible.

Dinitz: Or add that it requires the unanimous consent of the parties.

Kissinger: We can try to get it, or we can do what we did on the Six-Point Agreement, that is, have a memorandum of understanding between us.

All right.

Dinitz: The next small point is, we suggest that in the invitation there should be reference to the obligation by the parties to observe the ceasefire. We attach great importance to this. It was in the August 1970 document before we accepted the Jarring mission. Especially in view of their current buildup.

Kissinger: I’m not worried about that. It could happen. But I don’t think they are that foolish.

Dinitz: You said you talked to the Russians, and to the Egyptians. What did you say to the Egyptians?

Kissinger: We told them through our Ambassador that it would do damage to the peace efforts.7

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Dinitz: Perhaps we raise this only because we were caught once by surprise.

Kissinger: I’ll talk to Dobrynin again tonight.8

Dinitz: Thank you.

The Prime Minister wants also to know what “co-chairmanship” means. “Auspices” we understand—we don’t understand it but we know we don’t understand it!—but this we don’t understand.

Kissinger: It’s an administrative term. Every meeting has to be chaired by someone.

Dinitz: It doesn’t take you beyond the function of an “auspice”—whatever the singular of “auspices” is?

Kissinger: No. And this won’t be determined by what’s in the letter. The Soviets will try to turn “auspices” into a form of pressure, we know. My strategy is to have enough momentum so that the Arabs feel they have something—not much, but something. If the Soviets press for something, my reaction is to reject it. This is your assurance—the strategy.

It doesn’t go beyond “auspices.”

Dinitz: The next point is the Syrians. The Prime Minister had a very difficult time in the Knesset on the Syrian question. The opposition called for a no-confidence vote on this.

She asks me to tell you that our participation in the conference with the Syrians is problematical, in view of the failure to exchange prisoners, or even lists. We won’t delay the conference. But she asked me to tell you that we must receive, before the conference, the lists and permission for visits by the Red Cross.

Kissinger: I’ll become very brutal with the Arabs, especially on the oil embargo—and very tough on prisoners—once we get them signed up on the conference. As soon as we send the letters this week. I’m not sure we should give them an excuse to not show up at the conference.

Dinitz: Her exact words were, “Have the Secretary give the Syrian Foreign Minister the same treatment he gave me that night.9 He’ll get the prisoners.” [To Rodman] That’s for the record.

Kissinger: She got her whole program and then she claimed she had been raped. Which in her case is implausible.

Dinitz: On Kabrit, this will be taken up tomorrow.

Kissinger: Will you let me tell the Egyptians?

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Dinitz: Yes.

Kissinger: It’s better for you if I do it.10

Dinitz: I know. Of course. We have accepted your suggestion to delay the question of the separation of forces until the peace conference.

Kissinger: Good.

Dinitz: Yariv will not break off the talks at km 101 on our initiative.

Kissinger: Good.

Dinitz: But he will leave after the conference is open, and these meetings will deal with purely local issues.

Kissinger: Very good.

I heard Yariv might be Foreign Minister.

Shalev: Not likely.

Dinitz: This is one of many rumors that circulate.

Kissinger: Does Eban have a power base?

Dinitz: Not in the normal sense. He’s convenient to many people for many reasons.

Kissinger: Could he be convenient as a Prime Minister too for the same reason?

Dinitz: It is conceivable, but it is not likely.

I think the election results might be surprising to many who go on wrong assumptions.

Kissinger: I tell my associates that the present constellation in Israel is the best possible for us. My colleagues say it would be better to swing to the doves—but that it is not likely.

Dinitz: And it is better to deal with strong leaders.

Kissinger: But we’re also dealing with the most responsible element.

This is going to be a difficult period. I’ve made no secret of that. We won’t know what is going to be necessary until the process gets going. But we will have to face it cold-bloodedly.

Dinitz: The Prime Minister gave me six important points she wanted me to raise: first, a positive decision on the supply of arms.

Kissinger: We’re pushing it. I gave the orders today.

Dinitz: I know it is a cardinal element of your policy that Israel not deal at the conference table from a position of weakness.

Kissinger: Of course.

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Dinitz: Second is the matter of our prisoners in Syria. We mentioned that. Third is preservation of the ceasefire. We discussed that. Fourth, the Bab el-Mandab arrangement should continue.

Kissinger: That seems to be going well.

Dinitz: Yes.

Next, the Prime Minister wants to celebrate Christmas! We don’t want a formal commitment to a date for adjournment, but nothing substantive should . . .

Kissinger: I assure you nothing will happen before your elections.

Dinitz: Then, the Prime Minister asks, when we get a formal invitation, how does it look when we accept the invitation from the United States and Soviet Union when we don’t have diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union?

Kissinger: You should make that point. You can give us a note for them. And make a number of your other points, too.

Shalev: In the reply to the American invitation?

Kissinger: Yes.

[Dr. Kissinger and Ambassador Dinitz conferred alone for ten minutes.]

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27–14 ARAB–ISR. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting took place in the Secretary’s office at the State Department. All brackets are in the original.
  2. See Document 357.
  3. A prominent Jewish Zionist, Nahum Goldmann nonetheless was critical of Israel’s reliance on military power and advocated a conciliatory position toward the Arabs.
  4. Armand Hammer, American businessman and owner of Occidental Petroleum, was a frequent visitor to the Soviet Union.
  5. Congressman Charles Vanik (D–Ohio) was the sponsor of the House of Representatives version of the Jackson amendment; see footnote 7, Document 35. Documentation on the administration’s efforts to mitigate the impact of the Jackson–Vanik amendment to the 1974 Trade Act is in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXI, Foreign Economic Policy, 1973–1976.
  6. Kissinger is referring to the U.S.–Soviet letter; see Document 356.
  7. See Document 351.
  8. Kissinger spoke with Dobrynin on the telephone at 10:26 p.m. A transcript of the conversation is in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Kissinger Telephone Conversations, Transcripts (Telcons), Chronological File, Box 24.
  9. See Document 312.
  10. See Document 362.