[Page 114]

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

Kissinger: And that, that was a tough—I mean, they bloodied Joe, but, you know, they’re, basically—if Rogers had made the proposition that he talk to the Egyptians and Russians, they would have been hanging from the ceiling. That’s been a fixed position. I mean, you sort of—and all, and all those, so, of course, they have a hell of a lot more confidence in you.

Nixon: Well, they figure we’re not going to screw them. Now, did they—is the position that they have suggested really something that—

Kissinger: But their position—

Nixon: —has any viability at all?

Kissinger: Well, their position—no, I think their position has viability, and I think the position itself—

Nixon: Then, for God’s sakes, don’t tell State.

Kissinger: The Egyptians will almost certainly accept. Where the hang-up will occur—I mean, there’ll be some—

Nixon: Yeah?

Kissinger: The only hang-up in their position is going to be—they’ve given us a deeper withdrawal. I don’t know whether you [unclear]—

Nixon: No, I don’t know much—

Kissinger: She said2 up to the passes. Well, that’s twice as much as they’ve ever talked about.

Nixon: I don’t—I don’t think you—do you plan to sit down and go through that with Sisco, now?

Kissinger: No. No.

Nixon: Well, that’s my point. I feel that—what are you going to have Sisco do then?

Kissinger: The lack of viability—now, the trouble with their position is they will only let police forces cross the Canal. The Egyptians will want to put some military forces across. That’s going to be a [Page 115]hang-up. All the others, I think, are acceptable. The big hang-up is going to occur, not on that but on how to link the interim agreement to an overall agreement, and this interim defense. If the Egyptians were willing to accept fuzzy language on general principles, we’d be home free. Well, what we can get Sisco to do in about two weeks—it shouldn’t happen all that eagerly—is to propose a procedure for interim, for talks on an interim settlement. That will get us into a lot of procedural crap for four weeks. By that time, I will have had another talk with the Egyptians.3 If the Egyptians give us—

Nixon: Sadat?

Kissinger: —give us vague general principles, then we can really move full-speed into the substance of the other position and do it in our channel.

Nixon: Yeah, as far as we’re concerned, your main problem is getting the principles vague enough that the Israelis will accept them—

Kissinger: We—that’s right. If we can get vague general principles, then we’re in business.

Nixon: Now, you don’t think you can talk them into that, do you?

Kissinger: I can’t tell you. This last session—we’ve achieved one thing: the Egyptians are panting to get us involved, and they’re willing to pay some price. I mean, it would have been unthinkable that they’d come to us.

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: And I’ve sent you [unclear]. It’s coming to you—you judge for yourself—a memo of the conversation.4 They’ve been more specific in detail. Now, I wouldn’t expect it. As you told Ismail,5 why should they give away their position [in] the first session? So, they said they’d go back and study it and come back to us. If they give us a—if they have a movement, then at some point we may have to squeeze the Israelis into some—

Nixon: [unclear]—

Kissinger: We might have to screw them a bit.

Nixon: Yeah. We’ve got to tell ‘em we’re not squeezing them and then squeeze ‘em.

Kissinger: That’s right. That’s right. So, that’s the—that’s the biggest hang-up. The position itself on interim agreement is still gonna be tough, but that, I think, is manageable, because that can be a big issue of whether—

[Page 116]

Nixon: Right.

Kissinger: —they put a few troops, or even if they call them police—

Nixon: Right.

Kissinger: —frontier guards, or whatever.

Nixon: Good. And, you know, as a matter of fact, though, I was thinking of this conversation, Henry, that we—you’ve had with them, and the way we prepared this—now, this is just one of the things—and the way that Kennedy, or for that matter Johnson would have. Johnson did not care about it—

Kissinger: Well, Johnson—

Nixon: For God’s sakes, the problem was—the problem is in dealing with somebody that’s intelligent, there’s got to be subtlety. You got to go around. You got to hang up something good at the beginning and then come back with something else and then—

Kissinger: On it, you knew exactly where you were going. I mean, basically, you cut their request on production by—to a third. They asked for 300; they’re down to 100. You didn’t give them any specific commitments on airplanes, and you made them like it. That—and, also, that you prepare your meetings very carefully.

Nixon: Then, we also say we weren’t linking anything, knowing damn well we will.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Conversation No. 866–16. No classification marking. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Nixon met with Kissinger in the Oval Office between 12:44 and 1:06 p.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files) The editors transcribed the portion printed here specifically for this volume.
  2. Golda Meir.
  3. See Document 63.
  4. See Document 28.
  5. See Document 26.