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365. Memorandum From Harold H. Saunders of the National Security Council Staff to Secretary of State Kissinger1


  • Our Position on Egypt–Israel Disengagement Talks—A Further Elaboration

Sadat and Fahmi are again pressing for disengagement before the peace conference. Fahmi’s strong message today2 reopens the possibility of an Egyptian appeal for US–Soviet intervention to guarantee implementation of Security Council Resolution 338. Egyptian forces are in a high state of alert and there are reports that hostilities will be resumed in the next few days.

The US position has been that lack of progress in the Egypt–Israel disengagement talks should not become an impediment to the opening of the peace conference in December—and indeed, that disengagement should be the first issue on the agenda.

Our strategy has been based on: (1) the desirability of an early agreement to establish momentum at the peace conference and (2) the desirability of having the US be instrumental in closing the gap.

However, one thing the US does not have an interest in doing is pouring cold water on any agreement that Egyptians and Israelis could move toward themselves. Although Egypt and Israel are not close to agreement, the gap between their two positions is far narrower than might have been predicted a couple of weeks ago. How narrow depends on whether the Israelis have deliberately pulled back at our suggestion or whether Yariv got ahead of his instructions. Still, the questions are how we pursue our strategy without getting in the way of self-generated progress and whether there is a way to achieve our purposes while still giving Sadat a sense of movement.

In this situation, I wonder whether it would not be advisable to take a more active role now while still reserving final agreement for your trip and the peace conference. You might elaborate your present position as follows:

—We will naturally welcome any progress that the Egyptians and Israelis can make in narrowing the gap between them on a disengage[Page 1014]ment agreement. We will be glad to see what we can do with the Israelis now, although as we have said it is very difficult for us to play a role where we have no framework for our participation.

—In any case, we would suggest that both sides consider the advantages to them of putting any final agreement that may be possible into the context of the peace conference. This would permit immediate establishment of an aura of effectiveness and achievement at the conference that could work to everyone’s benefit as the conference proceeds.

If we were to take this line, then we would be supporting just enough progress to keep the talks alive, to reduce frustration and perhaps even to be useful in reaching final agreement. At the same time, by talking with the Israelis, we could reserve the opportunity for ourselves at the beginning of the conference—or perhaps even in connection with your trip—to take credit for the final closing of the gap.

The alternative, of course, is to stand fast and make the Egyptians choose between our way of doing things and a policy of disruptive brinksmanship. If this were the choice, a firm message would be in order pointing out that it will undercut everything that has been achieved if they follow through on their threat. The attached would keep to our line but with a little greater show of activity in response.

Recommendation: That you consider the attached oral message3 to Fahmi as a follow-on to the one sent earlier today.4

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 132, Country Files, Middle East, Egypt, Vol. VIII, November 1–December 31, 1973. Secret; Nodis; Outside System. Sent for action.
  2. The message of November 29 is in telegram 3720 from Cairo, November 30. (Ibid., Box 639, Country Files, Middle East, Egypt, Arab Republic of Egypt, Vol. X, Nov.–Dec. 31, 1973)
  3. Attached, but not printed.
  4. The earlier oral message was sent in telegram 234899 to Cairo, November 30. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 639, Country Files, Middle East, Arab Republic of Egypt, Vol. X, Nov.–Dec. 31, 1973) There is no indication on the memorandum if Kissinger acted on the recommendation, but see footnote 2, Document 369.