[Page 1018]

368. Telegram From the Embassy in Israel to the Department of State1

9700. Subject: Middle East Talks.

Summary: At request of PriMin Meir, FonMin Abba Eban expressed to me today serious concern over “explosive” situation existing between Egypt and Israel as result of GOE insisting disengagement be settled in KM 101 forum prior to opening of peace conf, GOE breaking off KM 101 talks, Egyptian threatening order of battle, and GOE intention stop Israeli ship from transitting BAM. He stated Israel is prepared for worst but wants to avoid break-down of cease-fire and will not take initiative to upset it. Eban, recalling his conversation with Secretary in Washington,2 requested that U.S. take urgent action with GOE, UN and others as appropriate to “hold the line” on cease-fire, to avoid a return to the polemics of the Security Council and to keep momentum going towards opening of peace conference as scheduled. End summary.

1. At FonMin ]Eban’s request I met with him today at 11:00 local at his home in Herzliya. Also present were Evron (MFA), Gen Yariv, DCM and DATT.

2. Eban opened conversation by stating PriMin Meir had asked him to review with me very serious situation which had developed as result of various Egyptian attitudes and actions which threaten to lead to destruction of cease-fire and resumption of large-scale hostilities. Yariv interjected that info lead Israelis to believe such a move could be taken Dec 5 or Dec 6. Eban stated that he had just been informed that Egyptians were planning to prevent ship from Eilat from transitting BAM. This made conversation even more urgent and situation could only be described as “explosive.”

3. At Eban’s request, Yariv reviewed latest meeting with Gamasy at KM 101.3 Yariv said that in private conversation he told Gamasy that maintenance of cease-fire (in land, sea and air) linked to continuing supply for Suez City and 3rd Army. Yariv said he made no threats, just a flat statement. In reply, Gamasy never suggested that the cease-fire might not hold at BAM. Gamasy said he believed Yariv’s statements that Israel wanted peace, not resumption of hostilities, and Gamasy said he had communicated this to Sadat. In same conversation, Yariv [Page 1019]claims Gamasy agreed, despite lack of progress on disengagement, to meet again on Sunday,4 only to change his mind once he returned to tent, obviously as result of being reminded of his instructions to break off talks.

4. Eban then read excerpts from telegram just received from Israeli Mission in UN re the Egyptian memo sent to Waldheim on November 30,5 noting following points:

A. GOE decided to end all “military contacts” at KM 101.

B. “It clear” from GOE and Siilasvuo contacts with Israelis that GOI used talks only to get back POWs, and stalling on question of disengagement.

C. GOE regards 6 points as inseparable package, Israel cannot choose which points to implement and ignore other.

D. Question of disengagement is military matter and must be resolved before parties can meet in Geneva peace conference to discuss broader political matters.

5. Eban then passed on report received from Tekoah re Siilasvuo conversation with Egyptian warning Ismael along lines USUN 5260.6 He confirmed Siislasvuo would see Dayan tomorrow in Jerusalem, and noted as a glimmer of hope Ismael’s reported willingness to wait for results of this conversation before definitely shutting off KM 101 talks.

6. Eban noted that, if asked 24 hours ago to give assessment of Egyptian policy, he would have said GOE wanted to go to Geneva, to negotiate in good faith. After series of recent developments (and he repeated concern about BAM) GOI is uncertain as to what Egyptians really want and what they intend to do.

7. Eban reviewed his conversations in Washington with Secretary, noting GOI had complied with Secy request that discussions on disengagement be postponed to Geneva. In so doing, GOI had also relied on Secy belief he could “hold the line” on the ceasefire and also avoid a return to the Security Council in the period before the opening of the conf. Israel urgently requests the Secretary’s appraisal of the U.S. ability to deliver in view of the latest developments, which indicate a change in Egyptian policy. He asked that the U.S. take action with the Egyptians, UN and others (presumably the USSR) as appropriate in [Page 1020]order to avoid a breakdown in the ceasefire and to continue the momentum towards Geneva.

8. Eban also noted that GOI was upset that Egyptians and UN were charging Israel with reneging on promises to negotiate in good faith at KM 101 talks with widespread press play. This not true and Israel now had to take some “steps” with press to correct this impression. He added it would be useful if U.S. could aid GOI in this effort to set record straight.

9. In our discussions with the Egyptians, Eban asked that we emphasize that Israel does not want war. In view of latest indications re Egyptian readiness to renew hostilities, however, Israel has to be and is prepared for war if necessary. Eban reminded me that Israel’s original interest had been seriously to discuss disengagement at KM 101; if this is what is required to get the peace express back on the tracks, Israel, of course, would be willing again to engage the Egyptians in such discussions in this forum.

Comment: I assume we either are already or will soon be engaging in discussions with the Egyptians and others along the lines requested by the Israelis.7 Their concern appears genuine and I hope we can respond to them as soon as possible. An immediate problem is that of the ship due to transit the BAM (I assume this is the Beer Sheva, State 233439)8 noon tomorrow, Dec 2. If this problem can be resolved the Israelis might be willing to give the GOE a bit more benefit of doubt re possible military intentions.9

Keating
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 136, Country Files, Middle East, Dinitz, December 1–31, 1973. Secret; Flash; Nodis. Received at 1731Z.
  2. See footnote 4, Document 350.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 364.
  4. December 2.
  5. The Egyptian démarche was in the form of a message from Foreign Minister Fahmi to Waldheim. The text is in telegram 5280 from USUN, December 1. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files)
  6. Telegram 5260 from USUN, November 30, reported a conversation between Egyptian War Minister Ismael and General Siilasvuo, in which Ismael charged that Israel never intended to reach an agreement in the KM 101 talks. Ismael wanted to hear Dayan’s comments before Egypt would consider resuming the talks. (Ibid.)
  7. In telegram 236858 to Cairo, December 4 Kissinger sent a message to Fahmi urging that the Egyptian military representative return to the Kilometer 101 talks and promising that he would speak to the Israelis “about returning to the talks and proceeding in a businesslike way.” (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 639, Country Files, Middle East, Arab Republic of Egypt, Vol. X, Nov. 73–Dec. 31, 1973)
  8. Not found.
  9. In telegram 236152 to Tel Aviv, December 1, Kissinger instructed Keating to assure Eban that he was sparing no effort with the Egyptians regarding staying on course for the peace conference and maintaining the cease-fire, including urging non-interference with Israeli shipping through Bab al-Mandab. He added that he hoped that Israel, in correcting false impressions in the press regarding whether Israel was negotiating in good faith, would avoid doing this in a provocative manner. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 611, Country Files, Middle East, Israel, Vol. 13, Nov. 73–Dec. 73)