378. Telegram From the Department of State to the U.S. Interests Section in Cairo1
240917. Subject: Ghorbal Discussion With Secretary on Middle East.
1. Newly-arrived Egyptian Ambassador-designate Ghorbal paid initial 75-minute call on Secretary Dec 7.2
2. After welcoming Ghorbal warmly, Secretary opened conversation by saying he had kept his promise to President Sadat and had made good progress in trying to shape public and Congressional opinion toward support for a peace settlement. Once peace conference opened in Geneva we expected to see substantial progress. Secretary referred to process of ironing out of details of modalities such as letter to SYG, saying he hoped these would not impede convening of the conference. Brief discussion ensued on efforts to resolve textual differences in letter to SYG (Ghorbal had apparently not been informed of latest exchanges).
3. Ghorbal said he had message to convey from President Sadat prior to Secretary’s departure from Washington. Following President’s meeting with Ambassador Eilts,3 Ghorbal had found Sadat “quite disturbed” because of Israeli intransigence and the feeling that U.S. was not putting sufficient weight behind getting Israelis to implement para B of six-point agreement. Ambassador Eilts had raised factor of Israeli elections and Sadat had answered that he too had serious political problems, even mentioning fact that Soviets have protested recently enhanced U.S.-Egyptian relations.
4. In consequence, said Ghorbal, Sadat feels that real building up of confidence which had taken place between Secretary and him is now being jeopardized by Israeli tactics. Indeed this poisoning of incipient improvement in U.S-Arab relations had always been Israel’s objective. Ghorbal said Sadat feels disengagement was Secretary’s idea; he bought it, but now he fails to see any follow-through, and he is beginning to wonder what he got into. In brief, said Ghorbal, he felt he owed it to Secretary to say that real problem was shaping up in terms of ero[Page 1037]sion of credibility which Secretary had so successfully established during his trip in November.
5. Ghorbal referred to significant concessions Sadat had already made under six-point agreement: POW exchange (which Ghorbal said had been most difficult decision) and Bab al-Mandeb. Sadat had not been afraid to make these concessions any more than he had been afraid to go to war when that was necessary. Ghorbal said that what was now needed was an “initial phase” of disengagement prior to convening of peace conference because such a step would materially improve atmosphere for conference itself.
6. Secretary said he appreciated Ambassador’s candor and hoped that Ambassador also appreciated fact that, during many years they had known each other, Secretary had always been candid about what was possible and what was not possible. When he was in Cairo he had explained to President Sadat that he needed time to prepare public opinion for the steps that would be necessary to reach a peace settlement. Secretary said in intervening month he had worked hard on this and felt he had made substantial progress. He thought there was growing segment of opinion—including within American Jewish community—for kind of substantial disengagement plan that Secretary had talked about with Egyptians. He had also worked hard to get Israelis to accept this concept. There was already some sign that these efforts were bearing fruit in General Yariv’s proposals, even though Israelis had had to pull back because of domestic political problems.
7. Secretary said that what might look like slow procedure to President Sadat was necessary in terms of our own political process and would actually lead to faster results. If moves were made prematurely which led to explosion of public opinion against them everything would be wrecked. All he could say to President Sadat was that within measurable period of time after peace conference convened—Secretary said he would be prepared to discuss time frame more precisely when he got to Cairo—we would achieve kind of disengagement plan that would make whole question of October 22 lines irrelevant. Secretary had told Sadat this in November;4 he was saying it again now; and Ambassador would see that this was in fact what happened.
8. Ghorbal said he would faithfully report these assurances, and then reverted to idea that some initial measure of withdrawal might be accomplished prior to peace conference. Perhaps something “symbolic” was possible. Secretary said he was giving most careful thought to this possibility and might have something to raise with President [Page 1038]Sadat when he got to Cairo. He did not wish to leave Ambassador with impression that he was promising anything, however.
9. Ghorbal asked about military assistance to Israel. Secretary responded that regular supplies were continuing. Ghorbal noted that, whereas resupply airlift had stopped, deliveries were continuing by sea. Secretary acknowledged this but said that our information was that what we were sending to Israel was less than what was going to Arabs. Secretary said this, however, was no longer the issue. As result of October fighting Israelis now knew how dependent they were on U.S. This fact had changed perceptions in Israel.
10. In response to Ghorbal question about Dayan call on Secretary,5 Secretary said two main issues had been discussed. First was that Dayan felt U.S. was not being liberal enough in its arms supply to Israel; secondly, two had spent a lot of time discussing what Secretary feels needs to be done in terms of solid progress toward a peace settlement.
11. In summary, Secretary asked Ambassador Ghorbal to tell President Sadat that we continued to attach greatest importance to our relations with Egypt, that we felt that Sadat had taken a courageous step in agreeing to six points and implementing them, that we understood his concern that insufficient progress had been made to date toward goals we had mutually discussed, and that Secretary was asking for matter of weeks to show that these results could and would be achieved.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 639, Country Files, Middle East, Arab Republic of Egypt, Vol. X, Nov.–Dec. 31, 1973. Secret; Nodis; Cherokee. Drafted by Sterner, approved by Kissinger.↩
- A memorandum of conversation recording this meeting is ibid., NSC Files, Box 1027, Presidential/HAK Memcons, HAK & Presidential, December 1973 [2 of 2]. ↩
- See footnote 2, Document 369.↩
- See Document 324.↩
- See Document 376.↩