381. Telegram From the Department of State to Secretary of State Kissinger in Brussels1

Tosec 60/241816. Subj: Conversation With Israeli Ambassador. For Secretary From Sisco.

[Page 1043]

1. I gave Dinitz Memorandum of Understanding which is reproduced in this telegram for the record, saying that I assumed Israel would wish to give this matter further study. I did not find it necessary to elaborate on the individual points, since Dinitz found them self-explanatory and provided me with several preliminary comments immediately. He focussed on para 3, underscoring that their draft made it clear, whereas ours did not, that Israel would refuse to participate in the conference with Syria until Syria took the minimal actions indicated therein with respect to POWs. I limited my remarks to saying that U.S. was keenly aware of the importance Israel attaches to this question, and that I was sure that POW question was one matter which you would be taking up in Damascus. Dinitz reiterated that this is a highly emotional issue in Israel and that if we could accept their formulation it would make it less difficult for Mrs. Meir in the Cabinet.

2. Dinitz also focussed on para 8, stressing as you would expect, that they are insisting on unanimity and that “full [omission in original] their insistence in this regard did not come out of any doubt as to our own position but rather their concern over the position of other participants in the conference.

3. He also made a comment on para 9 saying that phrases like “essentially non-substantive capacity” and “principal duty” left open a possible substantive role for the SYG and his representative. On this one he seemed less concerned than on the other two points.

4. Dinitz said our redraft would be carefully studied and that they would send their reaction to you via Scowcroft.

5. Following is the draft which I provided Dinitz:

Begin text. “Memorandum of Understanding. This Memorandum of Understanding is intended to express how Israel and the United States will approach their respective roles at the Geneva conference.

1. The Governments of Israel and the U.S. agree that the Geneva conference is aimed at the attainment of a just and durable peace between the parties, that this peace will be a contractual peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors, and that the ultimate objective is full reconciliation between the two sides.

2. In the spirit of the special relationship that exists between our two countries, the U.S. will consult with Israel on a step-by-step basis with respect to any ideas it may wish to explore with the Soviets or with the Arabs concerning the settlement.

3. The U.S. will make every effort, along with the Government of Israel, to seek a prompt resolution of the Israeli-Syrian POW problem. This includes efforts with the Arab states as well as the USSR. The U.S. will make a major effort to encourage the Government of Syria to submit a list of Israeli POWs, to permit the International Committee of the [Page 1044]Red Cross to visit them and report that they are being treated in conformity with the Geneva Convention, and to agree to a joint exchange of wounded POWs.

4. Israel reiterates its decision to observe scrupulously the ceasefire on land, air and sea on a reciprocal basis. The U.S. will exercise its good offices in order to assure that the other side will abide by its undertaking to observe scrupulously the ceasefire.

5. All the existing arrangements with regard to the non-military supply to the Third Army as well as the City of Suez will be maintained unless superseded by other arrangements mutually agreed.

6. The U.S. will do its utmost to insure that the existing arrangement regarding the uninterrupted passage of ships through Bab-el Mandeb, to and from Israel, will remain in force, and that Egypt will not apply any blockade measures.

7. Israel and the U.S. would agree to the participation of Lebanon in the conference at an appropriate stage. This undertaking is based on the assumption that disengagement of forces will be discussed at the outset of the conference.

8. It is understood that any possible additional participation at an appropriate phase of the conference will have to be decided upon after full consultation between all the initial participants. No state, group or organization will be invited to take part in the conference without full consultation between us. The U.S. will take fully into account in particular Israel’s views and those of Jordan.

9. The negotiations in the conference will be conducted between the parties concerned as specified in Resolution 338. Israel and the U.S. agree that it is their view that the SYG should participate in the opening sessions in an essentially non-substantive capacity and that he can appoint a representative who would remain throughout the conference after he has left. His principal duty would be to keep the SYG informed and to help assure that the technical and conference arrangements being provided by the U.N. are in order.

10. Since the negotiations between the parties are under U.S.–USSR auspices, it is expected that the two major powers will maintain close contact with each other and the negotiating parties. At the same time, it is the view of both Israel and the U.S. that the prime focus should be negotiations between the parties concerned. While Soviet–U.S. participation is to be expected at the beginning and subsequently at key points, the U.S. will work in concert with Israel to maximize opportunities for negotiations between the parties without the presence of either of the major powers.

11. In view of the fact that the Soviet Union does not maintain diplomatic relations with Israel, the Government of Israel seriously ques[Page 1045]tions the propriety and the feasibility of the Soviet Union acting as one of the two powers under whose auspices the conference is being held. The U.S. notes Israel’s reservations regarding the role of the Soviet Union at the conference. The U.S. will make every effort in its consultations with the Soviet Union to encourage it to play a constructive role at the conference.

12. As previously indicated to the Israeli Government, the U.S. will work to assure that Israel will not be faced with any important decisions of substance on the issues of a final peace settlement before the Israeli election of December 31. The U.S. believes that it will be both desirable and necessary for the peace conference to deal with such issues at an early appropriate date in January.

13. The U.S. will do its utmost to prevent any attempt to convene the UN Security Council or any other UN body for the purpose of discussing or taking action on any of the outstanding issues which were discussed at Kilometer 101 or which will be discussed at the peace conference.

14. Israel and the U.S. agree that nothing in this memorandum alters the text of the joint U.S.–USSR letter which will be despatched to the UN SYG upon receipt of the approval of the parties concerned.” End text.2

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1179, Harold H. Saunders Files, Middle East Negotiations Files, Middle East—1973 Peace Negotiations, December 6, 1973 thru Dec. 12, 1973 [2 of 3]. Secret; Immediate; Cherokee; Nodis. Drafted and approved by Sisco.
  2. In telegram Tosec 57/241811 to USNATO, December 10, Sisco informed Kissinger that during their meeting on the Memorandum of Understanding, Dinitz had given him Israeli suggestions on the rules of procedure that should govern the conference. Sisco had replied that he would study them, but noted that the United States had not yet decided if it would be necessary for the conference to decide formally on rules of procedure. The proposed rules suggested two initial meetings and then adjournment. Shalev, who was also present, noted that there was no specific mention of disengagement as the subject of the initial session, although Israel had no objection to that being the first subject of discussion. He emphasized that the objective of the conference ought to be a peace settlement, not carrying out any one UN resolution. (Ibid., NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 136, Country Files, Middle East, Dinitz, December 1–December 31, 1973)