387. Memorandum From the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft) to President Nixon1

The Israelis are objecting strenuously to two points in the proposed US/USSR joint letter to the UN Secretary General convening the conference on the Middle East. At Tab B2 are the objections expressed [Page 1054]by Foreign Minister Eban to Ambassador Keating.3 In addition, Minister Shalev conveyed to me an oral note from the Prime Minister to Secretary Kissinger stating that she does not accept the changes made in the letter since the first draft. These changes she considers to be not semantic but substantive and far-reaching and, while she has accepted faits accomplis before, she is not able to do so this time.4

There are two points to which the Israelis object. The first issue is the passage in the draft letter (Tab C)5 in the first paragraph that the conference should be convened “under the auspices of the United Nations.” The Israeli concern is that this phrase will open the door to substantial UN participation in the conference, a development which they would find unacceptable. We have pointed out to them that this phrase is purely cosmetic, that there is strong pressure at the UN for substantial UN involvement and that this is the minimum acceptable reference to the UN.

The second Israeli objection is to the phrase in the second paragraph that “the question of the participation of the Palestinians and Lebanon will be discussed during the first stage of the conference.” On this point, the Israelis wish to add the phrase “by unanimous consent of the parties.” On this issue, the Egyptians only reluctantly agreed to back off from insistence that only the timing, not the question of, Palestinian participation would be the issue. The formulation in the draft letter, again, is compromise wording which appears fully to protect legitimate Israeli concerns.

Israeli reluctance to agree to the draft letter not only threatens the opening of the conference but as well makes more likely some action by the Security Council which could greatly complicate the situation. Since all other parties have now accepted the draft letter, Secretary [Page 1055]Kissinger feels that a letter from you to the Prime Minister would be very helpful in persuading the Israelis to positive action.

Recommendation

That you sign the letter to Prime Minister Golda Meir at Tab A.6

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Scowcroft Daily Work Files, Box 5, Dec. 12–15, 1973. Top Secret; Sensitive.
  2. Attached, but not printed, is a retyped copy of telegram 10130 from Tel Aviv, December 13, in which Keating described his meeting with Eban, who had said that the proposed text was not acceptable to Israel and that there were three major points in the text which, if allowed to stand, would change the nature of the conference the Israeli Cabinet had agreed upon. First, Israel wanted deletion of the words “and 339,” since this suggested that a major concern for the conference would be Israeli withdrawal to the October 22 cease-fire lines. Second, Israel objected to the greatly enhanced role given to the UN and Secretary General and wanted deletion of the sentence referring to UN auspices. Last, Israel wanted to delete the sentence providing for discussion during the first stage of the conference on the participation of the Palestinians, which Eban described as the most explosive and controversial issue.
  3. In telegram Hakto 14, December 12, Kissinger instructed Scowcroft to call in Shalev immediately and inform him that the President wanted Prime Minister Meir to know that the United States had fought very hard for the Israeli position over the last several weeks. Israel’s position was fully protected in the latest draft, which the United States would like to transmit to the Secretary General as soon as possible so that the opening of the peace conference could be announced. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 42, Kissinger Trip Files, HAK Trip—Europe & Mideast, HAKTO 1–88, Dec. 8–22, 1973)
  4. In telegram Tohak 66, December 13, Scowcroft informed Kissinger that he conveyed Kissinger’s message at length to Shalev, who said he had an oral message for Kissinger from the Prime Minister in addition to that given by Eban to Keating. She could not accept the changes in the letter, which she considered substantive and far-reaching modifications, rather than merely a matter of semantics. (Ibid., Box 42, Kissinger Trip Files, HAK Trip—Europe & Mideast, TOHAK 1–75, Dec. 8–22, 1973) The oral message from Meir, December 13, is ibid., Box 136, Country Files, Middle East, Dinitz, December 1–13, 1973)
  5. The text at Tab C is that transmitted in Document 385.
  6. Nixon signed the letter. See Document 388.