[Page 1098]

398. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel
  • Simcha Dinitz, Israeli Ambassador to U.S.
  • Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff

Meir: Okay, what good news have you?

Kissinger: I don’t have so much good news. I’ll give you a brief report of my trip first, because that is the important thing.

I sent you a cable about Sadat. I think you misunderstood what he said. Whatever his ultimate objectives, at this moment he’s not making trouble. Asad is a different story.2 Sadat’s statement about no direct negotiations—he was really provoked into it by the newsmen. He didn’t volunteer it. It seemed like a fiction, meeting in the same room but without direct negotiations.

Meir: That’s not decisive.

Kissinger: He said it was not necessary to have the U.S. and Soviet Union sitting in, and it could be like the formula for Kilometer 101 with the U.N. technical people maybe sitting in. He doesn’t favor the U.S. and Soviet Union sitting in.

Of all the Arabs I met he is really an Egyptian nationalist. He mentioned Palestine just enough to be able to say that he mentioned it. Hussein told me that too, that Sadat is thinking more in Egyptian terms.

What he wants is some disengagement. He says ninety percent of his problem could be solved with something like the Yariv Plan.3

Meir: I will tell you a secret; I agreed with you all along.

Dinitz: I told the Secretary.

[Page 1099]

Kissinger: It is a tragedy. If you had been mean and then given this, it would have been great and bought you two more months. He told Asad, who now wants something like it.

They all ask me what’s my stand on the borders; I say, “I won’t give you a stand.” The others press me—Faisal,4 etc. Sadat is shrewder than the others. He promises to demobilize after disengagement, to start reconstruction, etc. We don’t have to kid ourselves. But let me tell you why disengagement is essential: You can’t have the war start again without massive problems.

Given the American mentality, if the Egyptians have to attack across a U.N. zone, it has an effect. In the present situation, if the war starts in any way that you can be blamed for, you’re in massive difficulty. The President won’t support you; he certainly won’t support you. Your Ambassador can tell you. William White had an article that the President had to overrule me to get the airlift started.5

Dinitz: I talked to him. Clements and Schlesinger are telling him that.

Kissinger: With the obsession with the energy problem, it took the most massive efforts on my part to get the $2.2 billion through. Fulbright wants to hold it up.

Dinitz: He did hold it up.

Meir: He refused a meeting until Tuesday.

Dinitz: He may try another tactic to postpone it past the recess.

Kissinger: [To Rodman] Peter, have Scowcroft call Fulbright.

I’ve told Sadat that nothing can move before January. You said you’re willing before January; it’s up to you. I told him that in my judgment there might be movement in January—that I had promised you there would be no discussion of substance until then.

We wouldn’t object if . . .

Meir: It depends on what conditions . . . In a big group we’ll be alone.

Kissinger: What he has in mind is to stay where they are on the East bank, and withdraw three divisions—keep only two there—and only infantry. Then a demilitarized zone with U.N. forces, and Israelis at the Mitla Pass.

I told him he had to give some assurances about equipment in my view. He said he was willing to have no SAMs and no heavy artillery.

Meir: If that’s what he wants, it’s all right.

[Page 1100]

Kissinger: That’s what he substantially wants.

Meir: Let’s leave the question of disengagement to the big meeting.

Never did we consider unilateral disengagement. For Gamasy to talk of three divisions!

Kissinger: To my mind, it is essential to separate the forces substantially.

Meir: That we agree.

Kissinger: That one-kilometer thing—I mentioned it lightly, but he wasn’t interested.

Meir: We agree that it is essential for the war not to start again, but that we can withdraw from “Africa” and his three divisions remain on the East side—that we can’t buy.

We were the ones who started this question of disengagement, but it can’t be unilateral.

Kissinger: Wasn’t that what Yariv proposed?

Meir: No. We have it all written down. We started from something very simple, symmetrical; we agreed also to something not symmetrical, but for him to remain on our side is impossible.

Kissinger: If you’re not on the Canal, what is the difference? It is just symbolic.

Meir: It just happens that he didn’t win the war. We’ll withdraw from the West, he can withdraw from the East.

Kissinger: That he won’t do. I think the war will start again.

Dinitz: What he proposed was a symbolic presence on the East side, a thin force—but not two divisions.

Kissinger: This isn’t now the principal issue, because I think something has to happen on this in January or before.

Meir: We’d like to discuss it with you tonight to reach something acceptable.

Kissinger: Okay. Beyond disengagement, I’ve discussed nothing with any Arabs—nothing about frontiers, security zones, guarantees, representation of the Palestinians—except generalities—and nothing about Jerusalem. I’ve done nothing like what the Europeans have done. I’ve made general expressions of being willing to be helpful, which they can interpret.

Sadat’s major concern is not to be seen withdrawing from any Egyptian territory he’s recaptured. That’s his concern. My judgment is he’ll certainly start the war again if you remain on the West Bank.

It’s also Hussein’s judgment, for what it is worth. If there is no movement soon. Asad’s analysis is totally different. Sadat really wants to go through a period of building up Egypt. I don’t think Asad gives a damn about building up Syria.

[Page 1101]

We didn’t discuss Sharm el-Shaikh or anything else.

Meir: If we can come to agreement with Sadat and not with Syria or the Palestinians, he would sign a final agreement?

Kissinger: [pauses] I think if you’ve offered something similar to Syria... The Palestinians I don’t think he gives a damn about. This is only my impression.

Meir: Of course.

Kissinger: He might not call it a final settlement; he might call it an end to the state of belligerency.

His major passion is to recapture Egyptian territory and overcome the constant humiliation. While Asad I think wants to destroy Israel. In words Asad talks like Sadat, about the 1967 borders. But when Sadat did so, I said I’m not prepared to talk about the borders, and he never pressed very hard.

Meir: If there is an agreement on disengagement, would he hold a long time?

Kissinger: He said disengagement—of the type he described—would solve ninety percent of his problem. The last time I was there6 he said three divisions had to remain; this time he said two. It means he is not absolutely fixed on that. He says, if so, he will allow the people to return and demobilize a substantial part of his army. The physical conditions for war won’t be there.

Meir: What happens to the West Bank if we leave?

Kissinger: I assume unrestricted use. I didn’t ask him. My assumption is...

Meir: No U.N.

Kissinger: That’s my impression. I frankly don’t think even the plan he gave is a good deal for him—even if it is politically impossible for you. But he couldn’t start the war again without breaking the agreement. That wouldn’t stop him, but he also couldn’t start the war without your having a chance to mobilize. So he would have to start it without the conditions that brought his success, and he would have to do things that would make it difficult in America.

Dinitz may disagree, but I am convinced you are in a very precarious situation. I suffer from the illusion that I’ve kept the wolf from the door by this razzle-dazzle.

Our whole government is against you. I’ve attacked the Europeans, which kept their pressure off. The energy crisis has not yet focused on Israel.

[Page 1102]

I had a helluva time with the House Armed Services Committee and Mahon.7

Meir: We got a good vote in the House on the $2.2 billion.

Dinitz: The Secretary did a good job.

Meir: I don’t doubt it.

Kissinger: First of all, it is imperative not to have the war break out. If we can get the oil embargo off, we can continue our methods. Disengagement would help. That makes it much tougher to focus it on the 1967 frontiers.

For subsequent diplomacy, Sadat is not in a brilliant position.

You know my strategy with Faisal. I keep telling them we can’t negotiate terms with them: “We are a great power. Go to the Europeans if you want a declaration; if you want action, come to us. But turn the oil on.”

I told Yamani,8 “We like your government because it’s conservative. If you act like radicals, it makes no difference. I’ve demonstrated my ability to work with Communist governments.”

And they overestimate the ability of the CIA to overthrow them. That had quite an effect on them.

Last time he said there would be no oil until you return to the 1967 borders. This time I told him, “It is inconsistent. You keep talking about your dignity. It’s inconsistent with our dignity to negotiate about other countries’ borders, and under pressure. And three, you’re helping Communism.” The last time he said, Israel wasn’t the tool of Russia, Russia was the tool of Israel! The Jews took over the Communist Party and then Russia, and then the Middle East. He believes this.

I told him that Jerusalem at this moment is an insoluble issue. I tell them all that I won’t discuss vague terms with them.

The Japanese are the worst.

Meir: The Japanese issued a communiqué on the death of Ben-Gurion9 saying they wouldn’t send a condolence message!

Kissinger: They sent an emissary to the Saudis saying they must have oil three months before us, so don’t lift the embargo.

He said this time that it is not essential to have the issue of Jerusalem settled now. This is important; he influences a lot of people.

[Page 1103]

And he says the Palestinian issue can be settled by compensation and not only by a return of all of them.

Thirdly, if there is any progress at all, he will lift this embargo. On disengagement. Then, of course, he said we have to make a statement about return to the 1967 lines. I said we make no statement. Then he said, any statement? I said no.

He then sent the Foreign Minister to tell me if there was any progress, they would lift it.

I think it will be hard for them to put it on again. Boumedienne, for example, told us how it hurt to have to cut his production by 25 percent. He impressed me.10

Asad was the worst. I spent a lot of time with him on prisoners. He says he’ll act like the North Vietnamese. I said he’ll have to give lists and allow Red Cross visits. Sadat told me, as I told you, that he used his influence. Asad told me.

The President called in Dobrynin last week and personally made a request for that.11

Asad wants disengagement because Sadat told him he had a Yariv Plan, and he wants something like it. [Dinitz chuckles]

That isn’t so bad, if we can work something out that works.

He said he would have the lists and Red Cross visits as soon as disengagement is agreed to, and the prisoners after disengagement is carried out. I said that was out of the question, that we would support your refusal to talk if there are no lists and visits. He said, “You’re asking me to give away something for nothing.” But he didn’t reject it.

He told me on his personal assurance that the wounded were well taken care of. Pay no attention to personal assurances, but I have to tell everything he said.

Meir: We have it on good intelligence, from a good Arab source, that 28 prisoners were killed. If there is the slightest wound, especially if it is a pilot, in the arm and leg, it is amputated.

Kissinger: He did say it was a problem for them to return pilots to Israel.

Meir: The Arab source asks us, are we sure we got all our POW’s back?

Kissinger: I asked Sadat, and Sadat swore yes. We had the same problem with the North Vietnamese. A secret prisoner has no political utility. If they surface them, they can bargain for them. If not, they would be better off killing them.

[Page 1104]

Meir: I think they did. We have evidence of pilots landing safely who then disappeared. Gamasy admitted it.

Kissinger: In Vietnam I don’t believe they’re holding the prisoners secretly, because what good would that do?

Meir: No, we assume many were killed. We got much fewer back than we think they had.

Kissinger: In my judgment, Madame Prime Minister, it is possible to get lists and visits at the beginning of a disengagement discussion, and the prisoners at the conclusion. I think it’s attainable. They wanted me to tell them what disengagement. I said I have no ideas. He [Asad] showed me a map. I said I have no personal idea. Then he said he wouldn’t go to the Conference.

I had a mad conversation with him. He agreed, after a long conversation, to change the date, and change the sentence on Palestinian participation. I said, “I thought you were hard to deal with.” Then he said he objected only to the sentence that said he would come!

I think he’ll go to the Conference. I can send a letter to him through our Ambassador to Lebanon, whether I can see any sense in a discussion on disengagement. Dayan said it might be possible. My judgment is that if you left that pocket that you took after October 6—and anything symbolic beyond October 6, even a kilometer or two, he’d almost certainly accept it. To be replaced by U.N. and not Syrian forces. There is a two-thirds chance he will accept even just a withdrawal from the pocket, for prisoners.

On Sinai, I at least had some idea of what you want from our earlier discussions on the interim agreement.

Meir: That’s right.

Kissinger: But I need your thinking on disengagement.

Meir: In Washington, you told me the proposition to return the 15,000 civilians and the two posts, and they’d return the prisoners.

Kissinger: That was from the Vice Foreign Minister,12 and it was wrong.

Meir: Now we do not even have lists!

Kissinger: But your problem has nothing to do with justice. Having been in Europe and Japan, I know. What happened in their summit?

Meir: Brandt, the Dutch and the Dane didn’t go along with the others. The French are the real rascals.

[Page 1105]

Kissinger: I talked with Jobert.13 He said he’d be willing to come here to show his good will.

Meir: I’ll show you a cable of Jobert’s talk with our Ambassador. I have never seen anything like it except the Russians. Home is one step behind.

Kissinger: I’ve been able to continue to maneuver the issue away from the question of frontiers. Once the oil is turned on and the winter is over, the negotiations will be in a much less hysterical climate. If I were Sadat, quite honestly, I’d start fighting—unless you can beat him in three days.

Meir: Dayan spent all yesterday in “Africa.” His opinion, after he studied it and spoke to the men, is that he has no doubt.

Dinitz: If there is war, a devastating blow can be struck.

Meir: Even last week we thought it was touch and go.

Kissinger: But if there is war, my opinion is the President will oppose you.

Meir: Even if the Egyptians attack?

Kissinger: Yes, in my judgment.

Meir: I saw the letter from the President.14

Kissinger: Hussein said you treated him better this time. Better than before.

Meir: I’m surprised at the things they say about me.

I’ll show you the messages he sent during the war; it was really touching.

Kissinger: They asked me my assessment. Could there be a disengagement in the Jordan Valley? I said there was no possibility. Then they said if they could get some thinning out of your presence on the West Bank and some administrative presence of theirs, that would satisfy them.

Meir: The last time even Rifai was almost human. I asked him what would have happened if they had won the 1967 war? There would be no Israel? He said yes. So I asked, “What would happen to the Jews in Israel?” I got no answer. I said, “What if there is no peace agreement, can we agree not to fight each other?” He said they’d have to consider their interests.

[Page 1106]

Kissinger: Seriously, I must say, Hussein has never spoken ill of you. He is a gentleman. Rifai I don’t know.

Meir: I told him we had a common problem—the Palestinians. We had no objection to the West Bank Palestinians being elected to Parliament in Jordan. At the end of the meeting, Dayan asked about an interim arrangement. Rifai said, “interesting.”

Kissinger: They told me that if you’d let them administer Jericho . . .

Meir: Before the war, they were interested and agreed there should be a joint company for the joint development of the Dead Sea project.

Kissinger: They told me they’re still willing.

Meir: They told us.

Kissinger: I think one way of dealing with the Palestinian problem is to increase the Jordanian presence administratively on the West Bank.

Meir: There are some; they’re doing it.

Kissinger: I don’t know what the view would be in the U.S. Government.

Meir: I think we can work something out because I believe Hussein doesn’t want another war.

Kissinger: That is clear.

Meir: He sent tanks there, and he told us.

Kissinger: We sent him one message a day, and we delayed it.

Meir: We saved his life. We had information that the generals were going to meet in one place—and were going to do something. But we found out at the last minute that he was to be there, so we stopped it.

Dinitz: A point of clarification—Asad might be prepared to give a list if we promise we will discuss the question of a separation of forces with him?

Kissinger: If I could give him . . . He’ll certainly give you the prisoners if there is an agreement; that he’s clearly said. Whether he can give lists, I believe I can get through pressure by the Russians and Egyptians—if you agree to discuss. That’s my impression. He never turned it down. He said, “What do I get for it? Why should I do it?” But he never turned it down.

Dinitz: When you mentioned your funny conversation with Asad, where he agreed on the condition that he doesn’t go, you said Sadat had gone back to the original letter.

[Page 1107]

Kissinger: Let me show you the letter.15

Meir: How did the Palestinians and U.N. get into the letter?

Kissinger: We discussed it with the Soviets, then we came to you, then with the Arabs. Then the Arabs insisted on a lot of things: 339, “the timing of participation.”

Now I have worked out this phraseology: “The parties also agree that the question of other participation from the Middle East area will be discussed during the first stage.” The first stage is the disengagement stage.

Meir: The first stage is the first two days?

Kissinger: No, the first stage of the conference is the disengagement stage. I have Sadat’s assurance that the issue of the Palestinians won’t be raised at all—by him anyway.

Meir: When you came here from Moscow, you said “U.S.–Soviet auspices” was the least bad of all the alternatives. We agreed that U.N. auspices means the Security Council. We see what it means. [Resolution 344]16 Of the ten that voted, five have no relations with us, the sixth is India, and their decision is that the Secretary-General must keep them informed.

Kissinger: But there is no way to avoid this no matter how the Conference was formed. The Europeans and Secretary-General and Security Council will form some sort of connection no matter under what auspices the Conference is convened.

Meir: We have the Security Council interfering.

Kissinger: Assume it is U.S.–Soviet and no U.N.: if there is a deadlock, no one can prevent Egypt from going to the Security Council on the basis of the implementation of 338. We have kept the Egyptians away from the Security Council for two months by promising that something would happen somewhere.

Your best protection is not legalisms but the sense that this issue is no longer a central issue. What gives the Security Council power is not a legal basis but the fact that every government is hysterical. I went to Japan; usually they’re obsessed with China. At NATO, the only question discussed was energy. If energy can be solved, the U.N. pressure will be solved.

Dinitz: Can I suggest some changes?

[Page 1108]

Kissinger: No, I can’t change it any more. I would have to go around again to the Egyptians, the Syrians, and the Russians.

Meir: The line about the Palestinians is now out.

Kissinger: Yes. And the U.N. auspices is “convening under U.N. auspices.”

Meir: One point. It makes no difference whether it is before or after the election. Either we form a government or Begin17 forms a government. Whichever happens, we will not change our position on the Palestinians one iota. We’ll support Begin on that.

Kissinger: The question will only be discussed. You’ll discuss it negatively.

Meir: What we want to know, in the memo of understanding,18 is what is the position of the U.S. Government on this question? The question of the Palestinians means at best a new Palestinian state. One member of the Cabinet noted that letter said “parties” not “states.”

Kissinger: Because every document I’ve ever negotiated says “parties.”

Dinitz: That’s what I told them.

Meir: If the Jordanian delegation includes Palestinians, that’s okay. But Algiers recognized Arafat as spokesman.19

Kissinger: Sadat told Hussein, according to Hussein, that he recognizes Arafat only as a spokesman for the Palestinians outside of Jordan, and Hussein as the spokesman for the West Bank.

Meir: Hussein told me about a secret resolution at Algiers that the PLO has the sole right to determine the national rights of the Palestin[Page 1109]ians. This is the first time they used the words “national rights” instead of “legitimate rights.” It could mean all of Palestine, could mean a leftist Russian-oriented state. There was even a suggestion of a 1% subsidy from every Arab budget. The Russians promised support. It would include the West Bank, Gaza and corridor also to El-harma. The Russians are seriously working on such a plan.

Kissinger: I don’t doubt there could be a plan.

I’ve told your Ambassador repeatedly that the biggest service I can get for you is no American position.

I don’t see how you can have a Palestinian state on the West Bank. My view is you cannot accept it. But my tactic is different from yours. I frankly think you take insufficiently strategic and too legalistic a point of view. An Arafat Palestine is impossible for you. Therefore I’ll never recommend it. How it will be handled in our government—if I’m in charge, you’ll never be pressured by me to accept Arafat as a negotiating partner. I may double-talk it. But let’s not worry about tactics.

Meir: In the letter now, the Palestinians are not in it. Why is Lebanon left out?

Kissinger: Because originally it was those who fought in the 1967 war. I must say, having talked to the President of Lebanon today,20 I don’t know why you want them. The wildest statements I’ve ever heard on the Palestinians I heard from him.

Meir: They want to get rid of them.

Kissinger: They’re infinitely more violent on the Palestinians than others.

Meir: Anyone on the delegation who wants to go home alive has to be.

We wanted the decision in the Conference to be unanimous. But the President in his message and the memorandum of understanding said this was consistent with “accepted international procedures,” which required the agreement of all the initial participants. It means we won’t have to negotiate with them, but not that they won’t participate in the conference.

Dinitz: If we omit the latter part of the sentence—“who may decline to negotiate,” and end the sentence with “require agreement of all parties.”

Kissinger: [Studies it] What does that do if they participate as advisers to somebody?

Dinitz: If they participate as part of the Jordanian delegation.

[Page 1110]

Meir: Not Arafat. We’re not talking about Jordanians who are former Palestinians. We wouldn’t complain. We’re talking about Arafat, Habbash.21

Kissinger: I frankly never heard this interpretation about participation without negotiating.

Dinitz: The Prime Minister asked me to ask you about this.

Meir: But elsewhere you talked about not sitting with the Syrians at the Conference.

Kissinger: I believe you can’t afford not to go to the Conference.

Meir: We’ll go to the Conference.

Kissinger: But what will you do about this letter?

Meir: We won’t go into the hall. You had your prisoners in Vietnam.

Kissinger: But we negotiated with them.

Meir: Here the parents and wives wanted us not to go to the Conference until they were freed. That we couldn’t have. Dayan said we would not go to the Conference without lists; he was heckled “What about the release?” He said, “If we have the lists, it will be the first item on the agenda with them.”

We have experience: Ten years ago they said they had no prisoners. Then they turn up and there were only twelve. One had committed suicide, and the other 11 had to go directly to an insane asylum. They’re the cruelest people on earth.

Kissinger: If you refuse to go and the Conference fails because of you, the President will not support you. Especially if the Syrians don’t go. He [Asad] won’t go unless he has a disengagement plan like what Yariv gave to Gamasy.

Dinitz: My own idea is, if we authorize you to tell the Syrians there can be discussion of disengagement at a future point, but only if the POW issue is totally resolved, with a full exchange, would it work?

Kissinger: I doubt it. I believe you can get a list from them as a condition for discussing a disengagement plan. You can say yes, that after you have the list you’ll discuss disengagement.

The immediate requirement, in my judgment, is: I’ve arranged with Sadat that the Conference will start and end immediately.

Meir: The Conference starts Friday? On Shabbat?

Kissinger: Yes. I hadn’t thought of that. We were prepared to go Tuesday.22

[Page 1111]

Meir: I know.

Kissinger: I’ve told the Russians that the Syrians indicate they may not come. My fear is the Russians may blame you for the failure of the Conference. I’d like to get your agreement to the letter to Secretary-General so we are not at fault.

Meir: Please read it again, your new formulation.

We can do it at dinner tonight, and discuss disengagement tomorrow.

[There was a short break, and then the conversation resumed.]

Kissinger: Even if it’s known that the Syrians are hanging Israeli prisoners by the toes from lampposts, our people will turn it against Israel. The energy crisis will be turned against you, and people will say, “Force them back to the 1967 lines and they’ll get their prisoners.”

It’s your misfortune to be in an area of oil with no oil. Otherwise you’d never hear all this moral indignation in Europe and Japan about the Arabs.

I’ve been maneuvering. If we can solve the oil thing, we’ll be in a different climate.

Dinitz: How can we be sure they won’t reimpose the embargo?

Kissinger: I don’t know. Boumedienne complained to me bitterly about those who dispose of his national treasure. The problem is that in a moment of passion they put it on and agreed not to lift it except unanimously. Now Arab disunity works against you. But the next time it won’t be the same as when it happened in the winter, with a crisis coming that no one had been thinking about.

We have two problems: I’d like to inform the Egyptians, preferably tonight, that the letter is okay, and inform the Russians. That only produces a letter of invitation.

Meir: Who sends it?

Kissinger: Waldheim. You’ll get the invitation from Waldheim to come. So accepting this letter doesn’t commit you to a Syrian decision tonight.

Meir: The Syrian decision is already taken.

Kissinger: I thought we’d get a chance to talk.

Meir: I’m surprised it’s a surprise to you. You have seen all our messages.

Kissinger: But to do it when I’m on my way here, which can blow up the Conference, is not the way to do it.

Meir: We didn’t volunteer it. According to our rules, 32 members of the Knesset can raise the matter.

Dinitz: The Syrians may not go.

[Page 1112]

Kissinger: But you’d be better off not having made this statement.23 If the Syrians are already looking for an excuse not to come, this does it. No one would complain if the Conference fails because I, as U.S. Secretary of State, was asked to come up with a disengagement scheme at the first meeting with the Syrians. But now it will come out blamed on you.

Dinitz: What if you said, “Israel wants to come to the Conference but can’t without this elementary right to know who is alive and who is dead?”

Kissinger: We negotiated with the North Vietnamese for four years. Asad says he’ll do what the North Vietnamese did, give the lists after the agreement. I think your statement today was a disaster.

Dinitz: There was no statement today.

Kissinger: I saw some statement on the ticker today.

Dinitz: I told it to Scowcroft before I left.

Kissinger: Let’s get this letter agreed upon. All it does is let the U.S. send a letter to Secretary-General. It says you’ve told us you will attend the Conference; you’ve also stated your view publicly on the POW’s. When you get the invitation, you can do one of three things: You can accept it unconditionally; you can accept it but not talk to the Syrians, or accept to come to the opening session but not continue without the lists; or you can refuse altogether.

This gets us to Tuesday. By then we’ll know whether the Syrians will attend. But the Conference won’t have failed because of you.

If you approve the letter tonight, I can inform the Egyptians and Soviets that you did so and that you’re having massive problems on the prisoner issue.

Meir: I must say, taking out the Palestinians helps. And if you can agree on the question of participation . . .

Kissinger: I’ll settle the memorandum of understanding tonight.

I’d like to send it off to the Russians—not to Waldheim—tonight.

Meir: We have to say we agree to U.N. auspices?

Kissinger: That’s not your major problem.

Dinitz: It would have been easier if it was the “U.N. Secretary-General” instead of the “U.N.” as convenor.

Kissinger: I can’t go around the horn again; it would run an unacceptable risk. It would make no difference, frankly, because it is under 338 anyway.

[Page 1113]

Meir: The new Security Council resolution says he has to keep them informed.

Kissinger: You can make that reservation when you reply to the invitation from Waldheim.

Meir: Here it says “we agree.”

Dinitz: Your understanding is that Secretary-General issues invitations?

Kissinger: That is my understanding.

Dinitz: Will he refer to 242 in his invitation?

Kissinger: No, nothing that is not in here.

Meir: Just, “I’m told by the United States and the Soviet Union that you’ll come, so please come.”

Kissinger: Right. That we can handle. We can draft the text here of what we want him to say. We can give it to Bennett to tell Waldheim informally that it is what we want him to say.

There cannot be an answer until Tuesday from the Syrians.

Meir: Can you send a message to Brezhnev on his word of honor?

Kissinger: Sure. I’ll show you what I’ll send. I can show you the message I sent yesterday. And the President mentioned it to Dobrynin.24

Dinitz: [to Prime Minister] You’ll have massive problems with U.N. auspices. [to Kissinger] It would be better if instead of “convened under U.N. auspices” it said “convened by the Secretary-General of the U.N.”

Kissinger: I would have to go around the horn again. The letter doesn’t strictly tie you to agreeing to U.N. auspices. It is a letter from us.

Dinitz: [reads letter, first paragraph] “The Soviet Union and United States are now informed by the parties concerned that they are ready to join the conference. The Conference should be convened under U.N. auspices.”

Kissinger: I don’t want to kid you; the implication is there. But “convened” is the protection. I’ve gone to them every day with modifications.

Dinitz: “The convening of the Conference should be under the auspices of U.N.”

Kissinger: That I might be able to do.

Meir: I’m trying to find another place for this sentence. After “The parties agree to co-chairmanship of United States and Soviet Union.”

[Page 1114]

Kissinger: You still have the same problem. You want “The convenor of the conference should be the U.N.?”

Dinitz: Yes.

Kissinger: “The auspices of the U.N. should be used for convening the conference.” I’m trying to use as many of the words that are in there as possible.

Dinitz: That’s better.

Kissinger: Better not to add now a word that was not used before.

My trouble is, if I change this sentence, I’ll have to go back to Sadat, and at some point he’ll tell me to go to hell. It will take all of tomorrow. Then I have to go to the Russians. We’ll have a major public relations debacle in the U.S. if the Conference isn’t held.

On the next page it asks him to be the convenor. How about moving the sentence to the beginning of this paragraph? It would separate it from the agreement, and make it clear that all we’re talking about is convening. I think what helps you most is to move it to the beginning of the next to last paragraph, unchanged. It limits it to convening.

Dinitz: My objective is to fix it easily.

You helped a lot on the Palestinians, because the text and the Prime Minister’s understanding we can tell the Cabinet.

Meir: The Cabinet will say it is a different Conference now, since they accepted the original draft. They accepted it under U.S. and Soviet auspices.

Dinitz: When we agree to this letter we get an invitation, and if we accept the invitation, we accept the letter.

Kissinger: But your reply can say that.

Dinitz: And on the prisoners too?

Kissinger: Yes or no, depending on what we decide tomorrow.

Dinitz: Can I check Peter’s notes on these changes?

Kissinger: You’re thinking of it in the wrong way. We can fix the letter without Peter’s notes. I have a practical problem.

Dinitz: May I suggest you try for these changes, and if the Egyptians explode, we can go to reservations in the letter?

Kissinger: Thinking out loud: If I can leave tomorrow saying to the press there was complete agreement between the U.S. and Israel on the things holding us up, then if you send reservations, we can say it is our understanding too. Then we can tonight send the text to the Russians and Egyptians. We can put in the prisoners point too.

We have to put any change to Sadat.

I’m talking about what you tell your Cabinet tonight. You can say to them, “It is not the most brilliantly conceived letter, but the Secretary [Page 1115]of State has assured me that it means only convening, and if we say this in our reply, the U.S. won’t have any problem with us.”

Dinitz: But the public won’t see your assurance.

Kissinger: You can say it, and your reply will be published. I think that is the best way.

I’ve never even promised you I can save you from the 1967 borders pressures.

Meir: I know you never promised it, but we know you can do it.

Kissinger: I hate to go back to the Egyptians with another change.

Dinitz: I had an idea regarding the Chinese. We could assure them we would work together to minimize Soviet influence.

Kissinger: Without mentioning the Arabs.

Waldheim we dealt with because he is vain.

Your big problem isn’t the Security Council, but Britain and France. But this letter makes no difference. I understand your political difficulties, but it is no practical difference.

Vinogradov, the Soviet Ambassador in Cairo, said to Eilts that the letter really made no difference because the Syrians weren’t going to show up. This is what worries me. I think the Russians may be trying to set this up.

[The private conversation then ended.]

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of Henry Kissinger, 1973–1977, Box 2, NODIS Action Memos 1973–1976. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. Drafted by Rodman. The meeting took place at the Prime Minister’s office. Brackets are in the original.
  2. The cable was not found. Kissinger is referring to his December 13–14 meetings with Sadat and his December 15 meeting with Assad. See Documents 390 and 393.
  3. During the KM 101 talks, Yariv proposed to Gamasy a plan for the disengagement of Israeli and Egyptian forces. Yariv told Kissinger on December 17 that his “so-called” plan called for the Egyptians to have administrative and police forces, as well as a “symbolic” force presence, within 10 kilometers east of the Suez Canal, combined with a UN presence in the same area as the Egyptian symbolic forces. Israeli forces would remain to the east of that line (see Document 401).
  4. See footnote 4, Document 394.
  5. William S. White was a nationally syndicated columnist. The article has not been identified.
  6. See Document 324.
  7. Congressman George Mahon (D–Texas), Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
  8. Kissinger is likely referring to his meetings with Saudi Oil Minister Yamani that took place in Washington December 5–6. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXVI, Energy Crisis, 1969–1974, Document 263.
  9. David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, died December 1 of a cerebral hemorrhage.
  10. See footnote 2, Document 393.
  11. See footnote 2, Document 389.
  12. See Documents 310 and 312.
  13. Kissinger met with French Foreign Minister Michel Jobert at 11:30 a.m. on October 11 in Kissinger’s State Department office. A memorandum of conversation is in the National Archives, RG 59, Records of Henry Kissinger, 1973–1977, Box 3. A portion is printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXVI, Energy Crisis, 1969–1974, Document 211.
  14. Document 391.
  15. See Document 400.
  16. UN Security Council Resolution 344, adopted December 15, expressed hope for speedy progress at the Geneva peace conference and confidence that the Secretary General would play a “full and effective” role. It also requested the Secretary General to keep the Council informed of the negotiations.
  17. Menachem Begin, leader of the Israeli Herut Party.
  18. Document 410.
  19. Arab leaders met in Algiers, November 26–28, at the suggestion of Sadat and Asad. Arafat attended the summit as the head of the Palestinian delegation. The declaration issued at the conclusion of the summit maintained that the cease-fire ending the October war “in no way means that the struggle has ended and that one can impose upon the Arab nation a solution not meeting its just goals. So long as the causes of the war of aggression and expansion that put the world on the edge of a generalized conflict are not eliminated, there will be in the Middle East neither a lasting peace nor true security.” The declaration listed two “paramount and unchangeable” conditions for peace: “evacuation by Israel of the occupied Arab territories,” and the “re-establishment of the full national rights for the Palestinian people.” (The New York Times, November 29, 1973) Kissinger wrote in his memoirs that the summit declaration made Israel’s agreement to attend Geneva more difficult. “Israel was determined to resist the demands that Algiers espoused. The Algiers summit therefore injected new tensions into a diplomacy that soon found all the parties quibbling over the draft letter of invitation. Israel demanded an explicit provision in the invitation stating that the original composition of the conference could not be expanded except by unanimity—so that the PLO would be formally barred and its later participation subject to an Israeli veto. . . . Meanwhile, after Algiers, Egypt’s Fahmy predictably went in the opposite direction, insisting on explicit reference in the letter to Palestinian participation at a later stage of the conference.” (Years of Upheaval, pp. 757–758)
  20. Document 397.
  21. George Habbash, Secretary General, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
  22. Friday, December 21, and Tuesday, December 18.
  23. Meir’s office issued a statement on December 16 that Israel would not discuss a peace settlement with Syria until Syria turned over a list of prisoners and allowed Red Cross visits.
  24. See footnote 2, Document 389.