401. Memorandum of Conversation1

PARTICIPANTS

  • Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel
  • Yigal Alon, Deputy Prime Minister
  • Abba Eban, Foreign Minister
  • Moshe Dayan, Defense Minister
  • Mordechai Gazit, Prime Minister’s Office
  • Simcha Dinitz, Ambassador to the U.S.
  • David Elazar, Chief of Staff
  • General Aharon Yariv
  • Mordechai Kidron, Director General, Foreign Ministry
  • Ephraim Evron, Deputy Director General, Foreign Ministry
  • Secretary of State Dr. Henry A. Kissinger
  • Kenneth Keating, Ambassador to Israel
  • Joseph J. Sisco, Assistant Secretary for Near East and South Asian Affairs
  • Alfred L. Atherton, Jr., Deputy Assistant Secretary
  • Harold Saunders, NSC Senior Staff
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff
[Page 1132]

Kissinger: We’ve sent off the messages, Madame Prime Minister. [The revised draft letter to Waldheim, with modified language on UN auspices at Tab A.]2

Meir: Thank you.

At any rate, from this point on, if it gets turned down, it is not Israel’s responsibility. If the invitation is rejected, it won’t be by Israel.

We appreciate it very much.

What can you tell us of Sadat’s ideas on separation of forces, disengagement?

Kissinger: First, Madame Prime Minister, I have explained the general political theory behind the disengagement discussion. There is no need to do it again: It permits us to avoid a discussion of frontiers, it permits one to have some success. On the oil situation, either they will continue the embargo, which gives us a pretext to stop our efforts, or if they lift it, it eases the pressures. It makes it objectively harder to start the war again.

[Yariv enters and takes a seat.]

I’ve heard about you in Egypt. They like you. They want a Yariv plan.3

To start the war, they would have to violate a limitation on the quality of arms in the zone, and they would have to violate the limitation on stationing.

The first time I saw Sadat, his scheme had a line that went as far as El Arish.4 I told him it went too far. He said they had to keep three divisions on the East bank, and he said he would accept no restrictions on the arms there. He told me this on November 6. I told him three divisions was impossible as a proposal, but I didn’t go into details.

His suggestion this time was that the Egyptians stay where they are, whatever distance they are now from the Canal.5 (He said ten–fourteen kilometers.) Then he would withdraw three divisions, then there would be a zone of disengagement up to the Mitla Pass with U.N. forces, then the zone of Israeli forces. I said, as a general proposition, that I knew the passes are of some significance to the Israelis. He said the Israelis can stay in the eastern end of the passes.

Having dealt with him I don’t think it is his absolute last word.

I thought about it overnight and the next day I said to him it ought to include a limit on the types of forces. Then he said there could be no [Page 1133]armored divisions across the Canal, just the tanks organic to an infantry division (which I guess is about 100), and no SAMs or heavy artillery. I didn’t ask him to define it.

He said he’d begin clearing the Canal as soon as it was done.

He would have a significant demobilization which would guarantee his commitment to peace. That’s what he told me. I didn’t even tell him I’d present it to you.

He said Israeli cargo can go through the Canal, but not Israeli ships.

Eban: How long would it take to clear the Canal?

Kissinger: Six months to open it; longer if it is decided to improve it.

Alon: He is intending to update the Canal for heavier shipping?

Kissinger: Yes.

Meir: What about Bab el-Mandab?

Kissinger: He said it of course would end any blockade plans. He said as much as that.

Meir: We should hear from Yariv about what happened at Kilometer 101.

Kissinger: He gave his Yariv plan to Asad, who now wants one for himself. [Laughter]

Yariv: There were at 101 on disengagement two or three unofficial Egyptian proposals and two unofficial proposals from our side. He asked me to turn our unofficial proposal into an official one, and I said we couldn’t.

The first Egyptian proposal was as you said: a line east of El Arish down to Ras Mohammed. Then there was a modified version: El Arish to Ras Mohammed, ten kilometers to the east and ten kilometers to the west, which amounts to a twenty kilometer U.N. zone.

Then he presented what he called an “unofficial plan,” which he then said was an official plan: ten kilometers east of the Canal they will have three divisions, more or less related to the existing bridgeheads. Then a ten-kilometer “security zone,” with light Egyptian forces, then a fifteen-kilometer zone with U.N. forces, then a ten-kilometer zone with light Israeli forces, then the main line of Israeli forces. Thirty-five kilometers is the closest that any Israeli forces will be to the Canal.

And he won’t start to open the Canal unless we are 55 kilometers back. This scheme is to last to January 15, when another plan had to take over.

Our proposals were: First, each side withdraws to its bank, and ten kilometers back. In between is the U.N. on a twenty kilometer strip.

[Page 1134]

Our second official proposal was that each side will evacuate ground taken in the last war, and that will then be occupied by the U.N.

Our mutual official proposals were mutually turned down. I also rejected his unofficial proposal because of the timing, because of the distance, and because of the type of forces.

Our unofficial proposal was that Egyptian forces would remain on the East bank with their administrative and police forces, to ten kilometers. There would be a U.N. presence in addition within this ten kilometers. Our security forces would be stationed along a line between ten and twelve kilometers, taking account of our line. The main force will be back out of artillery range of the Canal, and our light forces will have no equipment capable of attacking the Canal.

He turned it down. He asked for another proposal. He linked the distance of our forces to the type of forces. The closer they were, the lighter they had to be. I said police, but we might discuss police forces.

I drew a line of light forces at ten–twelve kilometers. I said his proposal of thirty-five kilometers was too far. I suggested something in between, say fifteen kilometers; his principle of size and distance would mean more than three divisions. I said, “What is this?” He said he would reconsider.

We had four or five discussions of general principles. I used up all my ammunition—rearranging the order of the principles, etc.—and said I had no other proposals. He said, it was a deadlock. I said yes, it means we have to discuss disengagement at Geneva.

This is how we finished at 101.

The so-called Yariv proposal is: the Egyptians are with administrative and police forces, and perhaps some symbolic forces, together with the U.N. forces, within ten kilometers east of the Canal. We are to the east of that line.

Kissinger: In other words, there would be no U.N. buffer at all.

Yariv: The U.N. presence is in the same area as the Egyptian symbolic forces, ten kilometers.

[General Elazar talks to Yariv]

Our Chief of Staff reminds me to tell you that our artillery will all be out of range of the Canal so they can clear the Canal and resettle the cities without worry.

He asked, “What about the limitations on the West Bank?” I said we would like limitations on SAM’s, etc.

He told me without hesitation they wouldn’t accept any limitations west of the Canal.

Kissinger: That is correct.

I didn’t know your plan. They somehow have it in their head that there is a U.N. buffer zone between you and them. It may be deliberate [Page 1135]or a misunderstanding. Fahmy told our Ambassador that the Yariv plan would be more acceptable if “the U.N. zone were expanded.”

I don’t think much of the idea of strips of light forces. What you want out of the scheme is some criteria that have to be clearly violated, as a firebreak. The distinction between light and heavy forces isn’t all that clear to most people.

I didn’t know there was a Yariv plan until he said that that was the reason they were upset at the breakdown of 101.

We didn’t object to an agreement—just in case someone talks to the press again—my advice was just, as I said, to link it to the Conference.

Meir: There are no restrictions on the West Bank.

Kissinger: No, but there would be no movement of SAMs across the Canal.

Yariv: All that was cabled back to Washington.

Kissinger: I didn’t catch up to it.

It is not so bad that it reached the point it is at now, because it gives us a basis to negotiate.

Meir: If he doesn’t really want to restart the war, it makes more sense to have it clear; everybody goes back and the U.N. goes in.

Kissinger: I’ve talked to him enough; that he won’t accept. If their two divisions were taken as a point of departure, it would not be his last word on the subject.

The principle should be, it seems to me, that the forces should not enable him to start an attack with the forces there. So, to start a war, the forces would have to be reinforced and the U.N. forces would have to be attacked—so that two violations of the agreement would give a chance to mobilize world, or at least American public opinion. And the buffer gives you time to mobilize.

I’m not speaking for the U.S. Government because I didn’t think we should discuss this in detail. So I’m speaking as a student of it.

It seems to me the Canal can be a barrier if you’re on the Canal. If you’re not on the Canal, they can clearly cross it against your light forces, if they want to violate it. So militarily there is little difference whether or not there are some forces across the Canal, if they are small in number.

Alon: In addition to geography and type of forces, there are basic conditions we must clarify first.

What do we expect the Egyptians to accept in return for our withdrawal from the West Bank? We are, after all, far from being encircled there. We can strike a decisive blow if, God forbid, the war starts.

—An end to the state of belligerency? Freedom of navigation, including Israeli shipping, at Bab el-Mandeb and the Suez Canal?

[Page 1136]

—Basically the two Egyptian armies should withdraw themselves to the West Bank. I’m not addressing the size of the forces to stay on the East Bank. But it would be much much less than two divisions, less than these “organic” tanks.

—There is no question the Egyptians will be able to exercise their sovereignty on the East Bank, resettlement and rehabilitation of cities there, with an administrative and civilian presence.

—There must be some limitation on the means of warfare, the weapons. It must include some zone west of the Canal and some area behind our area.

UNEF must be present between the two lines, but we have to work out some sort of an agreement, with maybe Security Council approval, about the legal status of UNEF so the experience before the June war will not be repeated. There are two cases: if one party asks them to leave, or if a government calls its units back under, say, oil pressure.

Since we’re now talking about disengagement and not a final agreement, we have to talk about the line somewhere.

You were right, Henry, by telling Sadat that the passes, Giddi and Mitla, are so vital to us in disengagement phase. It will be discussed in the ultimate settlement, but we must remain there with massive forces meanwhile. This will help us when we reach the ultimate phase of negotiating the final peace agreement.

—Then the inspection problem, limitation of forces, etc. on both sides. We would prefer mixed Egyptian-Israeli units, maybe with third parties. We will want all modern techniques, including air photography, to give more confidence to both sides.

—Resettlement of abandoned cities, and reopening of the Canal will help.

—Both sides should not expect that Israel will stick to the disengagement lines forever, but Israel is willing to continue discussions sincerely for a final peace.

These are some of the conditions we and you should clarify.

Dayan: Have you got a concept about the U.N. forces? Because now it’s something provisional. When you go seriously into a permanent arrangement, the questions of guarantees and security zones come up. Who stands behind the Poles and the Finns? You can’t really rely on them. It is one thing if we have observers. Right now there is no difference between U.N. forces and U.N. observers. If one side violates it, they observe and send a note. It is very useful, but not quite enough.

Something very funny, the other day the Egyptians asked the U.N. forces to move a little out of the way so they could fire on us. The U.N. forces wouldn’t, so the Egyptians moved a little away. [Laughter]

[Page 1137]

They exercise functions like checking convoys, but otherwise they’re really only observing. If they are to be really a solid buffer, there has to be more agreement on permanence.

Eban: They showed us a draft agreement on UNEF but it’s completely silent on the question of permanence and removability.

Meir: There is the Security Council resolution which we accepted on the ceasefire. There are days on which there are tens of incidents of fire. The Chief of Staff can bear me out. I don’t know if we’ve had five to six days consecutively of quiet.

Elazar: Not even one.

Meir: And casualties too. And this is his acceptance of the ceasefire. If his idea of disengagement is that [only] we withdraw across the Canal, I don’t know. How are we going to live just on the promise that he won’t do something? We had the experience of the ceasefire three years ago.6 If nothing happens on the West Bank except this dramatic Israeli withdrawal?

What does the Chief of Staff say?

Elazar: If there is no limitation of forces on the West Bank, there is no problem for them to reinforce the East Bank. It is a question of three or four hours to have an attacking force on the East Bank.

The second point is, if there are SAMs on the West Bank, they have a range of forty kilometers, within which all of our main forces are covered. From a military point of view, the limitation of forces on the West Bank has to be regarded as a vital part of any agreement.

Meir: How many are there in two divisions?

Yariv: Two divisions is about 24,000 men.

Eban: How is this to be checked?

Yariv: It is difficult to count people, but you can count armaments.

Kissinger: Before getting into details, we have to consider the strategic purpose of talking about disengagement. The strategic purpose of talking about disengagement is to avoid talking about frontiers, and avoid talking about what everyone else wants to talk about, namely the 1967 borders. The second purpose is to have enough of a success to get the oil embargo lifted. Once this happens, the international context will be changed and some of the hysteria will be gone. And we can use the same methods. Otherwise, every pressure from the Russians and others will be in the direction of the 1967 frontiers and guarantees.

[Page 1138]

We have to keep this in mind, and not be preoccupied with military details. I don’t disagree that some of your ideas have merit. For example, the thinning out of the forces on the West Bank is not precluded.

On the permanence of the U.N. force, I think you’re infinitely better off to have the U.N. force as a bunch of incompetent observers. It is totally against your interests to make it an effective fighting force, because the chances are infinitely greater that it will fight you, not the Egyptians, given the composition. What you want them to do is observe, be a physical presence.

The more you talk about its permanence, the more you trigger Sadat to link it to a permanent settlement. I think he’s not taking full advantage of the situation in which if he starts the war, and even if he loses, the whole world will jump on you. I think it’s vanity; he wants to ride in an open car into Suez City. In his eagerness he’s given up any link to a final settlement. We should take advantage of this.

On the first trip he did link it, and he also wanted El Arish. This time he didn’t raise it. We spent not ten minutes on what happens after disengagement. All I said is that I’d be then prepared to listen to whatever ideas he had on what happens afterwards.

If you raise the issue of permanence too insistently, you risk linkages to a final settlement.

You can ask certain questions. You can hope it will end up as semi-permanent. But you must act as if it were temporary. The utility of the UNEF is, it is some screen for violations but if he breaches it it gives you time to mobilize. Permanence becomes crucial when you’re talking about permanent settlement, but it is not crucial now.

The trick here is not to pretend this is permanent. You can raise some of these issues but should be careful not to trigger them. And it should be rapid.

Eban: The Secretary-General’s report leaves it all to a Security Council decision.7

Another argument against an effective U.N. force is that it will be used to implement the June 4 lines.

Kissinger: Yes, to implement 242 in whatever form they want.

Dayan: I appreciate your thoughts on UNEF.

You rightly asked what do we want to accomplish. Basically, there is one objective—to divide the forces and avoid clashes. Theoretically the two parties should withdraw from one another, and not just one, and avoid clashes.

[Page 1139]

We have to delay and not now discuss boundaries.

But the first phase of the withdrawal is the most important one, especially when you say it should be done rapidly.

Kissinger: You should agree rapidly.

Dayan: On the West Bank, we are not trapped there. In case you have some communications with Sadat.

Kissinger: That’s what he said, but that’s my concern.

Dayan: It’s not a fact, but it’s not the point. Once we withdraw from there to something significant, then practically we will have made a major concession and he would get a major advantage. And he will not be keen on the final border.

So we can get back to whether withdrawal on the East Bank should be called the basic agreement or disengagement. The Yariv plan is more [illegible text] not a final one, but it’s a major step. Because it’s the Canal and Egyptian cities and the oil pipeline for them; it has more than just military significance.

We read they want to operate the oil fields there.

We can’t discuss this or agree about that just as a disengagement of forces. Major other provisions must be there, such as no more fighting and what’s allowed in the Canal once it’s open. Once we are ten to twenty kilometers east of the Canal, that’s it. I don’t know if they’ll fight the U.N. forces, but we certainly won’t.

Kissinger: Certainly it’s important, but it is also important to make a correct assessment of the situation. Sadat has two choices: he can do it with us in a calm atmosphere, or he can do it with the Europeans, Japanese, and Russians—in fact everyone—and we’ll just be dragged along or acquiesce. He can do it by starting the war, or even a series of incidents.

If it were just between you and the Egyptians, it would make sense to sell the Canal at a high price. But it’s not just you.

In designing your strategy, you should get the maximum of what General Dayan is suggesting—a limitation on the West Bank, etc. You shouldn’t invest much in strengthening UNEF. But you should list what’s essential.

Your forces on the West Bank aren’t trapped militarily, but they are politically. Right now the pressures in our Government are under control only because there is a sense that our present strategy will get the oil embargo lifted and that we’ll pull something out of a hat.

Alec Home attacked me and said I’m only confusing the issue, because the real issue is joining to pressure Israel to return to the 1967 lines.

Anything you get by the end of January is okay, as long as there is some progress in January. Something is possible. He may go down [Page 1140]from two divisions to less. I’ve never really negotiated with him. So the level of forces is certainly negotiable. The thinning out of the West Bank, except in the areas you vacate, I don’t know. It is not totally unattainable. I raised it only in passing.

A permanent agreement, tight formulation—I don’t know what it’s worth.

Gazit: An inspection arrangement?

Kissinger: Inspection, I don’t know whether we need it, because we have aerial photography. The joint teams or liaison offices in the East Bank may be attainable, in the U.N. zone.

On tactics, if you do this, if we decide on something, my recommendation is to let us offer the generous things; you be a little tougher. It’s one way.

What else is on your list?

Gazit: The distance problem, depth of the belts.

Kissinger: I wouldn’t have as many belts—I’d have three belts—Egyptian, U.N., Israeli. I consider an Egyptian light belt indistinguishable from a heavy belt.

I’m talking about our public opinion. In America, the U.N. has a constituency. Attacking the U.N. has an impact. But I’d forget about a light zone.

On depth—they always talk about thirty to thirty-five kilometers from the Canal.

Alon: This is negotiable.

Kissinger: He’s already changed. He started with El Arish. During the war he said the disengagement zone has to include the passes. Now you can be occupying the east end of Mitla Pass. Will he now give the west end? I don’t know. I’d give him a vague principle he can claim as victory to his colleagues, then haggle over details. But I negotiate less honorably than you. [laughter]

Sisco: How far is the western end of the Mitla to the Canal?

Elazar: Twenty-seven to 28 kilometers.

Kissinger: So if you accepted the principle of the disengagement zone of 26–35 kilometers, you could then negotiate within that range. I think it’s negotiable.

Alon: How about Bab El-Mandeb?

Kissinger: That’s easy.

Eban: How does he define it—as a de facto situation?

Kissinger: He sends us a note every few days saying they didn’t really lift it, they just eased it. But we reply saying there would be grave consequences.

On the Canal, he doesn’t want to lift the state of belligerency.

[Page 1141]

You can raise it in your negotiations—Israeli-flag shipping—but you have to decide your priorities.

I’m sure two divisions aren’t his last word on the subject.

They want subgroups at Geneva to deal with this problem. Sadat suggested the U.S. and Soviets should join this discussion. I said they’ll drive everybody crazy. So he agreed not to have the Soviets or United States, and said that a 101-type U.N. presence was okay.

Dayan: In Geneva?

Kissinger: Yes, transfer the Kilometer 101 talks to Geneva.

Dayan: There is a Russian observer at 101.

Kissinger: Really? I think we can have it essentially the same. We can do what we have to do with you bilaterally; we don’t need to be there.

Dayan: In January?

Kissinger: We agreed it won’t begin until early January. This will be a decision of the first phase.

Dayan: Will the Soviet forces be in the permanent UNEF?

Kissinger: It’s up to you, but I’m violently against it. I think the strategic presence of the Soviet forces in any guise whatsoever are a disaster. So you shouldn’t ask for American forces, because we’ll have to purchase it with Soviet forces. This is the only reason I left it slightly open at my press conference.8

Meir: Mr. Secretary, you won’t like what I’m going to say, but I have to say it. You painted a realistic picture. But what you call disengagement is really Israeli forces pulling back. There is nothing mutual in that.

Kissinger: There is a thinning out and restraint on the Egyptians.

Meir: He says he’ll demobilize without any inspection from anybody. He may do it; he may not. We’ll never really know.

You say we have to consider what’s happening in the world—Sir Alec, our French friends, Japanese friends—even if he starts the war again. Justice is determined by what happens in Wall Street, London, Paris.

You say these negotiations have to end in January. And it’s not the end.

You say the world wants the 1967 borders.

[Page 1142]

Kissinger: They want oil.

Eban: But they think the 1967 borders is the way to get oil.

Meir: You say it’s not impossible for them to reimpose it again if they lift it. So what are our advantages? We have our army in Africa, as we call it. When, in March or April, the world begins pressing again, we’ll be X kilometers from the Canal. We’ll fight at a great disadvantage. And the world will not say, “a plague on both your houses;” the world will say, “a plague on the House of Israel.”

Kissinger: That we don’t agree on.

Meir: Then you’re more optimistic about the world than I am. A coalition of the world. How are we going to do this in February or March? How will it be less in February than now? If we are realistic and honest with ourselves, we Israelis, it really means we have come out of this war, which was as it was, by pulling back. That’s what it really is, if you call it by its right name. Just pulling back, that’s what it is. If Sadat thinks he is not getting what he wants, with the Russians, the threat of war will start again, and we will be in a less favorable position.

This is not something imaginary.

Kissinger: It is real.

Meir: It is real. If that’s what it amounts to, if this must lead to a picture . . .

Sadat is going to a peace conference, not a disengagement conference. What are his thoughts about “peace”—this magic word?

This is the first step towards it. Moving away from the Canal is copyright in Israel. We offered it in the interim agreement,9 but we never got anywhere because Sadat wanted impossible conditions.

This is the first step towards 1967. Unless you tell me in February to March that Sir Alec won’t be Sir Alec, that Jobert won’t be Jobert, that the Japanese won’t be the Japanese. Except they will have oil.

Kissinger: That’s a big difference.

Meir: Unless it is excluded that it will be threatened again.

Kissinger: It’s not excluded.

Eban: The threat will be credible because it has been done once.

Meir: In this world you paint, it makes no difference who attacks. The aggressor and victim are in the same position—except the aggressor has oil. In this world, Israel can’t be right. Israel has to decide now.

Kissinger: You can do better than what Sadat said to me.

Meir: I know, but it’s a unilateral step. You won’t like it but—

[Page 1143]

Kissinger: No, you’ve said nothing to me that I didn’t like so far.

Meir: I’ll try again. [laughter]

In 1970 Mr. Sisco and Mr. Rogers were shocked that missiles were there. A standstill went into effect at midnight. It was Nasser that time. This time he won’t even promise not to do it.

We don’t lose sight of our size. We don’t lose sight of our great real friend the United States. We don’t lose sight of the rest of the world, with the Soviets at the top. But it comes down to the fact that whatever they want we have to accept. We have no choice.

Kissinger: Madame Prime Minister, what you say is essentially the case. It is ninety-nine percent true. Whatever you say is equally true of the Yariv Plan as of the Sadat Plan. The basic question, as you say, is where is the end of the pressure going to be? Even if there are limitations on SAMs, they can violate them on the West Bank as easily as on the East Bank. I agree the Yariv plan is better, but you’ll still have to face the possibility they’ll violate it and the question of where the pressures are going to end.

Nasser’s violation of the ceasefire was not costless to Egypt, in the sense that, while we were not able to prevent it, it helped in America—I think it proves my case as well as your case—to mobilize public opinion for you. If Joe will forgive me, it broke the cycle of our intention to press you into negotiations quickly which you didn’t want to do. And third, you got arms.

Sisco: And you weren’t pressured for several years afterwards.

Kissinger: The ceasefire bought you two and one half years. I don’t think you lost that much. In public opinion, you’re increasingly seen as the unreasonable cause of a world crisis. I think it’s essential to break this cycle of governments who don’t want to admit their lack of foresight, their lack of courage. They want to show they’re doing something by jumping on Israel. Tanaka told me he has an election in July and has to show he has done something.10

Now, what would a successful disengagement agreement do in January? Why were the Europeans a little tougher in their recent statement? Maybe because of your talks with the Socialists. But I think it’s because of what I told them privately at NATO: “To the extent it is an Arab-Israeli problem, you’re making it worse because you’re encouraging the Arabs to hold out.”11 I think in the next crisis they might try that tactic if it’s been shown to work.

[Page 1144]

We are talking about time. I don’t want to pretend you’ll be safe. But the worst that can happen if we do this is almost certain to happen now. If the war starts now, they will certainly attack you. If the Arabs attack U. N. forces, the Europeans will be sheepish and apologetic—but they won’t be able to support the Arabs. Sir Alec wants the 1967 borders plus guarantees, not even with security zones.

Incidentally, I asked Sadat about demilitarized zones. He told me, he will fight for demilitarized zones on both sides until the last day, then he’ll yield and accept demilitarized zones on your side only.

On oil, from my talks with Boumedienne and Faisal,12 I think, given Arab disunity, it’s one thing for them to agree to cut oil when the war is going on, and it’s another to do it on the grounds that a complicated negotiation isn’t going well.

Incidentally, there should be no comment from Israel about the oil problem, because that would ruin what’s been done.

But while you’re absolutely right in your basic analysis, what you can gain is that when a crisis starts we can start with the present strategy instead of a global strategy, because of the prestige of our present course and of those implementing it successfully.

Sir Alec is a fanatic. If there is an election next spring he won’t be Foreign Secretary, whoever wins.

Meir: When he was here before he was Foreign Secretary, he told us not to yield an inch!

Eban: And that America didn’t understand the Soviet threat.

Dayan: One, what we want is a deal to give territory for an agreement. We accept it will be one-sided. I’m not talking about a peace settlement. What we want in return is some kind of agreement.

Kissinger: General Yariv, what did they expect to come out of these talks?

Yariv: A disengagement agreement.

Kissinger: In writing?

Yariv: Yes.

Dayan: Secondly, we want to ensure that our withdrawal won’t be exploited militarily against us in the short term, for example for armor to follow us immediately.

The third point, the area should undergo a normalization process, which Sadat has got in mind. This is one of the safeguards—better than others—of peaceful intentions. Turn the Canal into a civilian waterway and repopulate the cities.

[Page 1145]

This will take time and we don’t want to be cheated. If we pull back now, they’ll take six months for normalization. Then we’ll be in the next stage of negotiations, and if we don’t yield quickly they’ll stop their normalization process.

Kissinger: You can’t demand normalization in a written document from him. He can promise it to us.

Dayan: I don’t think it should take a very long time.

Practically, it shouldn’t start until the beginning of January.

Kissinger: That’s easy. I have already told him that.

Dayan: What should be done in writing or in some other way, what should be through you or otherwise, can be discussed.

Kissinger: My view is that it’s probably better to get these promises on repopulation and clearing the Canal to us—because then we can say we’ve been tricked too. If you do it, first, it will be arrogant of you to demand it.

Alon: The Russians are very eager for the opening of the Canal.

Kissinger: We’ve never discussed it with them.

Alon: If it’s okay with you, it is okay with us. Maybe they can help with this.

Kissinger: I frankly want to keep them out of the negotiations as much as possible. If there is a disengagement agreement, I want it clearly to be the product of Sadat’s moderate course towards us and ignoring the Russians. I don’t want to go to them now and say, “Give us a little help.”

Alon: But they won’t oppose it.

Kissinger: That’s okay.

Alon: With all Sadat’s victories, he’s no further than ten kilometers further than the Canal, and his Third Army is encircled. So there are the bargaining positions. We are conceding a lot to them.

Kissinger: That’s right. I didn’t go to them in a position of weakness. We have kept them quiet for three months, which is important. If we get disengagement as soon as January, it will take a month to get the forces actually disengaged. This gets us to March. This gives us a chance to quiet down the hysteria and break the cycle. It will be a quiet period.

Eban: Just because of the fact of the conference.

Kissinger: And the fact of a success. Look what this little November 8 agreement got us [six-point ceasefire strengthening agreement of November 8].13

[Page 1146]

In Viet-Nam we fought off all the pressures for four years. I don’t think we can stretch this out for four years, but to gain time is not irrelevant.

Meir: No.

Sisco: And it is useful to you, for your manpower situation, to thin out the West Bank.

Meir: Oh yes, we want to do it.

Kissinger: We should have an understanding between us. We ought to try to get an agreement by the end of January. We can have working groups start January 7. You could send somebody to Washington, or we could send somebody here.

I think we understand each other enough.

Alon: On the principles.

Meir: Before we leave “Africa,” I want to mention two Israelis who are there.

Kissinger: Mizrachi.

Meir: Mizrachi, and this one in an insane asylum.

Dinitz: Levy.14

Kissinger: I will raise it in a letter to Sadat that I’m sending after this visit.15

On disengagement, I think we should have more practical discussions before the working groups start. And I’m hoping to be on vacation between December 29 and January 6. Can we make it before the 29th?

I told Sadat it would meet the first week in January, January 6 or 7th.

Dayan: Anytime between the election and date of the Conference would be much more authorized.

Kissinger: I said to him, right after the 1st of January. You could start negotiations with the Yariv Plan.

Dayan: If we sent someone tomorrow to Washington he wouldn’t be able to say any more than we’ve said here.

Meir: What Dayan is getting at is, to do this two to three days before elections, Begin won’t accept this.

Kissinger: If Begin wins and doesn’t accept this, I guarantee within six months he’ll accept something infinitely worse than this.

Dayan: That’s what we’re trying to explain to people!

[Page 1147]

Kissinger: When the group meets, it’s essential that you start with something that looks to Sadat like a success. The major thing is to have enough of a strategy so that when you offer something to the Egyptians they will be sufficiently excited by it to allow you to draw them into a four-week negotiation. Otherwise they’ll storm out and go back to the U.N.

Meir: We’ll think about it.

Kissinger: Think about it. It doesn’t have to be a high-visibility group in Washington. The alternative is to work out a general understanding on what you’ll do the first week in the working group, and we can use that week for technical discussions.

Eban: What happens now in the scenario?

Kissinger: We wait for replies from the Egyptians and Syrians—though we sent it to them without saying we wanted their clearance.

Eban: You mentioned the prisoners?

Kissinger: I sent the Russians a message saying it was their responsibility to get Brezhnev’s word of honor implemented, so we’re not responsible if the Israelis don’t stay at the Conference.

Dayan: I have a list here of our arms requests [Tab B].16 It is a list of three main classes, in order of priorities.

Kissinger: On the tanks, I ordered 200 when you were there. Isn’t that definite?

Dinitz: One hundred and fifty to two hundred.

Elazar: And not definite.

Dinitz: They don’t know when.

Kissinger: I can only intervene at crucial moments, and I can intervene best by getting somebody in the Defense Department to think he thought it up himself. In the context of negotiations, it should be easier to get it.

[He reads from the Israeli list.] Two hundred tanks have been approved. Have the APC’s been approved? I ordered that you be given access to current production.

The laser-guided bomb, I was told you’d get it.

Dayan: Secretary Schlesinger said we can and should get them, but the next day he said . . .

Kissinger: You’ll have a massive problem in the Defense Department. It will be eased when the oil problem is lifted. We have got an oil fanatic in there.

[Page 1148]

I believe I can break down their . . . Now that I know your priorities.

On tanks: 650. I don’t know if we can get all of these.

Alon: Why not? The Arabs get all they need and more than they can use. Why do we have to be short?

Kissinger: Some one of you, with excessive Israeli straightness, told them you had 300 Soviet tanks. They’re counting them now.

When General Dayan was in Washington, they complained to Scowcroft about the 200 tanks I got.17

Meir: The last battle we won was letting an El Al plane in.

Eban: We had it in the first week of the war, these holdups.

Kissinger: On APC’s I know I can do something. On tanks I consider ourselves committed to 200, and that you were told already.

Dinitz: We were told, then it was taken back, and we don’t know when.

Kissinger: On troop carriers, I have to look into it.

On TOWs, I know we don’t have 240. I don’t know what the production rate is.

Alon: The Secretary of State has great power. Don’t underestimate it!

Kissinger: No, it depends more on the President, and which way things are going.

On Syria, can we talk enough so that I know what we can tell them?

Alon: Tell them we can start negotiations on disengagement in the north immediately after the lists are delivered.

Kissinger: We have to give them a little more. They want a Yariv Plan for themselves.

Meir: But we withdrew it.

Kissinger: That was after the [Algiers] Summit. He’s mad at Sadat, not at you. Asad was at the Summit the whole time without a plan of his own!

Meir: The fact is the Egyptians gave us a list. All we’re asking for is a list, and the Red Cross visits. The Geneva Convention requires it.

Kissinger: The North Vietnamese negotiated with us for four years without giving us lists. We kept invoking the Geneva Convention.

I told him I’d send our Ambassador in Beirut to Damascus tomorrow. I thought we could tell him something.

[Page 1149]

Meir: On substance?

Kissinger: Yigal told me you could give me something.

Meir: We’d have to hear. The fact is that we’re prepared to discuss with him disengagement.

Dayan: You realize, Mr. Secretary that we have no Cabinet decision yet, but I will tell you how I feel about it.

I will oppose giving him a yard of territory in return for a list. If we have to promise him to withdraw one-sidedly, in return for a list, I’ll oppose it.

Kissinger: For a list, you only have to go to the Conference.

Dayan: It means we agreed in principle that we have to withdraw. We suggested before—maybe it means nothing to him—that 15,000 peasants could return and we’d return two posts on Mt. Hermon. Do we promise to withdraw from an area just to see that our people are treated decently?

Keating: You always said you were not insisting on keeping the territory.

Kissinger: I don’t give a damn if they don’t come to the Conference. Then there is no problem of prisoners, and there is a stalemate.

Keating: Can you give the Secretary permission to say that you don’t insist on keeping all the territory?

Kissinger: That I don’t want. That’s the final settlement.

Meir: You can tell him you came away from here with the impression that we’re prepared in principle to negotiate, just as we did with Sadat.

Kissinger: Sadat isn’t his model; his model is the North Vietnamese.

He said I was asking for two liabilities—giving up the lists and agreeing to talk to the Israelis.

Eban: What levers do you have?

Kissinger: The levers we have are the Russians, the matter of prestige, because he fought and he has nothing to show for it.

He has offered to give lists at the beginning of the disengagement talks and prisoners at the end of the disengagement phase. If we can bring some pressure, maybe we can get the lists at the beginning of the Conference and the prisoners at the beginning of the disengagement phase.

Meir: There must be a limit somewhere. I told you yesterday we got information about amputations on Israeli pilots, if there were the slightest wounds—so that Israeli pilots should know what’s awaiting [Page 1150]them.18 It’s moral, it’s emotional, but I can’t forget it. The world can’t forget this; there must be something human.

Kissinger: I’m not arguing against your stand. I’m asking if our Ambassador can go there and say anything that will get this started better.

Alon: Why can’t your Ambassador say we’re prepared to start negotiations on the same day that we get the lists, which will lead to disengagement, which after all has territorial consequences. We took your word, because you accepted the word of honor of Brezhnev. We didn’t trust Brezhnev, but we trusted you, your expertise in this matter.

Eban: If the Russians believe this would wreck the Conference, would this be pressure?

Kissinger: I don’t know. I’m trying to find some way to give him an excuse or incentive to do what we want him to do—give lists at the beginning of the negotiations. I agree with you completely that you must have lists and visits before you negotiate on anything. We agree on that. What I want is something that sounds specific enough without really giving him anything in advance.

Alon: Isn’t it enough to tell him there will be territorial consequences?

Kissinger: The only question is whether we can increase his interest in a negotiation by giving him some hint, or direction, that gives him an incentive.

The reason he might not come to the Conference is because I refused to give him my idea of what the disengagement line should be. This is why I kept King Hussein waiting four hours.

Eban: And the meeting ended without his agreeing to come to the Conference.

Kissinger: Yes. The only question is whether there is something double-talking we can give him.

Alon: Within the framework of disengagement, we won’t ask him to withdraw towards Damascus.

Kissinger: That he takes for granted. If we can’t agree, I’ll just tell him you’re prepared to talk if you have lists.

It is a totally different situation from Egypt. He’s [Asad] not all that eager for it. He thinks time is working against Israel. Sadat just wants a victory. He’s just an Egyptian nationalist, if he can get the borders he finds acceptable. Asad doesn’t give a damn about getting his territory back, he just wants a moral victory over Israel. Therefore, the strategy [Page 1151]has to be totally different. Asad told me he thinks the world will sooner or later get tired of Israel and then you can be destroyed.

Dinitz: The Russians have a responsibility, Mr. Secretary. They are co-chairmen and they also made commitments. It is incumbent on them to do it.

Kissinger: It may be incumbent on them.

Meir: I can’t imagine, with all they’re pouring in there, why they don’t have enough influence to get what they want, if they’re human.

Kissinger: I was going to say that with all we’re pouring in here we don’t always get what we want. [Laughter]

Meir: We can do a list some time.

Eban: It’s a matter of U.S.-Soviet relations.

Kissinger: We’re pressing it. I must say, having met the Syrians, that I sympathize a bit with the Russians.

Alon: Try our proposal.

Kissinger: That’s a proposal they’ve already rejected. I told him, that as a result of my conversation with your Defense Minister, I had the impression you might be willing.

Alon: Tell him we are ready to immediately begin negotiations on disengagement, and within the framework of these talks there will be territorial changes.

And try with Moscow.

Kissinger: I told you last night that détente has worked for us.

Alon: And a little for us too.

Kissinger: On the Egyptian disengagement issue, since we’ll all be in Geneva, we could have a few days talks in Geneva—what I said we should do in Washington.

Meir: I don’t think the timing is good, and Geneva is the worst place. All television will be at you.

Eban: What do we tell the press?

Kissinger: I’ll say we had very good, very friendly, very useful talks in which we achieved agreement on all issues related to the convening of the Conference and the principles of the first phase related to disengagement. If that is agreeable.

Meir: No, it’s not. At the Cabinet we agreed not to say anything about going to the Conference until Tuesday.19 I don’t think we should say anything about disengagement.

[Page 1152]

Dinitz: On the convening of the Conference, we have to discuss it first with the Cabinet.

Eban: If we say we agree to go to the Conference, we’ll be asked about Syria.

Kissinger: Our press is saying we came here to smooth out disagreements. I think it’s helpful to us to show there is no disagreement between us so if the Syrians stay out it’s their fault.

Meir: We can’t stop anyone from asking if this means any change in our position on convening with the Syrians. We’ll have to say no.

Kissinger: We’re not asking you to say anything else.

I think it would be helpful if we could say we achieved complete agreement on the procedures and terms of reference for convening the Conference. You could also say you’ll send a delegation to Geneva if all the others come, but have not changed your position on sitting with the Syrians. It is better than saying you won’t send a delegation.

Meir: No, we never said that.

Eban: On disengagement . . .

Kissinger: We can say it was fully discussed. Because it whets Sadat’s appetite a bit.

Meir: But the minute we say that, we’ll be asked by the Knesset Foreign Affairs Committee what we said.

Kissinger: We’ve said it is the first phase, so it would not be unusual to discuss it.

Eban: We can say we agreed on procedures.

Kissinger: That you agreed that the first item should be a separation of forces and that we had a full discussion of the problems involved.

Meir: It is important that you say it won’t take place on the 21st.

Kissinger: You say it; we’ll back it up.

Sisco: There is a room at the hotel where you can make a statement together.

Kidron: The airport is better.

Kissinger: Set up a room at the airport. I’ll start: I’ll say: It was as always a conversation among friends. The conversations were very warm, very useful, and very constructive. We achieved complete agreement about the procedures and terms of reference about the opening of the Conference. We are informed that Israel will send a delegation to the Conference if the other parties agree. We agreed further that a separation of forces should be the first agenda item of the Conference and we had full discussion of the problems and issues involved in the separation of forces.

[Page 1153]

Then the Foreign Minister will say it doesn’t affect your basic attitude about negotiations with the Syrians, and in his judgment nothing will be negotiated until January 1st, and we can say we back it up.

[The meeting thereupon 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. Attached, but not printed.
  3. See footnote 3, Document 398.
  4. See Document 324.
  5. See Document 390.
  6. Meir is referring to the August 7, 1970, Egyptian-Israeli cease-fire agreement. The Soviets and Egyptians moved Soviet-made surface-to-air missiles into the Canal zone, in violation of the agreement, within hours of its implementation. Documentation on the August 7, 1970, cease-fire is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXIII, Arab-Israeli Dispute, 1969–1972.
  7. The Secretary General made several reports to the Security Council on the establishment and functioning of the UNEF from October through December. See Yearbook of the United Nations, 1973, pp. 203–207.
  8. Kissinger is possibly referring to his press conference with Sadat on December 14. In his memoirs, Kissinger wrote that he told the press: “We agreed that disengagement of forces—separation of forces—should be the principal subject of the first phase of the peace conference and I will go to other countries to discuss with them how to proceed.” (Years of Upheaval, p. 773)
  9. See footnote 3, Document 10.
  10. Kissinger met with Japanese Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka November 15 in Tokyo.
  11. Kissinger attended the NATO Ministerial meeting in Brussels December 10–11.
  12. See footnote 2, Document 393 and footnote 4, Document 394, respectively.
  13. See Document 324.
  14. Mizrachi and Levi were two accused Israeli spies in Egyptian custody.
  15. Document 403. There is no mention of the two in Kissinger’s letter.
  16. Attached, but not printed.
  17. See Document 376.
  18. See Document 398.
  19. December 18.