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

Secretary Kissinger has asked that you be provided with the following report of his meeting with Prime Minister Meir and key members of her Cabinet.2

“I have just completed some ten hours of meetings with Mrs. Meir and key members of her Cabinet,3 and am now en route to Lisbon.

“The Israelis have, after much backing-and-filling, now agreed to:

“go to the conference;

“the text of a letter we and the Soviets will send to Waldheim asking him to convene the conference and invite participants to Geneva on December 21.

“But there remains one outstanding issue yet to be resolved; if it is not, the conference could be still-borne. The Israelis are determined not to sit down or negotiate with the Syrians until they receive, at a minimum, a list of POW’s now held by Damascus. When I arrived in Jerusalem I was told that until this precondition was met Israel would refuse to go to Geneva. After some hours of debate the Israelis finally agreed to go to Geneva but I am not sure they will actually attend the session unless a list of prisoners is given them. Your letter to Mrs. Meir of December 144 was decisive in obtaining even their agreement to go to the conference.

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“But at the time that I left, it was still Israel’s position that it will do little more in Geneva (if the POW list has not been received) than make an opening statement to the effect that Israel will not negotiate with Syria until the POW list is turned over, and then walk out. I think on this point the Israelis are right. Brezhnev promised that the prisoners would be released a few days after the ceasefire and this was one reason Israel accepted it. We are working with the Soviets and Egypt on this problem. Thus, we still have some dangerous days ahead, but at least Israel will appear in Geneva. In the meantime, we are working very hard on the Soviets to use their good offices in Damascus to see that a list is turned over to the Israelis before December 21. I am not overly hopeful at this point, either that the Soviets will push Damascus hard, or that they would succeed if they did. But we must do our best and then wait and see.5

“I shall report to you from Lisbon tomorrow while en route to Madrid.”

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 43, Kissinger Trip Files, HAK Trip—Europe & Mideast, State Cables, Memos & Misc. Dec. 8–22, 1973. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only.
  2. The report was transmitted in telegram Hakto 58 to Scowcroft, December 17. (Ibid., Box 42, Kissinger Trip Files, HAK Trip—Europe & Mideast, HAKTO 1–88, Dec. 8–22, 1973)
  3. See Documents 398, 399, and 401.
  4. Document 391.
  5. In telegram 4600 from Lisbon to Tel Aviv, December 17, Kissinger sent Keating a message for the Prime Minister stating that he understood the significance of the decision her government had taken to send an Israeli delegation to Geneva, and that he had no doubt that history would show it was the right decision. He added that he had already set in motion further efforts to obtain favorable Syrian action regarding the Israeli POWs. He noted, however, that even if this issue was not resolved before the conference opened, the important thing was to bring effective pressure to bear on the Syrians and to mobilize support for the Israeli position in the forum offered by the conference. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1179, Harold H. Saunders Files, Middle East Negotiations Files, Middle East—1973 Peace Negotiations, December 13, 1973 thru Dec. 17, 1973 [1 of 3])