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50. Memorandum From Director of Central Intelligence Schlesinger to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

SUBJECT

  • Israeli Estimates of Egypt’s Present Military Intentions

Recent assertions regarding the probability of Egyptian military moves against Israel are in conflict with the assessment the Israeli military intelligence has provided the United States as recently as the end of last week. Other indicators of Egyptian military intentions remain negative.

On 12 April 1973, General Shalev, Deputy Chief of Israeli Military Intelligence, told the American Defense Attaché in Tel Aviv that he does not believe Egyptian President Sadat has made a decision to renew hostilities against Israel or that he will decide to do so in the near term. Shalev outlined at considerable length his reasons for reaching this conclusion despite certain recent developments in the Egyptian military, notably the transfer from Libya to Egypt of Libyan Mirage V aircraft, which have given rise to questions about present Egyptian intentions. A copy of the Defense Attaché’s report of this conversation with Shalev is provided as Attachment A2 to this memorandum.

Attachment B to this memorandum provides a listing of available items of recent intelligence which constitute indicators of Egyptian military intentions. Taken in the sum of their content, they do not seem to indicate an Egyptian intention to renew hostilities. They do, however, seem to indicate an element of bluff, to suggest the intention to either increase pressure on Israel, or the United States, to be more responsive to Egyptian wishes in connection with a peaceful settlement of the Middle East problem, or to divert Egyptian public opinion from focus on dissatisfaction with conditions in Egypt, or both.

Given the weak Egyptian military capability against Israel, any military move by Sadat would be an act of desperation. We see no evidence that he is that desperate at present.

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In judging Ambassador Dinitz’s statement,3 consideration should also be given to the possibility that the Israeli Government’s estimate of current Egyptian intentions may be distorted. The Israelis have already shown considerable concern over reports in the public domain about Egyptian diplomatic initiatives with the United States. This concern may also have been heightened within the past few days by discussion in the UN of the recent Israeli raid against Palestinian targets in Beirut and Sidon, Lebanon. Finally, it cannot be ruled out that the Israelis may also be seeking to lay the groundwork for offensive military action they might themselves be planning to take against Egypt. In this connection, we note the elaborate replica of the important Al Mansurah Airfield which the Israelis have constructed north of Elat. (See photo at Attachment C.)

If the Israelis now really believe that the Egyptians are prepared to attack, something significant—and unknown to us—must have happened to change their estimate [less than 1 line not declassified]. It has never been characteristic of Israeli officials to understate the dangers facing Israel, and the record of Israeli Military Intelligence with respect to its estimates of Egyptian capabilities and intentions is excellent.

JR Schlesinger
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 135, Country Files, Middle East, Rabin/Dinitz Sensitive Memcons, 1973. Secret; Sensitive.
  2. Attachments A–C are attached, but not printed.
  3. On April 24, Dinitz showed Kissinger an Israeli intelligence report speculating that Egypt was making military preparations for an attack, but Dinitz admitted: “It is not a problem in the military sense, therefore there is low probability. But as our people say, logic does not always prevail in our region.” (Memorandum of conversation; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 135, Country Files, Middle East, Rabin/Dinitz Sensitive Memcons, 1973)