[Page 237]

78. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Major General Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Simcha Dinitz, Ambassador of Israel
  • Mordechai Shalev, Minister, Embassy of Israel


  • Report on Brezhnev Visit

Kissinger: The Middle East was a problem of the greatest difficulty at the summit. The Soviets raised it every day, but we avoided it until Wednesday.2 I had a meeting with Gromyko Wednesday to just discuss principles.3 I said what we wanted was something that each side could interpret differently—but it was a way to get negotiations started. Gromyko said he thought we weren’t serious, that they had decisions to make on deliveries, etc.

We had two problems: what would be in the communiqué, and that what would appear would be as a result of the summit, not at the summit. I think you are not too dissatisfied.

Dinitz: Only with one phrase.

Kissinger: That was inserted as a result of Rogers discussion with Gromyko. I didn’t feel I could overrule Rogers. [This is only for the Prime Minister.] I threatened to Gromyko not to have a communiqué.

Dinitz: Aside from this point, it was better than 1972. It left all options open; it didn’t foreclose anything.

Kissinger: The reason we managed to avoid specifics in the communiqué was by agreeing to substantive discussions on the Middle East, which took place on Saturday. My strategy on the communiqué was to get everything in reach . . .

[Read different formulations.]

On Saturday morning they resumed on the formulation I read. They wanted a reference to the UN, and we just sat tight. On Saturday [Page 238]morning, we left the communiqué in abeyance and went to the principles. Gromyko rejected the principles of 72, modified as you insisted.4 Brezhnev requested a meeting with the President alone, to avoid this.5 I agreed to modify the principles for discussion.

Dinitz: It was a question of the free choice of the refugees still remaining.

Kissinger: No, all your points were taken account of. [He read the refugee point.] Through maneuvers I won’t describe. They wanted a return to 1967, guarantees, international waterways, security zones. Gromyko and Dobrynin were present. We rejected it. Brezhnev said this agreement would never leave the room. We said making an agreement that no one knew about was hard to understand.

Dinitz: If we are expected to be asked to return to the 1967 borders, we have to be asked.

Kissinger: I wouldn’t agree the first time.

Dinitz: Or the second.

Kissinger: The discussion got very nasty. Then Brezhnev said he would withdraw all of the points but the 1967 borders. The President asked what he disagreed with. Brezhnev said we had withdrawn from the 1972 proposals. We agreed to redo it and send it to him at Camp David.

Before you explode, let me describe the tactical situation. We wanted to avoid having something we would be trapped into agreeing to, and we sent this to them after they had left—at Camp David. They have never even acknowledged it. [He hands Dinitz a copy of Tab A.]6

Let me point out the differences. Paragraph one mentions a final peace and appropriate negotiations.

Paragraph two says, “in accordance with appropriate UN resolutions.”

Paragraph four—we have eliminated reference to Sharm el Sheikh and the word “temporary.”

Paragraph five—“Should lead to an end to a state of belligerency” rather than “end the state of belligerency.”

The refugee clause is stated in the language of the communiqué.

I think there is no chance of an agreement.

Dinitz: I must read it through more carefully, but certain things come to mind.

[Page 239]

Incorporation of the UN resolutions in paragraph 2. Resolution 242 is interpreted differently by the different parties. There are September 1971 and 1972 General Assembly resolutions that can be read as calling for a total withdrawal,7 and that is how they will be read, and in conjunction with withdrawal. If this is how it will be read.

Kissinger: They know we mean 242.

Dinitz: It depends on how it is read.

Demilitarized zones. “By agreement of the parties” should be included.

Kissinger: The whole thing must be negotiated. That’s in paragraph one.

Dinitz: Paragraph five—end to the state of belligerency without the state of peace. You can have the end of belligerency without having a state of peace. A state of peace in the mind of the Soviet Union is less than peace.

Paragraph seven—International waterways. We don’t want freedom of navigation at Sharm el Sheikh assured to us; we want to assure it ourselves.

Kissinger: They will never agree.

Dinitz: Paragraph eight is spoiled by the “legitimate interests of the Palestine people.”

If this seems to kill the 1972 principles, it is preferable. If it is an agreed paper at the highest level, it has bad features.

Kissinger: If the document is subject to different interpretations, we could accept it with an understanding on our interpretation. On the UN resolutions, we would make clear that we mean 242. On the others, you could interpret it as the negotiations go on.

Dinitz: If they use this as a starting point for further moves, then this as a bad starting point would lead to bad future modifications.

Kissinger: You think this is a bad paper. The Arabs would not agree. Egypt wants an agreement that we understand that border changes apply only to Jordan and that with Israel it applies to total Israeli withdrawal.

Dinitz: The Soviet Union has hinted in many ways that they don’t exclude changes, but on the Eastern front. They are playing politics. With Egypt they will interpret a withdrawal as total and the changes as on the Jordanian front.

We have a good chance in the negotiations, but not on the basis of a document which has bad features. On the basis of 242, all options are open, and preferable to this which has some confining features. It is [Page 240]worse than 242 on security guarantees, secure boundaries, and international waterways.

Our reading was that the Summit produced positive results, because the Soviet Union now has to explain it to Egypt, there are troubles in Iraq, and differences between Egypt and Libya.

Kissinger: The tactical situation was—take it or leave it. If all our people had been present, it would have agreed to go back to the 1967 borders. You must compare it with this, not with your maximum position. You got out of the summit with a minimum of damage.

Dinitz: This paper would be great if it removed the 1972 paper without substituting another.

Kissinger: But this is better.

Dinitz: But as a talking basis, not an agreed paper.

Kissinger: They won’t accept it, so there is no agreed paper. If they propose changes, so will we. They either got from the Arabs an agreement that it should be vague—like the Vietnam negotiations, where I produced a new paper each week. This is no basis for joint action until there is agreement on a basis so vague that it can be interpreted differently by both sides and negotiations can go on. It must be so vague that it is not totally unacceptable to both. We can’t move until Egypt agrees to principles that are so vague that they can be interpreted differently by both sides. Until that basic decision is made, we must give the illusion of movement and avoid a showdown with us, Egypt, the Soviet Union—anything which keeps the process going.

Dinitz: That works in our favor. As long as it doesn’t undermine our position.

Kissinger: An unsigned document of general principles can’t be used to undermine your position. The points that give you trouble we can interpret our way. I am not asking you to accept this. We are informing you. We don’t need a formal government position unless they come back to us; we won’t press them for an answer. If they do, we will see if we need a formal answer from you.

Dinitz: Okay.

Kissinger: Let me discuss the proposed State Department initiative.8 The basic idea is to invite you and Egypt to begin private negotiations in Washington under U.S. auspices. [Read conditions.] Note that 242 neither explicitly accepts or rejects the 4 June boundary as final.

[Page 241]

Dinitz: By private, you mean secret?

Kissinger: Yes, but with Egypt and the State Department, it can’t be secret.

Dinitz: Have you discussed it yet with Egypt?

Kissinger: They say no, but don’t bet on it.

Dinitz: Anything else?

Kissinger: Proximity probably—in the same hotel on different floors, or in different hotels.

Dinitz: Sisco talked twice that he is preparing something for me, he talked generally on the Summit.

Kissinger: What was said was: They wanted total withdrawal; 242; the Jarring paper and the Secretary and Sisco. They didn’t succeed in mentioning 242 and Jarring.

There are no agreements other than the communiqué. You shouldn’t interpret it that the U.S. has withdrawn its interest in 242, and Jarring, etc., but since the Soviet Union wanted to make 242 more explicit, Rogers got it dropped. At the last minute, the Secretary called Sisco in to rescue the communiqué.

Dinitz: On the UN Secretary General’s visit, here is our answer, in conjunction with State. [He read and handed over the note at Tab B.]9

I will pass this to the Prime Minister on a close hold basis. Such a formula will never be agreeable. I can’t accept a document which says a return to 1967 is not excluded. The new borders must be the result of negotiations. This would be a new change in policy which I don’t think we will make. It is different when the U.S. says that than when we say it.

Kissinger: I don’t think either side can accept this. Egypt will object that 242 can allow modification.

Dinitz: So why produce an initiative at all? It could be a move backward.

Kissinger: I can’t promise. But if we can get an answer on this, I can discuss it with the President.

Don’t show your foreign office.

Dinitz: Shalev has the Prime Minister’s full backing.

I have a few more points:

The Prime Minister, subsequent to the Brandt visit said he sent a letter to Nixon and Brezhnev talking of his impression of Israel’s desire for peace. She wanted the President to know this in light of the Heath [Page 242]letter.10 When these people come to Israel they talk differently. She expressed the hope the President would not take the Heath letter seriously. Talking to the British Deputy Foreign Minister, he said to someone that Israel was responsible for the Six-Day War.

Kissinger: I don’t remember the contents, but Brandt is not noted for his precision of thought. He said he favored a Middle East settlement.

Dinitz: We have been active in Washington to get Jordanian MAP restored.11 We will try to influence the German Government, if you don’t object.

Kissinger: No, we will too.

On Ethiopia, the instructions were to be forthcoming, except where Congressional restrictions prevent it.

Dinitz: Anything new on the Saudi F–4? Will it go ahead?

Kissinger: I think so.

Dinitz: Is there anything we can do? Gave Rush a note.

Kissinger: Let me think about it. We haven’t answered the last Egyptian note, but probably will. The more forums we keep open the better.

Dinitz: Yes, that is why we go along with the Secretary General.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversation, Box 2. Secret; Nodis. The meeting was held at the Western White House in San Clemente. Brackets are in the original.
  2. June 20.
  3. The definitive discussion between Gromyko and Kissinger was on Saturday, June 23; see Document 72.
  4. See footnote 2, Document 71.
  5. See Document 73.
  6. Attached, but not printed. See Document 74.
  7. UN General Assembly Resolutions 2799 (XXVI) and 2949 (XXVII).
  8. See Document 75. On July 4, Dinitz telephoned Kissinger to inform him that the Prime Minister’s reaction to the new Rogers initiative was “totally and definitely negative” and that she urged Kissinger to do everything in his power to “nip it in the bud.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Telephone Conversations, Transcripts (Telcons), Chronological File, Box 20)
  9. Attached, but not printed. The Embassy in Tel Aviv reported on June 25 that Waldheim had raised with Eban the possibility of visiting the Middle East. (Telegram 4987 from Tel Aviv, June 25; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files)
  10. On the eve of the summit, Kissinger forwarded to the President Heath’s June 14 letter, which stated that “the best hope for progress toward a settlement would be if the Israelis were to state unequivocally that Israel regarded the frontier between her and Egypt as being the old Palestine mandatory frontier (regardless of whatever security arrangements might be made in Sinai.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 145, Geopolitical File, Great Britain, Chronological File, Mar.–July 1973)
  11. On June 12, Prime Minister Meir sent a message to King Hussein in which she told the King that she had instructed “Israeli representatives in the United States to inform ‘some of our American friends in the Senate’ that Israel considered the original Administration request for $65 million in aid to Jordan during Fiscal Year 1974 as totally justified.” On June 26, she sent a letter to Hussein stating that she had learned from Dinitz that he had taken “appropriate actions with ‘Israeli friends’ in the Congress” and assured her that the budget support funds for Jordan, which had been cut by the Committee, would be restored. On June 26, by a vote of 65 to 28, the Senate approved aid to Jordan in an amount not less than $65 million. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 618, Country Files, Jordan, IX, January–October 1973)