80. Memorandum From the Executive Secretary of the Department of State (Eliot) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Security Council Review of Middle East

The Security Council review of the Middle East is expected to come to a head this week with a vote on a resolution that will present the U.S. with a difficult choice.

Under Egyptian prompting the non-aligned group has now surfaced an unbalanced draft resolution which contains several unacceptable features for the US.2 One article “condemns” Israel for its continued occupation of Arab territory; another “expresses serious concern” at Israel’s failure to respond to Jarring’s February 1971 memorandum (that memorandum asked Israel for a commitment to withdraw to the pre-June war Egypt–Israel border, in return for Arab commitments to peace).3 Another article refers to the “legitimate rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people.”

UN Secretary General Waldheim has asked both sides if they would be willing to have him visit the area after the Council review, and has suggested that a simple, non-controversial resolution or consensus statement, reaffirming S.C. Resolution 242 and endorsing his visit, would be the best outcome for the Council review. The Egyptians say they would receive Waldheim, but that his visit should not sidetrack the Council from “facing up to its responsibilities” on the territorial issue of a settlement. The Israelis have accepted a Waldheim visit “in principle” but state their final agreement depends on the outcome of the present debate. Should there be a one-sided resolution—e.g., a resolution which reinterprets or distorts S.C. Resolution 242—they are unlikely to accept a Waldheim visit.

We ourselves have hoped to avoid a formal resolution and vote by pushing the consensus idea as the best basis for putting Waldheim into motion. We have made it clear we cannot accept language which reinterprets or distorts SC Resolution 242.

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It is now beginning to look doubtful, however, that this tactic will succeed in sidetracking a resolution. The Soviets and French are solidly behind the Egyptian position. The British are leaning that way: they would genuinely like to find a compromise that would avoid an American veto, but their own policy coincides with the Jarring memorandum. In the last analysis the British would vote for a resolution which endorsed the Jarring memorandum if some of the stronger anti-Israeli language were watered down, as we believe will happen.

Our plan is to maintain a tough bargaining position in the hopes that the Egyptians, to avoid a US veto, will either adopt the consensus idea, or at least prove willing to drop any reference to the Jarring memorandum and the “rights” of the Palestinians in a resolution. However, we no longer have much confidence that the Egyptians will be prepared to pay this kind of price to avoid a US veto, particularly in view of Sadat’s tough speech on July 23.4 A US veto will, in Cairo’s eyes, isolate the US with Israel and strengthen Egypt’s strategy of seeking to convince other Arab states—our concern is particularly Saudi Arabia—that the time has come to take action against US interests. This is a sufficiently attractive outcome for the Egyptians to give us little leverage by threatening use of the veto. While continuing our efforts to avoid it, we must realistically be prepared for a decision as to how to vote on a resolution which, among other things, in some manner endorses the Jarring memorandum, expresses concern at the continued Israeli occupation, and/or refers to the “rights” of the Palestinians. The issue is whether to veto or abstain, since there is little likelihood that the Egyptians and their supporters would agree to a resolution that we could vote for.

A resolution endorsing the Jarring memorandum in some way will invest that document with increased stature, and tend to strengthen the Egyptian claim (with which we do not agree) that S.C. Res 242 precludes the possibility of changes in the Egypt–Israel border. The Israelis will be upset, would probably refuse to receive Waldheim, and may well decide the UN, thus circumscribed, has no further role in negotiations for a peace settlement.5 If we do not veto, Israel will be critical, [Page 247]and we may have a harder time engaging Israel in any negotiations under our auspices. Realistically, however, we must rate the chances of getting meaningful negotiations going as low in any case.

On the other hand, if we veto even a watered down version of the present draft, the repercussions in the Arab world would be adverse. Egypt will be further disenchanted about our intentions. We believe this would add fuel to Faisal’s criticism of U.S. policy. As you know, Faisal has become increasingly frustrated about U.S. policy on the Arab–Israel problem, and has spoken several times to journalists about his unwillingness to cooperate with the U.S. on oil matters unless U.S. policy changes. He will see a U.S. veto of a “reasonable” (in Arab eyes) resolution as further convincing proof that the U.S. is incapable of distancing itself from Israel. If we veto a reference to Jarring’s 1971 memorandum, we are likely to be reminded that we spoke favorably of that Jarring initiative and of the Egyptian reply at the time. The fact is, however, that the dispute over the Egyptian and Israeli replies to Jarring has been the principal obstacle to his making progress for over two years.

A final decision will depend on the wording of the version of the resolution that is tabled.6

Theodore L. Eliot, Jr.7 Executive Secretary
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27–14 ARAB–ISR/UN. Secret. Drafted by Sterner on July 23; cleared in IO, NEA, and by Sisco.
  2. The text of the draft resolution is in telegram 2659 from USUN, July 24. (Ibid., Central Foreign Policy Files)
  3. See footnote 3, Document 10.
  4. In his July 23 Revolution Day speech, Sadat “reacted with considerable emotion and anger” to U.S. tactics in the Security Council debate, rejected the U.S. proposal for proximity talks, and said that Egypt was preparing for a confrontation with Israel and the United States. (Telegram 2193 from Cairo, July 23; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files)
  5. On July 25, Shalev met with Rodman and expressed great Israeli concern over U.S. proposed amendments to the July 20 draft resolution before the Security Council, which included two references to the Palestinians. Shalev said: “The main point is this: Scali should stop cooperating in trying to amend the nonaligned resolution and should return to his basic position: That no resolution is necessary, that no change in 242 is acceptable, and that anything that goes beyond 242 will be vetoed by the United States.” (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 135, Country Files, Middle East, Rabin/Dinitz Sensitive Memcons, 1973)
  6. On July 26, the Security Council voted on the non-aligned draft resolution. Because of “the unbalanced nature” of the resolution, the United States vetoed it. The final vote was 13 in favor, one abstention (China), and the U.S. veto.
  7. Barnes signed for Eliot above Eliot’s typed signature.