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81. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President
  • Richard Helms, US Ambassador to Iran
  • Harold H. Saunders, NSC Staff

Kissinger: I have thought about your message from Arafat.2 We have a nothing message to send back to him. It doesn’t say anything. As long as he hears from us, that is something.

Helms: I will tell my man simply to keep the channel open and to say that if they have anything to tell us, he will be available.

Kissinger: We have a few paragraphs here which you could have your man pass on. They don’t really say anything. [Memo attached.]

Helms: [After reading] The last paragraph is all that really is needed.

Kissinger: My experience with these channels is that all one really needs to do is to keep them open and to see what the other side puts into them.

Helms: I will keep this piece of paper to myself. It is too formal to give them a paper. I will let my man pass on the substance orally.

Kissinger: From whom will you say this is a response?

Helms: The US government. I think it is desirable to keep this as general as possible. They should know that they will just clog up the system if they press for too precise an answer. They are beggars, not choosers in this situation.

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When the USG says that an Arab-Israeli settlement must take “Palestinian interests” into account, it has two points in mind: First, there has to be a far-reaching solution of the refugee problem, and the US is prepared to participate actively in a major program to help these people re-establish normal lives. Second, it is apparent that some Palestinians have an interest in political self-expression of some kind.

A peaceful settlement of the Arab-Israeli problem must take into account the reasonable interests of all the people in the area, including both the people in existing states and the Palestinians. The US objective is to help achieve peaceful coexistence among all the peoples in the area over time because we believe that is the best way to assure their well-being and happiness.

Exactly how Palestinian interests reach an accommodation with those of others in the area is best decided by negotiation. If the Palestinians are prepared to participate in a settlement by negotiation, the US would be pleased to hear their ideas. The objective of overthrowing existing governments by force, however, does not provide the best way.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1027, Presidential/HAK Memcons, April–November 1973 [3 of 5]. Secret; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting took place in Kissinger’s office. The memorandum of conversation was prepared, presumably by Saunders, on August 7. All brackets are in the original.
  2. At a July 23 meeting, Ambassador Helms gave Kissinger a report from a Fatah contact whom he described as “Arafat’s right hand man.” The contact reported that while Arafat could not guarantee complete immunity from terrorist acts, he, Arafat, had “‘put the lid on’ American operations by the fedayeen and that the lid would stay on as long as both sides could maintain a dialogue.” The contact went on to say that this was “not a threat,” rather, it was a “recognition that talking was necessary.” (Ibid.)
  3. Secret; Eyes Only.