110. Draft Telegram From Secretary of State Kissinger to the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft)1
Please pass following message to the President.
1. Having just completed my seventh mission to the Middle East during this past year, I want to report to you my overall conclusions and suggestions as to how we should next proceed.
2. I am convinced that the Middle East today remains the most dangerous trouble spot in the world; the seeds of war between Arabs and Israelis remain, as does the potential for a dangerous confrontation between ourselves and the USSR. But it goes beyond this; in view of our overall economic interests—indeed the world’s interest in the Middle East and the Arabian and Persian Gulf—the interdependence between producer and consumer, and the need for developing a stable economic and monetary system based on cooperation, the settlement of the Arab-Israeli dispute is even more crucial to our national interests today than at any time in its history. Our involvement therefore is imperative and inevitable; and we are the only ones who can do it—if it can be done at all. If we can succeed, it will put us far ahead of the Soviets in the Middle East for some time to come.
3. My trip accomplished what we expected—and perhaps something more. We have given the leaders in the area a necessary psychological shot in the arm by reaffirming your intention that the U.S. will remain directly and actively involved. This is most welcome by both sides. This has helped assure the central role of the U.S. in the negotiations for the time being at least, and will help keep in check Soviet and European opportunities to inject themselves in the negotiating process in an unhelpful way. We defused the adverse impact of our no vote at the UN on the Palestinian issue2—all the Arab leaders showed understanding of our rationale and reasoning and it did not divert Boumedienne from agreeing to announce resumption of US-Algerian diplomatic relations on November 12. We were able to add to Arab appreciation of America’s serious intention to organize the consumers for hard-headed, no-nonsense talks with producers on oil and monetary policies. We have affected in a positive way the views and positions of the Arab leaders (in particular Sadat, Faisal, Hussein and Has[Page 442]san) will take at the October 26 summit. And above all and most important, we have laid the groundwork for an announcement in early November of the opening of negotiations between Egypt and Israel and possibly Jordan as well unless the summit deflects Sadat and Hussein. It is at this meeting that the Arabs must choose between meaningless, empty and ineffectual pie in the sky declarations regarding the Palestinians and the reality of practical progress through piecemeal negotiations relating to the Sinai and possibly to the West Bank.
4. A special word is necessary regarding Israel. Rabin and the other leaders are grappling with the dilemma of history and logic—the history has been one of pain, anguish, suffering, suspicion and four costly wars—the logic is that the risks of stand-patism are far greater than realistically facing up to the necessary step-by-step compromises essential for progress towards a settlement, because the choices they will face a year from now if they let the situation drift will be much worse than those they face now. I hope Rabin is the leader to do this, but I must candidly tell you I doubt it, even taking into account the weakness of any Israeli government operating in Parliament with a majority of one vote. I am also deeply disturbed by the trend developing in Israeli politics towards the right, reflecting itself in a more hawkish and more intransigent posture regarding negotiations and territorial concessions. We have an abiding interest to support Israel’s security, but our interests in the area go beyond any one country—strategically, politically, and economically. The period ahead, Mr. President, will inevitably be a period of strain in our relations with Israel for we alone can bring—indeed force—them to pursue the path of serious negotiations on the basis of compromises which protect Israel’s security and serve our own interests. The alternative is likely to be another war in the Middle East which would not only affect vital U.S. strategic and political interests, but also our economic and monetary interests and those of the Western world. We must begin soon after our November elections to educate the American people and Congress to these realities.
5. In the next stage in early November, I am hopeful we will get the breakthrough start on negotiations we have carefully advanced during this mission. Our strategy of segmenting the issues which divide Israel and its neighbors into negotiating units which are politically manageable for us and the parties remains sound. This is based on the belief that a progressive series of limited agreements could create new situations which in turn will make further agreements possible. I am hopeful because I found on this mission that: there is continuing confidence in the indispensable role of the U.S. to help make progress towards a settlement; that there is continuing broad support for the step by step approach, notwithstanding the fact some elements in the area will seek to undercut negotiations; that there is general agreement [Page 443] that the next stage of negotiations can and should begin in the near future. In short, the issues have been sharpened, the choices have been discussed, and the course of action has begun to take shape. However, we must not be over-optimistic because the political situation in the Arab world as well as in Israel is extremely complex, and the makings of a stalemate are always present. This could be the result of the Arab summit, but for the moment we have done everything possible to assure against this.