111. Minutes of a National Security Council Meeting1

SUBJECT

  • Mid East Status, SALT

PRINCIPALS

  • The President
  • Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger
  • Secretary of Defense James R. Schlesinger
  • Director of Arms Control and Disarmament Agency Fred Ikle
  • Acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General David C. Jones
  • Director of Central Intelligence William E. Colby
  • OTHER ATTENDEES
  • State
  • Deputy Secretary Robert Ingersoll
  • Defense
  • Deputy Secretary William Clements
  • CIA
  • Mr. Carl Duckett
  • White House
  • Mr. Donald Rumsfeld, Assistant to the President
  • Lt Gen Brent Scowcroft
  • NSC
  • Jan M. Lodal
[Page 444]

MIDDLE EAST

President Ford: It is nice to have you here. In the last day or so, Henry has filled me in on the results of his trip to the Mid East, but he might not have had a chance to do the same with the rest of you. I thought I might ask him to take ten minutes and give this group the benefit of what his trip brought.

Secretary Kissinger: The trip was arranged at the urgent request of Sadat who wanted to try to bring about a cooling off in the area. He made several approaches to the President; Asad finally joined in the request. We had no precise idea where we would go. But it quickly became apparent that Sadat knew what he was talking about—the Mid East was extremely tense and uncertain. There were many factors—the Mid East Summit next week; the unanticipated change of Presidents here, and the question of whether this change meant a change in U.S. policy; pressures from the radicals; and the oil problem.

The major purpose of the trip was to try to get a new round of negotiations started.

I might add that the Israelis also face considerable uncertainty. They have a new government with a small majority and events seem to be closing in on them.

As I said, the major purpose was to get a new round of negotiations started. The secondary purpose was the oil problem, which I raised only quietly. I didn’t want to be seen as being there primarily because of the oil problem.

In the Mid East, there are three categories of problems:

—Territorial.

—The Palestinians.

—Jerusalem.

I have always told everyone that Jerusalem would have to come last, that to raise it now would tie up the talks. So it never came up.

On the territorial problems, there is Egypt, which is the easiest; the West Bank, which is the next easiest; and Syria, which is the most impossible. The West Bank is next easiest only if Jordan is the one nego-tiating. If the PLO negotiates, the West Bank becomes by far the most difficult problem. Of course, while we were there, the PLO issue came up in the UN.

President Ford: We were a very small minority—something like 4 out of 110.

Secretary Kissinger: That was expected. I told everyone we would be in a very small minority because we were not killing ourselves over [Page 445] the issue. Faisal understood this. We paid no price with the Arabs for our PLO vote in the UN.2

The easiest thing to do next is to get negotiations underway between Egypt and Israel, if the other Arabs will tolerate it, and if others don’t make demands which undermine the position of Sadat. Israel wants a political settlement. For Sadat to negotiate with Israel alone is an unbelievable political act in itself. But if he has to certify that the talks are political, the situation becomes impossible.

Sadat has to go to the Summit3 next week and say there is no set position yet.

Asad is determined that there not be separate negotiations. He says this three times a week in his local newspapers. He says there will not be any movement with Egypt alone if there is nothing for Syria. His position is that only all Arabs can negotiate. He believes that all Arabs should negotiate all territorial problems, that all Arabs should negotiate the Palestinian problem, and then all the Arabs should negotiate the Jerusalem problem. He and the Soviets have pushed for reconvening the Geneva Conference. The Soviets know that in separate negotiations they will be excluded. In a large conference, they can maximize their influence.

This is the minefield we have to run through. It is essential that no impression be given that any particular negotiating approach has been agreed. All of those who want separate negotiations have to go to the Summit portraying an open mind. This is especially true of those taking a moderate line—Egypt, Faisal, and Morocco.

Syria and Jordan constitute a separate problem. Syria is trying to line up other Arab support for its position against separate negotiations.

If we can hold Faisal with Sadat, we have practically got it wrapped up. Saqqaf made a statement at the airport in which he said he used to have doubts about Kissinger’s negotiating approach, but he was now convinced that this was the only route—to take a step-by-step approach. This is even somewhat further than Sadat has gone.

I am not concerned about Sadat inviting Brezhnev to Egypt. This will let him look like he is making a slight move to the Soviets.

We face a difficult week next week with the Summit in Rabat. Once that is over, we will have to move fast. It is crucial that before then, we give no indication that we have any agreed outline or approach. Once Sadat moves out, he must not look ridiculous in the face of the other Arabs.

[Page 446]

President Ford: Dayan seems to be going off on a tangent.

Secretary Kissinger: In Israel, the domestic politics are absolutely disgusting. A year ago, Dayan was the leading dove; he has now moved totally to the right. The Defense Minister of the present government is the second man in the Rafi faction4 which Dayan heads, and it is important that the seven from this group stay in power. If he is out, the government falls.

Secretary Schlesinger: They also have the religious group.5

Secretary Kissinger: That’s right, but assuming Egypt and Israel get negotiations started, talks on the West Bank must follow shortly. It is important that Sadat is not isolated. But the religious group opposes any West Bank talks. If it holds a balance in the Israeli cabinet, the government will be out. Therefore, the Rafi group is necessary for progress. Rafi seems more interested in the Sinai than the West Bank.

We are making good progress, but it will require a hell of a lot of work to keep it together. Last year, I thought we were playing for time. Now, we have the opportunity for serious progress, if the Israelis can recognize the realities of the situation. Some people think the split between Egypt and Syria is a game and that they are just faking it. But the Arabs are too undisciplined to pull that off. You cannot sit with Asad one half hour and think that he could possibly be playing a game. All the Arabs see this rivalry—even Boumedienne, who is usually considered one of the most radical, was saying to me, “I know how it will end up—they will go back to the 1967 borders with a few changes, and everyone will quit.” If the Israelis were only smart enough to realize this, I think even Faisal would go along.

Deputy Secretary Clements: Isn’t Faisal’s backing of Sadat a must?

Secretary Kissinger: Yes. Faisal, who is in some respects the most reactionary, makes it legitimate for the radicals. He can keep Syria in line.

With respect to oil, despite what the media here are saying, I think the speech you gave, Mr. President, has led to a massive reaction.6 I received two assurances—that there will be no increase in prices, so that with inflation, this would mean a decrease in the real price. Second, that there would be no use of the oil weapon during negotiations, although it would be used if there were a general Arab-Israeli war.

Finally, I think that at the right moment, there is a possibility that we would get some reduction in price. Even Boumedienne said some po[Page 447]litical reduction in price might be possible. We have to analyze this. I believe we can almost certainly hold the line at the present prices, and maybe get a small reduction. But the kind of reduction we are talking about, from $9.60 to perhaps $8.00, will slow down the producers’ accumulation of funds, but it does not change our fundamental problem. Our conservation program and the approach discussed at Camp David remain important.

Above all, it is essential that the Israelis do not humiliate Egypt. The Israelis can pretend that a political negotiation is underway, but it cannot be set up so that it is called a political negotiation.

We will try again in early November to get the talks set up. I believe that once Egypt moves, the other Arabs will come along. Syria may try to impose its tough position, but not if they are all alone.

Director Colby: The Israelis will probably want some kind of early warning system. They have a thing about that.

Secretary Kissinger: The Israelis have a thing about so many things. They want an Israeli electronic station in the Sinai.

Director Colby: Presumably, it would be a demilitarized zone.

Secretary Kissinger: I don’t believe they will be able to get an electronic station on what will, in effect, be Egyptian territory.

Deputy Secretary Clements: With respect to the matériel we have been sending to Israel, we need to bring into the foreground what has been done and how much they have. There is no question but that the capability of the Israelis to preempt already exists. We cannot squeeze them to their limit.

Secretary Kissinger: The crucial period will be from November through January. During that period, there will be a need for pressure.

President Ford: Are you talking about what is on hand now, or what we have agreed to as a package?

Deputy Secretary Clements: What is on hand now. This has come as something of a surprise to us. We have sent the JCS task force out there, and they found that what the Israelis have exceeds what they had before the October war.

President Ford: How long can they sustain an offensive operation?

Deputy Secretary Clements: Eighteen days.

President Ford: On two fronts?

Deputy Secretary Clements: On the same basis as last year, which was two fronts. To put it another way, they have three times the capability they had last fall, which was only six days.

President Ford: Perhaps we should move now to our other subject—

[Page 448]

Director Colby: One last point on oil prices. One of the keys is the Shah. Any influence we can use there is critical.

President Ford: If we could get a reduction from $9.60 to $8.00 or $7.00, it would be a real shot in the arm for the domestic economy.

Secretary Kissinger: I think a reduction to $7.00 is very improbable.

Director Colby: They are talking about compensation for inflation, so if the price just stays where it is, we are ahead.

Secretary Kissinger: I am confident it will stay where it is. On whether we can bring it down, I am not sure.

[Omitted here is discussion of SALT.]

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Box 1, NSC Meetings File, NSC Meeting, October 18, 1974. Top Secret; Sensitive. The meeting was held in the Cabinet Room at the White House.
  2. See footnote 3, Document 104.
  3. See Document 112.
  4. The Rafi faction of the Israeli Labor Party.
  5. Apparently a reference to the National Religious Party.
  6. A reference to President Ford’s October 8 address to Congress on the economy, which was broadcast on nationwide TV and radio. For text, see Public Papers: Ford, 1974, pp. 228–238.