117. Telegram From the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft) to Secretary of State Kissinger1
Tohak 180. The President met with Shalev.2 I spoke with the President briefly beforehand and reviewed your points. He was quite nervous in his presentation but basically did a good job—tougher than he has been on some other occasions.
The President started by saying that the whole situation for your talks with Rabin is different from what we had hoped. He said he was very concerned that we could find ourselves faced by a united front of Arabs, the Soviet Union, and the Europeans against us. As he looked back to October and November of last year, there was simultaneously a very tough conflict, an oil embargo and a fairly close confrontation with the Soviet Union. It was not in either of our interests to have that happen again or perhaps even worse. We had hoped that negotiations could be undertaken with Sadat and Hussein and eventually even with Syria. It is our judgment that had negotiations been under way, the Rabat outcome could have been avoided. Our concern is that if a stalemate is allowed to develop we will face the danger of a united front which would be perilous for us both. He asked that Shalev communicate with Rabin his grave concern that there be a serious and open exploration of the situation with you resulting in quick movement on the substantive issues. He said his past record of support for Israel was well-known. He thought we could have avoided Rabat and he thinks now we can perhaps avoid the consequences of Rabat if Rabin would seriously face with you on the situation which confronts us.
Shalev answered that Rabin had made a statement to the Knesset that Israel was willing to negotiate with Egypt and Jordan but not with the PLO and he thought that that was in accordance with our wishes. Israel could not negotiate with the PLO because they seek to destroy Israel.
The President said he understood the Israeli concern about the PLO but reiterated the imperative to move. Shalev responded by saying he was not aware of any difference with the U.S. on the steps fol[Page 458]lowing the disengagement and he felt that Rabat would have happened in any event.
The President responded by saying that while he, of course, had not been in on all the discussions, his understanding was that we urged early movement, and that the Israelis had insisted their domestic situation required some delay. Had there been negotiations under way, the Rabat outcome would have been different. Shalev responded that their confidence in Sadat’s wishes for peace had been seriously shaken and they thought he was at least keeping all his options open. He pointed out that Egypt is now starting to build anti-aircraft bunkers on the Egyptian side of the Canal, in violation of the disengagement agreement. He pointed out that on your last visit with Sadat you told him the Israelis would be prepared to negotiate and he (Shalev) did not think that a few weeks would have made any difference.
The point seemed in danger of being lost, so I interjected at that point to say that the record of our bilateral discussions was quite clear. We had been strongly urging early negotiations ever since President Nixon’s Middle East trip. You had told Allon in July that Egypt wanted the next stage completed in September, and we had for many months stated that if Israel would not negotiate with Hussein while the opportunity existed, they would at some point be faced with negotiating with the PLO. I said that it was only under strong pleas by the Israelis that their domestic situation would not permit such fast movement, that we reluctantly receded on our timetable demands. That had been wrong and what the President was pointing out was that that could not be allowed to happen again. We could not tolerate it.
The President said he wanted to sum up the discussions by saying that a stalemate must be avoided and in order to do that the Israelis had to examine the options in the light of current realities and be willing to move. He wanted this communicated clearly to the Prime Minister. Shalev said that nothing was further from their minds than a delay of negotiations but they had their security to think about. The President concluded by saying we will maintain our guarantees for Israel’s existence and security but that could in no way be used as an excuse to avoid making the hard decisions that would produce movement.
I talked briefly with Shalev afterwards to summarize in somewhat harsher terms what the President had said. I think there is no question that he got the message.3
- Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, TS 29, Geopolitical File, Israel, May 6–November 28, 1974. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The original is the text as approved for transmission.↩
- The memorandum of conversation of the meeting between Ford and Shalev on November 6 at 3 p.m. in the Oval Office at the White House is in the Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversations, Box 7, November 6, 1974, Ford, Israeli Minister and Chargé Mordechai Shalev.↩
- See Document 117.↩