127. Memorandum of Conversation1
- Yigal Allon, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Israel
- Simcha Dinitz, Ambassador of Israel
- Mordechai Shalev, Minister, Embassy of Israel
- President Ford
- Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
- Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
[The press was admitted for photographs. There were a few minutes of light conversation about the President’s State of the Union Message, the size of the Knesset, and a Presidential visit to Israel. The press then departed.]
Allon: This is the room where the President works?
President: Yes, but I have one down the hall also. Every President has a separate working office. President Nixon’s was across the street; mine is just 20 feet down the hall.
It’s good to see you again. This must be the third or fourth time we’ve met. I have always thought that we could sit and talk frankly and in friendship. I hope we can talk about some headway we can make toward peace in the area.
I have been pushing Henry to some extent. I feel we have to make progress. I understand you were somewhat disturbed about my com[Page 492]ment the other day.2 You shouldn’t be—our relationship is such that there is no reason why we should differ. I predicate everything on the basis that we can work together.
I want Henry to go to Egypt. But he has to have something more tangible to bring there than what came from our previous talk.3 I think we need another settlement by the end of February. We need stability for the next year and a half to two years, to recover our economy, our energy situation, and our position in the world. We need time, and a settlement will give that. But Henry has to have more for Sadat than you brought before.
Allon: First, Mr. President, I want to thank you for seeing me. I like the way we talk to each other. Dinitz said the Hebrew press says, when they heard I was seeing you and the Vice President, that Kissinger mobilized the heavy artillery of the Administration against me.
President: You have only friends here.
Allon: I told the [UJA] people on the West Coast that I heard you say a strong Israel is in the interest of the United States. I drew strength from your State of the Union speech.4
Kissinger: Schmidt made a statement, Mr. President, that your speech was a great contribution to trans-Atlantic solidarity. That is very unusual.
Allon: I was very comfortable after hearing your speech. It was reassuring.
Kissinger: The European press reaction has been favorable.
Allon: We, in Israel, trust the intentions of the United States government, the President and Secretary Kissinger. We may sometimes disagree about points, but it is among friends. Let me say this: We want an agreement. We need it. We think Egypt needs it. It would be good for both parties. This is what I believe. Frankly, we have to face a bitter opposition in Israel.
Strategically, whoever controls the passes controls the Sinai. They are extremely important. The oil is not so much a matter of the money but mainly: First, once they get the oil back without important conces[Page 493]sions they have no incentive for taking further steps. And second, the fields are so close to the straits that they are a strategic problem.5
Kissinger: Since you don’t want a third step, that is a small loss.
Allon: But because we are all mortal, things change and people change.
When I was here before, I said to you that the depth of our withdrawal will be highly influenced by what Egypt offers. I fear that once Egypt knows about the passes and the oil, it would be all over with Egypt.
I am glad we adopted a wait-and-see position on my last trip before the Brezhnev trip to Cairo. It was good for Brezhnev, too, because he knew we knew how to play our part.
We want to know with whom will we sign an agreement? With Egypt, or the United States? Will the land to be given up be turned over to Egypt, or will it be demilitarized? Fahmy commented on that.
Kissinger: Fahmy has made several statements which don’t help. His problem is he is so pro-American that if this doesn’t work out he will be out and maybe in prison. He therefore is compelled to make strong statements.
Allon: The question last is the stability of the peacekeeping force. Four of the contingents have left since the last agreements. Nepal, Panama . . .
Kissinger: That is a legitimate concern. We must look into it.
Allon: Sadat made a statement recently that any agreement should have an American guarantee. It was the first time he ever said that.
President: Did he say what he meant?
Kissinger: No. He said it. To President Nixon he said he wanted us to guarantee Israel. It solved his problem, and in that case he wanted Egypt to be guaranteed by the U.S. also.
Allon: I don’t know how, but if we could get American troops in UNEF without the Soviets, that would be a tremendous contribution. I am trying to figure out how we can add to the stability of the peacekeeping force. I think Egypt would like it, and if so, what can the Soviets do?
Kissinger: They would veto it unless Soviet forces were included, and inclusion of Soviet forces I think would be a grave mistake.
Allon: So the problem is how to make UNEF more stable. This would give Sadat one excuse not to follow an adventurous policy. Sa[Page 494]dat the other day said that the U.S. would not allow the Arabs to destroy Israel.
Now the most crucial problem—the duration of the agreement. If it is short—two to four years—I don’t think I could recommend it to the Knesset because this is just the time required to reorganize the Egyptian forces.
Sadat is probably planning for one or two years after the American elections. What is three or four years in return for the passes and the oil? Sadat knows he can get nothing by force; through negotiations he can get a lot. I gave Henry an idea which is a personal idea of mine, not the Cabinet’s: Why not have an agreement that has no time limit, but to give Egypt an incentive we would agree that after a certain number of years we would negotiate a third step? The U.S. would have to agree not to pressure us to move earlier than that—unless there is a good chance and then we would be happy to move.
I think Sadat accepted my earlier proposals better than Henry thinks.
Kissinger: He hid it well.
Allon: Except for the 10-year duration, what could he object to, except for the leaking to the press?
President: Those leaks are a deterrent to what we are trying to achieve. I know we ourselves are the leakiest government—even my speech leaked out. But when we are talking peace and war, we just can’t have it. I don’t know how to stop it, but we must.
Allon: We both live in democracies. We just have to live with it and not to lose our tempers.
Kissinger: Leaking something against us is one thing; leaking something which has a tendency to make agreement more difficult can be disastrous.
Allon: And many times it is the wrong information. For example, about your pressuring us—they don’t believe you aren’t doing it.
Kissinger: I don’t believe it is possible to get a fixed term from Egypt. If Sadat were to agree in writing that a negotiation for a final peace wouldn’t start for six years, he couldn’t survive. You must at least address the contingency that he will reject it. It is not unreasonable, but we have to consider the consequences if this fails. Egypt could be driven into a war with Syria; people here are already saying we should settle it with the Soviet Union. You are better off, also, not linking any step to a final peace, but to focus on step-by-step.
There is no linkage between the Sinai and the Golan. If Sadat demands that, we will probably have to go to Geneva. Our fear is a mas[Page 495]sive blow-up caused by the frustration of the Arabs. What we want is that the Arabs see that they make progress only through us and that radical demands get nowhere.
Allon: We don’t want a stalemate. But in addition to no fixed term, the UNEF mandate has to be given permanently. The Security Council should be able only to terminate, not to renew, the mandate.
President: We have never linked Egyptian and Syrian settlements. Do I understand that the passes and the oil fields can be settled if we can get something on time and UNEF?
Allon: That’s a good question. I deliberately avoided a Cabinet debate. I felt the Cabinet was not well disposed when I left because of the Arab statements, so I have no authorization. But there is a direct relation between what we can give and what we can get.
Kissinger: If what you want can be achieved from Egypt, we are okay, but suppose we can’t. Sadat has not been willing to talk frankly to Eilts. What we need to achieve is a concrete understanding on this trip, because if we keep talking along inconclusively, we may find one day that Sadat will blow up. We have to make a basic plan for contingencies. Even if his proposals are reasonable they may not be achievable. But all the problems must be weighed against the alternatives we will face.
Allon: But remember Damascus in May. You went to tell them you were breaking off and I said you would come back with something.6
Kissinger: Just because you win a few times at roulette, you can’t turn it into an assumption of your policy that you will win every time. If Sadat accepts, fine, but if I go there and fail, we have a monumental problem.
President: If Henry goes there with an inadequate package which is rejected, there will be an adverse impact in the United States. Under these conditions, it would be a terrible jolt in this country.
Kissinger: Also, thus far we have had no adverse European reaction. We would get a bad one and the Soviet Union would profit.
Allon: I suggested to Henry that he take a quick trip—spend one day in each place. He should call it exploratory. That way it is riskless.
Kissinger: Sadat can’t see me before the 3rd of February. If I got there on the 10th, I would have to promise a settlement within two weeks. Nothing new will be learned after I have left, through diplomatic channels. So unless I can give him a firm assurance that I will be back with an agreement in two weeks, it won’t work.[Page 496]
Allon: We want to know what he is willing to give.
Kissinger: I proposed this to Sadat—a meeting in Europe. He rejected it and said “Come when you can settle.”
Dinitz: What concerns us is if you give him ten days or so, you give him leverage.
President: Can Henry go to Egypt and talk in terms of the passes and the oil fields and see what he can get on time and UNEF?
Allon: I think he should come to Israel first.
Kissinger: Tactically, if I know that the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and Peres will back me, I would rather go with that than have a Cabinet meeting. If it leaks, the Egyptians are likely to quit. I would rather take my chances on the top two or three leaders.
President: So you would go to Israel first and then . . .
Kissinger: I’d have to go to Amman, to Damascus, and to Riyadh also. I could do it in 3–4 days. I only need three hours in the other capitals.
Allon: Let me make one point. To concede more than the last time requires a Cabinet meeting. I think we should start out without knowing where we end up.
Kissinger: We must face the fact we can’t have an endless delay. We have to move.
Allon: I said yesterday the time had come.
President: I have read the letter from Prime Minister Rabin on the arms. [Tab A].7 I can assure you that the commitment for April 1 will be adhered to. On Matmon–B, you can send people here . . .
Kissinger: Better not send too many.
Dinitz: The Pentagon needs to talk with us on availability and delivery times.
President: On the LGB, the Lance, and the emergency list—it will be delivered.
Dinitz: On Lance there is no real problem. On LGB . . .
President: We will deliver. On Matmon–B, I said I couldn’t go to the Congress without results. If I can go to the Congress with results in Egypt, I can do better. That is not pressure, just the facts of the situation today.
Allon: But Matmon–B was promised at the end of the last disengagement.[Page 497]
Kissinger: A long-term relationship, not a plan.
Allon: Okay, but I was pleased when I read the record of Rabin’s meeting with you [the President],8 and the reaffirmation of it. But if the Pentagon can’t get our orders, the deliveries get later and later.
President: But they can’t order without the money.
Allon: So until the climate gets better, let’s go with the first year.
President: But at a time when I am telling the American people there are no new domestic programs, if I go to Congress for money, I have to be able to justify it.
Allon: But I fear that delay will be interpreted by Israel as indirect pressure. I know it isn’t, but if I could go to Rabin and say we can start working out the techniques so that we don’t lose time when the proper time comes.
Dinitz: We need delivery times, costs, and so forth.
President: I will talk to Henry tonight and we will figure out how we can start the process. It is a delicate situation—how to proceed in a technical way to protect us and you. Henry can tell you tomorrow.
Allon: When Simon visited Israel,9 we agreed on setting up joint committees. Last month I thought everything was okay. Now I feel everything is not right.
President: I am not familiar with it.
Allon: We gave a paper on this to the State Department.10 If I can go back with some good news . . . If we could take back that you are considering our FY–76 requests favorably . . .
I am afraid that as a result of the Trade Bill, the Soviet Union will punish the Jews there. We can’t take it—nor the Jews elsewhere. We know you will know how to pass the word.
President: We will do what we can. That would be the worst that could happen.
Kissinger: But you shouldn’t get statements out about fear of a holocaust before something happens.
Allon: Whenever you want to visit the Middle East, you are most welcome.
President: I would like to whenever I have the opportunity. I think this meeting was very useful.
Allon: What should we tell the press?[Page 498]
Kissinger: We can say we continued detailed discussions in a friendly atmosphere.
[The statement issued to the press after the meeting is at Tab B]11
- Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, CL 156, Geopolitical File, Israel, January 1975. Secret; Nodis. The meeting was held in the Oval Office at the White House. Brackets are in the original. Allon also met with Kissinger on January 15 from 4 to 4:30 p.m. (Memorandum of conversation, January 15; ibid.) and on January 16 from 11:25 a.m. to 12:55 p.m. (Memorandum of conversation, January 16; National Archives, RG 59, Records of Henry Kissinger, 1973–77, Box 25, CATC, Kissinger Shuttle, Israel-Egypt). They discussed U.S. military assistance to Israel, the Jackson–Vanik amendment, Europe, and the PLO. Allon also met on January 16 with Schlesinger at 9:30 a.m. in Schlesinger’s office at the Pentagon. (Memorandum of conversation., January 16; Washington National Records Center, OSD, FRC 330–79–0058, Israel, January 1975) They discussed Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev’s poor health, the Middle East peace process, and Matmon B. Finally, Allon met with Rockefeller on January 17 from 5:10 p.m. until 6:40 p.m. (Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversations, Box 8, January 17, 1975, Rockefeller, Kissinger, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Yigal Allon) They discussed oil.↩
- Apparently a reference to comments made by Ford that were published in a January Time Magazine interview about the Middle East, which included the remark that the United States has “to judge what is in our national interest above any and all other considerations.” (New York Times, January 13, 1975, p. 14)↩
- See Document 123.↩
- President Ford delivered his State of the Union address on January 15. For text, see Public Papers: Ford, 1974, Book I, pp. 36–46.↩
- Specifically, the Abu Rudeis oil fields in the Sinai, which were under Israeli control.↩
- A reference to Kissinger’s meeting with Asad on May 27; see Document 75.↩
- Tab A is attached but not printed. See footnote 7, Document 126.↩
- See Document 100.↩
- See footnote 4, Document 93.↩
- Paper is not further identified.↩
- Tab B is attached but not printed.↩