129. Memorandum of Conversation1
- President Ford
- Mr. Max Fisher
- Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
- Amb. Donald Rumsfeld, Assistant to the President
- Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
- Mr. Fisher’s Report on His Talks in Israel
Fisher: Let me give you a feeling for my visit. I met with Rabin, Peres, Allon, Rabinovitch and Dayan. (He will be a power again, I know). All of them have a great deal of confidence in Henry. [to Kissinger:] I know you get aggravated, but you should know that.
This feeling of urgency—Rabin is committed to the step-by-step approach, but he was badly shaken by Percy’s statement on the PLO.2 Something should be done about that.[Page 501]
Kissinger: They are stupid to make us keep reaffirming that. Our position is firm. To repeat it makes us look insecure. But I’ll do it again.
Fisher: You don’t have to convince me.
Kissinger: Percy was totally on his own. None of us even talked to him.
President: We didn’t even know he was going.
Rumsfeld: This problem comes from Percy’s comments to the Jewish group that the Administration supports him.
Fisher: There is no doubt in my mind about your policy. Rabin is still worried about Golda and Dayan in the background.
He does feel that Egypt will keep its word. That is an important confidence factor.
If you would see Golda . . . I didn’t. I told Dayan that in 1970 he asked me to convey a step-by-step proposal to you [Kissinger].
Kissinger: Three or four months ago he felt strongly that way. He is changing now that he is going back into politics.
Fisher: The issue is the quid pro quo. They desperately need time. I told them on the oil thing they should look for an assured supply from the U.S. They mentioned the Shah. If it is possible to break the economic boycott by having Egypt keep selling the oil to Israel after the return of the fields, that would be a big move. They feel this boycott badly.
On the issue of aid and the letter from Nixon,3 I told them that there is a much better chance to get it, with the present Congressional attitude, in the euphoria of a settlement. I expressed the urgency to move. And they are shaken by the economic circumstances in the U.S.
Rabin is playing his cards close to the vest but he is okay. Peres is a tough nut to crack. He won’t back Rabin. He said he would be willing to go all the way with Egypt if Israel could get what it wants. He won’t oppose a move but he will put himself into a position where if it fails, he will look good.
Allon is fine.
Kissinger: Will Dayan oppose it?
Fisher: He wants to get back into power. But I told him this program was his idea in ’70. I wish he was in the government.
Kissinger: He would be terrific in the Cabinet. He was before.
Fisher: The opposition is not too bad because the Sinai doesn’t involve the religious problems.[Page 502]
Kissinger: I will see Dayan and Golda in Israel.
Fisher: They are very sensitive on several things: One is Percy; two is the need for continued aid.
President: There is no question that if there is no movement, selling aid to the Congress will be difficult if not impossible.
Kissinger: Dupont4 told me the first thing he wants is to cut Israeli aid in half.
Fisher: I think it is important that the arms promised be delivered on time. That confidence is important.
Kissinger: Everything has been.
Fisher: On Geneva, it is those out of government or those who want to gain time who are pushing it.
They have confidence in the President. They are reluctant to show their hand. I said both of you are friends, but that they better grab any opening.
President: You are convinced that all of them but Peres are convinced something has to be done and they are willing to move?
Fisher: Yes. They understand. They will be tough bargainers but they feel the U.S. is their friend.
President: Do you think they may just be trying to create a favorable attitude but then they won’t move and say they tried?
Fisher: No. They are defensive. But the people are now more willing to follow Rabin.
Kissinger: That depends on what Dayan does. Golda I can get under control. I can strengthen Dayan too.
Fisher: With this, there is a feeling that Egypt has kept its word. I don’t know what you can do with Dayan, but he is key.
Kissinger: I better see him before he gets set. If he were Prime Minister, we would be all set.
President: Is he in the Knesset?
Kissinger: Yes. But he is the leader of the Rafi, which is the right wing of the governing party. If it hadn’t been for ’73, he would have replaced Golda. He has great imagination and courage. But he’s mercurial and wild—like the others in their domestic politics. He said to me last fall that Israel had to do whatever was necessary in the Sinai to get Egypt off its back.
Fisher: They feel they made a mistake on the West Bank. Now they are hoping the situation will drop back toward Jordan. If you could see Dayan . . .
Kissinger: I will.[Page 503]
Fisher: The American Jewish community is more tense than the Israeli community. Henry needs to meet with the leaders after his trip. But the Israeli leaders know it is important; they have an economic problem . . .
Kissinger: Whatever you can do with the American Jewish leaders. If we go to Geneva, the first question we face will be the PLO. If we go to Geneva with a success behind us, the Arabs will look to us. If we go after a defeat, it will be a bear-baiting exercise.
Fisher: I am getting a group together to do what I can. Do the Egyptians show signs of willingness to move?
Kissinger: Yes. But the key is the facts that another settlement produces; that is the real progress. We can get some other details, but a fixed time will be difficult for Sadat to accept. I haven’t sat down with Sadat. I have to ask him what is the best he can do.
- Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversations, Box 9, February 5, 1975, Ford, Kissinger, Max Fisher. Secret; Nodis. The meeting was held in the White House. Brackets are in the original.↩
- On January 25, Senator Charles H. Percy, having just returned from a trip to the Middle East, stated that Israeli leaders were not realistic if they believed they could avoid contact with the PLO. He also asserted that there were limits to how much the United States could support Israel. (New York Times, January 29, 1975, p. 3)↩
- See Document 87.↩
- Apparently Pierre “Pete” Du Pont, Republican Congressman from Delaware.↩