131. Memorandum From the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft) to President Ford 1

The following is a report of Secretary Kissinger’s initial discussions with the Israelis:

“1. I have just completed intensive discussions with Prime Minister Rabin and his two key members of the Israeli negotiating team, Allon and Peres. After a three-hour dinner meeting last night, I met with Rabin alone at breakfast for an hour this morning, followed by three hours with the Prime Minister and his entire negotiating team, followed by a two-hour work lunch at which Rabin included most of the other key cabinet members, and concluding with an additional two hour session in the afternoon.2 I capped off the day with a brief courtesy call on President Katzir 3 who is scheduled to see you in Washington on March 3.

“2. I found a rather curious, and in my judgment, somewhat contrived surface calm both in public opinion as reflected in the Israeli press and in Rabin, Allon and Peres. I have the impression that below the surface there is a deep concern particularly regarding the long range situation that confronts Israel in the area. There seems also to be uncertainty among the leadership, in the aftermath of several recent Congressional visits here, as to how much support for Israel in the U.S. has eroded.

“3. In one way I was encouraged, in another way less so. I was impressed with the manner in which Rabin handled the work luncheon with the key cabinet members. It was obvious that he was using me during the extensive question and answer period to make the arguments in favor of a second stage agreement with Egypt. There seem to [Page 506] be differences of view in the cabinet; some contending that the step-by-step approach subjects Israel to an unacceptable salami tactic. In a sense, it almost seems that the Israeli Government is in a state of indecision and is looking to us to help crystallize opinion here. Nevertheless, just twenty-four hours before I arrived, the Israeli cabinet took a decision endorsing the step-by-step approach, but I have the distinct impression that some here see in the Geneva Conference an opportunity to maintain the present impasse. This view I believe underestimates seriously the kinds of pressures which Israel would be put under at any Geneva conference, particularly should our present effort fail. To avoid being put in a position where the prospect of going to Geneva could be used as pressure on us, I made clear Geneva holds no terrors for us and we are prepared to go either way.

“4. As you know, it is not my intention during this current week’s trip to press for definitive decisions on the elements of an agreement either from Israel or from Egypt. While Rabin has given me the impression at the cabinet luncheon that he was preparing the groundwork for an agreement, I am less encouraged by the specific positions taken by the Israelis. Rabin adhered tenaciously to the view that in the absence of more specific indications from Egypt as to what it is willing to give for withdrawal, he was unable and unwilling to go beyond the 30–50 kilometer withdrawal decided upon by the cabinet some weeks ago and which would exclude the Gidi and Mitla passes and the Abu Rudeis oil fields.

“5. Rabin said in an ABC interview a few days ago that Israeli willingness to withdraw east of the passes and out of the oil fields is conditioned upon Egyptian commitment to end all acts of belligerency. To put it in Israeli words, ‛We want in an exchange for such a withdrawal, that Egypt effectively is taken out of the war.’ Not only are the Israelis continuing to insist upon an Egyptian commitment to non-belligerency, but also are pressing for an agreement of at least ten years in duration. I made clear that the kind of time frame they have in mind is unattainable since Sadat would not be able to agree to put the Sinai on ice for a decade without being vulnerable to the charge in the Arab world that he made a de facto peace with Israel.

“6. While I did not indicate this to the Israelis, there are some other quid pro quos which they mentioned which may prove achievable. To give you a little fuller flavor of the points which the Israelis emphasized I cite the following. They want the interim agreement linked to future negotiations for an overall settlement with Egypt; they insist that there can be no linking of the Egyptian-Israeli agreement to negotiations with other Arab countries, meaning Syria in particular. They want the document containing the agreement signed by both sides which should cause no real difficulty; they want the political dimensions of the agree[Page 507]ment clearly in the public domain as reflected, for example, in their desire to have civilians sign it rather than military. They insist that there must be no recognition or negotiations with the PLO and on this point I reassured them.

“7. As to the Geneva Conference, Rabin said that regardless of the fact that they adopted a positive public posture ‛of not being afraid of Geneva,’ they are really against such a conference unless the present stage with Egypt can be successfully achieved. Peres and some others seem more disposed to go to Geneva in lieu of the present step-by-step approach. The Israelis want it to be a prolonged conference which would not achieve results but would become an instrumentality of deterrence against renewal of hostilities.

“8. It is clear from what I have reported to you that the Israelis are taking a hard line and some of their views were ambiguous and contradictory. I am inclined to feel that Rabin and Allon would like to get the agreement, but they are trying to exact the highest possible price from Sadat which raises the serious question as to whether Sadat can meet the principal Israeli considerations.

“9. I made clear that we will continue to be helpful in the step-by-step approach but if these negotiations fail, we are prepared to go to Geneva even in the difficult climate that will exist after such a failure. I pointed out that it would likely prove necessary for the U.S. to make its substantive position clear at such a Geneva Conference—possibly in the form of some disassociation from the Israeli position—in order to protect our overall interests—i.e., not being totally isolated from our western allies; avoiding a serious deterioration in relationships between the U.S. and USSR, and avoiding jeopardizing our economic and financial interests in the Arab world. I believe I have given the Israelis a good deal to think about. I go to Cairo tomorrow to meet with Sadat and then to Damascus, following which I will return to Israel on Thursday4 to report the results of the discussion in these two Arab capitals.

“10. Upon my return and in light of the full discussions with the Israelis and Egyptians, we will have to decide on just what elements we should insist upon for inclusion in the agreement. Recalling our conversation on this whole matter, I made it very clear to the Israelis that in our view a stalemate is unacceptable.”

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, CL 157, Geopolitical File, Israel, February 1–11, 1975. Secret. Sent for information.
  2. No memorandum of conversation has been found of a February 10 dinner meeting or a February 11 breakfast meeting between Rabin and Kissinger. There is a memorandum of conversation of the meeting between the Israeli negotiating team and Kissinger, which took place on February 11 from 10:15 a.m. until 12:45 p.m. at the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem. (National Archives, RG 59, Records of Henry Kissinger, 1973–77, Box 22, Classified External Memcons, December 1974 to April 1975, Folder 5) There is also a memorandum of conversation of a luncheon between Israeli Cabinet members and Kissinger that took place on February 11 at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem. (Ibid., Box 10, Nodis Memcons, February 1975, Folder 4) The memorandum of conversation of the concluding session between Kissinger and the Israeli negotiating team, which took place on February 11 from 4:10 until 6:05 p.m. at the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem, is ibid., Box 22, Classified External Memcons, December 1974–April 1975, Folder 5.
  3. No memorandum of conversation of this meeting has been found.
  4. February 13.