143. Memorandum From the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft) to President Ford1

Secretary Kissinger asked that I pass you the following report of the second round of talks he has had with Prime Minister Rabin and his Cabinet colleagues.

“I have just completed another round of talks with Prime Minister Rabin and his Cabinet colleagues.2 I can report no decisive change in the Israeli position, because Rabin at this point does not want to put decisions to the Cabinet because he is not confident of their reaction. Rabin himself seems flexible. They have, however, given me some ideas to take back to Sadat—enough to keep the negotiations going. Rabin has a delicate domestic situation, and he is trying to handle it in such a way that when he recommends Israeli withdrawal from passes and the oil fields, he will have enough from Sadat in return to get the agreement through the Cabinet and the Parliament.

“My strategy will be to try to present the Israeli ideas to Sadat in the most positive way and then to return to Israel to see whether we can begin to reflect some of the key points in a document which I then would try out on Sadat in the next round.

“As our discussions become more specific, it is becoming clear that the two most difficult issues that will have to be reconciled in an Israeli-Egyptian agreement are:

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“(A) Israeli insistence that Sadat commit himself publicly in some way that he will never again resort to military action against Israel, which Sadat says he cannot do so long as Israel remains in occupation of Egyptian territory, and

“(B) Israel’s desire for an interim agreement to specify a longer duration than Sadat considers politically possible. In addition, the Israeli-Egyptian negotiating process is taking place against a background of uncertainty as to what Asad of Syria may try to do to prevent Sadat from concluding a separate agreement plus King Faisal’s support for simultaneous Egyptian and Syrian agreements.

“We had a military briefing this morning which shows that the Egyptian dispositions are such that they could launch a limited military operation aimed at the passes if a decision were taken. General Gur, the Israeli Chief of Staff, also gave us a military evaluation of the Syrian capacity, and it is clear that the Israelis feel that the situation there potentially is more dangerous and that the most likely alternative they would face in circumstances of an unsuccessful negotiation would be a war of attrition designed to bleed Israel for an extended period.

“I also plan on making stops in Damascus and Jordan sometime this coming weekend, largely to try to keep everybody calm.”

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Kissinger Reports on USSR, China, and Middle East, Box 3, March 7–March 22, 1975, Volume 1.1 (5), Kissinger’s Trip. Secret; Sensitive. Sent for information. Ford initialed the memorandum.
  2. A memorandum of conversation of the meeting between the Israeli negotiating team and Kissinger, which took place on March 11 from 10:10 until 11:40 p.m. at the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem, is ibid. They met again on March 12 from 10:13 a.m. until 12:15 p.m. at the Prime Minister’s office. (Memorandum of conversation; ibid., Volume 1.1 (6), Kissinger’s Trip)