157. 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.

“1. The Israeli cabinet completed five hours of discussion today, and we were informed later this evening by Rabin and his colleagues that the cabinet made no new modifications in the Israeli position and reaffirmed the position previously conveyed to us.2

2. Your letter arrived before the end of the cabinet meeting,3 and we understand it was read to the entire cabinet. From my two hours of discussions alone with Rabin, Allon and Peres, it was clear that the letter had shaken them and all three seemed to be beginning to realize the consequences of Israeli intransigence. As a result, Rabin asked that no suspension of the talks be announced, and that they will think matters over tomorrow. We will reconvene again at 6:00 P.M. Israeli time Saturday.4

3. My impression continues to be that the three key members of the negotiating team want an agreement, particularly in the aftermath of your letter, but they do not seem to know how to get out of the hole domestically they have dug for themselves. Sadat has given them two options: Egyptian forces would be in the western part of the passes while Israeli forces would be in the eastern part of the passes; or alternatively, the forces of neither side being in the passes with the UN taking it over in its entirety. Israel finds both these proposals unacceptable and has offered a smaller withdrawal largely because they have nailed themselves to such a position domestically. As to the oil fields, Israel is willing to give Egypt a small enclave within Israeli controlled territory. Sadat is equally insistent that the area along the Gulf of Suez, including the Abu Rudeis oil fields, should be a UN buffer zone in which neither side’s forces are located. He feels he cannot have Egyptians cross Israeli territory to get to the oil fields. We have not been able to bridge the gap, and I do not expect the Israelis to come up with anything significantly [Page 555] new tomorrow night. In the meantime, I am canvassing Sadat again to see whether he has any new suggestions which might help eliminate the deadlock. The tragedy is that Israel knows it must have an agreement and yet is paralyzed by its domestic politics. We may be witnessing the twilight of democracy.”

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Kissinger Reports on USSR, China, and Middle East, Box 4, March 7–March 22, 1975, Volume II (8), Kissinger’s Trip. Secret; Sensitive. Ford initialed the memorandum.
  2. A memorandum of conversation of the meeting between the Israeli negotiating team and Kissinger, which took place on March 21 from 10:10 p.m. until 12:10 a.m. at the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem, is ibid. There is also a memorandum of conversation of a previous meeting that afternoon from 1:45 until 4 p.m. (Ibid., Volume II (7), Kissinger’s Trip)
  3. Document 156.
  4. March 22.