187. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • The Secretary
  • Mr. Sisco
  • Mr. Atherton
  • Mr. Saunders
  • Gen. Scowcroft
  • Jerry Bremer, notetaker


  • The Middle East

The Secretary: Let me sum up where I thought we were in March and where I think we are now. The last Israeli proposition in March was a line in the middle of the passes without definition. Secondly, the Egyptians could use the road under UN supervision to Abu Rudeis though it was never clear which road they had in mind. As I understand it (pointing at the map)2 there is only one road open the whole way down.

Atherton: That’s right, the other one needed repairs.

The Secretary: This road is not now being used, however. I think we should get an exact report on the status of this road if we can, please Hal. I’m trying to define precisely where we are. Has Peter found those quotes by the way?

Scowcroft: They will be here in five minutes.

The Secretary: Could he read them to me do you think?

Scowcroft: Sure.

The Secretary: Whatever anyone can argue about what the Israelis told us in March, there can be no question that we told them before March that we considered the passes and oil fields the Sine qua non. (Kissinger takes phone call to Rodman) I asked Rabin whether the Israeli post could be at Kilometer 1 or Kilometer 5. He said I have to look at a map. I certainly made it clear then what my thinking was. There[Page 691]fore, it is perfectly clear that we were talking about each of the passes. They rationalized that the middle because they had no non-belligerency. Since then we’ve made it clear that the evacuation of the passes was the problem. The Israelis then raised the problem of duration, warning stations, and the boycott. When we talked to Sadat, there was no point to make concessions for a line that was within the passes.

Sisco: Absolutely, our assumption was that they would leave the oil fields and the passes.

The Secretary: In March Sadat could have had an agreement with the line in the passes and the UN road to Abu Rudeis oilfield on the basis of what he had. Therefore, when we asked for a three-year commitment with U.S. stations, it was on the assumption that the Israelis would leave the passes.

Now, what is the point of the present visit? Rabin told me that if the Israelis could have the eastern end of the passes, the Egyptians could have the western end of the passes. Therefore, I assumed there was to be some symmetry between the Egyptian and the Israeli positions in the passes. In addition, he agreed to turn this road (pointing to map) over to the Egyptians.

Scowcroft: Initially he was fuzzy about which road.

Sisco: He didn’t pick the road, but he said it was not a line that was up against the mountains.

The Secretary: (reading papers)3 I’m talking about what happened at the second breakfast.4 At any rate, when I briefed the President I was under the same misapprehension as in March—the Israelis accepted the principle of symmetry. Israel would move to the end of the passes. (to Scowcroft) Did you review your notes?

Scowcroft: Yes, that is right.

The Secretary: Do you have close to a verbatim record of it?

Scowcroft: Yes I do.

The Secretary: Well take a look and see how I presented it to the President. Now we have two problems: one of substance and the other of procedure. On procedure, the Israelis had to know that I would not hail as a success their selling for a higher price than what they had been prepared to give us in March.

What is the change in the Israeli position? An Egyptian company here (pointing at Giddi pass). That is Rabin’s pencil mark on the map. It’s about eight kilometers forward of the present line.

[Page 692]

Sisco: But it is dominated by the high ground.

The Secretary: The Israelis would move to the middle of the Giddi pass, they’d give Egypt this position on the Mitla. In other words, they want the slope of the mountain range.

Atherton: What do they want there?

The Secretary: A fortified defense line. In addition, they will give us this road and draw the line north of the road. It’s not shown exactly, but it would be here (pointing to map), parallel to this road. In effect, the Israelis are returning the road they were going to keep and giving up a road they’re not using.

Sisco: We did ask them to consider having a demilitarized zone.

The Secretary: They are willing to make it all a UN zone.

Atherton: Where do the Israelis want to go to?

The Secretary: (pointing at map) Here to this mountain range. But they would be permitted to use this road. They’ll have this road.

The improvement in the Egyptian position compared to March is in these two companies. Since Egypt didn’t know where the line would be before, it’s hard for us to sell it to them as an improvement.

Scowcroft: But the crests are the key point.

The Secretary: In the Giddi pass, there is no improvement though I suppose you could say there is a slight improvement in the Mitla. They want to be on the down slope of the ridges similar to the position they took on the hills around Kunitra. That’s their doctrine. The defensive position is not on top but on the down slope.

Now, I have a number of concerns. When Sadat met with the President,5 he had every reason to believe that the President would make a monumental effort with Israel which, however, has produced no operational change within the passes—two companies forward of their line. The Giddi one is unsaleable as being inside the pass.

Sisco: It’s very difficult.

The Secretary: In the Mitla, they could sell it as being inside the pass.

Atherton: They are forward of where they thought they would be in March.

Sisco: If you’re putting the best face on it, that’s what you’d emphasize.

Atherton: Plus the road.

[Page 693]

The Secretary: First of all, I think there is also a psychological problem. I must say that there was again a clear pattern of deception. Joe, you were at both the meetings.

Sisco: I’ve been to all of them except the first breakfast.

The Secretary: Did you have the impression at any of the meetings that they’d hold a position deep inside the passes?

Sisco: No. At the mouth or at the entrance with the UN inside—that was my impression.

Scowcroft: You presented it to the President that for domestic purposes they had to say they had troops at the entrance of the passes.

The Secretary: When we reviewed it Wednesday night,6 it was to draw the lines so that you couldn’t tell. Now I tell you there’s a pattern of deception in Rabin. He’s unlike Golda. It was not in our interest to kid ourselves. If I’d have understood it, I could have turned the President the other way. I could have told him that they were reselling the March proposal in return for three years. He’d have gone through the ceiling and we would have had a brutal session Thursday morning.7 I could have turned him either way. (Secretary’s interrupted for a phone call)

First we have this deception. Analytically the objective change is the movement forward of two companies. There is no change in the passes and the change in the road to Abu Rudeis does not change the Israeli position but makes it possible for Egypt to get access. If Sadat is drooling for this agreement and wants the $450 million,8 he can pretend that the two companies give him what he wants. But, substantively it won’t fool him. He’s a very bright man on these things. He would feel that a brutal bargain is being produced here.

Scowcroft: And this is the result of a major effort on our part.

The Secretary: It’s hard for Egypt to understand how a country who gets everything from us gives this little. This is then coupled with a 3½ year moratorium, two U.S. army stations on Egyptian soil.

I think there’s also the possibility that Sadat will react as in the December proposals, he will say it is an insult and an outrage and why even send it to him. Roy, which reaction do you think he’ll have?

Atherton: I think he wants the oil revenue pretty badly. But I’m not sure if he needs it badly enough.

[Page 694]

Sisco: Let’s try it on Hermann. I think you need a commitment from Rabin tomorrow. We’ve analyzed it but are disappointed. If we decide to present it, we’ll do it fairly.

The Secretary: The President has already said that we will only present it and not support it.

Sisco: When we come back to see where we are, we still have the card of our own proposal.

The Secretary: But one problem of the professional negotiators is they become obsessed with negotiations. If we tell Sadat this isn’t the last word, he’ll reject it. Hermann should present it with no explanation and await Sadat’s candid views. This we know we can get now. Get his reaction from it and if he accepts it, OK.

My estimate of Golda and Rabin is different. Golda was tough but honorable. Rabin is basically a chisler and he hasn’t played us fairly. For example, in the February breakfast9 he said “if you do what you want, we’ll have to leave this space.” (pointing to map) “It will cost you several hundred million. Will you help?” I said, “We’ll do our damnedest.” In March, I asked Dinitz, “How could he say that?”

I know Rabin is a chisler and he’s not honorable. He owed it to us Thursday morning to say what he meant by the middle of the passes. He should have said “It’s a line on the far slope of the mountain range.” No one cares where the line is; it is the slope of the mountain that matters.

Sisco: Gazit used the phrase “the end of the passes.”

The Secretary: Peter just read the quotes of the end of the passes. The east end of the passes is anything that’s not the west end of the passes. Now he didn’t technically lie.

Have we found anything out about their reports that Allon visited Kiev?

Scowcroft: We’re trying to confirm whatever data we have.

The Secretary: I’m going to start tomorrow saying we have what looks like reliable intelligence data that Allon met with Gromyko. Did he? Joe, your wrinkle of having them tell me that this is not their last word is useless.

The President called him last night10 and said he was extremely disappointed—that it was not his understanding. He said, “I cannot support it with Egypt or with the U.S. people.” Rabin said to him, “I can [Page 695] hold to the agreement you and I made yesterday morning—I won’t give up the eastern passes.” The President, in other words, is being stonewalled and treated as curtly on the phone as ever. The President asked Brent to send Dinitz a message for Rabin to say, “I want you to know that what you presented to Henry Friday11 was not my understanding and I consider my phone call a request for a new position from you.”

I’m glad he did it because they will report that I had changed his mind and backed the President off it. Tomorrow I think I will start the meeting asking what I can report to the President.

Scowcroft: I’d go a step further and ask them if they have anything further to discuss and if they don’t, I wouldn’t even have the meeting.

The Secretary: No, I can’t do that.

Sisco: No, I don’t think that’s desirable. It’s been announced now.

The Secretary: Yes. It’s announced. We can play it cool. Brent just has his Mormon temper up.

Scowcroft: You bet. I really think we’ve been had.

Sisco: Well, it does shake you.

The Secretary: Joe, let’s not forget we left Israel with a bad taste last time in March. We were not treated honorably and we were very much disappointed with the outcome.

This time we acted in good faith. I gave the press conference. I gave a very warm toast Thursday night.12 Rabin would have let us ride this through until we presented the wrong things to the Egyptians and got caught in some kind of a shuttle. We went through all of the papers on Page 7—this was Thursday night—we had checked everything. We went through all of it and at the end I said, “Can I give you my interpretations? We have to understand that the passes does not mean the middle of the passes, the way it was in March. It has to be different from the March proposal.” (Secretary reads from the memcon) You can see I had to drag it out of them. Rabin said, “We’ll have to draw on the map.” “What I have in mind is the defense line to control the entire eastern ridge.” I asked, “Do you mean you want to be on top of the ridge?” Now this is the first time I finally understood it. The reason I’m raising this is an honorable man would have said it earlier. If I had not beaten him back step by step to the meaning of “end of the passes”—if I had quit where he says he means “at the entrance” we’d have been in trouble.

[Page 696]

Sisco: What did he say to the President?

The Secretary: Do you have the memcon with you Brent?

Scowcroft: No.

The Secretary: (reading memcon) Here, Thursday morning.13 “Eastern end” “entrance” Let’s look at Wednesday, what did he say then. (reading memcon) There is nothing here.14

The fact is it’s like saying—get out of the passes. There are two possibilities. One, that Sadat is so hungry for the 450 million and eager that he’ll accept this. The counter argument is that he explained the breakdown in March in terms of getting Israel out of the passes. Qadaffi won’t let him show he did that. Israel won’t let him show it.

Sisco: Oh no, they’ll crow all over the place.

The Secretary: I suppose if he’s desperate, he could say he got an Egyptian presence in the passes. He can do that.

Scowcroft: We’ll pay quite a price with Sadat though.

The Secretary: But even then we’re not out of the woods. Israel will say, give us a three year letter. He may be willing to do that since the letter is phony.

Sisco: I think he’s rightly cynical about that.

The Secretary: If the Israelis weren’t such SOBs we wouldn’t have this problem. Supposing Sadat indignantly rejects it, and I think that’s a 50–50 possibility. With this agreement, he couldn’t sit still and let the Syrians take it. Then we have three choices. When we get his rejection, we can convey it to the Israelis who will move back a kilometer or two or we can try to cut the Gordian knot with the U.S. interim proposal to both of them and make them turn it down or we can give up on the interim and go to the overall.

Sisco: Yes.

The Secretary: The problem of putting up a U.S. plan is if the Israelis accept it—which I don’t exclude—we’d be in hock forever to them. Anything that went wrong then would be forever our mistake. The problem with the overall is . . .

Sisco: . . . The possibility of war in 1976. Of course we don’t have to answer that right now.

The Secretary: No, but we have to be thinking about it. We will run out of time anyway because I’ve accepted July 7 and 8 for my meetings with Gromyko and I don’t see how we can get the back of this broken by July 7. If we haven’t, then we should agree with Gromyko to con[Page 697]vene Geneva at some time in the future with an announcement to that effect.

Sisco: You can decide with the President shortly before the Gromyko meeting.

The Secretary: Well, I want everyone here to think about whether we should do a U.S. plan on the interim. Roy, what do you think?

Atherton: I think it’s risky. If we do and Sadat accepts it and the Israelis don’t, we will look very impotent to Sadat. If they both accept, the price of Israel will be very high.

The Secretary: What about the aid in this sequence? At some point, the President has to put the record of negotiations out and you and I have to brief it. He will have to say that under the circumstances, he can’t ask increased aid for Israel and we’ll have to put out our full assessment of their military strength.

Scowcroft: They have to be aware of that.

Atherton: Our proposal would have to get the Israelis out of the passes and the Israelis will reject that.

The Secretary: We could put them to the entrance off the slope anyway.

Atherton: I would be surprised if they’d accept that.

The Secretary: The duplicity of it. If they were willing to move out of the passes for non-belligerency, they would certainly do it for non-use of force.

Sisco: Here’s the checklist for tonight.

The Secretary: Yes. Is there any disagreement with the analysis?

Sisco: On the U.S. Plan, I really think that’s risky but my judgment is that the advantage is, even if it’s rejected, we’re no more impotent than if this fails. In terms of being held responsible, there’s a shade of difference because pushing them off the slope hurts their defense.

The Secretary: What will happen tomorrow is that they will give us a slightly better line than yesterday because they can’t afford not to respond to the President, but it won’t change the essence.

Scowcroft: I would pay no attention to it if it doesn’t get them back off the ridge.

The Secretary: What’s your view, Roy?

Atherton: Sadat just might accept it because of the importance of the oil fields but the price down the road is too much.

The Secretary: How will Sadat look in the Arab world with a sliver down the coast? Maybe it’s better than nothing.

Atherton: That’s our only hope.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, CL 346, State Department Memorandum of Conversations, Internal, June 1975. Secret; Sensitive.
  2. Map is not attached.
  3. Papers not further identified.
  4. See footnote 4, Document 184.
  5. See Documents 177 and 178.
  6. June 11. See footnote 2, Document 184.
  7. See footnote 4, Document 184.
  8. A reference to the $450 million in U.S. aid promised to Egypt as part of a second disengagement agreement.
  9. Apparently a reference to a February 11 breakfast meeting between Rabin and Kissinger. See footnote 2, Document 131.
  10. Ford and Rabin spoke on the telephone from 9:35 to 9:57 p.m. (Ford Library, Staff Secretary’s Office Files, President’s Daily Diary) No transcript of the June 13 telephone conversation has been found.
  11. Apparently a reference to the 5 p.m. meeting on June 13. See footnote 3, Document 185.
  12. No transcript of Kissinger’s toast at a dinner at the Israeli Embassy has been found.
  13. Presumably at the breakfast meeting with Kissinger. See footnote 4, Document 184.
  14. See Document 183.