188. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Israeli Side
  • Prime Minister Rabin
  • Ambassador Dinitz
  • Mordecai Gazit
  • Minister Shalev
  • U.S. Side
  • Secretary Kissinger
  • Under Secretary Sisco
  • Ambassador Toon
  • Deputy Under Secretary Eagleburger

Secretary: Is the press coming in?

Rabin: Yes. Since they already knew of the meeting . . .

Secretary: No, no, That’s OK.

I need not ask if you had an active day.

Dinitz: We had a crowd of more than 2,300 people—the largest crowd ever.

Rabin: And whenever I said anything negative—whew!

Secretary: Especially when you said something against our Government.

Dinitz: No, no.

Rabin: Well, let’s start. As you know, we had another terrorist attack last night.2

Secretary: Yes. I wanted to express our regret.

Rabin: The town was one settled by immigrants from India mainly. They are very nice people. They have done very well. They became very good farmers.

Secretary: Do they look like Indians?

Rabin: Generally, yes they do look like Indians.

[Page 699]

Secretary: Do they act like Indians?

Rabin: No, they act much better than that.

Sisco: Don’t you have an Indian orchestra conductor?

Secretary: That’s Mehta. He’s not Jewish; I know him well and he is a good friend of mine.

Rabin: The terrorists went into a home. The owner was out; there were four terrorists, all were killed. But the father—the man who was out of the house and returned—was killed. One son was killed, too. A woman and a baby were wounded but are not critical.

I want you to know that the village of Shuba, in Lebanon but close to the border, was attacked by some of our planes and artillery because we know there is a concentration of terrorists there.

Can we now go back to the subject at hand.

Secretary: Before we do that, I have one question to ask. We have had reports to which we would otherwise attach considerable importance that Foreign Minister Allon while in Bucharest took a side trip to the Soviet Union or met with Soviet officials.

Rabin: Not to the best of my knowledge. Romania would be the worst place from which to do something like that.

Secretary: We don’t object to contacts, but we do have . . .

Rabin: As I told you, I met with the Russians. In the meeting I had with them nothing was changed. Perhaps there was a better atmosphere, but except for words, nothing much was different. They gave me a long talk about the role of the Soviet Union in the creation of Israel, Russian support for Israel during its first year, and said that they would support peace in return for our total withdrawal and the creation of a Palestinian state. Admittedly they did say that once we accepted withdrawals, there could be some changes in the lines.

Secretary: Gromyko said that to me, too.

Rabin: They also said they were prepared to give guarantees to the safety of Israel. But they said that it’s up to us.

Secretary: Well, we have a lot of collateral intelligence, not clearly related to Allon . . . but I accept your assurance. I don’t see what’s in it for the Soviets either as far as that’s concerned.

Rabin: They said they wanted to continue communications through this channel.

Secretary: So, there were no meetings with members of Allon’s party; Allon didn’t meet with the Soviets, or travel somewhere to meet with the Soviets? I want to make sure that I don’t fail to ask the right question.

Rabin: No, nothing.

Secretary: OK. Let’s go to our business.

[Page 700]

Rabin: As I’m sure you know, I got a telephone call from the President.3

Secretary: Yes, he told me.

Rabin: I believe that in response all I can say here is to give you a map, go back to Israel, and talk first with the other two Ministers who are on the negotiating team. There might be, might be, certain slight changes. But in my opinion we can’t change the principle.

I understand you wanted two maps. We only have two and I need to take one back with me.

I am not prepared for detailed discussion of a kilometer or kilometer and a half here and there.

All I can do is take the President’s word back. I will be home about midnight Monday.4 Tuesday morning I will have discussions with the team; and Tuesday afternoon there will be a Cabinet meeting; on Wednesday I can notify Simcha and perhaps send him a map.

Secretary: We were planning on sending Eilts back to Cairo on Wednesday afternoon. I plan to see Gromyko on July 7 and 8 and we will set our course by then.

Before I look at it (the map) you have to understand that as a result of our breakfast I briefed the President to the effect that you were prepared to give one end of the passes to Israel and one end to Egypt.5 His Thursday behavior has to be seen in the context of a belief that there was a substantial change in your position.

Rabin: I believe there is.

Secretary: Then on Thursday evening and Friday I learned that there was not much change in your position on the passes.

Rabin: We made very clear to the President what we wanted.

Secretary: It was not clear to me, it was not clear to Sisco. When we met Thursday afternoon,6 we on our side started on the basis of the belief that Egypt and Israel would each hold ends of the passes. Whatever your records show, there is no question that we on our side had a different perception. Either you tried to trick us or there was another misunderstanding—we seem to have many of those these days.

[Page 701]

In any event, I want you to understand that the President’s meeting with you was geared to a conception which we have now had to change as a result of later discussions with you.

Rabin: We have worked together many years. Never were there so many misunderstandings. I can’t recall other misunderstandings.

Secretary: You must ask why should Joe, Brent Scowcroft and I all have so substantial a misunderstanding. You are right. We never used to have misunderstandings with the Israeli Government.

Well, let’s look at the map.

(Rabin shows map to the Secretary)

Rabin: The line went here.

Secretary: Where?

Rabin: Here.

Secretary: Well, since we never got a line from you in March, I can’t judge that.

Rabin: Let me repeat:

The area of thinning out would be between the Canal and the blue line. Our area would be this one (pointing to map). It is not symmetrical all the way. But there would be the same size of force. There might be some increase in the number of tanks but I cannot agree to any sizable increase of their forces East of the Canal in an interim agreement.

70–75 tanks—this is not an issue.

There is a question of the road. I know they need one. But I can’t describe the arrangements in detail. Sometimes there are two roads. We will have to find a solution to that problem.

Secretary: To what problem?

Rabin: I understand the basic principle. They need a road.

Secretary: One not also used by the Israelis.

Rabin: I understand.

Secretary: (looking at map) They will claim you’re keeping all of the Gidi.

Rabin: This sector (pointing to southern sector of map) is not separated because we have built a road but in case of war it would be separated.

Our logistical and warning posts are here—here in the center.

And we have our logistics here (pointing to northern sector of map). All of this is backed by a complex here (pointing to center rear of map).

Secretary: There is no line here (pointing to map)?

Rabin: No. We will have to work this out. We don’t want misunderstandings on this.

[Page 702]

Secretary: How will you get me a map? Will you send someone?

Rabin: Yes.

Sisco: Then we should hold Hermann7 back.

Is there anything further we should know now?

Rabin: I don’t want to say any more now. I have heard the President and have to discuss matters with my Chief of Staff.

Secretary: The forces in these two areas would be symmetrical (pointing to map). In effect there would be about 7,500 in the whole area (southern sector of map).

As the President told you, we will transmit your proposals to the Egyptians without recommendation.

Rabin: He said more; he said it would be transmitted without your support.

Dinitz: That was told us by Scowcroft.

Secretary: Oh, yes. The President went to Ft. Benning;8 he talked with Brent before he left.

Let me sum up our view:

We will debate forever whether we had reason to believe before March that you might be prepared to leave the passes. I see no purpose to discuss that further.

But there can be no question that we have undeviatingly pointed out that no agreement is possible without Israeli withdrawals from the oil fields and the passes. Our judgment may be wrong—it has been before—but this is the context in which we see it.

Therefore, after the March negotiations, we wrote off the interim agreement route, though we did stall on Geneva independently of you. Then, and I must say never really through any formal communications from you, interest seemed to revive in the interim agreement route.

It was clear when the President talked to Sadat,9 asking him for a new Egyptian proposal, that there had to be in the President’s mind—and admittedly in mine as well—a conviction that something might yet be possible.

But I do not see how anyone can expect to ask the Egyptians that they pay an additional price now beyond what they had been prepared to pay in March for nothing more than this nebulous road which will take a year’s work to make passable.

[Page 703]

Rabin: The road is being used by us.

Secretary: We may be wrong but our intelligence tells us that it ends halfway down. Also parts of it are unusable and there is no question that it is in difficult topography.

Rabin: That is true.

Secretary: Let’s suppose it is usable; it will still be necessary to construct a road from here (pointing to map) to Abu Rudeis.

But that seems to be the new part of the proposal: your offer of a road.

Rabin: And that Egyptian forces would be permitted at what we consider the West end of the passes.

Secretary: But that will be no change for the Egyptians since we only told them the middle of the passes anyway. Also, as to the listening station, they already knew of this so when you proposed it, the Egyptians had to assume that your line was behind it.

To be frank, when Gamasy sees this, I can tell you that it is my estimate he will only believe you put the line where you would have anyway. Once we said to them that you would move to the middle of the passes, we can’t argue with the Egyptians that what you now have is a change.

The two companies would be the only other change.

The only other thing is this road which I can’t adequately explain.

It is a complex position. Sadat may be desperate enough that he will take these two cosmetic changes and try to make something out of them. But you know that they could not hold out for 15 minutes here if there were a war.

Rabin: True. But this establishes a presence for them.

Secretary: Right. It may be politically and symbolically useful. But it is certainly not militarily useful.

In any event, this doesn’t change our position with Sadat. We have had extensive talks with him trying to change his position and now you ask us to get a three to three and a half year commitment, the thing on the boycott, and the warning station—and to do all that for two companies. That is what it comes down to.

If it were our strategy to drive the Soviets out, a very good way to do so would be by frustrating their allies by demonstrating how ineffective they are. The opposite can also be argued—it may well be that we will end up by driving Sadat or his successor in the direction of pushing us out of the Middle East. What we have here is not an impressive performance by the United States if all we can do is get this little bit.

I will tell you what we will do:

[Page 704]

We will send this to the Egyptians without comment. That will be my recommendation. We will not support it, recommend it, or argue against it.

If the negotiation fails, we will wash our hands of interim agreements. We cannot support this or argue for it. This is out of the context of our previous conversations but it is essentially the same thing that we had in March.

What happens later we will have to discuss when the time comes. But you should understand that as you said you would protect your interests, so will we protect ours. What I am saying now has been checked with the President and reflects his views.

Rabin: You must bear in mind that an interim agreement is for a limited time. You must believe that we will give the oil fields and withdrawing only in return for time.

Secretary: I know that a non use of force agreement can be violated, but it surely would improve your position then.

Rabin: It won’t be violated by Israel. It will be done by the Egyptians, in regard to what will be done after the interim agreement. It will occur over an argument over an over-all agreement and will be linked to a stalemate over those negotiations. No one can foresee today what the circumstances might be.

Therefore, if we go for an interim agreement, we can’t be in a position later to negotiate from a position of weakness. We must bear this in mind.

Secretary: You know my view. The fact is that the presentation you made on Wednesday10 could have been made in September. Then we would not have committed ourselves so far.

It has been our fixed strategy to have a common program with Israel. We always believed we could use agreements to cement the common strategy between us and use the interim agreements to delay a final settlement as long as possible. Then we would work hard for all we can get in a final settlement.

But now I have doubts. If so much blood is necessary for an interim agreement, it is probably not worth it and we should go our own ways and consult our own interests.

Speaking personally, I must say that I no longer have much confidence that the interim route will work.

But we will present this (the Israeli offer), but don’t assume that what I earlier said was possible is possible now under current circumstances. I don’t believe it is possible.

[Page 705]

But perhaps Sadat is so anxious that he will take these two points and trumpet them as a great triumph and make a settlement. So we will present it to him and see what happens.

Rabin: If what we must do is get out of the passes in return for three and a half years, I am sure many Israelis would prefer negotiations for a final settlement, even with all its complications.

I also sense that the President is “tilting” toward an over-all settlement.

Secretary: That’s fine with us. But it won’t lead to any identity of views between us.

Rabin: We started the interim agreement process with a view that this would have political significance. But what we are in now is nothing more than another disengagement agreement.

Secretary: We’ve gone through this before. But the position is so fixed in Israel that it’s not worth debating. Minds can’t be changed. There are too many things mixed into it.

If you conceive this as a process, then you can say that there is political significance in it. I have no doubt that when some distance has been taken from this problem, many of the arguments against this way of proceeding will look short-sighted, but I can’t change the arguments now.

Let me say again that my view was when we first talked that you were talking about the Israeli position being at the end of the passes. Frankly, I thought you were prepared to let the Egyptians, in small force, at one end of the passes, in return for the Israelis holding a kilometer or two at the other end of the passes.

In my judgment what you want here is a stable situation so that you can concentrate up here (pointing to the northern sector of the map).

Rabin: Exactly.

Secretary: But what is not clear is can’t the passes be held from further down?

Rabin: No. Either we are on the ridge or we are not and we cannot hold it from below the ridge.

Secretary: But the Egyptians can’t move to the ridge themselves without giving a warning to you.

Rabin: That is no problem. They first have to cross the Canal and then move up. But then we have to mobilize and you must remember that they have not yet violated the line at that point.

Secretary: I once had the idea—which I’ve not checked with the President—that we could reach some form of agreement that if there were substantial violation of the thinning out zone, we would “under[Page 706]stand,” or whatever other term we might agree on, if you seized the ridge.

But in any event you concede that they can’t take the passes immediately.

Rabin: They have 36 hours on us. We have to mobilize and move.

Secretary: Well you’ve studied this and I am not going to change any minds now.

You are in no doubt that we won’t support your position if this breaks down.

Rabin: That has been made clear to us.

What about Syria?

Secretary: I believe that you have several options:

—you can do nothing;

—you can have disengagement talks;

—you can have overall peace talks;

—you can start disengagement talks followed by unilateral steps as a transition to an overall agreement.

Dinitz: Suppose there were an agreement with Egypt? Can Israel expect support from the U.S. with Syria on (1) an interim agreement with what the Prime Minister said and (2) anything else with Syria only in the context of an overall settlement?

Secretary: Essentially yes. We will not press you on agreements thereafter.

Dinitz: Would there be a principle agreed that we would not be asked to get out of the Golan Heights although the line there might change?

Secretary: We would make a major effort to avoid a repetition of the difficulties of the last few months. As you know there have been major problems presented to the U.S. by Israel in times of difficulties. It is not easy. I cannot overestimate the dangers without an interim agreement.

As to my ideas in regard to Syria, it would seem to me that the best way would be to start disengagement talks through us without me at that stage. We would both understand that they would not be likely to succeed. Then at a time when a stalemate appears near, you would make some cosmetic changes unilaterally as a gesture of good will. Then we would jointly recommend that the negotiations be moved to the overall stage. By that time there would be no compulsion to enter into intensive talks. We would conduct ourselves defensively, aiming at avoiding being isolated.

Certainly with regard to Sadat we could not ask him not to put forward proposals. We would also have to tell him that we don’t care how [Page 707] much noise he makes; but he would have to understand that he cannot use the threat of breaking the interim agreement to force an agreement with Syria.

This is our view. You know that whenever you had an understanding with us it has been meticulously kept by our side. But this would have to be a battle of movement. Geneva will be manageable if we don’t try to write out everything in advance. There is the one thing, the question of the PLO, which the Arabs can’t avoid. Then, of course, there is always Soviet pedantry.

Sisco: If we go to Geneva without a strategy, how do you see the situation of the possibility of a war, say, in 1976?

Secretary: Israel would win.

Rabin: I think we talked with the President about this. If there is an agreement to an interim agreement, then there would be no overall U.S. plan for Geneva.

Secretary: I think it would be better to follow what I said here. There would be general plans, plans of reasonable concreteness. I think that if we had a joint strategy, we could keep the process going and negotiate for a substantial length of time.

Dinitz: Is there a possibility of harmonizing positions for an overall agreement? Then we would not be in confrontation.

Secretary: We could attempt it.

Dinitz: You know our position but we don’t know yours.

Secretary: There is a basic reason for this. I am trying to avoid formulating anything; I thought that would be helpful for you.

Dinitz: I understand. But it would also be helpful to know the road we are traveling.

Secretary: If the strategy I’m trying works, I would hope not to be in the government when that time comes.

Dinitz: That’s what I’m afraid of.

Secretary: Not if you read Carl Rowan.11 He had an article yesterday which said that the one thing that all Israelis could agree on was their antagonism for me.

Shalev: He’s quite primitive.

Secretary: I know but that makes him a reliable reporter.

Well, let’s not waste time on that.

It’s easy enough to talk about now and the immediate future and I have described our thoughts on those. But from ’78 onward—your objective cannot be realized without time. But the real question is can you [Page 708] waste more time in overall negotiations or through the interim approach. I know that’s what you’re thinking about.

Dinitz: Partly, but we’re also thinking about the substance.

Secretary: It cannot be in your overall interest to have a public line drawn between you and this Administration. But I must say that the tendency has been in this direction over the last months. Once that line is drawn, you will win the first battle, perhaps even the first two or three battles, but in the end you will be facing a quite different America. That is what I have long tried to avoid.

In my view Israel cannot pursue its interests from a posture of rigidity. If our aim is for a common strategy, it has to be from a position of less hysteria and better understanding of the facts. And we, on the other hand, have to understand your needs.

That is no answer to your question, I know. We can try. That is the best I can say.

I know what you are trying—it is a process of exhaustion. Let me tell you what Boumedienne told me. He told me that you are trying to get the Egyptians and Syrians so exhausted that they will accept agreement with only minor changes and the Palestinians will be left high and dry.

Rabin: Without the U.S. involved, I doubt the wisdom of the idea of interim agreements.

Secretary: Yes, but then there will be international pressure to force you back.

Rabin: That is meaningless unless the United States is involved. There is no international pressure without the United States.

Dinitz: Can you give us any more ideas with regard to the early alert system?

Secretary: That is a major problem. I have told you that our intention would be to find some solution. I can’t give you a final answer yet.

Rabin: There is also the question of bilateral issues.

Secretary: I had the impression that most of those were workable. But open bridges for tourists, that surely is not attainable yet.

Rabin: No.

Secretary: The storage thing we can work out. How to guarantee supply—that we will have to study more. We will have to effect our guarantees through the companies. We can accept the principle of it, but I can’t give you the mechanics yet.

Rabin: What about long-range military supply?

Secretary: If there were an agreement we should just start negotiations on it. It would be in our best interests and yours to get an agree[Page 709]ment as soon after the interim agreement as possible. It would then be seen by the Arabs as our contribution to that agreement.

Dinitz: What about the scope?

Secretary: I can’t tell you yet. Our analysis so far is that $2.6 billion is high and, to be frank, there would probably be some Congressional trouble as well at that level.

We think $2.6 billion is high and that we can take care of the weapons you need and a 3 or 4% growth factor with a lesser figure.

But it is our intention to move substantially toward you. We will meet with your Congressional supporters so that there is no conflict between us. As to a precise figure . . . I can give you perhaps an idea within a week or so of what we have in mind. It would be something objectively determined.

Dinitz: The figure was not pulled from the air. $1.5 billion would be for military procurement, as you know.

Secretary: I do not believe it would be in your best interests to put $2.6 billion to the Congress. But our intention is to put a substantial figure to the Congress—a figure that would be considered to be moving substantially to meet your needs.

We would be prepared to move within two or three weeks after an interim agreement—we would want to move fast, certainly before Geneva.

Dinitz: Can CSCE be delayed?

Secretary: We’re not pushing it. The only issues outstanding are in regard to confidence-building measures. The Soviets have offered 250 kilometers on maneuvers. The Allies want 300 kilometers. The Soviets have said they want the limit on troops to be 30,000; the Allies say 25,000. This is with regard to notification of maneuvers.

It’s all nonsense. We know when they’re moving and in the future they won’t be able to move anything we don’t know about. It’s all domestic politics in Europe.

I would like the conference as late as possible. We’re not pushing it, certainly. Our instructions to our ambassador are to stay about a half step behind the Europeans. If the Soviets don’t yield by the 24th, then the conference would have to go in to September because it will take four weeks to translate the agreement and so forth. The Russians will play to the last day and then yield. Isn’t that right, Mac?

Toon: That’s right.

Rabin: Did you say June 24th?

Secretary: Yes. I prefer the end of October for the conference.

Gazit: On the military supply issue, did you say the figures could be decided within three weeks?

[Page 710]

Secretary: Yes. We’d submit it to the Congress; we want it to be done fast.

Rabin: Now we have the issue of how to handle the press.

Shalev: If I may, Sir. Let me ask that you don’t play down our position until the Egyptians reply.

Secretary: I agree. The Gwertzman article today12 was an outrage. It’s our fault. But it is totally against the way I think the issue should be played now. Now we should be avoiding any indication of the distance that separates us.

Rabin: The best position for me to take would be to say that there should be give on both sides.

Secretary: We should all stop talking. The Berger article the other day13 wasn’t helpful either. That was from an Israeli source. That and the Gwertzman article, neither one were helpful. I’ve given strict instructions that no one is to be debriefed.

Can we say we find some flexibility in both positions?

Rabin: No. Then they will ask what is it in the Egyptian position that’s flexible. And I would have to explain that. They would ask me what have we gotten from the U.S. that indicates give from the Egyptians and what flexibility have we Israelis showed.

Secretary: You are right. Let’s simply say that we have clarified positions and now have to see what happens.

Dinitz: We need to work to take the edge off the argument that the Israelis have been inflexible. That argument is in the Gwertzman article.

Secretary: It is not in our interests to create that impression.

Sisco: It’s a complicated sort of thing.

Secretary: I will instruct our spokesman to be a shade on the optimistic side. But if we get too hopeful, that also is dangerous.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of Henry Kissinger, 1973–77, Box 8, Nodis Memcons, May 1974, Folder 11. Secret; Sensitive; Nodis. The meeting was held at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York.
  2. In the early morning of June 14, four Palestinian guerrillas crossed into Israel from Lebanon and attacked the town of Kfar Yuval. They fought past the Israelis guarding the entrance to the town and made their way to a farmhouse where they took an Israeli family hostage. Israeli soldiers launched an assault on the house just after 8 a.m. and killed the four Palestinians while losing one Israeli in the raid. (New York Times, June 16, 1975, p. 1)
  3. See footnote 10, Document 187.
  4. June 16.
  5. See Document 184.
  6. The memorandum of conversation of the meeting between Rabin and Kissinger, where they discussed U.S. economic aid and military assistance to Israel, and which took place on June 12 from 1:05 until 2 p.m. in the Monroe–Madison Room at the Department of State, is in the National Archives, RG 59, Records of Henry Kissinger, 1973-77, Box 11, Nodis Memcons, June 1975, Folder 2.
  7. Ambassador Eilts.
  8. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Ford visited Fort Benning in Georgia on June 14 to attend the 200th anniversary of the U.S. Army and Infantry. (Ford Library, Staff Secretary’s Office Files)
  9. Ford met with Sadat on June 1 and June 2. See Documents 177 and 178.
  10. See Document 183.
  11. Carl Rowan was a syndicated columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times.
  12. A reference to Bernard Gwertzman’s article entitled “U.S. Still Unsure of a Sinai Accord after Rabin Talk.” (New York Times, June 15, 1975, p. 1)
  13. Possibly a reference to Berger’s article entitled “U.S. Pushes Interim Pact on Mideast.” (Washington Post, June 11, 1975, p. A4)