192. Memorandum of Conversation1

SUBJECT

  • Middle East Strategy

PARTICIPANTS

  • Secretary Kissinger
  • Ambassador Eilts
  • Under Secretary Sisco
  • Assistant Secretary Atherton
  • Deputy Assistant Secretary Saunders
  • David Gompert (Notetaker)

Kissinger: Hermann, when you go back do not use the word ‛impose’ I don’t care what the President says. You can see that he is mad though, that should be clear to you.

Sisco: Henry, you know you are to the right of the President on this.

Kissinger: Hermann, you have to get across to Sadat—first, the sense of our determination, and second, a question of management. Can he wait long enough?

The Israelis have put themselves in a position where—Sadat has played this perfectly. No U.S. President has ever been this ready to move on the Israelis. The President figures that an all-out brawl is better now because otherwise they would try to get him out in 1976. If he had to decide in the next half an hour what to do, he would go on television against the Israelis. He would say that there is no more time to horse around and that the United States cannot contribute any longer to the growth of Israeli capabilities.

But don’t tell that to Sadat. He would understand, however, that this is farther than last year. The President used to think that Kissinger was a miracle man and that somehow this thing will work out; but now he realizes that he is in a brawl. Sadat should understand this. Then after Sadat has cooled off from his initial exposure, just tell him, look, this is a common problem.

Eilts: O.K. But he is going to ask us what our position is.

Kissinger: Don’t pull out the unilateral options.

[Page 727]

(Hal) Saunders, do a paper (for the President).2 Explain about the land access to the south.

Hermann, I think you’re underestimating the . . .

Eilts: Well, but perhaps the big problem is in the passes.

Kissinger: These guys are determined, but they are underestimating the President. They cannot defeat him. Golda would not have made this mistake. The Jews cannot survive anywhere in the world when they oppose their government.

Sisco: I agree, but I don’t think Rabin realizes this.

Kissinger: I know that the Jews cannot survive if they oppose their government. This will bring out centuries of latent hatred.

Sisco: It is horrible to think about.

Kissinger: Hal, lay out the options. Make it cool and analytical. With respect to Egypt, we want to look at several options and sub-options. First of all there is interim versus overall. Then we have to look at whether or not we want a posture of being critical of Israel or a helpful posture. We have to look at a cut in aid versus no cut in aid. We can buy time with the Arabs if we have to by putting forward schemes.

I think he must do it from a posture of criticism of Israel and cut in aid. If he doesn’t cut aid we will be in a weaker position when we have to. Now for the question of interim versus overall, if it is to be an interim settlement it can be imposed only on one front, which means that he will buy himself great problems ahead.

Sisco: I disagree. No one expects any movement on the Golan. That could happen in a Geneva context.

Kissinger: An imposed Sinai solution will get them a minimum of two years stand-still in U.S. activity.

Eilts: Syria is the problem. I, therefore, lean towards an imposed interim settlement.

Kissinger: But also give him the overall.

Eilts: In the paper, you should mention the relationship of the options to aid for Egypt.

Kissinger: Explain that to Sadat.

Sisco: The Syrians will also get hurt, which means that they would escalate the Syrian Jew problem.

Kissinger: You tell me what damn business it is of the United States to mess around with the problem of Syrian Jews. Why should the United States risk its relations with a major country over 4,500 Jews? The conditions of the Syrian Jews are no worse than the Biharis in Ban[Page 728]gladesh, or the untouchables in India. We are not making a fuss about them.

Hal, lay out all the options as cooly as possible.

I am leary about imposing an interim settlement.

Eilts: Something must happen by 1977. If we cannot achieve an interim settlement then something should happen in 1976.

Sisco: I am closer to you Henry on the imposed interim solution.

Kissinger: Look, if we buy 18 months, let’s buy it for nothing. If we get tied to three years with American stations, no American plan, then we are stuck.

Sisco: I had not thought of option three. If Rabin says there must be an American proposal, I would say o.k.

Kissinger: You may have to explain option three to Sadat, Hermann, though option three would be harder for him to manage. We would be in Geneva.

Sisco: The unilateral option gives us so much a freer hand.

Eilts: But maybe the price is too high.

Kissinger: The price is only the extension of UNEF. We can still put forward principles without actually putting forward an American proposal.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, CL 273, Chronological File, June 1975. Secret; Nodis. The meeting was held in the Secretary’s office at the White House.
  2. No such paper has been found.