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195. Memorandum of Conversation1

PARTICIPANTS

  • President Ford
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Amb. Hermann F. Eilts, U.S. Ambassador to Egypt
  • Joseph J. Sisco, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
  • Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

Secretary Kissinger: The Syrian may have seemed tough to you,2 but he seemed more willing to go along with our strategy, if we have one, than ever. This is the best meeting we have had with them; we all agree. They are anxious for you to meet with Asad. Maybe in Vienna. They prefer Austria, but it can’t be Salzburg.

Mr. President, I thought Hermann should give you a frank assessment of what we now face.

Ambassador Eilts: When I saw this map3 cold, I thought Sadat would be very upset and negative. He has been saying for a year he had to have the passes—and the oil fields, but especially the passes. They are different from the oil because of his military. He is committed to the Army on getting the passes.

In connection with my presentation, I will ask that I speak only to Sadat and Fahmy, but he will probably insist on Vice President Mubarak, who is the Army’s eyes and ears.

Sadat will say this is worse than they were offered in March—when they didn’t show us a map. The only new elements are the two company positions, but still under Israeli guns. They [the Israelis] are insisting on military positions on the western slope of the passes.

There is even a difference between the two sides on how long the passes are. Egypt considers the Giddi to be nine kilometers long; Israel goes further west. The Mitla Egypt says is 21 kilometers; Israel says it’s longer.

At some point, Sadat will explode—or implode, as he does. This is where his heart problem comes in.

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He will review this in light of Salzburg.4 He is euphoric about his meetings with you. Now, he will say, “Is this the best the U.S. can bring forth after three weeks? What kind of reliability can we put in the United States?”

The President: What should we do?

Ambassador Eilts: He has been looking to us to present a plan ever since December. We could now ask him whether he would want us to present an interim plan or to go to Geneva with a comprehensive plan, with the understanding that not much can happen for 18 months. I think we must offer to put forward some plan.

Secretary Kissinger: I think if you present a plan, you must accompany it with an aid package not exceeding last year’s—$600–$700 million.

The President: I was thinking of this last night. It seemed to me we should submit the aid bill with no more than last year, and whatever we think Egypt needs.

Kissinger: But it all needs to be done together. The only thing the Israelis understand is aid levels—otherwise they will go on debating us forever. Their duplicity is unbelievable. When we were debating my meeting Gromyko on 7–8 July, Rabin knew he was to be in Germany 8–11 July and he said not a word.

Sadat must understand that we can’t impose an interim settlement and six months later ask for something on Golan or a comprehensive proposal. An Egyptian-Israeli Agreement would also explicitly be discriminating against Syria. We would, before going that way, have to consult with the Saudis to prevent Arab coalescence over this.

You don’t have to decide right now. I am instead thinking that if Sadat rejects it, you should then send a letter to Rabin. We will be drafting one.

I had Dinitz put to Rabin moving the Egyptian line forward to encompass the two company forward positions and Rabin has rejected it.

Here are the talking points I would propose that Hermann use.

[The President reads the Talking Points at Tab A.]5

The President: If the Israeli Cabinet fell, and they had elections, what would happen?

Kissinger: It would be a mess. It would take nine months to sort out. If Rabin went into the election, he could win overwhelmingly. If he was soft, Peres might become the Prime Minister. As Prime Minister he [Page 737] would be more conciliatory than Rabin. But for nine months your hands would be tied.

The President: What would happen to Dayan?

Kissinger: Dayan in opposition would be a massive problem. As Prime Minister, he would settle. He is the only one who would settle on the Golan. He said in ’67 that as long as Israel held the Golan, the conflict with Syria would continue and Israel had to decide whether it wanted war or peace.

Ambassador Eilts: What Sadat can never understand is why the United States, which provides Israel with everything, cannot move them.

Kissinger: Because Israel thinks they can work their way with the Congress. And we must remember this is a carbon copy of the strategy Israel pursued against Rogers in ’71.

The President: As I indicated yesterday, unless Sadat accepts this, which I think he will not, we should indicate we will put forth an interim plan. We then are in a better position at home to show we went the last mile. We can show the equipment deliveries last fall, and so on. That protects our flanks and puts us in a better position to go to a comprehensive plan.

Kissinger: I would hold back just for now talking of an imposed American plan. I think maybe it’s a better tactic to write formally to Rabin asking for reconsideration. If you take Israel to the mat, it’s 55 to 45 they will accept it—but then we are in real trouble with respect to Syria. We couldn’t go again on the Golan in a year. Writing Rabin a letter I strongly favor. You could do it in such a way that it is almost an American plan.

Mr. Sisco: You can go back and recite what our presumptions were on the passes and the oil fields.

Kissinger: It puts you in a good position.

The President: The night of the dinner, Dinitz and I got off together and I asked him where their military installations were. The impression I got from him is that the area they are really concerned about is in the vicinity of the airfield, east of the passes.

Kissinger: The Israelis have gotten the whole issue of the passes totally confused. Before Egypt could make an assault, they would have to get across the Canal. By then Israel would have mobilized. They have decided politically not to do it. They have pocketed the American warning station and the non-use of force.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversations, Box 13, June 21, 1975, Ford, Kissinger, Ambassador Hermann F. Eilts (Egypt), Joseph Sisco. Secret; Nodis. The meeting was held in the Oval Office at the White House. Brackets are in the original.
  2. A reference to Syrian Foreign Minister Khaddam; see Document 193.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 191.
  4. See Documents 177 and 178.
  5. Tab A, entitled “Talking Points,” is attached but not printed.