200. Memorandum of Conversation1

PARTICIPANTS

  • President Ford
  • Simcha Dinitz, Ambassador of Israel
  • Mordechai Shalev, Minister of the Embassy of Israel
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

President: As you know, we have sent to Sadat the plan that was submitted to us. I am sure you understand their reaction.2 Sisco will give you the details. Their reaction is understandable. We submitted it without comment. In brief, they rejected it and the reaction was that they would immediately call for the convening of Geneva.

Henry will meet with Gromyko on July 11. At that meeting we will discuss Geneva, and indicate one way or another whether we will go to Geneva.

I have a letter here [Tab A], which I would like you to transmit to Prime Minister Rabin as soon as possible. It is a frank letter setting forth what has happened since I came into office, and it lays out factually, and I think accurately, what has taken place. I am convinced that if there is to be any chance of success, there has to be movement out of the passes and a better situation in the south. I have looked at the map that was in the New York Times,3 and there is little similarity, either in the [Page 746] north or south. If we are to progress, the New York Times map is more acceptable but for the passes. I want an interim agreement, but we have to get action on the passes and the oilfields.

It is a frank and factual letter. I have tried to be strong in my conviction that we need action in order to continue the relationship we have had in the past. My record in favor of a strong independent Israel is clear. But I think the only way to keep that is to move on an agreement. I want to work with the Prime Minister; I will work with him, but we have to move. I do not think it useful to get into a political confrontation with the Jewish community in the United States. I have dear personal friends in the Jewish community. I want to work with them cooperatively for the goals we both seek. But we must have progress. Any political activity would be very, very unhealthy. It would not be good for your country, for my country and for our relationship. To come back to my point, we can get a settlement. We can get an interim agreement, but there has to be some give.

Dinitz: May I say a few words, Mr. President?

President: Of course, but I don’t think we ought to get into a debate on the substance.

Dinitz: I thank you for inviting me in. We never doubt your friendship for Israel. I want to say just a word on The New York Times map. It is not our map. On the road to the south, the problem is the topography. We will make the zone as wide as the topography permits. We want to work in harmony, not confrontation, with the United States. I know your many friends. No good can come to Israel by taking a divergent course.

President: It is not good for either of us, or for the peace of the world, for us not to work together. We are concerned about peace in the area and the world.

Tab A

Letter From President Ford to Prime Minister Rabin4

Washington, June 27, 1975.

Dear Mr. Prime Minister:

We have now presented to President Sadat the Israeli positions on an interim agreement between your government and Egypt, and we [Page 747] have reported to you separately the Egyptian reaction. This is a time, therefore, to review where matters stand and the choices before us.

I want first to recall the main elements of the strategy which Israel and the United States have pursued together since I became President. In our first conversation last September,5 you asked that we give the Israeli Government time to consolidate its position in order to pursue an effective peace strategy. You urged that we undertake a maximum military supply effort which would strengthen the Israeli sense of security. I can recall vividly the point you made to the effect that a secure Israel would be a flexible Israel. We acceded to your requests in the spirit of trust and friendship that has grown up between us. We did not urge negotiations for many months—despite very great pressures to do so. I substantially increased the amount of military aid recommended unanimously by all our departments.

From the beginning we made clear two points that would have to be met if an interim agreement between Egypt and Israel were to succeed: (a) It would have to involve Israeli withdrawal from the two strategic passes in the Sinai and the Abu Rudeis oil fields. (b) Egypt could not in such a partial agreement subscribe to a full declaration of non-belligerency. The latter point led to extended discussion between us of the elements of non-belligerency and how those of most concern to Israel could be met in practical ways short of a formal declaration of non-belligerency. Your Government provided us with its own views on alternative ways of dealing with this problem.

Our records show that these points were made either by me or by Secretary Kissinger on numerous occasions. The record is clear that at no time did you or Foreign Minister Allon state that these were unfulfillable conditions. On the contrary, your Government pressed the United States to assist the parties, to undertake several missions to the area within the framework which had been discussed frequently between us. If I had thought that Israel would not accept the context which we had described, I would not have committed the United States to continue the step-by-step approach, and I would not have sent the Secretary of State to the Middle East to conduct negotiations which were foredoomed to failure.

In the course of the negotiations, we have met the Israeli concerns one by one on most of the principal issues. In case of an agreement, Egypt would be prepared to give assurances that it would not use force to resolve the remaining problems between Israel and Egypt. On the question of the duration of the agreement, we believe the formula proposed by Israel—that this agreement would remain in effect until su[Page 748]perseded by another agreement—would be accepted. We have also informed your government of an arrangement which we believe would be possible for assuring continuation of the mandate of the UNEF for several years. Several solutions have been suggested to deal with the problem of the Israeli intelligence station which would meet the requirement of early warning and add to the durability of the agreement. As you know, some progress has been made in easing the boycott.

In my recent conversation with you6 I stated frankly that I was deeply disappointed—indeed disillusioned—with the position taken by the Israeli Government which led to the suspension of the negotiations last March. I presented to you several modifications I thought possible in the Egyptian position following my talks in Salzburg.7 In light of this, and after the misunderstandings last March, my hope was that as a result of our most recent conversations Israel’s position would have evolved further to embrace those minimum requirements of an interim agreement which we have described to your Government over the past year.

As you know, I consider the changes you communicated to me during the recent discussions to be inadequate, and I informed you that I would transmit the Israeli position to President Sadat without recommendation. In our conversations in Washington, there was no essential change in Israel’s position on the passes, and the manner in which access to the oil fields was offered presents significant problems. Given his well-known position which we have described to you for a year, the reaction of President Sadat was to be expected.

With the formulation of your latest position and President Sadat’s reply, we are now at a point where fundamental decisions must be made.

I do not regard standing still a realistic choice. It runs an unacceptable risk of leading to another war and to a coalescence of the same international forces which Israel faced in 1973 and early 1974. Since such a situation would jeopardize fundamental U.S. interests—most of which are also of deep concern to Israel—the U.S. cannot be expected to underwrite such a course of action.

Our judgment is that Israel’s position is forcing the evolution of negotiations toward an outcome which runs counter to the interests of the United States and the world. We therefore want to hold open the opportunity which I presented to you in our telephone conversation8 to reconsider the Israeli position within the parameters which we have [Page 749] discussed with you since last summer—parameters which in our considered judgment pose no threat to the vital interest which Israel and the United States share in the security and well-being of your country. No lesser proposal can now meet the need. If your Government does not feel able to do this, we must reserve our course on next steps, and explain to our people the Administration’s appraisal of our national interest in this matter.

Mr. Prime Minister, the matter before us goes to the very core of American-Israeli relationships. It is not a public relations problem; it is not a matter of a difference of view between the Legislative and Executive Branches of our Government since, when all the facts are known, the Congress will support my conclusions as to the national interest. It is a matter of whether our two Governments over the coming months and years will continue to work in common endeavor as we have in the past. I need not add that I hope very much that close cooperation for the future will be the outcome.

Mr. Prime Minister, it is a source of profound regret to me that matters have reached such a point—particularly since the impasse is so unnecessary. I have written this letter with candor, in the spirit of friendship, in understanding of the values we share, and in continuing commitment to the survival of Israel. It is in this spirit that I request a reconsideration of the position of the Israeli Government and an early reply.

Sincerely,9

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversations, Box 13, June 26, 1975, Ford, Kissinger, Israeli Ambassador Simcha Dinitz. Secret; Nodis. The meeting was held in the Oval Office at the White House. Brackets are in the original.
  2. See footnote 4, Document 197, and footnote 2, Document 199.
  3. See footnote 3, Document 197.
  4. Top Secret. A handwritten notation at the top of the page reads, “Handed to Amb. Dinitz by President Ford at 9:50 a.m., Fri., 6/27/75.”
  5. See Document 99.
  6. Apparently a reference to Ford’s meetings with Rabin in Washington on June 11 and June 12; see Documents 183 and 184.
  7. A reference to Ford’s meetings with Sadat; see Documents 177 and 178.
  8. Presumably the telephone conversation of June 13; see footnote 10, Document 187.
  9. Printed from an unsigned copy.