202. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Secretary of State Kissinger
  • Israeli Ambassador Simcha Dinitz
  • Deputy Under Secretary Eagleburger

Dinitz: The Prime Minister wants to make a serious effort to save the situation and to prevent a crisis. The Israeli Government is facing a difficult decision. It is imperative that we have (a) all the information possible and (b) alternatives which would make it possible for us to avoid the crisis. We believe that a crisis with the United States would have the gravest consequences for Israel, for the U.S. and for the world. The Israeli Government is aware of these consequences.

Everything I will say from now on is from Rabin although it may not be verbatim text.

At the same time the Israeli Government cannot take decisions that will hurt its security dispositions. Also, it should not look as if the Israeli Government is making decisions under pressure.

Secretary: I said that. Then why are you always leaking?

Dinitz: The leaks don’t come from us.

Secretary: The Groewald article came from you. Americans wouldn’t leak that I was angry with Israel. That line is part of the Israeli campaign.

Dinitz: Mr. Secretary, a part of our relationship has always been faith and trust. I can tell you that only Shalev and I knew what was going on and neither one of us leaked. No one in Israel knew. But when the White House spokesman announced that the President had seen Ambassador Dinitz for eleven minutes,2 that ought to have made it clear to everybody that there was a difficult situation. Even Scowcroft admitted it was a silly statement.

Secretary: I at first thought the Groewald article came from us and I raised hell with Sisco about it. But Groewald is a White House reporter and the line sounds very much like an Israeli line.

Dinitz: My press spokesman said it was clear to him that it didn’t come from the State Department but did come from the White House.

[Page 753]

Secretary: Yes, but who would say that Kissinger is angry at the Israelis, other than the Israelis? However, if you say it didn’t come from you, then I will accept that.

Dinitz: I did not do it.

Secretary: I hope you will remember that I also said that it cannot look as if Israel is doing things under pressure.

Dinitz: When the line started to come out of the White House, Shalev called Larry3 and I called Scowcroft. We all tried to stop it.

Secretary: Go ahead with what you have.

Dinitz: It is important that the Israeli Government not make decisions under pressure and without sufficient information from you. In the end the risks are up to us. Therefore we must act with full knowledge of the details.

The Israeli Government also accepts that it must do all that it possibly can to avoid a crisis. The U.S., we believe, should also be interested in doing what it can. The crisis could destroy our relationship. Israel would be hurt severely; the U.S. and the prospects for peace would not be better off for it.

Secretary: I agree.

Dinitz: It would be politically and strategically destructive. The Prime Minister therefore has instructed me to explore with you on a personal basis.

He has asked for a clarification of certain items so that we may understand what can be done and what is expected of us.

You will recall that when the two of us met in the last meeting4 you said there were actually three possibilities: 1) accept the Egyptian proposal made at Salzburg, even though we don’t know exactly where the line would be east of the passes; 2) each go his own way; 3) Israel propose suggestions of its own. And finally, of course there must be no pressure.

The Prime Minister feels there is no sense for us . . .

Secretary: There is a fourth possibility. We could propose a line; that the Egyptians urged us to do and I have resisted it. The President would be eager to do it.

Dinitz: The Prime Minister feels there would be no sense in coming to the Cabinet and proposing something on the summit, something to adopt a line in regard to the pass, then bring it to you, and have you say, “Sorry, it’s not answering the question.” It is imperative that we [Page 754] have some idea what you would accept—of what the U.S. would find acceptable in order to make an agreement viable.

The Prime Minister fights in the Cabinet and then fails. There would be no sense in that.

Secretary: You’re absolutely correct.

Dinitz: There are a number of things the Prime Minister needs to know in order to see if we can arrive at an understanding.

(They look at map)5

1) We need to be sure when the Egyptians talk about a military line that it includes the present buffer zone, that is the red line.

2) What is acceptable to the Secretary of State in regard to the passes and the east slope? What is it you have in mind? Do you need several kilometers between us?

3) Is the line south of the passes between the passes and the corridor to the oil fields acceptable to you? You have not commented on that before.

4) If we move the line to the east of the passes, is it possible to have compensation to the north to protect our logistics?

5) What are the requirements for changes of the corridor to Abu Rudeis?

6) Can the early warning system be manned by a combination of Americans and Israelis and American and Egyptian personnel respectively?

7) What does easing of the boycott mean?

8) What does easing of diplomatic conflict mean?

Secretary: Simcha, it is heartbreaking that we weren’t talking like this eight months ago. (Discussion now off the record for several minutes). Let’s now go back to the . . . Incidentally I would like to know the things you say Nixon promised Sadat. Sadat certainly didn’t raise any of these with Ford when they were in Salzburg.

Simcha, it was not until that Thursday evening6 that I understood what Rabin was up to. Once I had a chance to think about it, I recognized that it made strategic sense. In any presentation of the pros and cons, Israel must come out worse. There can be no real quid pro quo because you’re giving up territory. Thus my time-wasting strategy.

Dinitz: I understand and I agree. We are afraid that the Egyptians when they have built up their military might will seek to force a solution by military means.

[Page 755]

Secretary: That may well be. Another problem we have is that we must avoid getting into a polarized Middle East situation. If we are not careful, we will ultimately be in another Vietnamese-type problem.

Dinitz: I know.

Secretary: Rabin is by far the best available man to run Israel now.

(Discussion off the record for several minutes).

Dinitz: With regard to our timetable, I have a suggestion. There are two dates that drive us. One is our Government meeting on Sunday.7 And the second is your meeting with Gromyko.

We are not trying to stall but if we can take some time, it would be better. We want to avert a collision course. The Prime Minister has begged that I tell you that we are not trying to waste time.

Secretary: What I needed was a sense of your strategy, of your strategic problem. One briefing by Gur would have made such a difference.

You know if you move from the assumption that we are not out to hurt Israel, then when our judgment was that the passes were a domestic political issue in Israel and not a military one, then you can understand why we took the position we did.

There was that problem and then the problem of not understanding the distinction between nonbelligerency and non use of force.

Dinitz: Mr. Secretary, I sat next to the President at dinner recently. He at one point said let’s talk as friends, not as the President of the United States and the Ambassador of Israel. I said with pleasure, Mr. President. He then said, “What is the bare minimum that you need for an agreement?” I said, “Mr. President, there can be no agreement without leaving us in some part of the passes because it endangers the logistic system in the north.” The President said he understood.

Secretary: I thought the Prime Minister was speaking of keeping enough of the passes to keep the Likud off his back. It was not clear that more was involved until that Thursday night.

Dinitz: Also there is the Sisco report of his conversation with Gur.8 Gur said that under some circumstances we could do without the passes. What he meant, though, was in connection with something like a 20-year treaty with 200 kilometers between us. Then the passes would be neutralized in such a situation. That is still in my opinion doable.

Secretary: It’s senseless.

Dinitz: Perhaps. Some day we will come to it though, when the time is right. That’s why I don’t push for nonbelligerency now. That’s [Page 756] why I’ve knocked down the proposal for now. I don’t see any political sense to it now, though there is some military logic.

Secretary: By the way, I’m not all that eager to get an English translation of the Golan book.9 Tell Rabin to forget it. The more people who see it, the more likely it is to get out.

All right, let’s talk about business.

Dinitz: OK. The Prime Minister wants to know what is acceptable to you before he tries to get anything through his Government. There is no sense in getting something that you then reject.

So let’s turn to the clarifications.

The first one is: Can we be sure that the Egyptian military line in the new agreement will be extended to the present U.N. buffer zone. Do they understand this?

Secretary: I thought I made that clear in Salzburg but I’ve seen no indication of it in their proposals since. There was, of course, the Gamasy proposal to move just east of the passes and have their forward line up to your present main line. But that we told them wouldn’t work. We told Sadat that orally and he then told us that he would stick to the Salzburg proposals. Then we sent him a letter and we got an answer on Sunday.10

I think it will be a problem but not an issue between us. I cannot give you an ironclad guarantee but it will not be an issue between us.

Dinitz: OK. It’s agreed between us; if the Egyptians don’t accept, you will support us?

Secretary: I don’t want to tie our hands completely. At this point the Salzburg line is at the edge of the U.N. line.

I have to say that everything that has been told to us by the Egyptians since casts doubt on their accepting the idea. But in response to your proposal . . .

Dinitz: We don’t want a situation where . . .

Secretary: No. I understand. The only reason I can’t give you a flat answer . . . you will recall that during the last disengagement agreement, you made small adjustments. You went back a kilometer or two here or there.

Dinitz: Yes. That was a gesture.

[Page 757]

Secretary: Dayan, Elezar and I moved the line back a little bit here and there.

You will recall that during the negotiations there was a time that I asked you to move back. I want to leave room in the negotiations for that kind of adjustment. But essentially I have no passionate feeling on this. It will not lead to a confrontation between us. It’s not a major thing.

Dinitz: Now comes the difficult question. What is acceptable from the U.S. point of view with regard to the eastern line on the eastern slopes of the passes, both with regard to the Gidi and the Mitla?

Secretary: I am now a bit confused. You finally have it into my head that there is a military reason for what you’re doing. I didn’t understand that until Sunday in New York.11

Dinitz: The Prime Minister says we cannot go further without losing the summit.

Secretary: I am telling you that without movement to the eastern slopes, we will not get an Egyptian agreement.

Dinitz: Are you saying that as long as we are on the summit, it won’t work?

Secretary: I wouldn’t recommend it to Rabin. Sadat has so committed himself to the other Arabs on the passes that . . .

I just say that I thought that as long as the passes were not militarily important, you would hold one end of the passes and they the other. This was my idea of a compromise. That is still my view but I cannot decide how deep that means you must go.

I don’t want to say where the line should be. The distance from your main line to the summit isn’t much. It looks to me that wherever you put yourself on the eastern slope can be presented as substantially out of the passes.

Dinitz: That’s true. But it depends on how you measure it. The Prime Minister is afraid to present anything because he doesn’t know what would satisfy you.

Secretary: It is a hell of a responsibility for me to indicate something precise.

Dinitz: I understand but we have a problem. Can we militarily defend it?

Secretary: There are two problems. First, what is Sadat up to? It is clear that he wants to weaken your hold on the Sinai. It is also clear that he wants an excuse for a period of peace. Our Ambassador thinks, and [Page 758] it is my view as well, that how he presents this whole issue to the other Arabs is his big problem.

I would think that if you are well back from the summit, whether 2 or 3 kilometers I can’t say, would be enough.

Dinitz: You say 2 or 3 kilometers from the summit.

Secretary: It would have to be on the eastern slopes, something he, the Prime Minister, could present as an exit from the passes, even if it isn’t. I would like to be in a position to say to the Egyptians that even if we and they don’t agree with everything you’ve offered, I am firmly convinced that we cannot get more without a monumental fight. That’s what we want to be able to tell the Egyptians.

Dinitz: So—I’m not trying to pin you down—

Secretary: I’m in a fix. I consider that even with an Israeli proposal, there could be failure for a number of reasons.

Dinitz: But there would be no break with us.

Secretary: That’s right. I think that if you get off of the summits toward the exits, we would try to look at it with sympathy.

Dinitz: Can you give me an estimate with regard to the blue line?

Secretary: (looking at map) This is 698, this 750, this 400, this 500, this 600. Somewhere in here (pointing at map), but don’t hold me to it.

Dinitz: I think you’ve said then 2 or 3 kilometers from the summit.

Secretary: That is right. But the Prime Minister has to be ready to negotiate over it.

Let’s turn to your other questions and then the south. That also won’t work.

Dinitz: Is the line which we proposed between the passes and the southern corridor acceptable? Is it acceptable to the Egyptians and to you?

Secretary: I have no problem with it. They haven’t raised it, but their line is forward of that.

Dinitz: We don’t want to be in trouble with you.

Secretary: They didn’t take any objection to that but their whole line is forward of it.

Dinitz: Yes, but then they went back.

Secretary: That is right. They went back to their Salzburg position but there was no line given.

Dinitz: I understand. We have no map from them. They do have one from us. That’s part of the problem. The real question is, though, are we going to have trouble with you?

Secretary: I have no reason to suppose that it isn’t substantially acceptable. I just haven’t had any response from them.

[Page 759]

The Gamassy map,12 of course, is senseless to talk from. It’s useless, and I told them so.

Dinitz: The Prime Minister doesn’t want a situation in which we redraw the line and then you say to us, the Egyptians can’t accept, and we’re in trouble.

Secretary: There is a difference. For a year we said that the passes and oil fields were necessary. But we were never told in a way we could understand that that wouldn’t work. We will be in a difficult situation if it can be said that the Israelis could have gone back 5 kilometers and didn’t.

Dinitz: The Prime Minister will have to show the Cabinet a map or say that he can’t draw a map sufficient to satisfy the U.S. If we were to draw a map and you then rejected, then he would be out of office in 24 hours. You know there are people in the Cabinet who say that every time you come in and ask for more, we end up giving it to you.

Secretary: I can’t decide on these other lines. The Egyptian line was further over (pointing to map).

This is substantially all right. But I want a little flexibility for the actual negotiations. We’re not talking about a problem of massive proportions.

My hope is that if we can settle the major issue of the passes, then we could talk about other issues as we did before.

Dinitz: We are now trying to assure your success.

Secretary: A lot depends on how the break comes about. If we are pushed by constantly escalating Egyptian demands for more, then we will tell them that we can only be pushed so far.

But again, the two big problems are the passes and the oil fields. The other lines will not be breaking points for us.

Dinitz: All right. The fourth question: Is it possible, to the extent that there might be a change in our line in the passes, to move the northern line (our blue line) westward in order to protect our northern complex?

Secretary: Anything that is not too visible—anything clearly designed to give strategic protection, I think we can handle, but not 5 or 10 kilometers.

You must also be careful not to let the center begin to look like a narrow pocket. If it begins to look like a question of dominating this road (points to map) that is another thing.

Well, some minor adjustments could be handled, I think.

[Page 760]

Dinitz: Good. Question 5: What are the changes that the U.S. sees as needed with regard to the southern corridor to Abu Rudeis?

Secretary: I, frankly, am stumped. I told Sadat in Salzburg that a narrow corridor of a few kilometers was the best I could get. Sadat says parallel roads are out of the question—that is roads next to each other.

Dinitz: Next to each other?

Secretary: Yes. Next to each other—roads side by side. Then there is also the necessity of constructing a road on his own territory so that he can use one road while you use the other. That’s also a moral issue.

Dinitz: You know the military significance of this. It is the only connection with Sharm-Al-Sheikh.

Secretary: I can’t judge it, frankly. What I can understand is that it is tough for him to have Israeli armored vehicles along the road in full view of the Egyptians on their road—and Egyptians who are not armed at that.

Dinitz: Where we see places where construction can be far away, then, you think we should do it? You recognize that this gives Sadat control over the seacoast while we are dictated by topography.

Secretary: Yes. So I can’t give you a good answer, except that you should get back as far as you can. For psychological reasons, I would recommend you move your line into your territory as far as you can.

Dinitz: That means the U.N. line . . .

Secretary: Yes. Now this Haman Faroon radar warning system . . .

He would accept Americans in these two stations.

Dinitz: On the roads—Sadat objects to parallelism whenever they are close? You say move as far as we can to make the U.N. zone even wider. Once we do what we can, then are you saying there wouldn’t be a breaking point between us?

Secretary: If you can remove some of the egregious things such as roads so close to each other.

Dinitz: Yes. Rabin has seen the area and is pessimistic about your question of the distances being changed.

Secretary: To go to Geneva under conditions of failure is not in our interests.

Dinitz: I understand. You don’t need to convince me.

Secretary: For whatever it is worth, Ambassador Eilts thinks that Sadat has a massive problem with his military. He has a problem with the whole concept of a civil administration and then with regard to the very narrow zone along the coast. Our Ambassador believes these are all massive problems for Sadat.

Dinitz: What if there were U.N. personnel between, even when they’re only 200 meters apart.

[Page 761]

Secretary: I don’t know what to say. I don’t know enough about the topography. On the Egyptian map, the two positions look irreconcilable. We have never supported the Egyptian map.

If the Haman Faroon station were American instead of Israeli, could we then move that section of the road further inland, or is it a question of topography?

Dinitz: If that issue were solved, then the question of nearness would only occur in two places, right?

Secretary: Yes.

Dinitz: Can the stations be manned by U.S. and Israeli and U.S. and Egyptian personnel respectively?

Secretary: I have no way of knowing. Maybe Americans with Israeli liaison officers. Is that your concept? We can’t have mostly Israeli people with 1 or 2 Americans.

Dinitz: I’m sure it would be some of each. Perhaps it’s a question of presenting the data.

Secretary: If land lines were built directly from the station; if we automated it; if it were manned by Americans, but you didn’t have to wait for the information—would that work?

Dinitz: We want to be in on the gathering process, not just analysis.

Secretary: You would have to be guaranteed instantaneous read-out—you can assure the Prime Minister of that, ironclad assurances. As to Israeli liaison, I’ll have to check.

Dinitz: What exactly are the Egyptians prepared to do in the area of economic boycott?

Secretary: Sadat told me that he can’t break the boycott formally; Fahmi said that they couldn’t invite American firms to Egypt, but any that want to operate in Egypt can.

Dinitz: Will they be taken off the boycott list?

Secretary: I didn’t check that.

Dinitz: It’s one thing to allow them to operate in Egypt; it is another with regard to being deterred from operating in Israel. The black list keeps them out of Egypt but it also deters them from investing in Israel.

When we talked in March, you said that they were willing to take 3 or 5 off the black list.

Secretary: I don’t know. I assumed that they meant that they would permit them to operate in Egypt.

Dinitz: This is not crucial but it would help the Government to sell the agreement to the people. Further clarification would be helpful.

Now the next question: What are the Egyptians prepared to do in the fields of diplomatic and propaganda warfare?

[Page 762]

Secretary: Fahmi told me Egypt won’t pressure African Governments that want to resume relations with you. They might make pro forma noises, but no pressure. As to propaganda, all but the PLO station in Cairo would stop.

We’d better check for more clarification on that too.

Dinitz: Now, let’s go back to a reiteration of the points that were covered when Rabin was here.

First of all on Syria: with regard to Syria, is it clear and understood that an interim agreement with Syria would only constitute cosmetic changes and that to the extent there was no agreement with Syria it would not affect U.S.-Israeli relations in the political, economic or military spheres?

Next, as to the Sisco idea, we would be prepared to consider it at a later stage. The Prime Minister is prepared to consider it, but only at a later stage.

Secretary: That would ease our problem considerably if it could be handled.

Dinitz: I’m saying that the PM is not ruling out unilateral moves, just that he can’t OK them now. It hasn’t yet been discussed with the Cabinet.

Secretary: Do Peres and Allon know?

Dinitz: Yes. I don’t know what their opinion is, however,

On Jordan, is it understood that negotiations with Jordan can only be within the overall settlement framework?

And will the U.S. continue to oppose the PLO?

Secretary: On Jordan, we made a big mistake last summer by not trying to get an interim agreement. Now that is not a live possibility.

On the PLO, there is no problem.

Right now, there is no possibility for an interim or an overall agreement with Jordan.

Dinitz: In regard to the Geneva Conference, is it agreed that for the duration of the interim agreement with Egypt, the U.S. will not submit an overall plan for a settlement and will refrain from such plans when they are not made in coordination with Israel? We will, of course, be in constant touch with the U.S. and once we agree on something, then there would be no problem.

Secretary: You did not get a clear-cut answer from the President on that question.

Dinitz: I’m talking in terms of three to three and a half years of the UNEF. We are, of course, willing to discuss an overall agreement but don’t want a confrontation with you over this.

[Page 763]

Secretary: Will we be putting forward a proposal within a three-year period? It is tough to give such a flat commitment. You know my views. If your prediction is correct and I stay in the next Administration, there will be many ways to handle it.

My basic strategy is to exhaust the parties so that we can move toward a break toward non-belligerency. In this sense I disagree with the President with regard to the wisdom of putting forward an overall plan.

Dinitz: On the Syrian position, can I say that we are agreed, especially if a breakdown in the talks were to be followed by unilateral moves on our part?

Secretary: Yes. But I don’t want to read that answer in the newspapers.

Dinitz: Now, a second point on Geneva. We would like consultations with regard to timing and procedures to be followed at Geneva. We want, for example, a ratification of our agreement with Egypt, if we arrive at one.

Secretary: If you want Geneva that quickly. Look, if we get an agreement, we will do our best to waste time through the elections and then we will look at it again. How, I haven’t yet thought through.

Dinitz: We don’t want any substance at Geneva.

Secretary: Well, there will have to be substance at Geneva. But there doesn’t necessarily have to be any resolution. The PLO issue, for example, will take months.

Perhaps there would be no need for Geneva at all if we get an agreement with Egypt. We have no overpowering desire for a Geneva conference.

Dinitz: In any event, we want coordination between us over policies before we go to Geneva.

Secretary: I don’t want to give you a veto over our every action. What you want is not to have an open break with us. Isn’t that right?

Dinitz: One point the Prime Minister made is that if and when there is a Geneva Conference, one subject we can use to waste time is “Peace.” What is it, for example?

Secretary: I agree completely. But there is no point in going through this agony if then we are going to rush into Geneva.

Dinitz: I know. But there is a school of thought, Mr. Secretary, in Israel that we will be seduced into another agreement in the north, into going to Geneva, and other similar actions once we have an agreement with Egypt.

Secretary: Your domestic situation makes things very difficult for you, I know. If you look at history, you will see that great decisions are [Page 764] almost always made by a few people who are not understood by their own contemporaries.

Dinitz: One last point—Geneva and Syria. On an overall agreement with Syria, is it understood that while we may be prepared to change the line on the Golan, we are convinced that we must stay on the Golan?

We believe we must have this understanding anew, now, that the U.S. won’t press us to get off the Golan.

Secretary: The way to handle Syria is to get less than an overall settlement with a change in the line.

Dinitz: Three bilateral points: 1) Will economic aid to meet our needs as submitted to you be supplied us? 2) are the arms we submitted via Matmon B13 going to be supplied us? 3) On oil there are 3 subheadings: a) compensation; b) guaranteed supplies; c) storage in Israel.

Secretary: Certainly we can agree on point (c). On point (b) as I told you we will make every effort. The only problem is I don’t know how mechanically we do it. On (a) it is certainly OK in principle. On your general economic needs, I don’t know anyone in town who thinks $2.5 billion is necessary.

Dinitz: The $2.5 billion is not so large if you look at what it is made up of. We have asked for $1.8 billion worth of military needs, both grant and sales. And we have asked for $700 million worth of supporting assistance. Now if you want to give us $500 million supporting assistance and $200 million in food, that, of course, can be negotiated.

And if you say you can’t give me a commitment to $2.5 billion, then can you give me a commitment to something around $2 to $2.4 billion?

Secretary: I tell you that I cannot give you a figure. I can tell you that it will be something substantial and something that will be done soon after any interim agreement, so that we don’t have to pay a high price for it with the Arabs.

Dinitz: Something substantial?

Secretary: Our studies indicate that somewhere between $1.5 billion and $2 billion is about right. But don’t hold me to this. I am certain that we can come to an agreement.

Dinitz: On the arms, I think we have no problem here.

Secretary: If we’re going to do anything, it should be done quickly.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of Henry Kissinger, 1973–77, Box 23, Classified External Memcons, May–December 1975, Folder 3. Secret; Nodis. The meeting took place at Caneel Bay in the Virgin Islands. Brackets are in the original.
  2. See Document 200.
  3. Larry Eagleburger.
  4. Probably a reference to the meeting in New York on June 15; see Document 188.
  5. Map is not attached, but a final status map is printed in Appendix B, Map 4.
  6. Thursday, June 12. See footnote 5, Document 184.
  7. July 6.
  8. No record of conversation has been found.
  9. Israeli journalist Matti Golan published The Secret Conversations of Henry Kissinger: Step by Step Diplomacy in the Middle East in 1975, which included secret conversations between Kissinger and Israeli officials. The Israeli Government initially banned the book for including classified material leaked to Golan by some Israeli officials but later allowed its publication.
  10. Neither letter has been found.
  11. See Document 188.
  12. See footnote 6, Document 197.
  13. See Document 96.