215. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • The Secretary
  • Under Secretary Sisco
  • Deputy Assistant Secretary Saunders
  • Assistant Secretary Atherton
  • Jerry Bremer, Notetaker


  • The Middle East

The Secretary: I think the Israelis are setting us up as the guys who are beating them into it.

Sisco: Yes, I agree. Part of it is show for us. That outburst yesterday2 was because the government has arranged that there be no real debate until after the agreement.

The Secretary: But it is also clear that the government is putting out the word that they’re being raped by us.

Sisco: Yes, they’re making us the scapegoat. It disturbs me and it doesn’t disturb me.

The Secretary: That’s because you’re not the villain. Why should it disturb you?

Sisco: I don’t mean that personally. They will have to say it was done under U.S. pressure. Did you see Gwertzman’s analysis today?3 It is that the U.S. has brought about these concessions, though it is unfair to make you personally the villain.

The Secretary: That they are doing anyway. If they can establish the theory that they’re being raped, the agreement cannot last; so, in two or three years we will have to move to the overall.

Sisco: Rabin is justifying it on the grounds of direct benefits to Israel. He has to argue it positively.

The Secretary: The fact is we will have to move to an overall in a foreseeable time. I’m not sure we’re not making a mistake.

[Page 799]

Sisco: I agree, but there’s no turning around now.

The Secretary: What did Toon scream about yesterday? That was the real screw-up, sending out a draft letter.4 That was to be a side letter to be done after the agreement, after the President screamed about the first one, we edited it a bit and I said to Brent to get it back to Sisco.

Sisco: I’m disturbed about one thing. In the Sunday meeting they asked for in writing a statement to the effect that the President said for the first 18 months we will put forward no proposal in Geneva and for the next 18 months “trust me.”

The Secretary: That of course is almost certainly what happened, but we can’t put it in writing.

Sisco: The President didn’t even put it that way. He kept open his options, as I remember.

The Secretary: He probably said for 18 months we don’t do anything, but whether he writes it or says it are two different things.

Sisco: Secondly, Dinitz says he talked to you on the following: He says 1. There has to be a commitment that the agreement won’t be carried forward unless congressional action is completed on the U.S. presence and on the oil.

The Secretary: That I sort of said.

Sisco: The presence we can get through, I think, in a big hurry.

The Secretary: Why did you raise the question?

Sisco: I didn’t, he took the initiative.

The Secretary: No, no. You guys told him we might need congressional action on the oil.

Sisco: Yes, that’s been part of our analysis for months.

The Secretary: I cannot understand people saying we are not certain we have the authority. Either we have it or we don’t.

Saunders: There is legal authority. The question is whether you wanted to exercise it. That’s where a feel for Congress comes in.

The Secretary: Therefore, there is authority but whether we want to use it is our business.

Saunders: The question is whether you want any additional authority.

The Secretary: We cannot ask the Israelis to enter into an agreement which Congress can break major parts out of. (Eagleburger enters with ticker and leaves.)

[Page 800]

Sisco: (looking at ticker) I see the bilateral document is now beginning to leak.

Saunders: There’s another major point about Congressional action on the oil supply. The Israelis are seeking security of supply, which they have never had. This is a major new thing for us. The Israelis are looking for something new, the security aspect of oil, which they’d never had before. It really is not relevant to the agreement itself.

Atherton: I wonder if we don’t want to ask Congress for explicit approval of both the presence and the oil.

Sisco: I think it would be unwise on the oil. We should exercise our authority on the oil and inform Congress. On the presence I am confident we can get it. What worries me is the oil conditionality.

The Secretary: I’ll tell Dinitz I thought there were two separate authorities required.

The other thing that worries me is Fahmy’s response.5 It is totally unsatisfactory. I cannot be the fall guy for everything. Sure it’s predictable, but what will I do when those guys start working me over again? I want a cable to Fahmy. I’d rather have the shuttle cancelled than beat my head against the wall when we get out there. It is essential to tell Fahmy that these conditions are essential. We were disappointed to find that he is presenting the old ones in such a grudging way. Also say that there is the Syrian point I want to talk to Sadat about when I get out there. Call his attention to the precise understandings at Salzburg. I’m not asking for an answer. Second, we have to answer the Sadat letter.6

Sisco: We sent you a draft reply on Saturday. Also I haven’t heard from you on that one on Allon.

The Secretary: You don’t think in this madhouse I saw it?

Sisco: We thought it was a good time for the President to remind Sadat that we’d like to have him visit sometime.

Atherton: Here is a copy. (handing the message to the Secretary)

The Secretary: (reading message) No, it speaks too much of an agreed common strategy. Since it will leak, we have to go easy on that.

Sisco: The reason it’s in there is that he loves that phrase. His eyes light up when he hears it.

The Secretary: I don’t mind saying it once. Just say we both agreed to set some point at the time most promising a comprehensive settlement would have to be addressed. Also that we agreed the U.S. would stay fully engaged and is willing to put forward our own ideas as in the [Page 801] past. Then point out that the agreement has major consequences to Egypt. Basically the critics in Israel have a point. Spell out our idea on the settlement. Strengthen the idea of inviting him. Now get it out today and have it delivered by Wednesday.7 Get a phrase on the final phase and something about support for Dr. Kissinger—you see what I mean. But be sure the letter can’t be pulled out later and be used against us.

Do you think we’re doing the right thing or would we have been better off going for an overall?

Atherton: Only if we could have gotten an overall.

Sisco: What is the price the President’s willing to pay?

The Secretary: $2.1 billion maximum.

Sisco: I don’t think the U.S. people will think that’s cheap.

The Secretary: I think the agreement is the beginning of the end of Israel, not because of what’s in the agreement, since they are better off strategically than they were before. A jeep cannot move anywhere this side of the canal without being seen. The Egyptians have to cross the canal and move 40 miles against opposition. That’s a day-and-a-half operation before they meet any opposition.

Atherton: The air force would take them out by then anyway.

The Secretary: If they’d have done that in ’67, they’d be impregnable now and the entire coastal corridor they’re holding as a hostage.

Sisco: Will they have to do much on the new defense line? Since they are now telling us how much money they have to spend.

Atherton: Yes, they’ll have to do alot of bunkering.

The Secretary: But I think when Congress gets the two billion dollar bill at a time when we are cutting domestic programs and at a time when for $180 million we could have saved Cambodia . . .

Sisco: Did you see the figures we sent you Saturday which added to $3 billion?

The Secretary: I saw it. But now it’s disappeared.

Sisco: I just think the figures are telltale.

The Secretary: Of what?

Sisco: Oh, of the fact that they’re just throwing everything in.

Atherton: Here is the list. (handing Secretary the list)8

The Secretary: (reading list) Have they seen your $2.6 billion?

[Page 802]

Sisco: God, no. I wrote nothing in here either to make it look like I was recommending $2.6 to you either.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to the Arab-Israeli dispute.]

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, CL 346, State Department Memorandum of Conversations, August–September 1975. Secret; Sensitive. The meeting was held at the Department of State.
  2. The New York Times reported on August 18 (“Israel Approves Kissinger Mission”) that Israeli opposition leaders stated that Kissinger had “thrust himself” on Rabin’s government, which could not refuse Kissinger’s offer to come to Israel.
  3. “On Sinai, Pledges and Pressure,” New York Times, August 19, 1975 p. 10.
  4. In a meeting on Sunday, July 17, Toon read the President’s letter to Rabin. Telegram 5370 from Cairo, July 17, reported Rabin’s reaction to the letter. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files)
  5. Fahmy’s response was transmitted in telegram 8195 from Cairo, August 18. (Ibid.)
  6. See footnote 3, Document 214.
  7. August 20. The letter to Sadat was sent in telegram 197497 to Cairo, August 20. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files)
  8. The list is not attached.