217. Memorandum From the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft) to President Ford1

Secretary Kissinger asked that the following report of his meeting with Rabin be passed to you:

“I have just completed my first round of talks with Rabin and his negotiating team,2 including Foreign Minister Allon and Defense Minister Peres lasting five hours. My overall impression is they want to achieve the interim agreement—not because they view it as opening a new chapter in Israeli-Egyptian relations and ushering in new hope for [Page 807] the future, but rather because the terms they are expecting to get will leave them in a strategic position in the Sinai not significantly inferior to their present position and because an agreement provides the vehicle to ensure continued Israeli military supremacy resulting from the $2.5 billion in aid and the military equipment Rabin seeks and because it will stabilize American-Israeli bilateral relationships.

“In addition, Mr. President, the mood I found in Israel will be of interest to you. The basic attitude of the negotiating team seems dominated by domestic political considerations. Allon has carved out his niche in the Cabinet minutes in the forefront of those insisting that ‛there must be more political concessions’ from Sadat to show that Israel is getting a piece of peace for withdrawal from the passes and the oil fields. Peres’ domestic political strategy combines hawkish public statements with an insistence that there must be an American presence in the passes which will help deter Egyptian attack, add strategic stability, and be credible. To achieve this, he pressed hard for six American posts. Rabin is somewhere in the middle, determining his position on the kind of consensus he can achieve in his coalition on each of the various elements of the agreement. The mood and mode of operation is strikingly different from the negotiations of the 1974 Disengagement Agreement with Meir and Dayan, during which the talks reflected a common framework and assessment, and characteristic close friendly ties. This is not the case with the group—the new generation of Sabral leadership. The talks have taken on more the character of exchanges between adversaries than between friends; more the character of a necessary bargain to be struck with America; something Israel feels it must do, and do in such a way as to assure that at least part of the blame can be placed on the U.S. if something goes wrong in the future. In other words, the mood is grudging not generous, more concerned with finding a scapegoat than a common strategy.

“The public mood is feverish and emotional, partially as a result of months of negative conditioning by the Israeli leadership since last March towards the interim agreement and partly out of genuine concern by other Israelis regarding the future. The demonstrations are from the same groups who demonstrated in 1974 against the disengagement agreement. I get the impression that the government is not making a major effort to halt them using them as a protection against pressures for further concessions. They are obviously taking measures to keep them from getting out of control.

“The principal issues that now remain are:

—The Israeli line in the passes, although we may have made a little progress on that today depending on how other issues come out.

—An advance in the Egyptian main line a kilometer or two east of the present UN buffer zone.

[Page 808]

—The arrangements at the Israeli and Egyptian intelligence stations.

—Whether there will be any U.S. stations and, if so, how many.

—The level of U.S. aid.

—Some specific commitments on military equipment.

“In this situation there are two options:

“1. We can continue the negotiations even though the agreement will not be taken by Sadat as a reflection of a genuine desire on the part of Israel to move towards peace. The arguments for this are the same as for the agreement initially—that it will reduce the risk of war, give new momentum to the U.S.-managed diplomatic effort toward peace in the Middle East, keep the Soviets on the sidelines, and avoid pressure to divide us from our allies.

“2. We could break off the negotiations after the first round if we judge that the Israelis will continue to insist on a price that is too high. The main argument for this approach is that the Israelis are plainly using this agreement not as another step toward peace but as a means of strengthening their position to resist efforts to achieve an overall settlement in the long run on any terms the Arabs might accept. This agreement grudgingly achieved will not do what the step-by-step approach was designed to achieve—increase confidence and provide stepping stones toward peace. The tactical argument for breaking the talks off quickly, if that is our judgment, is that what Israel is asking will still be starkly clear.

“It is still a bit early to make this judgment, but I wanted you to have a chance to consider the options. I will make every effort to bring Sadat along, but if the Israelis decide they are going to drag this out, a decision may need to be made by the middle of the week.”

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Kissinger Reports on USSR, China, and Middle East, Box 4, August 21–September 1, 1975, Volume I (2), Sinai Disengagement Agreement. Secret. Sent for information.
  2. The memorandum of conversation of the meeting between the Israeli negotiating team and Kissinger, which took place on August 22 from 9:50 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, is ibid., Vol. I (1), Sinai Disengagement Agreement. This meeting was followed by others over the next two days. There are memoranda of conversation of meetings between the Israeli negotiating team and Kissinger that took place on August 23 from 9:50 until 11:55 p.m. (ibid., Vol. I (4), Sinai Disengagement Agreement) and August 24 from 6:15 until 10:30 p.m. (ibid., Vol. I (5), Sinai Disengagement Agreement).