252. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • President Ford
  • Max Fisher
  • Lt. General Brent Scowcroft, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

Fisher: I thought you would like a read-out of my trip. They had called a special conference for world Jewish leaders. The mood of the country is hysterical. All these events like Zionism, the UN Security Council vote, the Sadat visit, put them on the defensive. I have never seen it so bad.

I spent two and a half hours with Rabin. He showed me your letter and Henry’s letter.2 I said I could tell him there was no change in our position on the PLO. I said you wanted the six months extension and the only question is whether we could get it without giving anything. Rabin was most disturbed about the PLO invitation and its effect on the Egyptians.3 It further undercut them in favor of Syria.

I told him he must have confidence in you. He said he did have. I said he shouldn’t stir things up and further isolate Israel. The U.S. is his only friend and he shouldn’t go public with complaints.

On the settlements, he said he agreed with our assessment, but he had a public posture to uphold. Begin said the Lebanon raid4 was the biggest mistake they ever made. But he said an independent Palestine would be a dagger at the heart of Israel, controlled by the Soviet Union. At this conference, Begin said the settlements should be allowed to go forward on the West Bank. Rabin said he would not be compromised and put in a box on the West Bank settlements—they would be right in the midst of Arab settlements. He told me that the right was deliberately stirring this up to embarrass him. He has intense political pressure on him.

The President: We don’t anticipate any problems here, except getting the $2.3 billion through the Congress.

[Page 876]

Fisher: He said Henry had sort of given a commitment on the Security Council. I told him that was not so and Dinitz had read something which was not there. I think the key to the whole thing is the Palestinian situation.

The President: Does he have any suggestions? I saw that Cabinet members thought Israel should talk to the Palestinians if they would recognize Israel.

Fisher: They have to face this eventually, but it is probably too much to face overnight. We can’t push them into it, but I think it is the most important issue and I think it is being recognized as such more and more. Rabin is much more self-assured now.

The President: I noticed that on his last visit.

Fisher: Begin spoke very highly of you. He had a good impression of his meeting with you.

Anyway, they all felt terribly isolated and upset.

The President: I guess I can see how they might have a different perspective. But we were tough on the Zionism resolution, we did our best on UNDOF, and vetoed the terrorism one.5 They shouldn’t feel isolated.

Fisher: You know how they are—like Henry is as a person. It is a national trait.

In the evolution of the Palestinian issue, speak frankly to Rabin on this issue, in terms of the future. I had a good visit with them and I think I quieted it down.

With respect to the American [Jewish] community, we need to do something too. There is a perception that you have written off the Jewish vote. I have a couple of ideas, but I would think it out more. In ’72 the Jewish press came in to the Oval Office for an interview.

The President: I think we can work something out. Propose something.

Fisher: O. K. It can’t look contrived, but we have to put things into proper perspective.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversations, Box 17, December 12, 1975, Ford, Max Fisher. Secret; Nodis. The meeting was held in the Oval Office at the White House. Brackets are in the original.
  2. Ford’s letter can be found in Document 250. Kissinger’s letter has not been found.
  3. On December 4, at the request of Egypt, the UN Security Council invited the PLO to participate in a debate on the December 2 Israeli air strikes against Palestinian refugee camps and guerrilla bases in Lebanon.
  4. See footnote 2, Document 251.
  5. The Zionism resolution refers to UN General Assembly Resolution 3379; see footnote 6, Document 249. For the renewal of UNDOF, see footnote 2, Document 250. The veto of a terrorism resolution is a reference to a draft resolution introduced in the Security Council that condemned Israel for air strikes in Lebanon on December 2. The United States vetoed on December 8. (Yearbook of the United Nations, 1975, pp. 227–229)