259. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • The President
  • Secretary Kissinger
  • Under Secretary Sisco
  • Mr. Scowcroft, NSC
  • Ambassador Toon
  • Prime Minister Rabin
  • Ambassador Dinitz
  • Mr. Eiran
  • Mr. Bar-On

The President: I have reviewed with Dr. Kissinger the record of our talks over the past two days, and I felt that it would be useful for us to have a third meeting before you leave Washington. I would first like to reaffirm the importance I attach to cooperation between our two countries. We must work together. We have cooperated well in the past, and I feel sure that we can do the same in the future. One of the basic problems we face in 1976 is a difference in judgment as to procedure, not on all objectives. You seem confident that we can get through 1976 without any political movement; our feeling is that no political movement would lead to a stalemate in the area which in turn might carry with it a real danger of a blow-up in the Middle East. I recognize that this is a matter of judgment, and I recognize as well that you have had great experience in the area and your views must be given weight. You should know, because that [illegible] disagree with your assessment.

[Page 915]

A call for reconvening the Geneva Conference with an understanding about participation by the Palestinians we feel is one viable course of action. You disagree. A second option would involve a non-belligerency pledge in exchange for territorial concessions. You have strong reservations with regard to this approach. I understand that you would prefer simply to call for a reconvened Geneva Conference, fully recognizing that nothing meaningful would emerge. Our best judgment is that such a course will not produce results and will not give any impression of movement. The result might well be an explosive situation in 1976. I should make clear, Mr. Prime Minister, that we do not suggest alternative courses of action in order to undercut Israel. On the contrary, we feel strongly that the courses of action we propose are in the best interest of Israel as well as the United States. I do hope that you will examine carefully in the coming days what we have suggested, and perhaps you and Dr. Kissinger can resume discussions of the problem when he sees you on the West Coast.

Rabin: I appreciate your taking time out of your busy schedule, Mr. President, to meet with us once more. Let me make clear first of all that we do not intend to delay the process simply for the sake of delaying. Our basic policy is to avoid concessions which we feel are not justified and which may in [illegible] impinge in a damaging way on our vital interests. Concerning the first point you are right, Mr. President, in your conclusion that the Israelis are opposed to participation of the PLO in any negotiations. With regard to the second option, we agree that it is doubtful that peace can be achieved, and we are ready, therefore, to work toward the end of the state of war as a political goal.

The Secretary: While I would not want this view to be aired outside this room, I think it can be argued that neither side is in a position to make the concessions required for peace. Peace creates problems for both sides; among others there is Jerusalem for the Israelis and there is the recognition issue for the Arabs. Thus, peace is perhaps not a viable option and an end to the state of war is conceivably the only plausible course open to us. We must be clear on one fundamental point; this course is possible only if it involves substantial territorial concessions. This is the concept we are trying to pursue and on which we should agree. If we seek an alternative to the PLO, then we must work out some scheme which involves Jordan. All we need agree on now is the concept of an approach to all three countries—i.e. Egypt, Syria and Jordan. There is no need now for us to delineate on a map the territorial concessions which we might envisage.

Rabin: I agree that a final peace is not realizeable now and that, therefore, our alternative goal should be an end to the state of war. I have no objection to the concept of a diplomatic approach to all three countries. My problem, however is that I face serious difficulties in [Page 916] agreeing today on territorial concessions to Jordan. It is impossible for me to say in precise terms what sort of concessions on the West Bank might be acceptable in Israel. I agree, however, to the principle of an approach to all three countries.

The Secretary: There is no need for us to arrive now at a precise definition of the concessions which might be involved. The Prime Minister told me last night after the Dinitz dinner2 that he will return to Israel, have discussions with his colleagues, and within a week or so after his return he should be in a position to say how far he can go with Jordan. This gives us no problem. All we need agree on now is the conceptual approach; a definition of what might be involved is not now required. If we are in a position to put forward as our proposal an end to the state of war in exchange for territorial concessions to Egypt, Syria and Jordan, this would meet our requirements.

Rabin: The Secretary has accurately reflected our exchange of last evening. I would like to make clear, however, my position with regard to the West Bank in order to avoid any possible misunderstanding. I can make no commitments now with regard to territorial concessions involving the West Bank; I must first discuss the issue in Jerusalem. I would also like to point out that in my view if Syria should reject this conceptual approach the option of dealing with Egypt or Jordan alone will be much more difficult for reasons that I have already set forth.

Dinitz: I would like to add one observation to what the Prime Minister has said. If the Prime Minister is in a position to present to the Cabinet a comprehensive plan for all three countries approval would be easier. To get approval for only Jordan and Egypt would be very difficult indeed since in this case the Cabinet would regard Syria–PLO as a continuing threat.

The Secretary: We should understand that if the Jordan–Egypt option should be pursued all kinds of possibilities open up. For example, the Syrians might be separated from the Soviets. In any case, we can discuss the details of the agreed conceptual approach when we meet again on the West Coast. Mr. President, I must excuse myself now in order to proceed to the Hill where I am scheduled to be tormented by Senator Clark.

Rabin: I am also scheduled to appear on the Hill before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The Secretary: I am sure that you will be treated better than I.

Rabin: Before leaving, Mr. President, I would like again to thank you for the list of weapons which was handed me by General Scowcroft after our first meeting. I think you should know, however, that in my [Page 917] meeting last night with the Secretary of Defense I was not able to pinpoint dates of delivery. I do hope that you will do what you can to alleviate this problem.

The President: I am sure there is no serious problem in regard to delivery dates, and Mr. Scowcroft will discuss the issue with the Defense Department.

The Secretary: Perhaps Mr. President, I can bring final information on delivery dates to the Prime Minister in Los Angeles.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of Henry Kissinger, 1973–77, Box 16, Nodis Memcons, January 1976, Folder 3. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Toon. According to the President’s Daily Diary, the meeting was held in the Oval Office at the White House where Rabin and his party joined the President, Kissinger, and Scowcroft at 9:50 a.m. (Ford Library, Staff Secretary’s Office Files)
  2. No memorandum of conversation has been found.