291. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • President Ford
  • Max Fisher
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State
  • Brent Scowcrof, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

President: That was a good meeting the other day.2

Fisher: Look at this. One of the guys was so touched he stayed overnight to write this. [Hands a paper to the President.]3

President: This is a helleva fine paper.

Fisher: I am leaving this afternoon. I allowed myself two extra days to get armed and meet with more groups. There is a feeling of the Jewish groups around the world that they want more input into the Israeli policy. This could be very helpful. They want me to set it up. There will be a couple launched from the U.S. and 100 or so from elsewhere.

[There is some talk about the political organization and the campaign.]

What can I do to help in Jerusalem?

President: The most overriding thing is in Lebanon. The Israelis have done exactly the right thing by standing aside. As a result the Syrians are wearing down the PLO.

Kissinger: And without any pressure from us. We came to parallel conclusions—there was absolutely no hint of pressure from us. The Syrians are wearing down the PLO and the Syrians are stuck in Lebanon. They can’t pull out without turning it over to the PLO and indicating a botched military operation.

The one thing I see that is dangerous is the possibility of Israeli attacks on Fatah camps as a result of this hijacking.4

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President: That could coalesce all the Arabs against Israel.

Kissinger: I tell you it is my personal belief that the French are making a mistake conceding to negotiations with the terrorists. But that is their business.

President: Retaliation would just spark the Arabs to unite.

Kissinger: The problem is these are Yemeni Jews—Sephardic Jews. They are not so tough and they are over 50 percent of the Israeli population. That is the reason for the change.

Fisher: What about the role of the PLO in the Lebanon situation?

[The President and Secretary Kissinger described the thinking process and that there was no change in our policy.]

The TQ thing5 worked out fine. I want to thank you.

President: Javits was very pleased.

Scowcroft: Humphrey told me he thought it worked out fine.

Fisher: So I just wanted to know what was happening.

Kissinger: Not a Goddamn thing is happening. We have given the Arabs proposals and they haven’t responded. We have no reason to press.

Fisher: It looks like the message for me to convey is to stay away from retaliation.

This settlement thing is another problem.

Scowcroft: They just authorized three more.

President: Really? Max], that is a very serious matter.

Kissinger: Israel shouldn’t make the same mistake of hitting the refugee camps. The PLO is getting chewed up right now without any help.

Fisher: This George Brown thing is bad.6 I think something will have to be said. Lissy has drafted something innocuous.

President: I don’t see how we can make a statement. What is the occasion?

Fisher: You will get a lot of mail. Maybe in response to this, you can get it out by answering the letters.

President: We will look at it.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversations, Box 20, July 2, 1976, Ford, Kissinger, Max Fisher. Secret; Nodis. The meeting was held in the Oval Office at the White House. Brackets are in the original. According to the President’s Daily Diary, the meeting ended at 2:45 p.m. (Ford Library, Staff Secretary’s Office Files)
  2. The memorandum of conversation of the June 24 meeting between President Ford and a group of Jewish leaders is ibid., June 24, 1976, Ford, Jewish Leaders.
  3. The paper is not attached.
  4. On June 27, an Air France plane was hijacked by Palestinian terrorists and flown to Entebbe, Uganda. The Israel Defense Force mounted an operation on July 4 to rescue the hostages.
  5. Transitional Quarter.
  6. A reference to General Brown’s reiteration during his confirmation hearings for a second term as JCS Chairman of his 1974 statement that Jewish Americans had too much influence over Congress. See the New York Times, June 30, 1976, p. 9.