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33. Letter From Secretary of State Kissinger to Israeli Prime Minister Meir1

Dear Madame Prime Minister:

I have just completed detailed discussions with Defense Minister Dayan2 who presented the views of your government on the question of Israeli-Syrian disengagement. I know that Minister Dayan will be reporting to you and members of the Cabinet fully regarding our talks, but I feel that it is essential that I communicate with you directly on how I see the situation which faces Israel and the United States at this critical juncture. You know from our previous discussions that I believe that if a disengagement agreement is achieved between Syria and Israel, it is likely to last for some time, provided military restraint is maintained on both sides.

I understand fully from my talks with Minister Dayan the considerations that went into the development of the current Israeli proposal on Syrian-Israeli disengagement. I appreciate that it represents a further evolution in the Israeli thinking on this matter and contains a number of positive features.

However, in the spirit of friendship and candor which has been characteristic of our discussions, as well as the intimate and special relationship that exists between Israel and the United States, I must convey to you my deepest concern over a number of important aspects of the Israeli proposal, particularly as it relates to the line to which Israel would withdraw.

As presently formulated, I believe the plan has no chance of being accepted by the Syrians and is likely to result in a break in the talks with a possibility—and in my honest judgment—a probability, that war again would break out, at least between Syria and Israel. I express this judgment with a heavy heart.

In addition, such a break in the talks would take place on conditions most difficult for Israel and the United States. The efforts of the U.S. would be largely discredited; the Soviets would be provided with an unparalleled opportunity to recoup their losses in the area and to reconvene the Geneva Conference and through it establish for themselves a role of the kind which they have to date been denied by the Arabs themselves. The Europeans would be strengthened in their [Page 185]pro-Arab course. The oil embargo would probably be reinstated. Egypt would be isolated and weakened in its resolve to stay out of future conflict. The positive trend which the Egyptian-Israeli disengagement agreement has brought about would be reversed, and much of what has been accomplished over the past months fundamentally undermined.

You will recall that in my conversations with you I outlined what I believe is needed in order to give hope that an agreement can be achieved3—an agreement which would protect the security interests of Israel, would leave untouched Israeli settlements, and would provide the only sensible alternative to war. I explained to Minister Dayan as I did to you in my talks in Jerusalem, that what is required is an Israeli proposal that provides for Israeli withdrawal along the lines I explained to General Dayan but not to include any Israeli settlements. This will enable us to obtain support from other Arab countries. I do not know whether Syria would find this acceptable, but I am confident that with such an Israeli proposal, put forward on the basis of agreed tactics between us, the capacity of the Soviet Union to be successfully troublesome would be reduced. It would provide President Assad with an alternative to war while placing whatever territory Israel gives up under the control of UNEF, it would sustain our mutual efforts, and it would avoid giving additional ammunition to those European countries who seem poised today to inject themselves unhelpfully into the situation should present efforts fail to achieve agreement.

Madame Prime Minister, I am writing to you in all solemnity because I am convinced that we are now reaching a very critical point. I know there are varying views in Israel on this matter. I believe I understand the concerns, the worries, the anguish which all Israelis feel that nothing should be done which could affect adversely Israel’s security. It is a grave and awesome responsibility—a responsibility which you have long carried with great courage and distinction. I know your fervent desire for peace, your fervent hope that not one more Israeli ever be lost in another war. Because I know that you fully realize this, I am writing to you at this point to urge you to reconsider on an urgent basis the proposal that has been conveyed to us and to consider seriously and give weight to the views I have expressed in this letter. In doing so, I would ask that your government look at the totality of the strategic and political considerations I have outlined and not the military aspects alone.

As you know, I will be seeing the Syrian representative about April 11 or 12. I do not ask you to formulate a new Israeli proposal for [Page 186]these meetings. However, I am most fearful that presenting your current ideas will have the serious results which I have described in this letter unless I can at least offer in the talks some hope that we can expect a further progression of your views by the time I come to the area, in the latter part of April.

I would appreciate hearing from you before my talks with the Syrians here in Washington.4

With warm regards and respect,

Henry A. Kissinger5
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 136, Country Files, Middle East, Dinitz, January 1–July 1, 1974. Secret.
  2. See Document 32.
  3. See Document 28.
  4. Prime Minister Meir replied to Kissinger’s letter on April 9, stating that the proposal presented by Dayan during his visit to Washington “reflects the position of the Israel Government.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 136, Country Files, Middle East, Dinitz, January 1–July 1, 1974)
  5. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.