37. Letter From President Nixon to Israeli Prime Minister Meir1
I am writing to you regarding Secretary Kissinger’s mission to the Middle East and on the eve of his arrival in Israel. I received yesterday a full report of his conversations with Mr. Gromyko2 in which, as he has reported to you, he successfully resisted Soviet proposals which in our judgment would have been enormously complicating and prejudicial to the common efforts of Israel and the United States to achieve a satisfactory separation of forces in the Golan Heights.
In my talks with Secretary Kissinger before he left, we discussed and reflected on the immediate days ahead, their crucial character, and their decisive impact on future developments. Simply stated, Madame Prime Minister, if a Syrian-Israeli disengagement can be achieved, it could build further on the foundation of confidence which has begun to develop as a result of the scrupulous implementation by Egypt and Israel of the disengagement agreement. It could also open new avenues for additional steps towards peace and a further strengthening in Israel’s security.
On the other hand, if we fail in this endeavor, I am convinced that Israel will face a situation fraught with risks. It would mean the reversal of the trend towards reduced Soviet influence in the area, the injection of the views of others who neither appreciate nor seem interested in helping to maintain Israel’s security, a situation in which the capacity of the United States for constructive purposes will have been effectively neutralized, and the likelihood of another war in the Middle East under conditions in which both domestically and internationally American actions would be much more difficult than in October.
Madame Prime Minister, you have often said, and I have appreciated it, that my Administration has given more support to Israel—material and political—than perhaps any other Administration. This is not said, I know, in any partisan way, but I believe this judgment to be ac[Page 213]curate. We have pursued a policy of protecting and strengthening Israel’s security both with material support and diplomatic efforts.
I therefore find it profoundly disturbing to see reports from Israel which are casting doubt on the U.S. role and describe our policy as one which is pursuingdétente without full regard and understanding of Israel’s interests. I cannot overemphasize what a fundamental mistake I believe it would be for Israel to approach the critical days ahead and Secretary Kissinger’s mission in this frame of mind.
Israel is going through a period of readjustment. You have suffered pain and anguish from a recent war which was neither your desire nor your choosing. But I find it painful, Madame Prime Minister, to see developing in Israel an attitude of gloom and distrust regarding the U.S. efforts. A vote on a Security Council resolution,3 which in our judgment was not as balanced as we would have liked but was more balanced than any in the past, cannot erase the magnitude of the timely airlift in Israel’s hour of peril, nor the achievement of an Egyptian-Israeli disengagement agreement which you yourself characterized as a very favorable result for Israel. It is difficult for me to understand how such an atmosphere could develop in the week in which I authorized a generous apportionment of the $2.2 billion commitment,4 and sent to the Congress a foreign assistance program for 1975 which provides equally generously for your future needs.5 It is perplexing to me that our steadfast support for Israel could be seriously doubted at this critical hour as Secretary Kissinger is arriving in your country on his vital mission.
I know and understand your worries and fears. Difficult decisions lie ahead, but the risks of failure are so great and the consequences are so profound that I felt it incumbent upon me to share with you my concerns and hopes regarding the coming weeks. I can assure you that it is not our intention to ask of you and your government concessions that would be prejudicial to the survival of Israel.
I hope therefore, Madame Prime Minister, that you and your government approach the talks with Secretary Kissinger in a mood of opportunity as Israel faces one of the most fateful weeks in its history.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 136, Country Files, Middle East, Dinitz, January 1–July 1, 1974. No classification marking. Kissinger wrote Meir a letter on April 29, urging Meir to make the compromises necessary for disengagement with Syria. He warned that “if our present diplomacy fails in the critical period ahead, it will be beyond our power to prevent a resumption of hostilities, a return of diplomatic efforts to unmanageable international forums, a restoration of Soviet dominance in the area, and extreme jeopardy to the progress that has been so painfully achieved in recent months.” (Ibid.)↩
- See footnote 5, Document 36.↩
- See footnote 7, Document 36.↩
- See footnote 12, Document 23.↩
- See footnote 10, Document 36.↩