4. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Yigal Allon, Deputy Prime Minister
  • Abba Eban, Minister for Foreign Affairs
  • Moshe Dayan, Minister of Defense
  • Simcha Dinitz, Ambassador to U.S.
  • General David Elazar, Chief of Staff
  • Mordechai Gazit, Prime Minister’s Office
  • Avraham Kidron, Director General, MFA
  • Ephraim Evron, Deputy Director General, MFA
  • General Eliahu Zaira, Chief of Intelligence
  • General Leor, Military Adviser to Prime Minister
  • Eytan Bentsur, Aide to Eban
  • Col. Bar-On, Aide to Dayan
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State
  • Ambassador Kenneth Keating
  • Ellsworth Bunker, Ambassador at Large
  • Joseph J. Sisco, Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs
  • Carlyle Maw, Legal Advisor, Department of State
  • Alfred L. Atherton, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State
  • George Vest, Special Assistant to the Secretary for Press Relations
  • Harold Saunders, Senior NSC Staff
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff

Dayan: Eli will start. Inform the Secretary about the Egyptians.

Zaira: [Standing at map easel] I will begin with the Egyptian deployment. The total strength from Cairo to the front line is about 2,200 tanks, 1,700 artillery pieces and 1,300 APCs. They are deployed with three main forces: the Second Army from here up [indicating on map], the Third Army from here down, a special force which is called the “Badr” force composed of two divisions is here, on the East side of the Canal, and a certain force which defends Cairo.

The total order of battle is, in three numbers: On the 5th of October, the Egyptians had 2,650 tanks; they lost during the war 1,100; now the order of battle is again 2,650. They received 750 tanks from Russia, 200 from Libya, and the rest is composed of Algerian forces. So basically they are back to the same order of battle.

In aircraft, they began the war with about 600 airplanes. They lost 220, and have received about 115. So they are a little bit below the prewar order of battle.

The important point is the additional SCUD missile launchers. Before the war they had 10 SCUD launchers and now they have 20.

This is in rough numbers the order of battle. I have more details if they are needed.

Kissinger: I would like to know where their artillery and SAMs are deployed specifically.

Zaira: I will begin with artillery. Artillery pieces from here down to here, they have 994 artillery pieces and 720 tanks and 325 APCs. From here down.

Kissinger: That is on all the East Bank?

Zaira: Yes.

Kissinger: [to General Dayan] Does everyone here know the plan?

Dayan: Yes.

Kissinger: So, just to translate it into what we are talking about: They would have to withdraw all their artillery and tanks on the East Bank.

[Page 8]

Dayan: Yes.

Kissinger: That includes the Third Army. The tanks would have to go to the West Bank.

Elazar: That is what we estimate. It might not be accurate because that is from air photos, etc. That is approximate.

Kissinger: But still it’s in the hundreds in each case. So what we are asking of them is not a minor move.

Dayan: What we move is not a minor move either. You will hear in a minute about the number of tanks we have on the Western side.

Kissinger: Have they any artillery on the West Bank?

Zaira: Yes, a lot. Now, here on this side of the Canal, totally on the West side, they have about 1,100 tanks and 384 artillery pieces. About half as much as they have here. Because most of the artillery is deployed with the infantry divisions which they have here, five of which are on the East side. And here we have mostly tanks and mechanized divisions. So totally on the West side, they have more than 1,000 tanks, nearly 400 artillery pieces and about 600 APCs.

Kissinger: How many artillery pieces would they have to move on the West bank?

Zaira: [pointing to northern part of West side] Only from here up, which is about 112.

Kissinger: 112 artillery pieces within the zone, in that 30-kilometer zone?

Zaira: Yes.

Kissinger: How many SAMs?

Zaira: Generally in this area they have 15 battalions.

Kissinger: Within the 30 kilometers?

Zaira: Yes.

Kissinger: And they are located specifically where?

Elazar: Only here [pointing to northern part of West side].

Zaira: This I can show you here [hands Dr. Kissinger a paper].

Kissinger: Does one of you want to come with me to Aswan and see how easy it will be to tell them they have to move a thousand tanks and 700 artillery pieces across the Canal?

Dayan: Can you say something about the number of tanks we have to move?

Kissinger: We will get to that. Can I keep this?

Zaira: [hesitates] Yes. [he hands it over] For you! [Zaira’s map at Tab A.]2

[Page 9]

Kissinger: I don’t think it will improve my standing there to hand over a map written in Hebrew.

Zaira: They can translate it.

Kissinger: Let me get it straight again: There are about 900 tanks and 720 artillery pieces that have to be moved?

Zaira: Just the opposite—720 tanks and 994 artillery pieces from here to here.

Kissinger: On the East Bank. Then on the West Bank they would have to move an additional 100-plus artillery pieces.

Elazar: I am not sure if they have to move all these. Because of the 112 pieces that are in the area, some of them I suppose will not be in the 30-kilometer area. So I don’t know if it is 50% or 60% but some of that artillery they will have to move.

Kissinger: Unless they don’t want the 30 kilometers zone behind your line. But we will have to see.

Elazar: That depends on the artillery line, if there is another artillery line.

Keating: Do they know what you have on the West Bank?

Zaira: Well, they take photos of our dispositions and also the Russian Foxbats which take off from Cairo West fly over our area and take pictures. They look at our pictures and we look at theirs. So I believe they know.

Keating: My point, Mr. Secretary, was that perhaps for your argument purposes you would like to know what Israel would have to move.

Kissinger: But they don’t accept the symmetry anyway, so . . .

Keating: I know they don’t.

Kissinger: This is not a negotiation we can settle by symmetrical withdrawal.

Keating: I realize that.

Kissinger: Alright. I understand. I just wanted you to understand what will be in their minds when we discuss it. It’s not going to be trivial. I was hoping their artillery would be on the West Bank. I didn’t realize they had most of it on the East Bank.

Dayan: As far as the artillery is concerned, I still believe this is in their interest. If they say they want each party to keep its artillery in position, which I doubt—of course if they always want only us to withdraw I can see their point.

Kissinger: But if they want to keep their artillery on the East Bank . . .

Dayan: And if we keep ours where it is, there won’t be any ceasefire, there won’t be any opening of the Canal or anything. The artillery [Page 10] is close to one another, so if someone opens fire and the other replies, before you know it the whole area is on fire. You can see what is going on now. I cannot imagine that they will start working on the Suez Canal or anything else if our artillery is not withdrawn, and to ask us to do it as a one-sided move, this I can imagine, but it is unacceptable to us. Well, anyway, this is the picture.

Allon: I would like only to inform you that the Cabinet was very tough on this matter, heavy equipment and tanks as far as the East zone is concerned.

Kissinger: They can be tough, but at some point they have to face their real alternatives.

Allon: Of course. But the same applies to the other side.

Kissinger: The tanks I think is a manageable problem. I think, I hope; I don’t know.

Allon: What is the difficulty with the artillery?

Kissinger: The difficulty is the psychological problem of his having to move major forces from territory he considers his own. There is no sense arguing it now because this is not the time.

Allon: I am asking what is the difference between tanks and artillery from this point of view.

Kissinger: I am giving you my assessment, based on many conversations, of his probable reaction. He has to consider what orders he has to give to his military, and how he will look to his military, if he makes certain types of agreements. And I am concerned. We will see.

Allon: Any more questions about Egypt, or can we move to Syria?

Kissinger: Just a minute. Could I hear what you have on the West Bank?

Elazar: By the way, I would like to mention that they have about 50% of their artillery on the Eastern Bank. Because 900 is out of 1,900 artillery pieces.

Kissinger: But that means it is a massive artillery deployment on the East Bank.

Elazar: Yes, 50%.

Kissinger: I just hadn’t realized. I somehow thought they had it on the West Bank. I am just thinking about the orders that have to be given. It is a massive movement, and hard to justify as a unilateral decision. Once you have put 50% of your forces on the East Bank it is hard to say that you came to the conclusion unilaterally that you are better off having them on the West Bank. But let’s see what his reactions are.

Elazar: Well, we have now on the West Bank 3 armored divisions—actually two armored divisions and one is a mechanized division. That is to say, about 600 tanks, a little more, about 630. We have [Page 11] about 15 battalions of artillery, that is to say in pieces, about 200 artillery pieces. We have on the Eastern Bank another 3 divisions. That is to say, we have now 50% of our troops on the Egyptian front on the Western Bank.

Actually we managed during the last months to make some fortifications there in spite of the constant fire on our fortification works. And we feel that this force on the Western Bank is quite sufficient if there are some hostilities. What I mean is that we don’t feel we are trapped on the West Bank. That is what we have there.

Dayan: Perhaps there is one more point that should be made, that is about the mountain there. We think that there is a dominating high ground there, Jebel Ataka, in the South, which cannot be appreciated just by number of tanks or artillery, but by the fact that our forces that are holding it are only infantry troops there, with light weapons. But I think if they get back that mountain, although it will not be calculated by artillery or tank pieces, it is a very important strong point. And I think they should appreciate it.

Kissinger: But why is it that you feel you are not in a trap there when you have only 200 artillery pieces against about 1,000 and 600 tanks against so many more?

Elazar: That results from the ratio of forces between us and all the Arab armies. That is the normal ratio. And we don’t feel trapped in the Middle East in spite of this ratio of forces. We have the same ratio of forces on the West Bank.

Kissinger: What is facing you on the West Bank? How many tanks?

Dayan: If I may say one thing [gets up and goes over to map]. The only way they can really try to put us in a trap is by cutting from here, cutting the bridgehead we have there. Let’s say in this area, not across the lake, but here. They cannot do it with their forces on the Western side. They can press with those forces but we can fight it out. It is only pressure but it will not cut us off. To cut us off they have to link their Second and Third Armies. Then they will come against the forces that we have here, not inside the trap. In order to link the Second Army with the Third Army and to cut our bridge, they have to come against the forces that we have here. And I think they absolutely cannot do it.

There is another thing. The Third Army, which should do part of the job, hasn’t got a missile umbrella, because this is out of range because we are sitting here [on the West Bank]. This area is under our control, and their missiles are here. That is to say, our Air Force is free to act against the Third Army.

Now, I mentioned the mountain that we have here which dominates all the area around here. It is very important, not only topographically but as a military position. So I cannot see how they can cut us off [Page 12] and put us in a trap. I should say that if war starts they will find the weakness of their Third Army earlier than we would feel some difficulties in our position here. They have a lot of forces here. They can press on us, but . . .

Kissinger: Sadat said to me that his estimate is that you could destroy his Third Army if a war started, but you would take very heavy casualties doing it.

Dayan: Well, let’s say that if something like that will take place, once we destroy the whole or even part of the Third Army, then our bridgehead will not be only here but will be extended here too, so there won’t be any question of being trapped. Besides that we have the Navy here, with the LSTs. So I think the general idea that we are trapped is just because of misinformation or people do not realize the position of the Third Army, and the Navy possibility. And it is almost impossible for them now to link the Third Army and the Second Army.

Keating: They will also drive in force near Cairo.

Dayan: They will press us but they will not cut.

Allon: Maybe the Egyptians underestimate our strength on the West Bank of the Suez Canal, but I don’t want you to be a victim of their trap about the assessment of our strength. I am not boasting too much; we know our weaknesses as well. To my judgment they cannot push us back. We may suffer casualties, of course, but we are not trapped.

Kissinger: That is my judgment, but . . .

Allon: We shall suffer casualties but we shall destroy a great deal of their army, more than he can afford politically.

Kissinger: My estimate is that even if you win, the political world pressures would become such that . . .

Allon: [interrupts] This is a different problem.

Kissinger: From the military aspect, I grant you that you would probably win; the cost you can assess better than I can.

Allon: The battle cannot be decided by artillery. That is very helpful and very important, but it will be decided by tank warfare, armor, and the Air Force. In these two cases I think he may be surprised.

Kissinger: My assessment is—and we have talked about it on other occasions and again yesterday3—that Israel is diplomatically and internationally very badly placed for a resumption of the war on the West Bank. And that is not based on my assessment of the strategic situation. I would assume that if you tell me you will win, as the Defense Minister [Page 13] has said yesterday,4 I believe that. In any event, you would be a much better judge of that, but we went over that yesterday.

Allon: We would like to avert a war, no question about that. Even if the diplomatic situation would be better.

Kissinger: The major information I wanted was what he would have to remove if he accepts your plan, so I can understand what is in his mind when I am talking to him. Let me understand: The APCs can stay, if I understand correctly. I thought that was what you said to me in Washington.

Dayan: I think those attached to the battalions, to the infantry battalions, can. The way I see it is all defensive weapons, if they go on mining the area, anti-tank guns and APCs and armored cars—but those that belong to the respective units, not just if they artificially stuck in hundreds of thousands of them. But when we speak about policing battalions, or they can do it with APCs, from my point of view it is all right.

Kissinger: I understand. I think I have a sufficient idea of your plan now so we don’t have to go over it. Because the tough part of it will come when we get a reaction. For presentation purposes I understand it well enough. If they accept it, the tough part will come in spelling out all the details.

Atherton: Could we have the number of personnel they have?

Kissinger: Five divisions is how much?

Zaira: About 60–70,000.

Allon: You mean the two armies East of the Suez Canal?

Alazar: Yes.

Kissinger: You drive a hard bargain.

Dayan: Either he wants to fight or he wants peace.

Elazar: We have about 50,000 men on the West Bank.

Dayan: I suppose the best thing to convince somebody from Egypt is to take him for a guided tour along our forces there and to tell him the number of people we have there and the fortifications and this business of the mountain—I really don’t know whether Sadat is acquainted with the area and knows the meaning of that mountain—and the naval business and all these things.

Kissinger: That is not his problem. His problem is what orders he has to give to his military and how he will look to his military. And that is going to be quite a problem.

[Page 14]

Dayan: To get us out of there is also a problem.

Kissinger: He may think world pressure will get you out. There is no sense discussing the plan any further. Let’s see what his reaction is; then we have something to discuss. If he accepts it. If he rejects it, we will see again. Okay, let’s see the Syrian front.

Zaira: The Syrians had 2,100 tanks on October 5th; they lost about 1,100, then got from Russia 800. Today they have about 1,800 tanks, out of which they have between Damascus and the front line about 1,360. They do not include the Jordanian forces.

Kissinger: They just evacuated.

Allon: Nor the Iraqis.

Zaira: They have here four divisions on the front line—the 5th, 8th, 7th and 3rd. And they have the First Division behind the lines. They have a lot of artillery, about more than 900, and all of them along the front line; about 1,300 APCs, all of them along the front line; some Moroccan forces here, Iraqis, some Saudis here and some Kuwaitis probably somewhere here. We don’t count them yet. They also have missiles.

Dayan: We’re very popular.

Kissinger: Are the Saudis finally there? It took them about three weeks to get there.

Zaira: But we have patience. [laughter]

Kissinger: Once during the war their unit was lost somewhere in Jordan.

Zaira: Purposely.

Now, I have to add that there is a difference in the capability of using surface-to-surface missiles by the Syrians. They used the FROGs during the war; we understand that now they have the SCUDs.

Kissinger: Did the Egyptians have FROGs?

Zaira: Yes, a lot. They used a lot and they also used SCUDs. We found some fragments of SCUDs which were sent to the Pentagon already, I believe. But if the Syrians have the SCUDs, they can cover even Pafah and El Arish, can even destroy Gaza if they want to. I believe the Syrians having SCUDs is something different, because they will not be very scrupulous about using them. And I believe the fact that the Syrians and the Egyptians have the SCUDs and the FROGs will bring a new dimension to the war here if it resumes, and I speak about using surface-to-surface missiles against cities.

Kissinger: Why didn’t they use them in the war?

Zaira: They used what they had. They only had the FROGs; the Syrians did not have the SCUD.

Kissinger: Why not the Egyptians?

[Page 15]

Zaira: The Egyptians I believe had the SCUDs to be used only if we attacked cities in Egypt. At the same time also the only people who could really fire the SCUDs were the Russians; now I believe that the Egyptians can use them. But during the war only the Russians could fire them, and according to our information it was the Russians who fired the missiles that were fired.

Kissinger: But at what were they fired?

Zaira: At the Fayid area, not at cities.

Elazar: In the bridgehead area.

Zaira: A few minutes before five o’clock on the 22nd of October on the West side of the Canal.

As to airplanes, the Syrians lost about 200 airplanes. They have received back by airlift about 140, all of them from either Russia or the satellites. They were all assembled and tested by Russians or East Germans.

Kissinger: Do you think the Russians delivered such massive numbers of tanks from existing units? They couldn’t have had them in store.

Zaira: Either existing units or reserve units. I tend to think they were taken out of reserve units.

Kissinger: But certainly not out of current production?

Zaira: Because we know some of the tanks that were shipped to Syria were used tanks, so they just took out the tanks from the stores of reserve units or maybe even active units.

Kissinger: Our intelligence had the impression that some were taken from active units.

Maw: How many aircraft do they have now?

Zaira: Today about 300.

Kissinger: How many do you have there? What was the old line?

Elazar: [referring to map] Here is the 1967 line. There is a no-man’s land of about two kilometers. Here is the new line.

Kissinger: I see. No, I mean the line on the day the 1967 war broke out, the June 5th line.

Dinitz: It doesn’t exist on our map!

Elazar: Oh, you mean the 1949 line. It is somewhere here.

Allon: It is too close to my kibbutz.

Elazar: Here is the Jordan River, so it was approximately here.

Kissinger: What is the deepest point of your penetration from the pre-1967 war line? What is the deepest penetration on the Golan Heights? Altogether, from what you call the 1949 line to the deepest penetration you have now.

[Page 16]

Zaira: It depends on where you take the axis. From here to here along the road [pointing], it is about 60 kilometers. From here to here [pointing] about 40.

Kissinger: And what is the deepest point of your penetration in the last war?

Elazar: About 30 kilometers.

Allon: About 30 kilometers each war.

Kissinger: One more war for Damascus [laughter]. Your Defense Minister said during the war, “We are on the road to Damascus.” The Russians went crazy and I complained. So your Defense Minister very helpfully pointed out in his next public statement that the road from Tel Aviv to Damascus is also the road from Damascus to Tel Aviv. [laughter]

Elazar: What we have here now is about two armored divisions, approximately 500 tanks.

Kissinger: You think you can hold this line now?

Elazar: Yes.

Kissinger: Easily?

Elazar: Easily. It is much better because of the topographical advantages.

Kissinger: They can’t pinch off the salient?

Elazar: I would say that as a main line of defense it is much better. This area here is a great advantage. I have no doubt that we can defend it with two divisions, two armored divisions, 500 tanks.

Kissinger: Can you defend it without mobilization?

Elazar: No, we have to mobilize.

Allon: It depends on how many fronts we have.

Elazar: We can have altogether a little more than two armored divisions unmobilized. But usually even in peacetime we always have a certain part of our reserves mobilized in training periods and so on. So to have an additional armored division as a reserve armored division which is on training, that is quite a normal procedure.

Kissinger: What is the length of military service here?

Elazar: Three years compulsory service and 30 days for reserve units every year, and three days every two months. For commanders it is 40 days.

Kissinger: So it is 48 days. Six times three plus 30.

Elazar: Sometimes more. For officers it is 42, plus 12 days, so it is almost two months every year.

Keating: And for women?

Elazar: 20 months compulsory service.

[Page 17]

Kissinger: And then reserve service.

Elazar: They have reserve service of 30 days.

Kissinger: It is a big chunk out of people’s lives.

Elazar: We used to say they are soldiers on 11 months leave every year.

Allon: It is more a citizens’ army than it is a people. But it is a burden, no question about it.

Kissinger: Jordan. The Jordanians were about two weeks ago telling us you had two and a half armored divisions concentrated against them and you were getting ready to start against Saudi Arabia. Fortunately they also told this to Saudi Arabia.

Elazar: We didn’t have actually armored divisions but we had several infantry brigades.

Kissinger: Why?

Elazar: Well, in any case, to give him an excuse at least.

Kissinger: So he could pull out his armored divisions. Oh, I see.

Allon: I understand he is improving his forces now, thanks to two American shipments of arms.

Kissinger: I know of only one shipment. What are you talking about?

Allon: A new deal for supplies.

Kissinger: I will tell you, we are sending some TOW missiles, but except for that I don’t know of anything now. They have asked for a lot more, but nothing was agreed to.

Allon: This is out of context now, but during the war he did his best to avoid direct confrontation on the Eastern front.

Kissinger: We know.

Allon: But in certain hours he was on the edge of intervening directly because he was under great pressure from other Arab countries, and I don’t know how much he can resist in case of another war.

Kissinger: There is no question that that is true, and we were in daily contact with him and daily asked him not to do anything. And he is paying a price for it, because his present position in the peace negotiations is weak because he did not enter the war.

Eban: At Algiers, when they said they took part in the war, the Egyptians smiled derisively.5

Kissinger: We made a major effort to keep him out of the war. He sent us messages twice a day. He is under great pressure.

Shall we talk about Syrian disengagement?

[Page 18]

Allon: The only thing I am authorized to say today as a result of the Cabinet meeting is that we are ready in principle to enter negotiations with the Syrians about a disengagement or separation of forces agreement, provided that they will hand over first the list of the prisoners of war to the Red Cross and permit the Red Cross personnel to visit the prisoners and report on their conditions. Once we start, of course, we will get moving.

Kissinger: I understand. Let me say this. If the Egyptians are receptive to your proposal, then Sadat wants me to go to Damascus—for his reasons. If I go to Damascus, Asad will undoubtedly raise this issue. I don’t have to have a plan approved by the Cabinet; in fact, I would rather not have a plan. But I would like to have something to talk about. Now I understand your original proposition that they must give the list of prisoners and Red Cross visits. I have already said this to Sadat and he said he would write a letter to Asad to urge him to make this concession.

Allon: It is very important, emotionally and humanly.

Kissinger: You have no problem with us on this point. There are two issues, one procedural and one substantive. Procedurally, Sadat has suggested that one way of breaking the log-jam on Syrian participation in the Conference would be that if they were willing to give lists and permit Red Cross visits that they join the Egyptian delegation to discuss disengagement with you. I have told him, (a), I don’t know whether it would be acceptable to you, and secondly . . .

Allon: It is not good for him either.

Kissinger: You can’t tell him what is good for him when he is proposing it. On the condition that they give the lists and permit Red Cross visits, would you then talk to them in the framework of the Egyptian-Israeli discussions on disengagement? The lists are the sine qua non.

Allon: I would prefer not. I don’t know what would be the last answer, but as far as my first reaction is concerned, it isn’t good to link together the Egyptians and the Syrians. It will start by having joint talks; it will end up by an Egyptian refusal to reach an agreement over disengagement unless and until we reach a similar agreement with the Syrians. We will have more difficulties with the Syrians than the Egyptians.

Kissinger: That is an incorrect analysis. What will block an agreement with the Egyptians may be your plan, but there is no doubt in my mind that Sadat will not wait for the Syrians to accept a plan he considers domestically bearable for himself. And my recommendation to Sadat would be that this issue would not be raised until the agreement with you is already signed and in the process of being implemented. They made the proposal to me three weeks ago that Syrian officers join the Egyptian delegation in Geneva. I mentioned it to you, or maybe I [Page 19] didn’t even mention it, because I told Fahmi. He called me from Geneva, and I told him this would so totally confuse the issue that no progress would be made and I didn’t even bother to pass it on because I thought I knew what your answer would be. But now he has resurrected it. It will come up only in the context of an already-signed agreement which has begun to be implemented. And it is his way of getting them pregnant so that they cannot attack his disengagement agreement. And it is in that context that you should consider it.

Allon: You mean that the negotiations with the Syrians would take place in Geneva?

Dinitz: I think the confusing sentence was your phrase, “within the framework of the Egyptian negotiations.”

Kissinger: What he has in mind, in order to avoid a Syrian Central Committee argument, is that Asad can send officers to sit with the Egyptians in Geneva on his own, but he cannot take a formal decision to join the Geneva peace talks. So he thought that we’d say the disengagement group which is now discussing Egyptian disengagement will then discuss Syrian disengagement, without an additional decision of Syria about joining the peace talks. It is, however, clearly understood that they must give the prisoner lists and Red Cross visits before that can take place, even as part of the Egyptian group. And I would not recommend it unless the disengagement plan with Egypt were already signed and in the process of implementation. The advantage of this tactically, frankly, is that it would avoid a consideration of the second phase of the Geneva Conference, since the second phase would then be Syrian disengagement and it would give Syria a vested interest not to raise the ultimate issues because its own disengagement scheme would be considered. In that framework I would frankly recommend it.

Allon: Just to find out whether I understood correctly; Sadat thinks that it is too difficult for the Syrian regime to adopt a resolution in the Central Committee to start direct negotiations with us over the disengagement, and it would be easier . . .

Kissinger: Or to join formally the Geneva Conference.

Allon: And they think it would be easier for them to join the Egyptian team and to negotiate together the Syrian points after we conclude the agreement with Egypt?

Kissinger: And the implementation had started.

Allon: And they don’t want to have it somewhere in the field between the two fronts?

Kissinger: No.

[Saunders and Mr. Sisco join the group.]

Allon: I personally would recommend the Cabinet accept it. If you come back from Egypt and say this is the only way to meet with the [Page 20] Syrians. But I will recommend, if possible, that we should discuss the Syrian problem when you come back from Egypt again.

Kissinger: I agree with you.

Allon: You will know better and we shall know more. We didn’t go into details on this in the Cabinet. There is a great sensitiveness on Syria.

Kissinger: If I go to Syria it will probably be Wednesday.6 I would have been here once again. And it would be a day, if things go well, in which drafting would be going on. It would help me. With Sadat, you have given me a bit that will help me. By the time I go to Syria it would help me, not to know what your plan is, but the way the Defense Minister talked, which gave me a sense of what is inadmissible and what is possible to think about. The last time he [Asad] pulled out a map and said, “If we do disengagement with the Israelis, what are you talking about?” And I frankly didn’t have a clue as to what I was talking about and I didn’t dare say anything. And at least I want to know, not a plan, but what is totally inadmissible, so I can narrow the area of consideration.

Allon: Frankly speaking, I don’t think that any one of us is authorized to commit ourselves.

Kissinger: Not to commit yourselves, but can we think out loud?

Allon: What is inadmissible—I would say that no retreat will take place from any of the old demarcation lines, under any circumstances.

Kissinger: Alright. That is helpful to know.

Allon: And of course we could also not give up the entire new territory. But this is really my very personal view. I can hardly commit myself, let alone the Prime Minister or the Cabinet.

Kissinger: Asad has said, incidentally—he volunteered this—the one thing he said about disengagement was that he recognized that no Syrian forces could move into areas from which the Israelis withdrew. So you have no problem of thinning of forces or anything, if he still maintains that. We are not talking about any particular territory. Because on the Sinai, when Sadat talked to me in November,7 I had a sense of what was feasible from our many discussions on the interim agreement and my discussions with the Foreign Minister and the Prime Minister. On the Golan Heights, I had no sense at all. So when I come here on Tuesday—you don’t have to settle it now—if we could just sit together privately and give me the thinking out loud. I would give him nothing.

[Page 21]

Allon: I understand.

Kissinger: But at least in giving him nothing I won’t be sitting there like an idiot. What you said now is already very helpful. If you say you could give up nothing of the old territories, that is one limitation that is useful for me to have.

Allon: I prefer that we discuss Syria when you come back, but we did adopt a decision that . . .

Kissinger: I saw that; that is very useful.

Eban: One difference between their joining the Egyptian delegation or coming themselves in their own capacity to Geneva—it might not make a practical difference but there is a political difference. I think it should be sold as a concession. By coming to the Conference, they accept a certain ideology of recognition.

Kissinger: I think Sadat thinks—it is obviously helpful to Sadat that he is not the only Arab who makes a disengagement plan.

Allon: May I go back to Egypt for a minute? It has been mentioned last night about the frequent violations of the ceasefire—on both fronts, but I am speaking about Egypt now because you are going to Egypt. From midnight to this hour there have been already ten incidents, and two casualties, wounded, one officer and one soldier. This can’t go on. We shall give them hell, but . . . And this is one of the signs of goodwill from tonight on.

Kissinger: Just a minute, from tonight on nothing will happen, Yigal. Let’s be realistic. Tonight I am not going to see Sadat. I want to start early in the morning. If he accepts your plan in principle, then I can insist that he stop the ceasefire violations as a sign of good faith. If he rejects your plan in principle, I guarantee you the number of violations will increase. So I cannot very well tell him . . .

Allon: We shall not confine ourselves to hit back only in the place where we are being attacked. It is a wide front. I must convince him that we mean business.

Kissinger: Yigal . . .

Allon: The war of attrition will not be renewed. With all my respect for Field Marshal Sadat and his victorious army, if the violations continue, there might be a retaliation in a way that even you might not like.

Kissinger: It depends entirely on the context in which it occurs. If he accepts it in principle, I can insist that there be an end to ceasefire violations. If he does not accept it in principle, there will be increased ceasefire violations. This you will then have to consider, not on the basis of abstract rhetoric and toughness, but on the situation in which you will find yourselves if all hell breaks loose internationally, but there is no sense debating that now.

[Page 22]

Allon: Henry, we are not going to pay the price that the international community is expecting of us. We learned something. Everybody will be happy at our expense. It won’t happen.

Kissinger: The most important thing about history is to learn the right lessons. Usually people learn a lesson and then apply it in a different period when it is no longer valid. You know my advice about 1956. There it was not necessary. In 1973 it may have been necessary, but let’s not discuss it now because it is not the concrete issue. I would recommend strongly that before you take any retaliation, you wait until I get back here, which is, after all, hopefully within 24 hours of my leaving.

Allon: You will be back tomorrow night?

Kissinger: I hope I can get enough of a beginning reaction during the day tomorrow so I can leave Egypt late in the day and arrive here no later than during the night Monday, so we can work together starting Tuesday morning. So I hope that at 10 o’clock Tuesday morning we shall start working. But until then you should not do any drastic retaliation, because you have to hear what his reaction is.

I’ll see the museum Tuesday at 8:30.

Allon: You didn’t see it today?

Kissinger: No.

Allon: You saw Teddy [Kollek]?

Kissinger: Yes. For five minutes.

Allon: So you know what he feels about Jerusalem.

Kissinger: [pause] If he accepts it in principle, the first demand I will make is that he stop the pressure. If he accepts it in principle there will be no problem. The real problem we will have is if he rejects it in principle. Even then I will urge him to step down his activity to see what that news produces here. But let’s not get the situation out of hand while I am in the area here. I think that would be extremely dangerous and foolish.

Allon: I want to make it clear, because you are going to see him, because I won’t see him. He should understand that we shall not tolerate a war of attrition. We may regret it too, but we will retaliate.

Kissinger: Yigal, please.

Allon: If he wants a war then we have no alternative, and if he rejects in principle our proposal it means he wants war.

Kissinger: It may not mean this. We are running into the danger of talking slogans. If he rejects it, from my judgment of what I have seen, it is because of his own domestic position. Just as you have a domestic position, he has one. And you are asking him to give the army, which he has finally got under control, a lot of orders that will be extraordi [Page 23] narily unpalatable to them. I do not know whether he can do it or not. I have no question in my mind, having spent these many hours with him, that he genuinely wants a settlement and that he almost certainly wants peace in the Canal zone. Whether his domestic situation permits him to do what you think you require for your domestic situation, that I don’t know, and we will now find out within the next 36 hours. No sense debating it. But it is not as simple as “does he want peace” or “does he not want peace.”

Allon: Without using slogans, we are not asking you to help us in our domestic situation. We are undertaking all the calculated risks involved with open eyes because we believe this is a responsible decision we are taking, and you know how difficult it is to explain, because we can’t boast of an advantage of such an agreement until after it has been signed.

Kissinger: Even then you can’t.

Allon: I mean to say we lost nothing militarily if we are here or there. Some explanation will be given, not to boast, not to make it an Israeli victory. It is not a victory but it is not a defeat. Since I know this argument which goes on with us for 26 years about the domestic problems of each Arab country and the whole Arab world all together, so to some extent an enlightened people can take it into consideration. But we are not going to pay the price for his domestic affairs. If he can’t control the army for a disengagement agreement, then he can’t control the army but by going to war. So let him come.

Kissinger: I have to explain to you what the realities are internationally or domestically in America. Before you take drastic decisions you have to consider that this is a different world now from the late 1950’s. I suggest, however, we do not debate it now. It is not a current issue.

Allon: No, but deliver the message in the spirit and letter, because it is very serious.

Kissinger: I will deliver it but you have to rely on me as to how to handle him. I do not happen to believe that your particular formulation is the exact way for me to deliver it to him, but I will get across to him that you are not to be played with.

Allon: The second problem is the problem of the bodies of the dead soldiers. This is a thing which I can’t understand.

Kissinger: Dayan has raised that and it is a reasonable demand.

Allon: It is high time he let us search for the bodies and bring them for burial and inform the families, and this should be one of the signs of goodwill.

Kissinger: No question. If he agrees to it in principle, there should be no problem.

[Page 24]

Dinitz: And this goes for Mizrachi.8

Kissinger: He has also agreed to give back Mizrachi when you’re on the final line. If you will keep quiet about it—and the Soviets too—and just let us ask for him, he will give him to us for you. If you and the others keep quiet about it, if we ask for him, we will get him back. He took it particularly ill that the Soviets raised it too. Levy9 I have never raised with him, because I understand he is crazy.

Dinitz: That is a simple case of a human being who is sick, was in an asylum.

Kissinger: Mizrachi I can assure you about, and he gave me the exact reason why he is not so interested to release him. Levy I have never raised with him, but if the facts are what you have described, I can’t imagine any problem.

Allon: Now, we adopted a decision today about authorizing you to put forward a plan which we negotiated last night and this morning, and we shall make the announcement today as you asked it.

Kissinger: But you will say that you adopted it “learning and taking into account the Egyptian position.” That makes it easier for him not to demand too much in return.

Sisco: When will that be announced?

Eban: Within a couple of hours.

Kissinger: It is very helpful, extremely helpful. And I must say that the talks this morning, going over the map, brought very useful clarifications. I do not just say this for the record, but I say it genuinely.

Allon: And, just to give you my impression from the discussion we had at the Cabinet, as far as their forces or the presence of offensive type of weapons on the East bank would create a great problem in our parliament, and quite rightly so. This is not a matter of domestic problems. We can overcome all sorts of problems. Therefore, do not concede—

Kissinger: Let me explain exactly what my position has to be, for the preservation of my own position. I cannot be in Egypt as Israel’s lawyer. I cannot be in Egypt to start with one position and then say to him, well, I will accept another one. The position that I will bring to him is the only position I will discuss. The only thing I can do is, acting as an interpreter of what I take to be your views, I can tell him if the line may be five kilometers more or less, or I can say to him it is a waste of time for me to bring it here. If he says, “I need two more battalions,” I cannot say I accept it. But I can say I will take it to Israel and see what they say. [Page 25] I in no case will go further than telling him that I will take certain things to Israel for your consideration. You will have the perfect freedom when I arrive to reject what I bring to you. I must do that, for my own sake, because I do not want to be in a position where I have plenipotentiary powers from you and say I agree to four battalions rather than three battalions. That puts me into a bad position because it makes me look vis-à-vis him that I am trying to strike the best possible bargain for Israel. So it would destroy my usefulness even with Egypt. So the use I am as your intermediary is to give him my interpretation of your thinking and steer him away from some things altogether; others I bring here and you can still reject them.

Allon: I understand, but I felt it my obligation to tell you what was the spirit of the discussion, because people take the problem of the limitation of forces in the security zones very seriously.

Kissinger: But steer your press away from any discussion that I am going to Aswan and then I will return here with a finished product that I have agreed to with Sadat. Because if I could get away with that, it would destroy—strangely enough—my usefulness with Egypt.

Allon: I think we have earned our lunch already. Have a good lunch.

[The meeting adjourned at 1:15 p.m.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 140, Country Files, Middle East, Secretary Kissinger’s Middle East Trip, January 11–20, 1974, Memcons and Reports. Top Secret. The meeting was held in the Prime Minister’s office. Brackets are in the original.
  2. Tab A attached but not printed.
  3. See footnote 4, Document 3.
  4. According to Kissinger’s Record of Schedule, Kissinger met with Dayan on January 12 around midnight for approximately one hour. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76) No other record has been found.
  5. The Arab League Summit was held in Algiers November 26–28, 1973.
  6. Wednesday, January 16.
  7. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXV, Arab-Israeli Crisis and War, 1973, Document 324.
  8. Baruch Mizrachi was an accused Israeli spy in Egyptian custody.
  9. Levy was an accused Israeli spy in Egyptian custody.