46. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Mrs. Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel
  • Simcha Dinitz, Ambassador to the United States
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff

Meir: How was the King? [Hussein]2

Kissinger: All right. There was not much to discuss with him.

Meir: Was he in a bad mood?

Kissinger: No.

[Page 226]

Meir: Did your friend [Gromyko] leave Damascus for good?3

Kissinger: If not, I won’t go. I think he’s leaving for good. I told you I had proposed the 9th, but for the reasons I gave you I’ll see him on the 7th. So if you’ll oblige with some governmental activity . . .

Meir: There is a hunger strike outside my house.

Kissinger: On what?

Meir: That we shouldn’t sell out. That we shouldn’t give up Kuneitra. That we shouldn’t do anything dangerous.

Kissinger: Every course is dangerous. I’ve never told you different.

Meir: And the shooting yesterday was awful.

Kissinger: I’ll take this up.

Meir: The Russians are bringing in equipment.

Kissinger: That’s our information as well.

Meir: And there is an international force there—Kuwaitis, Pakistanis . . .

Kissinger: All this is true.

Let me tell you about the Saunders mission. Here is a new report: [paraphrases from cable]:4

“I met Sunday with Saqqaf, Rashid Pharaon, and Adham.” All this is in the context of what I presented as my idea. “I met with Adham. The key point in his position was that it would be a good first step.” This is the first-step argument which I use in Saudi Arabia and in the area that it creates a good situation for getting the shooting to stop and going ahead. “Adham and Pharaon are regarded here as the men most likely to reflect the King’s thinking. Pharaon reiterated his question of Saturday night of whether Kuneitra would be under UN or Syrian administration. I replied that it depended on the position that Israel would finally adopt but under the proposal we were discussing it would be under Syrian administration. Pharaon made two points. It was essential that a way be found to put Kuneitra entirely within Syrian administration. I explained the great difficulty in doing this and explained the problem created by Israeli settlements so close there.

“Pharaon stressed that it was important to present a position which Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Algeria could support . . . He said it was a good position especially if Kuneitra could be under Syrian administration and the Syrians would be isolated if they did not accept it. He asked whether Boumedienne would accept . . . I told him I would be going to brief Boumedienne.”

[Page 227]

Now since then I have seen both Marwan and Saunders. Marwan claims the Kuwaitis took the same position as the Saudis, and according to him, the Kuwaitis even said they’d cut off the subsidy to Syria if they rejected it.

So, if we look at the positive side, what started as a discussion of the 1967 frontier is now down to a narrow strip. Sure, they’ll say it’s the first step, but they’ll say the 1967 borders anyway. My strategy is to leave Syria to last.

It was almost unanimous in our group that the Israelis should not be asked to give up Golan. That will not be a contentious issue between Israel and the United States. Now we’re down to the absolute minimum that’s needed.

Meir: Yesterday there was a long Cabinet meeting and the consensus was—there was a map, you’ll see it soon5—and Kuneitra is divided. And we can’t move the entire border. You’ll see the map. And in some places where we move we have to ask them to move to widen the buffer strip. We didn’t say the army would stay.

Dinitz: Our military line will be west of Kuneitra.

Kissinger: That’s not the problem.

Dinitz: But what’s important for presentation purposes is that the military line is west.

Kissinger: Every Arab leader agrees they can support giving Kuneitra. I did my best with Marwan—showing him the map, and the dividing line, and I gave him all the arguments. He says the only way they can support it is if he can say Kuneitra even if it doesn’t mean anything. The rest of it depends only on whether the line moves west.

Dinitz: You’ll see the map.

Kissinger: Let’s see what it looks like.

Meir: My Party is up in arms. I wish it could be, but I can’t.

Kissinger: What is your alternative?

Meir: I agree, you’ve never said there is no danger. So that’s all in your favor. I certainly can’t say to my people there is no risk.

Kissinger: No. If you asked me to defend it before your Committees, I’d say it is the lesser of two dangers. In October if Syria had attacked alone, you would have totally defeated them.

Meir: Yes.

Kissinger: If we can keep the Arabs divided. If we can keep the currents going . . . if I had been Secretary of State three months earlier [Page 228] maybe I could have begun maneuvering. Being united is not their natural state. Morgenthau6 can say I’m taken in by Sadat, but look at the price he’s paid. And we’ve paid him nothing. As I said to Morgenthau, the Munich nightmare for Israel is not this slow process which you can partly control; the Munich disaster for Israel is the 1967 frontier imposed by foreign decision. I remember when we came here right after the October war, the first question you asked me was, “Did you agree with the Russians on the 1967 frontiers?”

Meir: The danger is a war in which we’re in a worse position.

Kissinger: No, if Syria is alone. As I’ve said, from my point of view it’s better if this fails, because if something goes wrong I could say I had warned you against it. This way, if you agree, I’m forever paying the price.

The danger is a united Arab world. One piece of intelligence from Saunders is that Faisal told me Faisal is trying to change Syrian policy by changing the government structure—getting rid of that party. Faisal says the civilians in Syria are the worst, and the military aren’t. Hussein told me this independently. Khaddam would go, and Shihabi might be Prime Minister.

Meir: Asad would stay?

Kissinger: Yes. Asad is no Sadat but it’s clear they are anti-Soviet and want to be pro-Western. This is the impression I also got from Shihabi.

Meir: The reports we get from Cairo are even more serious—coming from Moslem fanatics.

Kissinger: My present plan is to come back here from Cyprus tomorrow evening, about 7:00 or 8:00.

Meir: Of course.

Kissinger: And I’ll report to you immediately. I won’t tell him any details of the plans. I’ll tell him they’re still meeting.

Meir: I can’t believe the Russians, with all the equipment they’ve been putting in, will just step out.

Kissinger: No, they won’t step out.

Meir: They’ll do everything possible to stop the agreement. They have nothing to lose.

Kissinger: The risk for them is if it breaks up in circumstances in which there is total U.S. support for the Israeli position, they face a situation in which their client will lose.

[Page 229]

Dinitz: If the Arab world lines up behind your plan, there is little risk the Syrians will want to be alone.

Kissinger: If we succeed in getting Boumedienne, I think Syria will yield. Marwan says if Asad rejects it, he should think about it for two days, and Faisal and he would send emissaries. I can’t speak about Boumedienne. But I’ve promised him a Joint Economic Commission and diplomatic relations, but only after diplomatic relations. I don’t know why he needs it. He’ll get some EX-IM credits for a natural gas line. But there won’t be any economic aid.

Meir: He doesn’t need it.

Kissinger: But I held that up because of the embargo. There is no new plan. In any case, he knows he can’t get it without disengagement. So I think he’ll come.

Dinitz: In the Cabinet there was a consensus for a list of requests we had, on economic aid and military equipment.

Kissinger: We have to work it out differently from the last one. We can work out the understandings but not tie them to the agreement.

Dinitz: What she said is we have to sit together and concretize those needs, possibly by sending a delegation to the United States.

Kissinger: You should have a long-term arms agreement whatever you do, because you shouldn’t have to do it every six months. You should do it in the time frame of disengagement because we can use that explanation to the Arabs. On economic aid, I don’t know how to do it.

Dinitz: We should have experts meet.

Kissinger: What I should do is get a formal Presidential authorization to promise long-term arms aid, and send a mission, and send you a letter saying the President has authorized this. What you need is not just a mission.

Dinitz: A decision in principle on long-term arms aid.

Kissinger: That’s right.

Meir: And something that we shouldn’t be asked to come down from the Golan Heights. The Cabinet was unanimous.

Kissinger: This we have to work out . . .

Dinitz: Yes, if it leaks . . .

Kissinger: It’ll kill us.

Dinitz: It would be better if it’s a Presidential letter to the Prime Minister.

Meir: [to Dinitz] There was a letter; which you didn’t think much of.

[Page 230]

Dinitz: [to Kissinger] When you were in Mexico, he sent a letter, with Sisco, that “no Israeli soldier would be asked to leave territory until there was peace.” I didn’t think much of it.7

Meir: You said, Mr. Secretary, to Rabin, that if you had been there it wouldn’t have been sent, because it couldn’t be implemented.

Kissinger: Yes.

Meir: One more thing the Cabinet wanted: If there is another war, we shouldn’t go through such agony as in October before the airlift. There should be contingency planning.

Dinitz: The Pentagon asked us for lists of what we’d need if there was a new war. We weren’t sure we wanted to give it to the Pentagon, but . . .

Kissinger: I’m in favor of contingency planning.

Dinitz: With the Azores and the Europeans, could we have some planning?

Kissinger: It is a mistake to approach European Governments. Contingency planning I have no objection to.

The immediate [Pentagon] political game is clear. It’s such a total change in their orientation that I’m not sure what they’re up to. Never mind, I have no problem agreeing to contingency planning.

If this story gets out, all hell will break loose. But it shouldn’t be at a military attaché level. So officers?

Dinitz: Yes.

Kissinger: Let me talk to Haig and Scowcroft about how to do it. I have no problem giving you an understanding on it since the Pentagon has already offered it.

I’d be wary of giving your detailed supply situation; can’t you give just your needs?

Dinitz: Just how soon we’ll need certain items. I have no trouble giving it to Scowcroft.

Kissinger: If the Arabs find out they’ll play it more cleverly. Scowcroft can discuss it but it has to get into the Pentagon machinery.

Dinitz: Yes.

Kissinger: First you give me a list of what you want. Second, I’ll send a letter to the President tonight saying this is what we should promise the Israelis and why. Third, I’ll give a letter to you saying the President is prepared to work out the following things.

Meir: There is the issue of military equipment. Then the promise that the U.S. will not ask us to go down from the Golan Heights.

[Page 231]

Kissinger: This I have to think about. In this Administration it won’t happen.

Meir: Then we have to consider what will happen if someone wants to remove UNEF.

Kissinger: That we can easily have.

Dinitz: You don’t need to bother the President with it.

Kissinger: We can have some understanding like on the Egyptian one. Because the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will never believe we didn’t have understandings. We could show them those. Like the Egyptian things.

I can leave somebody here tomorrow.

Dinitz: Not for sensitive things.

Kissinger: No, but for other things.

Dinitz: For a Memorandum of Understanding.

Kissinger: Yes, because I don’t want to create the impression this [the Gromyko meeting] is a U.S.-Soviet agreement. We should leave someone here to be working with you.

[The Prime Minister and Secretary Kissinger went into the larger Conference Room for the plenary meeting.]

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of Henry Kissinger, 1973–77, Box 7, Nodis Memcons, March 1974, Folder 5. Secret; Nodis. The meeting was held at the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem. A meeting with the rest of the Israeli negotiating team followed this one from 6:45 to 9:10 p.m. (Memorandum of conversation; ibid., Folder 4) Brackets are in the original.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 45.
  3. Gromyko arrived in Damascus on May 5 and left the morning of May 7.
  4. A reference to telegram 965 from Algiers, May 6. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, P850067–2495)
  5. The map was shown to Kissinger in the plenary meeting that began at 6:45 p.m. The map is not attached but see Appendix B, Map 3 for a map of Kuneitra and its surroundings.
  6. Hans Morgenthau was an international relations specialist.
  7. Not found.