47. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Mrs. Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel
  • Moshe Dayan, Minister of Defense
  • Simcha Dinitz, Ambassador to the United States
  • Lt. Gen. Mordechai Gur, Chief of Staff
  • Col. Aryeh Bar-On, Aide to Dayan
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff

Meir: I called a Cabinet meeting thinking it would be short. It took two and a half hours.

[Page 232]

Dayan: I want to say I was happy last night when you came back about having these enclaves. I felt bad because I thought I had misled you. Actually Israel doesn’t have troops in between there. So all these lines would turn out to be ridiculous.

Let’s get to business. I hope you will be happy—though I have never seen you happy. (Laughter)

Kissinger: My happiness consists on having something that has a maximum chance of being accepted.

(Looks over the map on the Prime Minister’s desk.)2

Gur: Here on Mount Hermon we didn’t include the Syrian position.

So we start the red line in no-man’s land. We go down—you know that line.

Here, in the northern side of Kuneitra, you can see we moved not only in Kuneitra but in the whole northern valley there.

Kissinger: Any populated area there?

Gur: There is a big village there.

Kissinger: Any village they could move people back into?

Gur: That is a political question

Kissinger: He has an obsession about populated areas.

Gur: The village of Akhmadia. We can move the line a few hundred yards.

Kissinger: We don’t need that for tomorrow.

Gur: So all this area we give back.

Dayan: Here is the first stronghold we really pull back. No monkey business.

Kissinger: The wriggly line is of no value if there are no villages there. It would create more problems.

Gur: There are two considerations—the villages and the road.

Dayan: We shall not break it on this village.

Gur: We tried to make enclaves between the strongholds. This is an area where I can’t remove strongholds. But here are two villages in no-man’s land where I don’t mind if they come in.

Kissinger: You can’t designate a specific village; you have to allow them into all villages.

Dayan: No, there are only two there.

Kissinger: Fine. But it makes a difference if I can say they can come into all villages.

[Page 233]

Gur: Here, the Rafid area. Here (in the southern bulge) we gave up a stronghold. In Rafid area we will give up a stronghold. Here is the village of Rafid where I understand they can come.

Kissinger: I haven’t mentioned it.

Gur: Here (in the southern bulge) is the third stronghold we’ll pull back. To the south we can’t pull back because it is plains; I don’t know of any village. And here I would not recommend to bring back civilians. Here the terrain is such—voluntarily I wouldn’t give up that stronghold, but that picture was too sophisticated.

Kissinger: My worry was . . .

Dayan: They would have thought we had cheated them and it was meaningless.

Kissinger: You are absolutely right.

Dayan: Now you can point to three strongholds and can point to return of civilians there. I don’t think you should say anything about the south, because there are no villages there.

Kissinger: It would be a mistake to speak about any exclusions.

Dayan: When it comes to that, we will speak of that later. There are insignificant villages there. South of Rafid I don’t think they will initiate anything but you don’t have to discuss it.

Kissinger: This village will help. The northern half.

Dayan: It would look ridiculous.

Kissinger: Can’t you do something here (along thin part of the strip in the middle section)?

Dayan: I don’t think so.

I was a bit worried. On the map I brought to Washington (he takes it out), south of Rafid, there are no Syrian villages. We took an old Syrian map and wanted to see what happened at any time. But they have some villages where the farms go up to our line. It was no-man’s land. It is abandoned now.

They can go back there, three villages south of Rafid.

Meir: The question is where is the line they compensated?

Dayan: It is all rocks. Perhaps there is grazing in the summer, but it is not settled now.

Kissinger: It would be of maximum help to be able to say civilian authority can move into any area. I am not blaming you—it is a common problem. Because if I know the Arab mind, the Egyptians moved forward all along the line and he and Boumedienne say it is important. This gap won’t help.

Dayan: We always talked about “all along the line” with Egypt, but it is really ten percent of the line. There is all the area south—Abu [Page 234] Rudeis. (Points to wall map—the whole western coast of Sinai.) This is the whole Egyptian line.

Kissinger: I’ll have trouble for this whole area (the southernmost part) and I will have trouble up here. The problem is what happens if they reject it. The Egyptian Marwan said today—I misled him a bit, because I told him you would withdraw along the whole line. I remembered we had prepared a false map for Sadat and then got a better one. So they all think I can do better than the first one I presented. So Marwan urged me not to give it all at once. Here (the southernmost part), I am not arguing, nor in the north.

My question is whether there is anything at all that can be done in this stretch of line (the center).

Meir: When we move military installations, we move them out.

Dayan: I honestly think nothing more can be done. There is a limit and we have reached the limit.

Gur: There is such a thing as this village (in the middle sector) which doesn’t bother me. I won’t speak about strongholds because I am against it completely.

Dayan: You know when we had the Egyptian agreement, there were no demonstrations against the Foreign Minister’s house.3

Meir: A woman I have known for many years, the widow of Ben Zvi (Yitzhak Ben Zvi, the first President of Israel)—who is no demagogue—joined them. That really bothered me.

Kissinger: The question is whether if it fails they won’t be demonstrating against worse things. I thought before the question was if it fails; now I think there is a chance of it succeeding.

Dinitz: How should it be titled?

Kissinger: “Zone of separation” is better. All Arabs have a thing about the UN.

Dayan: We have to go into it later.

Kissinger: The Egyptian thinks we shouldn’t offer him the Mount Hermon thing tomorrow.

Dinitz: So we can make a worse map, easily.

Kissinger: I am sure!

There are two schools of thought: We can either say this is absolutely all we can get, or . . .

Dayan: Can we use the old map where we asked for mutual withdrawal?

[Page 235]

Kissinger: Let’s wait until we have the big group. These villages will help.

(Gur leaves.)

Gromyko started out with all-out support of the Syrian position. He said basically disengagement isn’t a Soviet idea anyway; they believe in the 1967 frontiers. But if there is a disengagement, it has to be extensive enough so that visibly it looks like going to 1967. He said, “Do you support the Israeli position?” I said “There is no Israeli position. You have a strategic decision to make. I assume when I go to Syria, we will have a common position and our support. Our assessment is that if it fails there will be another war, and Syria will lose. And you will have a difficult decision to make.”

From that point he started backtracking. He said it must include all of Kuneitra. I said I don’t know. He said, “Are the Israelis withdrawing from the 1967 line?”

Basically, he left me the view not that they would necessarily support it but they wouldn’t necessarily support Syria if if breaks down. That is at the end of the meeting.

I took him aside and said, “Look at Germany. Bahr will go. Schmidt is my friend, and if you start a harassing game, we can do it too. We could work together in Central Europe.”

After I said these two things, his attitude changed. He said there had to be an organic link to 1967. I argued with him. He said, “You are willing to make reference to the fact that this is the first step toward an overall settlement without reference to what it is?” I said I didn’t know but I could discuss it with the Israelis. So he thinks he got a great victory.

Marwan and Saunders came back from Boumedienne. He’ll support it but it isn’t clear how. Marwan thinks it means he will send an emissary. It could be true. Boumedienne is very cautious. Boumedienne asked specifically about Mount Hermon.

Marwan’s view—though predicated on the view that you’ll pull back all along the line—is that I should just show him Rafid and Kuneitra tomorrow. Because all Arabs think when Kissinger says he can’t get more, it’s not true.

Dinitz: Jews too!

Kissinger: I will show him Kuneitra and then throw in the rest later. It sort of makes me believe something is possible. Apparently the Syrians have not shown the Russians the map I showed them—which is interesting.

But I have to tell you, every Arab that I have seen places emphasis on a continuous line. Since I don’t need it tomorrow, maybe you can take another look. Let’s see what his reaction is.

[Page 236]

Dayan: What time do you meet him tomorrow?

Kissinger: I will arrive there at 1:00. So I could leave there in the evening and come back here. If I leave at 6:30 I will be back at 6:30. Thursday4 I am going to Riyadh and Cairo. Though it is very risky to leave here for Riyadh.

Meir: Why?

Kissinger: Because the King of Saudi Arabia is very pained when somebody comes from Jerusalem.

Meir: But he has nothing against Jews!

Kissinger: But he does about Israel. But that is my problem. I think I should go to the King. Sadat later. Then back to Syria on Saturday.

The major problem is it looks like a series of pockets.

Dayan: A pocket?

Kissinger: A pocket in the north, and a pocket in the south. I am talking about how it looks.

Dayan: It depends on the physical terrain. Every military line must follow the physical terrain.

Kissinger: I don’t think we can get any further in arguing before we even have his reaction.

Dayan: The present Chief of Staff was chief of the Northern Command and he knows every inch there. He has good experience in Washington as Attaché. He is really stretching himself.

Meir: We don’t even have Cabinet approval on this (previous) map.

Dayan: But it is our internal affair. But it will be impossible to move back a little more.

Kissinger: What do they think the alternatives are?

Meir: They don’t think. Some are demagogues; some are really anxious.

Kissinger: But what are alternatives? So everything doesn’t fall on Israel internationally. Rabin asks me, “What do we gain time for?” To gain time, we gain having Heath replaced by Wilson, Brandt by Schmidt and Pompidou by Giscard.5 I am not claiming credit for it, but Europe’s view is a little different now.

Meir: I know Schmidt, he is a friend of ours.

(They confer in Hebrew.)

[Page 237]

Kissinger: The strategic problem for you is, unless there is agreement, the argument will be increasingly “if you can’t force them to go two kilometers, how can you . . .?”

Dinitz: But it is not two kilometers, because of the salient.

Kissinger: Maybe he will accept it.

Meir: What Gur explained, it is a question of ridges. And we can’t lose sight of who the Syrians are. They have never kept any agreement. Once we move back from the ridges.

Dayan: It was the same with the Mitla Pass.

Kissinger: You convinced me of that, because I felt if he really wanted an agreement, it wouldn’t make such a difference whether he had Mitla. There were many factors. And we were dealing with Sadat.

Meir: Look at the area he is getting back.

Dayan: They are there because this is terrain of land, not because of an accident. So we could take one or two back and make up for it by making two new ones on either side. That is one thing. But to move the whole line . . .

I can’t resign because I already have! But the Chief of Staff says he has gone to the limit.

Nobody will support it.

Meir: (to Dayan) Last night in our Parliamentary party group you didn’t come. I was there until 12:30.

Kissinger: You don’t have to convince me. We have a common problem. If nothing can occur to us, maybe we will go with what we have got. Maybe it gives Sadat a way out.

Meir: I was at the Parliament party; Yigal was before the Committee. We can’t do it unless we are convinced.

Dinitz: I strongly recommend you take first another map which doesn’t include Hermon because they are bound to reject it.

Meir: Yesterday’s map, for instance.

Kissinger: That will infuriate them.

Dinitz: But the Hermon thing is psychological, and you can say the Israelis don’t want to withdraw from an area you have attacked and killed so many men.

Kissinger: Anyway I need two maps, military and civilian.

Dinitz: Talk to Moshe; he has a problem with it. Because the civilians don’t go to all the area where the military withdrew.

Kissinger: That is a presentational point. I need a less-good map than the one we have. They are very interested in the Hermon area.

Dayan: They are suffering very heavy casualties there; they don’t announce it. Maybe you can say half of Kuneitra.

[Page 238]

Kissinger: No, that would inflame them. Maybe drop Rafid and Hermon.

Dayan: And maybe say we insist on mutual withdrawal.

Kissinger: My instinct is, that would be too inflaming.

Dayan: Why not say a buffer zone with no civilians returning?

Kissinger: He seems extremely concerned with what his military think. If we could give him the north and not fool around in the south.

Dinitz: Maybe he will accept the first map.

Kissinger: You have produced a permanent stomach upset for me. Between you and the Syrians. Not the food, but the state of tension.

(Dayan brings in yesterday’s map.)6

Dayan: It went way up to Hermon (the UN zone). Today we cut it to here (to give Syrians more).

Kissinger: You could just put your line up here somewhere. They are obsessed with bloody Hermon.

Dayan: It is not bloody, but it snows.

Meir: A lot of blood is shed there too.

Kissinger: You are opposed to showing two maps, one for civilians and one for military? For tomorrow it is too complicated.

Dayan: You can just tell him about the civilians going back.

Kissinger: There is a pathetic quality to these Arabs, a sort of machismo. I think Asad’s problem is to get something not as bad as Sadat got.

Meir: It is a fact of life he didn’t do as well.

Kissinger: I tell that to all the other Arabs.

Dayan: I will get you another map tomorrow. One that keeps Hermon, and also Rafid, if you think it . . .

Kissinger: My basic instinct is . . .

Dayan: He probably heard about Rafid from Sadat and others.

Kissinger: But all he heard was that I would try to do it, not that I would succeed. Tomorrow I will sell him this salient (north of Kuneitra) which seems in my mind to connect with Kuneitra. If you can throw in this village. That is a sort of coherent slice.

I have got two problems tomorrow—to give him enough to keep it going and to give him hope for a little more. I could say you insist now on holding Hermon but I have given you an ultimatum—if you don’t mind.

Dayan: You can say months back we offered Hermon but now, with all this fighting . . .

[Page 239]

Kissinger: I will give him a strong impression he will get Hermon.

Dinitz: And Kuneitra.

Kissinger: As a certainty.

Dinitz: And then you go back and get also Rafid.

Meir: He shouldn’t think he is getting all his civilians back.

Kissinger: I will tell him Israel has left Kuneitra. The civilian administration will be an enormous negotiation anyway. Once he has accepted the line he is in a different psychological position—because it means he has convinced the Ba’ath party and the Russians acquiesced.

I know your view. You know I think it is wrong. There may be another brawl about it, but there won’t be a trick.

I am going to be slightly misleading to him on the civilians, because all he is going to be able to tell his colleagues is he has gotten Kuneitra. It is a little dishonest. But once he has accepted the line, he has talked to his Knesset or whatever he’s got, and he has more a vested interest.

Meir: The Hermon for him is a great thing. We just heard he has a field hospital there.

Dinitz: Because of the casualties.

Meir: We have had some too, but he has had tens of casualties.

Kissinger: The key is to keep the Arabs divided.

Meir: I know Kuneitra has become a symbol to them, but Hermon’s a reality.

Kissinger: Boumedienne raised Hermon. I have written a letter to him.7

You know these babies—these Arabs—have let it be known they are hurt that I am not taking Nancy8 there.

Dinitz: As it is, she is spending too much time in Egypt.

Kissinger: It’ll be finished here.

Dinitz: But as of now, we are upset. (Laughter)

Kissinger: Let’s be clear! What map is he shown?

Dayan: Without Hermon and Rafid. And say you will try to get something in the south.

Meir: You said Sadat wouldn’t be impressed with Rafid.

Dinitz: He knows you got Rafid.

Kissinger: No, I told him I would try.

Meir: There is no muezzin outside.

[Page 240]

Kissinger: Sadat you can handle.

I wish you direct negotiations with the Syrians!

Meir: There are some things for tomorrow.

Kissinger: Why don’t I call on you tomorrow before I go?

Meir: Good.

Rodman: You want to know the number of square kilometers being given up?

Kissinger: Yes. Gromyko asked me how many.

Meir: East of the purple line?

Kissinger: Yes.

Dayan: I will get it for you.

Meir: Here there is one thing. This is a summary on our friends, the Kurds (Tab A).9

Kissinger: We have approved several million.

Meir: They are in trouble.

Kissinger: I can’t believe it. The Egyptians asked us to ask the Shah to put pressure on Iraq so Iraqi troops all leave Syria. That is why there was trouble in February between Iran and Iraq.

Meir: Are they (the Jordanians) participating and intending to move towards Syria?

Kissinger: I am certain he is not. He has checked with us every day.

Meir: We have awful reports of what the terrorists plan. May is a bad month, the month of Independence for Israel.

Kissinger: They don’t want us to go to Kuwait, the Jordanians. They think it’s too dangerous.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of Henry Kissinger, 1973–77, Box 7, Nodis Memcons, March 1974, Folder 1. Secret; Nodis. The meeting was held at the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem.
  2. The map is not attached.
  3. Demonstrations against a U.S.-brokered disengagement agreement between Israel and Syria began upon Kissinger’s arrival in Israel on May 2 (Washington Post, May 3, 1974, p. A26) and continued over the next few days (Years of Upheaval, p. 1062).
  4. May 9.
  5. In 1974, Harold Wilson succeeded Edward Heath as British Prime Minister, Helmut Schmidt succeeded Willy Brandt as West German Chancellor, and Valéry Giscard d’Estaing succeeded Georges Pompidou as French President.
  6. See Document 44. The map has not been found.
  7. Not found.
  8. Nancy Kissinger.
  9. Tab A attached but not printed. Entitled “The Situation in Kurdistan,” the paper assesses the fighting in Iraqi Kurdistan between Kurds and Iraqi forces with an emphasis on Soviet support for the Iraqis against the Kurds.