49. Memorandum of Conversation1

PARTICIPANTS

  • Mrs. Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel
  • Yitzhak Rabin, Minister of Labor and Prime Minister-designate
  • Yigal Allon, Deputy Prime Minister
  • Abba Eban, Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Moshe Dayan, Minister of Defense
  • Shimon Peres, Minister of Information
  • Simcha Dinitz, Ambassador to the U.S.
  • Mordechai Gazit, Director, Prime Minister’s Office
  • Lt. Gen. Mordechai Gur, Army Chief of Staff
  • Avraham Kidron, Director General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Ephraim Evron, Deputy Director General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Col. Aryeh Bar-On, Aide to Dayan
  • Lt. Gen. David Leor, Military Assistant to the Prime Minister
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Ambassador Kenneth B. Keating, U.S. Ambassador to Israel
  • Mr. Joseph J. Sisco, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
  • Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker, Ambassador at Large & Chief U.S. Delegate to Geneva Peace Conference on the Middle East
  • Mr. Alfred L. Atherton, Jr., Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs
  • Mr. Carlyle E. Maw, Legal Adviser
  • Mr. Harold H. Saunders, National Security Council Senior Staff
  • Mr. Peter W. Rodman, National Security Council Staff

Dr. Kissinger: Let me give you a brief summary of what happened. Given again the delicacy of what we are doing, if we can maintain the discretion that has characterized all our meetings for a week. I just would like to keep re-emphasizing it, because it has helped to get us here.

It was the best meeting we have had.2 For the first time I believe we have a chance of getting an agreement. For the last week I have thought that the best thing that we could do would be to elaborate a cause of break-up that would not isolate Israel and would not lead to an explosion in the Middle East. My major concern had been to keep the Arabs divided on the issue of break-up rather than to produce a solution.

I still do not say the chances are better than 50/50, and maybe not even quite 50/50, but it was the first rational discussion I have had with the Syrians about the possibility of a disengagement.

As I am accompanied by the press, I always have the problem of making sure that the meeting doesn’t end prematurely or they’ll scare the world half to death. The meeting took what?, about four and one-half hours. And the first hour or so I spent on describing U.S.-Soviet relations to him, on the theory that whatever I told him was probably more than the Soviets had told him. Secondly, on the theory that if he saw that the Soviets were working with us on a lot of agreements, he might estimate their willingness to run risks for him that would jeopardize our relationship.

I did it in the form of giving him a report of what happened in Cyprus.3 I de-emphasized the key discussion in Cyprus and gave him a lot of the discussions on other matters, having to do with the Summit. And that also gave me the opportunity, in the guise of describing the SALT negotiations, of telling him about the strategic relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union and the superiority in numbers of warheads we had. Again, I repeated this in the guise of telling him what the issues were in SALT, and why it was hard to frame an equitable proposal, since for the Soviets to catch up we would have to stand still for five years.

This he enjoyed hugely, and he asked many clarifying questions and made a very helpful suggestion. I said to him that the Soviet proposal sounded reasonable, but since we were already at the limit of what the Soviets proposed for us and the Soviets hadn’t even started on their program, it would take them five years to reach their limit while [Page 254] for five years we do nothing. He said, “Why don’t you propose that both sides stop building these missiles now?” [Laughter]

Mrs. Meir: You never thought of it!

Dr. Kissinger: General Gur’s friends—that is exactly the program of the JCS. That’s what the Joint Chiefs of Staff want us to propose, that both sides now stop deploying multiple warheads, since we already have over 1,000 missiles and the Soviets have yet to build one. That’s a fair enough proposal!

Well, at any rate, I just give you this to describe the mood. With respect to the Middle East, apparently the Soviets, in their inexhaustible tawdriness, have tried to use with them a remark that Gromyko made to me at the end of the meeting yesterday, to try to make some money with the Syrians. At the end of the meeting, Gromyko invited me to come to Moscow in a few weeks. He repeated an invitation, that they have extended to me ever since March, that I should come once more before the Summit, and I replied, as I did since March, that if the SALT discussions warranted it, I would come. If the SALT discussions did not warrant it, there was no purpose in my coming and it had absolutely nothing to do with me.

Apparently the Soviets told him that if the disengagement did not succeed, they would be prepared to take it up when I visited Moscow in two weeks. So Assad asked me whether I agreed to that with Gromyko, and I said absolutely not, that we were in no position to negotiate disengagement in Moscow with the Soviets, that we didn’t think it was a bilateral matter between the Soviet Union and the United States. That we were talking to him, and that all our discussions would be between Syria and Israel and under no circumstances would we work out a solution with the Soviet Union.

All of which pleased him enormously. He made an approving comment about this approach.

Well, then we turned to the substance, and I made a very long analysis to him of the situation as I saw it, beginning with the difference between the Egyptian and the Syrian negotiation, the difference in the position of the salient, the difference in the position of the location of the armies, the proximity to vital centers, the fact that the area was populated, and pointing out that in effect in the Egyptian disengagement the Egyptians did not ask the Israelis to withdraw from lines that the Egyptian armies did not occupy. And that, therefore, the negotiating problem for us in the Syrian-Israel one was infinitely more complex and that the terms in which he had posed it were unfulfillable.

I then analyzed the Israeli domestic situation, and pointed out to him that there was a limit beyond which it could be stretched. He said if demonstrations impress me, what I needed is that he would be glad to organize one for me in Damascus.

[Page 255]

Mr. Allon: A very organized society.

Dr. Kissinger: He said he had read there were several hundred demonstrators against me in Jerusalem. He said it would be no problem to get tens of thousands into the streets of Damascus.

Then I explained the American domestic situation, as I saw it. And I told him my view that if he relied on a stalemate and superpower pressure, the results were more likely to be similar to the 1967–73 period than anything else. And I said therefore the time has come to see whether we can have a reasonable discussion about disengagement. I said all this before I showed him the map. I said the major thing we have to settle is the attitude with which we are going to work. I can’t stay out here much longer. We should settle it within the next few meetings. We have to see whether we can get into an agreement in principle. If we can get to an agreement in principle, we should then work very hard to get it settled as rapidly as possible before outside influences start confusing things. If we can’t get an agreement in principle, then we should analyze where we are and where we go from there.

And I told him we were prepared to have friendly relations with them under conditions of peace in the Middle East, and so forth.

He replied in a very rational way, and not emotionally, and said that he wanted to point out that we had made a very good analysis from the Israeli point of view, but he too had his problems, that for 26 years the Syrian people had been taught that the Israelis were devils and that for him to make peace required some tangible results that he could show. And even under those conditions it was extremely difficult. And he said he was prepared to make a genuine effort towards peace.

General Shihabi was there, whom we know from his visit in Washington,4 and who is rather impressive, and to our view a rather pro-American Syrian—I mentioned him to you once or twice—and I am inclined to believe this, because none of us really took him to be a man of consequence when he arrived, so we didn’t give him any special treatment. We thought he had a message to deliver and we would take the message and send him home. It was only due to the accident that Gromyko was in Washington that weekend he was there, and I asked General Shihabi how to get in touch with Assad who was in Moscow. It was then I discovered that he was really extremely anti-Soviet and extremely worried that the Soviets might tell Assad something about their meetings in Washington, and he was trying to work out all sorts of ways by which he could get to Assad and keep him from being misled.

[Page 256]

At any rate, Shihabi was there. And I then said to him their line just couldn’t be done, and I presented, shall we say, the modified map. That is, the map which showed only the Kuneitra salient, not the Hermon, not Rafid. So, if I could implore the people here to keep this discussion out of the newspapers—I don’t know whether you can censor them—but really . . .

He looked at that and said it is totally out of the question. But he made a very—it was not like on Saturday, or whenever I was there last, Friday;5 on Friday he exploded. And this time he made a very rational analysis. He pointed out that the Hermon range was acquired after October 22nd and therefore he could not accept that. He said that what he needed was some movement over of the October 6th line in a straight line. He kept repeating that over and over again. He didn’t really object too much to the depth of the salient, but he kept stressing over and over again that it had to go in a straight line, a more or less straight line, south.

With respect to Kuneitra, with respect to what he did see, he made two observations. He found the Chief of Staff’s village. He and Shihabi went very carefully over the map to look for villages to which they could go back. He said he is very eager to re-settle. They looked for the village; they found that village and showed it to me. He said, “There are the Israelis; don’t they understand? They don’t understand how to make peace. How can I be asked to resettle half of a village?”

I am just reporting this to you so that you can make your assessment.

Then he went at Kuneitra. Actually, I gave him a slightly misleading representation of your position. Not misleading; I didn’t give him a full exposition. I wish you [to Mr. Dayan] wouldn’t stare at me like that. I know what you think.

Mr. Dayan: You don’t know!

Dr. Kissinger: You know I have my heart set on Kuneitra. It’s my birthday on May 27th. Will you give it? All my life I wanted it. [Laughter] Ever since you took me there in 1967.

Mrs. Meir: Especially when you saw the hills. [Laughter]

Dr. Kissinger: I frankly—you built the hills afterwards.

Mrs. Meir: After the 22nd of October?

Dr. Kissinger: That’s it. You built the hills after . . . [Laughter] Well, then with respect to Kuneitra, he said: “It ought to be in the Israelis’ interest that I settle this area. I cannot settle a town that has an Israeli military line running through it.” He said, “I cannot do this.” He said, “If I [Page 257] want a town called Kuneitra, I can build a town called Kuneitra and I can place it anywhere.”

Mrs. Meir: Good idea!

Dr. Kissinger: He said, “But the importance of the town would be if I could settle it,” and for the rest, he said, “Of course the line had to go down.” He clearly abandoned his plan. He agreed that if we can agree on a line, he would make a major effort to settle all other issues. I showed him zones of limited armament; I didn’t go into any details. I said the other things had to be demilitarized. I don’t say he accepted but he also didn’t reject it. None of this—wouldn’t you agree, Joe?—none of this caused . . . It still certainly is going to be a nuisance when we negotiate it. On the demilitarized line, maybe he didn’t understand it properly, but I could see him trying to line it up. There is a town in the southern end of your pocket, which is a road junction. You know what I am talking about?

General Gur: Yes.

Dr. Kissinger: I don’t know what’s the name of it.

General Gur: It’s a hill they built after the last war—that they built!

Dr. Kissinger: He was trying to line up the red line to see whether the village was on the demilitarized side or was not on the demilitarized side, but he didn’t raise the point.

Mr. Rabin: Is it [omission in the original]?

Dr. Kissinger: He didn’t mention. I just saw, when he and Shihabi went over the map, they were trying to line up the red line to see where that town was.

General Gur: It is in their hands.

Dr. Kissinger: Is it in their hands also militarily?

General Gur: I think so.

Dr. Kissinger: I have the impression that if it isn’t, he will raise it, but I can’t be sure.

General Gur: It is below the hill, so I didn’t mind exactly where the line was.

Dr. Kissinger: I have never heard of such a hill obsession. He needs psychiatric treatment!

General Gur: I think I left it in their hands.

Dr. Kissinger: I am not saying it is going to be raised; I am indicating that he must have known what that red line was there for, because he was lining it up.

There was much more desultory talk. I finally said to him, I said, “Look, I understand what you are saying. I will go back to Israel. I will report exactly what you have said about the line. I will see what we can get, and come back to you Saturday or Sunday.” He was very fulsome [Page 258] in his praise for my efforts. He said he wanted us to know that he really wanted to make an effort, but you had to make it possible for him. You could not put him into an impossible position which wouldn’t enable him to do it.

And then we discussed what to say to the press. He said he recognized we had to show some progress, so that people wouldn’t think there was no hope, but we shouldn’t give the impression that there was an agreement, because if we gave that impression, then the consequences would be very drastic if it failed.

I give you all this detail because it is the first nonemotional discussion I have had with him.

I told him I was going to visit other Arab leaders, because he was going to find it out anyway, and that I would like to give them the same analysis I had given to him as to why disengagement agreement was desirable. He said, “Please do that; that would help me.” But, he said, “Don’t give them the details of the map. Just give them the general theory.”

But he said again: the line has to move in a straight line. That was the theme he kept repeating.

Then I drove out to the airport, and as I was entering the plane I was intercepted and taken into a reception room and I was told that General Shihabi wanted to say a word. Khaddam was talking to Assad. Shihabi said to me, in English, that we should understand their problems, that he was an old friend of Assad’s, that they wanted to come to a conclusion but it had to be one that they could defend domestically. That they would make a big effort with the line if I could bring them something that they could accept.

Khaddam then came back and said he talked to Assad who wanted to impress on me that his only interest in Kuneitra was the ability to settle it, and for that he needed the hills. I told him right away that this was a subject that I had already discussed with the Israelis, and that seemed to be undo-able, and I didn’t want them to expect me to come back with the hills.

That’s the essence of where we stand. But both in the language they used—and at no point did they threaten what they would do with the Russians. Now, on the plane I got a cable from Fahmy6 saying that we should try to avoid a summit meeting—asking what we knew of Assad’s plan for a summit meeting—and that we should try to avoid it [Page 259] at all cost, and that he thought that it was important to get a disengagement agreement. He didn’t have any specific ideas. He was more concerned with heading off the summit tactically.

Mrs. Meir: Did Assad mention the summit meeting to you?

Dr. Kissinger: No.

Mr. Peres: There’s been a lot of talk on the Arabic radio announcing it.

Dr. Kissinger: The only way the summit came up at all was when we were discussing the EC-Arab summit and I told him I was opposed. The EC Foreign Ministers meeting, the dialogue with the Arabs. I told him I was opposed. I told him I was opposed. I said any non-Arab that gets 20 Arab ministers together in one room is crazy. I said, “Any European would sit there and write down everything you people said, and it is going to turn into a mad-house.” And he laughed and he said, “That’s absolutely right.” He said, “At any rate, foreign ministers’ meetings are not how the Arabs decide; we decide them at summits.” That’s the only time he mentioned the summit.

Otherwise, I do not believe he will do anything to rock the boat until he knows whether the thing will succeed or fail.

Mr. Allon: You didn’t discuss with him the problem of ceasefire so long as the talks were continuing?

Dr. Kissinger: I think it would have been a grave tactical mistake to start nit-picking. I got your point.

Mr. Allon: He gave you a promise in a previous meeting.

Dr. Kissinger: I didn’t raise it. I didn’t raise any other points because I didn’t want him to raise any other points.

Now I will go to Faisal—that will be fairly easy—and to Sadat, with whom I will discuss candidly what the position is. The two big sticking points, as I see them now, will be Kuneitra—not in terms of hills, but what one can do about civilians there and what assurances can be achieved. And the second is to make the line go as consistent as possible.

Mr. Allon: But for that townlet there, did he agree to the red line east of the old demarcation line?

Dr. Kissinger: He raised no objection to it. That doesn’t mean he won’t raise it. I have said this to him one hundred times and I said it again, and I said, “This will be a demilitarized area.” He didn’t say, “Yes, I agree to it.” But actually, when we showed where his army can go, when he was rejecting it, he said, “Look, this requires a lot of redisposition. Our army has to move from there.” And he pointed to the red line.

[Page 260]

Mr. Dayan: When you said, “straight line”, what exactly do you mean? Where did they have this straight line? [He unfolds a map on the table.]7

Dr. Kissinger: This you moved up a bit this morning. I think the generals moved this a little bit. Or is this the way we had it?

General Gur: The paper moved a little bit. [Laughter]

Dr. Kissinger: This is the village.

General Gur: Ahmadiya. He didn’t see that village for quite a long time. Nothing exists, and if he wants to build the village . . .

Dr. Kissinger: This is the problem we keep going over and over. To them it is a symbolic thing. If he wants to rebuild the village, he can do it here. I am just pointing out that he called special attention to this. And then this whole area he called attention to—this one he doesn’t know—he called attention to this whole area, of course. And when he said straight line—what was your interpretation? [They study the map.]

The town he was trying to place was this one [near the red line in the center]. That they were pointing to and moving the red line.

This [Mt. Hermon] he violently objected to, but we don’t have to spend enormous time on.

He didn’t make a specific proposal. But if you compare his original scheme to this, we are now in the area at least of rationality. It may be undo-able, but it is not any more an irrational discussion.

My plan, as I said, is to see Faisal. All I have to tell Faisal is that I agreed with Assad that I will try to get him more. And I know that I can get him more. So it is easy to deal with Faisal. I will then report to Faisal that I did get him more. So that’s not a major problem. The Saudis are not distinguished by heroism anyway. Although it would help to keep them quiet for two weeks if the thing breaks up. It is one thing for them to change their position. It is another right away to go and—

Second, I will go to Sadat. I think I should discuss with Sadat and the private secretary of the President, Marwan, who is the one who was sent around, their assessment of what can be done. I would try to get SadatSadat has already sent two messages to Assad, and Boumedienne has sent one—whether we can get them to send another one. That’s why I am going to stay here on Saturday. At any rate, I will not go to Syria until I can see whether I can get some Arab pressure generated, and depending on Sadat’s view, I may or may not send somebody to Boumedienne again.

[Page 261]

So then I will be back here Friday early afternoon.8 Perhaps we could meet then. I mean, there’s nothing you don’t know that I know, and we still will then have about 36 hours to discuss strategy. Certainly it depends on what we want to do Sunday. We have those two additional things we have already agreed to that I can get him.

Mrs. Meir: What map will you show to Sadat?

Dr. Kissinger: The Rafid map.9

Mrs. Meir: And he will not notify Assad?

Dr. Kissinger: No. It is in Sadat’s interest to have these negotiations succeed. Or I will describe—I will think about it—I will describe it orally in terms of something that I can get but have not yet got and therefore they’d better keep quiet. After all, it was Sadat’s idea that we not show everything at once. So he has no interest in destroying the strategy he himself recommended.

My original idea was to bring every concession to Syria yesterday. It was his private secretary, it was Marwan in Cyprus: I didn’t have a map to show him; I told him I was going to get a map from Israel that evening. He said, “Whatever you do, don’t give them everything.” I told that to you yesterday. So it was the Egyptian idea not to give everything. So I don’t believe that they will now destroy the strategy they themselves have recommended.

Whatever their long-term motives, their short-term interest has to be in an agreement. Their position at the summit, at the oil conference, will be extremely embarrassing. Vis-à-vis the Soviets, it will be extremely difficult. My judgment is that whatever their long-term strategy, they now want an agreement.

Mrs. Meir: There is one thing that I fear, and I want to get your reaction to that. For instance, you will report to Sadat what has happened in Syria and he will be encouraged. Like it is encouraging when you say that he speaks rationally and didn’t react emotionally and didn’t go back to some wild ideas. But if, for instance, it is stressed that the line he wants is a straight line, and if Sadat accepts it, he will support him in that. The thing that I fear is that to the best of my knowledge we have actually gone to the limit.

Dr. Kissinger: I will tell him that you have told me that you have gone to the limit. First of all, I think what Sadat’s judgment will be worthwhile for, and Gamasy’s . . . I don’t think that this negotiation is a question of whether he will support to the limit, because he has had many opportunities to support to the limit; his approach will be to see [Page 262] what he thinks he can sell to other Arabs if it comes to a blow-up, or he may ask Gamasy’s opinion whether based on his knowledge of the Syrians they can be brought to accept it. Now, I must say that Sadat was more optimistic on Saturday than I was.10 He turned out to be right as to the possibilities of a settlement, and his pressures so far have not been in the direction to see what he could bleed out of Israel but rather to define the minimum that he thought was necessary.

I will make clear to him that this is considered by Israel the maximum position.

Mrs. Meir: Because Sadat will also see the part of Rafid; he will see the picture. What I am afraid of is that we shouldn’t be faced with a position on Friday—I don’t want to be misunderstood—but it will probably be easier for Sadat to take the stand he has taken when Assad was speaking a wild language. But now that he is speaking more or less like a normal person, then Sadat can say to himself: “Well, this is an accomplishment.” And I agree that this is an accomplishment, something encouraging for us too if he is becoming rational. But then the outcome may be that he may say: “Well, after all, Assad has made this wonderful evolution and now it is a question of drawing a straight line and going a bit west, and something like that.” As you say, you will tell him as far as we are concerned, this is the map we gave you. We are not playing tricks with you. You saw how we measured things out.

Dr. Kissinger: I have no possible interest in arousing in Sadat expectations that cannot be fulfilled. That is totally contrary to his experience with me. I have no interest whatsoever in showing that. On the other hand, if I tell him: “This is what the Israelis assert, and I have reason to believe that is their maximum position,” if he then tells me: “Look, this will not be sustainable in the Arab world, you have got to know that,” you can still maintain your position. We will not necessarily be guided by Sadat’s views, but you have to know them. In my judgment, he in this negotiation will make every effort to make it succeed. Because if he wants a blow-up, he will do it for his own reasons, not for Syria’s reasons. And he wouldn’t run a risk of war for Syria if he can possibly avoid it.

Mrs. Meir: Because he, probably, and Gamasy, certainly, will understand why we say this is the line and not here. He may not agree with us but he will understand the reasons. It isn’t a question of prestige.

Dr. Kissinger: It won’t be at all an emotional discussion with the Egyptians. The discussion with the Egyptians will be purely tactical, [Page 263] and he will give me his tactical assessment. And I have no incentive to get him to raise demands that then may not be fulfillable. But if he makes them, you have to know them. And then you make your decision in the light of what you know.

Mr. Allon: I understand that Assad didn’t want you to show the map to any Arab leaders. So you can describe it orally to Faisal and—

Dr. Kissinger: With Faisal, I wouldn’t even get into it. What Faisal wants to hear I can give him. I will tell him a simpleminded version of it. I will tell him first of all why it will be necessary to have an agreement, because a stalemate will bring the Russians right back into the area. I will give him a simpleminded version that Israel after long hesitation has agreed to this salient around Kuneitra, that I am now going back to Israel and will produce additional things. That is all he wants to hear. Whether it is along the whole line or not, I don’t think he would analyze so carefully. His Foreign Minister has also taken the same position as Assad. You just have to accept the fact that this is a symbolic thing in the Arab world. Saqqaf wrote me a letter last night making that same point.11 But the map will not be shown in Saudi Arabia.

Mr. Allon: Now, if I am not wrong, in your last meeting with Sadat, you showed him the Rafid area, but not Kuneitra, if I am not wrong. Now you will come back to him, and you have Kuneitra as an additional—

Dr. Kissinger: It is senseless, whether I say that; it is not a horse trade. It is not between me and Sadat. What we have, what is additional to what Sadat has seen, is that the Rafid area is extended beyond that little—

Mr. Eban: Assad may have told Sadat about our Kuneitra proposal.

Dr. Kissinger: My impression is that all he told the other Arab leaders is that your first proposal concerned only a part of the salient and therefore he rejected it. I don’t think he has given anybody a precise definition of any plan, and I think that is a good sign, because if he wanted to break it up he would have described your iniquity in eloquent terms.

The judgment is not whether I bought a hundred dollars worth or a thousand dollars worth. The judgment he will have to make is whether he can justify it in his conception of the Arab world. He may have a totally different idea of what should be handled, which hasn’t [Page 264] occurred to me, and all I can do is bring it to you. I can’t negotiate with Sadat as to what is reasonable.

Mr. Allon: I am sure you know how to deal with Sadat better than I do; I never met him. But what I want to say is that from the little you showed him on your last visit to Alexandria, you bring a great change on behalf of the Israelis.

Dr. Kissinger: I know that.

Mr. Allon: So maybe as you do your tactics, you can say: “I got already this little bit, I hope I will get something else.” And not show him the whole thing at once, to develop the achievement, if possible.

Dr. Kissinger: That is the strategy with Assad. With Sadat I have to find out what he in fact is willing to support if it blows up.

Mr. Allon: So you have to tell him.

Dr. Kissinger: More or less.

Mr. Allon: So it is essential, really, to say, as the Prime Minister has said, that we have reached the limit, both on the ground and with the people.

Dr. Kissinger: His desire will be to wind it up. Judging by Fahmi’s cable, I think their earnest desire is to wind it up as fast as possible. So I don’t think he is looking for any complications.

Mrs. Meir: When are you leaving tomorrow?

Dr. Kissinger: Very early. I don’t need any decisions tonight for this trip. I think after I come back we ought to make an unemotional, cold-blooded assessment of where we stand. We are not bargaining with you. If I can build a little house at the entrance of East Kuneitra, that is all I need.

Mrs. Meir: You can build a house on the hill. One of the hills around Jerusalem.

Mr. Allon: I am sure one of the kibbutzim will offer you an honorary citizenship.

Mr. Dayan: If you take a map to Sadat, I suggest it will be an accurate one. I am very sorry about this small one, even with an explanation. I would rather have a precise map. Why have the wrong map with the right explanation when you can have the right map? It is a map drawn by our people. I am terribly unhappy with it. Had I been there, they wouldn’t have done it. This is not a way, to have a wrong map with the right explanation. Let’s have the right map. The map must be a hundred per cent accurate. Let me have the five maps back and change it, so you have the map expressing exactly how our position is. And then you can have any kind of confusion you want, but a thing extended and drawn by us, that is how to express our views about it.

[Page 265]

Mrs. Meir: You mean the map that the Chief of Staff drew?12

Mr. Dayan: Nobody was there. We were all away, and then our people were asked to—

Mrs. Meir: You are not speaking about the small map.

Mr. Dayan: We should work all the night through and give you an accurate map exactly according to what we agreed about last night.

Mr. Allon: I think the Secretary’s tactics with the Syrians were good.

Mrs. Meir: But that is what he intended to do with Sadat anyway.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes. You cannot play through all the refinements of your domestic position; there is a lot more at stake. You have to play through the consequences of a break-up over any period of time against the consequences of an agreement and see where you are, and where we are, and where everyone is. No one is going to sneak civilians into Kuneitra without anyone noticing it. There are going to be a thousand discussions before it happens. He has said he doesn’t want to put civilians into Kuneitra under the present circumstances.

Mr. Allon: Not even if we sign a . . .

Dr. Kissinger: I wouldn’t leave a map with Sadat anyway.

Mr. Allon: No, I mean about what you said about the population. Not even if we sign an agreement?

Dr. Kissinger: No, not with the present line. That is what he said today. He may change his mind by Sunday.

Mr. Eban: What is the motivation of the straight line? Is it cosmetic, symbolic, or does he want something on the ground?

Dr. Kissinger: I think it would prove that they succeeded in obtaining a change in the October 5 line. But maybe we can think of some other way of straightening the line. I have explained to you every objection he made. Another way of looking at the thing is to look for the maximum number of villages one can put under his control, which seems to be a thing which is very much on his mind. Maybe other things occur to people at this table.

Mr. Dayan: I know there is no point to argue with you about Assad’s position. But he is not here, so what I understand is . . .

Dr. Kissinger: He has his pride. The Prime Minister wouldn’t come here; I offered him a ride here.

Mr. Dayan: But under the circumstances, on the one hand I understand that he wants the maximum of refugees or farmers to come back to their places. The way I see it, I am very much for that. I don’t know [Page 266] what everyone in our country thinks, if they agree with me, or even in the Cabinet, but I am for that. Secondly, of course it doesn’t matter where the village was, he can rebuild it anywhere, because nothing is left there. So if he really wants people to be resettled, it can really be built anywhere. I am not trying to make excuses why they shouldn’t go there, but I am just saying—I said it from the beginning—he can build a Kuneitra wherever he wants. It is nonsense to say this. But then he said that he can’t have his people going somewhere very close to our military line. So what that means is, for instance, this village, Ahmadiya: How can we cut it into two? Supposing we move our military line to the end of the village. He will say, “How can our people live close to your military line?” If I understand correctly, that is what he said about Kuneitra, that he can’t bring the people back because our military line is there.

So what does all this mean? We are there at that line because of the features of the ground. It is not because of a straight or a curved line. We can’t move the hills. You can move the village if he won’t want his people there, or if we don’t want our people to live close to the Syrian military line, we can build the village somewhere else. But you cannot move the hills. So I don’t know. If we don’t want to mislead ourselves, to deceive ourselves, I really think that there is no chance whatsoever, whatever the arguments or the alternatives will be, I see no chance for any changes, not significant, but even non-significant changes in the line of the map that we drew last night. Not because we were at our best, but this is the kind of ground features it is.

Dr. Kissinger: After the next round, we, the United States group will make a decision whether there is any sense in going on. If we decide not to go on, whatever else happens, the next round will not be discussed with yardsticks and with measuring centimeters and all these fine points that we have spent every night patiently discussing. But the judgments will be made on a much cruder basis in a much more absolute way.

But let’s face that when it comes up. Maybe your final line will be accepted. Believe me, I do not urge Arabs not to accept the Israeli positions. And there have been innumerable occasions where the Arabs have accepted Israeli positions which I thought might not be accepted.

For your own contingency planning, you ought to consider the possibility when they don’t accept it, what can be done. I am not asking you to do it now; you have three days before you have to make a decision. But you are now enjoying the luxury of being able to massage this problem, ten yards at a time. That is not inherent in the situation. And many problems that are profound security concerns wouldn’t look all that absolute when they get discussed elsewhere.

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You can be sure that I will do my best to get it settled on this basis. If we can, we can.

I can certainly not go on. If we don’t have an agreement in principle say by Monday, I am going to end my efforts. If I don’t see by Sunday that it is very close, there is no sense returning back and forth, debating the theology of security that both sides have. I think we have got to the point where both sides are close. Either they are going to accept your position or you are going to have to change your position, and if neither of them is achievable, we have to have a hiatus. I see nothing that can happen. I do believe they now want to strive for a settlement. If that judgment is right, it is quite possible that your map is enough. I am not saying it isn’t. I have reported to you what Assad said. Since I haven’t presented them the southern part of the map, it may be that he feels about Rafid the way I feel about Kuneitra. [Laughter] Maybe his mother comes from there.

Mrs. Meir: I know you don’t have to be told this, but the simple analysis is: I am sure that Assad, but at any rate you are convinced that no matter where we are, no matter where their civilians are, that one bright morning we won’t get up and attack them. So if you speak of theology of security, his theology is good if he thinks in these terms, and he has no reason to think in these terms. Whereas with us, this is the matter that we have to take into consideration. And therefore beyond a certain limit—we laugh over hills, but it isn’t because we like hills. These hills are not high enough; it is not the Hermon; but it is these hills upon which the security of our people depends. So I know that we are not always very popular when we speak so much about security.

Dr. Kissinger: It is not a question of popularity.

Mrs. Meir: But I am sorry that this is a major problem of our life.

Dr. Kissinger: It is a question of what the alternative will be, given certain conditions. I am not raising this now. I am saying if on Sunday night I come back and if then you have 12 hours or 24 hours to make up your minds, it is less good than if you can start thinking from now what you might say on Sunday night. At any rate, I will tell you now: If by Monday night there isn’t either an agreement in principle, or an imminent agreement in principle, I am going home. I have to. And you will then have to evaluate where we will all be in the light of that situation. But it may not arise. There is no magic whether it is Monday or Tuesday.

Mr. Peres: Do you intend to go to Damascus again before you come here on Sunday?

Dr. Kissinger: No, I don’t think I should go to Damascus until I have—nothing would be served. I am going to see whether Faisal and Sadat will send emissaries to Assad. Assad right now is in a rather be[Page 268]nign mood. He knows I am travelling to the others. He knows what I am going to say. I have told him what I am going to say. I think he is trying to make an agreement or he wouldn’t let me run around giving them the theory why an agreement should be made. Isn’t that your interpretation, Joe? [Mr. Sisco nods yes.] So what his final conclusion will be, I have no way of knowing. He is certainly not happy with what I brought him today. I think there is a better than 50–50 chance that Sadat will urge him to do it.

Mrs. Meir: Look, I want to tell you. All our friends here understand. We have an internal problem, but I am not making that point at all. Because if the Likud and all the others, and those sitting opposite my house, if they want something that I am convinced and all of us are convinced is wrong, then the internal problem has no part in it whatsoever. The trouble begins when we begin to think that on certain points, not that they are right—I don’t care what speeches Begin makes or Sharon or Tamir,13 any of them, as long as they are wrong.

Mr. Allon: They’re wrong.

Mrs. Meir: But I want to be right with myself. So the last thing I would want you people to think is that we are concerned about our internal problems. Sure, we have internal problems. But that is not the point. There isn’t any of us Israelis around this table that would say to himself: “Well, really we can do this, but what will happen internally?” That isn’t the question at all. That isn’t the problem. The problem is that we have to be convinced that what we do is right.

Mr. Allon: I think Henry and his friends could see for themselves how painstakingly we tried to move each little bit where we could, the Minister of Defense, the Chief of Staff—in fact, all of us.

Dr. Kissinger: I believe we have had a very good discussion. I believe you have been very serious. I don’t think we ought to debate it tonight, because there is no decision you can make tonight even if you had the best will in the world and there were maneuvering room, because we have no concrete basis on which to make a decision. After I have talked to Sadat, we will have a preliminary view of considerations that you might want to consider or not want to consider. The next time you have a decision to make is after I have talked to Assad. Because then you will know exactly what your range of choices is. The only reason I insist on it tonight is so that you can start thinking.

Your choice is not between absolute security and no security. Your choice will be to weigh the alternatives of the various courses of action.

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But that is a debate I recommend we have later. There is no sense debating it now, since there is no concrete proposal I can make to you.

Mr. Allon: Maybe Sadat will be satisfied with the map you show.

Dr. Kissinger: That is a distinct possibility.

Mrs. Meir: I told the Secretary of State to take the small map with him and he will be surprised that Sadat will say, “Fine, it’s wonderful.” He almost said it, I understand.

Dr. Kissinger: It was the location of my house that called attention to it. Because I wanted my house in the Syrian part and that’s flat; there was no elevation.

Mrs. Meir: I think we should allow our American friends to go to sleep for a while.

Mr. Eban: I don’t know why the Israeli side shouldn’t be included in that.

[The meeting then adjourned.]

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of Henry Kissinger, 1973–77, Box 8, Nodis Memcons, May 1974, Folder 2. Secret; Nodis. The meeting was held at the Guest House in Herzliyya. All brackets, except those indicating omitted material, are in the original.
  2. See Document 48.
  3. See footnote 4, Document 44.
  4. See Document 35.
  5. Kissinger had previously met with Asad on Friday, May 3 at 5 p.m. See Document 42.
  6. Telegram 2962 from Cairo, May 8. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1183, Harold H. Saunders Files, Middle East Peace Negotiations, May 1–May 12, 1974)
  7. The Israeli map is not attached.
  8. May 10.
  9. The Rafid map refers to a map that revealed Israeli concessions in the Rafid area of the southern Golan Heights and on Mount Hermon in the northern Golan Heights.
  10. May 4. See Document 43 and footnote 3 thereto.
  11. No letter from Saqqaf has been found, but a letter from Faisal is in telegram 2485 from Jidda, May 7. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, P850071–2027)
  12. A map drawn up by Lieutenant General Mordechai Gur.
  13. Menachem Begin, Ariel Sharon, and Shmuel Tamir were founding members of the Likud Party.