51. Memorandum From the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft) to President Nixon1

Secretary Kissinger has asked me to provide you with the following report:

“I am in the process of organizing various forces for what I believe will be my climactic meeting with President Asad on Sunday.2 Yesterday I brought the Israeli position to Asad3 which represented an advance over the past Israeli proposals. I informed Asad of Israel’s willingness to draw its defense line west of the entire city of Kuneitra. While this represents improvement, the fact is that when one analyzes the current Israeli withdrawal proposal, for all practical purposes it is not much more than a symbolic pullback from the line that existed just before the war of October 1973. Moreover, under the Israeli proposal Asad could not return his civilians to Kuneitra and the Israeli defense line would be at the edge of the city—in fact along one of the city streets. Thus some further Israeli concessions are clearly necessary. All this would be far short of Syrian demands.

“I had further discussions with Mrs. Meir and the key Members of her Cabinet last night,4 and the current Israeli mood is resistant to any additional concessions.

“I will be meeting with them again on Friday evening5 to review the situation, and on the basis of the Cabinet-approved position I will be presenting the Syrians on Sunday with a few additional modifications that draw the line west of the October line in a couple of places. For example, the Israelis are willing for the U.N. to take over their positions on the highest peaks on Mount Hermon. Whether I can get something more from the Israelis on Friday is doubtful.

“I will, of course, make a major effort with Asad. If the above Israeli position proves insufficient, the Israelis will then face a critical choice: to permit the negotiations to reach an impasse and thereby face the probability of an escalated attritional resumption of hostilities on the Golan Heights, or to face up to giving up another kilometer or so of territory which would not affect their security adversely but would re[Page 271]quire giving up some of the cultivated fields attached to settlements they established near Kuneitra in 1968. Again, I am struck with the lack of flexibility which the domestic situation in Israel causes, and with the lack of responsibility which stakes the American position in the Middle East and risks an enhanced role for the Soviet Union on a kilometer here and there and on the vagaries of Israeli domestic politics. At the same time, Asad, who seems to want a disengagement agreement, also has internal pressures which concern him. He stressed repeatedly that he must have the kind of disengagement agreement which he can explain to his people after 26 years of struggle and not provide the opponents of his regime an opportunity to upset him.

“My efforts in the last 48 hours have been designed to keep the Russians essentially neutralized and non-involved—this was the principal result of my meeting with Gromyko in Cyprus6—and preparing the groundwork for Saudi intervention in Damascus in support of the position I will be presenting to Asad on Sunday. My conversation with Faisal today7 indicated that the Saudis are prepared to be helpful. Saqqaf, the Foreign Minister, publicly endorsed your foreign policy and our stand on disengagement. Faisal could not have been more flattering. There is a good chance that the Saudis will send an emissary to Damascus to weigh in on the side of moderation. I was also able to announce at the conclusion of my Saudi visit here today, the visit of Prince Fahd to Washington on May 24, which reflects the progress we are making in establishing a basis for long-term economic, scientific, technical and military supply cooperation between Saudi Arabia and the United States.

“Tonight I will be going to Cairo for further talks with Sadat and concerting with the Egyptians on ways in which they will exercise their influence in Damascus.

“There is still a chance for an agreement but it is tough going.

“Warm regards.”

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, CL 192, Geopolitical File, Middle East, Peace Negotiations, Israeli-Syrian Relations, Negotiation Books, Volume I, Folder 4. Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only.
  2. May 12.
  3. See Document 48.
  4. See Document 49.
  5. May 10.
  6. See footnote 4, Document 44.
  7. No memorandum of conversation has been found.