58. Telegram From Secretary of State Kissinger to the U.S. Interests Section in Syria1

Secto 419/867. Subject: Message for President Assad.

For Scotes from the Secretary. Please convey following message from me to President Asad:

Begin message:

As President Asad knows, I have been meeting with the Israeli Government2 in a major effort to get it to revise its position to take account of the considerations you outlined to me yesterday.3 I hope to be able to return to Damascus quickly for a continuation of our negotiations. The President should know, however, that all of Israel is currently and emotionally preoccupied with the incident in the Galilee area involving a threat to the lives of 85 Israeli children.4 The President will remember how often I have talked with him about my hopes of improving Arab-American relations and bringing to Americans a better understanding of Arab policy and aspirations. Nothing could be more destructive of my efforts in this regard than incidents such as that now taking place.

American public opinion will never understand the holding of children as hostages and threatening their lives. The Secretary appeals to President Asad on a personal basis to use all his influence to bring about a satisfactory end to the current incident.5 The Secretary is certain that President Asad and the Syrian people, with their strong sense of humanity which the President has often described to him, in no way [Page 280] condone incidents such as this. He wants to say to the President with all sincerity that anything the President can do to disassociate Syria in the public mind from this incident would help the cause of the Arabs and of Syrian-American relations in the United States more than anything else he can think of.6

End message.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1183, Harold H. Saunders Files, Middle East Peace Negotiations, May 1–12, 1974. Secret; Exdis (Distribute as Nodis/Cherokee); Flash. Repeated Immediate to the Department of State.
  2. The meeting between Kissinger and the Israeli negotiating team took place on May 14 from 8:15 until 10:27 p.m. at the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem. (Memorandum of conversation; ibid., Box 1029, Presidential/HAK Memcons, May 8–31, 1974, Folder 3)
  3. See Document 57.
  4. In the early morning hours of May 15, three members of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine crossed from Lebanon into Israel dressed in Israeli Defense Force uniforms. They first attacked a van carrying Arab women returning from work, killing two women and wounding one. The DFLP members then entered the Israeli town of Maalot, killing a husband, wife, and child in their apartment. They seized control of a school and took approximately 90 students and 4 teachers hostage. On the morning of May 16, the DFLP members demanded Israeli officials release 26 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails in exchange for the hostages.
  5. Around 5:45 p.m. on May 16, after hours of negotiations, Israeli commandos stormed the school and killed the 3 DFLP members, but not before 21 students were killed and 68 were wounded.
  6. According to Kissinger’s memoirs, Asad never replied to this message. (Years of Upheaval, p. 1078)