94. Memorandum of Conversation1
- Yigal Allon, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister of Israel
- Simcha Dinitz, Israeli Ambassador to the United States
- Eliyahu Chasin, Adviser to Minister Allon
- Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
- Major General Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
- Peter W. Rodman, National Security Council Staff
- The Future Map of Israel
Allon: Can you try and tell me how would you envisage Israel’s map within the context of peace and security arrangements, so any responsible Government can satisfy its people that this is an arrangement not for a decade, but forever?
Kissinger: There is no United States opinion. Do you want my personal opinion?
Kissinger: My personal opinion is that—and I haven’t thought it through—if we do it in terms of the 1967 frontiers, I don’t think it is impossible to do it with the 1967 frontiers with Egypt; I do think it is impossible to accept the 1967 frontiers with Syria, and I think it is impossible with Jordan.
Kissinger: Yes. That is my conception on frontiers. On the West Bank where the frontiers should be. I don’t know.
On the Syrian side it can’t be 1967 but it can’t be the present line—because I think it may be necessary to go one more move with Syria. But it will be some clear distance from 1967.
On the West Bank, I haven’t thought it through.
With Egypt, it seems not incompatible with Israel’s security, particularly if some special arrangements could be worked out—I don’t understand the obsession with Sharm el-Sheikh—but for some stra[Page 397]tegic points. But it would be in the context of the substantial demilitarization of the Sinai.
But I have never discussed it with any of my colleagues—or with any Arab.
Nor with Sadat. I admit I sometimes talk in an ambiguous way that doesn’t exclude it.
Allon: What do you foresee with Jordan?
Kissinger: Jordan is a special problem. One reason I think you shouldn’t go to the final frontier question with Jordan is because you are not ready to discuss Jerusalem.
Allon: If there are these arrangements, what is the American idea of how it can act as a responsible body to oversee them?
Kissinger: In the context of peace, there should be some long-term supply arrangements even more than now.
Allon: The U.S. and Israel?
Kissinger: Yes. And I would be prepared to give an American guarantee.
Allon: A pact or a long-term understanding?
Kissinger: Either. But you should think it through, because I wouldn’t recommend it. You almost have it now in fact, and it would start a violent debate. The Arabs might want one.
Allon: With you? Against whom? The Jordanians would want one?
Kissinger: No. The Egyptians would want one.
[At 8:20 the group moved to the diner table.]
Allon: Did you make any inquiry to be made by your experts: What is the meaning of demilitarized areas—legally, militarily, and practically? It would help.
Kissinger: I have not asked such a study to be made. It would be a good idea.
Allon: There is a basic mistrust in public opinion about demilitarized zones. We had a difficult experience with the Egyptians and Syrians. And we remember 1967. And we know the demilitarized zone between North and South Vietnam. And we remember the Rhine [the Rhineland].
Kissinger: Actually the demilitarized zone between North and South Vietnam served very well until 1972. And when they violated it in 1972, we reacted violently. The American public understood it. It was absurd.
They never really violated it seriously. All their major roads went through Laos. When we went into Laos in 1971, we used our forces to protect the flank, and it never came.[Page 398]
Allon: I would like to hear more of your view.
Kissinger: I don’t think we should talk now about final borders.
Allon: So you understand that until now terrain plays a major role.
Kissinger: I understand.
Allon: In the defense of the country.
Kissinger: And also in the perception of itself of the country.
Allon: Yesterday to the Senators I had to explain why defensible borders are so important, without saying specifically what these borders are. I was prepared for a question by Fulbright; he never asked.
I’ll explain my position. Starting with Egypt. You asked what is the importance of Sharm el-Sheikh. It’s a legitimate question, particularly because in the October war, when Egypt imposed a blockade . . .
Kissinger: She did it at Bab el-Mandeb.
Allon: She did it at Bab el-Mandeb. But when we reach the next phase of the overall settlement, or interim, we may raise with the Egyptians and Americans: what are the guarantees of freedom of passage of Bab el-Mandeb?
Kissinger: I agree.
Allon: Even the unilateral guarantee of America couldn’t do it.
Kissinger: It couldn’t be done.
Allon: This is one of the questions I will raise: How can you guarantee freedom of passage through Bab el-Mandeb? Now Sharm el-Sheikh is important not only because it doesn’t provide the Egyptians with the temptation to do it again. You may tell me Sadat is a wonderful man; but he’s not immortal.
Dinitz: The Secretary said he was less impressed with Sadat than with Asad.
Kissinger: Because he played cutely with the President.
Allon: Now we are very close to the entrance of the Gulf of Suez. Maybe this is why they oppose it. Maybe it doesn’t need Israeli sovereignty; maybe a lease of 60, 90 years.
Kissinger: This they will not do.
Part of my job is to tell you what is possible. Sometimes I am wrong. But it is not possible to get a final settlement now. You should draw a line that doesn’t include Sharm el-Sheikh.
Allon: Now? I’m talking about a final settlement. I think in a permanent solution we should control Sharm el-Sheikh, not necessarily by extending Israel’s sovereignty to Sharm el-Sheikh but by agreement with Egypt to lease it to us X number of years. But Israeli control.
We need there a military base, an airstrip for Phantoms, and of course military services. The Navy is there. To give us control of the [Page 399]Red Sea and prevent the Egyptians from controlling it—the future leaders, or even Sadat himself.
As far as the Navy is concerned, this is the only place from which we can reach Bab el-Mandeb.
Scowcroft: With ships, not air cover.
Dinitz: We can with refueling. With F–14s and F–15s can we do it?
Scowcroft: Maybe with F–15s.
Allon: One other sensitive spot is Eilat. Where we’ve developed a beautiful air base near Eilat, to the west, on Egyptian soil, which is essential to the defense of the southern half of Israel.
Kissinger: That is conceivable. I’m not saying attainable, but conceivable.
Allon: So we must have breathing space. It is vital.
Kissinger: I understand.
Allon: Number three is Oudjah al-Haffir. It is a road juncture, on our side, but we need an extended area to make this juncture safer.
Kissinger: What is an extended area?
Allon: Forty kilometers, 35 kilometers, 30 kilometers. [Laughter]
Kissinger: Where is the airstrip near Eilat? Fifty kilometers away? [Laughter] Because I can understand one or two.
Allon: The third critical area is south of Rafah.
Allon: The Gaza strip. We must have a protected area. Not all the way to El Arish.
These are the four vital areas. [See map at Tab A.]
Kissinger: A 20-kilometer strip!
Allon: Four, five—I didn’t bring maps.
Kissinger: But if I’m any judge, the places where it’s 40 are more frequent than where it’s five.
Dinitz: Mr. Secretary, you forget we’re dealing here with Sinai. The last time you were with us it was [dealing with] 500 meters. But Sinai is a vast area. Three times the size of Israel.
Kissinger: I don’t think Sadat will ever agree to give up an inch of Egyptian territory. Without another war.
Allon: What about another war?
Kissinger: With what result?
Allon: I know the military result.
Kissinger: But you cannot have a war in 1975 without being pushed back. There will be an economic collapse. I saw John McCloy today—he was discussing something else—he said there is no capital market anymore in New York. It wouldn’t take much to push it over [Page 400]the cliff. And there would be a violent reaction. A time-wasting strategy now would . . .
Allon: That’s what I wanted to talk about.
Kissinger: In 1976 everyone understands the limits of the American process. In a Presidential election year.
Another idea I was kicking around—whether it’s possible to get those four items into some status other than Israeli possession of Egyptian territory. But keeping control. That conceptually I could understand.
Allon: What I tried to draw here is the minimum.
Kissinger: I understand.
Allon: The minimum that I could get a majority for.
Kissinger: I know. It’s the minimum that any Israeli has ever described to me. It is not the same as just drawing the military line down.
Allon: Much less. Much less.
Kissinger: I try never to get into a position where I offer any plan.
Allon: All right. This is of course conditioned on wide areas of demilitarized area, and control, which I think should include the passes.
Kissinger: I agree with you.
Allon: This way could cover those points.
Kissinger: The Egyptians could advance militarily to the existing Israeli line—another ten kilometers—but everything else is demilitarized.
Allon: Yes. And the passes are very important. And they should be controlled by someone.
Kissinger: Some international force.
Scowcroft: How about a joint force?
Allon: This is the best.
Kissinger: That would put Israelis on Egyptian territory.
Allon: All three of them together!
Kissinger: We thought we could make some of the Syrian lessons work for us. We thought when we had a line, the rest would be easy; it took two and a half weeks, but it did defuse the situation. If on the Egyptian side we first got agreement on the line, we could spend lots of time on the other details. Which would be easy if I’m not there.
I like the idea of doing it in Washington.
Kissinger: And give me a line with Egypt, for the long term.
Allon: There are two possibilities: One is to move somewhere on the eastern end of the passes while the passes are controlled by UNEF.
Kissinger: What’s the other?[Page 401]
Allon: The other is to go further east. But this should be accompanied by the measures we discussed in your office.
Kissinger: What would you want in return?
Allon: Peace de facto. If we give him less, then he may insist it will be limited for a shorter period. But peace de facto in any case. This is particularly if he gets back the oil. Because Abu Rudeis is very big. Maybe he shouldn’t get the oil in the first stage; it would give him the incentive.
Kissinger: I’m not Sisco; I won’t have a plan. [Laughter] But I have to have a concept. In November he had a plan to move to El Arish as part of disengagement.
Allon: If we move to a line: El Arish to somewhere west of Sharm el-Sheikh, we shall expect something substantial.
Kissinger: My feel for the Egyptians is, a decade is out of the question.
I know enough to get through August now, and I’ll do no more until the UN. We’ll have to decide now the tactics after I talk to Fahmi.
August 1, 1974.
- Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of Henry Kissinger, 1973–77, Box 9, Nodis Memcons, August 1974, Folder 3. Secret; Nodis. The dinner meeting was held in the Laurel Cabin at Camp David, Maryland. Brackets are in the original.↩
- Written across the top of the map at Tab A is the notation, “Allon’s Strategic Points, 8/1/74.” The handwriting is not identified.↩