99. Memorandum of Conversation1
- Yitzhak Rabin, Prime Minister of Israel
- Simcha Dinitz, Ambassador of Israel
- Mordechai Gazit, Director General, Office of the Prime Minister
- President Ford
- Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
- Lt. General Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
President: We are most grateful that you have come. It is nice to have this chance of renewing old friendships. It means much to have an old friend come back to help solve some of the problems which we both have an interest in.
Rabin: Thank you very much. I am very glad to be here and see you. I want to discuss our problems with you frankly. I am coming from a country which has had a traumatic experience. We went through a war in which we were caught by surprise. There was no one to blame but ourselves. The war ended in a way which left many questions. In retrospect many thought the war should have continued. This was the only war in which we didn’t gain years of tranquility through destruction of the enemy. After the war we cooperated because we thought there might be some more to gain. Before, people said you succeeded too well; it destroyed their self-respect. So this time it was thought it might be different. The disengagement agreements are a beginning. We took the risk with the Syrians on the chance that it would lead to peace.[Page 418]
We are watching closely. There is a difference between Egypt and Syria in the way the disengagement is carried out. Egypt obeys both in letter and in spirit.
President: I am glad to hear it.
Rabin: Basically Egypt keeps the military part and the civilian part of the agreement. They are trying to reconstruct the cities and reopen the Canal. I can’t fault them.
But Syria is completely different. They didn’t like UNDOF and now they are making a real effort to bring about a change in its role. Instead of having a buffer zone, they are trying to do something different.
As a result of the disengagement, Israel was ready to take risks with its security for peace. We were promised by President Nixon and Dr. Kissinger arms for these risks so we could defend ourselves. It’s a real problem. I hope we will find a solution. Golda gave it as one of the reasons for the disengagement agreement, and now what have we got?
President: I thought it was an impressive story of the disengagement negotiation. Dr. Kissinger brought back a favorable reaction of the Israeli role.
In our talks, let’s lay our cards on the table. We hope to meet these military demands which are part of the commitment. We don’t want another war—as you don’t. We want Israel to be strong and capable of defending itself. Israel has the backing of the United States. It is a matter of how much you need and how much we can make available. We have constraints but we will keep the commitment that was made about your strength and your survival.
I have enjoyed working with your Ambassador. He has been very helpful. He told you of the commitment for the M–48’s. That was done to clear the decks for our talk.
Rabin: Thank you.
Dinitz: We appreciate your clearing the decks.
President: It was partly a bureaucratic confusion.
Rabin: Let me tell you what we face. Egypt doesn’t get major items, but Syria gets an unlimited supply. It has over 30 MIG–23s, the best in the Middle East. The A–3, with 90 mm. guns, is the lowest-grade tank in the Middle East. We destroyed 1100 Syrian tanks—now they have more. Egypt is about back to its pre-war level. Their forces are bigger than NATO. We are not talking about matching them, but enough to enable us to meet an attack.
The stronger Israel is the better the chance for peace, and we are ready to move toward peace.
The Arabs believe that with this threat, diplomacy, and the oil thing, they can achieve what they want. We don’t seek a war. As long as disengagement holds we will obey it, but we will not stand for viola[Page 419]tions. We thought the purpose of disengagement was to give an opportunity to move to peace. But none but Jordan talk to us. We offered Hussein four options; he didn’t seem ready for any of them. It showed that since the disengagement he felt there should be unilateral withdrawal, and he had hardened his position. I can’t say we have found common ground to move ahead. On certain grounds we have found common grounds. We both see the same way on the PLO and on having no third state between us. Both are opposed to terrorism. But beyond that, there is no common ground.
We offered an overall settlement. But he said he couldn’t be the first. We offered principles of a settlement to carry out in stages. No withdrawal from the Jordan River. Leave Jerusalem open. We offered a functional division of responsibility. We offered condominium.
Kissinger: He was worried he might have left a favorable impression.
Rabin: We spent three hours on it. He wasn’t negative.
Kissinger: He was afraid he might have done that. He didn’t want that impression.
Rabin: We at least can sit and talk. It shows that on our side we are willing to work things out. With Egypt there may be something possible. With Syria I am more than doubtful.
President: We all know Syria is the toughest.
Kissinger: The Prime Minister and I will have breakfast together and will be together most of the day. We will review and narrow things down for you. He is seeing Schlesinger.
Rabin: The trouble with Schlesinger is he always has to get a new instruction before he can move. We haven’t even asked for anything new. I wouldn’t deny we are disappointed with him.
President: Our people are committed to the survival and security of Israel. We can talk frankly: Look at the diplomatic and military situation.
Kissinger: The Prime Minister has planned every one of the Prime Minister’s visits here. They came out all right.
Rabin: That is when I do the planning.
President: I am looking forward to meeting Thursday2 and to greeting Mrs. Rabin for dinner Thursday night.
- Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversations, Box 5, September 10, 1974, Ford, Kissinger. Secret; Nodis. The meeting was held in the Oval Office at the White House. Brackets are in the original. Kissinger and Rabin met the following day without President Ford from 11:30 a.m. until 2:45 p.m. at the Department of State to continue the discussion. (Memorandum of conversation; National Archives, RG 59, Records of Henry Kissinger, 1973–77, Box 10, Nodis Memcons, September 1974)↩
- September 13.↩