267. Memorandum of Conversation1

  • PARTICIPANTS
    • King Faisal
    • Prince Fahd
    • Prince Nawwaf
    • Omar Saqqaf, Minister for Foreign Affairs
    • Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State
    • Joseph J. Sisco, Assistant Secretary of State
    • Harold H. Saunders, NSC Staff
    • Isa Sabbagh, Interpreter

[Omitted here is discussion related to the post-war negotiations.]

Kissinger: There are two other considerations.

If I may presume to describe our view of the Arab interest, my feeling is that if the oil weapon is used with care, it can be an effective weapon. But it can also be counter-productive. Up to now, the Arab nations have made their point in an effective way. But if the pressure is continued too long, at a time when we know that we are making a major effort for peace, public opinion in the United States will turn, not against Israel but against the Arabs.

But if the embargo were suspended and then if it were reimposed at a point later in the negotiations, the public blame would focus on the other side if the other side seemed to be the cause of the negotiating impasse. So it is a weapon that, once it is in its sheath, is not unavailable.

Then, if Your Majesty will permit me to say a word about American domestic considerations, Your Majesty knows that there are forces in the US that will undoubtedly try to destroy me because of my effort. That is not so important but they will also try to destroy the President and that is more important. If the winter goes on and if the difficulties continue, he will be blamed for the hardships. When Congress returns in January and February this reaction may become uncontrollable. [Page 767]Opposition to the President because of the fuel shortage will be encouraged by groups who only benefit from a reduction of US authority. So this is what Your Majesty might wish to consider as we move into the next phase. This does not require a decision today or this week, but in my judgment it does require a decision in the relatively near future. We, in turn, will do our share.

I hope Your Majesty will forgive me for speaking so frankly.

Faisal: Of course, in the same vein, Your Excellency must know by now the background of my attitude. Since 1967, a lot of other forces have pressed me not only to cut off oil but to break diplomatic relations with the United States. For years I have resisted pressures from my fellow Arabs not to take more extreme measures. But after the October war, when the US attitude appeared to be one of all-out support for Israel, I had no choice.

[At this point, the interpreter prefaced his translation of the King’s remarks saying that the King was measuring his words very carefully.] If, at the determination of that phase which you have described, in announcing the results of that phase, you could put a “rider” on your announcement that said that this is but one step in a solution leading to withdrawal and to the realization of the Palestinian rights—at the moment that is said the faucets would open again.

Kissinger: Then, if I understand, when we announce an agreement in connection with the first phase of negotiations we say that this is only a first phase in implementing Resolution 242, would that be what Your Majesty has in mind?

Faisal: The Resolution you are referring to is well known. But the problem is that Israel does not totally recognize that Resolution. It does not recognize total withdrawal and also, the Palestinians are left out. So, if you permit, I would go back to my suggestion: “… one step in the implementation of 242, which stipulates total withdrawal.” If the US supports this declaration and stands behind it, there is no problem.

Kissinger: The difficulty is that there are some things which are better not said. The Japanese and Europeans can say anything because they have no responsibility and they have no domestic price to pay for what they say. I would be glad to make any statement about Indonesia. But the difficulty is that we must preserve our influence to get from here to there. Ever since my last visit, I have, at every press conference, mentioned Resolution 242. I admit this leaves a certain vagueness, but some vagueness may be desirable to keep our opponents divided. But I am determined to proceed.

Faisal: In expanding on the importance of certain elements, Jerusalem should not be ignored.

Kissinger: I understand that.

Faisal: Are there not Jews in the United States who could speak in terms of US interests?

[Page 768]

Kissinger: If, in October, I had said publicly that Israel should move its forces back to the Mitla Pass, there would have been a rebellion in Congress. Before I came out here on the last trip, 15 Senators called me and objected that I was going to put pressure on the Israelis to move their troops from the West Bank of the Suez Canal. On my last visit I concentrated on saving the Egyptian Third Army and Sadat was kind enough today to tell me that he was grateful for that. I did not concentrate on moving Israeli forces back to the October 22 lines because I thought that would have provoked a fight over an issue which really was not important. Since my last visit I have appeared before eight Congressional committees, and I have given some publicity to a Congressional committee that visited Arab countries. Before the current trip, as a result, I had had no calls from suspicious Senators who felt that I was going to pressure Israel. Now I am not talking about the October 22 lines—and before my first trip there were objections to my even thinking of proposing that Israel move back that far—but now I am talking about Israel’s moving back to about the Mitla Pass on the East Bank. And no one is objecting. While I have not made these comments very public, still, enough Senators have heard them so that there could have been objections. What I am saying is that, between these two trips, I have noted a significant change in the base of public support for our policies. And I have done this by quiet talk and not by public declarations.

Faisal: Of course, I appreciate fully your further remarks. Your Excellency will appreciate also that we have certain difficulties ourselves. That is why the US must hasten its support for progress in Phase One so that we can fully resort to friendly relations as we have had in the past.

Kissinger: If I may say so, Your Majesty, we have a great interest in the strength and vitality of Your Majesty’s government and do not want to do anything to weaken Your Majesty. We are reassured that Your Majesty is one of the most important leaders of the Arab world.

Faisal: I want to turn back to a point which is a corollary. It is important to have your public backing for Phase One. That would strengthen our hand.

Kissinger: The backing for the first phase can be done publicly.

Faisal: Perhaps you could have a public statement which would say that in addition to stage One there would be further steps toward the ultimate goal which is…

Kissinger: I never want to promise something which I cannot deliver. I want His Majesty to have full confidence in what we are doing. We can give public support to the work in Phase One and we can press for progress fairly rapidly. We can say that stage One is just one phase on the road to the implementation of Resolution 242. But it would not be in our mutual interest if we were more explicit than that. Your [Page 769]Majesty would retain his weapons to use at any time if he feels that we are not living up to your expectations.

Faisal: I do not see how a statement would be counter-productive.

Kissinger: Because it would lead to such a debate if it appeared that I had taken this trip and, as a result of pressure from the Arab oil producers, I made a statement that made it appear as if I were selling Israel out. If I put myself in that position, then I could not do what I want to do to make good on the private understandings I have reached with President Sadat.

But I can tell Your Majesty—of course, everything I say here is said in confidence—what I told the European leaders that I could conceive of a time in the negotiations when I might welcome a statement by Your Majesty threatening to reimpose the oil embargo. If that were played carefully, it could help our effort. But it would be better in the situation that I described earlier, where the embargo had been released in good faith and the reimposition were seen to be in response to an impasse created by the other side.

By the tactics I have pursued, I believe we have made progress in building domestic support in the US. If your associates would analyze US opinion and US press, the press has shifted its position gradually because I have acted as a mediator rather than as an advocate of one side.

Faisal: We are very grateful and cannot express our thanks enough for these sentiments. I pray for your continued effort and that God will grant results.

Kissinger: We shall continue our efforts with great energy. We consider that is what is necessary on our side.

Faisal: Nothing would please me more than to say that tomorrow morning we will lift the embargo. But, as the American expression goes, it does take “two to tango.” It should not be like playing chess where two adversaries work against each other. It should be a situation where you strengthen my hand and I strengthen yours.

Kissinger: Fair enough. When we have progress to report I will inform Your Majesty in complete confidence.

Faisal: In sha Allah. Grant us success in finding a solution to this pernicious problem.

Kissinger: I agree.

Faisal: I wish you every success.

[Omitted here is discussion related to the post-war negotiations.]

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27 ARAB–ISR. Secret; Cherokee; Nodis. Drafted by Saunders. Brackets, with the exception of those indicating omitted discussion, are in the original. A handwritten notation on the memorandum reads: “Rec’d 11/10/74 WH/JD to LSE.” Kissinger also met with Hisham Nazir on December 15 to discuss Saudi industrial and economic development and whether Saudi Arabia should send a mission to the United States rather than have a U.S. mission go to Saudi Arabia. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1027, Presidential/HAK Memcons, Memcons, April–Nov 1973) From Lisbon Kissinger thanked Faisal for his hospitality and informed him that Israel had agreed to the joint cease-fire agreement and to a conference in Geneva to begin December 21. (Telegram 4602 from Lisbon, December 17; ibid., Kissinger Office Files, Box 139, Country Files, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Nov–Dec 1973)