98. Telegram 164170 From the Department of State to Embassy in Israel1 2


  • Munich Incident: Secretary-Rabin Conversation Sept 6
Secretary and Israeli Ambassador Rabin met September 6 to discuss aspects of Munich incident. Also present were Minister Dean, Political Counselor Raviv, Ambassador Barbour, Deputy Assistant Secretary Atherton, and Country Director Stackhouse. Summary of conversation transmitted by reftel.
secretary opened conversation with expressions of shock and sorrow we felt at Munich incident. Rabin expressed gratitude. He said he would first like to give reaction to idea that terrorist problem might be taken to Security Council. Foreign Minister Eban appreciated deeply U.S. efforts to be helpful but he did have reservations re using Security Council as means to achieve goals. Reasons Foreign Minister believed SC meeting would not be helpful were: (1) the main reason is that President of SC is representative of Peoples Republic of China. Israel did not believe it could have any doubts re his attitude and unwillingness to cooperate in SC, (2) in 20 years in which Israel had been in UN, it knew of no resolutions passed by SC when Arabs were in opposition. Israel did not believe it had any reason to hope that this would change. (3) Demonstrable incapacity of SC to do anything effective creates quote deep depression unquote in Israel. An attempt and then a failure encourages those it is meant to condemn. (4) Israel believed that UN prestige, even in public relations matters, had reached such low ebb that for U.S. to turn to it would give it unjustified increase in prestige.
Secretary thanked Rabin for quick response. As Rabin knew Secretary had shared Foreign Minister’s reservation re resort to SC. USG, however, was anxious bring about effective action and felt all possible alternatives should be considered. Secretary wanted GOI to know that even though we had had reservations re feasible UN action, we were prepared proceed along these lines if Israel thought it useful. Secretary noted he had made statement before committee meeting in Washington (Legal Subcommittee, ICAO) to devise means to end hijacking. This statement might be helpful in bringing about some action. We ought to be thinking about what else might be done in circumstances. We were talking with other governments, including Arab governments giving financial support to terrorists. This could be useful.
Rabin said that GOI asked that USG take following [Page 3] actions: 1) Talk to those Arab countries believed to support Arab terrorists. GOI believed there was relation between Black September group and Fatah. Secretary and Atherton interjected that we had information to same effect. Rabin noted the Lebanese Prime Minister had admitted indirectly there was such a link. (2) U.S. could come out in clear way and explain to Cairo, Beirut and Damascus that as long as they offered their territory as refuge for groups acting against Israel, or as staging areas for actions in other countries, they would have to bear responsibility. (3) USG could take action by talking with Western European countries to persuade them to carry out, by more effective means, actions against Arab organizations linked to terrorist organizations.
Secretary said we were talking to European countries already. Rabin commented that there were specific organizations operating in Europe and he noted that even in New York, PLO had Reps. Rabin Said that these organizations must be made to know they could not operate freely.
Rabin said that another way that might be employed to improve security would be for U.S. to advise European countries re security matters. It would also be helpful if at working level means could be devised for more practical exchange of views about what could be done re hijacking and other terrorist acts.
Secretary said that was good idea and we ought to do it. He noted that in last 24 hours, USG working intensively with local authorities, had ensured increased security for Israelis in U.S. Atherton Said that NEA, in response to request from Minister Dean to Country Director Stackhouse that morning, had forwarded to Dep Asst Sec Gentile recommendations designed to lead to improved security of Israeli personnel and installations in U.S. Secretary remarked that President’s comments to Mrs. Meir re our resolve to assure Israeli security in U.S. would be helpful in obtaining resources necessary at local and national levels. Secretary continued that U.S. wanted [Page 4] have close working relations with Israel on this matter to obtain quick action if necessary and to know what each is doing on continuing basis. Secretary noted that we could not do everything at once. But we should exchange views. There were, as Israel knew, problems deriving from division of federal and local authorities. Secretary offered to try to be of help in resolving such problems.
Rabin said that Israel’s problems, of course, were not only those arising in U.S. There was need to do all necessary to encourage better climate generally. There was need to make provision of security of Israelis traveling in U.S. (he mentioned approaching visit of 100 man Israeli Philharmonic), but there was need as well to cooperate in political field so as to increase pressure and prevent repetition of atrocities.
Secretary Rogers agreed now was time to undertake such actions. He again noted USG had made many diplomatic contacts Sept 6. All Assistant Secretaries responsible for geographic areas had been involved. Part of job, he recognized, was to keep Ambassador Rabin advised of what we were doing. Countries, of course, might be able to help. Secretary encouraged Rabin to pass any suggestions to Atherton.
Rabin then turned to question of cancellation of Olympic Games. He described GOI position carefully: Israeli view in view of what had happened at Olympic Games was that games should not continue. GOI did not want to turn and present request to others to withdraw from Olympic Games but if U.S. team would have cut its presence there, Israel would have welcomed this. Therefore, this was way Israel was putting it officially. All other formulations of Israeli position on this matter USG might have heard were irrelevant.
Secretary said he understood. Rabin said he did not believe it was advisable to elaborate. What Rabin was [Page 5] expressing was GOI feeling rather than firm operational request.
Rabin asked what USG had heard re reaction to Munich incident in Arab countries. How did USG analyze it? Atherton said it was hard to generalize. A common theme, however, seemed to be general sense of feeling of discomfiture and uneasiness and reluctance of governments to speak out officially either way or even to give press guidelines. We did not know if this situation would hold. Atherton said we were getting private Arab statements of disapproval but none were ready to come out publicly in this sense. Atherton said only clear critical Arab statement was from King Hussein. Lebanese statement was less strong but not bad for Lebanon: it opened with expression of regret but then made statements stressing Palestinian despair and trying explain Palestinian motives.
Secretary commented on idiotic and insane nature of atrocity at Munich. Games had been going so well and now one result was that Arab cause in eyes of world had suffered setback. Perhaps one day those who died would be considered martyrs in cause of peace.
Rabin said notion he sensed in some media comment was that Munich incident would stimulate efforts for peace. Israel believed there was need for peace but assumption that atrocities should bring new political initiatives only plays into hand of those who commit atrocities. Secretary interjected, point we were making to diplomats was that Munich incident was setback to prospects of peace. Rabin said that after Egyptian expulsion of Russians there seemed to be sense of relaxation and broadening of chances for peace. Now after Munich, things were taken back to where they were. Rabin said that feeling in Israel was if there were groups like this in Arab world, who could guarantee to Israel once there was political settlement, that Israel would not be in worse position? At present Arab options were limited because of military [Page 6] positions Israel held but imagine if there were terrorist incidents like this after an interim agreement, what would happen? People would turn to each other and ask, what lessons can we draw? This was setback to hopes aroused by Russian pull out that more options might be opened up.
Secretary said it was obvious this was not time to make definitive analysis because we were too close to events. In any event, one could not talk of peace initiatives now. We would not do it. In this case, people would say Munich is way to do it. Secretary hoped world reaction would cause Arab government to say to their peoples world opinion was opposed to terrorism. Secretary noted Munich would likely weaken Sadat’s hand in UN. We hoped Munich would not be setback to cause of peace in long run and that, in fact, it would help. but Rabin might be right. Rabin said Israel would be careful not to talk about new initiatives.
After brief exchange regarding funeral arrangements in Israel, there was further discussion of advantages for terrorists in cancellation of Games. Ambassador Barbour observed Games in fact were innocent party in this atrocity. Secretary noted that terrorists might call cancellation of Games a victory. Dean said that almost anything that might be done would be exploited by them. Now terrorist supporters were claiming that fact games were not stopped meant world was not on side of Israel.
Secretary asked if Rabin knew where terrorists had been based. Rabin replied in negative, commenting this was problem in which security services could have done better. Rabin said he did not have any real report on incident. He noted Prime Minister’s statement of appreciation that FRG had taken all measures to control situation, including use of force. Secretary remarked that President aware of this statement and regarded it as statesmanlike.
It was agreed that in his comments to press, Rabin would, if asked, express GOI position as he had put it to [Page 7] Secretary re ending of Games, would note discussion had been about measures to increase security and say that both sides agreed stay in close touch and encourage others to enhance security precautions.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 609, Country Files, Middle East, Israel, Sept 1971-Sept. 1972. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Stackhouse (NEA/IAI) on September 7 and approved by Atherton, Bremer, and Eliot. Repeated to Amman, Cairo, Beirut, Kuwait, Jidda, Bonn, London, Moscow, Paris, Tripoli, and USUN.
  2. Rogers and Israeli Ambassador Rabin discussed how to respond to the Munich incident.