70. Memorandum From Michel Oksenberg of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Aaron)1


  • Informing the Israelis of the PRC’s Attitude Toward the New Middle East Situation

A number of CIA TDs point unmistakably in the same direction:

—The Chinese are supporters of Sadat’s initiative and believe that it offers the best hope of peace in the Middle East in many years.

—The Chinese recognize the permanency of Israel and their own need eventually to establish relations with Israel.

—The Chinese have concluded that the PLO is no longer an effective organization and is faction-ridden.

—The Chinese believe they have a strong interest in the maintenance of stability in the Middle East. They believe the only victors in any conflict would be the Soviets.

—One PRC diplomat stated Peking would like to assist Sadat and would be responsive to requests by him.

—The Chinese believe the U.S. has a major role to play in the area, and that it must play this role in an even-handed manner.

This is a new development. In the early 1950s, Israel recognized the PRC and was making progress in eliciting a Chinese response [Page 278] through Burmese intercession. But Dulles pressured Ben Gurion not to pursue the matter. After Bandung and the PRC’s opening to Cairo, Peking’s Arab links precluded a Peking response. Indeed, from the early 1960s to the early 1970s, Peking’s best links were with the radical Arabs. Since 1971–1972, however, the PRC has been drifting toward the Egyptians—particularly as Sadat became increasingly anti-Soviet.

Israel has approached us on several occasions since 1972 to indicate to Peking Tel Aviv’s interest in establishing relations. At the same time, however, Israel has been drifting toward closer relations with Taiwan, with arms sales forming the link.

I believe it is in our interest to deter Israel’s drift toward Taiwan2 and to foster an Israeli-PRC link for these reasons:

—Israel should not have major military-security links with the outcast nations of the world: South Africa, Rhodesia, the ROC. Rather, it should broaden its connections with Third World countries when possible.

—An Israeli-Taiwan connection has an impact on U.S. domestic politics, for it provides the basis for cooperation between the Taiwan and Israeli lobbies.3

—It is desirable to involve PRC interests in the maintenance of a stable Israel–Egypt relationship through Peking having good relations with both.


In your next conversation with a suitable Israeli official you (1) mention what we have learned about Peking’s new attitude toward the Middle East; (2) you indicate that we think it is premature for Israel to try to establish contact with Peking at this point, but that if Israel allows the situation to mature without engaging in acts that would be deliberately provocative to Peking, such a connection seems possible within the foreseeable future.4

Bill Gleysteen concurs with this recommendation and believes that you are the person who should deliver the message. He believes that such an initiative would get hopelessly mired at State.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 8, China (People’s Republic of): 10/77–1/78. Secret. Sent for action. On December 29, Robert Gates returned this memorandum to Oksenberg under cover of a memorandum in which he stated, “David has asked that this memorandum be redone with the changes suggested on page 2. With some emphasis, David asked me to tell you to avoid sending memos to him that contain such phrases as ‘deter Israel’s drift toward Taiwan,’ ‘links with the outcast nations of the world,’ and ‘cooperation between the Taiwan and Israeli lobbies.’” (Ibid.) See footnotes 2–4 below.
  2. The passage, “in our interest to deter Israel’s drift toward Taiwan,” was put in brackets by Aaron or at his request.
  3. This sentence and the first sentence of the previous paragraph were put in brackets by Aaron or at his request.
  4. Aaron did not check either the Approve or Disapprove option.