109. Telegram From the Embassy in Israel to the Department of State1

1976. For President and Secretary from Sisco.

1. A few impressions of my two-hour meeting with PM Golda Meir 2 and some related reflections on trip so far may be of interest.

2. I found her disappointed over arms decision, but reflecting deep and genuine confidence in President and affection for him and ready promptly to proceed quietly and discreetly with US officials in future discussions on basis small packages not large publicized shopping bags.

3. In Cairo I found Nasser 3 resigned to reliance on Soviets and with a fixation on Quote Phantoms Unquote. Equally, Mrs. Meir came back time again to Quote additional aircraft Unquote pleading Quote give us benefit of doubt Unquote as to our needs since for Israel Quote it is to be or not to be Unquote.

4. As expected, neither in Cairo nor in Tel Aviv did I detect any prospect of changes in their respective maximum positions or of their moving toward acceptance of October and December proposals as [Page 362] basis for negotiations. Although both continue say they seek peaceful settlement, chasm between their respective positions remains wide for now at least. I can, however, report one very modest gain here. After I explained at length to Mrs. Meir the benefits that would accrue to Israel from a systematic series of Israeli political peace initiatives, Mrs. Meir is now expected to appoint a small committee to develop such a program for her consideration. There is, of course, no commitment that any of the painful decisions which would result in a bit more flexibility in the Israeli position will be taken, but this is a start.

5. Mrs. Meir and top officials are greatly preoccupied with and concerned over increased Soviet direct involvement in Egypt. Without being specific, she stressed the need for the US to be Quote firm Unquote with the Soviets since otherwise the Russians may be tempted to broaden even further the parameters of brinksmanship in Middle East in belief we are so preoccupied with Viet Nam we will not react. But there is every sign Israelis will be prudent and selective militarily in Egypt, without however denying selves right to continue deep penetration raids if they deem military situation makes necessary. For time being, at least, they have no intention to hit Russian-manned SA–3s in Cairo, West Alexandria or Aswan. They will, however, maintain intensive air attacks near Suez Canal frontline positions to prevent installation of either SA–2s or SA–3s.

6. Finally, I am grateful that the attacks on our installations in Amman resulted in no loss or injuries to American lives. Since focus of extreme PLP fedayeen attacks and demonstration used as their principal thrust that Quote Sisco was carrying political settlements in his bag, Unquote and since I had nothing new to give to Hussein, I cancelled.4 It was not worth risking American lives in Amman; neither Symmes nor I had any confidence that Hussein would act resolutely. Symmes and I agreed that main goal of fedayeen in their recent demonstrations was to make it impossible for Hussein to continue his dedication to idea of political settlement with Israel which they, of course, reject. If Hussein is unable to sustain a 24-hour visit of a US Assistant Secretary of State and does not even feel himself strong enough to ex[Page 363]press publicly regret over these unfortunate developments, it raises fundamental question of whether he is a wasting asset. Hussein is going to have to make up his mind whether he or fedayeen are running his country. Recent events in Jordan require some sober thought by all of us in the days ahead.

7. With all other Americans, we are praying for the safe return of our astronauts.5

Barbour
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 606, Country Files, Middle East, Israel, Vol. IV. Secret; Priority; Nodis.
  2. Sisco visited Israeli and Arab capitals April 8–24. He met with Meir on the afternoon of April 16. The full report of their discussion is in telegram 1965 from Tel Aviv, April 16. (Ibid.)
  3. Sisco met with Nasser on the evening of April 12. The full report of their discussion is in telegram 794 from Cairo, April 12. (Ibid., Box 635, Country Files, Middle East, UAR, Vol. III)
  4. The American Cultural Center and the Embassy in Amman were attacked on April 15 by Palestinian demonstrators. Despite King Hussein’s assurances to Symmes that Sisco would be safe, Symmes recommended that the Assistant Secretary not visit Jordan. He wrote: “I have not doubted Jordanian good intentions with respect to assuring safety of the Sisco mission but I continue to believe that there is a considerable gap between their good intentions and the ability to control the actions of others.” (Telegram 1630 from Amman, April 16; ibid., Box 614, Country Files, Middle East, Jordan, Vol. IV) Zaid Rifai informed Symmes that Hussein considered Sisco’s cancellation a “personal offense” and that the Ambassador should be transferred to another post because he had not encouraged the Assistant Secretary to visit Jordan. (Telegram 1635 from Amman, April 16; ibid.)
  5. Reference is to the Apollo 13 astronauts, Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise. While en route to the moon beginning on April 11, an oxygen tank exploded aboard their aircraft, forcing an immediate abort of the moon landing mission. The astronauts returned to earth safely on April 17.