156. Editorial Note

The National Security Council held a meeting, the minutes of which have not been found, on September 1, 1970, from 10 to 11:47 a.m. at the Western White House in San Clemente, California, which in part concerned the Middle East. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary) On August 31, in preparation for the meeting, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs Joseph Sisco sent Secretary of State William Rogers a paper outlining three options for how the United States could proceed following the violations of the August 7 cease-fire agreement for presentation at the NSC meeting. The options included:

“1. We can continue to support the ceasefire and Jarring talks, pressing the Soviets and UAR to stop their violations but in effect acquiescing in them at the same time pressing Israel to continue to observe the ceasefire. This would be the first time we would be charging the Soviets directly with ceasefire-standstill violations. The emphasis could be on stopping any further violations rather than on a rollback. This would assuage the Israelis somewhat, but would leave them dissatisfied to a substantial degree. At a minimum, we would need to step up military supply to Israel as compensation for what the Soviets and UAR are doing on the West Bank of the Canal. This would probably mean that in addition to the [Page 523] scheduled delivery of the September-December F–4s and A–4s, we would provide a considerably expanded anti-SAM package. There is further risk that, by acquiescing in violations which improve the UAR-Soviet military position, we will be increasingly on the defensive as political talks progress in circumstances where our credibility and influence with the Israelis will have been further undermined. If a larger anti-SAM package is provided, it would have to be on the same conditions as the previous package, that Israel would not use the equipment to break the ceasefire. A suggested letter to Gromyko carrying out this option is attached.

“2. We could continue to support the ceasefire and urge Israel to observe it but tell the Soviets we would support Israel in suspending participation in the Jarring discussions until the UAR and Soviets removed the missiles introduced during the ceasefire period and ceased all further violations. The Soviets and UAR would probably react to this approach by stepping up their military activities in the ceasefire zone, combined with a campaign to put the blame on the US and Israel for suspending the peace talks. Our principal leverage in seeking to forestall this would be to tell the Soviets that we are prepared to charge them and the Egyptians publicly with violating the ceasefire and to document our charges. It is doubtful at best whether this would be enough to get them to back down, and peace talks therefore would be at an indefinite impasse. Furthermore, under this option, the risk would remain high that Israel would strike militarily despite our urgings to the contrary.

“3. We could tell the Soviets that we will no longer cooperate in pursuing the peace talks or in the continuation of the ceasefire and would support Israel in a return to the military and political situation pre-August 7 unless the violations are corrected and no further violations occur. This would constitute a major test of whether the Soviets attach as much importance as we do to the success of the current settlement efforts. If they are prepared to see those efforts break down rather than suspend their strategy of putting increasing military pressure on Israel, it is perhaps better to find this out sooner rather than later. If we choose this option, we must be prepared to risk the collapse of our whole initiative. This is thus the option of maximum risk. On the other hand, it is also the option under which we have maximum leverage, since (a) we could make a good public case of Soviet-UAR responsibility for the breakdown of the ceasefire and (b) a return to the pre-August 7 situation and military risks which they presumably accepted our initiative to avoid.” (Telegram 141836 to the White House, August 31; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27–14 ARAB-ISR)

In an August 31 memorandum to the President, Henry Kissinger explained that, when discussion at the NSC meeting turned to the Middle East, “particular emphasis” would “be placed on future U.S. ac[Page 524]tions in the face of further evidence of violations of the standstill cease-fire.” (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–029, National Security Council Meetings, NSC Meeting—Middle East 9/1/70) Kissinger addressed the meeting in his memoirs, writing that Nixon “directed that a very strong protest be made in both Cairo and Moscow” about UAR violations and that Israel “be asked to send a representative to the Jarring talks in New York.” (White House Years, page 591) According to Haldeman’s September 1 account of what Nixon told him about the NSC meeting, Kissinger and the President “went at it pretty hard,” which Haldeman wrote in the context of the “several long talks” that he and Nixon had that day about “the K[issinger] problem.” Nixon told Haldeman to speak with Kissinger and Haig to “get K off of Middle East” and have him “concentrate on Vietnam and Russia.” While Haldeman “got a little way with Al,” he got “nowhere with Henry.” ( Haldeman Diaries: Multimedia Edition, September 1, 1970) Haldeman recorded in his diaries that “the K problem” stemmed from his ongoing rivalry with Rogers. “He’s just obsessed with conviction Rogers is out to get him and to sabotage all our systems and our foreign policy.” (Ibid., August 6, 1970) Haldeman added that “K is uptight about the Middle East and is imagining things . . . All this really worries P[resident] because it creates doubt about K’s reliability on other recommendations, and gets in the way of doing his work. P realizes K’s basically jealous of any idea not his own, and he just can’t swallow the apparent early success of the Middle East plan because it is Rogers’s. In fact, he’s probably actually trying to make it fail for just this reason.” (Ibid., August 16 and 17, 1970)