In late 1970, a new wind of cautious optimism could be sensed in the conflict between Egypt and Israel. The fragile cease-fire agreement that had ended the War of Attrition in August 1970 was being observed; new voices were heard in both Cairo and Jerusalem about a renewal of negotiations, if certain conditions were met. Accordingly, both Secretary of State William P. Rogers and the newly installed president of Egypt, Anwar Sadat, designated 1971 “the year of decision.” In the early months of 1971, there were several diplomatic openings that might have led to an agreement between Egypt and Israel, of which the most far-reaching was to reopen the Suez Canal to navigation.

One of these opportunities was the initiative that Sadat floated on February 4, 1971, in a speech to the Egyptian National Assembly. Later, he said that it was “a diplomatic offensive – the only alternative to a military one which I was, at the time, unable to undertake.” In any event, 1971 concluded with no decision, and many viewed this a missed opportunity that could have averted the October 1973 war. This chapter takes a close look at this diplomatic initiative, its motives, and Israel’s response to it. I will place special emphasis on an issue that has received very little attention in the scholarship about Sadat’s proposal—the divergent positions within the United States administration about an Israeli-Egyptian agreement that would lead to the reopening of the Suez Canal and its ramifications for U.S. interests in Vietnam. To put it another way, did the United States’ preoccupation with the Vietnam conflict influence decisions about the Middle East arena that year? Did the Nixon administration bear some of the responsibility for the failure of the 1971 diplomatic initiative?1

New President, New Opportunities

Sadat, not burdened by responsibility for the debacle of June 1967, was elected to succeed Nasser on October 15, 1970, which provided an opportunity for Egypt, the United States, and UN special envoy Gunnar Jarring to restart the diplomatic efforts to achieve a settlement between Israel and the Arabs. At the recommendation of National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, President Richard Nixon moved to develop good ties with Sadat, to promote the diplomatic process in the Middle East, and to improve relations between Washington and Cairo. For his part, Sadat expressed his hope on several occasions that the United States would respond to Egypt’s needs and evince understanding of its motives in its fight against Israeli aggression.2

At the same time, Secretary of State Rogers opened his own channel of communications with his Egyptian counterpart with the goal of building trust between the two countries. The US objective was to advance the peace talks and realize the United States’ basic interests in the Middle East: an Israeli–Arab accord and a halt to Soviet penetration of the region. The State Department feared that if the Arabs and Israel could not be set on a genuine negotiating track, the diplomatic process would languish and ultimately lead to a new outbreak of hostilities between the sides.3

In general, State Department officials identified an Egyptian willingness to make use of the United States in the diplomatic process, and especially of Jarring’s mediation efforts, as well as “a greater willingness for peace.” They also felt that Cairo was not interested in relying on the Soviets as their exclusive advocates and the Soviet Union itself was encouraging the Egyptians to “continue on the path of negotiations.”4 In addition, Secretary Rogers saw that the Egyptian and Soviet bargaining position had become weaker following Nasser’s death and that major psychological and political obstacles had been removed, especially on the Israeli side. He asserted, moreover, that Cairo had released hints of its desire to continue along the path leading to a diplomatic settlement.5

On December 23, 1970, Rogers’ cautious optimism led him to announce that 1971 was going to be a “year of decisions.” The first step, as far as the United States was concerned, was to get the two sides to start talking under Jarring’s auspices.6 Sadat shared Rogers’ outlook; a few days later, in an interview with the New York Times, he said that the first six months of 1971 would be decisive. But he did not express great optimism about the prospects for a diplomatic solution. With regard to the negotiations through Jarring, he stated that when the Swede began his mission Egypt would propose free passage through the Gulf of Aqaba, but free passage through the Suez Canal would depend on a just solution of the refugee problem. Sadat also hinted at his willingness to recognize Israel and live in peace alongside it, but insisted that as long as he was alive there would not be diplomatic relations between the two countries. The New York Times interview was the opening shot in a series of public statements by Sadat that became more focused as the months progressed and referred to recognition of Israel, the opening of the Suez Canal, and his interest in reaching an overall settlement of the conflict.7

On the Israeli side, too, there had been some movement in the diplomatic process. On December 29, 1970, after an exchange of letters between Prime Minister Golda Meir and President Nixon, which included an Israeli request for security guarantees in the event of an outright war, promises of U.S. economic and military assistance to Israel, as well as meetings between Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and senior administration officials,8 Meir stated officially that “the present diplomatic and military situations permit and justify an end to the suspension of our participation in the [Jarring] talks.”9 Ten days later, Jarring met with Meir and Foreign Minister Abba Eban in Jerusalem. The two Israelis handed him a position paper with Israel’s conditions for peace with Egypt (along with parallel documents about peace with Jordan and Lebanon), chiefly the need for an explicit and binding commitment to peace; mutual and explicit respect for and recognition of each country’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and political independence; the institution of appropriate security arrangements; and an end to the state of war between the two countries. Israel now accepted the principle of withdrawal and no longer insisted on direct talks as a prior condition for beginning negotiations. The State Department and Ambassador Jarring responded positively to Meir and Eban’s proposal.10

A Dress Rehearsal for February: General Amin’s Mission

Shortly before Jarring renewed his mission, Egypt secretly advanced a proposal for a partial settlement with Israel. It was the first time Sadat offered a diplomatic plan for a settlement, and its content served as the basis for his later initiatives as well, especially that of February 1971. In mid-January, Assistant Secretary of State Joseph Sisco met with Israel’s ambassador in Washington, Yitzhak Rabin. Sisco told him that on January 11, a senior figure who was very close to the Egyptian president had called on the American Interests Section in Cairo and transmitted a proposal, unquestionably with Sadat’s knowledge. He did not identify the senior official, but it later became known that it was Gen. Abdel Moneim Amin.11

At this meeting, Amin told his hosts that he wanted to pass on, unofficially, a diplomatic proposal to the Americans and the Israelis. Evidently, Sisco said, Sadat wanted to develop a diplomatic back channel by means of General Amin, whose proposal was quite similar to that made by Defense Minister Dayan in November 1970: mutual withdrawal from the Suez Canal.12 It was proposed that Israel withdraw its forces 40 km from the eastern bank of the canal as far as Mitla Pass. Despite the withdrawal, the Egyptian representative asserted, Israel would still control most of the Sinai Peninsula and still command natural defensive positions. After Israel took the first step, Egypt would secretly thin out its ground forces for 40 km west of the canal, but leave its air defense units and other military installations in place. If the proposal was implemented, the general added, his country would agree to a prisoner exchange with Israel, to extend the ceasefire, to conduct negotiations through Jarring, to bar flights by Egyptian and Israeli planes in a strip extending 10 km on either side of the canal, and to open it for free passage by all vessels (whether this included Israeli shipping was not stated).13

The Egyptian proposal did not make a particularly strong impression on Israel or the United States. In the end, for reasons to be surveyed below, neither of them delivered a clear answer to Egypt. Sadat did not abandon his idea and made it public on February 4, 1971. However, in his conversations with Donald Bergus, the senior US diplomat in Cairo, his disappointment with the lack of a US response was unmistakable. Bergus reported this to his superiors and recommended that the secret direct channel with the Egyptian president be maintained, because that was how Sadat preferred to conduct negotiations with the Americans and even more so with the Israelis.14

Despite Sadat’s preference for off-the-record contacts with the Americans, on January 15, 1971, Egypt handed Jarring its response to the Israeli document the Swede had received from Meir and Eban at the start of the month. The Egyptians reiterated their willingness to accept Security Council Resolution 242, which Israel rejected. They emphasized the imperative nature of an Israeli withdrawal to the lines of June 4, 1967, and a just solution to the refugee problem on the basis of United Nations resolutions. They also called for setting up a UN force to safeguard the peace and for including the four Great Powers and the Security Council as a third party to the agreement, contrary to the Israeli position that only the two countries should be involved.15

Why was General Amin’s proposal of January 11, which amounted to a sort of compromise between the two countries, not included in the Egyptian document, especially since its incorporation into the Egyptian position paper would have caused great embarrassment to Jerusalem and subjected it to diplomatic pressure? There are two possible answers: the first relates to the international arena, and the second to domestic power struggles in Egypt. First, because Cairo had never thought that the Jarring talks could lead to a settlement with Israel, most of its energies were directed toward Washington in the hope that the administration would put pressure on Israel to be more flexible. Second, we may conjecture that the January proposal remained confidential and hidden from the Egyptian Foreign Ministry. This idea is supported by how Sadat handled his February initiative; none of the members of his government, including Foreign Minister Mahmoud Riad, were privy to it: “None of my [domestic] opponents had foreknowledge of my initiative,” he wrote in his memoirs.16 What is more, the disagreements with Riad about the conduct of foreign policy and the latter’s objection to the interim agreement with Israel posed a threat to the proposal. Perhaps Sadat knew that if the rival centers of power were aware of his desire to reach a compromise with Israel, at such an early stage of his tenure and without a military conflict, it might trigger a domestic uprising against him—especially in light of the power struggles that were already raging at the highest levels of the Egyptian government.17

The impasse in all the diplomatic channels produced stronger threats and signs from Cairo that the hostilities across the canal would be resumed in February. The tone became sharper in the exchange of notes and messages between Rogers and Riad in January 1971. When the former called for continuation of the diplomatic efforts and even hinted at the possibility that the U.S. administration would pressure the Israeli leadership to make compromises,18 the Egyptian Foreign Minister asserted that the ceasefire served Israel’s interests only. He asked the Americans to pressure Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories and made it clear that “[the] UAR would not accept [the] thesis that it was [a] defeated country which had to make territorial concessions.” As we shall see later, Riad belonged to the camp that opposed Sadat’s attempts to conclude a settlement with Israel. His opposition stemmed from his realization, as early as January, after the stalemate in the Jarring mission, about who set the tone in Washington. “Rogers and the State Department had little say in defining US foreign policy,” he told Bergus. “The right [of] decision on foreign affairs matters had been delegated almost completely to Henry Kissinger.”19

A discussion of the State Department’s inability to set the Israeli–Egyptian diplomatic process in motion in early 1971 cannot ignore Riad’s statement. Its implication is that the senior echelons in Egypt had correctly read the balance of power in the Nixon administration and understood that without strong support from Nixon and Kissinger, there was little chance that the State Department would pressure Israel to make progress toward a political or diplomatic solution. So the State Department’s shaky credibility was to its disadvantage: the promises by Rogers and his people that the United States could get Israel to take a more flexible position if Egypt did so as well were taken in Cairo with a large grain of salt.

Sadat’s Initiative to Reopen the Suez Canal

After Sadat transmitted, via General Amin, his proposal for a thinning of the forces along the canal and its reopening, Israel waited for the U.S. response. For three weeks, Israel made it clear that it would not act contrary to the views of the administration; if the White House did not reject the Egyptian idea, Israel would be willing to cooperate with the United States to study it in depth. Here it is important to note that when Nixon entered the White House the United States was deeply mired in Vietnam and assigned priority to resolving that problem. In addition to Vietnam, Nixon and Kissinger wanted to reshape relations with the Soviet Union, chiefly with regard to nuclear weapons, as well as develop an opening to China. It remained mainly for the State Department to deal with the Middle East, which, even though it was defined as “a powder keg,” was relegated to secondary priority. In January and February 1971, Nixon and Kissinger were preoccupied with the invasion of Cambodia and the planned operation in Laos (Lam Son 719), and Rabin could rarely find a place on their crowded schedules.20

The U.S. position was important to Israel chiefly because of the statements by the Egyptian leadership that the ceasefire would not be extended after February 5. Jerusalem informed Washington that in the event of a resumption of hostilities Israel would respond with full force in order to hold the canal line and defend its positions. In the absence of a U.S. response, however, should fighting break out across the canal, no one in the administration would be able to blame Israel for not responding to an Egyptian proposal it had received through the Americans. As we shall see, this is precisely why the United States preferred not to offer Israel any advice.21 Kissinger managed to find time in his schedule to meet with Rabin on February 3, but he could not offer a U.S. response to the Israeli query or the Egyptian proposal. Rabin recommended to Jerusalem that Israel continue to wait for an answer from Nixon and Kissinger and make no answer to Sisco.22

For Sadat, the thunderous silence from Jerusalem and Washington inspired him to go public with his secret proposal on January 15. On February 4, he addressed the Egyptian National Assembly and reaffirmed his country’s interest in a diplomatic settlement. Nevertheless, he emphasized, it was “our sacred duty” to recover all of the Arab land occupied in 1967; accordingly, “all our political, military, economic, and diplomatic action should be geared towards this end.” Sadat stated that in the absence of serious progress on the diplomatic front, Egypt would not consent to an automatic extension of the ceasefire, but added that he could not ignore the requests by the UN secretary-general and members of the Security Council who were showing sympathy for Egypt and asking it to hold its fire to create a more relaxed atmosphere that could promote the implementation of Resolution 242. Sadat announced that the quiet on the canal front would be extended for another 30 days, until March 7, and then presented his new diplomatic initiative:

We demand that during this period of withholding fire a partial withdrawal of the Israeli troops on the western bank of the Suez Canal will be realized as a first step in a timetable to be laid down with a view to implementing the rest of the provisions of the Security Council Resolution. If this is realized during this period, we are ready to start at once in clearing the course of the Suez Canal in order to reopen it for international navigation and to serve world economy.23

Both Washington and Jerusalem were curious about the motives that lay behind Sadat’s proposal to reopen the Suez Canal. Among the Americans, it seems, after a study of all of the various arguments and opinions, that there was a lack of unanimity within the administration, especially at the State Department, about the Egyptians’ motives, but chiefly no great desire to study the proposal and its details. Kissinger’s explanation for the absence of a response from the White House was the escalation in the fighting in Southeast Asia, which was Nixon’s top priority and would prove fateful. Kissinger told Rabin that “the future of the war and the president’s own future were hanging in the balance.”24 On the other hand, U.S. conduct was problematic for Israel, which did not want to act without the consent and coordination with the United States. Hence, Israel could not formulate a response as long as Washington did not convey its opinion on the matter.

The U.S. attempts to fathom Egypt’s motives for reopening the canal generated several hypotheses. Sisco thought it was possible that Sadat was trying to arouse sympathy in Europe and thereby exert pressure on Israel and the United States. He also suggested that the Egyptian step was the product of Russian intervention, because reopening the canal would serve Soviet interests more than US interests. Still, Sisco believed, the economic motive was paramount: reopening the canal would benefit Egypt’s economy and help it escape the difficulties of recent years, especially given its growing dependence on the Soviet Union.25

Other officials at the State Department and especially in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) thought that the political side was more important for Sadat. As they saw the matter, he had an acute need for a political achievement to bolster his political status, deter threats, and stifle the pressure by senior military officers who wanted to go back into action against Israel. They also identified four Soviet interests behind the initiative: negotiations between Israel and Egypt about reopening the Suez Canal for navigation would reduce the danger of war; opening the canal would contribute to stability in the Middle East and permit fruitful negotiations toward an overall settlement of the Arab–Israeli conflict; it would simplify transport to Vietnam; and make it easier to supply the Soviet naval force in the Indian Ocean, which could then be enlarged.26

Israel, too, was wondering about Sadat’s motives. In an analysis that the director general of the Foreign Ministry, Gideon Rafael, sent to Eban, he highlighted the hidden dimensions of Sadat’s plan, especially the question of who would control the territory evacuated by Israel; whether the Egyptian Army would cross to the east bank of the canal; and whether the canal would be open to Israeli ships as well. Rafael also emphasized the element of Soviet involvement in the Egyptian proposal and noted that as early as the autumn of 1968 the Soviet Union had proposed an Israeli withdrawal from the canal as a first step toward its full evacuation of the Sinai Peninsula. Consequently, Rafael insisted on the need to study how Sadat’s proposal would influence the “global strategic system” of the United States and the Soviet Union and what diplomatic and security implications it would have for Israel. That is, was Egypt making a first step toward true peace or seeking to improve its position in advance of renewed fighting? Nevertheless, Rafael, like Mordechai Gazit, the director general of the Prime Minister’s Office, perceived a difference between Sadat’s current position and Nasser’s. The former was now willing to open the canal without a full Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories as a precondition; to set a timetable for implementation of Resolution 242 after a partial Israeli withdrawal; and to extend the ceasefire.27

Without access to the Egyptian archives, of course, the testimony of those involved in this issue can only be in hindsight; still, we cannot ignore the grounds that Egyptian memoirists have attributed to Sadat’s initiative. It will be recalled that Sadat himself wrote that in the absence of a feasible military alternative he elected to embark on a “diplomatic offensive.” Another person who was deeply involved behind the scenes in the diplomatic efforts in those days was Mohamed Hassanein Heikal, the editor of al-Ahram. He reported that “the Russians approved this gesture.” What is more, during his first visit to the Soviet Union as president, on March 1, 1971, Sadat told his hosts, “I have made my peace initiative, including an offer to open the Suez Canal … but this would have to be part of an overall settlement. On your advice I have gone further in my efforts for peace than any other Arab leader.”28 So it seems that U.S. fears of Soviet involvement in Sadat’s proposal were real, in that it was made with full coordination between Cairo and Moscow. Heikal added that the Soviet Union would be one of the main beneficiaries of the reopening of the canal, because it would permit communication between its Mediterranean and Indian Ocean fleets.29

A third witness is Riad, who throughout his tenure as foreign minister was adamantly opposed to an arrangement with Israel that would require any political compromises by Egypt. He wrote that when he told Sadat that his plan would perplex the countries that supported the Egyptian position and be represented as a retreat from the Arab demand for a full Israeli withdrawal on all fronts, Sadat replied that his plan would, in fact, increase international support for Egypt, especially by countries for whom the canal was an important passageway. What is more, should Israel turn down his diplomatic proposal, the entire world would be against Israel, thus finding itself isolated internationally.30

The day after Sadat’s speech, Washington sent a note to Jerusalem calling on Israel to give serious consideration to the Egyptian proposal.31 The initial and unofficial response to it was included in Prime Minister Meir’s speech to the Labor Party on February 5:

We hope that he will lead his people to peace and life. There are situations in which greater courage is required to decide on peace than to start a war. Our desire is for peace because we do not see war as an ideal to which we aspire. … We must try every opening through which it is possible to arrive at a solution. This is what the Government wants and this is what the people want. We will continue on this path. We can achieve peace when the other side recognizes that war has never solved any problem.32

Three days later, Bergus met with Heikal, who asked him to explain the reason for the US silence. Heikal said that the Egyptian proposal went very far; Sadat was confident that it could neutralize the danger of a perpetuation of the status quo in the region. He made it plain that the proposal did not serve Cold War interests in any shape or form and insisted that there had been no pressure from Moscow. He added that Egypt did not intend to reject Jarring’s mission, but there was room to act via other channels (that is, vis-à-vis the United States); if positive signs were received from Israel, Bergus would have “unrestricted access to him [Sadat].” In addition, should the demarche be accepted, including a partial Israeli withdrawal, Egypt would renew diplomatic relations with the United States.33

Heikal’s message found its way to the State Department; that same evening Sisco spoke with Ambassador Rabin and made him aware of its tenor. He noted that the administration had not taken a position with regard to the Egyptian proposals of January and February, nor would it make any recommendations on the matter to Israel. Sisco asked Rabin for Israel to consider the issue thoroughly, and added that the swift transmission of the message from Cairo, so soon after Sadat’s speech, could not be ignored.34 Rabin was pleased with the Egyptian message and the US interpretation of it. “Clearly Sadat was eager. There were reasons for it; his tail was burning for one reason or another, be it political or economic or military. This was good.” But he did not have any response from the Israeli government to Sadat’s proposals.35

In another conversation Sisco agreed to share his own ideas about a reopening of the canal. Even though this was not Washington’s official position, it can tell us something about the US attitude. Sisco said that opening the Suez Canal to shipping without a comprehensive peace agreement between Israel and Egypt would not serve US interests; on the contrary, it might harm them, and he even referred to it as “strategic damage.” However, if an agreement to reopen the canal was accompanied by one about separation of forces and the ceasefire was extended for a long period, it would contribute to the Jarring mission and the diplomatic process in general, with no time limit. This would diminish the threat of war in the Middle East, and with it a confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union.36

Sisco went on to say that he did not believe that the United States would advise Israel on how it should respond to the Egyptians, because it was loath to take a stand. He referred to both the State Department and the White House: the United States saw taking a position and presenting it to Israel as a commitment that went beyond an abstract opinion. Nixon could not come out against the proposal, Sisco said, because then he would be exposed to criticism by Israel and a demand for military aid if the recommendation proved to have serious diplomatic and military consequences. Along with this, a recommendation in favor of the Sadat initiative would run counter to US interests with regard to reopening the canal.37

After a series of consultations on the Israeli side, Foreign Minister Eban conveyed to Rabin and to Yosef Tekoa, the Israel ambassador to the United Nations, the main points of the government’s position on Sadat’s proposal and the diplomatic process vis-à-vis Egypt in general. First of all, Israel would not withdraw from the cease-fire lines of June 10, 1967, until there was peace between Israel and Egypt with agreed and recognized borders. With regard to the canal, Israel had already agreed in the summer of 1967 to its reopening for international shipping, including Israeli vessels. Second, Israel had cooperated with Jarring and made him aware of its diplomatic position, so now it was Egypt’s turn to respond to the proposals. Third, Israel attached “great importance to any step that would take the wind out of Sadat’s sails” by means of U.S. domestic criticism (newspaper articles or remarks by senators).38 Even though this was not an official Israeli response to Sadat’s speech, it is clear that the inclination was to reject his proposal.

Israel’s wish to hear some reaction from the United States increased as February 9 approached; Prime Minister Meir was to speak in the Knesset to present Israel’s position on Sadat’s public statement. Accordingly, Meir asked Rabin “to ask Cardinal [Kissinger] for an answer about Flint [Nixon]’s position.”39 But Nixon and Kissinger continued to drag their feet; the latter even recommended that Israel leave Sadat’s proposal open for any option—unless it believed that the proposal was totally out of the question. Rabin, who correctly understood this message as a “no,” commented that in his opinion “there is absolutely no possibility that Israel will accept Sadat’s proposal.”40

The Sounds of Silence from the White House

While Sadat was releasing his proposals about opening the Suez Canal, Jarring put together a new idea based on the memoranda exchanged by the sides during January. There were two major disagreements between Jerusalem and Cairo: Egypt demanded a withdrawal of the Israeli armed forces from Sinai to the international boundary between Egypt and mandatory Palestine; Israel demanded that Egypt explicitly commit itself to peace. On February 8, Jarring submitted his plan to the Israeli and Egyptian ambassadors at the United Nations and requested that their governments provide parallel and simultaneous commitments about several fundamental issues. Israel was asked to withdraw to the international boundary between mandatory Palestine and Egypt, subject to practical security provisions, such as demilitarization of territory and the establishment of effective security arrangements at Sharm el-Sheikh to guarantee navigation through the Straits of Tiran and Suez Canal. Jarring asked Egypt “to enter into a peace agreement with Israel” and commit itself to the following principles: an end to the state of war; respect for and recognition of each side’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and political independence; recognition of the right of each side to live in peace in secure and recognized borders; to make every effort to prevent hostile acts from being launched or perpetrated from the territory of each side against the civilian population or property of the other side; and mutual nonintervention in domestic affairs.41

The next day, February 9, the US ambassador in Israel, Walworth Barbour, met with Foreign Minister Eban and was briefed on Israel’s initial response to Jarring’s request and Sadat’s initiative, which would be made public in the Prime Minister’s speech in the Knesset later that day. To Barbour’s distress, Israel rejected both proposals. Eban said that Israel had not accepted Sadat’s idea as stated, but was still willing to discuss the question of the reopening of the Suez Canal. It opposed any change in the cease-fire lines in particular and in borders in general before negotiations were held and a peace agreement was signed.42

Meanwhile, after much pressure, Rabin was able to have a meeting with Kissinger at the White House. Pursuant to Meir’s instructions, he said that Israel would agree to a reopening of the canal on condition that it was open to Israeli vessels as well; but this must not be connected with the issue of a withdrawal, because that was linked to peace. He added that Meir did not reject studying “options associated with the opening of the canal as part of a partial settlement.” Rabin referred to the “strange situation” in which Israel found itself, that is, the two-way track of US mediation efforts and Israel’s dependence on the White House’s position, and not the State Department’s, with regard to the opening of the canal. He told Kissinger that Sisco was waiting for Israel’s answer, but “we are waiting for a decision by Flint. It was natural that we could not give Sisco an answer without receiving his [Nixon’s] answer.”43 Here he was basing the answer on an urgent and “top-secret” cable from Meir, in which she wrote that it was “perfectly clear” that Sisco and Nixon “were not on the same wavelength.” Her speech in the Knesset was meant for Sisco and the State Department, but from what Kissinger had said the day before she understood that Nixon “would not want us to act to open the canal, at the very least not now.” Meir made it plain that Israel had no intention of acting contrary to the White House’s position; as proof, she noted that she had not done anything “despite Sisco’s requests.”44

Rabin stressed the need to learn Nixon’s position on the reopening of the canal and for close coordination with the White House. Kissinger replied that he had not had time to work through the issue with the president, and added that the question was not whether U.S. interest was the opening or closure of the canal. So far as the overall U.S. interest was concerned, it was better for the canal to stay closed. What is astonishing is that the National Security Advisor did not propose any diplomatic alternative and merely prophesied doom. The Israeli and Egyptian process positions were very far apart, he said, and could not be bridged. The Jarring talks would lead to Israel’s increasing isolation, and the whole thing would blow up some time in the summer. As he saw the matter, the question was not what the US position was on the opening of the canal, but how the United States could avoid being drawn into military involvement in the event of war in the Middle East and how it could best stand by Israel’s side. Kissinger said that Israel must first and foremost avoid putting itself in a diplomatic corner where it was isolated from its friends and attacked by its enemies. Because these were deep issues it took time to study them seriously with Nixon and to come up with a comprehensive and serious stand, and not just about Sadat’s proposal.45

Finally, two days later, on February 11, Kissinger told Rabin that Nixon would not object if Israel began discussions aimed at opening the canal. But, Kissinger emphasized, this was the U.S. answer to a question raised by Israel and not a U.S. request of Israel. Accordingly, Meir informed Ambassador Barbour that Israel was willing to open the canal as per Sadat’s proposal, but had questions about the nature of the process.46 In fact, this Israeli answer merely repeated what Meir had said in the Knesset on February 9. Israel had evinced a willingness “to discuss in [a] positive spirit the opening of the Suez Canal to international shipping, including Israeli ships, and also to discuss in a similar spirit proposals designed to bring about a normalization of civilian life in that locality and the mutual de-escalation of the military dispositions.” Along with this, Meir stressed that there was more left unsaid in Sadat’s proposal than was said, so she welcomed the U.S. readiness to help clarify the unclear points.47

Despite the lack of movement on Sadat’s proposal, on February 15 Egypt delivered its response to Jarring’s idea, which the latter transmitted to Tekoa two days later. The Egyptians, Jarring told him, agreed to all the points in his document and were even willing “to conclude [a] peace agreement with Israel” if it withdrew from Sinai and the Gaza District. Even though this was the first time an Arab country had ever declared, in an official document, a willingness to sign a peace accord with Israel, and not just a non-belligerency agreement, Egypt placed less emphasis on peace and more on the conditions for achieving it: an Israeli withdrawal to the lines of June 4, 1967, on all fronts, mutual demilitarization of equal territories by Israel and Egypt, and an Israeli agreement to resolve the refugee issue in keeping with UN Security Council resolutions.48

If we focus on the Egyptian document and the extent to which it represents a concession, we see that Cairo divided its answer in two. The first part dealt with an agreement between Israel and Egypt, which would include all of the commitments noted by Jarring in his proposal, as stated in Security Council Resolution 242. The second part referred to the Arab–Israeli conflict in general and was phrased as if it stood on its own; that is, Egypt wanted to make it clear that a just and lasting peace could not be achieved without full and absolute implementation of Resolution 242 and an Israeli withdrawal from all the Arab lands occupied in June 1967. This second part of the Egyptian response had not been part of Jarring’s memorandum and the parties had not been asked to relate to it. The special envoy wanted to achieve an agreement between Israel and Egypt first, and not a comprehensive settlement of the Arab–Israeli conflict; but Cairo stressed the need for an overall solution. This raised many questions on the Israeli side and is what ultimately led to its rejection of the proposal.49

Sisco was impressed by the Egyptian answer to Jarring, and especially the categorical commitment to a peace agreement with Israel. Rabin, who could not deny that there had been a change in the Egyptian stance, sought to direct the assistant secretary’s attention to the conditions that Sadat had set for peace. First, Egypt demanded a total withdrawal from all the territories occupied in 1967; second, Sadat did not explain what he saw as a just solution of the Palestinian refugee problem and whether that solution might endanger Israel’s security; third, there was no reference to the location of the final borders between the two countries and Israel’s right to free navigation through the Suez Canal. On February 21, the government of Israel announced that it took a favorable view of the positive change in the Egyptian position and its willingness “to enter into a peace agreement with Israel.” However, the Egyptian statement reflected the major disagreements that still existed between the positions of the two countries, especially with regard to borders and refugees. Against this background, Israel repeated its position that it was willing to withdraw, but not to the lines of June 4, 1967.50

Sisco sent Rogers a memo with a full analysis of the Israeli answer and its implications for the diplomatic process and the region. He wrote that if Israel did not show flexibility, the special envoy’s mission would reach a dead end. What is more, United States was liable to find itself facing an Arab diplomatic offensive at the Security Council and the loss of all the diplomatic capital it had gained from the ceasefire. Sisco saw this as the moment of truth when the United States would have to exert its full force on Israel if it wanted the efforts toward a peace settlement to continue to move forward.51

On February 24, Secretary of State Rogers met with Rabin. According to the latter, this was the most difficult conversation the two had during all his years as ambassador in Washington. “His eyes flashed, his face reddened,” Rabin wrote, and he savagely assailed the Israeli position. Nevertheless, the ambassador did not give leave him the impression that Israel would modify its response.52 Indeed, on February 26 Rabin transmitted Israel’s response to the Jarring document to Sisco. As expected, it did not include any new initiatives or ideas for a settlement or evince any flexibility in Jerusalem’s position, as Washington wished to see.53 What the State Department feared was that if the diplomatic process ran aground, the ceasefire would collapse and the hostilities be renewed. What is more, the radical elements in the Arab world would be strengthened and the Soviet Union would deepen its penetration of the Middle East. “For twenty years you have known no peace, and if you continue in this fashion, Israel will never experience peace,” Sisco said. According to Rabin’s record of the conversion, Sisco added that the Arab–Israeli conflict was a history of missed opportunities and now was a fateful opportunity.54

On March 5, two days before the official end of the ceasefire, Sadat summoned Bergus and gave him a letter for Nixon. He asked his U.S. counterpart to make “concentrated efforts” on behalf of peace, and in particular to push Israel to be more flexible in its position regarding a settlement.55 Sadat said that during his visit to Moscow on March 1–2, he had learned that the Soviet leadership was seriously interested in peace, even more so than President Nixon. Sadat focused the conversation on the issue of the ceasefire and efforts to achieve a settlement. He explained to Bergus that his speech on March 7 would not include an official announcement of another extension of the ceasefire; the question of “when [the] firing would be resumed would be left to [the] military.”56 However, he did not give it all up for lost; when Bergus asked whether the February proposal was still on the table Sadat answered in the affirmative. On the other hand, he attacked Israel and asserted that its response to Jarring and refusal to withdraw to the June 4 lines were a direct challenge to him. “Israel apparently thought he had no guts. He would show the world that he had guts.”57

While the Egyptian president was expecting the Nixon administration to wield its influence with the Israeli leadership more forcefully, in a March 13 interview with the Times of London, Meir reviewed Israel’s position on a final settlement with Egypt in great detail. She admitted that an agreement that complied with the Israeli conditions would be “a painful solution for Egypt, … but people had to pay for their deeds.”

Meir argued that Israel had to have access to Sharm el-Sheikh and control of the strategic region because it controlled the Straits of Tiran. She called for the demilitarization of the Sinai Peninsula and also insisted that an international force, composed of Israeli and Egyptian troops, guarantee this. She added that it would be necessary to negotiate the location of the border near Eilat, rejected the return of Gaza to Egypt, and added that Israel would see to the needs of the refugees there.58

This public disclosure of the Israeli position did not promote the diplomatic maneuver that Washington wanted to see. During March, Rogers, Kissinger, and Sisco had several meetings with Eban and Rabin, which revealed serious disagreements about the interpretation of Resolution 242, and especially the Israeli position on an agreement and withdrawal from the occupied territories. The Secretary of State and National Security Advisor were not satisfied with Israel’s answer to the Jarring document and pushed it to offer its own constructive proposals for an agreement with Egypt. What is more, especially after Sadat had spoken several times about his intention to reach a diplomatic resolution, Rogers and Kissinger demanded, sometimes in rather brutal language, to know what the Israeli position was.59

Rogers and Sisco cited a promise that, they said, Meir had made to Barbour; namely, that if Egypt agreed to commit itself to the principle of peace, Israel would commit itself to withdrawal. The Secretary of State expressed his anger that the Israeli government had not yet officially conveyed its detailed position to Jarring or the Americans, but the Times of London had heard, from Meir herself, the main points of Israeli policy with regard to a settlement with Egypt and Jordan. It was out of the question, he said, for Israel to undermine the resumption of Jarring’s mission. If it did not clarify its position there would be no escaping the conclusion that Israel was not interested in making progress toward peace.60

Now, according to Rogers, everything was on the shoulders of the Israeli government, but it was refusing, in his eyes almost arbitrarily, to cooperate with the diplomatic effort, despite the Egyptian demonstrations of willingness. Of course, this refusal did not help his attempts to get the diplomatic wagon out of the mud, but only sank it deeper in the mire. This is why, at a press conference on March 16, Rogers made an effort to break the logjam and bring some order to the welter of diplomatic initiatives, but more than anything else to emphasize the main lines of U.S. policy and the United States’ commitment to a diplomatic settlement.61

“The climate has never been better for a settlement in the Middle East, and if we don’t make a settlement now, we are going to plant seeds that will lead to future war,” he said. “If a peaceful settlement is not worked out in the foreseeable future there is a very dangerous situation that will develop and possibly lead to World War III.” Rogers said that Israel and Egypt must reach a compromise on territory and security. He added that the United States had never called for an Israeli withdrawal from all the territories, but had stated only that “it should not acquire territory, except insubstantial amounts for security purposes.” He said further that the border between Israel and Egypt should be that which existed before the 1967 war, except for the Gaza District, on condition that appropriate arrangements were made for the demilitarization of Sinai and Sharm el-Sheikh after the issues had been discussed by the two sides.62

With the goal of showing support for Rogers’ efforts, on March 31 Nixon sent Sadat a note in which he acknowledged that the latter’s recent steps on the diplomatic front had enhanced Egypt’s international status and “moved your people closer to peace.”63 The Egyptian president welcomed Nixon’s letter and told Bergus that if Israel was interested in peace “they should drop all this trash about strategic considerations” and pull back from the Bar Lev Line. According to him, there could be no progress in the diplomatic process without significant pressure by the US administration on Israel. Sadat continued that “if Israelis didn’t go along with his initiative, it meant they wanted war.”64 He stressed that after the Israeli withdrawal Egyptian forces would cross the canal and a no-man’s land would separate the two armies during the ceasefire. If no settlement had been signed before the ceasefire expired, “then [the] UAR [Egypt] would be at liberty to take appropriate action.” He totally ruled out an Israeli presence at Sharm el-Sheikh or full demilitarization of the Sinai, and would agree to demilitarization only if it was on both sides of the border. For himself, he would welcome “with open mind and open heart, until the last hour,” any proposal with the potential to lead to peace. But he had to show his people that he was prepared to defend their land, whatever the cost and damage.65


Sadat’s February 1971 proposal has not been left out of the history of the conflict between Israel and Egypt. Israel has usually been blamed for its failure, chiefly because of the appearance that it was Egypt that launched a diplomatic process aimed at achieving a settlement, to which Israel replied in the negative. Even though Israel certainly was not delighted by the idea of following a path that would lead to concessions and an agreement, it knew how to present compromise positions on the diplomatic front. Still, we cannot ignore the Israeli need to coordinate its position with the White House. Even had Meir wanted to respond favorably to the proposals from Cairo, she never considered doing so without first consulting Nixon and Kissinger and learning what US needs were and whether the diplomatic initiative served Washington’s interests and not only Israel’s. In fact, even though the Middle East worried the United States, and especially the State Department, the administration was focused on Vietnam. When the reopening of the Suez Canal was viewed through the prism of the United States’ interests in Southeast Asia, both Washington and Jerusalem knew that it was preferable to the United States that the canal remains shut.

Ultimately, the two-headed nature of U.S. foreign policy—the State Department versus the White House—served the political line of the Meir government, which, except for Moshe Dayan, was not noted for its dovishness. Accordingly, it followed a tactic that was intended “to eliminate Rogers as a factor with whom and through whom we conduct negotiations … and to try to transfer the attention to our region’s affairs the White House.”66 This was also Kissinger’s line, because he was not eager to support Rogers’ efforts or promote proposals by Sadat, viewed as the Soviets’ ally. Years later he expressed his regrets about this:

In 1971 Secretary Rogers tried for interim agreements along the Suez Canal. I did not oppose it, but neither did I support it. I am speaking very frankly now. The effort broke down over whether or not 1,000 Egyptian soldiers would be permitted across the Canal. That agreement would have prevented the 1973 war. I must say now that I am sorry that I did not support the Rogers’ effort more than I did.67


  1. 1.

    Anwar Sadat, In Search of Identity: An Autobiography (New York: Harper & Row, 1979), 221–22.

  2. 2.

    “Memorandum for the President, Letter to New UAR President,” October 13, 1971, Nixon Presidential Materials Project (hereafter: NPMP), Presidential Correspondence, Box 763: UAR: President Anwar Sadat, vol. 1, 1970, File 6, National Archives (hereafter, NA); “Letter from President Sadat to President Nixon,” December 15, 1970, Box 2641 Pol, 15-1 UAR, NA; “Letter from President Sadat to President Nixon,” December 21, 1970, RG 59, Box 2641 Pol, 15-1 UAR, NA.

  3. 3.

    “State 013921,” January 26, 1971, RG 59, Box 2072 Pol, 27-14 Arab-ISR (hereafter A/I), NA.

  4. 4.

    “No. 25,” February 2, 1971, Israel State Archives (hereafter: ISA), Ministry of Foreign Affairs (hereafter: MFA) -7053/1A.

  5. 5.

    “Memorandum for the President, Proposal for Pursuing Middle East Peace Settlement, from William P. Rogers,” October 10, 1970, Box 2069 Pol, 27-14 A/I, NA.

  6. 6.

    “State 208802,” December 22, 1970, RG 59, Box 2071 Pol, 27-14 A/I, NA; “State 208807,” December 23, 1970, RG 59, Box 2071 Pol, 27-14 A/I, NA.

  7. 7.

    “Confidential Cairo 2793,” December 23, 1970, RG 59, Box 2641 Pol, 15-1 UAR, NA; James Reston, “Egyptian Leader Gives Conditions for Peace Accord,” The New York Times, December 28, 1970.

  8. 8.

    For Meir’s letter, see “State 195884,” December 1, 1970, RG 59, Box 2070 Pol, 27-14 A/I, NA; for Nixon’s replay, see “Suggested Reply to Prime Minister Meir's Letter of December 1 to the President,” December 3, 1970, RG 59, Box 2389 Pol, ISR-US, NA.

  9. 9.

    “State 202628,” December 12, 1970, RG 59, Box 2057 Pol, 27 A/I, NA; Knesset Gazette, Vol. 59, Seventh Knesset, Second Term, 134th Session, 29 December 1970, 723–725.

  10. 10.

    “Summary of NEA Events, January 6–11—Information Memorandum, NEA,” January 12, 1971, RG 59, Box 2071 Pol, 27-14 A/I, NA; “Jarring Talks on ME,” January 13, 1971, RG 59, Box 2071 Pol, 27-14 A/I, NA; “UAR Assessment of Israeli Position on Settlement,” January 19, 1971, RG 59, Box 2071 Pol 27-14 A/I, NA.

  11. 11.

    “State 007936,” January 15, 1971, RG 59, Box 2071 Pol, 27-14 A/I, NA; Kirk J. Beattie, Egypt during the Sadat Years (New York: Palgrave, 2000), 53; for a transcript of the meeting between Bergus and Amin, see Mohamed Hassanein Heikal, Oktober 73: al-Salaḥ wal-siyasa (Cairo: Mirkaz al-Ahram Liltargema wal-Nashar), 136–49.

  12. 12.

    “State 007936,” January 15, 1971, RG 59, Box 2071 Pol, 27-14 A/I, NA; Beattie, Egypt during the Sadat Years, 53. Dayan proposed a gradual withdrawal from the canal, to be accompanied by demilitarization of a strip on both sides of the canal …. to a depth of 16 to 32 kilometers.” See Davar, November 4, 1970; Yehoshua Raviv, “Early Attempts for an Interim Agreement between Israel and Egypt (in 1971–1972),” Ma’arkhot 243–244 (April–May 1975): 6 [In Hebrew].

  13. 13.

    “Anwar Sadat’s Proposal to Open the Suez Canal,” February 8, 1971, ISA, MFA -7053/13A; “State 007936,” January 15, 1971, RG 59, Box 2071 Pol, 27-14 A/I, NA.

  14. 14.

    “Meeting with UAR President Sadat,” January 23, 1971, RG 59, Box 2641 Pol, 15-1 UAR, NA.

  15. 15.

    “State 008134,” January 16, 1971, RG 59, Box 2071 Pol, 27-14 A/I, NA; “UAR January 15 Reply to Jarring,” January 20, 1971, RG 59, Box 2071 Pol, 27-14 A/I, NA.

  16. 16.

    Sadat, In Search of Identity, 219.

  17. 17.

    “Cairo 1231,” May 20, 1971, RG 59, Box 2075 Pol, 27-14 A/I, NA; “State 088242,” May 20, 1971, RG 59, Box 2075 Pol, 27-14 A/I, NA; Yoram Meital, Egypt's Struggle for Peace: Continuity and Change, 1967–1977 (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1977), 96; Steven L. Spiegel, The Other Arab-Israeli Conflict (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1985), 207.

  18. 18.

    When Kissinger learned of this, he claimed the Rogers had given these promises without receiving the required support from the president. See Henry Kissinger, The White House Years (Boston: Little, Brown, 1979), 1279.

  19. 19.

    “State 007099,” January 15, 1971, RG 59, Box 2057 Pol, 27 A/I, NA; “State 013921,” January 26, 1971, RG 59, Box 2072 Pol, 27-14 A/I, NA; “Cairo 174,” January 27, 1971, RG 59, Box 2075 Pol, 27-14 A/I, NA; Mahmud Riad, The Struggle for Peace in the Middle East (New York: Quartet Books, 1981), 186–89.

  20. 20.

    “114/yud-het,” January 24, 1971, ISA, MFA 7053/1-A; “001/yud-het,” January 25, 1971, ISA, MFA 7053/1-A; “10/yud-het,” February 2, 1971, ISA, MFA 7053/1-A; The American Presidency Project, “Richard Nixon (1969–1974), The President’s News Conference,” January 27, 1969, (accessed March 11, 2022).

  21. 21.

    “No. 332,” January 26, 1971, ISA, MFA 7053/1-A; “10/yud-het,” February 2, 1971, ISA, MFA 7053/1-A.

  22. 22.

    “130/yud-het,” February 4, 1971, ISA, MFA 7053/1-A.

  23. 23.

    “Weekly Summary,” February 5, 1971, RG 59, Box 2072 Pol, 27-14 A/I, NA; Abdel Moneim Sabḥi, “al-Sadat batal lil-salaam min mit abu al-kum ala jaayaza nobel” (Cairo: al-Hiyah al-masriya al-‘amad lil-kitab, 1979), 111: al-Ahram, February 5, 1971. Sadat had kept his proposal secret. Bergus learned that he inserted the paragraph that included his proposal right before he entered the hall at the Egyptian Parliament, which delayed the start of his speech by four minutes. See “Cairo 0247,” February 5, 1971, RG 59, Box 2072 Pol, 27-14 A/I, NA; “Cairo 0228,” February 3, 1971, RG 59, Box 2072 Pol, 27-14 A/I, NA.

  24. 24.

    “133/yud-het,” February 4, 1971, ISA, MFA 7053/1-A.

  25. 25.

    “State 021661,” February 8, 1971, RG 59, Box 2072 Pol, 27-14 A/I, NA.

  26. 26.

    Note that the INR attached only secondary importance to the last two points; “No. 116,” February 10, 1971, ISA, MFA 7053/1-A; “6/yud,” February 10, 1971, ISA, MFA 7053/1-A. Note too that there were some in the State Department who saw no importance in General Amin’s proposal, in mid-January, for a mutual thinning of forces along the canal, because it had no weight from a military perspective. They also emphasized that the “current Egyptian proposal does not close off any options for Sadat, including the military option, and allows him to escape the problem of the March 7 deadline.” See “6/yud,” February 10, 1971, ISA, MFA 7053/1-A.

  27. 27.

    “Anwar Sadat’s Proposal to Open the Suez Canal,” February 8, 1971, ISA, MFA 7053/13. For Mordechai Gazit’s report, see “No. 214,” February 7, 1971, ISA, MFA 7053/1-A.

  28. 28.

    Mohamed H. Heikal, Sphinx and Commissar (London: Collins, 1978), 222.

  29. 29.

    Mohamed Heikal, Secret Channels (London: HarperCollins, 1996), 166–67.

  30. 30.

    Riad, The Struggle for Peace, 187–88.

  31. 31.

    “State 021661,” February 8, 1971, RG 59, Box 2072 Pol, 27-14 A/I, NA.

  32. 32.

    “Telegram to Missions 945,” February 5, 1971, ISA, MFA 7053/1-A.

  33. 33.

    “Cairo 263,” February 8, 1971, RG 59, Box 2072 Pol, 27-14 A/I, NA.

  34. 34.

    “State 021661,” February 8, 1971, RG 59, Box 2072 Pol, 27-14 A/I, NA.

  35. 35.


  36. 36.

    “No. 104,” February 9, 1971, ISA, MFA 7053/1-A; “Conversation with Cardinal, 137/yud-het,” February 10, 1971, ISA, MFA 7053/1-A.

  37. 37.


  38. 38.

    “Telegram to Missions 990,” February 8, 1971, ISA, MFA 7053/1-A.

  39. 39.

    “16/yud-het,” February 8, 1971, ISA, MFA 7053/1-A.

  40. 40.

    “132/yud-het,” February 8, 1971, ISA, MFA 7053/1-A; “133/yud-het,” February 8, 1971, ISA, MFA 7053/1-A.

  41. 41.

    “Tel Aviv 792,” February 9, 1971, RG 59, Box 2072 Pol, 27-14 A/I, NA; “Memorandum for Mr. Henry A. Kissinger, Follow-Up to February 8 SGR Meeting/Jarring Aide-Memoiré to UAR and GOI,” February 17, 1971, RG 59, Box 2072 Pol, 27-14 A/I, NA; Heikal, Oktober 73, 155–54.

  42. 42.

    “Israeli Position Re Sadat Proposal on Suez Canal,” February 9, 1971, RG 59, Box 2057 Pol, 27 A/I, NA; “Tel Aviv 792,” February 9, 1971, RG 59, Box 2072 Pol, 27-14 A/I, NA; Knesset Gazette, vol. 59, Seventh Knesset, Second Term, 152th Session, February 9, 1971, 1303–6.

  43. 43.

    “137/yud-het,” February 8, 1971, ISA, MFA 7053/1-A.

  44. 44.

    See Rabin’s cable to Meir, “133/yud-het,” February 8, 1971, ISA, MFA 7053/1-A; “18/yud-het,” February 9, 1971, ISA, MFA 7053/1-A.

  45. 45.

    “137/yud-het,” February 8, 1971, ISA, MFA 7053/1-A.

  46. 46.

    “No. 162,” February 12, 1971, ISA, MFA 7053/1-A; “142/yud-het,” February 11, 1971, ISA, MFA 7053/1-A.

  47. 47.

    “State 025524,” February 13, 1971, RG 59, Box 2073 Pol, 27–14 A/I, NA.

  48. 48.

    “UAR Minister Ghorbal's Courtesy Call on you March 12—Briefing Memorandum,” March 12, 1971, RG 59, Box 2642 Pol, UAR-US, NA; Riad, The Struggle for Peace, 188.

  49. 49.

    “UAR Minister Ghorbal's Courtesy Call on you March 12—Briefing Memorandum,” March 12, 1971, RG 59, Box 2642 Pol, UAR-US, NA; Riad, The Struggle for Peace, 188; Mordechai Gazit, “Egypt and Israel—Was There a Peace Opportunity Missed in 1971?,” Journal of Contemporary History 32, no. 1 (January 1997): 100–101.

  50. 50.

    “Tel-Aviv 1036,” February 21, 1971, RG 59, Box 2368 Pol, 15-1 ISR, NA; “Israel Cabinet Communiqué on UAR Initiative,” February 22, 1971, RG 59, Box 2368 Pol, 15-1 ISR, NA; Mordechai Gazit, The Peace Process 1969–1973: Efforts and Contacts (Jerusalem: The Magnes Press, 1983), 66.

  51. 51.

    “Your Meeting with Ambassador Rabin,” February 24, 1971, RG 59, Box 2073 Pol, 27-14 A/I, NA.

  52. 52.

    Ibid.; Yitzhak Rabin, The Rabin Memoirs (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), 194.

  53. 53.

    “State 033689,” February 26, 1971, RG 59, Box 2073 Pol, 27-14 A/I, NA; Gazit, The Peace Process, 66.

  54. 54.

    Rabin, The Rabin Memoirs, 195; “Preliminary US Comment on Israeli Reply to Jarring,” February 26, 1971, RG 59, Box 2073 Pol, 27-14 A/I, NA.

  55. 55.

    For Sadat’s March 5 letter, see the summary of the correspondence between Sadat and Nixon in “Summary of Sadat-Bergus Talk, March 17,” March 18, 1971, RG 59, UAR President Anwar Sadat, vol. 2, 1971, File 7, NA.

  56. 56.

    In his speech Sadat said that Egypt would not extend the cease-fire officially and would determine the [appropriate] time and place to take action. See March 7, 1971 “Statement to the Nation,”

  57. 57.

    “Cairo 477,” March 5, 1971, RG 59, Box 2642 Pol, UAR-US, NA. The United States also received support for Sadat’s serious intentions from President Tito of Yugoslavia, who wrote to Nixon in late January 1971 about Egypt’s sincere desire to resolve the conflict with Israel, to establish a lasting peace with it, and to open the Suez Canal to international shipping. For Tito’s letter to Nixon, see “Letter to the President from President Tito,” March 4, 1971, RG 59, Box 2057 Pol, 27 A/I, NA.

  58. 58.

    For Louis Heren’s interview of Prime Minister Meir, see The Times, March 13, 1971. For a US analysis of the interview, see “Times Interview with Mrs. Meir,” March 15, 1971, RG 59, Box 2386 Pol, 15-1 ISR, NA.

  59. 59.

    “Secret,” March 21, 1971, ISA, FM 4549/7; “State 049077,” March 23, 1971, RG 59, Box 2642 Pol, UAR-US, NA; Rabin, The Rabin Memoirs, 196.

  60. 60.

    Yitzhak Rabin, Service Diary (Tel-Aviv: Maariv, 1979), 340–42 [Hebrew]; “Secret,” March 21, 1971, ISA, MFA 4549/7.

  61. 61.

    “No. 171,” March 16, 1971, ISA, MFA 4548/7; Riad, The Struggle for Peace, 193.

  62. 62.

    “No. 171,” March 16, 1971, ISA, MFA 4548/7. Sadat welcomed Rogers’ stand, but insisted on reiterating two important points: first, his opposition to demilitarization of the entire Sinai Peninsula; second, the status of Gaza. Egypt, Sadat said, was not interested in Gaza, but wanted the city’s residents to decide their fate for themselves. For Sadat’s message, see “Cairo 0588,” March 17, 1971, RG 59, Box 2074 Pol, 27-14 A/I, NA; On March 18, Foreign Minister Riad sent a personal message to his US counterpart to thank him for the positions Rogers had presented at his press conference. For the Egyptian note and US reply, see “Cairo 0601,” March 19, 1971, RG 59, Box 2641 Pol, 7 UAR, NA; “State 51576,” March 26, 1971, RG 59, Box 2641 Pol, 7 UAR, NA; “Cairo 674,” March 27, 1971, RG 59, Box 2074 Pol, 27-14 A/I, NA.

  63. 63.

    “State 054323,” March 9, 1971, RG 59, Box 2642 Pol, UAR-US, NA.

  64. 64.

    “Cairo 0712,” April 1, 1971, RG 59, Box 2642 Pol, UAR-US, NA.

  65. 65.


  66. 66.

    “No. 394,” November 28, 1971, ISA, MFA -7053/12A.

  67. 67.

    Henry Kissinger, “Conversation with Kissinger,” Journal of Palestine Studies 10, no. 3 (Spring 1981): 186–87.