November 14, 1992
Abrasha Tamir joined the Israeli army in 1948 when he was 24 years old, serving for thirty five years first as an infantry commander and then on the General Staff in charge of military and strategic planning. He participated in all the key Egyptian Israeli negotiations through the mid-1980s. His insights were sought by Israel’s Prime Ministers and those in the military and defense establishment because he was an innovative strategic thinker.
Tamir tells us that the efforts of the United States and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger were decisive in producing a breakthrough. As early as 1972, the Americans had sought a larger role in the peace process as Kissinger “tried to reach an agreement of separation.” In Tamir’s eyes, the Yom Kippur War—during which some 3000 Israelis perished—could have been averted had Prime Minister Golda Meir responded to Sadat’s and Kissinger’s overtures. This revelation alone makes the interview a worthwhile read.
Israel signed two interim agreements with Egypt, and one with Syria, in the two years following the 1973 war. Moreover, it was Kissinger’s efforts that guaranteed success. According to Tamir, his shuttle diplomacy ensured that the more complicated elements of withdrawal were resolved without direct negotiations between Israel and its neighbors, and that the negotiations held in Geneva in September 1975 were “more or less of a technical nature and not of substance.” In so doing, Kissinger laid the foundation for not only the interim agreements, but the later Egypt-Israel peace treaty.
Tamir insists that the interim agreements, while minor in scope, were crucial antecedents to later Arab-Israeli peace initiatives, including the breakthrough at Camp David in September 1978. As Tamir stated, the potential of the step-by-step approach was limited because the Syrians and the Egyptians, at least in 1975, “did not want to start political talks” for fear of drawing the opprobrium of the Arab world. Yet he also insisted that the agreements were essential building blocks for the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty because they demonstrated what both nations could gain from compromise in the form of financial aid and military assistance from the United States.
Throughout the interview he candidly recounts his talks with key Israeli, Egyptian and American leaders and the role he played at Camp David 1978 as a key Israeli delegation participant on military and strategic matters, particularly on matters relating to depths of withdrawal and war materials allowed in different withdrawal zones in Sinai. Tamir’s memoir, A Soldier in Search of Peace, Harper Row, 1988, adds rich detail and expanse to this interview.
Ken Stein, 10.1. 2023
Ken Stein Interview with Abrasha Tamir, Tel Aviv, Israel, November 14, 1992
AT: This…what are you doing now?
KWS: Umm…Well, I do not need to record myself.
AT: My involvement in the peace process, or lets call it the political process, in order to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict, was of course a direct outcome of my appointment to establish the strategic planning grounds. This was the first main lesson after the Yom Kippur War and I established this branch straight after the 1973 war, the Yom Kippur War. This branch was established in November-December 1973. Of course, we had the idea of the strategic planning before this branch was established, but let’s say it was a different concept. With the point of view of research and development, you need a long-range planning, up to ten years, fifteen years. And also the responsibility for the, let’s say to integrate all the main elements of strategy, the political element, the economic element, the demographic element, the scientific element, etc. So that’s why I started to be a dominant factor not only in planning…
KWS: But execution.
AT: …not only in planning but uh, let’s say, the political process from the point of view of security, which is the out of it. If you are talking about peace then security is the out of it. But also preparing the negotiations, doing the plans, preparing the negotiations, which was a very, very important role when we advanced right after ’75 when we started the peace talks with Egypt, and other talks. And, of course, also heading negotiations, well I was the head of the…if you refer to the agreement of separation with Egypt, 1973…
KWS: January, ’74.
AT: Yeah, 1974. So Dado then… Dado led the negotiations also, not only the…
KWS: This is the military…
AT: The military. We had, we had only military.
KWS: This is the military committee that came out of Geneva?
AT: I mean Dado led them directly. Before Dado you had, ahh, some figures that did some of the negotiations like Talik, with Al-Gamasy; like Aharon Yariv with Al-Gamasy. In Geneva was, in Geneva in ’73, in Geneva with Egypt, in ’74 in Geneva I think we had, Motta Gur was the… but the planning of this agreement of separation… the planning was my responsibility and also I was participating in the negotiations. The ’74 agreement my deputy (???) participated on behalf of me in these negotiations. I was there also from time to time. In December, we take the agreement of separation with Syria, the planning was my responsibility. Motta Gur was in Geneva and also Herzl Shafir. And Motta Gur, the chief of staff, was the main military figure in these negotiations. When we came to the ’75 agreement with Egypt, which was also a military agreement despite the fact that Mordechai Gazit was the head of the delegation to Geneva. But this was a military negotiation, a military committee that Rabin wanted to have, let’s say, a political profile to it. But the Egyptian side was led by generals and the talk, the delegation was a pure military delegation with Motta Gur and Mordechai Gazit as the head.
KWS: Who was the Egyptian equivalent militarily?
AT: General Magdoob.
KWS: He seems to be there all the way along, doesn’t he?
AT: Yes, he was the head of ahh, not all the way, but until the peace treaty, until the peace treaty. So, in Geneva, again the planning was my responsibility; the head of the delegation was Mordechai Gazit, and we were two generals at these, at these negotiations. One was Herzl Shafir and the second one was me. Then, of course, in 1977, after the visit of Sadat, we started the peace process with Egypt and since then I was responsible for the planning. I was responsible for preparing the negotiations through ahhh, let’s say, secret talks with Egyptians; I was the head of the military delegation, Tara palace; I was the only one what we call the National Security Advisor in Camp David to Begin and to Ezer Weizman; I was the head of the delegation, the military delegation, in the peace talks in Blair House at the Madison.
KWS: Zacharia Hussein was there.
AT: Yes. And I was responsible on behalf of the defense minister for all the military talks with Egypt during all the process. And then also I was responsible for the normalization talks when they were transferred from Moshe Dayan to Ezer Weizman. And they were led by Kamal Hassan Ali on the Egyptian side and Ezer Weizman on our side. Aall the normalization agreements were my responsibility. So comparing with many others they are told they are talking in the peace and their views on the peace and what to say about the peace. I was in it. I carried the responsibility for all the things that they told you. And my lessons, I mean articles that they wrote, things that I’m saying, the result of this experience. And then of course I connect to it all other kinds of talks like what we call the strategic dialogues with the United States and ???. I was responsible to the defense ministry for peace. Talks with Lebanon, with Jordan, and so forth, all the political talks, not only with Egypt. So I suggest that we start with the questions.
KWS: Fine. No, no, no I have…
AT: I am sure you have a serious background so why to start only from zero?
KWS: Okay, we will… then let’s begin that way. Immediately after the…yes
(at this point there is a brief conversation in Hebrew)
KWS: Immediately after the ’73 War, Yariv and Al-Gamasy had gone a long way toward the separation of forces agreement, Kissinger had the six points by November 6th and 7th when he went to Cairo. Kissinger wasn’t terribly pleased that Al-Gamasy and Yariv had gone as far as they had. He thought that maybe they were going to get an agreement before his conference would meet. The conference meets in December, and out of the Geneva conference come military and political committee talks. At the political committee talks, nothing happens. Elsworth Bunker was appointed, Epi Efron is there, Vinagradov (Soivet representative) is there, but it goes nowhere. Michael Sterner stays in Geneva for, I don’t know, forty days, but the progress that is made is the military talks.
AT: Can I smoke?
KWS: Absolutely. I want you to discuss, if you will, the military talks or the military discussions; how did you pick up the discussions from Yariv and Al-Gamasy and how were they then translated into the document which was negotiated and ultimately signed in Geneva on January 18th? I’m interested in that period of about three or four weeks, from about December 21st and 22nd in Geneva until about January 18th. Herzl Shafir tells me that the Egyptians were not very well prepared. They didn’t have a lot of good material prepared and you did.
AT: As far as the background you know better than me that all these, what we call step-by-step strategy, based on interim agreements, was a result of the Kissinger strategic policy that the United States brought into the peace talks, or all these kinds of talks, all peace talks, without the Soviets, despite the fact that everyone agreed to the Geneva conference.
AT: Geneva conference is a big umbrella but the doing and handling will be done by the United States.
KWS: Kissinger was the maestro, the conductor.
AT: And the reason for it was exactly what he told me in one of our talks. The lesson that the United States learned from the ’56 War; Eisenhower pushed the British, the French, and the Israelis from the Egyptian occupied territories, but the political winners, or strategic winners, were the Russians. The interpretation of the war was that the Russians were the reason for it. So now the strategic winners should be the United States or the United States’ interests in the Middle East first of all to minimize the Soviet influence in the region and to push them step by step out. So he took what we call the lead of solving the Arab-Israeli conflict which became after the ’73 also a territorial conflict, not only a Palestinian conflict, on the basis of territories for peace, from the point of view of the, what you call the influence of the Arabs, and on the basis of a tradeoff between security which is based on territories and security which is based on means, military means, from the point of view of influencing the Israelis. This was the strategy. And this strategy came to an end after the ’75 agreement with Yitzhak Rabin. He’s saying he could continue with this concept of step-by-step, of interim agreements. He does not tell the truth, because after the ’75 agreement there was not any possibility to continue with such a strategy and that is why there was not another choice when to start with, what we call, the concept of the strategy of comprehensive peace process. This was what President Carter started with this concept because there was not another choice. So we are talking on three agreements on the basis of this, the step-by-step concept, two in ’74, one Egypt, one Syria, and one in ’75 with Egypt. All these three agreements were pure military because the Egyptians did not want, the Egyptians and of course not the Syrians, did not want to start political talks. They did not want to start any political talks. They wanted the United States to be, what we call in between, I mean, the peace talks were not direct talks. All these talks were through the United States. When I say that, I’m saying that to mean that the Arabs and Israelis did not talk with the Arabs, all right? But even the talks with between Ariel Yariv and Al-Gamasy, were under the umbrella of the United Nations.
KWS: United Nations.
AT: United Nations was the formal umbrella but the United States was the country that led these talks under this umbrella.
KWS: I understand.
AT: All right? Because after all what is the…you take the agreement, the two agreements in 1974, and the ’75 agreement, we came to Geneva to sign the military protocol or the military agreement because the agreements are military, military protocols…military protocols…after Kissinger succeeded through his shuttle service, through his shuttle between Syria and Israel and Egypt and Israel to solve the main problems. But when we came to Geneva we did not start from where should be the lines, the lines of withdrawal, or where should be the U.N. forces zone or the limited zone or where should be, or what should be the lines of the demilitarized zone or limited zones. All these elements were concluded through the shuttle of Kissinger and then we went to Geneva and it was more or less of technical nature and not of substance.
KWS: So you ratified it at Geneva…
KWS: …because the discussion took place and the negotiation took place, on the shuttle?
AT: Yeah, I give you an example. Take the ’75 agreement where most of the problems were, all right. First of all, the line of Israeli withdrawal. Israel, or Rabin, did not want to give, or the Israeli government, did not to give back the Mitla and the Gidi pass, all right? Take the ’75 agreement.
AT: The Israeli concept was another withdrawal until the, ahh what you call, until the Tasa road.
KWS: The Tasa Road.
AT: The Tasa Road. Yes, but starting from here…
KWS: From the Mediterranean.
AT: Yeah, from the Mediterranean, something like here, that will mean that we will continue to keep the Mitla, all this area. The Mitla and the Gidi, all right? And the Egyptians demanded the line here. They wanted to have the Mitla and the Gidi. We did not want to give the oil and the Egyptians demanded the oil, all right? When we came to Geneva, through Kissinger’s shuttles was concluded that this will be the lines, this will be the lines of the withdrawal.
KWS: So that included the Gidi and the Mitla?
AT: It included the Gidi and the Mitla, including the oil strip, all right? It included the oil strip. This line was concluded by Kissinger. Not only this line, because you have the line of the U.N., all right? You have the line of the area of the U.N., which is this, the United Nations line. And you have what we call the lines where we limited forces, which is on the Egyptian side, this line, on the Israeli side, this line.
KWS: But still the U.N. was in the buffer zone and the Egyptians did not get control of Gidi and Mitla.
AT: Yes, but this buffer zone was under the Egyptian sovereignty.
KWS: But they did not have troops there.
AT: They did not have troops there, they had an observation point, what we call a warning station. We kept our warning station in Um Hashiba. They got the permission to build an Egyptian warning station. This is Um Hashiba, this is there. And then the Americans also established a warning system here in this area. But the area, the area from the point of view of Egyptian sovereignty, all this area from here to here was returned to the Egyptians.
KWS: From the canal, including the passes.
AT: Including the passes. They could say, the Egyptians, that we are there, it’s our sovereignty.
KWS: I understand.
AT: So now in the peace process, they are allowed to keep a division only fifty kilometers from the canal. Then you have, let’s say, another peace (???) zone with four…with four border guard battalions, and then they have the C zone, which is the complete de-militarized zone, but all of Sinai lies under Egyptian sovereignty.
KWS: Up to the passes.
AT: Up…No, I am talking about the peace process, the peace agreement.
KWS: Oh, the peace agreement. I got you.
AT: So, all right? So this division of the area into a limited forces zone, de-militarized zone, warning station was from the beginning. But the sovereignty was Egyptian.
KWS: Did Kissinger negotiate the sovereignty issue? Or was that something that he was able to get agreed to on the shuttle?
AT: When Kissinger negotiated the line of our withdrawal, everyone knew that until this line is Egyptian sovereignty.
KWS: No question about it.
AT: No question about it. All right. It’s not our sovereignty and it’s not U.S. sovereignty. It’s Egyptian sovereignty. All right? But in a certain area there is a U.N. deployment and not what we call an Egyptian military deployment, but the sovereignty from the ’75 agreement, this is the line of Egyptian sovereignty.
KWS: I got you. O.K.
AT: All right? So all this line, the line of the sovereignty, or the line of the withdrawal, and the line of the U.N. forces, and the line of the limited forces, and the two warning stations, and the American warning system, and the time of withdrawal, the withdrawal will take three months…
KWS: The pace. The pace.
AT: No, not the phases.
KWS: The pace, the pace of withdrawal. Over…I understand.
AT: The period of withdrawal.
AT: And also how much forces the Egyptians will keep in their limited zone and how much forces we will keep in our limited zone. All this was concluded through the shuttles of Kissinger, not through direct negotiations. When we came to Geneva we had to solve in two weeks problems like the sub-phases of the withdrawal because the agreements said that within three months or a month and a half or two months, you have to withdraw. But now we have to cut this month and a half to sub-phases of two weeks. After two weeks…
KWS: So and so many.
AT: So and so. So, this was one of the missions. And then we had also to reach an agreement on the number of the police because this, the oil strip, was also, we called it an administrative area, we called it. So, in this administrative area we had to sort the number of Egyptian policemen. I remember they started from 1200 and then they wanted 600. So, we had to solve it. So we were very limited within the frame, because the frame of the main principles, of the main elements, was concluded by Kissinger.
KWS: But, in the negotiations with the Israelis and the Egyptians.
AT: Of course, the Israelis had their start line and the Egyptians had their start line. He had to minimize it. Let’s say the solution that he reached was more, much more, on the Egyptian side than our side because don’t forget that we started from the line here, without oil strip, and the Egyptians wanted oil strip.
KWS: Did you get any compensation from the Americans for because of the fact that you were withdrawing further than you had hoped? Any military compensation? In other words, hastening the pace of delivery, new kinds of equipment, I mean was, at each time, in January of ’74 and September of ’75, did you…get…
AT: I’ll come to it in a minute. Yes, we got. Of course, we got, that’s what I described as a trade off between territory and military means. We got it after the ’74 agreement with Syria and Israel and we got it also after the ’75 agreement. Usually this, what we got, what we got from the Americans was divided to two parts. First of all, a grant, let’s say, of one billion dollars for moving the forces and for building a new infrastructure, a grant of an amount of money. And, of course, then what we got through the military assistance, the kinds of airplanes, the missiles, etc. This was what we call what the Americans gave us and they gave also to the Egyptians… military assistance, economic assistance, less than us, but let’s say two-thirds than us, but it was also very serious assistance. When we started the peace talks in 1977, all the military talks were direct talks without Americans. All the military talks without Americans, (???) without the Americans…
AT: The Jankalis talks was not… were not talks in the arrangement, the military arrangements. Jankalis were talks on what we call a red line. I mean, to avoid deterioration… all right? All right? Why we are negotiating for peace. But the talks, the military talks or the security arrangements in Sinai, ahhh, the peace agreement, started in the Tara palace and we concluded them in Tara palace (???). We had all the elements in Tara palace (???) and then in Camp David, Sadat did not bring with him a defense minister and the military man.
AT: Why? In my opinion because he knew that this was concluded because when I came with Ezer Weizman to see Carter and Carter asked me, what about the military and the security arrangement in Sinai? I told President Carter, all right, we concluded all the principals of these security arrangements. I don’t know why Sadat did not bring with him Al-Gamasy, because at that time he dismissed him, all right — this was known after Camp David — and at least General Magdoob. There is no agreement in writing. The Egyptians never wanted to have an agreement in writing before they see all the picture. I can tell you what I understood, what I concluded with the Egyptians through weeks of talks in Egypt before we came to Camp David. And I showed him on the map all the arrangements, all the principles that you have in the Camp David Accords. So he said: “All right, I check it with Sadat.” A day after, he called Ezer and me, he told me: “I checked it with Sadat and Sadat said all what he and Tamir concluded and he concluded `I agree’, except one point which was a very minor point about what we call…he wanted to have instead of three frontier guards, battalions in B zone, he said that the conclusion should be four because we had four battalions in D zone. All right. And then, of course, we had another problem with Sadat because Dayan and Ezer accepted the recommendation of Carter that the battalions in D zone will be frontier guards, Israeli frontier guards battalions to have it on equal terms. I remember it was a morning meeting with Begin. I told Begin not to accept the conclusion of Dayan and Ezer. There was a quarrel there because I told Begin we should not start a peace treaty with lies. I mean, to take Israeli military IDF battalions and, you know, they will wear police uniforms, like we did before the Six Day War in Mount Scopus in the de-militarized zones with Syria. I mean, our soldiers were wearing police uniforms. So why to start it with lies? So Begin said: “All right, what can we do?” because this was the conclusion, this was the conclusion with the Americans. “I think we have to talk with Sadat.” So Begin says: “All right, try to talk with Sadat.” I went with Ezer. He did not want to talk, he told me to talk with him. I told Sadat that we have not got what we call four infantry, four frontier guard battalions, and I don’t want it. I suggest that we will start this peace talk… the peace between us on the basis of, you know, finding (???). All right?
KWS: You do it on the basis of respect.
AT: Yes. So he took half a minute, he said “all right, I agree that you will deploy four infantry battalions and not four mechanized four … frontier guard battalions.” Then I went with Ezer Weizman outside and he told me, “Please write me the language…Sadat, please write me the language.” So I went with Ezer outside and I showed Ezer the language. And the language was “four infantry mechanized battalions.” Why did I write mechanized? Because we have the(???). But Ezer asked me: “Why are you writing mechanized?” I told him: “With these Egyptians when you give them a recommendation for language you must take into account that they would like to delete something, to make some amendments. So that I am sure they will delete the mechanized.” That’s what happened.
KWS: Did they delete it?
AT: Yes! Sadat himself. He took the pen and deleted it. Anyhow…. Now let’s go back to the first agreement.
KWS: That’s a very nice story, Abrasha.
AT: Let’s go back to the first agreement. You asked about the first agreement, the agreement of separation with Egypt.
KWS: Yes, sir.
AT: First of all, it’s not true that the Egyptians were not prepared and did not plan. It’s a big shit, all right? I know very well that the Egyptian military mechanism they are not bad in planning. You can argue the planning is good or bad, but they are not bad in planning. But you have to take into account, let’s say, some main factors. Number 1: before the ’73 War, before the Yom Kippur War, Kissinger in the year ’72 mainly, all right? ’72. Kissinger tried to reach an agreement of separation…
AT: Between Israel and Egypt, starting in 1972. Before the war, 1972. Let’s say the talks started in 1971, all right? After the cease fire that we reached there, all right? But the talks, I mean, Kissinger tried to reach an agreement of separation before the ’73 war.
KWS: He did?
AT: He tried to reach.
KWS: Through whom?
AT: Through diplomatic talks, secret talks with Egypt and Israel. Now the American recommendation was, when I say the American recommendation, it means that they brought it as a recommendation, all right? American suggestion. It was that this agreement of separation, of forces, will be based on a withdrawal about fifteen kilometers from the canal. Israeli withdrawal fifteen kilometers from the canal, number 1. I wrote about it in my book, all the details. And the deployment of six hundred Egyptian policemen in this area of fifteen kilometers as a part of this area in order to secure the canal. And, of course, the deployment of the United Nations’ forces. And then the peace agreement. This was the Egyptians’ demand that it will be the first phase of the withdrawal on the basis of 242. These were the main elements that Golda Meir rejected. She did not want to accept it. What does it mean? It means that if we had accepted an agreement of separation based on these elements, we could avoid the ’73 war.
KWS: So why did she reject it?
AT: Reject it because, because the Israeli government and Golda Meir at that time and Israeli ministers were still, let’s say, keeping the old holy cows, all right. Giving back territory, having the Egyptian policemen, armed policemen with rifles, all right, on the other side of the canal. And also this withdrawal has nothing to do with implementing the 242…242, I mean, the first phase of implementing the Security Council Resolution 242.But this was rejected. This was what we call: now we know a try on the Egyptian side to have the agreement. After this failed they have not another choice than to start with the strategy to go to start with the war. In order to push the international community, remember the United States, to push them to push the agreement.
KWS: The same conclusion.
AT: All right, the same conclusion. All right, what did we get after the… in this agreement of separation, what did we get? More or less the same fifteen kilometers, more or less if you add twelve kilometers…some places twelve, some places fourteen kilometers. But the deployment of four infantry battalions, Egyptian Infantry battalions, and one tank battalion, and one artillery battalion, medium range, on the other side of the canal, that’s what we got. But why I emphasize this? Because if you ask me what have we done in planning this agreement of separation and then in the same basis on the agreement of separation with Syria and then in the same basis, the same elements in the ’75 agreement was, what we call, the modalities of the security arrangements.
KWS: I understand.
AT: The modalities of the security arrangement. Because when I called ???, when I called the military lawyers and we prepared these modalities on the point of view of language that should be in the agreement. Because for peace you need also the lawyers. The concept for, let’s say, to base this military agreement on elements that will be accepted as good elements by both sides, and not dictated by one side. I mean, elements that both sides can live with them, number one. Number two, which is very important is solving such conflicts that each side can come to each people and say, I got what I want.
KWS: Sure, this is the key to negotiations.
AT: This is the key. But to show it on the map. So all these elements of dividing the area of withdrawal between U.N. zone, de-militarized zone, limited forces zone, warning stations, verification of the U.N. forces, all right, these elements you have since the two first agreements of separation. You have them on the ground, all right, and then you can find them in all the agreements that we had after this separation agreement, call it the ’75 agreement, call it the peace agreement.
SIDE B of the tape
AT: Don’t forget that before the agreement of separation we had an agreement of cease fire. Because the first thing that we are doing, that was done after the war, was the cease fire, all right? That was more or less forced on both parties by the United States and the Russians through the Security Council decisions.
AT: But the Egyptians and the Syrians did not keep the cease fire, because until we started to talk and reach the agreements you had cease fire here and there. All right? And the motivation was that there might be, might be, a new war. All right ? Might be a new war because of these violations of the cease fire. Why I am saying it? Because, let’s say, this… the outcome of it was what we call a motivation, a pressure on both sides to reach the quickest possible separation, separation agreement between the forces. That’s what we call to separate the forces. Because don’t forget that our concept after the cease fire was that we will withdraw from the west side of the canal if they will withdraw from the east side of the canal.
KWS: But they wouldn’t hear about that.
AT: All right… they did not want. They were asking what was the plans. Their plans, their policy was that we, that they should remain on the other side of the canal!
KWS: But you should move…
AT: But we should withdraw from the west side of the canal. And this is exactly the agreement, all right… because then right after we accepted that we will withdraw from the west side of the canal and they will remain on the east side of the canal came, we started with the discussion how many forces they will keep on the other side of the canal. All right? Are they going to keep the two armies, the second and the third, or keep less. And this less, this less is exactly the agreement of separation. These four battalion infantry battalions, one tank battalion, and one artillery battalion and of course limitations on the kind of forces, especially missiles and artillery, long range artillery that they can deploy on the west side of the canal. It means that our position will not be under the range of these long range artillery or missiles. All right? It was much more difficult with Syria. Because…
KWS: Before you get to Syria, let me ask you a question. Why did Sadat settle for thirty tanks on… rather than two hundred and fifty tanks?
AT: On the agreement of separation? Thirty-three tanks.
KWS: Why thirty-three tanks?
AT: This is a tank battalion.
KWS: But… the Egyptian army had wanted two hundred and fifty tanks. And then Sadat all of a sudden in Aswan, with the Americans and the Egyptians sitting there, turned to Kissinger and said: “I only need thirty, thirty-three tanks.”
AT: All right, because again…
KWS: Why did Sadat do that?
AT: Why, I tell you. Because Sadat…
KWS: He embarrassed his own military…
AT: Listen. Sadat, number one, wanted an agreement of separation. All right. In order to start the political movement toward the withdrawal from all Sinai. All right. This is number one. Number two, this is the wisdom of how much you can get through the American mediation. All right. So for Sadat, this Kissinger knew the size of the territory that will go back to Egyptian sovereignty or Egyptian control because, from the Egyptian point of view, they were always the sovereign of all Sinai. But I mean what we call the active sovereignty. For Sadat the first priority was the size of the territory and not the size of the forces. All right?
KWS: Very good point.
AT: So this was exactly what we call the concept of Kissinger. Israel is the address for the size of the territory and Egypt is the address for the size of the forces. Israel must have security, this is the size of the forces. Egypt must have sovereignty, to show sovereignty, or gathering about the sovereignty, this is the size of the territory. You find it in the first agreement, in the second agreement, in the third agreement.
KWS: In other words, you could always trade your strategic strength in terms of numbers for Egypt’s desire for control of territory.
AT: Yes, in the interim agreements.
KWS: I mean, you are talking to a layman, I am not a strategist, but that’s in essence what it means.
AT: Yeah, yeah.
KWS: You talked about Syria.
AT: We could trade on the size of forces, because this is pure security. We could trade on the period of withdrawal, because this is pure security because you have to build another infrastructure to replace the one that you lost. And, of course, we had our red line for the size of territory. We had our red line. But this red line, we were forced to move them, all right, because of the American pressure. Our red line was in ’75 without the Mitla and the Gidi, and without the oil. We gave both of them. The compromise was that we are giving them not.. we are giving them, I mean the compromise was that these areas will be under, I mean in the U.N. zone, all right. The Mitla and the Gidi will be in the U.N. zone. When you go to the airstrip, to the oil strip. So here I give you an example from the negotiation, all right. We said, all right, take the oil strip as the administrative zone because the only policemen are allowed to deploy there, all right. But then Kissinger came and said that Sadat does not agree. Because, he says, when I show this oil strip to the Egyptians they can’t see on the map! They don’t see nothing because all the oil strip is three kilometers, two kilometers. So they can’t see on the map, that Egypt got something. It was a crisis. I came to Rabin and told him “let’s put another five kilometers from the line of the oil strip to the East and make it a U.N. zone so he can show on the map the line of the U.N. as his line, his sovereignty line, all right… sovereignty line, all together eight kilometers, nine kilometers, because of these two U.N. zones. This was the solution. Now let’s go to Syria.
KWS: Did the same premise hold with Syria? Did the same premise hold that you could, that the Syrians wanted territory and you could in return receive….
AT: Yes, but Syria was much more difficult, much more difficult. Even Kissinger did not believe that we would succeed in reaching an agreement with Syria. Why? Because, first of all, the Syrians, the negotiations with Syria, were after we had reached agreements with Egypt. And don’t forget that the Syrian concept that no Arab country is allowed to make a separate peace or separate settlement with Israel. All right? It was effective even at that time, because Syria wanted to gain through, let’s say, leading the Arab confrontation states in this process, to gather influence in the Arab states. So they did not want even to start to negotiate with Israel. The solution was that they negotiated with us through the Egyptian service because Magdoob was with them in Geneva and he was the negotiator on behalf of the Syrians! From their point of view they did not negotiate with us directly, they negotiated with…
KWS: And the agreement was signed in the framework of the Egyptian…
AT: Yes, and this is after Kissinger succeeded in reaching through the shuttles the main elements of the agreement. This is number one. Number two, the Israeli red line, red line from the territorial point of view was that we would give back the territories that we occupied in the Yom Kippur war, but the line will be the line we had before this war. And here we had what we call the Syrians, they wanted to have territories from the territories that we controlled before the Six Day War, like Quneitra.
KWS: That you controlled because of the Six Days War?
AT: Because of the Six Days War, all right.
KWS: And they got it.
AT: They got it, including a famous city which is called Quneitra, completely destroyed, but they got it. And they got it also in two more places, in the northern part of the Golan and in the southern part of the Golan. So this was the result of the territorial element. It was that we gave not only, we gave back not only what we occupied in the ’73 war, but we gave also territories that we occupied in the Six Days War.
KWS: So, in that sense Syria got something back that Egypt didn’t?
AT: No Egypt also got it.
KWS: That’s right.
AT: Yes, because we occupy after the Six Days War all the area to the canal.
KWS: Of course, of course.
AT: Not only that we occupy, but between the first army and second army and third army we had the area of the bridges that we call the canal.
KWS: That’s right. That’s right.
AT: And along the ??? we had about thirty kilometers of Israeli controlled area. We gave it back. And then…
KWS: But when the Syrians drew their maps, didn’t they have a map that went through a city or a village or something and the map had to be redrawn because the map that Kissinger brought put the Syrian troops on the wrong side of the demarcation line. Shafir told me a story that the Syrian line had to be adjusted by the Israelis because the Syrians had forgot to include a certain portion that was supposed to fall under Syrian control. But these things happen when you draw maps, all the time.
AT: I don’t think that this was a, let’s say, the result of intention, this happens on both sides when you draw maps.
KWS: Zacharia Hussein told me the same thing about the Madison maps, the maps just before the signing of the peace treaty. He said that there had to be three drawn in hand because of a small mistake. He said it happens all the time.
AT: Yes, but listen, this treaty was a different story because there must be a definition between, let’s say, the last line of withdrawal, which was the mandatory border between Israel and the mandatory Palestine and Egypt. And everyone knew where is this border. Later we opened a case of Taba in ???. This case I wish it was never opened because we knew exactly where the border, the border ???, all right. And the lines of withdrawal of what we call the substages, all right. The lines of substages are temporary, a few months. Who cares if the line is heavy or not heavy, so if you ask what was the main problem between the Israeli view and the Egyptian view in reaching agreement on the substages, the difference was that Israel, our side, was ready to give them, all right, in the first and second phase, all right, we are ready to start, to give them, all right, let’s say, yeah…. as much as more territories from the desert and they wanted to have in each phase a famous place that they can show the Egyptians, that they got a famous place. Like, first phase, first phase is three months, El Arish. Second phase, El-Tor. Third phase, the Straits, that what you call Sharm El Sheik. I mean, to have names, to have names, to have big names, this was the difference.
KWS: Abrasha, you said something interesting to me. You said after the end of the second Egyptian-Israeli disengagement, or the second interim agreement, you couldn’t go anymore toward… no more phased withdrawal, no more interim agreement, no more stage withdrawal. Why? Strategically, why?
AT: Why? Number one, the Egyptian side, Sadat, did not want to have another interim agreement after the ’75 agreement without having before an agreement between Israel and Syria or Israel and Jordan.
KWS: You mean another agreement between Israel and Syria?
AT: Another agreement between Israel and Syria or, at least, an agreement between Israel and Jordan because, don’t forget that after the ’75 agreement, the Syrians start to mobilize a resistance front against Egypt doing a separate peace agreement with Israel, all right, without all the other Arab countries. And don’t forget that Sadat never had the policy to reach a separate peace agreement with Israel.
KWS: Not then.
AT: Even after he came to Jerusalem. Ninety percent of the negotiations were on the Palestine problem.
KWS: He knew he’d get back Sinai.
AT: He knew he’d get back Sinai but he did not want to make a separate agreement. And when he came to Jerusalem he gave his special, famous speech, it was a speech for a comprehensive peace agreement based on our complete withdrawal from all the territories that we occupied in the Six Days War. All right?
KWS: That was Sadat’s motive?
AT: This was Sadat.
KWS: But Begin’s motive was different.
AT: All right? Of course it was different. But Sadat’s motive won, not Begin’s motive won, if you take the result where we are now. You can feel the influence also on the cold peace between Egypt and us, because the peace is linked to the progress with the other Arab countries. They became after getting back Sinai, the peace brokers, the peace brokers for the others. Not what we call to have a direct responsibility with the others for pushing peace, all right. This was the biggest mistake of Begin because this was, was not exactly the master plan that we planned in the army for the peace. I refer to it later. Our planning was different from the security point of view. So, Kissinger tried to reach an agreement with Syria and with Jordan, all right? Syria was ready for another agreement, the second agreement. Assad was ready to a second agreement, but he wanted an agreement like the ’75 agreement. What does it mean to have a good piece of territory, all right, a good piece of territory. He wanted to have, what we call, a serious withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Golan Heights. It’s more or less the withdrawal that we are talking now as a first phase with Syria. It’s about, let’s say, one-third of the Golan Heights. Even more. And me, as the planner also, I prepared the map for such a withdrawal, as the red line that we will keep there in the northern part of the Hermon Mountain and the ??? Crest that controls the Kinneret Lake and the middle, more or less, the line of ???. Rabin, on the other side, was ready only, what we call, to agree for a semantic withdrawal, two hundred meters here, four hundred meters here, five hundred meters here.
KWS: So what he did not want to do then he is now prepared to do.
AT: He did not want to do then what he is prepared now to do. So Kissinger failed. Then he tried to reach an agreement with Jordan.
KWS: Is this after the Syrian agreement or before.
AT: This was after he failed with Syria. All this started after the ’75, let’s say, all this covered, more or less, the end of ’75 and the beginning of ’76. Now when he came to an agreement with Jordan, and don’t forget at that time the address for settling the problem of the West Bank and Gaza, and the West Bank was shorter, with the readiness also to have the Jordanians in the Gaza strip. At the time the PLO did not became a factor like it is now, like it became later. So, he found the Israeli government with two concepts. One concept is the Alon Plan, which was ready to give in the first phase, all right, area in the Jericho area…
KWS: The Jericho slice…
AT: …because this was, in accordance to with the Alon plan, this was the corridor to the territories that will… after the territorial compromise, the territories that will be given back to Jordan. And the other concept was Dayan and Shimon Peres’ concept, call it a functional agreement. It’s more or less to have like a condominium with Jordan as an interim agreement on the West Bank and Gaza; it means that we will be responsible for security and he will get back all the sovereignty in the point of view of the civilian life. All right, this was more or less the concept, in the government, all right. At the time, the majority in the government were for the Alon plan, but Hussein did not agree. He wanted the agreement like the ’75 agreement. What does it mean? That we will give him back all the Jordan valley. You know, they wanted the line, the line will be all the Jordan valley. We will go back to here. He was ready to give us some, what we call, security arrangements, all right, including, let’s say, what we had in Camp David agreement, joint patrols of the Jordan, etc. But he did not agree to have a part only in the Jericho. All right. So this also failed. This also failed. It meant that you could not bridge the Syria and Jordanian position, the gap between the Syria and Jordanian position and the Israeli position at that time. All right? All these tries failed, and then Carter came into power, all right. Even before then the United States started to check what can be done through the Geneva conference and through the comprehensive agreements. This was the reason.
KWS: Strategically, when did your planning group, or if did your planning group, begin to think about Israel’s strategic concept of making separate arrangements as the most important priority? In other words, when did it become fashionable for the policy makers to understand that it was in Egypt… in Israel’s interest to take Egypt out of….
AT: Referring to the recommendations of the planning branch, strategic planning branch, and this was not only my recommendation, because Rabin, when we prepared the ’75 agreement, he agreed, or at least he gave Motka Gazit the authority to form a small that will work on a comprehensive peace agreement. This group included Motka Gazit as the head of the group, he was at that time the director general of the prime minister’s office, and me, and Rosen, not Rosen, the foreign minister, the director general who became later the ambassador to, what’s his name, ambassador to the United States.
KWS: Ephi Evron?
AT: And, who is now the head of the Supreme Court?
AT: Not Barak.
AT: Shamgar. This was the group. And I wrote to this group, or I gave to Motka Gazit, as a recommendation, a plan that I planned for comprehensive peace starting in 1975, because we planned simultaneously interim agreements with Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, and a full peace agreement, a comprehensive peace agreement in order to solve the Israeli- Arab conflict. Simultaneously we worked on these two, taking into account that someday, someday, all right, this concept, this strategy of interim agreements will reach an end. All right? Let me give you an example.
KWS: Now this was before the interim agreement, the second interim agreement with Egypt?
AT: Yeah. I give you example. Kissinger tried also to have another interim agreement with Egypt.
KWS: After ’75?
AT: After ’75. Rabin said that for the termination of the state of war he is ready to withdraw to the El Arish-Ras Mohammad line. And here, all right, he jumped to this cold water of the peace border. Because, for the Egyptians, the termination of the state of war is peace. We negotiated with Lebanon and we succeeded to reach the termination of the state of war and the people here in Israel shouted “but this is not peace.” All right. So the government said what does it mean, not peace, the termination of the state of war is peace. All right, because after all, you are finished with the war and you start with the peace. If there is no war there is peace. So he said no, at that time the termination of state of war is getting back Sinai, all Sinai. You see?
AT: Sadat. So the idea of having an agreement on El Arish-Ras Mohammad line for the termination of the state of war…
KWS: Is insufficient to him.
AT: All right. It failed. In ’75 I knew exactly that peace with Egypt means giving back all of Sinai, from the point of view of the Egyptian position. Anyhow, this paper that Motka Gazit prepared was based on the plan that I planned with my branch. And then he gave this file to Rabin. Nothing happened, no discussions, no government discussion, nothing! He took the file, all right, and hid it somewhere! And then came, what we call, the Begin peace plan which was not exactly the plan that I recommended. What was the difference? I think that Rabin accepted the concept. But here is a man that plays with timing. He did not feel it, did not want it, because of this and this and that, to come out with such a plan at this time and even now he does not want to come out with such a plan. All right? Because it is still time to come out with this concept.
KWS: He is not exactly bold.
AT: Yeah. What was the concept? The concept was based on security factors because when you are doing interim agreements, you are not solving the security problem. You are only, let’s say, you reach through these interim agreements two achievements, all right? Let’s say, more warning space. Because if he has to deploy his forces, let’s say in the de-militarized zone, it will take time and in this time you can do A,B,C,D. Like now we are saying, if he wants to attack Israel with land forces, he must deploy divisions in Sinai. This will take two, three days and in these two, three days we will meet him in Sinai. So you have more warning space. This is number one. Number two is what we call, let’s say, the problem of violating the agreement which the United States is behind it. What will be the result? If he wants to violate the agreement, he must take into account that there might be a war. That’s what happened also with the arrangement after the Sinai campaign, all right?
AT: Nasser violated them and you had a war. So what does it mean? That when the Egyptians or the Syrians are even thinking, all right, even trying to think of violating the agreement, on sending the military forces to all these zones, to attack Israel, violating the agreement, they have to take into account that there might be a war. It means that this can be done only if they have decided to go to war. It’s not worth to do it only to violate the agreement, only if they decide to go to war. So this is what we call a deterrence factor. So you have what we call a warning factor and a deterrence factor.
KWS: Two achievements from interim agreements.
AT: From interim agreements. But, in the meantime, all the Middle East, all right, is getting more arms, and more divisions, and more missiles, and the potential threat, is increasing for the survival of the country. People now are playing with the big words “regional security.” But they forget that since Israel was established that we planned out the security of the country, we planned to defend the survival of the country and the security of the country from the point of view of regional threats, and not only threats from Syria, or Jordan, or from the Palestinians. We took into account, what we call, the regional threats. Referring to conventional forces, we took into account, number one, the military forces of the countries that are bordering Israel: Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt; we took into account that these countries, or the land of the countries, all right, is the infrastructure, must be the infrastructure, for launching a conventional war against Israel because they have to deploy the forces. We took into account military forces that can be sent from the second circle of countries, like Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, I mean all the confrontation states. Not only those that are bordering us. We took into account countries that, through relations with them, we can split the Arab military forces, like Iran-Iraq, like in Yemen, like in Sudan, etc. I mean this was our also activities. We took into account that at that time the Arabs, from the fifties, that the Arabs might reach nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, long range missiles were the main source of the Soviet Union, all these we took into account. All right? So, from our stages in order to reach a comprehensive peace to solve the Arab-Israeli problem and conflict, it should be correlated with stages to reach a regional security. And regional security must be based on three, four main elements. Number one: complete de-militarization of all the zone from unconventional weapons. Then you have the problem will we start first, will we start later, defensive strategy, offensive strategy. Number two: increasing, not increasing, decreasing, all right, because this goes together, the amount and the kinds of strategic conventional weapons and formations, like number of divisions, mechanized, tank, and then you come to combat aircraft, and then you come to tanks, and then you go to main elements, all right, they must go together. Because the defensive strategy, all right, must, must, must prepare itself to defend the country with unconventional means, because of the asymmetric between conventional forces. How long can we run after all this arms race, with our limited sources? This is the second element. And the third element is: to have a joint supervision team, supervision, all right, for these arrangements. Because it is not enough to write a paper and say you will destroy a thousand tons and you will destroy two hundred tons. You must have joint teams to check it. Like the Americans and Russians are having now…
AT: Of course, what we call warning systems, joint-warning systems. These are the elements of what we call a comprehensive peace from the point of view of security. So then we ask ourselves, what element of the comprehensive peace–security is comprehensive–what element, what can be done only when we will reach the phase of the comprehensive peace? What must be done after reaching agreements and start to implement them on the regional security arrangements? And what can be done in interim agreements? All right? This is very important to decide this decision. How much can you go with the interim agreement, referring to territory, because they want territory, and what can be done only in the phase of the comprehensive peace, based on regional security arrangements? So that’s why the plan was based on two strategic phases. First strategic phase was based on security as a dominant factor, and the second strategic phase was based on the nature of peace as the main factor. Call the first phase the interim agreement phase. So, what did we say in this interim agreement phase in 1975? It’s possible to give back Egypt, Sinai, until the El-Arish-Ras Mohammed line as a security boundary, for the termination of wars or for the state of war, and for security arrangements between the canal and this line, all right? It’s possible to give Syria, which I described before, for the termination of the state of war, and for security arrangements in the territories that we evacuate. It’s not possible to make a territorial agreement in the West Bank and Gaza, so here the solution should be autonomy, at that time under what we call Jordanian Israeli authority, the Palestinians can have autonomy, it will be a Palestinian autonomy. The council of the autonomy will be the Palestinian council, like in Camp David, all right. This is the first phase. This phase can be done even separately with each of the Arab countries.
KWS: I see.
AT: Of course under the umbrella of the Geneva conference because this umbrella is important for some coordination so at least that the Soviets will not put obstacles to the process. Why should the Arab countries agree to such a phase? Because, all these comprehensive peace will start with principles from the comprehensive peace. I mean, they will have principles also for the continuation, and not something that stands on its feet and then we shall see what will be later. Then we say that the second phase depends on the nature of peace. The second phase which is based on the nature of peace does not mean that you have to wait ’til the end of it, but at least you’ve got a division of security agreements, opening the boundary, etc., etc, or simultaneously with the nature of peace. We have to solve two problems. Number one: the permanent international boundaries between Israel and its neighbors on the basis of 242; and the final solution to the Palestinian problem. And we refer to it.
AT: We refer to it.
KWS: Oh, refer to it.
AT: The plan, we refer to it. At that time in ’75, listen, we had internal problems. So I could not write that we will withdraw in Egypt to the mandatory boundary. What I wrote was the boundary between Israel and Egypt will be based on the mandatory boundary! All right, based on the mandatory boundary. That’s what I wrote. The same with Syria. We wrote that the boundary Israel and Syria will be based on the mandatory boundary with some amendments in this area, this area, and that area.
END OF TAPE ONE
AT: And I got his approval to offer Mubarak that I shall sit with Osama El-Baz and conclude all the elements of the arbitration compromise. And he said: “Tell him Abrasha has got the authority to conclude it; I will bring it to the government; the government will not accept it; I will blow the cover; I will to go to elections.” He gave me the authority to break the government. But with all this authority I did not believe that he will do it. Understand, because I passed this experience between giving you authority and then facing the reality. All right? I give you this as an example, all right. So I brought Yoel Zinger to London and ??? was there and we worked together on the main elements of the compromise. Then I jumped to Egypt and I had the meeting with Mubarak. In my opening I told him: “You have to understand, people are asking me, Abrasha Tamir, why did you succeed as special envoy to solve problems. Begin sent you, this sent you, that sent you, why?'” All right. I tell him: “When I enter this political life I will show that the foreign minister of Israel educated, all the years, diplomats to talk with Arabs.” And I found, to my surprise, that they are ready…that maybe they can talk to Polish but not to Arabs. Because you are talking with people, if you want or you don’t want they are mounted with feelings of imperialism and of land and land and land and land and border and everything is holy and imperialism they see. All right. For them, imperialism. All right. And if you don’t succeed to do it with military forces then you start to do it with economic means, with settlements, etc. All the time. You have to understand that when I all the time talk with them from the point of view of strategy, taking into account their point of view and our point of view, putting it on an equal level, not talking to them from the psychological point of view as a master, feeling superior, on equal terms, and we built and built and built and built what we call compromises. I came to Mubarak knowing that this is only ???, that he will… I will work here on the compromise and he is not going and, all right, and then again they will look at me and say: “All right, what have you done?” Like after Geneva, he told me go to Mubarak and tell him, “I can get a majority, only one is missing but there is a vacation in the Parliament, after vacation I will blow up the government.” I did not tell it. All right. So I told Mubarak, we were both of us, it was both of us, with Abdul Mageed, then Osama joined. I told him that I had the authority from Peres to do this and this and this and this and this and this. All right. I can finish here with… in a few hours with Osama and ??? the compromise with all the elements and let’s move it. All right? But, I told him, taking in mind that you were also a leader in the army, commander of the Air Force, I thought it is normal that you threw me out from the window if I bring you only one option! All right? So I thought all the flight, all the way from London to Cairo, what could be the other option and don’t be angry; I have also another option, but this option I did not talk about it with Peres, it is my private option, but I would like to know your reaction. “What is the other option?” I told him “Let’s take the first option. I will finish here the compromise. I will bring it to Peres. Peres will bring it to the government. I can assure you that the Likud will not accept it. So then you have the end of the government and you have the preparation for the new elections and then the elections… this might take six months. What will be the result of the elections? I can’t guarantee to you. No one can guarantee the result in Israel. But one thing I can guarantee to you is that nothing will move with Taba minimum six months. All right? My second option is… you are not going to like what I am saying because you don’t like the word conciliation, because all the time we circled around conciliation, arbitration, arbitration, conciliation– conciliation was what we call the Likud policy. I suggest that we were like a Kangaroo. We will put the conciliation within the arbitration. Take the process of arbitration. First, each party is writing a file, with all its strength. All right. They send it to the arbitrator and then the arbitrators are giving the arbitrators our file and your file to us. And we have to study it and give our answer. It takes another three months. And then they have to repeat it again. All together a minimum of seven months are passing in only writing the claims. Until the arbitrator will gather and sit on the basis of the claims, what we call to start, what we call the judgement process. So let’s use the seven months for trying to reach a compromise. It means that the arbitrators, the head of the arbitrators, will form… will nominate three judges. One is the Israeli that must be in the arbitration, one is the Egyptian, and one is from the three foreign arbitrators. And then we try to reach a compromise. When we started the talks, I also opened a new channel, with ???, and ???, and we reached a compromise. In accordance with this compromise, Israelis could enter to Taba without… they cross the Egyptian boundary but without showing passport. Passport they show only after one mile, when they continue to Sharm. It means we could reach a compromise exactly like Israel wanted, but it was a year before the elections and Shamir did not want to come to the public that he gave back the territory of Taba, and he lost it completely. That’s to show you, all right, ideology… and because the correlation between ideology and ah, and ah, and… whole ideology, all right, and practic…
AT: Pragmatism. All right. So I gave him also the other option. I called it option B. He listened and listened and told me: “All right, sit with Osama al-Baz and work with ??? on the two options. And then we met again and he told me that he must call, they had what we call a high Taba committee, the President with his advisor. So he told me that he will send his answer after talking about the two options with the Taba high committee. And I was sure that when I left Cairo that he will accept the option B. All right. Believe me, when I came to Israel, with a car, in Raffa a telephone from Paris– ”Please come to me.” He was so worried, so white…so worried that I solved the first option. He did not know what I did. And I told him about the second option, and in this minute it became his original option! And they agreed. And this opened, paved the road to settle the Taba conflict through arbitration. All right? But these examples, when you have to move between the political problems and what can be done and maneuvered.
AT: And take responsibility. All right?
KWS: I understand.
AT: All right? So, we could start the process on the basis of the London paper. When I say we could, I think also it was possible to do it with Likud in the government.
AT: Because Shamir took into account, knowing Rabin, etc., that Peres will hesitate. And the first sign for what I am telling you was that Peres never presented the London papers as an Israeli product. He asked Schultz to come to the area and present it as an American initiative.
KWS: And Pickering presented it to Shamir.
AT: Yes, as an American initiative. American initiative, for these purposes. To write something which is not exactly what he had wanted to do. He had Beilin; he had nothing; they always did what he wanted. I did not want to participate.
KWS: But Pickering presented it to Shamir and Shamir said no.
AT: Shamir said no, but then, then… Shamir said no… but then Schultz. It was the year of elections of the United States, all right, and the Republicans wanted to win, so Schultz decided to come to the area and be tough. I mean, dictating on behalf of the United States, all right, to put all the United States power behind, all right, this offer. This was his declarations, these were his declarations, all right. Now, I was the first one to report to Peres what exactly is the United States initiative, called the Schultz plan, which was based on the London paper, with some amendments. Because I paid a visit to South America as a director general of the Foreign Ministry to some countries. But on the way to South America, on the basis of my initiative, I asked Philip Habib, that I knew he is working, I mean that he is one of the main advisors of Schultz, of this Schultz plan, to meet him. Habib I know from the Lebanon negotiations, from before. So we met at Naples, near Miami. He is living in San Francisco but in Naples he has got his golf house. So I stayed with him one day. He was alone. I stayed one day. It was nice. He cooked lunch, etc. And he gave me all the elements of the Schultz plan. All that was going to be in the Schultz plan. So I told him, Philip Habib, that you think that Shamir will accept it? He said: “No, we know exactly that he will not accept, but we are going to mobilize the Jewish lobby, we are going to mobilize this, the United States pressure. All right. I mean, we are going to put him in a corner.” All right. And he was very, very optimistic that Schultz will pass it.
KWS: Schultz will pass it. What do you mean, pass it?
AT: I mean that Schultz will succeed.
KWS: Oh, succeed.
KWS: With the pressure on Shamir.
AT: With the pressure on Shamir. All right? My view was different. And then after the visit of Shamir… of Schultz, when he came back from the area with less hope, I met again Philip Habib, in San Francisco this time. I met him in a house with some of the main figures from the Jewish lobby, because he wanted me to convince them why this plan is good! So I had to give lectures during this night. But you know what was the ??? So this was one, of what we call, one of the… let’s say historical opportunities, historical chances that we missed. We could be now four years after the beginning of that process. Who is responsible for this missing? I blame the Labor Party, or the heads of the Labor party, not the Likud. The Likud is known.
KWS: O.K. Good. But Schultz didn’t delay. I mean, Shamir leaked the document to the press, for the whole purpose of scuttling it, and scuttling the whole plan. Right?
AT: He did many things to torpedo it. He leaked it. ??? was sent to the United States to torpedo it. He did many things.
KWS: And their purpose for torpedoing it was because they did not want to enter into any negotiations or because of domestic politics?
AT: Let’s start from the main reason, all right? When the main reason is that we, the Likud Party, are only ready to give peace for peace, and not territories for peace, not one inch from the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights, so for this purpose you need time with the… a long period with the status quo. With the point of view that maybe inshallah…
KWS: It will change.
AT: All right? The ideas will change, not we. All right? So we have to torpedo any effort to start something that might bring us into negotiations on territories for peace. That’s for the international conference, or peace negotiations with Syria, or peace negotiations with Palestinians, or peace negotiations with Jordan. So it’s better, all right, to find reasons why not to start. That’s all.
KWS: I’d like to spend hours with you.
AT: I hope you learn something new from this conversation.
KWS: I did. I am not a strategist. I am not a military man.
AT: On the other hand, you have Rabin who does not want, also, all right, to start from the concept of peace. So, he takes now the policy after one hundred days. He was going on with the autonomy talks with the Palestinians, the Israeli offer to the Palestinians in these talks are less than the offer that we gave the Egyptians in the autonomy talks in the three years that we talked with them. Much less. And the offer to Syria was, more or less, the concept that it could be since 1975. We are ready to give you a part of the Golan and then to check if you really want peace before we talk further. All right? This start line is not accepted by the Syrians. So you need again a real leadership for comprehensive peace. If President Clinton will do it or not do it, we don’t know. I hope he will do it, because there is no other choice.
KWS: What does it take to get Assad to agree? More than sufficient territory, of course.
AT: Referring to Assad, you have to take into account two developments. Number one, from the talks in Washington, here in Israel, they are doing it through the delegation. They are trying, succeeding to build an impression that Syria decided only now to prefer a political solution on war. Until now all that they wanted is what we call to destroy Israel by war. This is a big lie. A big lie. Because Syria started to prefer a political solution on military means since 1975 started. No doubt that during the 80s this was what we call the policy. They did not talk about it, but this was what we call… this was the will. Why? Not because of our blue eyes, but because, first of all, they can’t get nothing through war. And to the other hand, the concept was, in the Reagan government, was to isolate them from the peace process. Like Reagan told Begin: “They will be isolated, they will be isolated from the peace process. They will look from outside inside and then they will follow.” I am using his language. But the Syrians did not want to look from the outside inside. The reason that they started with the ambition to have a strategic balance and to lead all these terrorist activities was what we call to create a motivation that they have the ability to torpedo any peace initiative that will be without them.
KWS: To have the veto power.
AT: To have the veto power, including the… including what we call, all right, they never told that they can with the army conquer Israel, but including, let’s say, to launch another attack on the Golan Heights. When Bush was a deputy to Reagan, I paid a visit to Washington and he prepared himself to pay a visit to Damascus. So he asked me what do I think will be, let’s say, the reaction in Israel if he will go to Damascus. When he asked me this question, and ??? was near me, sitting near me, because he was at that time…
KWS: A number two in the embassy.
AT: Number two in the embassy. I told him: “I can tell you only what I think should be from the point of view of the American consideration and not the Israeli consideration. Right. What do you think I will tell you, that Israel will like it? I can tell you only from the point of view of… you are going there… on behalf of the United States and not on behalf of Israel.” I told him that despite the fact that Mr. Rubenstein was there… because after this meeting, the first thing that he did was he reported to Shamir. And the same day there was a demand to call me back and dismiss me from the government. Why I said what I said!
KWS: What was your position in the government?
AT: I was the Director General of the Amnesty Office.
KWS: Even under Shamir?
AT: No. The Prime Minister at that time…
KWS: Was Peres.
AT: …was Peres.
KWS: I see. I’m sorry.
AT: No, the Foreign Minister was there. Not the Director General, the Foreign Minister.
AT: The same happened when I came to the Middle East Institute and gave a lecture. About eighty people were there, from the administration, from the press, etc. Whatever I said, also a big scandal was calling back and dismissing. I said at that time: “Listen, we have to understand that PLO is the national movement of the Palestinians and all of our tries to initiate a replacement to this… to this movement failed and will fail in the future.” It’s true that the existing leadership of the PLO are not capable to push the Palestinians towards peace, so we have to wait until the process will change the leadership and this is exactly what happened in all the history with governments that failed because… you have to make it a definition. All right? Government failed with the policy, another government raised. All right? So this is like the government of the PLO. There will be changes, in my opinion, in the delegates from the territories. I told them like in Algeria. All right? After the agreement with France, those who were outside, those who mobilized the war against France from outside, from Tunisia and Morocco, they were not those who led the country after, after, after Algeria became independent. Those, the leadership that fought inside day by day with the French, all right, they became the leaders. All the others were. This process might happen, will happen with the Palestinians. That’s what I said. “Wow!” A big noise. All right. New York Times articles, etc. All right. So, I told Bush: “I think that you, the United States, made a big mistake, starting with Schultz when we negotiate with the Lebanese by closing the door for Syria. You have to open the door to enemies and not close it. If your enemy is wild or aggressive, wait near the door with a pistol, but don’t close the door. It must be what we call a correlation between the policy of security, of defense, and open the door for peace because I believe that the Syrians, like the Egyptians, will prefer to enter through the door of peace. They need you more than they need the Russians. From this point of view and adding to it that you have ???. Syrian influence is very important for this. I feel that as an American I would suggest you to go!
KWS: Sure. Open the door.
AT: Right. Open the door. So this is number one. Then, what I am trying to say even in Israel. All right? What do you want? With the Arab side, we are in a situation of war. First phase in situation of war is to start to negotiate. For this you need an open door and to reach as soon as possible to this negotiation, all right. The first achievement is what we call an end to the hostile activity. What do you think, if the other side is ready to negotiate with me and he does not accept that I must have the Golan Heights as a part of Israel, so he is an enemy, he wants to throw me to the sea. If you look vica-versa, he says the same. He does not want to have peace because he wants to have the territory. All right. What kind of behavior is this? All right. But that’s what we are facing now. They want to have all of the Golan Heights, okay, they don’t want peace, they only think of war, etc. All right. This is a psychological problem. This is a problem. All right. That only through serious leadership you can change, what we call, you can change from A to B the motivation of a nation. This is exactly the difference from leaving a row or trying to advance it with all of it forward. This is exactly the difference between Sadat that tried to lead the row, and was killed for it, and not just what we call to move together with Syria and all the others taking into account all the interests of everyone. That’s what happened. So it’s possible. The question is, is it possible to reach a peaceful solution with Syria? It means that are they really ready to reach a solution of peace? I say it’s possible, not now from now it was possible, from the 70s, from the seco…. from the beginning of the 80s. All right. Then the second question. Is it possible to reach peace with Syria? All right, on the basis of having back the Golan Heights, or a good part of the Golan Heights, all right, I say no. Is it possible to reach peace without the Golan Heights? Or let’s say, what is better, to have peace without the Golan Heights or to live in war with the Golan Heights? It’s better to have peace without the Golan Heights. How? By putting…you ask me what was the main philosophy in the strategic planning for peace that handled with all of the staff? I did it with all the help that I got, it’s not a one man work, and I am the last one to say that all what I thought and all what I said was always right. All right? It’s teamwork. Literally from the beginning we said the main problem is the security, but they call it the definition, the difference between your recognition, where it should be a sovereign boundary and the need for a certain period to have a security line until you will have such an integrated Middle East that can live as a community in peace.
KWS: It’s no different than what you did in Sinai.
AT: All right. So if you ask me now, you wake me up in the morning and ask me where is your international boundary with Egypt? I say it’s the mandatory boundary. Where is your security line with Egypt? The Suez Canal. Because from the Suez Canal I have two hundred and fifty kilometers, de-militarized and limited zones. If you ask me what should be the basis of peace with Syria? So its true that we have not got the two hundred kilometers. But I say from the Damascus until Dara, it’s about eighty kilometers from the boundary. There will be a de-militarized and limited area. All right? It will also say, what we call, it will also say that is what guards Jordan from having Syrian forces on the boundary. Then we have to tailor our warning station, ta ta ta ta ta ta, and so forth.
There is also some other difference, because Egypt was the western front. Egypt was the western front. Who was the western front? Libya? Sadat? But Syria is one basic element and maybe the most strong element in the eastern front. So in the phases of withdrawal from the existing line with Syria until the permanent boundary, you have to cut into two phases like we did with El-Arish-Ras Muhammed line. One phase is some line in the middle, imaginary, and in this phase you get your diplomatic connections, ta ta ta ta ta… I mean that the peace element is done. The second to the international border should take into account not only bilateral security arrangements based on de-militarized zones and limited zones, but also some main elements from regional arrangements. We have to take into account the relation with Syria and Iran or Syria with Iraq, etc.
AT: You see? This is the wisdom of it.
KWS: Because Syria is a corridor. You know, for me, the strategic military is not something that I have spent a lot of time in, so your vantage point and your view is very important for me.
AT: Until the Six Days War, I was the planner of wars. I planned war. As the chief of operation, I planned wars. And as one was responsible for planning the battle, or the needs for building the Israeli national security structure, I had what we call to put what we call war scenarios for what are you building…for war scenarios. All right? And always with this I finish, and you have this in my book. We had a page, political page, approved by the Israeli government, that opened the strategic planning for war and peace, because war is not a goal, a war is a means, not a political goal. It is a means to achieve political goals. All right? So, the first page I can’t forget. What happened since this page, I don’t want to get after it because the first year after the Six Days War, everyone from the Likud and Labor Party at that time was ready to implement this page. But then the territorial appetite started to spoil us. All right? To spoil the political party and they are tied to it and the internal problems. What did I write in this page, approved by the Israeli government, as the linkage between war and peace? Number one, Israel is capable to fulfill its national goals within the ’67 boundaries. Number two, if a war will be forced on us, we should not repeat the mistakes that we did in ’56. This time the withdrawal…we will be… we withdraw our forces from the occupied territories only for peace and not for security arrangements like we had after Nasser, all right. Number three, that’s why the goal of the war should be to transfer it to enemy territories, not to fight it in Tel Aviv. We make war games, I put once Rabin and Avram Yoffe to start the war. When they start to attack we did nothing from the Green Line. Of course, the fighting were ???. So we have to transfer the war to enemy territories and also, what we call have red lines before it, not to let them to gather all of them around the boundaries and to surprise us. And keep the strength in order to destroy the offensive infrastructure of the enemies and to keep the territories until we reach peace. And the last paragraph was, in peace negotiations, Israel will demand some amendments to the armistice boundary from 1949 like the Jerusalem area, like the area of water resources, all right, Banyas, Kinneret Lake, de-militarized zones, like and like and like, but amendments. All right? In the peace talks we will come with some demands to amendments in the peace talks. This was the paragraph.
KWS: When did you write this?
AT: This I wrote in 1965, two years before the Six Days War.
KWS: When you were Director of Operations for Rabin?
AT: No, this was after it. Because I was, lets go to the history, I was Director of Operations three and half years, until 1964. Sorry, from 1970, from 1970… from 1970…. from 1979 to 1963, all right?
KWS: 1959 to ’63.
AT: From 1959 to the end of 1962. Four years. About three and a half years. Then Rabin asked me to form a doctrine branch in the general headquarters. I remember what he say, “we have not got a doctrine, we need a doctrine for war, for battles, combined operations…someone must make this doctrine and you are the only one that can do it!” Why? Because you can also write. I mean people like to talk, you are always writing! All right? So I established this department under Rabin and in this year and a half, all the doctrine, all the books were published, and also all the exercises of the formations of the army were correlated with goals in war. This means if a divisions had to, if a division, in accordance to the missions in war, the division had to advance they had exercises of advance. To defend, exercises of defense, etc. I mean, to prepare the army that won the Six Days War! I remember, when I came to this office, it took me two weeks to write a letter to all the services, and the Air Force, and the Navy, with the plan what should they write and send me to check it and publish and…and discussions in order to publish it. So I waited two months and no paper came. Three months and no paper came. So I sat alone and wrote twelve books!
KWS: And that is the doctrine of the army?
AT: Twelve books. All right. The staff, the intelligence, the logistic, the combined operations, the division, the brigade… I finished all these twelve books and I told Rabin “I’m going to the free world to discuss the strategy there.” And these twelve books became the books. All right? Then he appointed me to be the what we call the commander of the staff and command faculty. And I commanded this faculty about four years.
KWS: During the Six Days War.
AT: Not during the Six Days War. Until one year before the Six Days War, all right? From here, all the battalion commanders, brigade commanders, then the generals came out from this faculty because in this faculty the exercises were based on what was done when what we call the operation… operation for plans of war. The exercises in this faculty were based on the operational needs. Then in the Six Day War, I was an assistant to Ezer Weizman, all right? In the general headquarters. And that is it. To make it short. And then David Elazar, when he became number two, he asked me to be his assistant on establishing strategic planning, but Dayan did not agree that this planning will be in the army. So he appointed another one to do the same in the Defense Ministry, but the other one could not plan. So the first plans of strategy came. I mean Dado had two assistants, one was Herzl Shafir and the other one was me for this strategic planning. That’s what I did in the ’73 war. In the ’73 war I was in the front as deputy to Arik Sharon, the division that crossed the canal. I planned it and…
KWS: Planned the crossing.
AT: Yes. And one day after the war, after I returned from the war, was the decision to establish the strategic branch, that I will establish through general, all right? This is the story, more or less. That’s it.
AT: So, it’s writing the doctrine, planning the wars, all right.
KWS: And outlining the peace.