Mordechai Gazit (1922- 2016) served as Director General of Prime Minister Golda Meir’s office from March 1973 to her resignation in April 1974. Born in Turkey, he immigrated to Palestine in the inter-war period and joined the Jewish Agency and then the Foreign Ministry in 1949.   During his tenure, Israel fought the October 1973 War, negotiated a cease fire through Secretary of State Kissinger, and negotiated the January 1974 Egyptian Israeli Disengagement Agreement .Gazit reflects on Meir’s objectives of getting Israel through the war successfully and her thoughts about the unfolding “political choreography” with Egypt after the war. He asserts that she never ordered her forces to destroy Egypt’s Third Army partly because she knew that Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat would not be willing to negotiate if he went down to a “crushing defeat.” Likewise, she made sure that UN Resolution 388, adopted on October 22, 1973, stipulated for direct negotiations between Israel and its neighbors to achieve a peaceful resolution of the conflict. “This time,” she said to Gazit, “I want the resolution to say ‘peace between them and negotiations between them’ Gazit gives us tid-bits of information about relationships between foreign ministry officials, why Meir relied so closely on Israel Galli, and her every evolving relationship with Moshe Dayan.

Israel had not started or even anticipated the Yom Kippur War. But once it began, Meir hoped that it would create a window of diplomatic opportunity, though we do not learn from Gazit when Meir unfolded that idea. Meir was not prepared to withdraw from territory on multiple fronts simultaneously and Sadat was not yet “ready to go a separate step with Israel.”  Gazit believes that the Egypt’s decision to go on a separate path with Israel only crystallized in Sadat’s mind in the late 1970s. His lingering commitment to pan-Arabism precluded a bilateral peace treaty, at least during this earlier period. 

Nevertheless, Sadat was more willing than his predecessor to engage in diplomacy, and that for him meant turning to the US for mediation. With the Egyptian Third Army under duress, surrounded by Israeli forces, Sadat engaged in Egyptian military to Israeli military talks at the end of October 1973; the idea for the direct talks merged from a suggestion he made to Meir. The talks were under the UN umbrella but, the UN General and his staff gave the Egyptian and Israeli generals a wide birth in their talks. 

During the course of the negotiations, the two sides agreed to observe the ceasefire; to exchange prisoners captured during the war; and to replace the Israeli checkpoints on the Cairo-Suez Road with UN checkpoints. Kissinger had the Israelis abruptly end the talks because he wanted the diplomatic choreography to be larger than a military disengagement agreement, an opportunity to push Moscow to the negotiating sidelines. 

Kissinger said to Gazit at Blair House in Washington when he travelled to visit with President Nixon in early November: “You don’t even begin to understand. You are making mistakes. Let me do it.” In the end he was successful in convening the December 1973 Geneva Conference, which both formalized the tentative military disengagement agreed at Kilometer 101 and excluded the Soviet Union as a major player in Middle East diplomacy thereafter. 


Ken Stein Interview with Mordechai Gazit, Jerusalem, Israel, March 22, 1992

MG: Let me just say this.

KWS: Sure. 

MG: You mentioned the 1969 to ’73 period, but I said to you maybe this is not the most well understood period. After a little bit of reflection, I think maybe we ought to focus on that for the simple reason that it is too often misrepresented.

KWS: The ’69 to ’73 period.

MG: Yes, but it’s up to you.

KWS: No, no, fine.

MG: Because I don’t want to lecture. I prefer answering questions. 

KWS: O.K..

MG: I mean, I had to lecture on Wednesday for three hours and that’s good enough for me.

KWS: Where?

MG: Davis. They somehow got me roped in, I never expected it, and Pogadi (???) Shefra (???)… you know he underwent heart-surgery for the second time.

KWS: And then his mother passed away. When did you become Director General of the Prime Minister’s office?

MG: Oh, that’s a different story. It was March 1973.

KWS: March ’73. And that’s at the time when Dinitz went to Washington.

MG: Yes.

KWS: And you came from what position to become Director General?

MG: I was Director General in the Foreign Ministry before that.

KWS: And who became Director General of the Foreign Ministry when you came over to the Prime Minister’s office.

MG: ???, deceased.

KWS: O.K..

MG: After him, it was Shlomo Avineri. And then there was, no excuse… first was… it was one year. It’s confusing. Then there was Ephi Evron and so on.

KWS: O.K.. When did you meet Mrs. Meir for the first time?

MG: Oh back in late March, 1957, after the Sinai, when she announced, on the first of March 1957, their hopes and expectations. This is also something a ???. She made this announcement on the first of March 1957, in front of the General Assembly, and they came here in just a couple of days. That’s when I met her for the first time. I saw her once before. That’s when we met for the first time. And I became her head of the chancellery and political advisor.

KWS: When?

MG: When she came back through. It must have been the end of March, beginning of April 1957. And I stayed there until I went to Washington, when I became minister. So this was the position to serve until the summer when I went to Washington. And when I came back I became Director General in charge of Middle Eastern affairs.

KWS: About what year? What time period?

MG: February ’65. I was five years in Washington, under three presidents. A unique experience. It was Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson. And then I actually was… I left the foreign ministry about a policy. And after I played a couple of months, I went to another ministry: the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption. And then I came back to the Foreign Ministry as Assistant Director General, for the second time. But this time not ???, which I did for a year and half, and then became Director General. So I moved from one, I was just lucky. Because I didn’t seek to be the Director General. I felt it was more important, not more important in the sense that it’s more dignified, but for me, having been there for so long in the Foreign Ministry, it was more

important. It was a tougher job, a different kind of policy-making issues and so on. But with Eban it could not be done.

KWS: Why?

MG: Because despite his reputation, he is really… I think you bring him this and the other, but he definitely is not operational, policy-operation-minded. Or he certainly has no sense of our administration. 

KWS: Would you categorize him as a tactician or as a strategist? A person who could create policy?

MG: He is no doubt a man who belongs to the best of the very best. And he may have many virtues but I don’t think that he is a good negotiator. Obviously he has diplomatic charm which must be represented. I think he’s a brilliant man. And he’s able to argue, probably a brilliant lawyer. Although he would not perhaps find the right points to argue about. But he would draw from so many arguments that it would make a mockery of the little details.

KWS: Was he Kissinger’s match?

MG: No, I think very highly of Kissinger, professionally.

KWS: Why was Eban not Kissinger’s match?

MG: Because Eban, as I said, hasn’t got his gift for practicality. I am sure that he has a gift for the formulation that is needed and….to find the right formula in order to overcome a diplomatic impasse or hurdle. He’s not thinking in those terms.  He would think, if you want, in broader terms, wider terms.

KWS: How would you compare him to Sasson?

MG: Moshe Sasson?

KWS: Yes.

MG: No. They are different types. I happen to think rather highly of Sasson, in the sense that he really understood the Arabs. But no, Eban is…I would say he puts the limits onto himself. Of course he is so intelligent and so on. But coming down to the professional, which is something narrow, or not very narrow, but still narrower than what he has to offer. Also I think he lacked certain personality traits. Sometimes he must take a stronger stand than he does. A case in the past: I think he was intimidated by Ben-Gurion, and intimidated by others. And the result was it was impossible to reach a common solution. This is not for the tape, but I can give you an example. When in early 1971, Jarring began in his inept way…

KWS: Ill-fated mission.

MG: Yes, his mission. I was telling you this isn’t like something without constraint. Jarring, at that time, was my responsibility. So I was really very unhappy. I said: “What can we say this time that we didn’t say last time?” We could say the same thing again, although it’s bound to be immediately an impasse. We must come up with something new. So, we had a think-tank. I asked all kinds of people and finally they came up with something. And I drafted something. I remember what it was. I can tell you what it was, but that’s not so important I think. And I came to ??? after this. And the Director General was Rafi. And I’m not sure if Eban was present when I first showed them this. And he looked at it and he said: “Yes, but this is precisely what we are about to pass.” So I said: “No, it’s not the same. It’s exactly the opposite.” So he said: “No, it’s the same.” Point number one of that was that he was bright enough to realize that it was not the same. But he thought he could brush me off in this way and that I wouldn’t dare to stand up and say: “I’m so sorry sir, it’s not the same.” So I insisted and he said: “You know something, come this evening to my home and we’ll discuss it there.” Fair enough. I came to his home and there was also Rafi. But also he was a ??? because ??? approached Dayan about his best planes. He was to say, they must refuel the army. I don’t want to make him into a forever go between, or not to make him, but to hold ???. So I knew that that wouldn’t be good. But in any case, I explained this draft. After he became angry, he banged the table, not against me, but because he said: Anachnu zrachim l’hachilotam kladav (Hebrew)! I’m not sure anymore who he meant. This, of course, in diplomacy, if you want to give them kladav, you better ask the army. But in diplomacy not and, therefore, this can’t be. Now it was predictable, and I’m on the record. One day the record will open and one will see. I said “that if you go with the other memo, in other words the 1969 type, to be rehashed and given again to Jarring, then there will be an impasse. And if there is an impasse, we’ll be blamed for the impasse. So what would they achieve? Nothing!” So this is precisely what happened, except that it happened in two moves rather than in one move. But already after the first move, it’s clear that it was an impasse and this brought conflict. Jarring had to politicize himself as such.

KWS: Politicize, because I think he’s still alive.

MG: Yes, I know. But he wanted to put it back in…

KWS: What’s Golda’s relation…

MG: Because actually this should be off the record.

KWS: No, no. Believe me, personal stuff I don’t use at all. Totally, as a historian, I would never do that.

MG: No, but we can discuss this and put it in the part of sequential context. But no, no I mean it is the…

KWS: What was Golda’s relationship with Eban right at the time of the ’73 War?

MG: Well, it didn’t begin at the ’73 War.

KWS: I mean, I know enough about Israeli foreign policy that on matters of security, it’s the prime minister that makes foreign policy. On matters of security, it’s always been, essentially.

MG: You see she was convinced, it’s interesting to find out what the relations were under Eshkol, when she was not in the cabinet. It wasn’t as simple as people now pretend that it was. Because Eshkol really, in his Yiddish humor… with Golda it was much more complicated because at certain moments, and I think that the suggestion was made that she and Eban together would be in the Foreign Ministry. She will be kind of a Deputy Foreign Minister. And the problem with Eban and Golda was that, essentially, she didn’t ask him. She didn’t ask him. She thought that he always had things to request. And she was precisely the opposite. She only could manage. Maybe she didn’t go about it the right way. I’m sure she didn’t go about it the right way. But if she could have managed it, to clamp down on leaks and things like this, it would be a different situation. It was one thing about him, but she may have other doubts about him which I too have because I’ve seen him in different situations. Then there was the complicated relationship. What complicated if further was that in 1969, and this you have in Rabin’s book incidentally, but it happens to be true because you had it confirmed by Kissinger, Nixon wanted a direct line between the White House and the Prime Minister. In the manner that the French wanted also in 1956, which, of course, gave them a line with Gurion, Peres, Golda and Sharett. When this happened I think she took it very literally because if he wants a direct line then I now am responsible for the leaks. If there are leaks, its going to be Eban. She used to send, when I was Assistant Director before I was Director of the Foreign Ministry, via Simcha most of the cables from Washington, but not all of them. Some of them came through regular channels, but they also came through the back channel, as Kissinger calls it. Then I…though she never said this to me or Simcha never said it to me, I could decide whether to send it to Eban or not. And I also had my doubts. Most of the time I did send. This was complicated. 

KWS: How was her relationship with Dinitz at the time?

MG: Her relationship or Eban’s?

KWS: Her relationship. I know Eban’s relationship with Dinitz was never good. You don’t have to go into that.

MG: No, her relations with Dinitz were wonderful, unlike mine with her. I never had a good relationship with her. I had a perfect working relationship with her.

KWS: She felt very comfortable with Dinitz.

MG: She felt very comfortable with Dinitz, like she trusted him very much. How shall I put it…once, the only time she gave me a compliment, on one occasion back in 19… I was in New York. I remember, she said to me: “You know, your successor… I knew when I told you something it would be done. And also when you told me something that you had checked. With this fellow, I never know.” So from that point of view, I had a good relationship with her. It even went further. During the Yom Kippur War, for example, every communication was drafted by me. 

KWS: Communications sent to Washington, or wherever.

MG: Yes, yes. And when it was, let’s say, a message to Kissinger or to the President, I drafted it and she barely looked at those messages. She trusted my judgment. But I had no intimacy, no

chemistry. I was angry, very angry with her.

KWS: Because of that?

MG: Not because of that, but because of the other times.

KWS: So you had a formal working relationship, in which you trusted one another in the form, but underneath, there was something absent.

MG: In her case, yes. In my case, too. For example, I’ll tell you what upset me very much. We used to sit there, with ministers and others and myself and discuss certain aspects of the Yom Kippur War. She used to look at one of those persons, who will be unnamed… look at him and say: “And therefore, we ought to draft a cable to Washington,” but I drafted the cables to Washington. Why do you look at him? He never drafted a cable to Washington. It was not even one of her secretaries. She was embarrassed to ask me to draft the cable, apparently. Not to the other person. 

KWS: Just a figure of speech.

MG: She would not have done it with anyone else. She was not that kind of person. She was a faithful person. But in my case she had a complex. She used to look there, meaning me. But there were enough cases and this was quite clear. For example, the fall after the Yom Kippur War, when Dayan went on his first visit to Washington… I think it was his first visit, to discuss with Kissinger the disengagement with the Syrians. I think it was with Syria. I had drafted the memo of understanding for the United States. She looked at it or barely looked at it, I don’t remember in this particular case. She probably barely looked at it, and in those days those memos went

out just rapidly. There was no committee or task force. And she said: “Look, phone Dayan. Read this to him and ask him if he has suggestions, I think he should make suggestions, and let him give this to Kissinger.” So I phoned Dayan and said: “Golda feels this and that.” So he said: “No, I’m not going to do that.” This is not up my field. These are unimportant things, which they were

not. They’re not the most important things. This is what we wanted. We wanted to assure that diplomatic things moved. 

KWS: Did he say no to these things because he disagreed with them?

MG: Because he felt it was not up to the dignity of a Defense Minister to give Kissinger that document. That’s all.

KWS: Who should have done it?

MG: He didn’t care.

KWS: But he wasn’t…

MG: He had a strange… we are not talking about Dayan now, we are talking about another. So we are not going to analyze Dayan right now. But this is what you have. In other words, I have no problem with her at all. She wanted that memo and she got that memo eventually. She got it.

KWS: She trusted Kissinger?

MG: In the beginning she trusted him. I would say that in ups and in downs, she trusted him. But there were always doubts. For example…

KWS: No, let’s start chronologically. Before the ’73 war she trusted him.

MG: Yes.

KWS: When we have the first 10 days of the war with the re-supply question, did she have doubts about him? She didn’t think that Henry Kissinger was going to let the State of Israel down, did she?

MG: Well you know what is thought about the lift.

KWS: Well, I mean, there are lots of truths that have been given to me. I’m not sure I know…

MG: I saw it. But from my angle I wasn’t asking about troops. You see, we never asked for troops. If Simcha Dinitz did that, he did it on his own. But we never asked him to ask that from the Americans. What was the reason? Very simple reason. We never thought that this was possible. And to the point on the 9th, or on the 8th…now I forget it precisely, in October when Nixon asked Kissinger to tell us that we would get everything that was in the pipeline, everything that we can. All of that. Do you remember that?

KWS: Let’s see, the 6th was a Saturday, the 8th would have been a Monday. I think it was probably Wednesday or Thursday. 

MG: I said it was on the 9th, rather than the 8th. On the day she threatened she’d come over to Washington. Do you remember that? So instead of that, Nixon said “Look, I assure you, you will get.” He added a very interesting statement. You’ll find it in the Nixon memoirs and in Kissinger’s memoirs. The interesting sentence was: “And should there be an emergency, or should you declare an emergency, we shall help you with the logistics. We should take care of the logistics.” Now, let me make an admission. We were working around the clock. I didn’t pay attention to the sentence, no one paid attention to the sentence. And also it was worded in such a manner that it didn’t mean we should send the military force, the US military airforce. This is what it implied. This being so, it never occurred to us to say: “Now is the time. We want the US to help.” We wanted the things to come over more quickly, that’s true. And we were checking and so on. But we never said “What about sending ???.” And if anyone told you a different version, you have to check and recheck. As a matter of fact, I don’t think that Kissinger said we asked for an ???.

KWS: The war was a series of ups and downs and unknown turns and great fret on the part of Israel by the 11th and 12th of October. You crossed the canal on the 15th/16th, surrounded the Third Army… Resolution 338, Kissinger arrives in Israel on the 21st/22nd. Right after, 338 was drafted by Sisco and the Kremlin. It passed at the UN on the 22nd. I mean, this was such a sign curve. And so there were rapidly shifting feelings toward America, toward the Arabs, toward oneself. I can imagine sitting in a position of decision and just being buffeted by these constant ups and downs. Did Golda ever lose faith with Henry?

MG: There were doubts, but it didn’t last. I’ll give you an example. It’s a fact and you’ll find it in Kissinger’s book and in other books, that he used to encourage us. He said “Hit them. Don’t spare your ammunition. You’ll get everything back. Don’t wait for us. You can’t get now the tanks, for example. It cannot be transported overnight. Cannot be airlifted. You cannot airlift tanks, but you’ll get everything back.” If you talk like this, you cannot but say that he backed us. But there were moments when she probably doubted Kissinger. I think because I understood American policy after 5 years there better than anyone else there. Eban wasn’t there most of the time. They tended to exclude him and Simcha was there so I never doubted him. I’ll give you now an example. A couple of weeks after she had left already the Prime Ministership, I met with Morgenthau. And his message here was: “Don’t ask Kissinger, You should not have ???.” On one occasion he used the expression ???. You know, later on they made their peace, Morgenthau and Kissinger. Henry eulogized to him at the funeral. But this was his message here. So Golda phoned me from the kibbutz that Morgenthau was living in and she said that he had delivered a lecture at Tel Aviv University or Haifa University. What do you say about this? She was down… that was a down because the point he had made, the more precise, specific point that Morgenthau made, was that what Kissinger did was maybe good from his point of view in containment or whatever via the Soviets, and circumventing them with his little tricks with Gromyko and so on, but he didn’t have Israeli interests in mind. So this is what the Prime Minister should ask me about. So then I said to her: “But Golda, did you ever ask Kissinger?” Is this why he goes in for those step-by-step meetings, rather than negotiations? It’s good for him, good for the US-Soviet relations, and she asked me about that. She asked what I thought. This was a compliment because normally she didn’t ask me. She looked in another direction. But here, she called me. I said: “Golda, did you ever ask him to make a comprehensive settlement or something like that? Did he refuse that ever?” So maybe to ensure them, maybe not to…

KWS: What was her response to the question?

MG: I don’t remember, there was no response. Her response was that it’s a tactic. I can tell you, when I raised this at Blair House, on the 3rd or 4th of November, maybe the 2nd, I’m not sure


KWS: ’73.

MG: Yes. He looked at me and he said: “You don’t understand anything!” Kissinger. So I have reason to be angry at Kissinger really. But I’m not. But this is how I replied, I was the only one to say to him: “And what about peace talks? What about going in for peace rather than O.K., five miles here, five miles there.”

KWS: Why was he so angry about that?

MG: You know Kissinger?

KWS: Just answer the question (laughing). You’re being rhetorical with me.

MG: No, I cannot answer the question. He is impulsive, he can be rude, he can be impolite, he can be inconsiderate, this is the answer.

KWS: It’s because he wanted to be the choreographer in the show and he didn’t want anyone else in it.

MG: No, you asked of me why was he against making peace?

KWS: No, why was he against the comprehensive peace? Because he wanted it step-by-step so he could control it.

MG: No, you ask me the question and this is something else. I’m not sure what he would… I can give you my answer to this question.

KWS: O.K..

MG: It’s very simple. It was inherent in the situation that after such a terrible war, you had first to establish a cease-fire line. The way the two armies were and so on, it made no sense. There would have to be disengagement, and you had to start somewhere. And the United States couldn’t start with Syria, obviously not. They haven’t even accepted 242. Israel had no relations with Syria. And Jordan was not part of the whole thing. There was no problem with Jordan. The problem was with Egypt.

KWS: Well you didn’t have diplomatic relations with Egypt either.

MG: Precisely, yes. But you should check relations between the United States and Egypt between the years of ’67 to ’73. This is a good book for you to write.

KWS: No, there’s no question that Kissinger and Hafez Ismail communicated through the back channel and…

MG: Oh no, before the back channel. Rogers and Sisco and…

KWS: No, no, there’s no question about that. That’s true.

MG: And Mahmoud Riad. Read Mahmoud Riad’s book, which you have. So there was a problem of exchange of prisoners. Furthermore, and it’s a very important point, Egypt was not in the mood to make a separate agreement with us in ’73. Or for that matter in ’68. They hadn’t yet reached the stage where it was ready to make a separate agreement. It insisted on there being a package, on it being comprehensive. It’s another question which you can answer: At what time did Egypt make up its mind to enter the October War and the almost separate bilateral peace that we had. This being so, he knew that he had to act in tandem, more or less. So maybe he was right when he said: “You don’t understand.” But I thought I did understand. I only wanted him to tell me what kind of scenario he could establish in order to eventually get at the peace-making stage, rather than at the interim peace making stage.

KWS: And when you asked the question at Blair House, he immediately dismissed it?

MG: The response I quoted. I was offended, of course, and kept quiet. I was… no one wanted to hear the wisdom of Mordechai Gazit. 

KWS: (Laughing) How much sense of obligation did you develop for Kissinger or for Nixon because of the resupply?

MG: After that?

KWS: No, before Blair House. During the war, Golda chose not to preempt because she didn’t want to be blamed. She knew if the United States blamed Israel, it would be difficult getting

resupplies. That’s essentially the reason that’s…

MG: I’m not sure she thought about resupplies. She was not aware of it, as I recall, the resupplies. She thought about diplomatic support. This is what she thought. And I think that

she never said that, but I think she also had intuition, which was what this was all about? Why do we need the territories? What did she say to Jarring? I was present when we had to kidnap him to get him over to Jerusalem. All the time he came, talked to the Prime Minister in January 1971. She said to him “Ambassador Jarring, we have enough sand in the Negev. We don’t need more sand. But please understand we do need a defensible line. So there must be certain changes.” And he said: “Yes, but the Egyptians will not agree, not at this time.” So therefore, in ’73 her intuition told her 500 kilometers in the Negev. How can we defend the State of Israel? We mustn’t preempt as in ’67. In that case, we needed a defensive border so that there are deterrents. And these are defensive borders, so they are deterred because they know I can defend that border. This was the argument. Maybe it’s not the military argument. I would throw it out today. But I think it was her argument. I once said to Harold Saunders in 1970 that this is the problem, from her point of view, not mine maybe. But you ask me about her. This was her problem. 

KWS: But the resupply…

MG: Therefore, the resupply was terribly important morally. Morally and from a morale point of view, both. But at the same time, I’m not so sure she thought that it was decisive.

KWS: If she didn’t think it was decisive, did it have an impact upon her willingness to continue trusting Henry? Many people who write about the ’73 War put great stock in the notion that the resupply of Israel, because of the psychological and physical wear that the attack took on the state. The day that it was chosen had such an enormous impact on Golda. And I use the word enormous because that’s the word that I’ve heard used by people like Sisco, that Golda was more than willing to play Kissinger’s game of managing the choreography of the diplomacy in the war’s aftermath. She felt beholden to him and to Nixon because they broke back. They supplied weapons that were necessary.

MG: You accept the fact that Schlesinger was…

KWS: I was told that Schlesinger, for several reasons… for Schlesinger this just wasn’t a high priority item on his agenda. It wasn’t that Schlesinger necessarily disliked the State of Israel.

MG: No, no, I don’t think so.

KWS: It was just the guy underneath him had his own…

MG: Clements.

KWS: Right. He had his own orientation and it was different and Schlesinger didn’t think it was as important as the Israelis did at the time. Israelis, you know, were talking life and death and Schlesinger was part of this concept that Israel could take care of itself, and it’s not as important and relevant. I’m not arguing that. That’s another issue. I’m interested to know what does the resupply have upon the thinking in the Prime Minister’s office about what would come out of this war and what reliance Israel would play on the United States for the diplomatic outcome. That’s why I’m interested. That’s the interest in this. And I…

MG: I think that on the whole, she trusted him. And I don’t think that this had to do with the resupply. It had to do with the fact that arms were important to our people before ’73. And he was the man that resupplied. Rabin used to talk practically from the beginning, but certainly in 1969… he arrived in ’68, ‘70, ’71 and so on, that he understood the strategic problems, the military problems. And, of course, she didn’t always agree with him. I saw her a week after Kissinger had left. Maybe less, three days, I’m not sure. I met her in a little place, Ramat Aviv. And she was terribly angry at Kissinger. She said: “You see this chair?” I was sitting on the same chair. “This is where Kissinger sat before he took off. And he said to me: ‘I will not blame the State of Israel.'” Those were his words. And he had barely taken off on the plane… one of the first things he did was blame Israel. So I said to her: “But did you know what really conspired?” She said, “yes, Rabin was here.” So I said: “Yes actually Rabin told you, but not everything. I’ll tell you something which I’m sure he didn’t tell you.” She was surprised. Maybe a little suspicious of me, of Rabin. “How come you didn’t tell me?” I said “No, no, no, I don’t mean that he was holding back. I mean that he didn’t attach enough importance. And therefore, he didn’t tell you.” So I consider it very important. And I told her that in the middle of these talks of the shuttle, at certain moments Kissinger said: “Mr. Prime Minister, why don’t you send a letter, a message, a written message to Sadat? I think he will accept it. It will be useful.” And then he looked at me, unlike Golda, and maybe even said: “Let Gazit draft it.” This was the only instruction I got. I got the instruction from Kissinger because Rabin is not the man… I knew that he wasn’t the man to get enthusiastic about such things. So I got up and drafted something. I showed it to Harkabi, because at that time I had a backup draft. And I even remember Harkabi’s contribution. He put in the word “providence.” So, they took with them the message. The message said the usual nice things you have to say on such an occasion and he came back, a day or two later. Kissinger told us what transpired. He said: “I must tell you, he was alone and I was with him.” This is the type of thing that they will not remember. I get very frustrated with my colleagues’ memories. They have no memories for those sort of things which, in my eyes, are

terribly important. Make a note, ask them about it. So he was alone. “I showed him the letter…”

KWS: Him being Rabin?

MG: No. I’m playing Kissinger talking about his meeting with Sadat.

KWS: Oh, I’m sorry.

MG: Joe was with me. I gave him the letter. And now Kissinger said: “I never saw an Arab so moved.” It’s a strange way of putting it, but this is how he put it. “I never saw an Arab so moved,” as if he had seen Arabs moved and this was the epitome of being moved. “I never saw an Arab so moved.”And Sadat said: “Look, tell Rabin I cannot give him anything, but also tell him that for every move he’ll make for peace, I’ll make 3 moves.” I forget whether he said 3 moves or 5 moves, I don’t remember. “Isn’t it so Joe?” And of course Joe said: “Yes. This was his whole shtick.” So then I said… the next morning, I suggested to Rabin to send another message. Although Kissinger hadn’t suggested it, why not? I told Rabin and it’s a different story. Rabin…



MG: He didn’t encourage me. So I went to see Yigal Alon. They were a kind of duo. And he said: “What did Rabin say?” And I said: “Look Yigal, you have to talk to Rabin because I cut no ice with him.” What amount of ice Yigal Alon cuts with Rabin. So, I’m not sure what he said but I remember I then talked to Peres. I said: “Shimon, it’s an innocent move. Let’s do it. And because you are the one who deters Rabin very often from doing something,” because he was then in the situation. “Tell him that you are for it and that it will be done.” None of them moved. So I said to Golda: “Rabin really didn’t tell you that story did he? I’m telling you this Golda because I do believe that we also should have behaved somewhat differently, not only Kissinger, but we too.” And maybe I added a few things, I don’t know. Whether I convinced her with this story or not, I don’t know. But I can tell you that at that moment she doubted him. 

KWS: When you were in the Prime Minister’s office after Sharon crossed the canal, after he crossed the canal and you’re in the Prime Minister’s office, what kind of discussion was there between the military…

MG: I thought you were asking me when Rabin took him to be his advisor.

KWS: No. When he crossed the canal, what kind of discussion was there in the Prime Minister’s office, or between you and Golda, or between Dinitz and Golda, between the Foreign Ministry and you about…

MG: The Foreign Ministry was out of the picture completely, completely out of the picture because Eban was in New York. He came back on the 19th or whatever and immediately had to move to Romania and so on. But the Foreign Ministry just wasn’t there. It could have been a little bit more and probably did a good job vis-a-vis the diplomats.

KWS: Did you ever go to Golda and say: “We can’t destroy the Third Army. It’s not a wise thing to do politically.”

MG: No. And I’ll tell you something else that’s quite interesting. I think that when there were those ups and downs with the Soviets, it wasn’t clear precisely what they were up to. At a certain moment, he received the question from Kissinger. How this question was formulated… that I think you have to look up in Kissinger’s book. I don’t remember now anymore. I could give you a distorted version.

KWS: (Laughing) O.K..

MG: I know that here my memory, which is a good one, is very plain. The shorter version is: “How many days do you need to destroy the Soviet reinforcements?”

KWS: The Soviet reinforcements.

MG: Yes, but I said this is the distorted version. I know this was not the question. And of course we knew that this was a very tough question and we circled around it. We didn’t want to fight the Soviets, really. We had enough going on. We had a fight with them in 1970.

KWS: But you knew that Kissinger’s intent was to have a political outcome.

MG: When?

KWS: 19th, 20th, 21st.

MG: Ahh. 

KWS: You knew what was…

MG: I don’t suspect him of having premeditated on this even…

KWS: No. I think he learned as the war went on that he couldn’t have a victor and vanquished. But he knew he wanted Sadat to take a hit, because Sadat had started this thing. But he also knew that Sadat couldn’t go down to a crushing defeat because it couldn’t create political choreography that way. I think enough people agree that some place along this continuum of time Kissinger came to that realization.

MG: If you ask me whether Golda was bent on destroying the Third Army, I cannot even on this occasion. There are many other occasions where I can tell you what she thought of it, but I can tell you what I thought, which is a very poor substitute for what she thought. I had one other job to do there during the Yom Kippur War. I was the one who drafted daily cables to Kissinger, describing the military situation. This I did most of the time together with Professor Ginat who was then Dayan’s colleague. We drafted the cables. You can suspect me of being too dovish, but you cannot suspect Ginat of being it.

KWS: No, not now and not then.

MG: We drafted the cables on the 18th or the 19th or whatever. They contained a little place saying that our forces are exhausted. I think there’s a reference to this in Kissinger’s book. I have no problem with it… It is a fact, why hide it? If you are our friend and ally you must know. So therefore, my view of the situation was… I didn’t consider this. I didn’t invent it myself. He invented it. I mean, maybe I invented the phrase, but he told me that it was strange when he put it in. And Golda probably looked and approved of it without reading it even carefully. She trusted me, I don’t know. I don’t remember her looking and saying “What do you mean the Israeli army is exhausted? The army cannot be exhausted, such a wonderful army.” All armies get exhausted. So therefore, my view was that there must be honesty. It cannot go on like this. Maybe another day or two. So I gave it another day or two. It’s one thing which he says, at least Dayan would say it quite often: “It cannot go on like this (in Hebrew).” Then he asked Simcha Dinitz: “How many days more do you need?” And he says… Simcha denies it; you can ask him, phone him, ask him. Simcha denies that he said anything. Kissinger said that he had said 72 hours, or 48 hours even. And he says, “I gave you 72 hours.” Now, of course, we never instructed Simcha to give any sense of time, not that I’m blaming him. Sometimes you have to improvise a little in these situations. But, so what can I complain about? That is the second point here. When he went to Moscow it was clear, at least to every Israeli, that he went there to see what could be done to reach a denouement, an agreement with the Soviet Union. 242 is an agreement.

KWS: 338.

MG: 338 is an agreement. That was 242. He overlooked that. But those were the agreements between the Soviet Union and the United States. Otherwise, they would have vetoed it. It would not even have been brought to the board.

KWS: How did the Prime Minister receive 338?

MG: Ah, this is also something that is overlooked. She said, I’m not sure whether I wrote that in a telephone conversation with Kissinger, or via Simcha, or via me, but I heard her saying: “This time I want the resolution to say ‘peace between them and negotiations between them’.”

KWS: Direct discussion.

MG: Yes, and she got them. But she also, in my view, was not professional. She was Foreign Minister for many years. For example, she would never say to me that “I asked this and I got it.” She would have forgotten about it, but I am here to tell you the story.

KWS: But she didn’t forget the reference to it. She knew that 242 was a framework but it didn’t say…

MG: But she will remember that she demanded an exchange of prisoners of war. That she would have remembered.

KWS: Because it had to do with people.

MG: But I remember this.

KWS: The famous quotations that she’s remembered in the United States are the quotations that have to do with people and morality, not diplomacy or politics. There’s no question.

MG: Yes, but this is very important. So therefore, if she made a contribution even to 338, what is there to be surprised about? The fact that we didn’t get, yes, but she also asked him if he wanted

to come to Israel. She insisted on him coming over here. 

KWS: When he left Moscow.

MG: Yes. This she wouldn’t remember… on the 22nd of October.

KWS: When you got a hold of 338, when you saw it, did it occur to you that it was a strange resolution because there was no mechanism of enforcement for this resolution?

MG: No, I think this goes back to ’67 with the ceasefire. This is what frustrated Assad so much. Why didn’t he accept 242?

KWS: Yes.

MG: The other day I said to… and I don’t do very much lecturing because I have no time for it, but now I have this obligation, as I mentioned before, to have another lecture. So I said there if I had the whole Israeli delegation total and I had asked them: “Why didn’t Assad accept 338?” I’m sure no one knows the answer because people do not think such things are important and they are important. 

KWS: But Kissinger knew when he went to Moscow that if he wanted Israel and Golda to accept something, he should include something like “direct discussions” or negotiations…

MG: Yes, between them.

KWS: That would be…

MG: O.K. so he put something big in about: “under appropriate auspices.” And this was the mechanism. And this is when he arrived. We took him into a second room and I don’t remember. I never heard her telling me what went on there, but since then, I saw it somewhere. All she wanted to know, Henry Kissinger said it in his book… he got it from somewhere, from a good source in other words, like Kissinger’s book, that all she wanted to know was what this meant. What would it mean? And he explained to her that you’ll meet in Geneva, but she shouldn’t be too afraid. He would take care of Geneva and he did.

KWS: It would be a kind of conference but don’t worry about it.

MG: I don’t know whether it was about Geneva but I was present later on under Rabin when he said some very interesting, I would say almost prophetic, things. He said about the oligarchy in Moscow: “Let me take care of now the situation in another Geneva conference. If there is another Geneva, then we can still handle.” To maybe put it another way, now I may be distorting this too, maybe he said that: “We must survive those people. They won’t be there forever. It will give.” So, this is what worried her when Ephi Evron in…

KWS: Did you know that Dobrinyn had visited Kissinger in the State Department on the 19th of October, that they had talked about it?

MG: Who?

KWS: Dobrinyn.

MG: Dobrinyn.

KWS: The ambassador.

MG: Yes, of course.

KWS: They had talked about a conference.

MG: Ah, no. This, I don’t know. It was not in the ???. He rejected when Kosygin was in Cairo… remember on the 16th.

KWS: 16th to the 19th. The secret visit.

MG: Yes. And they sent through a suggestion, a draft that what they wanted was planned. All of this is in his book and he rejected it.

KWS: Who’s the he?

MG: Kissinger. 

KWS: Kissinger did.

MG: But he thought that: “O.K., now that we have a more important role, we’ll have to come again because they were about to be defeated. And they wouldn’t take a defeat. They wouldn’t accept another defeat.” The Soviets.

KWS: But Matti Golan in his book says that you, as Director General of the Prime Minister’s bureau, were responsible for the idea of direct negotiations between military representatives under the auspices of the UN.

MG: Now, this is another situation.

KWS: It goes on to say that Kissinger did not believe the Egyptians would enter into any direct negotiations. What made you think they would?

MG: I’m not sure what made me think then.

KWS: But Matti Golan is right.

MG: Yes, but I wouldn’t take that much credit for this thing.

KWS: I’m just quoting.

MG: O.K. Thank you very much.

KWS: (Laughing) 

MG: I imagine what I thought was that as long as it was military negotiation, they’d have no problem because of the armistice agreements and so on. And this business with back to the 22nd of October line, is a military question. It didn’t make any sense. The military persons will understand, even if an Egyptian, because you cannot… I mean even if he’s the enemy, I didn’t mean it….in terms of the Yom Kippur war, even if he is an Egyptian, even if he is on the opposing side, you cannot resurrect a line. No one knows where you were drawing it on the 22nd of October. I’ll tell you much more of something else. Our government should no longer mention ???. The whole thing didn’t make any sense to me, this haggling, because it’s the ??? of the October line. Because I knew that the commanders had no problem… they didn’t want to stay there. We didn’t want to stay there. I knew that Golda didn’t want to stay there. Agshawl (???) wanted to stay there. Not forever, but he would have stayed there another year. I was present at the meeting when he had no problem with this. The whole army was against him, but he was for it. So she didn’t want to stay there. Again, you can approach the problem in a sane manner. Let’s discuss what we can do now, what we must do now. And not haggle about details from my idea. Whether I influenced people or not, I don’t remember anymore. But this was clear to me.

KWS: The Kilometer 101 Talks. First of all, you couldn’t find kilometer 101.

MG: Here I made a little contribution. It probably was not even a controbutuon. Galili and I… we were in the office. I was at the edge of my nerves. I was there for 10 days or something. I said to Galili: “Look, this is a historic moment, meeting at 101.”

KWS: This had already started.

MG: He was on his way. You know it was postponed to midnight. It was 1:00 in the afternoon, or 2:00, and we had lunch just before I tell him this. So the meeting took place. And it was too late maybe for everything. But I was so frustrated and irritated, I said to Galili, who was a very constructive fellow despite his image of being disturbed. After 2000 years, we meet with the Egyptians on this land and so on. And we haven’t even instructed him what to say, to mention something nice to the Egyptians. So I said: “What will you say? Look, you know under ???” So I said we must do it. And he phoned the airport to get hold of Arye Levi. Now whether he did or did not, I don’t know anymore. But Arye could be trusted because he was a tactful fellow, a nice man and so on. So I hope he got the message in time and…

KWS: When the Kilometer 101 Talks began on the 28th and 29th of October…

MG: Yes, this is also an important I should tell you. This would be the ceasefire because the people who complain about the Third Army are trying to destroy the Third Army. After all, between the 22nd and the 27th, 28th, there is a new situation. Why didn’t we destroy the Third Army? It’s true that the fighting went on. The Americans came rushing and the Russians came rushing and so on and so forth. But you cannot say that the ceasefire was imposed and it was perfect. It wasn’t perfect.

KWS: So Golda’s decision not to destroy the Third Army wasn’t about relenting to Henry Kissinger’s desire to supply it with blankets and food. It was just a decision that Golda made and it was a decent thing to do. It was the right thing to do. But you also realize that as long as you had the noose around Sadat’s neck, you could probably extract a lot.

MG: Let me tell you something about the way you think of Sadat. Before we signed, on the 6th of November, was it…

KWS: Exactly. The Six Points.

MG: The Six Points on the 6th of November. They sent over here Sisco, and I believe Saunders and some other people. He was in Cairo and he didn’t come. But on the 6th of November, from Cairo, he went to Karachi, and from Karachi to Beijing. And we had discussed with him this ceasefire, what to do about the situation in Suez and the prisoners and water, and the Third Army, and so on. And Golda said, when she heard that they didn’t want us to be together with the United Nations there, to control and to inspect, she said then: “I don’t know. This is not what the Secretary told me and I want to speak to him.” And that disappointed Saunders, wherever he was. I’m not sure whether Saunders or Sisco came. I think Hal Saunders was there too. And they left. And there was a meeting with Dayan and Alon and Galili and the Chief of Staff. The usual

staff. And the mood there was extreme. The only moderate voice was Yigal Alon. It doesn’t mean that he always was moderate, but in this case he was moderate. I don’t remember what Golda said, maybe she said nothing. I don’t remember what she said. But when the meeting had ended, this time she turned to me because I was the only one at the ???. She said “Prepare a message to tell the Secretary.” I was on Air Force Two or whatever. So I went and drafted the message. It was the kind of message which said we are very angry. We are terribly angry. This is not the way to behave to an ally like us, and so on. But I didn’t say: “And therefore, Mr. Secretary, we shall not cooperate.” This I didn’t say. I gave it to Golda. I’m not sure whether she looked very much, I don’t know. Probably this time she had to look. She was too involved not to look and she approved. And this is what was sent to Kissinger in Karachi. And we had the agreement. 

KWS: The November 6th agreement.

MG: Yes. We decided about the Third Army. We chose that Golda was really not, if you really check all our decisions, irresponsible.

KWS: She didn’t indulge in excess.

MG: I think so. I mean it’s confusing, but I had the same experience also with Rabin. I behave differently, but people in such positions do not always…they are not clear. They are vague. They are ambiguous. But you have to judge on the basis of what eventually they do. Even if they never say they did it or if it just happened somehow. But in this case, this is the story. This is how I remember it. I even used it once or twice in a meeting with another Director General who has prided himself on being operational, while some of his predecessors were not. For example, he was operational but I was not. So I said to him: “What kind of talk is this?” And I gave him a few examples of how the operation ended in a practical manner. I said: “Look, I didn’t open my mouth in that meeting. But I drafted the answer. And the answer did not precisely reflect the mood, but was my own interpretation.” Of course, the Prime Minister could have drawn it into parties, but she did not. So therefore, this is how you make your input. But we’re not talking about me. We’re talking about the fact that apparently she thought that Dayan was exaggerating and Allon was right. And she had to play a little game with Dayan. And she knew that he would accept of course what she had decided, that maybe he was play-acting.

KWS: From October 28th until November 6th, did you guys begin to develop the notion that there was going to be something political that was going to come out of this, other than P.O.W.’s and water for the Third Army, and disengagement and separation of forces? Did the Prime Minister’s office begin to talk about something other than another exchange of people? I mean, Kissinger had taken Golda aside and talked about “appropriate auspices.” There was this notion of Geneva, however amorphic that was in peoples heads. When did you begin to think that maybe there was another stage, another phase?

MG: This we discussed a little bit earlier, you see. Golda called for a step-by-step approach. The Small steps. Small steps it was… because then it means even 200 steps. So, at a certain moment it became clear to all that there was no other option. I mean, once he said to me: “You don’t understand anything.” I began to understand that this is all he could do.

KWS: You were in Blair House on November 4th?

MG: Yes.

KWS: You were with Galili when the Kilometer 101 Talks started?

MG: Yes.

KWS: What went on at Blair House?

MG: When she was there? This was the first meeting, and not just talking. There was one terrible night there, when he pushed her and pushed her and pushed her. He wanted all kinds of little concessions so that he could get around the United Nations Emergency Force, and the provisions of the Third Army and the water and so on. But eventually it became the 6th of November and at a certain moment she said to him: “Mr. Secretary” or Henry, I’m not sure, “you represent a superpower. I am representing an ancient people. That’s one thing that you can’t do to us. You can’t break us, you can’t take away our spirit, you can’t humble us.” I’m not good at storytelling, but it was a very dramatic moment. It was the same day, and then there was a breakfast meeting. This is a situation where Kissinger began to understand. And the same evening when he came, he came very late… the meeting began at 12 or something. He met before that with ??? or with a Deputy Foreign Minister of Syria. I think he assured us the Egyptians are ??? terrible ???. So this was the meeting at the Blair House I remember.

KWS: What were you told about the Kilometer 101 Talks, about the way they proceeded? I mean, did you have communications with…?

MG: Yes, every day. I didn’t take a close interest in that because those were minor things. But there is an enigma around it, which Kissinger doesn’t write about in his book.

KWS: Does not.

MG: No. Why was he at a certain moment surprisingly interested that the talks should start? And he said something: “You don’t even begin to understand. You are making mistakes. Let me do it.” 

Essentially, this is what he said. “Let me do the job.”

KWS: He gave you an answer to your question.

MG: Maybe. Yes, but I don’t know.

KWS: What are you afraid to say Mordechai?

MG: I’m not afraid to say. I’m just not convinced.

KWS: Joe Sisco says Henry Kissinger deliberately asked the Israelis to back out of the 101 Talks. Hermann Eilts says the Egyptians, to this day…

MG: No, no, it’s O.K.. But I have a chair there for him, there is even a hanger. 

KWS: Is someone going to come sit here?

MG: I don’t know.

KWS: Don’t worry about it. Hermann Eilts says emphatically, absolutely emphatically: “Henry came to me and said ‘The Israelis have got to back out of this agreement because they have to have the military agreement to walk out of whatever this conference is going to be.” And Brian Erqheart ??? said “He pulled the rug out from under the Kilometer 101 Talks because he had to be the only maestro.” Now, they all give it a different shade, but the shade simply is that Henry felt that Yariv and Gammassy were just moving too fast and there was too little that was coming out of it. Nothing political. And Henry wanted something political. Not just the disengagement. 

MG: But this is not, I would say, dishonorable.

KWS: No, except that the Egyptians believe that it was the Israelis who broke their word. And Henry never dispelled that notion amongst the Egyptians.

MG: That was in his book now. He gives his mention of that.

KWS: Henry doesn’t.

MG: In his book, he does.

KWS: No, Henry does not say that he pulled the rug out of Kilometer 101.

MG: He does.

KWS: Wrong.

MG: Do you want me…I have the book here. It’ll take me ten minutes to find it.

KWS: He said they didn’t understand it. He didn’t know why they were moving so fast, but he didn’t say he pulled it out.

MG: No, he says because of the Geneva argument. I remember he uses it. He says: “What would they have done at Geneva?” I remember.

KWS: But he never said he scotched it. He never comes right down and says…

MG: He almost says it really.

KWS: But he doesn’t say it. But that’s Henry.

MG: Check it again.

KWS: That’s Henry.

MG: Check it again.

KWS: O.K.. 

MG: I’m not sure.

KWS: The perilous nature of the Third Army though gave you enormous political clout with Sadat. And Henry could take that to Sadat all the time. In other words, the fact that you had them around the neck gave Henry enormous leverage over Sadat. And Henry acknowledged that. We are now in the first or second week of November. Henry has posed this notion “under appropriate auspices,” and Golda’s immediate reaction publicly, according to Eban’s autobiography, was: “We can’t really accept this notion of a conference before the Israeli elections.” Where did the domestic politics begin to enter into…

MG: Not so.

KWS: What? You disagree with Eban’s assessment?

MG: Yes. Abba Eban’s the one who ???. How can you, for example, explain that in his whole book, it doesn’t mention the tremendous effort that he made and initiated in 1964 and ’65. Not a word because he came and failed. You want my other example? The meeting with Rusk in ’67. After the twenty-something of June, when he came with the cabinet delegation. Both of them are in the same room. When he says that the Americans were “impressed” by our generosity. He said to them they are ready to give back the whole of the Sinai to Nasser. But the West Bank, he said we must look further into this. But he fails to mention that Rusk said “What is the problem?” So Eban said that “the constitutional problem is: Do we negotiate with the Palestinians, do we negotiate the PLO, or with the Jordanians.” So Rusk said: “But you know in such situations, you ask the people.” So you don’t have it throughout this book. But coming back to the elections, I’ll tell you what I remember. Again my memory is not good on this. I was not aware at all that Geneva was considered in the context of elections in one way or the other. In other words, if it was good or bad for the elections. Not at all. It was just one of those things where the domestic community was exerting pressure and that one had to live with it or fight it. And she was just arguing the terms of how the Palestinians would be mentioned or would not be mentioned, that’s all of it.

KWS: So Golda was not initially opposed to the conference because of domestic politics.

MG: No, she liked the idea of opposition to the conference. Who knows what can happen in the conference. Now if she said to Kissinger: “And then I have an election coming, how can you talk

about the conference?” I don’t know.

KWS: How were the terms of reference defined for Geneva? Who defined those terms?

MG: They had a memo of understanding, which has since been published, although I think only part of it. For example, the UN holds it which essentially reduced the readings about the Palestinians and said that the question of addition of participants will have to be decided by the parties.

KWS: And at the next stage.

MG: Yes, at a later stage when this comes up. So with the details and reassurances, she had no real reason to object. 

KWS: But when were these things talked about? November, mid-December?

MG: You have all this in his book. Very carefully he describes it.

KWS: In Henry’s.

MG: Yes, the day-to-day…

KWS: Any discussion about procedures other than the sides that were going to talk?

MG: No and I must say, this frustrated me a little.

KWS: Frustrated you?

MG: Yes because I even had… I had a kind of draft ready. I even had a task force of university professors, I think. I think Gabi Scheffer(?) and Shlomo Avineri came on to discuss your love affair with international conferences. During one of the shuttles, I even gave the draft to Joe Sisco. It’s somewhere in the state collections; it’s not classified material because it’s of no importance. Even I remember… my memory can play tricks, but I remember he came to my room for a moment and I gave him this. It could be that I gave him this already after the Geneva Conference for the next…

KWS: Why were you frustrated?

MG: Because they knew there was an Egyptian position on the conference. It was published in ??? or whenever. They said that they would object to it being geographically divided. It would have to be functional and that all the Arabs would gang up. And this would be bad. So we had put a different kind of document; a rather longish one, too long. It was the professors who did it.

KWS: (Laughing) But it was never your intent for the UN to play an instrumental role? 

MG: The UN, no.

KWS: And the Soviet Union?

MG: Of course not.

KWS: But you knew the Soviets had to be there.

MG: No, already at talks in ’69, I made a statement and I apologized. Eban’s statement was

longer, in which he said… it was when Sisco went in July 1969 to Moscow. He said that “this was a move to cross. And Golda made the statement and Eban made the statement. And they both said “we don’t even have an embassy there. All this is being done behind our backs.” 

KWS: Did you know why Joe went?

MG: Yes, in order to accept what’s stated in the document of October, in the speech of the 9th of December. It should be the old international borders in 1948. And in the Roger’s speech, it’s put like this: “This border has been in existence for over half a century.” He urged Israel to recognize this.

KWS: But you know Sisco had another briefing when he went to Moscow?

MG: What was this briefing?

KWS: To push the Soviets, to see how far he could push the Soviets. Because Nixon had told him, quite bluntly, “The Middle East is going to be ours, to try and solve by ourselves without

Soviet involvement and I have to see what their breaking point is.” And Joe claims, he did to me in an interview on the 27th of February, less than a month ago, that it was only then that “we realized that we could, if we wanted to, push the Middle East as far as diplomacy was concerned. And unfortunately we got derailed by Jarring. Had we not…and I take a lot of the blame because I was primarily instrumental in getting Jarring appointed. Jarring was a buffoon. And we delayed because of the Jarring mission. And had we listened to what Sadat had said in February of 1971, we might have moved faster and maybe avoided the ’73 War.” 

MG: But he negotiated that (??).

KWS: No.

MG: But he went to Moscow in July of ’69. And then you jump to ’71.

KWS: What he’s essentially saying is that we realized in ’69 and ’70, before the ceasefire here, that the United States realized the Middle East could be it’s own domain and that the Soviets would relent on just about anything the US wanted in this region. Afterwards, after 1970, when Jarring came out here, the United States was prevented from circumventing the UN because Jarring had essentially been appointed because of the US stamp of approval.

MG: So he admits it was a mistake?

KWS: Yes, absolutely Joe admits it was a mistake. He said that “it was a big mistake on our part.”

MG: What does he say about the Suez Canal diplomacy?

KWS: The August ’70.

MG: No, on January ‘71. 

KWS: The August ’71…

MG: Not August ’71, throughout ’71. They…

KWS: The Egyptians.

MG: You see, the mission stopped…

KWS: No, no, no I’m trying to place it in my mind…

MG: But it had nothing to do with the conference. But let us go back…

KWS: No, no, no. Joe talked about it but I don’t remember the details.

MG: No you won’t because one day I discussed this with him and he said that he doesn’t remember. I have to check with him. It was very strange.

KWS: Mordachai, he wrote after he left the State Department…



MG: We were told that the Egyptians insisted on several things and if we accepted those things, it would perhaps be possible. In December ’71, not in March ’71, we moved slowly.  This was a mistake. But we said: “Fine.” In December ’71 we accepted everything. This is written up by Rabin. It’s written by Kissinger and nothing happened. Now why did nothing happen? You have people that come and say because at that time, he had made up his mind to go to war. But this is contradicted by an interview which he gave to Arnold ??? in Newsweek. And in December, the same December, the same week, Sisco asked him: “Is this still on? Is your proposal still on?” And he said: “Yes. Let’s get cracking,” or something. This is what he says. So why didn’t it work out? I know the answer, but I want to know it from Sisco. What is Sisco’s answer? I’ll tell you what the answer is. The answer is given by Sadat and I referred to it earlier on, indirectly. But people do not want to accept this. It’s too… how should I say, it’s too simple to be believable. In all Egyptian statements which even remotely come close to this, but when they come close to it, it’s absolutely clear, in his book for example. The Egyptians say this would have meant going a separate step with Israel. We were not ready to go a separate step. That’s all. And therefore, when you read his speeches, 1971, for example the 6th of September speech. And then there’s a very interesting speech in ’72. I’ll tell you what he said in ’72 because this is even more astounding. But he says: “The Americans are very sly. They distorted my initiative. I meant it in those terms. All those territories, not just Sinai. It was not just Sinai that I had in mind.” Now in ’72 he says something very interesting in his speech. He says: “Initially, I thought they were going back to what Rusk had told us.” Suddenly, the great historian Sadat, in 1972, remembers Rusk in 1968 which is so unlike Sadat. That it shows you that it’s very important. Now what happened with Rusk? This is the 2nd of November 1968, the American proposal, which was more or less published at the time, but you have a full version of it in Riad’s book. You want me, I can even find and show you. In that version, the Americans said Israel will withdraw to the international borders, you’ll get all of Sinai back, and it will be the end of belligerency. The refugees will have

to be asked what they want and so on and so forth. And Riad said to Rusk: “I reject, Mr. Secretary.” So Rusk said “Why should you reject? You get everything back.” So he said “Yes, but what about the other territories.” So Rusk said: “We should take care of that. But now I’m talking to you, you are the Foreign Minister of Egypt.” He said: “No, but we have our commitments. It’s a question of honor and so on.” So suddenly in ’72 Sadat said: “At least when Rusk talked to us, he promised us there would be an ongoing effort.” In my mind, this was bad enough. But now, in 1971 even that fell by the wayside. Now, this is very important to me. I’d be very glad to devote even two more hours on another occasion with you on this because I would want someone to finally be convinced. I’m the only one who knows this. And I regret this, based not on what happened in 1970 or ’71 on this occasion. They didn’t know all this. They didn’t read so carefully Sadat’s speeches then. But I have just since then studied this carefully. The only one who has reached a conclusion that the Egyptian position was adamant and this is why nothing would have happened. Kissinger says it on several occasions in his book. For example, about the Hafez Ismail mission in ’73. Hafez Ismail said that “nothing will happen as long as Israel doesn’t give a commitment to total withdrawal from all the territories,” and then he mentions them. And then he displays some sort of flexibility concerning the West Bank, but even that he immediately withdraws. He says: “But there are two caveats: one, Jerusalem is non-negotiable and two, the PLO will have to be asked.” And Kissinger says then that if mortal enemies of Jordan and Israel have to be asked, we have to reject this. This is in Kissinger’s book, I can show you the page immediately, not like the other passage about 101. Here I can show you in minutes. So therefore, when Golda explains, Golda gets very strange…she should be paid more than Eshkol. Why should she pay more than Eshkol? Because Eshkol in ’67 could’ve moved. We are not so much in love with the territories. There were practically no settlements, nothing had happened. But they don’t want to blame Eshkol. I want to simply talk about serious history. There’s a whole chapter in Riad’s book which is called, “My campaign, my war for a comprehensive settlement,” in which he explains how much he had to fight against the notion of settlements. Point number one. Point number two. That you have, I think, in Ismail Fahmy’s book. And also Sadat says it. “We never were in doubt because among others, not only Rusk but also Rogers with the Rogers Plan, that you could get Sinai back.” But this was not the question. I wrote a piece once, it was “The Posthumous Assassination of Golda Meir.” She’s dead already, you can say anything about her. But it doesn’t make sense, not because she was a peace lover or dovish, but because very quickly it became clear that the Egyptians would not touch it. Last point about this. Not last because there are 100 parts. Your friend Jimmy Carter, in his autobiography, what is it called?

KWS: Keeping Faith.

MG: Yes, I can show you the page immediately. He tells us I think that in February 1978, late February I believe it was, Sadat came to Washington and they had a nice talk. It was after his visit to Jerusalem, of course. The moment he had left, Dayan came. And Dayan asked him, “Tell me, what was your impression? Will Sadat move alone?” And Carter writes quite frankly “I didn’t answer. I said to him ‘I don’t know because he wasn’t clear on that.'” 


MG: For example Fahmy says, I think he says: “By March 1973, Sadat’s position was one opposed to a separate agreement.” 

KWS: In terms of his relationship with his own colleagues, Fahmy. I mean Fahmy was very angry about, even going back, Fahmy was angry about the disengagement accord. He said: “How the hell can we go across the canal, expend what we expend, and all we’re getting is an exchange of prisoners of war and no territory?” Fahmy said he thought that Sadat was giving up the world for everything that they had gained in terms of getting across the canal. He thought that Sadat was selling out cheap. And Fahmy was one of the leaders in December of 1973 before the Geneva conference who kept on harping on Sadat saying, “You have to demand more territory from the Israelis at least up to the Gidi pass, at least!” And Sadat said: “Fahmy, let’s do this slowly and put our cards with Henry. It’s going to work out.” But Fahmy was vehement. Fahmy, according to Eilts anyway, was the cheerleader…

MG: Yes but you have it in Fahmy’s book. No one can tell me that in 19… he became president of Egypt on the 29th of September 1970. He was elected in October 1970. In 1971, the poor man Sadat had not established himself yet. He had to sign the friendship and cooperation. He talked big about a federation with Syria and Quadaffi. At that time, they didn’t say that Quadaffi was a clinical case, as they said in later years. He talked about having to… he was terribly angry with

Hussein and supported the Arab world in the September 1970 thing.

KWS: September 7th.

MG: 1970 thing. And he made terrible speeches. He kept a little bit, I mean, skeptical distance from Hussein but not from Hassan. So to come and to tell me that in 1971 he was ready to go it alone, maybe he was beginning to think and so on.

KWS: I think you’re right. 

MG: So at a certain moment, he began to think. I’ll tell you what Mrs Sadat says in an interview. I wanted to write to her, I don’t know if I have her address. But in that interview, 3 years ago, 4 years ago, she said: “I know that many people in Egypt and in Israel say that there were possibilities before the Yom Kippur War and I must tell you that this isn’t so. It’s true that my husband was a man of peace. But he was not ready to make peace.” She calls it peace. She’s not

an expert on these little things. When someone… we had to look up, the expression she used was, “looking up at someone.” Only when you reached the same level after the war, and so on. Point number two: What was the whole idea? And this is where I give again an argument in favor of Kissinger. You see when we said to Kissinger: “Maybe we can operate half of Sinai now for the interim agreement, not the disengagement of January, but the one in ’75. So Kissinger said, without even asking Sadat: “He will immediately reject it. He can be one little step ahead of Assad, but not that much.” And at that time, although the relations were complicated between the two, he was still eyeing all the time Damascus, and Atherton went to Damascus and Gamassy went to Damascus and so on and so forth, to see what he could do with Assad. And I must tell 

you, at Geneva, for the military protocol, I was the head of the Israeli delegation in September 1975. And Hal Saunders was in the background there because the Soviets were there. But in

any case, suddenly Atherton arrives from Damascus and we met at the intercontinental there. And he was so upset by what had happened in Damascus because Assad was adamant. This was a little bit too much already. The interim agreement was already too much. And this surprised Atherton. And this gives strength or force to the argument that Sadat was very careful. As he was even in later years when he whispered into Carter’s ear. But even for those steps, he had to be very, very careful. And they were. So therefore we don’t know when he decided. I think a decision came when he talked to Carter and then said: “O.K., what should I do now? I’m ready but how do I go about it?” And this was after the war. And he was the hero. He was considered

the hero then.

KWS: Yes, and he achieved what you had described earlier as the level playing ground, psychological parity.

MG: Yes. So therefore, if it is true that nothing could be done in ’78… and I believe Kissinger about ’71. I have a collection of all his quotes from his book. But he says: “It could not be done

then because they insisted on an entire commitment.” They insisted on the linkage. And then with Hafez Ismail, the one was in ’71, the canal, the other thing was in ’73. This is important. As

far as I’m concerned, I think you should refer to it.

KWS: Were you surprised about Resolution 344? The one that called for an international conference. You just knew that was a UN resolution that was…

MG: I was so unsurprised by it that it doesn’t ring any bells at all because he told us…

KWS: Sure, that’s pretty much…

MG: I felt that it was a little bit naive, but he would have said to me: “You don’t understand anything,” if I mentioned this. I felt that he should have come up with something else. A more modest kind of conference. He didn’t have to. Later on he did his best to reduce the conference to its proper size, but if you mentioned 344, it was a little too much.

KWS: But it had to give the UN a role.

MG: Yes, but it had to fight for it.

KWS: Fight for…?

MG: So that it should end the ???.

KWS: How did you fight for it?

MG: Because this you have in his book. Golda Meir would not have gone there.

KWS: Was Kissinger adamant for a stronger UN role?

MG: Yes. There was a letter from Nixon. All this is mentioned there. I don’t even remember precisely ??? ???. Of course, we had to fight and we got a memo of understanding, in which we were promised those things, which I probably drafted. My recollection on drafting this one is vague.

KWS: During the ’73 war, Dobrinyn suggested to Kissinger, on the 18th, that in addition to a ceasefire, this was on the 18th, that there should be “a withdrawal in stages to the ’67 lines.” 

“Withdrawal in stages,” according to Henry, was a new term that he hadn’t yet heard from the Soviets. Because the Soviets had always talked about withdrawal to the June 4th line. Full withdrawal, total withdrawal. And now Dobrinyn was talking about withdrawal stages.

MG: No, I’m sure it’s true because in the older 1969, two months on, they always were talking about this would take a certain time period. It would be 3 months or six months where Sisco went to see and Rogers went to see. I think Sisco must remember it more precisely. Did you talk to Rogers at all?

KWS: Not yet.

MG: But I remember when Sisco told us and then told Rabin and so on. It was quite clear. His talk with Sadat. Sisco talked with Sadat…

KWS: The concept of stages, withdrawal in stages.

MG: Yes, in his speeches too. In Sadat’s speeches, he said 3 months. This is not enough. Six months. I said six months. And this was the Soviet notion: that we’d have six months and we’d do stages. But the notion of stages… they are not in love with stages; there’s a time element involved. If it’s 10 years it’s one thing. If it’s six months, another thing.

KWS: Did you guys have objectives in going to Geneva? Did you know what you wanted, what you didn’t want?

MG: I must say that I remember only one thing. It was unimportant. This was a Foreign Ministry show. There was no one from the Prime Minister’s office. I am in the wrong thinking because when I checked, maybe someone from the Foreign Ministry said to me: “I am not only atheist but anti-religious, especially when we throw stones. But I felt for nationalist reasons that this was going to be important” So I said to Galili: “You talk to Golda about this.” 

KWS: (Laughing)

MG: No, because I told you, my relationship, the chemistry wasn’t good. It was a strange kind of relationship, but it wasn’t good. She won’t listen to me but she’ll listen to him. She’ll understand it. But he mentioned it not because he’s religious. In my case, he may even suspect that I’m religious. Who knows? So we went into see her about the Shabbat business and she agreed. The idea was that we would tell Keating was ambassador, that he should see what he could do via Kissinger. I said to him “Look, you know something? This is one of those ideas about which I am proud. I’m sure that if Kissinger talks to Waldheim, probably even an anti-Semite… I didn’t know anything about what would happen to us. I’m thinking Austrian, he must be an anti-Semite.

KWS: (Laughing)

MG: Because I know a little bit about the Austrian, the first school I went to was an Austrian school. So they really are very anti-Semitic. So if Kissinger tells me ??? Shabbat, I’m sure he will want to oblige. So this is what I remember about Geneva.

KWS: What were the reports that you were getting?

MG: Nothing, except that I do remember that there was also a speech by Zaid Rifai that he also wanted a disengagement agreement.

KWS: And how did you take that?

MG: Very strange.

KWS: And you hadn’t paid any notice to the Jordanians up until this point?

MG: No, only later when we met with them.

KWS: In January?

MG: We met many times with them. This developed too. But this began another chapter.

KWS: But there was no interest at all to go any further than just Sadat. I mean, my entire afternoon with you…

MG: Oh, from Kissinger you mean?

KWS: No, with Sadat and Egypt. The entire afternoon has been focused on Egypt.

MG: Because you focus on Egypt.

KWS: I understand, but was there ever any effort from the middle of the war through to Geneva to try and expand this.

MG: With Hussein it was very interesting during the war. He, of course, was surprised when the war came. He wasn’t privy to the things between Assad and Sadat. And when he indicated to the

Americans and to the British that they “must do something” and so on, he also sent a message to Golda. This is in the book. He has enough problems without ???. And he was very touching when he wrote this book. Very touching. I think this touched me more than it touched Golda I must say. And I was a little disappointed that she wasn’t as touched as I was, but then maybe I’m more sentimental than she was. No, he was very nice about it. He didn’t want to fight.

KWS: Did he want something to come out of it that would be political that he could benefit from?

MG: From ’67 on he wanted the same thing.

KWS: So he saw this was a change, a major cataclysm in the region. Did he say “look, you guys are negotiating something here at Kilometer 101…

MG: He told us one thing later on where I thought it was a very good point. He said to us: “I was the only one who kept quiet. I did the minimum I could do, but I kept quiet. Now what you do, you’re very unfair, to those who fought you, you are giving back territory. And I, because I was a good guy, I don’t get anything.”

KWS: And the response?

MG: The response, of course, was that: “We offered you a compromise, a territorial compromise, but you rejected it.” If he had said at any moment in ’67 or in ’68 or ’69, “I accept a territorial compromise…”

KWS: If who had said?

MG: If he had said.

KWS: If he had said.

MG: There would have been an agreement.

KWS: And he knew that.

MG: He knew it throughout. And to his everlasting honor in the eyes of the Palestinians, I told it once to a Palestinian, a very beautiful Palestinian young lady, at a time when they were angry, back in 1982, I said to her: “I assure you that you have a friend in Hussein, a man who loves you. He’s disappointed by the fact that you don’t return his love. That he considers himself a semi-Palestinian, more than that. And that he never was ready to give up even one square inch of the territory he has lost.” This is Hussein. Eban will indicate to you that maybe he would

have and so on; he’s wrong because again it’s not for the record. I got this impression in meeting with Hussein. And I think I read the man correctly, I certainly know his positions in those meetings and I know the record of all the meetings with him. So why suddenly make it up? Simply because it’s a convenient argument for someone who’s dovish. I assure you, I am more dovish than Eban because I am the one who suggested to Eban all kinds of dovish things and he rejected them back in…

KWS: But did Hussein see the war as a political opening where he could accept territorial compromise?

MG: I don’t think so. I never heard him say this in those words, no. I can tell you one more thing about us.

KWS: Interesting.

MG: He had a very bad relationship with Sadat. I mentioned already what happened back in ’70 and ’71. But it went on. There were communiques published in Cairo. First to Hussein, he would be the one who would represent the Palestinians. And then Arafat, the other way around. Then in Rabat, in October ’74, Sadat supports the Palestinians. But, for a moment coming back to Sadat, it wasn’t what he told Carter. Let me show you something very interesting in this connection. Before he went to Rabat there was a speech by Sadat, which you can find, in which he said the

following, that: “I am telling, I’m about to tell all those people who have big mouths and shout, this will get us all that we want. 100% of the territory, of course.” I didn’t like it too much, not personally. But from the point of view of the Israeli position, the policy was always territorial compromise, from the Labor position. But this is what he said, which confirms the point of Carter in a sense, that he knew he had to manipulate. In other words, what he said there was: “Look, I’m doing this but I’m doing it carefully and gradually but the final objective is 100% of the territory, Arab territory, and we get it back.”

KWS: Did Golda Meir ever give instructions to Yariv to back out of the 101 Talks? 

MG: I told you. I didn’t follow it very closely because I was preparing all the documents. All the agreements that we have. I prepared them in all those weeks. They were ready when Rabin

more or less… he was too afraid to be the Prime Minister in the beginning. To tell me to “go ahead” was a mistake. So I was dealing with those other things. I remember that she was really frustrated. A little bit like the situation with Eban, she had a problem with Yariv too.

KWS: Why?

MG: This is difficult to say.

KWS: He’s a very kind, gentle man.

MG: Yes, he is. 

KWS: And thoughtful, warm.

MG: Yes. I’ll tell you, she trusted him, she liked him very much. And then something happened. I think she had the feeling that he wasn’t always telling her 100% of the meetings. And when this

occurs, I don’t want to give you other examples, I gave you enough examples already, but when this happened, then there was a crisis, a psychological crisis. And I think that she knew that he was the right man for the job, but also she probably didn’t ask for too much. For example, she trusted him much more. She also felt that…was he supporting Dayan? Was he not supporting Dayan? Because she had to live with Dayan, and with Dayan it was a problem not only between him and her, but with most people on this planet. Except for about 10 or 15 people, maybe more. It doesn’t matter. So here you have a man whom she pushes forward; she makes him a minister, but she had a problem. She never told me this, incidentally. Maybe Simcha knows more about it than I do.

KWS: The New York Times reported on January 27, 1974 that there were secret Jordanian-Israeli talks about a disengagement accord.

MG: Well, there were not. I wouldn’t say talks. We had our contacts with Hussein, and they raised hopes as they did in Geneva. And Golda said: “Look, there was no war between us. disengagement is a result of war. In this case, there’s no reason to disengage but O.K.. You’re making a proposal. We have just signed an agreement with Egypt but the agreement doesn’t follow the line.” The line in the agreement is not from ??? down to ???. It’s just a line along the Suez Canal. Not more. So let us begin and let us disengage, what you call disengage along a certain strip. Then you move into the West Bank and you take over the administration.

KWS: She was that specific?

MG: Yes. She said that she would. Dayan said that she would. I didn’t say too many things but later on when I accompanied him. I used to talk to him and exchange written notes with him and so on. I even gave written notes with apologies. And he definitely got good marks, high marks for honesty, which was good and encouraging. So, he said: “No, it has to be a functional solution.” Strange word. Look it up in the dictionary. There are better words than functional solution, but he said that. We offered it to Kissinger and he said, even I think a year later, he said: “I’m not sure that this is an idea we have to develop.” But in saying this, they misunderstood Hussein because Hussein could not accept it according to his own philosophy, which
I referred to earlier on.