Ken Stein Interview with Naftali Lau-Lavie, Jerusalem Israel
Ambassador Naftali Lau Lavie (Courtesy GPO, Ya’acov Sa’ar. 3/25/1983)

July 8, 1993

Ambassador Naftali Lau-Lavie (June 23, 1926 – December 6, 2014) was an Israeli newspaper person whose work spanned four decades of reporting Israeli military and political affairs. He survived the Holocaust, coming to Palestine in 1945 and working in the Haganah. He wrote extensively about the October 1973 War and his experiences as Israel’s Consul-General in New York. He reported for Ha’aretz and gradually becoming a special advisor to Shimon Peres and Moshe Dayan in the 1970s. He was involved in Israel’s negotiations with Egypt in the 1977-1979 period, later becoming Israel’s ambassador to the United States in 1981. This interview focuses on his very close relationship with Moshe Dayan, where he provides fascinating detail about Dayan’s thinking toward the Americans while Dayan was Menachem Begin’s foreign minister from 1977 to 1979. 

Lau-Lavie confirms in detail how the 1973 war ended with negotiations between Egyptian and Israeli generals. He also takes us through Begin’s election; he tells us how Dayan’s relationship with Begin evolved and how he, developed his relationship with Dayan. Lau-Lavie also shares details related to Dayan’s secret negotiations in September 1977 with Egyptian Vice President Tuhami in Morocco prior to Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem. Lau-Lavie provides keen insight into Dayan’s very difficult and substantive exchanges with Jimmy Carter and Zbigniew Brzezinski, both before and after Sadat’s 1977 Jerusalem visit. He confirms what we have learned from American officials like Sam Lewis, Roy Atherton, and Hal Saunders: that Dayan’s exchange with Usamah al-Baz, Sadat’s key adviser, which took place at the Leeds Castle talks in July 1978, convinced him that Egypt was serious about ending the conflict. Lau-Lavie details how Dayan cleverly mobilized the Jewish community in early October 1977 against the Carter administration’s intention to give the USSR a participatory role in the proposed but never convened Middle East Peace Conference. Dayan’s brutally frank talks with Carter administration officials are revealed through the transcripts of his meetings in October 1977 and in September 1978 over Israel’s refusal to leave Jerusalem, in the final days of the Camp David deliberations. Dayan like Begin was not going to be “railroaded” into accepting Israeli withdrawal from defensive positions in the West Bank, allow for the evolution of a Palestinian state or for Palestinian self-determination that would see the evolution of a PLO state, a foreign sovereignty on Israel’s western border. Dayan resigned from the Begin administration at the end of 1979 because he felt Begin was not engaged seriously enough in providing political rights short of self-determination to the Palestinians.


Some of the findings in this interview may also be found in Lau-Lavie’s excellent memoir, Naphtali Lau-Lavie, Balaam’s Prophecy: Eyewitness to History, 1939-1989, Cornwall Books, 1998. The Hebrew version of the book appeared in 1993 as Am K’Lavi,

Ken Stein Interview with Naftali Lau-Lavie, Jerusalem, Israel

(8 July 1993)

KWS: Terrific.

NL: I passed my [unintelligible] government employee [unintelligible] sixes.

KWS: [Laughs. Unintelligible.]

LV: I don’t even owe anything to the Jewish community. I used to work for UJA. I don’t even [unintelligible].

KWS: Tell me when you first met Moshe Dayan. 

NL: [To someone else, in Hebrew: I left you a pen on my table.]

Woman: Oh.

NL: Let me sign this piece of paper. 

KWS: Isn’t it great having a word processor? Aren’t they terrific?

NL: Yes. 

KWS: It really is wonderful, travelling with my little computer. 

NL: Todah. [Thank you.]

KWS: My life.

NL: It makes life easier; it really does. Yeah.

KWS: When did you meet Moshe Dayan?

LV: Let me see, in ’50 — the chief of staff — must be ’53 or 4. I was a military correspondent and I was chosen by the group — there was a section of military correspondents. We had at that time about 15 Israeli dailies. Today there are less. And I was the youngest. I guess that was the reason. They made me the secretary, you know, they called it merakez, the coordinator, of the section of the military correspondents in the association of journalists. Because we had certain things to settle with the military establishment: They didn’t give us access to operations and we had very little inside knowledge on what was going on. 

KWS: Mmm.

LV: That was the period when many fedayeen assaults took place and the retaliation of this — you know, the units, the hundred-and-one Arik [Ariel] Sharon units that were operating across the lines, particularly on the Jordanian border. And this was a story for the press. And we didn’t get direct access to it. We got only a notice Tuesday afternoon by the army spokesman that [in] the news boxes at the press office, you will find sheets of the BaMachaneh [In the Camp], which is a weekly of the army. 

KWS: Mm-hmm.

LV: There were reports of one of their correspondents accompanying the unit in, in action, a live story. We could use it tomorrow, Wednesday morning. BaMachaneh is being already sold at the stands; they didn’t mind us copying it. We can say it is from BaMachaneh, or we don’t have to say it. There were a few others. And the Israeli press is financing this, or whatever. And here we must deal with a protégé of the army, that has the privilege of joining every unit and writing exclusive stories and then we have to copy it. So, we were up in arms. We called for meetings with the chief of staff and then things took some time ’til he gave us an appointment, and we came, I think all of us. And he said, “Okay, if you tell me who of you is willing to join a combat unit on very short notice — it’s actually less than an hour — and we will try to facilitate that. He looked around the table at [unintelligible] and all these guys, and then he looked at me. Me — the only one who will go. So, somebody else said, “I will also be ready to go.” Anyhow, we hit it off somehow. And he said to me, “You draft a decision of who shall go,” which I drafted with his chief Mordechai Bar-On, was at that time his aide de camp. Okay. He accepted but was never implemented. 

KWS: This was ’54.

NL: I think — or end of ’53 or [unintelligible]. So, all in all we got together here and there, and we met. I was, I would say, mildly criticizing certain things. Individual, Ghandi [Rehavam Ze’evi] was one of my matarot, of my objectives, and some others. But on the whole, we got on quite well. He called me once or twice to straighten out and to explain certain things, which I accepted. This went on ’til after —’til the war of Suez, 1954 in October,

KWS: ’56.

NL: Excuse me, ’56. ’56 I was mobilized as a military correspondent to join the 9th Brigade [also known as the Oded Brigade]. I was attached to the 9th Brigade going down to Sharm al-Sheikh — I didn’t know that this was the mission but — so it happened on the 5th of November, I was about to marry to an English girl I met here. And this one there was supposed to be in the army. I didn’t make a fuss of it. We were in Eilat. He came down. My commander was Avraham Yoffe, who is dead. Avraham Yoffe didn’t dare to come ’til [unintelligible]. This was Friday morning. I was due to marry Monday afternoon. So — and the brigade was already rolling down when I got down to Sharm — Dayan came in, and he saw me, with this look [unintelligible’ laughs], my mistakes, but I am supposed to marry. So, we go marry when you — how do you think the war will not end? [Laughs.] Anyhow, Avraham Yoffe heard this. So, he came over and said, “I didn’t know, why didn’t you tell me?” [Unintelligible.] He gave me a week’s pass. I think we stayed in Eilat until Friday afternoon and came back. So, after the war was over, I got a call from Dayan, telling me, “Nu, are you married already? Did you do what you wanted to do? Now, I want to talk to you.” And he called me in and gave me a certain interview which was in a way to explain why a year earlier this operation didn’t take place. But he said at the time, that in 1955 there was already tension with Egypt and he foresaw that the Suez Canal would be blocked on and he saw this as a time to strike Egypt. Now, he didn’t give me all the small discretions.

KWS: Sure.

NL: I didn’t publish that because he didn’t want me to. He also told me [unintelligible] — I don’t think that I had this — I wrote it but I do not remember if I had this [unintelligible]. So, we got somehow [unintelligible]. Then the war ended. Then he left the army and he went into the desert of politics. 

KWS: Mm-hmm.

NL: And then he realized he needed also to have a good contact with the press. So, one day he called me from a coffee shop in Tel Aviv [unintelligible] and he phoned me about his plans. He was the one that was recruited by Ben-Gurion. He was his first, [Shimon] Peres was junior to him. And vis-a-vis him was Abba Eban who came back eight— ’59 from Washington and New York, and he was, I think, pushed a little bit ahead by [Levi] Eshkol, maybe [Pinhas] Sapir — Golda [Meir], I don’t know — as a counter, I would say, to counter to the Ben-Gurion [unintelligible]. It was more or less the impression that we journalists got at the time. Abba Eban was chosen especially, [Chaim] Weizmann’s choice. I went out to interview him because [unintelligible], the editor gave me the assignment to cover three people. [Yosef] Almogi, Dayan, and Eban. 

KWS: Yes, of course. Yes. 

NL: So, I dealt with all three. Three different characters of the Labor party, emerging leaders of the Labor party. So, I came to Abba Eban and Abba Eban, at the time, gave me a certain reaction. It was anti-Dayan. You know, Dayan doesn’t express the mood of the people, the mood of the party. It’s not exactly — it was very hawkish at the time, Dayan. Then Shabbat, Dayan spoke in Beit Shemesh, a gathering of the Labor party. And he gave a certain statement, “If I would encounter a terrorist that comes to kill, I would cut him into pieces,” something like that. It was a very harsh statement by a politician. At the same evening, Abba Eban spoke somewhere in Rehovot in reaction, responded to Dayan’s statement very negatively, even aggressively. I was duty officer in Ha’aretz that evening. And I got both messages. I called Abba Eban at home and asked him if he minds if I’m going to use Friday the conversation we had in response to what Dayan said. So, he didn’t like it but he, he accepted it. So, I gave already Dayan’s statement, but also with a response from — a very sharp response of Abba Eban. The next day was the funeral of Chief Rabbi [Yitzhak Halevi] Herzog [on July 27, 1959]. I didn’t have notes in the office. I get the cable, I had this cable from Abba Eban denying whatever he said to me about Dayan. It was [unintelligible] and [Ha’aretz Chief Editor Gershom] Schocken, shortly, came to — Schocken in the house. So, I said, “Do you want to hear his denial, that Abba [unintelligible]?” And I called Abba Eban. I said, “Look, I got your cable. You would like me to print it tomorrow morning in the paper? But I will give my own version, you know.” He said, “No, no. It’s only for your information.” I said to Schocken, “See, he had to send me a cable to, to retract something, but he doesn’t mean it.” But he’s not Schocken [unintelligible]. Few months later — I knew Yitzchak Navon, he used to be Ben-Gurion’s secretary — point blank, I remember he was sitting in the bank of a shop in Dizengoff [Street, Tel Aviv].Well,” I said, “Yitzhak, you were at the funeral of Rabbi Hertzog Sunday afternoon. You tell me what happened with Abba Eban. Did Ben-Gurion say something to him or somebody say to Abba? “Yeah, I told him that he made stupid mistake because he’s going into, you know, fight Dayan and he’s beginning his career, he will end his career very soon. I told him that. He said he never said it. So, I said to him, ‘Then deny it.’ So, he said, ‘[Unintelligible.]’”

KWS: [Laughs.] 

NL: In short, I told Moshe the story and he laughed at. Anyhow, we became friends. Politically, I was covering the party, the Labor party, which was Mapai in that particular time. Also covering Gahal, the right. Liberals were separate, they were separate.

KWS: But when did you stop working for the paper and actually just work for —

NL: In ’70.

KWS: In ’70.

NL: He called me,’67 after the war — 

KWS: Yeah?

NL: — because I told him after the war — a few days after the war of ’67, I got an assignment from Vallentine-Mitchell publishing house in London, a cable to write a biography on Dayan — so I said to him, “What kind of [unintelligible] ’78 [unintelligible]?” I said, “How fast do you want to have it?” So, he said, “We need to have it,” this was, I guess, middle of June, they said, “by 25th of August.” So, I said, “I don’t think I can do it so fast. I will try.” First thing I called Dayan. I said, “Look, I want to see you.” “Come.” I went to him on Motzei Shabbat [Saturday night]. I had a long talk with him, a few hours. [Laughs.] It was never had been so long. And he gave me the highlights of his life. I told him the reason I called. And I wrote it, which was published in many languages at the time. A month later or so, he calls me. “Look, Mickey Bar-Zohar is my spokesman. I took him only together with Moshe Pearlman on, on a very temporary basis. They are both leaving, I want you to come in on a —”

KWS: How long was Mickey spokesman?

NL: Six weeks, or five weeks. And Moshe was there as well. You knew Moish Pearlman?

KWS: I know the name.

NL: He was his writer, in English. Anyhow, I said to him, “I wouldn’t, I don’t like it but there’s a conflict here because I’m writing the biography. You know. I told you. And it will be unfair if I come out within a few months and then being the spokesman. It’s also embarrassing because Eshkol doesn’t come out a great hero in this book. You are working with him so, why do you need it?” So, he said, “Then skip it.” “I’m not going to skip out of it.” “Can you delay this?” “No, I don’t think so.” “You know what, let’s discuss it with Chara.” Chara [nickname for Zvi Tsur] was his number two in the office. He called in Chara [unintelligible], and Chara said, “Show me the critical chapter. We will see,” and I gave it to him the next day. A few days later he calls me, “If you cannot delay, delay publication or omit this particular section, then I don’t think it would be wise.” [Moshe Dayan: A Biography, was published in 1968.] So, I didn’t. Three years later, 1970, again he calls me. He said, “Did you do well with the books?” I said, “I worked on the [unintelligible].” He said, “[Unintelligible] you work for me.” So, what is essential? I had in the meantime [unintelligible], working for me and [unintelligible] and I would like you.” He left whatever he was doing. That was in May, middle of May, and I started the 1st of July.

KWS: 1970.

NL: Since then, I worked with him ’til he died.

KWS: Where were you, uh, when the ’73 War broke out? Oh wait, the first question I want to ask you: Dayan in 1970 ostensibly went to the government and suggested to Golda and to [Yigal] Alon and to others that Israel consider unilaterally withdrawing from a small portion of Sinai. This is before [Egyptian President Anwar] Sadat’s overture in February of ’71.

NL: Mmm, this was — this was not, it was if I’m not wrong, a month or so after. When did [Gamel] Nasser die?

KWS: September ’70.

NL: It must have been in October, a month later. There was a crisis we had with the Egyptians because on August the 7th, in ’70, we signed an agreement of cease-fire.

KWS: The War of Attrition.

NL: The War of Attrition. And Jarring, Gunnar Jarring, was supposed to start or to resume negotiations or shuttle between us. But in the meantime, the day after the cease-fire came into effect, the Egyptians pushed forward a few missiles of SAMs [surface-to-air] —

KWS: Right.

NL: — in the canal zone. It was an outcry. The army was up in arms. Sharon was the commander of the southern command, and he came in screaming that this was a violation, that we cannot, cannot tolerate. Golda was also very hot. And she with her cabinet decided that we are not going to accept that. This kind of violation causes — no. We cannot trust them anymore. And Dayan was called into a meeting. He analyzed the situation. And as I remember, what he told when he came back — I wasn’t at the meeting, but when he came back — he said, “Look, this whole Jarring business, which is based on the Roger’s Plan, I don’t like. But we cannot refuse the Americans. We cannot turn down an American request. We have to have some [laughs] friend in the world.” Now, he went public, saying it is — how did he say, “It is a pool with ice cold water but we will have to jump and to swim in this pool.” That was his expression about the Jarring talks. [Unintelligible.]

KWS: So, he saw the Jarring talks as an American-sponsored event.

NL: Yes, definitely. “Therefore,” he said, “we have to find a way to get out of it elegantly and not to be dragged in against our own will.” Now when this violation came, he said, “Look, to go and hide back what Arik Sharon suggests, and we can easily fight back and knock them out there. But what we will have? Another cease-fire and other victims. Well, what, it’s not going to solve anything. I think we can capitalize on this violation within the talks that we are going to launch. And we should have a better — what he saw terms of references, or whatever — for the, for the beginning of the talks. And to try to get to terms with the Americans on the nature of the negotiations so that we will be in a better position.” You can improve our starting point.

KWS: Naftali, is it accurate to say that, that Sadat’s suggestion in February of ’71 was a reply to Dayan? Or is that —

NL: I cannot say that, but I can only say that Dayan said to me at the time, “What would you think if we would to go to settle something differently that has been discussed until now to the Americans, Jarring.” So, I said, “Like what?” He didn’t give me a straight answer. Then he said, “I would like to have a reaction from the people, from the public. How the public perceives a certain idea.” I said, “What’s the idea?” [Unintelligible.] He said, “Look, we have an interim agreement with the Egyptians.” I said, “What kind of an interim agreement?” “They should rebuild industries alongside the canal and to open the canal for traffic because for them it is an economic burden —” 

KWS: And rebuild the cities.

NL: And building on the [unintelligible] side.

KWS: Right.

NL: And [unintelligible] Suez. 

KWS: Right. 

NL: [Unintelligible.] So, “I wonder what will be the reaction.” So, I said, “Look, I have a suggestion for you. Whom do you want first to attract them to get response, Israeli public opinion or world public opinion?” “Both.” “Let’s start with The Jerusalem Post.” “Okay.” I called in Ted Lurie, he didn’t know for what reason. Ted Lurie was the editor-in-chief. Lea Ben-Dor.

KWS: Mm-hmm.

NL: And [I called several colleagues, names unclear} ….Shapiro, Marc Segal, and I think Erwin Frankel. Of them, only two of them went, Erwin Frankel and Shriah Shapiro. And I called them in to the office, my — I was [unintelligible], telling them, “Look, Dayan wants to have a briefing” — from time to time, he had off the record briefing — “and I don’t know if he intends to use you as a sounding board whatever, but it’s off the record. Strictly off the record. You know, you in your editorials, if you want to —” 

KWS: Explore.

NL: “— explore, it’s up to you. [Unintelligible.]” We went down to him. We sat for an hour and half. There is somewhere — I don’t have it — there are the minutes of it. Everything is recorded. And he brought up the idea that I just mentioned.

KWS: An interim.

NL: Sort of an interim — to disengage. He called it “to disengage.”

KWS: B’ivrit [in Hebrew]?

NL: B’Ivrit 

KWS: [Unintelligible.]

NL: Lehitnatek magah [to break off contact], lehitnatek magah, “to disengage” from the Egyptians and to enable them — he used another [unintelligible] — he said, “Look, we are sitting on,” he called it “netiv hapilim,” a path of elephants. Because the Suez Canal serves the whole world. It’s an international waterway. The Americans, the Russians, all are interested. And we are blocking them. Now, we are now being [unintelligible] — we are being treated very, very hostile by our American friends, certainly by the Russians. Nobody liked us. The Egyptians had no motive to come to terms with us. So, we should get off that path — off the that was [unintelligible]. And then he said that they would have an incentive; the economy will work. And I guess, they will find international finance for rehabilitating the whole area. They will have no reason to start fire again. I said, “This is the best buffer zone that we can expect.” As long as you are not ready to go into real negotiations about the partition of Sinai, that they will govern [unintelligible], that he had in mind earlier even. He mentioned it on some occasion. And let’s go unilaterally and go back. So somebody asked him, “How far will you go back?” “Look, I will go back as far as I can in order to give them the feeling that we don’t sit on their neck and control their — look into their homes. On the other hand, we must be in a position that if they do violate, if they don’t behave according to our expectations, within hours we are there and we can take care of the situation. So there were, some said seven, eight kilometers and some said we need — Now, the result of that was that he called in a meeting the army people. There was, there was [Yisrael] Tal ad Sharon with the others, and [Haim] Bar-Lev. Bar-Lev wasn’t there that much that was already at the time, was it? — Yeah, Bar-Lev was still there. Bar-Lev was the chief of operations. David Elazar was chief of staff.]

KWS: Mm-hmm.

NL: [Unintelligible] was the — yes. Anyhow, they decided to build in addition to the Bar-Lev line which is on the waterfront, 7, 8 kilometers east towards what they called not Ma’ozim, which is the Bar-Lev line, but Ta’ozim. Strongholds. Not as dense as the Ma’ozim but that will be for a unit like a pluga [Hebrew for company] or even a company or battalion to be able to contain an attack and to launch a counter-attack. And to have [unintelligible] the front line abundant, more or less — That was the idea. I have pictures when this whole thing was built. It started actually at the end of ’70, beginning ’71. That was, they called it the Talik concept, but it wasn’t Talik. Talik was the one who planned it. Talik is General Tal. So, this sounding board about the Jerusalem Post called for, I would say, reactions. Ma’ariv and all the other papers understood and they asked for meetings of the [unintelligible]. They got away with the [unintelligible]. Some were very critical, some were very against it. And they went, you know, gossiping around that Golda doesn’t agree to it. And there is already a certain fight between Dayan and Golda, and Golda is supported by Alon, that he [unintelligible], you know. I cannot approve that, I don’t — But the truth is that Golda was not very happy with this initiative [unintelligible]. But as soon as this —

KWS: Was it an initiative or just a trial balloon?

NL: It was an initiative of Dayan. I mean he started it and it ballooned.

KWS: In his mind, it developed.

NL: It was an initiative. But he went over this carefully, step by step, to feel out the reactions before he goes deeper into the business. Then I got a call from Mike Wallace from New York. It was, I think, January of ’74. He said to me, “Look, I hear the new ideas about, eh, could I, could I interview Dayan?” I said, “What will be the issue?” “What his ideas are about a settlement or interim agreement or whatever. Partial settlement.” So, I knew that I was going to get involved. But I wanted first to make sure. Then he said to me, “Can you also arrange it with Golda?” I’m not Golda’s spokesman but I will speak to her people. Dayan agreed. But he said to me, “Give him my advice that if he wants to have a very convincing sort of an item, let him take you to Shark el-Sheikh. Not in the office.” I called back. Mike Wallace sent me Joe Wershba, his producer from New York. Joe came here. His bureau chief was Dan Bloom. [Unintelligible.] We were sitting together in my office planning this interview at Sharm el-Sheikh. [Unintelligible] the reporters, Dayan said [unintelligible] or so, and they were just discussing it: How Dayan sees an interim agreement [unintelligible] between us and Egypt and then he asked, “Would you mind if Jewish police will come over on the eastern bank of the canal and to take care of the canal and operate freely without interference?” and so on and so forth. He gave him not a straight answer, but he could understand that he accepts that.

KWS: Mm-hmm.

NL: And he went on so. Golda didn’t like that. And by the way, he came back to Tel Aviv and he interviewed her in the office. [Unintel

KWS: It was on the Mike Wallace— you mean, it was on 60 Minutes? 

NL: Yeah.

KWS: Or whatever the show was —

NL: [Unintelligible.] In 1971.

KWS: Hm-mmm.

NL: So, Dayan came out, more or less, with the idea that he can talk about it. In March, which is a month later, Sadat made his statement in the parliament that he would like to discuss —

KWS: February.

NL: February or March?

KWS: February. February 4th.

NL: Okay, so that must be very soon after. I thought it was March. 

KWS: [Unintelligible.]

NL: Well, if you can relate this to Dayan’s statement or not, I don’t know. I cannot say that, but — you take into consideration the proximity of his paper, his interview — there is something in it. But, eh, I, I have never heard from an Egyptian saying that that was the opening for Sadat’s statements, or the trigger. I never heard it. 

KWS: Where were you when the ’73 war broke?

NL: With him.

KWS: Where?

NL: On the particular day?

KWS: Mm-hmm.

NL: I was at home. I got up at four in the morning on the 6th of October. It was Yom Kippur. I thought, of course, in the office, I’m coming. I came to the office. He was there, he was already there. No. He came in half an hour later, but his staff was there. 

KWS: Did Dayan in this period of ’71 to ’73 ever consider an agreement with the Syrians? Any notion that he would do business with [Syrian President Hafez al-] Assad? The focus of attention seemed to be on Egypt.

NL: I don’t remember that that was on the agenda at the time, but on other occasions, he used to say that, as long as you don’t have a settlement or an understanding with the Syrians, we won’t be able to get the same of the Palestinians. They will always look over their shoulders to the right. Syrian — Syria is the threat, the extreme one. So, we have to find a modest agreement with the Syrians.

KWS: But the real threat, of course, was Egypt. The real objective —

NL: Military. The military. 

KWS: Right. What was the — Dayan’s attitude towards the Soviets in the period of ’70 to ’74? Or even during the ’73 War?

NL: I don’t remember particular in ’73, but he was scared of them since I remember ’67 —

KWS: [Laughs.] He was scared of them since you can remember. What was he afraid, that they were actually going to intervene?

NL: He used to say, look, the Soviets have very great, great interests in the area. And they are not among the losers. They are not willing to lose. 

KWS: Mm-hmm.

LV: And they are under the impression that if they lose the Arabs to the Americans, they will retreat all along the war, all over. And they cannot afford it. Therefore, they will stick to the positions that they have penetrated in the Middle East. In those days it was Egypt, it was Syria, it was Yemen, it was Libya. And they will not let it go. Now, in order to keep these positions strong, they must pay off. Give them arms, sheep, whatever the price. And they also keep [unintelligible] with — I mean, they are showing them empathy, and also willingness to encounter us. This is something that’s — When they were, got involved in 1970 with the Arab cause, with Egypt, we asked them not to let it out, that [it] shouldn’t be known that the five pilots we shot down [the Israeli Air force shot down five Soviet MiG-21 fighters stationed in Egypt in less than three minutes on July 30, 1970]. Certainly, it would be a boost for the morale. This is not recognized. The Russians — as long as they are not willing publicly to admit that they are involved here — they still have a chance that they will get out of it. The moment you drag them in —

KWS: It embarrasses them.

NL: — you force them to admit that they are involved, they will work very hard to get off this course, so let them. Give them a chance. Don’t let them. Anyhow, I told him this. He published it… He was careful because these were his instructions. He was afraid. He didn’t want to antagonize them. He said we have no conflict with them. They have no conflict with us, but they need the Arabs. And for them, they can’t pay to them only with Israeli currency. So, consider that. Now, he was afraid in seventy—, in ’67. He didn’t want to attack the Golan Heights in the beginning because there was Russian involvement there, and that he knew from our various intelligence sources and that he considered very, very seriously. 

KWS: Mm-hmm.

NL: And later on, the incident in the early 70s with the pilots, and during the Yom Kippur War it had already started, he asked — I think it was [Secretary of State Henry] Kissinger at the time, in Washington, to explain to [President Richard] Nixon — Kissinger, I think so — that the Soviets are behind. They didn’t want that war — that was his impression — they didn’t plan the war. They planned the war in general, but not at that time. But since the Arabs started the war, they cannot let them down — it will be defeat for themselves. But they have certain red lines, the Russians, which they will not adjust. So, the Americans should feel comfortable and not be panicking at this message.

KWS: How does that — how is that compatible with Dayan pushing the Soviets over the red line by trying to really squeeze the Third Army?

NL: [Unintelligible.]

KWS: Dayan’s interview with ….. Smith in the New York Times in January of ’75, very candid statement about “Kissinger took it away from us. We, we listened to his ultimatum. Had we surrounded them further we would have had 30 to 40 thousand soldiers and we would have had more cards to play in the political negotiations.” I’m paraphrasing Smith.

NL: Yeah, no, you’re right. Dayan was under the impression, he said to himself that he caused a lot of interactions. He said he called their bluff. And for him, at the time when [Alexei] Kosygin came to Cairo on October the 19th

KWS: 16th through the 19th.

NL: — and he got that very cold shoulder from Sadat, they didn’t, they didn’t find themselves in a very strong position. And Sadat played around with the [unintelligible], the Americans to come in. And he called Kissinger. Then [unintelligible]. He said the Soviets here, they lo—, they lost. He said that strategically, they lost Egypt to the Americans.

KWS: He said that in the middle of the war?

NL: Yes, it was the end of the war. [Unintelligbile.]

KWS: Really?

NL: I went down with him to the commanders of the three divisions to explain to him why he’s in favor of having a cease-fire on October the 22nd. Never against a particular — Both [U.S. Major General] Brent [Scowcroft] was there and [Brigadier General] Kalman Magen who took over from Albert Mandler, the brigade division [after Mandler was killed in Sinai on October 13, 1973]. And Arik [Ariel] Sharon, he was near Ismailia. They were very dedicated. We are now improving positions that, and he said, “You improve as much as you can. You have still time.” That was, I guess, the day before the cease-fire was supposed to be implemented.

KWS: 22nd, 23rd.

NL: Yes, I think I was there at the end of the 21st, if I’m not wrong. And then he argued with Kissinger; he got 72 more hours.

KWS: Now, wait a minute. Before you get to that. Kissinger comes from Moscow —

NL: Yeah?

KWS: — they just negotiated [U.N. Resolution] 338, the original — You may not know this, but the origins of 338 is a Soviet, was a Soviet draft. That was the original. Golda was able to get the phrase “between the parties” inserted into it, she communicated that to Kissinger on his way to Moscow. He comes here, he has this meeting with Golda and several Israeli politicians. But for 20 minutes during that visit, Kissinger and Dayan are apart, speaking. Twenty minutes to 30 minutes, I’m told by [Roy] Atherton who is there. Everyone wants to know — and Kissinger doesn’t tell us in his memoirs — Dayan suggests to us that he asked Kissinger for time. Kissinger never says in his memoirs that he acknowledged or he gave Dayan even a yellow light. What I want to ask you is do you know anything about that conversation?

NL: I wasn’t present at this conversation. But I know the result of the conversation was that he got 72 hours. Now, he didn’t invent that. He didn’t invent that. I know that we were about to have the cease-fire in effect on the 22nd and they were, the — they were shooting. They didn’t stop. And our people said that if they are not stopping, there’s no reason why we should stop, stop fire. And then he said, “You go on. We have another 72 hours.”

KWS: Dayan said that?

NL: Yes.

KWS: To his general. 

NL: “You have — you straighten out the lines as far as you can.” Sharon didn’t succeed what he wanted to get near Ismailia. But the others did. Now this was at the time before the cease-fire. Now when the cease-fire came into effect, the Third Army was encircled. Then came the ultimatum of Nixon saying, or Kissinger saying, [unintelligible] Nixon, that the Russians, they will react. And Dayan, eh, he called their bluff. He said, “They are not going to do anything because they will not get anything in return for it by the Egyptians.” That was his analysis. 

KWS: Did anyone concur on that analysis? Did anyone differ either in, in the political realm or the military realm with it?

NL: I don’t remember if, if somebody argued about it. I don’t remember that. Anyhow — certainly not among the military people. I wasn’t in all the deliberations between him and Golda and the others, but in the military meetings, I never heard any doubts about that he’s right, that we have to be careful. We should be very careful with them, but he doesn’t think that they are going. The only reason that we gave in to Kissinger — Golda gave in; Dayan of course supported that — because Kissinger saw the opening with Sadat here. And for certain face-saving for Sadat, he needed to get them over to the American side. He had to give them something. And he probably — we don’t know, ’cause nobody gave us any confirmation to that story, that Sadat got through Kissinger almost at, nearly the same time.

KWS: [Egyptian National Security Adviser] Hafez Ismail told me that that was the promise that Kissinger gave him. 

NL: We, we didn’t have any —

KWS: He told me that in January.

NL: We, we didn’t get a confirmation of that. I tell you: that was what we assumed. We assumed, maybe more than assumed, I don’t know. Maybe more than assumption. Therefore, that was, that was the reason that we politically, we can — lets us start a new chapter in Egypt and [unintelligible]. This — it wasn’t a Russian threat. It was for our people at the time, the Russian threat was relevant because —

KWS: But in public, Dayan was constantly angry, and, and, and, and umm, felt denied an opportunity to bring back to a level of equality what he thought had been taken from him by the surprise attack. In all of his statements after the cease-fire through ’74 and ’75, Dayan’s replies in general are of anger towards Kissinger for “denying us the opportunity to do what we thought we should do.”

NL: Maybe it came, it came out like that, but it didn’t sound to me sincere. I tell you, soon enough after the cease-fire — I don’t remember the exact date, it must be beginning of November — I was admitted to some Arab base to the south. And there he said that in his mind, we are at the last stages of warfare with Egypt. On the way back in the car, I asked him, “Why do you say that? Why? You know, you are talking to the people, Air Force, army. It’s maybe weakening for some.” “No, it’s not weakening, but I think they should also get a certain sense of optimism, so they’re not always fighting.” A week later, he was invited to address the central committee of Likud at the Beit Jabotinsky in Tel Aviv. The leaders of —

KWS: This is after he left government? No —

NL: No, no, no. 

KWS: — this is still in ’73.

NL: He was still minister of defense. Who was presiding? Ezer Weizman. The Likud leadership, he was sitting head of table. I was sitting off in [unintelligible] and Dayan was next to him. He was saying that we are at the last stages of the war with Egypt. Ezer said, “We have this note.” In Ivrit [Hebrew], he said, “Gis [brother-in-law, followed by unintelligible Hebrew].” You know what it means?

KWS: I know ledaber im beitzim [Hebrew slang for to speak with balls]. 

NL: Yes. Gis mean my ex-brother, my brother-in-law, in the reserves or something like that. [Unintelligible.] That was Ezer’s response to Dayan’s remark. Now, Dayan said it time and again, after that —

KWS: Mmm.

NL: — that as far as he needs, at the moment the attitudes of Egypt after Sadat found out from Russia he did not get anything that he needs, he decided a strategic decision to jump over to the American camp. There he will not be supported by the Americans to launch another war against us. He must accept that. It’s a reality that is maybe hard for him, but he will accept. Therefore, I say it, believe me or not, [unintelligible]. This he said since November 1973, repeats himself all the time. 

KWS: Did he ever submit his resignation, during the war, to Golda? 

NL: Once, on the 12th of October and they at my expense accused me of that. [Laughs.] It was supposed [unintelligible] — 

KWS: Well, did you submit the resignation or did he?

NL: That I convinced him to do it.

KWS: Did you?

NL: He asked me. It was the day of Sukkot, and I went home for one day. I lived in Ramat Gan, I lived in Ramat Gan at the time. And I went to the synagogue and there were already many people who were, you know, mourning. There were already people that died, relatives, sons, like that. And it was a terrible news. And the next day I came to the office and he said, “Tell me, what’s the mood of the people?” I said I had been talking to some people and there’s a terrible mood. “So what do they say?” I said, “You want to know the truth? People accuse you. You didn’t make the war, but they said, ‘When Dayan was Minister of Defense we could sleep in ease. We could rely on the man who was at the helm. Security and defense is Dayan. We cannot sleep. We can’t rest.’ Now what happened, it’s something frustrating to me. It’s shocking. It could happen, it happened. So [unintelligible] accuse you.”

KWS: So, what did he do?

NL: So, he said, he said to me, “Do you think somebody else now would come back to the war better than I do?” So, I said, “I don’t know, I don’t think that somebody could replace you more successfully. I don’t think that by your resignation you will contribute to the morale of the army or the country. But for your personal political career, I think it would be very helpful. It will be a great help for your future political career if you resign. Because you take responsibility. I don’t know in war time it can be done but you ask anyway.” It was more or less a hypothetical sort of conversation. It was in the afternoon. 

KWS: Mm-hmm.

NL: And he left. I went over to the other room to his bureau chief Chaim, and I told him —

KWS: Chaim?

NL: Israeli. I told him, “Look, I just had —,” I said. “I don’t know what. He’s in the mood that he, he will do it.” So, I said, “So, he’ll do it, whatever he wants.” “I think it’s the wrong thing, it’s the worst thing that could happen at that moment.” He started to look for him — he left in the meantime, Dayan — he looked for the security guards. He phoned home to his guard there. He’s not at home yet. He didn’t have at that time the cellular phone that we have. But then we found out that he is in Golda’s office, next door, in the (where the prime minister’s office is in the )kiryah. And he said to me, “He went to give his resignation.”

KWS: This is in Jerusalem?

NL: Tel Aviv. And there was somebody in the compound. And the truth is at that conversation, afterwards Dayan told us, he said to Golda, “Look, there are rumors that I failed. People are unhappy what’s going on. People accuse me. Maybe if you find somebody other, somebody better than me to handle the situation.” 

KWS: But he also said in the conversation, “But I think I can manage the situation.” 

NL: I don’t know that.

KWS: Well Yossi Ciechanover added that phrase in anyway. 

NL: I beg to differ.

KWS: Yossi — So far, it’s exactly what Yossi said —

NL: I didn’t speak to Yossi about that. I spoke with [unintelligible]. I didn’t hear it. Dayan told me but he told me that wasn’t to do with it. Maybe it’s in addition, I don’t know. So, she said, “That’s the situation now, the war, minister of defense, you know what it means. You know what kind of a boost to the morale of the enemies this would be? That’s what we need?” And she dismissed it. A few days later, a week later, I remember exactly the day in the Knesset. [Jacob] Shimshon Shapira was the Minister of Justice, sat among his friends, sitting in the cafeteria. Under the second since I have seen him, he looks at [unintelligible]. Golda heard that. She called Shapira and he was a friend. And she gave him an issue, in a sense, cared for what kind of [unintelligible] such a thing [unintelligible] shut down, finished. This was the only time I know of that he submitted or said his feelings to submit his resignation.

KWS: What did you think of the, uh — Mordechai Gazit makes the suggestion to Golda that, uh, “You know, this might be a great time for our generals to talk about, uh, umm, how to disengage their forces.” Everyone agrees that it was — from a defense ministry side and the foreign ministry side and the Prime Minister’s Office side, in this country anyway — that it was Gazit’s idea that he threw at Golda and then threw at [Israel] Galili, or Galili and Golda together, that the generals meet, that Egyptians meet Israelis. And that was floated through Kissinger. Kissinger handed it to Sadat. Sadat said, “Fine, let’s do it.”

NL: At which stage?

KWS: Uh, about, umm, the 24th or 25th of October, maybe the 26th. And, umm, surprisingly enough, the reply came back from Sadat —

NL: I think that at that time the instrumental person and facilitating meeting was General [Ensio] Siilasvuo [of the UN Emergency Force].

KWS: No. He facilitated the meetings, but he didn’t initiate the request. You are correct. But the initial, initial communication went through Washington on a cable which apparently was sent to the Israeli embassy, communicated to the state department and then fired right off to Hermann Eilts. 


KWS: — and poor communications. And, umm, Hafez Ismail told me that they received a cable from Washington, uh, suggesting that Egyptian and Israeli generals meet, and, and umm — Anyway, the purpose of the long paragraph introduction is, umm, Golda chose [Aharon] Yariv to go meet at [Kilometer] 101 [distance from Cairo for October 29, 1973 Egyptian-Israeli military talks]. 

NL: [Sounds of paper.] This is the report that he has written. 

KWS: Who is he?

NL: Siilasvuo. 

KWS: Of?

NL: Of the — how this was facilitated. But maybe it doesn’t mention — 

KWS: His report —

NL: — his initiatives.

KWS: His report of what?

NL: About his activity in the area and, among others, a chapter about —

KWS: This is from his book?

NL: Yes.

KWS: Are these — these are [Siilasvuo’s aide de camp Joseph] Fallon’s notes? 

NL: Yeah, they are notes, but I think most of it [unintelligible].

KWS: But these were Fallon’s notes that were taken? 

NL: Yes.

KWS: How did you get ahold of them?

NL: Huh?

KWS: How did you get ahold of them?

NL: Why, why do you ask these questions?

KWS: Why? Because I want to get ahold of it myself. I’d love to read it. This is important stuff. This is the, uh — I mean, Siilasvuo’s book is very good. 

NL: Uh, he gives you the story how it started but he doesn’t, but he doesn’t — it doesn’t say where the initiative came from. 

KWS: Siilasvuo himself didn’t participate in any of the meetings until November 11th. He was actually there for the signing of the —

NL: The minister, yes, 11th of November, yeah. 

KWS: He was essentially there for the signing of the six points. But my question is —

NL: He said, “The ministers were in Egypt asked him to come and see him on November 10th.”

KWS: November —

NL: [Unintelligible] was urgent. You can’t —

KWS: Yes.

NL: “Thanks to the shuttle diplomacy of Kissinger, Egypt and Israel had reached the first agreement, the so-called Six Points Agreement. So, he showed me the text for it, which —” This was the situation.

KWS: That paragraph is totally wrong.

NL: Mmm? It’s wrong.

KWS: Totally wrong. Kissinger’s shuttle diplomacy had nothing to do with the Six Points Agreement. It had to do—

NL: So, he attributes it to, you know, by mistake?

KWS: Yes. Because he didn’t know that when [Egyptian Foreign Minister Ismail] Fahmy went to Washington on the 30th of October, he already had a general outline in his mind, in — written down, that had been dictated by Sadat, which Omar Sirry, who was later on the Chef de Cabinet of Fahmy, wrote down, and then those points, those general points, were discussed with Golda when she went to Washington to talk with Yariv. Yariv left after the first or second meeting at 101, and the six points were discussed in Washington, at Blair House, on the 3rd and 4th of November. And final arrangements, or final fleshing out of those six points came between Yariv and [Egyptian General Mohamad Abdel el-] Gamasy in their meetings on the 8th, 9th, and 10th. And finally, it was — but that’s all right. Siilasvuo wouldn’t have known that anyway. 

NL: Yeah.

KWS: I mean, he had to make the assumption. I mean, I’m, I’m convinced of that. But I want to know what Dayan thought of Egyptian and Israelis speaking together in the desert without Americans present. This is contrary to Moshe Dayan’s feeling that you can’t get anything done without the Americans there.

NL: There were some minor, I would say, meetings and not important meetings in the Ismailia area between Israeli officers and Egyptian officers which didn’t lead anywhere. That has nothing to do with the outcome of the talks later. I don’t think that there was any contact within Gamasy, Yariv or anybody else on our side, before Kissinger stepped in. That’s what I think.

KWS: By saying Kissinger stepped in, when you — you mean when he communicated —

NL: To Sadat.

KWS: — the idea that this would be —

NL: Yeah.

KWS: Yes. 

NL: Yes.

KWS: There’s no one who disagrees with that. But there is some discussion as to whether Dayan wanted Yariv to go to Kilometer 101, or preferred Shlomo Gazit. 

NL: He wanted Yariv because there was a certain — Shlomo Gazit at the time was not yet the, eh, what — Eli Zeira’s position, was not yet taken over by that time. He was still the chief of intelligence. Eli Zeira —

KWS: Was. Right.

NL: And — but he was [unintelligible]. 

KWS: That, obviously.

NL: Yeah. Now, Eli Zeira couldn’t act. Shlomo Gazit was a confidante of Dayan and [unintelligible]. But Yariv was the formal intelligence chief. And Yariv was also well-accepted by Golda. And I don’t think Shlomo was so much accepted by her. So then, when it [unintelligible] —

KWS: Some said Golda felt that if Shlomo went, it would have been Dayan’s man who had been there.

NL: Okay, so he was careful. He didn’t want to antagonize her and to give her the impression that this man is conducting private affairs. So he took Aharon Yariv. By the way, Aharon Yariv is an experienced guy in this field. So, he sent him down to Kilometer 101 with Gamasy. Now, I don’t know what any other event that took place at the same time there, parallel to the 101—

KWS: What did Dayan think of the 101 talks in the early stages? Anything stick out in your mind?

NL: There was, there was a certain faux paus, if I am not mistaken. Yariv made a faux paus. [Unintelligible.]

KWS: Mmm.

NL: And Aharon was very angry. He called him down. But he told us, a fait accompli, I think. So, he called Siilasvuo to meet him here in the King David —

KWS: Siilasvuo quotes it in his book [In the Service of Peace in the Middle East, 1967-1979, published 1992].

NL: And I was sitting opposite Siilasvuo and he was shaking. His knees were shaking because Dayan was screaming — not screaming but told him off.

KWS: I don’t know if you read the paragraph in the book —

NL: No, I didn’t.

KWS: Look, it was —

NL: I didn’t read it.

KWS: Dayan essentially told him off. He said, “If you want to make decisions, you don’t make them through Yariv—”

NL: I didn’t read it, I only got it the day before yesterday.

KWS: “You make them, you make them with me.” Yeah, this is for real. 

NL: I got it only before yesterday. So, this is what I remember: I was sitting in that room and Siilasvuo was shaking. But because Aharon made a certain faux paus and Siilasvuo, of course, immediately acted upon it. And Dayan didn’t like it. And I don’t remember exactly what it was.

KWS: I think it had to do with who had control of what check points.

NL: I don’t exactly recall. I wouldn’t say that. I don’t —

KWS: Let me read from — unless he was wrong. 

NL: I don’t remember. There was something, I was very angry because I was present with Golda. And then the next day we meet with Siilasvuo in the King David. But, uh —

KWS: What is your recollection of how — why the 101 talks ended?

NL: Wasn’t it parallel to Geneva?

KWS: Geneva was in December. They ended on the 27th of November.

NL: Then that’s — when did Geneva start? 

KWS: 22nd of December. 22nd, 23rd.

NL: I can’t remember.

KWS: Okay. Umm, did Dayan at all, immediately after the war, have any notion that an agreement could be reached with the Syrians? 

NL: He used to say, “I need much more patience with the Syrians. You cannot go fast with them. They will keep a commitment. They will keep an agreement if they will accept it to sign it. Until this time, they will take you out in the [unintelligible].”

KWS: Did he have any sense of what a conference would do? Did he have any opinion about it? Did it bother him? Did he care less? Did he realize this was—

NL: He only, he only said the Syrians, “You have to consider it. If you want to deal with the Syrians, you have to give them the Golan. They will not settle with you anything without it.”

KWS: Umm, he, uh, he had a very specific idea of what the troops should be, umm, what the Egyptian presence should be, on the west side of the canal. When Geneva talks ended, the military committee talks began. Motta Gur, Dov Tsion were part of that military committee. There were like six or seven meetings in Geneva. Nothing really takes place, cause it’s really a Golda-Kissinger-Dayan-Sadat kind of, actually, it’s a Dayan-Sadat-Kissinger kind of discussion that really is Sinai 1. It really is the first disengagement. Umm, all of a sudden, Motta Gur in Geneva produces in public the private discussions that are going on between Dayan and Kissinger. In Kissinger’s memoirs, he writes, “I was stunned to hear in public that the Israelis in Geneva have announced what we’re going to agree upon.” He calls Dayan on the phone and he says to Dayan, “What is this guy doing?” So, Dayan calls Gur, “What are you doing?” And Gur says, “I don’t know what I’m doing. You never tell me what’s going on. We were just sitting here doing models. We just were speculating in the air. I guess we were right.” This is the second time in less than a month that Henry Kissinger has essentially said to the Israelis, “Step back please. I want to do this. I want to be in the middle of this.” The impression that one gets is that the Israelis and the Egyptians could have done pretty well between themselves on military matters, even without the Americans.

NL: That was the feeling. That was the feeling.

KWS: Did Dayan have that feeling?

NL: I guess yes, but it — on a wider scope, on a wider scope of our relationship with the United States, he didn’t think that he can exclude Kissinger, whoever was in charge. Look, he had, he had — I, I guess, I cannot say that they had [unintelligible] — but he had hard feelings about Kissinger’s come-back during the beginning of the war, before the air lift was approved. 

KWS: He had hard feelings? Are you being gentle in using your adjectives?

NL: Quite gentle.

KWS: Do you want to be less gentle? What did you say in the book?

NL: I don’t know. I don’t say more than that. Look, these people lied, and I really don’t — I didn’t ask Kissinger what his concept is — I can only guess. He as a politician, as a statesman, he wanted to break through in his own way, and he saw that he has something accomplished here, that he brought the parties down to their knees and this is the beginning of a settlement along his pattern, or within his para— parameters. And we didn’t want to spoil it. So the war shouldn’t spoil it. On the contrary, the war can be beneficial in a way. So, hold it down. If the states would immediately start to operate an airlift, let’s say the second or third day of the war, the Arabs would be misleaded. I think he didn’t like that. 

KWS: Umm, according to Siilasvuo, Dayan had opposed the negotiations at 101 from the very beginning because the United States were not taking part in them. Dayan, at one point, told Eban, “We’re negotiating directly with them. This is terrible. We have to have the U.S. as the mediator because we have to have them as a guarantor.” Eban said that. 

NL: Yes.

KWS: Eban’s words. I mean it makes sense.

NL: It does. Yeah.

KWS: Umm, and this is Gazit: “’What transpired at the 101 talks,’ according to Gazit ‘she felt he, Yariv, was not always telling a hundred percent of the truth. Perhaps because she was always not sure if Yariv was more inclined to listen to Dayan’s advice than her own.’”

NL: Possible. Knowing her, it’s quite possible.

KWS: [Laughs.] Umm, let me get down to Dayan’s period, ’77, ’78, because I’m very interested, very, very interested in the Carter-Dayan relationship and how Dayan joined the [Menachem] Begin government. 

NL: Why?

KWS: Umm, Jimmy Carter’s administration had an outline and a framework that had a mindset, and it wasn’t going to be deterred. It was apprehensive. It was Geneva. It was Brookings [Brookings Institute 1975 report, Toward Peace in the Middle East: Report of a Study Group]. Umm, it was the PLO. It was ’67 borders with modifications. They didn’t understand the Israeli history, the Israeli idiom, just — they were engineers. And that’s the way they worked and they operated. Umm, there wasn’t really a rapport between Carter and any Israeli at all. But there was a rapport, I’m told, between [Cyrus] Vance and Dayan, that Dayan trusted Vance. He had confidence in him. Is that fair? He may not have always agreed with him.

NL: No, he considered Vance a very straightforward lawyer, a legal mind, with political understanding. And a man of integrity. Yes, he trusted him.

KWS: But certainly not [Zbigniew] Brzezinski.

NL: I wouldn’t say that he liked Brzezinski.

KWS: [Laughs.] Why did Begin choose Dayan?

NL: Oh, there are many, many versions of that.

KWS: Well, let me get — let me have the Naftali Lavie version.

NL: I’ll tell you. Begin, I think —

KWS: Or put differently from your point of view, why did Dayan want to be foreign minister? That’s better for you.

NL: No, I can give you also my first explanation about Begin. I think Begin was taken by surprise with the outcome of the elections. And if you ask me if he was prepared to take over the government and to handle it successfully, he had, if he was — he was a man with some, I would say, an honest attitude towards government. And didn’t take it li— you know, lightly. And he thought he needs people, (a), with certain, I would say, experience, with status and I think that also will give him a wider, I would say, public support. Now —

KWS: Public? Public support or international support?

NL: Both. International support because Begin was unknown to the whole world, and outside —

KWS: He knew of his own shortcomings.

NL: He knew it. He knew that he will not be perceived as the great Israeli leader that has the support of the Israeli people, because he is opposition leader until now. Dayan has a reputation. Dayan has made his name. Dayan has probably damaged his reputation by the Yom Kippur War and he was ready to overlook that, to ignore it. Now, this is — to have a person like Dayan next to him, whom he can entrust with the negotiations, who will give him some credibility in the world and in the Jewish world in particular, and his experience to deal with the Arabs — I think this was very important. He also could solve some of his problems within his party by giving this portfolio to a man outside, like Dayan, and not to have his own people. Yeah, he had his [unintelligible]. He solved the problem. This was this. Now, Dayan’s reasons — so I told you before — since the end of ’73, he was under the impression that the relationship between Israel and Egypt went through a radical change after the Yom Kippur War. And there is an atmosphere in Egypt, and can be in Israel as well, if not reconciliation, a pragmatic sort of an attitude to live together and to find a modus vivendi. 

KWS: Mmm.

NL: He didn’t think that there would be a peace treaty. He didn’t think that. But he thought he can reach with them an agreement that will give us peace and quiet for a number of years, it may be decades — if we are able to make an agreement of ending the state of belligerency between us, and without having peace and without a change in Knesset, and to have a demarcation line alongside, alongside Sinai which will satisfy both. He used to say, “I want to be sure that my waterway to Eilat will be sure, and I don’t mind if the Suez Canal will be operating freely to the Egyptians. Look at the economy they built. We will find a resolution to, to split Sinai from north to east — to south.” [Unintelligible] to Al Arish, whatever. [Unintelligible.] And here, he realized that there is a new opening. Israeli politics may change, and with the government under Begin’s leadership, it will be much easier to convince the Israeli public opinion for such a deal.

KWS: With the Egyptians?

NL: Yes. He said to himself, “Now, there are two elements. One is, how can one do it?” And he used to say to himself and to whoever was ready to listen, “I think I am the best person to conduct such negotiations and to get along with the Egyptians and to find a way how to implement such and such.” Secondly, he said, “I wouldn’t like to miss the opportunity to be in the middle of it. All my life I am engaged in fighting the Arabs, and talking to the Arabs, and living with them together, and when it comes to this crucial moment of establishing the relationship of whatever kind, I’ll be outside. It’s hard for me to accept.” These two motives pushed him. Begin called him — he was in the hospital in Ichilov he had a heart attack. And Dayan told me a day or two days later, telling me that, and I almost fell off my chair.

KWS: A day or two days after the election, or before the government, is formed or —

NL: Before the government — before the elections, he had a conversation, non-committal conversation, with Begin. 

KWS: About?

NL: Begin said to him about solutions, possible solutions, and Dayan explained to him. Begin was adamant that he cannot abandon the West Bank and so on and so forth. Answered and he said, “There’s going to be [unintelligible], that we cannot do. I, for instance, in favor that the Jews should not be deprived from the right to live wherever he wants to live. On the other hand, if this gets in the way of an agreement, they should find a solution to that. How you do that.” Anyhow, he was urging Begin, “Don’t do anything that will make it impossible for the Arabs to accept, and that will get — to get to the point of no return: Don’t annex the area. Don’t impose Israeli sovereignty over the area. Leave it as an open point.” And Begin didn’t like it but he accepted. 

KWS: And that of course, was the condition for Day—

NL: That became a condition after the elections, when he called into the hospital. 

KWS: Did Begin and Dayan have any kind of contact with each other prior to this. I mean, did— 

NL: Yes, yes. And I once asked Dayan, “What did you flirt with Begin?” because they used to meet. He said, “I don’t know if I’m flirting with him but one thing I can tell you: I belong to the Labor movement and if I have to see who is my potential partner ideologically when it comes to foreign issues,” not, you know, social issues. Yariv, who was the leader of Mapai, “Begin, I’m closer to Begin,” he used to tell me more than once.

KWS: So, he found politically, he just found intellectually — he found ideological compatibility on the foreign policy issues.

NL: Yes, yes. “I think I can find in him a partner on these issues.”

KWS: Did he respect him as an intellect, Begin, as a smart man?

NL: Smart, yes. Intellect, no. Eh, eh, authoritative, yes.

KWS: Shrewd?

NL: Shrewd, yes. Honesty, I don’t know. [Unintelligible.]

KWS: Begin, Begin wasn’t averse to turn a phrase around for his own behalf.

NL: [Unintelligible.] He was a master. He didn’t like the character. Dayan didn’t like the character of Begin, but he appreciated —

KWS: Why? Because he was too formal, too romantic, too 19th century?

NL: Maybe, maybe all of them together, and maybe —

KWS: Starchy. Too starchy.

NL: Too acting, you know, too much acting. Not natural. He didn’t seem that natural. Man was a peasant. He wasn’t a man with some principle. [Unintelligible] was sacrifices [unintelligible].

KWS: [Laughs.] 

NL: He was a peasant in nature. 

KWS: Umm, Dayan’s first visit to Washington was in September.

NL: He used to say to me, “Can you imagine?” Once — I cannot remember what was the occasion; I don’t remember if he was physically there — “Can you imagine him milking a cow?”

KWS: [Laughs.] Saying about Begin?

NL: Yeah.

KWS: And Dayan, of course, said it rhetorically.

NL: For him, to milk a cow was natural.

KWS: [Unintelligible.] Umm, Dayan’s first visit to Washington was in September. September 18th, 21st, something like that.

NL: You mean when he was the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

KWS: Yes.

NL: 16th.

KWS: 16th. Umm, he, umm — in late August, he goes to London and, and sees [Jordan’s King] Hussein. Comes back to the airport, makes a statement, uh, you know, “I haven’t been anywhere.” As he always did, he denies flatly ever having met with him. Umm, in his memoirs, he writes that nothing came of the meeting. And, and a couple days later, he’s off to Brussels and then spirited off to Morocco where he meets [Egyptian Deputy Prime Minister Hassan] Tuhami. Umm, I’ve already set in my mind fairly confidently that no promises were authorized, no promises were made, about how much would be returned. Is that fair?

NL: Yes. 

KWS: Let me ask —

NL: But right -— that’s correct. It’s not fair, it’s correct.

KWS: Well, I want to be careful because aside from hearing it from Shlomo Gazit and from Hafez Ismail —

NL: [Laughs.] No, no, it’s correct.

KWS: — and Hassan Tuhami even wrote it. 

NL: Yeah.

KWS: There still should be in the minds of members of the Likud party in Israel that, uh —

NL: Not only Likud, Labor as well. They always accused that he had sold out everything at once.

KWS: Right, right. And otherwise, Sadat wouldn’t have come to Jerusalem —

NL: Yeah, yeah.

KWS: — which is nonsense. Okay. I pretty well established that. I’m going to put that baby to sleep. That’s — [laughs.] Umm, his meeting with, umm, with Vance was tough, but his meeting with Carter was rough. This is — I’m talking about the meeting in Washington. I’m not talking about the meeting that takes place in —

NL: Which one? The first one at the White House, or the second one at the Plaza Hotel?

KWS: No, I’m not talking about the one in New York in October. I’m talking, I’m talking in September. 

NL: Yeah.

KWS: It wasn’t an easy meeting. But it was Dayan’s first opportunity to see Carter one-on-one. Where you there?

NL: Yeah.

KWS: Wha— what do you remember about the atmospherics or the content of that meeting? 

NL: I think the meeting was overshadowed with an issue that was a marginal issue and became a major issue. The reason we went there is to discuss the peace process and the possibility of resuming Geneva. But at the same time, the government made a decision to establish six settlements in Judea and Samaria. And Dayan wasn’t very happy with the decision, because he thought it would trigger off a new argument, on behalf of the administration. They will not like it, they will criticize, and he didn’t want to give Carter, or his administration, another excuse to criticize Israel or to bargain with us about something else. So, Dayan suggested to the government a solution which was accepted at the time by Ezer Weizman, who was minister of defense, and that was that the settlements would not be a violation of the Geneva convention, the ’49 Geneva Convention. It will be manned by reservists, by army people. And it will be an army camp. The army is entitled to occupy the land that has been occupied during war with its own settlements, even if they bring in their families to dwell there. So, this was the solution. The people will wear uniform and it will be a part of the army. You know, by [unintelligible]. The Likud people are very proud, and they want to establish law and order in their own way. I said, “That is something fooling and cheating.” So he said, “You want it otherwise? This is my solution.” Ezer Weizman, who was also in Likud at the time, but he’s a pragmatist — he accepted and Begin gave him green light. He came to Carter, and Carter immediately asked him, “Why did you decide on the settlements?” and so on. “You know it is disturbing, it is discouraging, the Arabs are suspicious and it’s counterproductive.” And he gave him an old talk. So, Dayan said to him that, “Look, it’s not a violation of Geneva. [Unintelligible.]” He gave him all, you know, the reasons why we need it. You know, security. And then he came with that solution. And Carter responded, after long conversation, “Look, I don’t like it. It’s the second-best solution. I cannot accept the second best. I don’t like it.” He repeated it on a few occasions. This wasn’t a private meeting and [U.S. Vice President Walter “Fritz”] Mondale was the only third person present and then they came into us, in the room. [Unintelligible.] And I noticed in Dayan that he was very angry. He was very un—, unpleasant in his speech, and he was sitting opposite Carter. And Mondale was [unintelligible]. I watched him. He wanted to catch the eye of Dayan. Dayan ignored him; he couldn’t look him in the face. Since [Simcha] Dinitz told me that, “It’s a pity because Fritz is such a help and such a friend and such — and Dayan is just, you know, turning him into a hostile enemy.” And Dayan could care less. At that meeting around the table, we discussed again the settlements. And Carter told the people what he had just told to Dayan. Dayan came to tell him about these settlements, and he said, “Since it is only second best, I don’t like it. Let’s discuss other issues.” And then we discussed about Geneva [unintelligible]. And the argument was if there will be a Palestinian delegation and so on, will the Palestinians be part of a Jordanian delegation or an all-Arab delegation? You know —

KWS: More options, right.

NL: And then Carter said something, that “When the prime minister came to see me two months ago and we discussed the same issue, I said, ‘You need to have Palestinian people there then because you are dealing with their future, their status, their interests. So, you cannot ignore them.’ So, Begin’s response was that he would accept Palestinians, but he cannot accept PLO representatives.” So, Carter [unintelligible], “I don’t know if PLO is what kind of an organization, but it is an organization that sends the commands, the instructions. How can you ignore them?” So, according to Carter — I am quoting carefully — he said, “Look, the prime minister told me he will not check the credentials of the Palestinians who will participate at the talks, at the convention. In other words, he meant to say that he wouldn’t mind that there will be PLO members.”

KWS: That was Carter’s interpretation.

NL: Yes.

KWS: And that was what was received by the Israelis sitting at the other side of the table.

NL: Yes, yes.

KWS: And you knew, of course, that would never have been Begin’s. 

NL: Yeah. But he tried to say Begin said, “I will not check the credentials.” In ivrit [Hebrew], it sounds like…

KWS: “Anachnu lo bodkim et hatsitsit shelahem” [“We are not checking their fringes” on their tallises.]

NL: That’s right. It was interpreted like that.

KWS: Dayan was in Atlanta on October 3rd. 

NL: I know. I was working there.

KWS: And he gave a press conference at the Hyatt, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, and I was sitting in the audience when he said it. ’Cause he was asked, “What does this mean?” 

NL: That was the statement we went around the country with.

KWS: Right. But he also ge—, he, he was also at dinner that night, I think.

NL: We were once here at dinner together.

KWS: Right. 

NL: We were five [unintelligible] for dinner. So this was Carter’s way of [unintelligible] and —

KWS: How did you guys interpret Carter for doing it that way when you knew Begin could never have said it that way?

NL: I will not swear that Begin wouldn’t slip, you know, say, “Look, I’m not going to check them. If their identity, their [unintelligible]. If they are Palestinians, genuine Palestinians who live in Ramallah and Nablus, and present their own people, if he also belongs to Maccabee or to PLO, I’m not going to check that.” That’s the way Begin could have said it. And Carter could have understood it a little differently.

KWS: So, in other words, often what happened in the U.S.-Israeli relationship, this was typical. One person would say something and another person would hear something else.

NL: It’s a Rashomon.

KWS: What are you —

NL: A Rashomon.

KWS: Eich? [Hebrew for how?]

NL: Rashomon. Japanese way of telling the same story by two different people. 

KWS: How do you spell the word?

NL: Rashomon [unintelligible].

KWS: Is it French?

NL: No. Japanese. Rashomon.

KWS: I have to [unintelligible].

NL: Anyhow, this is something.

KWS: It was typical of the relationship. 

NL: Yeah. They wanted to hear themselves —

KWS: [Laughs.]

NL: — and we wanted to hear ourselves. 

KWS: [Laughs.] That’s right. That’s perfect. If that’s Rashomon —

NL: Now, I think that we got away from the meeting at the White House with the impression that the Americans are not going to surprise us. 

KWS: Uh.

NL: We are going to have a Geneva convention resumed according to a certain initial understanding, not written agreement, between us, which will give the Palestinians a way to participate under the flag or the leadership for the Jordanian-Arab delegation. And it was more or less acceptable to us. And we reported that to Jerusalem.

KWS: [Reading] “On the 25th, the cabinet approved, subject to certain conditions, a U.S. proposal calling for single Arab delegation, including Palestinian representatives at the opening session of a reconvened conference.”

NL: That was the report and that was accepted in Jerusalem. Now, we came to New York. We left with a feeling that this is more or less a formula that we can consider a working paper between us. We came to New York, and I don’t remember the exact date, maybe it was the 26th. We got a call because there was a session of the UN.

KWS: Right, right. 

NL: We got a call from — what was it? Roy Atherton or [Hal] Saunders or Phillip Habib, one of the three, I don’t remember — to Dayan, that Vance wanted to talk to him, but he had to leave that day, an obligation. They want to come over to us, to the Regency.

KWS: But if you stop for a moment, there was nothing in the air in the Carter discussions with Dayan privately or in the larger meetings with the advisors and Vice President Mondale, etcetera, about the coming Soviet communiqué. Nothing.

NL: Not a word, not a word. Not a single word. 

KWS: And you had no inkling of it.

NL: I did have.

KWS: Why?

NL: [Unintelligible.] A reporter called me. From New York, not in Washington. 

KWS: Huh.

NL: You know, telling me, “Look, something is cooking between the Americans and the Russians. In the UN, somebody told me that there’s going to be a meeting and it has to do with you,” he says to me. This was two days, maybe four, before we were called by the Americans. And then they came in. There was — Michael Sterner I think was there, [unintelligible], Roy, Bill Quandt. I don’t remember Hal Saunders, if he came — 

KWS: Hal [Saunders] came later for the meeting at the UN. 

NL: I see. Well, I [unintelligible].

KWS: Hal was in Washington.

NL: I was sitting next to Roy. And he said other things that he had to discuss with the Russians about the resumption, as he, as he discussed in Washington, their co-chairman. So, they had to discuss with the Russians [unintelligible] —

KWS: So, that’s all that was discussed in Washington, that they’re co-chairmen.

NL: Yes, but that’s what he said here in New York —

KWS: Uh.

NL: — that we were discussing now with the Russians the recon— reconvening of the conference. 

KWS: Yes.

NL: “And we would like you to be informed about it.” So, Dayan’s question to what we did discuss, I said, “We — the Secretary of State and [Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs] Mr. [Andrei] Gromyko, they decided they have, they’re issuing, issue the joint statement about. I would like to show it.’

KWS: Did he say, “I would like to show it to you,” or “Would you like to see it?”

NL: No. “I would like to give it to you. I would like to give it to you.” And he had a bunch of papers, and he put it on the table. He gave it to me [unintelligible]. And Dayan said, “No, no, no. I’m sorry. We are not a part of this —”

KWS: “This doesn’t affect us —” 

NL: No. “If it does — if this paper has to do with us and you didn’t consider us, you didn’t consult us and we didn’t know anything about it, so I don’t want to see it. It has nothing to do with us. It doesn’t oblige us.” Something like that. The wording, I’m paraphrasing it. “It’s not my business, it’s not our business. I won’t [unintelligible].” He said to me, in ivrit [Hebrew], “Give him back the papers.” I gave him back the papers minus one that I kept among my papers. And then I Xeroxed this. And I gave back to him, and said it’s another paper that I accidentally took.

KWS: But he read it.

NL: Afterwards, he read it and he said, “What are they doing, monkey business behind our back?” We had discussed it. He had decided, Then suddenly comes a person, you know what kind of behavior is that? [Unintelligible.] [TAPE ONE, SIDE TWO RECORDING ENDS. NEW ONE BEGINS.] 

NL: And I wasn’t present at [unintelligible]. I wasn’t there but I know they’d had a conversation. And Dayan may, came, gave them a statement, “Look, we are not going to accept your business with the Soviets on our back. If you want to bring them back to the area, it’s your decision, but not at our expense. The Soviets as chairmen will represent the most extreme position of the Arabs, and I don’t think we should support it. It’s not in our interest.”

KWS: He said it to Vance on the telephone.

NL: Yes. [Unintelligible] in person. Okay, Elia, he is there [NL speaking to someone else]. Excuse me. 

KWS: B’seder [Hebrew: okay].

NL: The attitude of Dayan [was] not to discuss this paper, you just are letting us down. He didn’t say it in so many words but he was very, very harsh in criticizing Vance.

KWS: To Vance?

NL: To Vance. Now, we had among ourselves discussions: how do we handle that, what do we do? And we decided that we are going to launch a PR campaign with the media. And to bring to the attention of the communities, the Jewish, non-Jewish, that we have dealt with the administration, we have found understanding with President Carter to reconvene the Geneva conference, and here, out of the blue, the Americans suddenly bring back the Russians into the area after they have been partially, to a great part, excluded through, let’s say, the Yom Kippur War, and afterwards, the initiative.

KWS: But the Israelis knew that a reconvened Geneva conference, the Soviet Union would be a co-sponsor, but that would be it. 

NL: Not only that. We also knew that we had probably under, uh, got an understanding with Sadat going along directly, with the Americans in between us. And the Russians wouldn’t play any positive, constructive role in it.

KWS: When did you get that understanding?

NL: When we came to Washington the first time. After Tuhami’s meeting with Dayan. It was certain — Dayan at least, was the one who believed that we have now established a line of communication directly with Egypt, we can get to some terms at Geneva or elsewhere, with American — [Pause.] And I think that Dayan felt — I don’t know if he had information, but instinctively he felt — that the Egyptians don’t like the idea of a Soviet comeback, just as we don’t like it. Now, later on, after that, we heard rumors that Hafez Ismail made a statement — or was it Fahmy? I don’t remember who. Maybe it was Fahmy — made a statement that the American agreement with Gromyko is not serving any purpose. Something like that. That we heard later. But in the beginning, Dayan had the feeling that the Egyptians disliked the American initiative of going to gather with the Russians [unintelligible].

KWS: You’ll excuse me, Naftali. Maybe you didn’t’ want to say it this way and I don’t want to put words in your mouth. Is it fair to say that one of the conversations that Tuhami and Dayan had in Morocco, or one of the many conversations they had in their several meetings, was a discussion of the Soviet involvement in the Middle East in the future? And how the Soviets would be involved in, in a reconvened Geneva conference?

NL: It was discussed in a negative, in a negative way.

KWS: In a sense that they wouldn’t.

NL: A sense that they didn’t do any good until now and they shouldn’t do in the future. 

KWS: Mm-hmm.

NL: They shouldn’t get involved. Something like that. But it wasn’t binding. It was just Tuhami, and he used to say it, they are timhoni [Hebrew for eccentric]. I don’t know how to say it in English. Dayan used to describe Tuhami to be a dreamer or something like that. So how much he took that at face value, I don’t know. But that wasn’t the point. The point was that when we found out that Gromyko and Vance had this statement, that we had the feeling that the Egyptians will not like it, just as we don’t like it. So he was on solid ground, Dayan, denying it. And therefore, he decided to go public. And I arranged a meeting with the editorial boards, all the media that was available for us. The Times, the Wall Street Journal, all the others, even the New York Post, [unintelligible]. The Israeli news, I guess. And it was also the networks and the public. And there was an editorial in the Times, criticizing Carter because we succeeded to drive the Soviets out, and you just bring them back. What was going to serve, that purpose? So, I think the administration felt uncomfortable. And then we decided, this is not enough, we have to go all the way out. And then I organized the UJA and all of us together and we landed and we went from New York to Chicago, L.A., Atlanta, Miami, and came back to New York. It was five weekends. And we came to talk to Jewish organizations that we took care of in the best way we could. 

KWS: And you certainly did. I remember that. Wow.

NL: And we took on the plane two correspondents. One was a Times, Times person, Stockwell (unsure of name) who came with us all the way. And another guy came from the Newsweek. And we had all the coverage. And I think the administration was a little bit panicky about that. And we got a call from Vance, to invite us for a meeting. I said, “What night [unintelligible] for dinner?”

KWS: How panicky — How soon did they get panicky? Do you remember where in the trip you were?

NL: No, no, no. No, no. It was before the trip. The panic started already on the 28th, the 28th. I think it started after, after the first dinner we had. We were invited for dinner at some point — I don’t have the diary with me now — at the Plaza with Vance. And at that time, Vance told Dayan about this statement, joint statement. And Dayan looked very [unintelligible]. And he gave him to understand that we are not going to take it lightly. We will, we will turn to the public opinion, to the Senate, to the House. I think Vance was very annoyed at that point. A lot. And we got another offer Friday evening, another opportunity. Again, it was discussed, and Dayan didn’t [unintelligible]. So, Dayan said to me, “Look, I have been invited by the Jewish community —” 

KWS: He said that to Vance.

NL: Yes — which was already arranged; I have already done that — and I have met, will meet more people of the media. [Unintelligible.] So, then we got a call from Hamilton Jordan [that] the President would like to see us on the 4th of October at the Plaza. Invited us for half past seven, saying that the President was throwing a party for the foreign ministers of the UN, which would be about 9 o’clock or so, so he wants us to be at half past seven. If he will not be able to finalize anything until he goes to the party, we’ll come back. That means that you can stay there almost a half night. Okay, so we agreed, we are coming over there. In the meantime, every time he came out to Vance, he and Carter were generous and excited and waiting for the cameras for Dayan and the Israelis, and I decided that day, the 6th of October, and I am going to tell the media to wait inside of the room and I have to have the permission of the White House. permission for the grounds, the auditorium, [unintelligible], music, [unintelligible]. We have [unintelligible] only come out of the [unintelligible]. I cannot be there [unintelligible]. I said, “No, people will be there. [Unintelligible.] They will be. So why shouldn’t they be there?” “Are you going to announce it?” I said, “No, I’m not going to announce it. I have [unintelligible]. It should be available, let’s say, from eight in the evening.” He had some, consultation, something, he came back to me, “Okay, 8 o’clock. It’s [unintelligible].” And then —

KWS: You knew exactly what you were doing, didn’t you?

NL: I didn’t make an announcement. 

KWS: You didn’t have to. You tell one, one member of the press. [Laughs.]

NL: Right. So, I told Marvin Kalb and I told Ted Koppel. Then they called me. “Naftali, what’s going on?” “I think it will be a press conference but, by the way, you will not have to stand in the street. I think the hall will be available.” There were over 300 people there. And they were sitting there waiting for me. And every time they began [unintelligible], they used to ask, “What are you going to tell the press now, then?”

KWS: He would say this to Dayan.

NL: Yes, he would ask him during that conversation which I’ve written about. So, Dayan told him the truth. “We are going to discuss it.” “What are you going to discuss? Tell them.” And then he asked, “What are you going — you are going on trip the day after tomorrow to Jewish communities around the country?” “Yes, I have plans.” “What are you going to tell, just these Jewish —” 

KWS: This is September 30th?

NL: No, that was on October 4th.

KWS: Oh, this is already —

NL: He asked him, “What are you going to tell the Jews?”

KWS: But you’ve already done this. You’ve already done your trip.

NL: No, no. The trip started on the 5th. Or the 6th. So, he asked me, “What are you going tell the Jewish — I mean the Jewish organizations?” And Dayan said to him, “What I am telling, what I am going to say to the press?” And every time it went on that — and the conversation ended up, he went to the cocktail and he came back from the reception, and about — I don’t know how late it was, it must have been two or something else.

KWS: Michael Sterner said 1:30.

NL: 1:30? Okay. He said to the — Brzezinski, “Look, guys, you find a way to finalize this [unintelligible] and get to something, but I have to go.” [Laughs; unintelligible]. And he left us. Before he left us, he said, “By the way, we have to deal with the press. Jody [Powell] tells me they are waiting. We have to —” “I’m not going to talk with the press.” And I suggest we should draft a certain statement for the press. So, I said, “Jody and Roy [unintelligible], maybe one of you or two —” I haven’t been [unintelligible]. He wrote his draft and Carter was still there with the page. He made some remark but it wasn’t that important then. I think Brzezinski made a remark, and now we went back and we drafted another one. And this was brought in and Carter wasn’t there anymore. So, we sat, maybe around 40 minutes, 30 minutes. And this draft that we had prepared for a statement to the press, became the working paper. This became the American-Israeli working paper that actually, eh, prevailed.

KWS: It was the one that was then slightly modified and ratified by the cabinet on the 11th of October.

NL: No, no. It was different a little bit. I don’t have it here. It was a little bit different.

KWS: But it — it was a little different but the Israeli cabinet approved the working paper.

NL: Yes, that’s the working paper that we have written that night. And after we’ve written, Dayan called to Jerusalem, I think it was [Ephraim] “Freuka” Poran who took it from him or Eli Zeira, I don’t remember. And Dayan didn’t read it. It was six o’clock but we have done ours, we have notified Begin. And that was the working paper that was read out. I came down with Dayan, the banister to the press room and Jody comes to the podium and he introduces me that I’m going to make a brief statement. So, I said, “Sorry, the Foreign Minister aren’t here, I want to wait for the Foreign Minister to be here.” I meant more Vance and Dayan. But Vance pushed Dayan forward, and he came and said something and then Vance read out this [unintelligible] anyway. It became a document that superseded actually the Soviet-American treaty.

KWS: So like the [Ramsay] MacDonald letter superseding the, uh, late 30s [unintelligible] October White Paper. I mean, that’s — when I teach Middle East history, that’s the comparison. 

NL: Sometimes [unintelligible] Passfield [unintelligible]. I tell you, Israeli diplomacy, I have no [unintelligible]. I look for it, maybe American, but here, there’s no Passfield.

KWS: I hope you wrote with such detail in the book about it. 

NL: More or less.

KWS: It’s a great story, it’s a great story. It’s a great story. During the period from about the 28th on, when you found out that there was a U.S.-Soviet document, I mean, not just a press report to you —

NL: Yeah.

KWS: — what was Dayan’s communication with Begin about all of this?

NL: He told him. I think he was still not well, but they did communicate. Begin was very annoyed, he was — I don’t know if he said it, but Dayan interpreted Begin saying that we just were cheated, we were let down, we cannot trust them. But Dayan said to go back to business. 

KWS: [Yahiel] Kadishai said Begin’s reaction was, “This was, this is not done by a friend. This is the kind of work of a traitor.”

NL: Well, that was the interpretation I got from Dayan, more or less.

KWS: I mean those are Kadishai’s words to me. 

NL: Yeah.

KWS: Umm, did you go with Dayan to see Tuhami in any of the meetings?

NL: No. I saw Tuhami only here in Jerusalem. 

KWS: That was in December?

NL: Yeah. 

KWS: [Unintelligible] when he came?

NL: Yeah. I saw him here. I was the one sitting with him, talking with him. The only one who went with Dayan to [unintelligible] was Eli Rubinstein.

KWS: Is that what he talked about in his book?

NL: I think so. He mentioned in an article, it was [unintelligible] months.

KWS: Yes, yes. Umm, when did Dayan sense that Sadat was gonna come to Jerusalem?

NL: I think he was surprised. I think he didn’t believe that he was going to come to visit. He thought that he will send another emissary, a high level, and maybe will ask for a meeting some neutral place. This dramatic gesture of coming here. And I called him in the evening, telling him what I heard just now, that he is announcing he’s coming. So he said, “Nishma.” [“We will listen.”] [Unintelligible.] “He is a great actor.” He said, “What would you like to say to this point?” So, he says, “[Unintelligible] and an actor here in Jerusalem, we will even respond as an actor.”

KWS: [Laughs.] When I interviewed Golda a year later, I asked her — She was — No, it was in December; she died a year later. It was in December I was here and I said, “Mrs. Meir, do you think these two gentlemen, because of their reaching out to one another, deserve the Nobel peace prize?” And the reply to me was, “No, but they do deserve the Oscar.”

NL: The Oscar, yes. That’s Golda. 

KWS: I’m sure she said it many times.

NL: Yes, she was cynical [unintelligible].

KWS: Did, did Sadat like Dayan at all?

NL: In the beginning, he didn’t. In the beginning when he came here, in the beginning he was a little bit, I would say, suspicious of him and I don’t know exactly what was behind it. Then he warmed up. I remember, he didn’t want to see in him a partner, a direct partner. He saw [unintelligible]. But then, the first evening at King David, [Yigal] Yadin told — Yadin told us [unintelligible]. I told him, exactly, “If you want business to be done here, you have to talk with Dayan. Whatever you like about him, that’s not important. He is the man. He is creative. He will push things forward. You have to talk with him.” Yadin takes, took, credit for that and Dayan suddenly became the favorite of Dayan. I remember the dinner we had that evening at the King David, I was at that the corner, and there was Begin, Sadat, and Dayan. No, that’s Begin, Dayan, and Sadat; with Begin in between. And I remember how Sadat used to, behind Begin’s head, whisper to Dayan sometimes, started to communicate. I think that a camera wasn’t supposed to be a guest at the table but the cameraman did take some [unintelligible] pictures of the whispering. Begin from the front or behind. So they started to communicate. At Camp David, they were already warmer to each other. But at Ismailia, when Dayan came to see him after he signed the peace treaty — I think it was May or July —

KWS: [Unintelligible.]

NL: May? We went to Cairo, after they had already established relations and they were very, very warm, so, really made their lives [unintelligible]. 

KWS: You think that’s accurate [unintelligible]?

NL: Mmm?

KWS: Do you think that’s an accurate statement? I mean, coming from your point of view, I would expect you to say yes, but I mean, objectively?

NL: I’ll tell you, if you’re talking about creating an atmosphere of goodwill, or even sort of some friendliness, then I would say Ezer Weizman was more, was a guy who created an atmosphere — 

KWS: He was effervescent, gregarious, warm.

NL: He was running there and back, making what is ruach [Hebrew for spirit], yes — okay, walking — which was important. You can’t forget [unintelligible], the basic situation: formulate a certain solution, you know, to retrieve at one point and to go forward to others that someone else [unintelligible]. 

KWS: What happened in Ismailia in December of ’77? Why did that fail? Why did it not go anywhere?

NL: I think Sadat expected a gesture from Begin which would be symmetric to the gesture that he made by going to Jerusalem. He broke the barrier, the psychological barrier. So this is something that I can only try to analyze as one says, maybe post-war —

KWS: Did you go?

NL: Where?

KWS: To Ismailia?

NL: Yes, but I cannot say that it went wrong because somebody did something wrong. I think it went wrong because the expectations of Sadat didn’t come through. I thought that he expects like in the Knesset when he came here, that we will immediately respond to dramatic —

KWS: What, like unilateral withdrawal —

NL: Something —

KWS: — to the passes or something?

NL: No, something like that. Throwing into something. And it didn’t come, it doesn’t work like that. And he was disappointed. But then, he already made one step and he didn’t want to go back. So, he let — you know, he was a pragmatist — he let things go, happen. And it happened. And then, when we met further on some occasions, we had a crisis with the committee here in — at this meeting at the Hilton there, when the Egyptians left because they were insulted by Begin — he said “the young man,” or something like that —

KWS: Right.

NL: Okay, we had these ups and downs all the time. I think the breakthrough came at Leeds Castle [talks in July 1978]. Leeds Castle, when they were all the time repeating themselves, particularly Usamah El-Baz but also [UN’s Boutros] Boutros-Ghali, asking for more and more concessions for the Palestinians, adding a police force, a military force, every sort of an ingredient which makes a state. And we were listening to them. Dayan was, in one point, like, bursting out. He said, “Look, gentlemen, if you want to discuss the future of the West Bank, what kind of an autonomy we have in mind, what we want to give when you come here, then if you speak on their behalf, tell us that, and we will consider you to be their agents. But in the meantime, we will shelve all the talks that we had already until now, on the bilateral issues between us and Egypt. We’ll suspend that. Forget about what we have already discussed and said about our bilateral issues. If you are willing, let’s, let’s stop, on a different level and you speak for the Palestinians.” And then they were taken by surprise. They asked for a few minutes and Vance called off the meeting. After an hour we came back. Then Boutros-Ghali said, “Look, we have no mandate to shelve anything. We have already discussed about the bilateral issues and we would like to continue that.” Then Dayan said to us when we were in our room later on, “They want an agreement with us. They are on the right track. They want to squeeze out what they can for the Palestinians. But for whatever reason — I don’t want to go into their motives — they say whatever they need. At least, I don’t care, but they want an agreement with us.”

KWS: That convinced Dayan.

NL: Yeah. That they want an agreement and we have a way to get an agreement. Leeds Castle. That was the breakthrough.

KWS: Well, then, Leeds Castle was a confidence-building measure.

NL: I think so. I think so. By the way, there was a huge — in town — a building, a movie house, where the press was waiting for us, hundreds of journalists because it was we were secluded and away, we couldn’t — And there was once a press conference there, and there, there was no spokesman for the Egyptian delegation, so Usamah, President Carter and myself went in the car. The British security guys drove us there. As they were leaving, before we left the gate of Leeds Castle, Usamah opens the door and jumps out at the car, “Wait, wait, wait!” He doesn’t go. And he sent in — was it …. don’t remember, one of the Egyptian press guys instead — to speak for the Egyptian delegation. He was a junior man. [US Assistant Secretary of State of Public Affairs and State Department spokesman] Hodding Carter looked at him, “Okay, if that’s what they want, let them have it.” We come in. Huge audience, hundreds, six seven hundred. And they started questions, if these are direct talks or non-direct talks between Israel and Egypt.

KWS: What were they?

NL: Mmm?

KWS: What were they?

NL: They were. But the press wanted to know a description, so the Egyptian said, “No, no, no, no. They are not direct talks.” So, they asked Hodding Carter, so Hodding said, “I wouldn’t know, ask for the Israelis.”

KWS: [Laughs.]

NL: So, I got to the mic, and I said, “Look, I will describe you two events. Okay? One social and then one businesslike. The social was last night. We had dinner. And there was an American, Israeli, Egyptian — American, Israeli, Egyptian around the table, sitting all together and had conversations and entertained ourselves, very friendly. Today we had two businesslike meetings, sitting one opposite the other, and the Americans at both ends. And negotiating one with the other certain issues which are outstanding issues and I don’t think [unintelligible] you such things, such things. How would you define such meetings?” I asked the journalists. There was a big laughter. Of course, you can embarrass this Egyptian. This is an example of how — the next day Times of London, huge five-column [laughs] story giving this kind of a — It worked. I think the Egyptians slowly began to realize that they have already gone far enough, almost reached the point of no return. They had to go on fast. And they decided to get the maximum they can. So did we.

KWS: Is another possible explanation that Sadat’s advisors were of a different level and attitude than Sadat? That Sadat wanted a bilateral relationship with Israel; he wanted America — he probably wanted America first and then the bilateral relationship, but if he had to take the bilateral relationship with you in order to get America, that would be fine. I mean, Sadat always said — he told Gamasy when he went to 101, when Gamasy had to make the, uh, concessions on the number of tanks, in January of ’74, he said, “Who cares if it’s 300 or 30 tanks! We’re not making peace with Israel; we’re making peace with America!” Kakha hu amar [Hebrew for “That’s what he said”].

NL: Yes, yes. That’s true. He wanted the Americans. He needed us for America. But, but if you ask me who of his advisors —

KWS: Because Boutros, Abdel-Magid, Usamah, Nabil [Arabi], Ali Mahar Amr Musa, at the next level down, each and every one of them held stronger, harder, and more tenaciously to the Palestinians than Sadat did.

NL: Not all of them. Not all of them. The most outstanding one was Usamah el-Baz. In a way, Boutros-Ghali, in a way. Abdel-Magid was more reserved. Amr Musa, I was once, twice, sitting with him, having dinner here. I didn’t hear from him any opinion that the Palestinians should come first.

KWS: Not, not first. But they should be considered.

NL: Yes, all of them knew that they needed to consider the Palestinian issue because they cannot afford to abandon the Arab world.[kws note- Lavie like other Israeli press people believed that support of the Palestinians was their critical link to the Arab “world” when in fact, that link was only ‘lip’ service, since Sadat had already proclaimed in actions and words that Egypt would not wait for another Arab leader or state, all of whom might prevent him from pushing for his return of Sinai to Egyptian sovereignty.] That was a concept of theirs. You cannot be a traitor. Palestinian issue is very hot in the Arab world, and if you, Egypt, are going to settle, you against disputed Israel at their expense, you’ll be a traitor. That was the concept of all of them. But some of them are extreme and some of them were more moderate. I think the extreme ones were, number one, Usamah; Boutros in a way; Magid three; I think the last one would be Amr Musa. He was more moderate. I really don’t remember the others. [Abdel Rauof] Al-Reedy maybe.

KWS: [Unintelligible.]

NL: Then later on we had others, like [unintelligible]. He was very, very moderate. And then he died, I think. He was a legal expert. And Kamal Hassan Ali was very important, the minister of defense.

KWS: Dayan, even when [Moshe] Sasson was appointed to succeed [Eliyahu] Ben Elissar, he even said to Sasson on several occasions when Sasson would come on home leave, he would say to him, “Are the Egyptians really going to fulfill this? Are the Egyptians really going to, you know, sustain this peace with us?” The impression I get from by, from listening to you, and Yossi Ciechanover, reading Dayan’s memoirs, is that Dayan was the first one to accept the notion that a peace with Egypt was doable. Doable. But he was also the last one to be persuaded that it would stick. 

NL: Okay, he believed that there are built-in in the agreements so many elements that will make it for the Egyptians very hard and difficult to violate an agreement. It may — what you said before — the American agreement. It was the most important motive for the Egyptians to proceed with us. 

KWS: Was Dayan a changed man after the ’73 War?

NL: In a way, yes. In a way, yes. 

KWS: People accused him of not having any remorse, of leaving the country on the anniversary of the October War for two or three years in a row.

NL: Yeah, people held it against him but he, on the other hand, was very uncomfortable going through all the ceremonies. He didn’t feel comfortable with that. And he was a person who didn’t pay too much attention to what others say. 

KWS: If you had to describe — let me finish with this — if you had to describe Dayan’s person— you know, if you’re writing a recommendation for Dayan for a job, what adjectives would you use to describe his personality?

NL: First of all, a very smart person. Very clever. Courageous person. An original mind, doesn’t stick to any dogma, to any discipline. He can tell you something this morning which is convincing you; in the afternoon, he will tell you the opposite. So, what happened? (A) He’d say, “I didn’t see. Therefore, what I didn’t see in the morning, I see it now.”

KWS: He would admit his mistakes.

NL: Yes. “It happened now. I didn’t know about it. It changes my — it changes the picture. it changes my opinion. You know, I don’t stick to something that I said because I said it. I said it because at that time when I said it, it was real. And I think that this is the way we should do it.”

KWS: So, he was the ultimate pragmatist.

NL: Yeah. I think these are the main points. Above all that, he was also, he was [unintelligible], he wasn’t a tiger. He was a soft person sometimes, sentimental even.

KWS: Sensitive?

NL: Very sensitive.

KWS: Introvert or extrovert?

NL: Introverted. I —

KWS: Did he have a sense of humor?

NL: Oh yeah. Particularly, as I said, for a peasant, this kind of humor. No, he was, I think it was a thrill to work—

KWS: Why was it a thrill?

NL: There was never a dull moment. Never a dull moment. And another thing: If you did make a mistake, he wouldn’t come to accuse you of something. He gave you a very long rope. “Go ahead. Do whatever you have to do.” After a week or so when I worked with him, he wouldn’t come ask me if we had issued a statement around certain questions, he wouldn’t do it after one week. And I did or something went wrong, he would come, “Ahh, everybody makes mistakes sometimes.”

KWS: He, therefore, developed a sense of loyalty in the people who worked for him. I mean, how could you not want to work for a person —

NL: Yeah, but only a few worked with him very closely. I could count on one, maybe five fingers.

KWS: Who?

NL: Chaim Israeli, Yossi Ciechanover, Shlomo Gazit.

KWS: Eli [Zeira].

NL: At the last stage, Eli. In the governme— ministry of defense [Mordechai] Bar-On was aide de camp. He was a rather simple guy, a military man. Whatever he asked him to do in the military field, he did. And he trusted him. He wouldn’t accept his views or his brain very much; he was an operator. There was a time when Chara was close to him, but not later. In the beginning he was close. There were five, six, maybe seven people.

KWS: Did, did Dayan look, after Ben-Gurion’s passing, did Dayan seek out the advice of someone in particular, or, I mean, did he have someone that who he would bounce ideas off of?

NL: He would always call one or two people on the phone and use them as a sounding board. He used to call me very often and tell me something, make it all sense. For a chat, whatever you want. The next morning, I went in to Chaim because we were very close, and he didn’t call me, but he called me the other day and I know exactly he’s playing around with a certain idea. He wants to know how it’s being discussed among the people, and so [unintelligible]. And then in the morning, I went in to him to ask him, last night, it wouldn’t work. Sometimes I listened, sometimes I didn’t. 

KWS: The article in, umm — I don’t know whether it was in Ha’aretz or Ma’ariv or Yediot — don’t remember, and then Gazit’s reply: you suggested there was a foreign dignitary who came —

NL: It was in Ha’aretz.

KWS: Uh-huh.

NL: There was a foreign dignitary here who came here on the 25th of September and [unintelligible]. He gave us valuable information. Dayan didn’t ignore that. But the army people didn’t like the idea and they said we’ve got to change their beliefs and their assumptions that they had before. 

KWS: Did you know that King Hussein had no idea about the war?

NL: What idea didn’t he have?

KWS: He knew that a war was being planned. He didn’t know what the dates were.

NL: Oh, the dates didn’t matter. He didn’t have the dates, so what. 

KWS: And then the summit meeting in Cairo on the 12th to the 14th of September, Assad and Sadat never discussed it with him. 

NL: It’s quite possible.

KWS: I mean he swears by it, said, “I was driving around on a motor scooter inside the palace compound and my security aide came to me and said, “You know, you should know that the Syrians and the Egyptians just attacked Israel.”

NL: Look, they didn’t consult him and take his advice, I agree, but that he had his own intelligence and he knew what the Syrians were up to, no question. No question at all. And this analysis that the Syrians would not do it alone is also beyond question. 

KWS: Umm, was Dayan ever frustrated —

NL: [Unintelligible] not even doesn’t deny that, he tries to get out of it, whatever [unintelligible].

KWS: Does, umm [laughs] — Did Dayan ever regret not being able to reach an accord with, uh, Hussein or he just sort of knew that all these meetings were not going to go anywhere because of Syria? 

NL: No, he said he had to keep contact, open channel, for Hussein, not expect him to sign a piece of paper with us. He’ll never do it. Don’t expect him to give up even one inch. He is not this kind of leader that can afford to do it, but what we can do is keep on going along with him to the open channels, on the pragmatic issue. You want to have open bridges, let them have open, don’t ask them to sign anything. You want to have trade with them, it can be done. Nothing in writing, nothing to sign, that was his argument. ’Cause he is a peerless Middle East — Culture is different than the one with German culture, like hunting folks that work together. You wait.

KWS: Did Dayan admire Kissinger, his intellect and his ability?

NL: He had an ambivalent, ambivalent attitude towards him. He admired his intelligence, his determination, his knowledge, sometimes his humor, but I think he had some mistrust towards his manipulations. He’s always manipulating, which sometimes first calls for his, you know, suspect.

KWS: The sincerity of his openness. And how about Dayan and Carter? 

NL: I don’t think that he — he wasn’t very fond of Carter, but he didn’t dislike him. You look at Carter. He’s a southern boy who believes that he has all the sense of justice in the world, in the relationship. Nobody will take it away from him, but he believes that. He says that he can do here what we are not able to do among ourselves. Something that you don’t argue that believers used to say, but he was very determined to bring us together. Pushing hard. He didn’t invent any great ideas alongside those negotiations. But he was always there. Under his auspices we were together. And he almost forced us to be — to develop ideas and to present to each other ideas, because he was under pressure. His own pressure. For that, he deserves great admiration.

KWS: Dayan was interviewed on the 4th and 5th of October, maybe the 6th of October, but right after the UN plaza discussions into the morning. And he laid out the discussions, and he said, “This is what the Americans want us to do and we don’t want to do this. They want this in the communiqué, we don’t like it.” And then someone asked him, “Well, was Carter involved?” And then he said, “Not only was Carter involved, Carter was involved deeply, he understood all the details, he understood all the consequences, and perhaps he understood it as well as, if not better, than some of his aides and assistants,” and Dayan said, “I was impressed by what he understood about the issues.”

NL: Yeah, he gave him acknowledgement, and he said, “The main thing is that he didn’t become tired of anything. He was insisting on these certain dates to push us, to pull us together. And for that, he deserves our admiration.” He was the one that forced it on us. It was not easy, so —

KWS: What Carter essentially did in Dayan’s eyes was force the Israelis and the Egyptians to think about a way to accommodate.

NL: To find a different [unintelligible], to develop a certain trust among themselves, to find an alternative to the experience. And he deserves his recognition. He didn’t have anything against them. By the way, I also write in his favor. Once he did something with Jerusalem, well, okay. That’s American tradition. This letter that he did write to Sadat without telling us, it was something else. It was misjudgment on his part. 

KWS: Last question. Do you think there’s something that Dayan wished he could have done differently that he didn’t from ’73 through ’79.

NL: [Pause.] What could he have done differently? I have never heard that saying, but could be. I don’t know. Look, he was never prime minister. He could never make any decisions on his own. He had always to work either with Golda or with Eshkol or with Begin. So, being second-in-command, he couldn’t be the decision-maker. So, he had to consider the circumstances in which he operated. And under those circumstances, I think he did whatever he could. If he could do better, if the circumstances would be different, he could do it differently. Maybe better, maybe worse. I don’t know.

KWS: Did all those prime ministers consider him to be trustworthy and loyal?

NL: No. Each of them had a certain grain of suspicion of him.

KWS: Why? What was it about his fiber, his charact—

NL: Because he was, he is a loner. He was a loner. He never belonged to a clique of people, to a group of people surrounding, he was always on his own. And a man who is always on his own, acting on his own, thinking on his own, he is, you know, provoking your suspicion. What has he in mind? And I think every one of them at a certain point, had that sense of suspicion.

KWS: Maybe. It’s fascinating stuff, I think.

NL: What have you done [unintelligible]?

KWS: Well, I’ve written 560 pages already.

NL: Mmm. [Unintelligible.]

KWS: [Laughs.] And I have about, umm — on this trip I’ll see Mustapha Khalil and, umm [al-Gammasy]

NL: [Unintelligible.]

KWS: I see Khalil, Amr Musa, Abdel-Magid, Usamah —

NL: For your information [laughs].

KWS: [Laughs.] I’ll see Usamah for the second time. And Gamasy for the second time. And then I want to go to Damascus, where I’ve been promised and I don’t —

NL: Assad.

KWS: I’m never quite sure. [Unintelligible.] and Assad and [Farouq al-] Shara. Shara I have to do because Sharah’s well [unintelligible].

NL: Khaddam [unintelligible].

KWS: Well, Khaddam is actually the one who is doing — the person I want to see won’t — I, I won’t be able to see, is [unintelligible]. [Syrian General Hikmat] Shehabi was, is essentially the person who was closest and has been over the years, closest to Assad. And who actually sits and he actually plots out ideas, but I suspect, since you had ne talk with Patrick Seale [author of Asad: The Struggle for the Middle East, 1989] and Seale, the biography, I don’t think he’s going to talk to me. Well, I met Assad three times on the visits Carter’s taken to the Middle East and he’s read my things in English and in Arabic. And he’s — he will be comfortable with me as a fair, honest [unintelligible]. But the promises to meet with the [unintelligible] and actually meeting with them are two very different things. So, I’m prepared not to. But if I can see Khaddam and I can see Shirabi it’ll be good.

NL: I think we missed an opportunity four or five years ago.

KWS: Four or five —

NL: [Unintelligible.] 

KWS: ’87?

NL: When [Mikhail] Gorbachev started to come into trouble. I think, at that time, Assad already could read the writing on the wall that Russia is going to collapse, and this is not anymore for him a promised supporter.


NL: According to this press [unintelligible], he came to the conclusion that would change everything. Instead of being engaged in the Soviets, which was going down the drain, he must find an avenue towards Washington. He didn’t know how to do it. He didn’t know how to approach Washington. And somebody — maybe the same person, but he didn’t tell me that — he told him, “Look, you have to find a way first to accommodate the Israelis. They can help you to get to Washington. [Unintelligible.] Of course you have the list of power and terrorism and all this and that, you must change direction.” And he didn’t exclude such a possibility. He didn’t exclude it. So, I wrote him, and I gave it to [Shimon] Peres and [Yitzhak] Shamir. They were [unintelligible] would try to open, but I don’t know this. [Unintelligible.] But to the best of my mind, what Assad wanted — I believe, maybe I was wrong — (A) a face-saving solution on the Golan Heights. And I didn’t mean it [unintelligible] peace process [unintelligible]. What we didn’t concept before, something similar, whatever. (B) We disengage totally, whatever, in the Golan [unintelligible]. (3) We will give it whatever we can. So [unintelligible], here in the Western world to help them out. That will give them economically a great system in state, some recognition, making the people alone [unintelligible]. But they didn’t agree with it. If it is [unintelligible] or something, I don’t know. They ignored it. They were more or less at that time at least Peres and [unintelligible] to negotiate with themselves. [Unintelligible] the second [unintelligible]. We cannot afford to go against PLO on the one hand and against the Syrians on the other. If he would have Syria behind him, he would be forced to go against [unintelligible]. Nothing, believe me. You know, until 1988, 1990, that time I think we would realize that we could help [unintelligible].

KWS: What is [unintelligible]? 

NL: I think he opened himself a door on [unintelligible] and he can’t go back. If they will, if he will accommodate him with what they need, they will sit down with him.

KWS: And if he still can’t get in? Is he going to be content, unless he settles [unintelligible]?

NL: I’m not sure. [Unintelligible.]

KWS: He doesn’t get back territory unless he satisfies [unintelligible] is secure. He’s the only one that can provide security and you’re the only one that can provide territory. The United States can’t do either.

NL: He can say that he will agree with us. That what has been agreed in ’74 will be sort of a contract for ten years without having peace, without having change [unintelligible]. But he wants certain arrangements in the area which is not calling for Israel to dismantle the settlements. [Unintelligible.]

KWS: Believe it or not, what is needed is a regional defense pact that is, umm, subsidized and run by the United States, in which Israel and Syria are principal participants, and it’s aimed at Iraq and Iran.

NL: That can — that can come out of it.

KWS: And he understands that one [unintelligible] and the Israelis will never get him to concede how he wants to deploy his forces and how he’s going to structure his forces for the next ten years. Because Assad’s number one fear is not Israel. 

NL: Yes, but in the Arab world, the eyes of the Arab world, he needs a certain, uh, how — agreement.

KWS: He can get whatever hekscher [kashrut certification] he wants from the Saudis.

NL: [Unintelligible], but he is also [unintelligible].

KWS: Not if the Jordanians and the Palestinians are going to be on board very quickly afterwards. He’s not going to be a loner. It’s not like Egypt going first. It really isn’t. Assad is the quintessential pragmatist. It’s a shame that Assad and Dayan didn’t have many, many meetings together. It really is a shame. I would have loved to have been in the room for a meeting of those two minds.

NL: I think that he is a pragmatist and he could afford to make some agreements, concessions, that are unheard of at the present moment.

KWS: Exactly. Exactly. [Pause.] Who is publishing him? University Presses of Florida in paper and in hardcover and I’m supposed to have a, a final version to them by the 14th of September. [Unintelligible.] Umm, when I identify you in the bibliography, identify you as press spokesman, attaché, advisor? What’s the word?

NL: [Unintelligible.] I was advisor on public affairs.

KWS: From 19—?

NL: 1970 to 1979, beginning at the camps, after [unintelligible]. In between, I have — I hate this, I was [unintelligible].

KWS: When?

NL: ’74-’77 [this was the period he served under defense minister Shimon Peres].

KWS: So, it’s ’70-’74 [under Moshe Dayan]. 

NL: And ’77-’78 [member of the Israeli delegation at the peace negotiations with Egypt]. [Unintelligible.]

KWS: I mean, that’s what I need for the book. It’s fascinating stuff, and being able to blend the various sides.

NL: You will hear the Arabs — many Israelis, I think among the [unintelligible] versions than the Arabs’.

KWS: Umm, it’s amazing how similar the Israelis’ recollections are. And you have a couple people who really can remember very well. So you use them as benchmarks, but I’ve come to understand that memoirs and autobiographies, no offense intended because I haven’t read yours, have to be taken with a lot of salt.

NL: Yeah.

KWS: I mean, there’s more that’s left out than is included that is wrong.

NL: Yes, I am sure. I’m sure.

KWS: People have — people forget more— forget faster what they want to. I mean, remember, we’re [unintelligible] was —

NL: Yeah, it doesn’t [unintelligible]. You can’t be objective stuff. You can’t be material, raw material to write a story on.

KWS: Yes, it’s inevitable. It’s a wonderful [unintelligible]. Is there any chance at all to read any portions of the English version?

NL: If I had it here, [unintelligible] stuff.

KWS: Anything on ’77, ’78?

NL: No, I don’t carry that. To be writing for such a [unintelligible]. [Pause.] I don’t think it will be any additional stuff that you don’t already have [unintelligible.]

KWS: And I can get your book at the store.

NL: Yeah, it can cost you 45 shekel.

KWS: [Unintelligible.] I read enough to — don’t ask me to read [Hebrew poet Shai] Agnon, but —

NL: I had [unintelligible] in English.