For the majority of his service in the State Department, Nick Veliotes was engaged in Middle Eastern matters. During that time he served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Tel Aviv during and after the October 1973 war, worked in Policy Planning on Middle Eastern matters from 1975 through September 1978, observing the unfolding Carter administration engagement in Arab  (Egyptian)-Israel diplomacy; and then was posted as US Ambassador to  Amman from 1978-1981 and Egypt from 1983-1986 respectively, with 1981-1983 serving in the State Department. Highly intelligent,  Nicholas Veliotes engaged a vast array of American and Middle Eastern political leaders with characteristic candor, devoted to carrying out sensitive objectives of US interests in the region. His assessments of Kissinger, Sadat, King Hussein, Brzezinski, Carter, Vance, and a whole panoply of Israeli officials gives wonderful insight into those politicians and others. Veliotes along with Morris Draper played intermediary roles in private negotiations with PLO leader Yasir Arafat.  This interview can be augmented by a longer  Nicholas Veliotes interview undertaken by The Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training Foreign Affairs Oral History Project, January 29, 1990- These are some of the assessments that  Veliotes shared. In recording this interview, Veliotes spoke very quietly so there are parts of the transcript which are unintelligible, but the vast majority is correctly transcribed

  • On the 1973 US resupply mission to Israel, “Golda needed to show that the US was with the US.”
  • “Dayan saw things always in strategic terms; having Egypt build the Suez Canal cities and open the Canal, meant Egypt would be a strategic hostage to good behavior.” 
  • The Geneva conference idea “a clapper because the Russians were bad guys and because the Syrians wanted to have a veto over, essentially, over the Egyptians. The Syrians wanted to have all, working groups linked, with each working group having a veto over the other one. Sadat had already figured out before we had, and he was never going to get into negotiations under the American plan because of Syrian resistance [of the veto and the Arab delegation meeting as one]”
  • King Hussein sent a letter to Carter after Camp David in September 1978, “I’m all for peace with Israel and all for comprehensive peace with Israel and I wish you well at Camp David. Don’t put me in the impossible position of having to support a separate peace between Israel and Egypt, because I can’t.”
  • King Hussein said, “I told you would be untenable for me to be in and now you want me to join these negotiations. I won’t have the PLO on my side.” 
  • When Cy Vance visited Amman after the Camp David Accord signing and there was diametrically opposed interpretations about the duration of a settlement freeze, Carter said five years and Begin said three months. [Veliotes said] I was there when Cy Vance uncharacteristically slammed his fist down [sound of NV hitting the table] on the table and said, “I guarantee you, Your Majesty Hussein, and your entire power structure that there will be ……”a five-year freeze on settlements.” 
  • On the question of Carter’s Palestinian homeland remark, “I was absolutely stunned that (Carter) would give it away for nothing; Carter didn’t even try to see if we made that statement, would the PLO accept our terms for recognizing Israel and living with them in peace. We [the State Department]were never asked. We were stunned and furious – it was utterly stupid.”

Veliotes  provides a vignette recounting Brzezinski in Amman after Camp David where stomped all over protocol, rather than saying yes to King Hussein’s willingness to talk about deeply held Jordanian-US differences on Camp David, Brzezinski knowing the differences between Sadat and Hussein says, “Your majesty, I have decided that I cannot stay anymore; I’m sorry, said Brzezinski, we can’t stay any longer, but I’ve got to go off and see Sadat.”

Ken Stein, January 5, 2023

Ken Stein Interview with Nicolas A. Veliotes, Washington, DC. September 7, 1995

NV: John N. Irwin. He became the, a troubleshooter. He stepped into the economic refugee other problems left over from Black September. We were working with UN [unintelligible] agencies.

KWS: Black September was your first introduction to the Middle East?

NV: Yes.

KWS: When in ’70, when in ’70, it was before September ’70?

NV: It was just about ’70. 

KWS: To about June or July of ’73 when you went — 

NV: Mm-hmm.

KWS: — to Tel Aviv as DCM (deputy chief of mission). And you left DCM in Tel Aviv when in ’75? 

NV: I think it was November 1975.

KWS: Okay. And you became deputy, deputy director of policy planning staff in ’76?

NV: Yeah.

KWS: Early ’76?

NV: Early ’76.

KWS: Okay. Uh, until when in ’77?

NV: But [unintelligible] and part of my responsibility was [unintelligible]. Then, about, uh, April of ’77, March, or April, I went to be Deputy and my responsibilities were called Arab-Israel, umm, Egypt-Israel.

KWS: Wait. You were there with or after David Korn? 

NV: David Korn. He had been an Israel desk officer.

KWS: I see, okay. So, March 1977 —  

NV: Roy Atherton was the Assistant Secretary of State.

KWS: So, you were Roy’s assistant?

NV: Deputy.

KWS: Deputy. Did you go on any, any of Roy’s trips to the Middle East when he went — 

NV: No, no.

KWS: — in early ’78? 

NV: We didn’t have any wings [unintelligible]. When he was out of town, I had to be on the [unintelligible].

KWS: Gotcha.

NV: When he was in town, I had to be on the [unintelligible; same word] [Laughs.].

KWS: When in ’78 did you go to —

NV: Roy was, uh, uh, totally consumed with the peace process. And my role was to back up the peace process and to [unintelligible] a supporting role as the con—, conflict [unintelligible].

KWS: When did you go to Amman?

NV: I went to Amman in ’78? During [unintelligible], during the last week of [unintelligible].

KWS: Who was the DCM?

NV: Ah, Rocky Suddarth. He is currently head of the Middle East Institute. 

KWS: That’s right. He was solicitor general or something —

NV: No.

KWS: — inspector general?

NV: He was in—

KWS: Yeah.

NV: — [unintelligible] one of the inspector generals.

KWS: Right, after he, after that. [Rocky Suddarth was deputy inspector general of the Department of State from 1991 to 1994, after leaving the post of ambassador to Jordan in July 1990.]

NV: Right. He was ambassador to Amman [unintelligible].

KWS: Okay, so —

NV: Then he — January of ’81, I went back as assistant secretary and stayed there. In November [unintelligible].

KWS: And then, in ’83 to ’86 you were ambassador. When in ’86 did you leave?

NV: I left on April [unintelligible]. April.

KWS: And when — you got to, uh, you got to Egypt at the end of November ’86? Right, this helps. This really helps. Umm, from ’70-’73, special assistant to the deputy secretary. What were your primary responsibilities?

NV: Uh, my primary responsibilities were to uphold a [unintelligible].

KWS: Were you involved in any kind of policies —

NV: Uh —

KWS: — matters?

NV: Yes, but from a staff perspective. [Unintelligible] if you have left to lay and no real, uh [unintelligible]. 

KWS: Umm, do you remember the state department’s institutional attitude toward Sadat, or toward the War of Attrition?

NV: [Unintelligible.] I remember when, umm, Nasser died and [unintelligible]. More of a curse I remember than [unintelligible], that and Nasser [unintelligible].

KWS: Nasser died September 29th, 30, 1970.

NV: That’s ’70.

KWS: That’s right. 

NV: Yeah. The initial attitudes were for [unintelligible]. There were, he was, uh, transitional, uh, he didn’t [unintelligible]. Uh, then he was [unintelligible] night of the long [unintelligible]. One of his first actions that Sadat was attempting was his proposing for a limited Israeli pullback.

KWS: And that was early ’71? 

NV: I believe it was early ’71. 

KWS: February of ’71.

NV: It would have been, uh, Golda [Meir], uh, that the Israelis turned him down because he was going to have some Egyptian police with [unintelligible], and in the — and, uh, then, you know, that was — I forget exactly when — I guess the Rogers Plan was still sort of kicking around back then, and, uh, action, with respect, with respect to the rest of them, the bureaucratic [unintelligible], justice done, and the UN and, umm, the White House.

KWS: When did, umm, [Joseph] Sisco or Atherton kick in, that the Middle East was, something important for Nixon?

NV: Uh, right at the beginning. Uh, Joe Sisco was the assistant secretary of international organizations, so he was deeply engaged in Security Council Resolution 242. I think his appointment by the Secretary of State Bill Rogers as assistant secretary was the signal, at least Secretary [William] Rogers believed that from the beginning, was aggravating [unintelligible] policy issues.

KWS: And then the appointment as assistant secretary of state of Near Eastern affairs — 

NV: — assistant secretary of state —

KWS: — Near Eastern affairs —

NV: Yeah.

KWS: — coming over from international [unintelligible] —

NV: — from international organizations. I mean, I forget exactly when the Rogers Plan [unintelligible], but it was right up there.

KWS: All right, so —

NV: I came to, uh, I got back from Princeton late, early summer ’75. And I think [unintelligible] special [unintelligible] deputy secretary [unintelligible]. Certainly, by the time my [unintelligible] arrived at [unintelligible]. So, I would say, this, this December [unintelligible].

KWS: So, umm —

NV: It must’ve been understood in the transition —

KWS: So, the picture is that the Middle East is important. Rogers appoints Sisco. Golda turns down Sadat’s offer. Golda’s more interested in Phantoms, I guess, or Skyhawks. And she was really interested in dealing with —

NV: Well, the, the, the — as I remember, the official reason why Sadat’s suggestion was turned down — a number of Egyptian policemen in Sinai [unintelligible]. Of course, this was important for Sadat as a sign, as a symbol of sovereignty. And also, to help establish his vision. And then — remember, though, Rogers’ plan running out of steam. This was turned down. I think in ’72, Sadat kicked the Russians out.

KWS: In July 1972. Any notion that that would happen?

NV: [Unintelligible.] There were some suggestions that he would. In the military they were very upset by the large areas in Egypt that in essence were Russian extra-territorial.

KWS: Do you mean prerogative or you mean territory?

NV: I mean that no Egyptian prerogative..

KWS: Such as at a port or an air base.

NV: But down there, Alexandria, that’s sea right there. And this one really rubbed the Egyptian s the wrong way,  Plus, the fact that many of Sadat’s close collaborators in the military, and people who were at the junior general level, like [unintelligible] and his crowd. Yes, they spent several years in Russia, the head of [unintelligible]. The Russians would hear them talk; the Russians spent all their time trying to comprehend them, Russian women and movements. You have had the end of a love affair of a marriage of convenience, I suppose. Sadat, as it turned out, with the full support of his military, with a man on the Russian payroll — and we learned later, of all the people [unintelligible] were indeed on the Russian payroll.

KWS: You mean the ones who moved against in May of 1971, in the rev — the Corrective Revolution [unintelligible]?

NV: Yes, these were the guys, all these single guys [unintelligible], clearly, agents of [unintelligible]. Now, the problem of trying to make sense out of all of this, once we got through Black September and Syrian tanks threatening Jordan, and the US sending aircraft carrier to the Israeli coast, it was was internal, the ’72 elections. Kissinger and Nixon were never supporters of the [Sadat initiative and they could live again. That was required; that was one thing. The second thing: Kissinger’s own way his own way as far as he was ever concerned made a mistake. He was missing out significantly [unintelligible]. Then, when he misspoke. After ’67, I think all of this fell into our hands— for everything we relied entirely on Israeli intelligence. The Israelis — I was in Israel for three months at the end of the year. I remember paying my first call as — two things that stick in my mind. I called as chargé  I went to Israel. So, I know that was [unintelligible] calling. I remember calling [unintelligible] and then [unintelligible]. He described Arab fighting, quibbling. He said, “Look, I’d best be honest. 

KWS: [Unintelligible] slowly? Suddenly?

NV: Suddenly. That was the analogy that we used.

KWS: Mm-hmm.

NV: And when I went down to buy  and then those dates at seven headquarters, I said. “Look,” I don’t know [unintelligible] exactly when [unintelligible]. And they went all around the burnt wall [unintelligible]. There was enormous Egyptian soldiers, moved like clockwork, somehow [unintelligible]. But it turned out that they were things that we dipped into. I think they knew hoses that rained down on incinerators, I think — but they were news in the press. And the Israelis turned to admit, “They’re just some [unintelligible].” One thing to [unintelligible]. And it happened across the map..] In the morning they were gone. That was reason back then. Alone, never asked [unintelligible]. There wasn’t — the point here being there was this over-leaning arrogance where they never felt believed out there. I think the Israelis were misled; I had no reason to question.

KWS: It was an arrogance — 

NV: An arrogance.

KWS: — they felt with their own, their — this overblown, loaded overestimate of their own capability, and at the same time, an understatement of the opposition’s —competence

NV: Yeah.

KWS: — competence.

NV. And for weeks before the — operate [unintelligible] on October 6. Our guys were going into their intelligence people and asking, “What about this? What about that? What about this? Aren’t you worried about this?” And, umm, they said, “No. [Unintelligible] forget about it. We’ll worry about it. Soon.” And then — I’ll never forget the morning, it must’ve been a few days before the outbreak of the war — [unintelligible] out there should come, and [unintelligible]. The first time I turned a [unintelligible] — I never called him — I said, “Could you get a reading from Washington?”

KWS: Was [U.S. Ambassador to Israel Kenneth] Keating there at the time, when the was broke —?

NV: He just arrived. So, at that point, by this time we had open lines [unintelligible].

KWS: Had you seen Golda at all during the first couple months?

NV: Yeah.

KWS: What, what, what in —?

NV: Courtesy calls. The chargé, you know. 

KWS: Mm-hmm.

NV: Particularly with an ambassador, because he was a high-profile political guy.

KWS: Who were your contacts in the foreign ministry?

NV: Epi. Epi Evron and Hanan Bar-On. Umm, Yigal Alon. I used to see him [unintelligible].

KWS: And what kind of feeling or sentiments did you get from Epi or from Allon about Egyptian intentions or about the —?

NV: Not much because they believed, you know —

KWS: But what about U.S.-Israeli relations in general?

NV: Umm.

KWS: Not crises.

NV: Crises? [Unintelligible] and everything. [Unintelligible]. I don’t know any more. He’s always very helping.

KWS: Mm-hmm.

NV: They tell me that they found my own [unintelligible] and that, umm — One of my memories of Israeli [unintelligible], pretty funny memories [unintelligible]. Then in the middle of this winter and the aftermath of the negotiations — We used to have a brilliant young woman and I’m sure they still do — Israeli — who would come in at five in the morning and we would tell her the issues that we wanted her to cover in the daily press summary. And these were all the major political [unintelligible] concerns domestically [unintelligible] with a great focus on American-Israeli relations. You know the Israeli press; there’s two [unintelligible] truths of what’s happening in Israel and what’s happening in the United States. And so, uh, we’d, uh, we’d send this in. It was a great document. If anything, Israel, with the exception of military secrets, was even more porous than Washington. After every cabinet meeting, each minister would rush to his favorite correspondent to put his spin on it, you know. And I had a tremendous political officer called John Hersh and she was clear, an African man.. John was a Hebrew-speaking officer. So we would send in this, uh, [unintelligible] warning and, well, naturally, this — saying what the Israelis were saying, what the Israeli press was saying, and, when we knew who was with whom, we knew what minister was saying it. And there were a lot of things going on in the negotiations, uh, and us and the Israeli government at different points in time, butting heads, and when that happened, the Israeli press coverage would be quite critical of American policy and a gentleman called Henry Kissinger. So, we would [unintelligible] in Sunday’s [unintelligible] and never think anything else about it. Well, one day Epi Evron asked me to come to [Simcha] Dinitz’ office and we sort of hemmed and hawed, [unintelligible] something about it, a kind of reporting we understood, which got my back up, you know. And with Epi [unintelligible], met me down and, and, “How dare you?” Questioned [laughs] the way I do my job! “You know, it’s not your business!” He said, “But we were good friends?” [Unintelligible.] And it turned out it wasn’t the Embassy’s substantive reporting at all; it was this press.

KWS: Mmm.

NV: And the Israelis didn’t understand what we did every day. And we said, “Well, this is what we do.” And it would go to Kissinger and Kissinger would be, see he was being criticized, he’d call Simcha Dinitz up and complain!

KWS: And Epi got it back from Simcha?

NV: And Epi got it back from Simcha. So I finally said, “I promise you what I’ll do. Every morning I’ll send you a copy of our presser. Hell, it’s unclassified. It goes all over Washington, all over the world. And then you’ll know what it is and you can send it to Simcha if you want.”

KWS: Was there any particular reason why the press was, was harsh, or extra harsh as they were?

NV: Well, I don’t think it was a question of being Jewish or not Jewish, if that’s what, what you’re asking.

KWS: No, it’s not —

NV: I think it’s a function of Henry being such a high press [unintelligible] man who is clearly in charge of American policy and American-Israeli overall aims were identical and most of our policies implement these aims for similar but not always identical — and sometimes we would have just, uh, differences.

KWS: And you had this conversation with Epi in the summer of ’73? 

NV: No, it wasn’t ’73. It was in the back into, uh, [unintelligible]. We were one year into the negotiations: ’74, early ’75 [unintelligible]. 

KWS: Mm-hmm. 

NV: There was a time when there were those correspondents in Israel who were claiming Kissinger was the greatest traitor to the Jewish world since Josephus, I remember that. And my wife and I could go nowhere to rest. We tried, uh, Kfar Blum once and had that to hold seminars. And what the seminars were to the kibbutzniks, or to the moshavniks, I forget which, sitting around all night and all day bitching at me. But that’s what I got paid for. 

KWS: Can, can I get back — 

NV: Get back to it.

KWS: — to your, to your, uh, to, to your defense attaché who contacted you and said —

NV: [Unintelligible.]

KWS: — “My, my counterpart has asked me to check something out.”

NV: Mm-hmm.

KWS: What happened between that and when the war broke —

NV: When —

KWS: — and what were you [unintelligible] —

NV: When the Israelis changed — the Israelis decided what they were seeing was not the universe. 

KWS: When did you learn that the Egyptians had attacked [unintelligible]?  25.58 

NV: We learned, uh, before they attacked. On the morning of October 6, I got a call from Epi, and I think, at that time, the entire Israeli war cabinet had, uh, had, you know, cabinet, that — and was in Tel Aviv. When I heard the prime minister on the [unintelligible], Ken Keating in Tel Aviv in that intelligence complex that they have there on the [unintelligible]. Uh, [unintelligible], nine o’clock in the morning [unintelligible]. Something that happened. When we arrived, Golda Meir said that the, uh, [unintelligible] Egyptians were going to attack us, [unintelligible], and uh, Number one, they are not going to take the initial [unintelligible]. They couldn’t [unintelligible]. But we are mobilizing. There might be a [unintelligible] with the Russians, tell them that the them not to do it, it wold be a terrible mistake.

KWS: They had to tell the Syrians not to tell the Egyptians.

NV: And the Egyptians. Uh — 

KWS: But she didn’t say that the Jordanians were going to attack?

NV: I don’t remember. I don’t — And [unintelligible] call it back then. It wasn’t run [unintelligible] right. [Unintelligible.]

KWS: What did you do after this meeting? (8-9 meeing

NV: I went back to, uh — it was about five o’clock in the morning.- in US It was, uh, it was my [unintelligible] and I had to get back to [unintelligible].

KWS: But wait, you said it was nine o’clock in the morning that you —

NV: Yes. No. It was when we, we met. We met at eight or nine in the morning.

KWS: At — with, with Golda?

NV: With Golda and [Moshe] Dayan.

KWS: And so by the time you get finished, it’s ten, and six hours earlier, it’s here.

NV: Yeah.

KWS: And so it’s four o’clock —

NV: So —

KWS: — back here.

NV: And so, I got on — which sides — that will do it to it. But, first I’m going to call. And in those days, secure phones were impossible. We sounded like Donald Duck [unintelligible].

KWS: [Laughs.]

NV: Anyway, you know, you couldn’t talk. Anyway, I thought you didn’t want to go secure; we wanted to, we wanted the Russians to hear. And we wanted the Arabs to hear. So they called in the Israeli desk officer and I sat down. They said, “Name. They got Roy Atheron and they got Joe Sisco. All of you got down to brass tacks.” And he wouldn’t let — he kept trying to [unintelligible] and said, “This is classified. What do you think? [Unintelligible] manuscript. Shut up and listen! Egyptians and the Syrians and the [unintelligible],” and then [unintelligible] he says, “Get to the Russians [unintelligible] to expand the deal.” Terrible. And then — the time I got him calmed down, he’d listen. I said, “We’re sending you a telegram that [unintelligible] justify.” And it’s nighttime. That’s right. Three days later, we were called in and the Syrian threat was over. On the Golan, were called in in the morning and, uh, given the list of materials [unintelligible] we supplied the Israelis in the war. And then we issued this, uh, “let the Israelis [unintelligible] outside.” [Unintelligible] reference the house because [unintelligible]. The, uh, next key point there was, uh, whether the Israelis could destroy the Egyptian, I guess, Second Army —

KWS: Third. (he skipped to the end of war- 

NV: — Third Army, by cutting off its flank. And, uh, Henry may — I think was one of [unintelligible], talked him out of it. Not, I mean, impassioned [unintelligible], unheard of, once about they have something is a vengeance, I can’t repeat. [Unintelligible.]

KWS: Were you part of the conversation that he had with Golda? Were you around? Did you pick him up?

NV: Many times. 

KWS: Well, I’m talking, I’m talking about particularly his first visit to Israel after the war started, when we came back from Moscow, after having negotiated and written out U.N. Security Council Resolution 338 [adopted October 22, 1973], he came by Israel — he came back to the States via Israel. He did not go the n Egypt and at the airport, he met Dayan and he met [unintelligible], and they drove him to Tel Aviv together and Epi was part of that motorcade that went to, to Jerusalem.

NV: I was part of the motorcade, I know.

KWS: Okay.

NV: ‘Cause I was in charge of that kind of stuff.

KWS: Did you guys know that — 

NV: There was a meeting —

KWS: Listen, Epi, Epi told though, that Ken Keating didn’t know that Kissinger was —

NV: — that Kissinger was in Moscow.

KWS: Right. And he didn’t —

NV: He found out from Epi.

KWS: That’s what he said. In fact, he said that Keating only knew five hours before Kissinger was to arrive —

NV: {Unintelligible], right.

KWS: — and Epi’s problem, he said, was he had to alert Israeli air force about the, the, the signs on the aircraft, so that they wouldn’t shoot him down.

NV: — shoot him down, that’s right.

KWS: And he called Keating and he asked Keating for information and Keating said he didn’t know what the hell Epi was talking about. Is that about right?

NV: That’s about right. Whether he called Ken or he called me, I don’t know, uh, because he [unintelligible]. But, uh, the, umm — Yeah, Henry, uh — well you could understand like this. I’ll give you one example. Uh, he, umm, if — he would always meet privately with government [unintelligible] and then we’d have a broader meeting. I was always in the broader meeting. No one was in the private meeting. [Unintelligible]. There’d always been somebody in touch with the Israeli [unintelligible]. You’d have the Israelis do business in [unintelligible]. [Unintelligible] pretty soon you’d [unintelligible] Israelis. [Laughs.] Because they would clearly lose interest. [Unintelligible.]

KWS: Well, I’d like to go from about October 9th. Where were you in this entire resupply fiasco [Operation Nickel Grass and its aftermath]?

NV: Uh. Henry would always have these meetings just with Golda and then there would be the broader meetings. 

KWS: I mean, what, what do you remember about it? How did you see —What do you remember about the resupply fiasco?

NV: What I remembered about it was, umm, wasn’t the first time the embassy got engaged in resupplying Israel [unintelligible] and Israeli [unintelligible] things [unintelligible].

KWS: War broke on Saturday. By Wednesday you have a list. 

NV: Uh —

KWS: By the ninth.

NV: The ninth.

KWS: By the ninth. 

NV: Not sixth, seventh.

KWS: And then, there’s fiddling for a week.

NV: There’s fiddling for a week and I don’t remember, uh, what kind of fiddling there was. I don’t remember if there was a refusal to allow Israeli aircraft to transport the material or whether the fiddling was on the U.S. side [unintelligible].

KWS: My information is that after the list was delivered to you, Golda then dealt with Simcha directly and Simcha dealt directly with, with Henry and there was no effort to incorporate the embassy at all in this discussion with Washington. Nor was there any effort on the part of Golda to, to request that [Abba] Eban participate. She bypassed him entirely —

NV: This could be.

KWS: — and, and, and you guys really did where — 

NV: We, uh, I don’t remember all the details. 

KWS: I think, I think it’s because it ended up being [unintelligible] many.  

NV: The, uh —

KWS: — from your perspective.

NV: Yeah. I do know that the first resupply were all El Al aircraft our [unintelligible].

KWS: Mm-hmm.

NV: And I don’t know the dates on that. I don’t know the dates. I doubt it took us a whole weekend to give them —

KWS: Well, it says Friday [unintelligible], by the twelfth, and they didn’t. They left on the thirteenth, and it takes some time —

NV: Part of the problem was getting the materials. Now, one of the things that we [unintelligible] for [unintelligible] — 

KWS: Mmm.

NV: And once we saw the Russians going [unintelligible] to resupply the Syrians — and I forget what the dates were that we saw this [unintelligible] — bad [unintelligible] — we decided that we had two — I think, I think it may have been a military [unintelligible] and the Israelis had hourglass [unintelligible].

KWS: I’ve, I’ve learned that from two other sources.

NV: [Unintelligible.] They had a hell of a lot, so — although how much of this is Golda saying, “Look, we need — We need and I need to show that you are with us,” and how much of it was Henry saying, “Well, we’ve told the Arabs we are not going to call for a cease-fire, you guys.” There was  tremendous pressure, to have a cease-fire in place–once the Arabs made their initial, uh, gains on the Golan and in the, in the Sinai, call for a cease-fire in the Golan. I remember the — our position was, “This is stupid. Don’t do it.” And Henry’s position was, “Ignore it. They’re not going to [unintelligible].” The issue here — and when I say a lot of this I have questions about — but I thought a lot of the agitation over resupply was more for show than for blow and — Once we saw that the Russians — and by the way, they didn’t add much to the [unintelligible] we were going to [unintelligible] how much the Russians actually brought. In this [unintelligible], all of the Syrian [unintelligible] —

KWS: Mm-hmm.

NV: — it was better than [unintelligible].

KWS: Mm-hmm.

NV: Turns out that, uh, the [unintelligible] was a shocker and a made-up [unintelligible]. We were only able to give the Israelis six TOW missiles [Tube-launched Optically tracked Wire-guided] missile launchers. I was stunned because before coming to Israel, one of the jobs that my boss had was to be the den father of NATO — European multilateral stuff we were into. OECD —

KWS: Your boss being —?

NV: John Irwin. 

KWS: Mmm.

NV: NATO. EEC. [Unintelligible] International petroleum thing; it was the oil [unintelligible]. And we spent a lot of time in NATO capitals clocking that. And we get them TOW missiles in place, in sufficient quantities, to compensate for the Russian provisions.  We could only give them six. So, you’re looking over those, the flak of over resupply, and I know that [investigative journalist Seymour] “Sy” Hersh had made a big deal out of it. I think a lot of it is bullshit and I told him this. [Unintelligible] say [unintelligible] collectibles. You better be careful what you say because he never stops talking and then pretty soon his words become what you told him. He speaks a little bit like this too. Uh, so, uh, part of it is, you know, we didn’t [unintelligible]. Six TOW missiles. We had spent God knows how much money finding the right night sight [unintelligible]. It didn’t have a night sight on it.

KWS: Mmm.

NV: We delivered the six to the Israelis. Couple of days later, well, maybe it was the next month, the Israelis and the other attachés out to see a night firing. Well, if they had [unintelligible] sight, one lens from the, uh, night vision goggle that their tankers had — and they instructed the gunners to look through the night vision sight, press the button, shut their eyes for two or three seconds, open their eyes and take out the missile. Big problem was the flash. So they were unable to get up there. They had six on the [unintelligible] line and they were very happy to have them. You know what happened back then, uh, the glasses. So, I would say, in [unintelligible], you think [unintelligible], lights and the fiascos and [unintelligible]. What had really happened in the way of [unintelligible]. We finally decided that I would check the date of the first C-5A that came to Israel [unintelligible]. We really made a big thing about it. That’s — I was out at the airport. I called Ken Keating. He came out with a photograph. One in six came out okay. The Russians were delivering boatloads of tanks at the last [unintelligible]. There was even a suggestion the Israelis might, umm, bomb those Russian ships. [Unintelligible] suggest that [unintelligible’ laughs]. You know, I mean, at that time, the way that Henry — you are trigggering a lot of memories — the way Henry did business. Here we are in the middle of the war and you’ve never seen a Department of Defense telegram that’s [unintelligible], maybe a hundred paragraphs. I get a phone call from?  “Jesus Christ, I’ve got to see you immediately,” and running up the stairs and shows me paragraph 45 and paragraph 83. One tells us we’re on a nuclear red alert [laughs] and the other one tells us that the 82nd Airborne is going to load up and come to Israel. [Laughs.] I called [unintelligible] and asked, “What are you trying to do? For Christ’s sake, have you told the Israelis?” “They didn’t tell us.” “That’s not that important [unintelligible] or unusual. They gotta know.”

KWS: Would Washington [unintelligible]?

NV: [Unintelligible.]

KWS: I think it goes back to your opening paragraph, is this the way Kissinger did business.

NV: Yeah, and, uh, so, uh, the, uh — My guess is that little or nothing that was date for a  particular use to them as they went across in the Sinai. What they really wanted — and they didn’t even know how long the war was going to last — I think what they really wanted was assurance that they [unintelligible] to have [unintelligible], you know, that we would  be there. Well, yeah, we would be there, but I’m not sure how much we had to give them. [Unintelligible], the big ticket items.

KWS: How much did — this war broke out — two questions, one that deals with the Israeli general public during the first ten days, Dayan’s offer to resign, umm —

NV: Well, uh, and [Chaim] Herzog coming on the radio and saying — on tv and saying, “We stopped them.” They’re crushing the Syrians and the Syrians were —

KWS: What was the Israeli mood like and how did it change?

NV: Very — well, first, stunned that this happened. First, the question: how could it have happened? That’s the first stage. Then, when the casualties came back — I get a [unintelligible] a little less time that I’d been in Israel. [Unintelligible.] I think the Israelis [unintelligible] about whether or not [unintelligible] and I think the Israeli Jewish population paid for that after this [unintelligible]. How the hell did [unintelligible]? A friend of mine, he was on a sabbatical, he was a South African [unintelligible] and he was Jewish and taking a sabbatical for a [unintelligible] in Israel [unintelligible]. And he was in tears. “I could see my son, fighting with, fighting [unintelligible]. Tell me this,” he said. “What’s going to happen when [unintelligible]?”     [Unintelligible] better understand what has happened. And indeed, that’s — if you take a look at what happened? Golda was destroyed poltiically. Now, they won an incredible — a feat of honor. It took courage, generalship, yeah. To think, if we had [unintelligible].

KWS: How did Golda’s attitude, how is Golda’s attitudes towards Kissinger shaped?

NV: I think she always had a good relationship with him, a very frank relationship with him, a very good relationship with [unintelligible].

KWS: Well, she was frank with everybody.

NV: Yes, but he’s the [unintelligible].

KS: You think that when she left a conversation with him, she said, “I, I trust him?” 

NV: Will, I think, no, of course, of course not. She shouldn’t have. She’d want to double track his [unintelligible] at some point. And should President [unintelligible] tomorrow, in Tel Aviv, I believe that she [unintelligible] President [unintelligible]. Umm, I went in for one meeting. I don’t remember the date. It wasn’t the meeting — I’m trying to think — maybe it was that. No, it was not. It was Kilometer 101 [1973 Egyptian-Israeli military talks], I think. It was the agreement to have the Kilometer 101 meetings. [Unintelligible.] Henry may have been in Egypt at that point and he sent Kissinger — he sent Sisco to, uh, to Israel.

KWS: His first visit to Egypt was November 6.

NV: I’m trying to remember. Did he go from Israel to Egypt?

KWS: No. He didn’t visit Israel on that trip.

NV: Okay.

KWS: But he did send Joe —

NV: He sent Joe.

KWS: — after his first meeting with Sadat.

NV: Right. He sent Joe in, and I was in [unintelligible] with the staff with Joe.

KWS: But Kilometer 101 had been going on for a week already.

NV: There — Whatever the agreement was — maybe it was the first November (6th in Cairo)meeting, maybe that’s when I went down. I did [unintelligible], could check —

KWS: That’s all right.

NV:  I remember we were sitting in this room and [unintelligible] It was Epi and Golda and Yigal Alon and Dayan and [unintelligible] myself, Joe. It’s a very important agreement and we have to not forget it. [Unintelligible] may have been the first to see it. And we got agreement. And then Joe said, “Now let’s go over this. [Unintelligible] dry run [unintelligible]. make sure that you both understand [unintelligible].


NV: Maybe Golda was [unintelligible]. You know, she was second-hand [unintelligible]. She starts to get up [unintelligible] and says, “Wrong.” She says, “That puts a whole different cast on this,” in response. And Dayan got up and went over to her and said, “Golda, it really is all wrapped up, don’t’ worry even with the [unintelligible], it’s all right.” She said, “You really think so?” [Unintelligible.] Even Yigal said [unintelligible]. We got the agreement. We go out. Joe is jumping for joy and he looks at me and he says, “Nick get the press.” “Joe, Joe, you can’t be serious.” He says, “What do you mean?” “Henry’s in Cairo. Don’t you think you ought to tell him first?” “Yeah, yeah, yeah, oh God, yes.” Well, we’re done doing this, we get the press release —

KWS: We carry the shovel in his parade

NV: Everyone, you know, no matter who we are, and, uh — [Laughs.] 

KWS: [Laughs.]

NV: [Laughs.] Imagine what Henry would’ve done, if [unintelligible] and Joe would’ve announced it and tell everyone? [Stops laughing.] Well, then we got agreement, made joint announcements. And Joe took off to go over to Jordan because at that time, he wanted to brief the king who was going to Saudi Arabia.

KWS: Mmm.

NV: Umm, and I took him down to the Allenby Bridge, kissed him good bye, came back in terrible [unintelligible]. Mordechai Gazit was the special assistant, said  “Call Sisco back. It’s a terrible agreement.” You know this. In Israel this happens. You know, people can second guess the prime minister all the time. I mean, Eli Rubinstein used to do with [Menachem] Begin. We’d have agreements that Begin would agree to and Eli would walk in and say, “Sorry. No, no, I disagree.” [Laughs.] And I said, “[Unintelligible], you tell anybody, ‘I was sick. I wasn’t there. If I were there, it shouldn’t have [unintelligible].’” “You can’t be serious.” He said, “You can’t be serious.” “We’ve announced it. Sisco’s telling the king right now.” “I don’t care. Get it back , he said.” And I said, “No. I’ll simply not do it.” Now, the prime minister has to fall. Or the ambassador. Or the secretary of state. I said, “But you must understand that we have an agreement amongst three governments, sealed at the top. Our president, their president, your prime minister, your, your cabinet, Sadat. [Unintelligible.]

KWS: What, uh, what do you know about Dayan’s relationship with Kissinger?

NV: It was good. Uh, Dayan saw — he had the same vision. [Sounds like he is answering a telephone.] Hello. Hello.

KWS: Dayan had the same vision as Kissinger?

NV: Well, he may have been — before, I don’t know, but Dayan saw, in strategic terms, what it would mean to take Egypt out of the Arab League equation.”

KWS: How early did you sense that Dayan understood that?

NV: Very early. Very early. Uh, as early as the discussions when Kissinger came and we had the meetings on, on the third Army, , that early. Dayan saw this and he played a very key role in this.

KWS: In doing what? In persuading Golda that there was a strategic vision that had —

NV: No.

KWS: — to be observed —

NV: And she [unintelligible].

KWS: — that there would be no victor, no vanquished, that —

NV: Yeah.

KWS: — Sadat wouldn’t —

NV: In [unintelligible].

KWS: — gain anything by getting the Third Army destroyed?

NV: Yes. And also, uh, the importance of allowing Sadat to reopen the Suez Canal, which for Sadat was a triumph, which Dayan saw as strategically a triumph for Israel because if the international community in Egypt put billions of dollars into the new Suez Canal and the new cities of Suez, this became a strategic hostage to good behavior by the Egyptians. And I give you a, an anecdote here: Just before this finalized the signature of the first disengagement agreement, Dayan was due to come, due to leave for Israel, I mean, for Washington to give it the final blessing from Israel’s point of view. Epi Evron calls and said, “I’ve just seen Dayan at the airport. He’s on the plane, going to Washington. He’s very upset because he has been visited by [Senator Scoop Jackson’s assistant] Dick Perle and John Lehman,  who’s here on a private petition and [unintelligible]. And Dick Perle told him in terms suggesting he was an informal emissary for Kissinger that the Suez Canal should not be reopened because it would be such a great strategic victory for the Russians and he painted the picture of the Red Threat [unintelligible],” and Epi said, “And I can tell you that Kissinger better meet Dayan at the airport and tell him it ain’t so, because they had an agreement, an agreement.” He said, “No, it’s [unintelligible] that because Dayan agrees could change to an agreement.” So I did two things: I passed the word back to Washington but then I put out, uh, the “wherever-you-are, Dick Perle, come in and see each other.” He went out there with [unintelligible], with Jackson. And the two of them came in to see me and the three of us sat — first, he denied it. And I said, “It can’t be right. I know what you did. And you, you had absolutely no authority, any relationship at all to talk to Dayan and you should’ve known, but even if you didn’t, [unintelligible] mean you would carry a message. Jackson, really [unintelligible]. We’re gonna settle this, we’re gonna clarify. You really sold [unintelligible] out,” whereupon he got up and gave me a lecture on the red ties. So, yes, Dayan did share this [unintelligible].

KWS: But did he share the concern about the Soviet Union?

NV: No. He didn’t see that. You know, it depends on how far you can, you know, you project, or —

KWS: Did Israel sign Sinai I after clarifying with the United States that United States was not worried about the Red Threat, Moscow [unintelligible]?

NV: Well, we — undoubtedly there were discussions about this.

KWS: But as long as the U.S. was satisfied with it, by —

NV: But you know, that was the Cold War. We had just had a nuclear alert and we alerted the, uh, you know, the 82nd Airborne, and there was real thought that we might get into a shooting war with the Russians or at least with some Russian troops. Yeah, and no one could accuse Kissinger that he’s soft on the Russians.

KWS: Do you think Kissinger unnecessarily ratcheted this thing up to Defcon 3 and he didn’t have to? 

NV: I don’t know. I was, uh, stunned to see it, but I know it happened.

KWS: How did Israelis react to Defcon 3?

NV: Well, it was over very quickly. I mean, once — I forget, uh, it was up, uh, I — what I said is, “I think you ought to notify the Israelis. I don’t think I should notify them on the basis of a Department of Defense message. That’s not going to do that.”

KWS: If you take Dayan’s vantage point — he was defense minister, he oversaw Israel’s lack of readiness for the ’73 War, he was traumatized by it personally, umm, he acknowledges to Kissinger, uh, “Yes, Henry, uh, we can’t destroy the Third Army,” and then Dayan’s got to turn around and tell people like [Ariel] Sharon, “Don’t squeeze these guys’ throats.”

NV: But Sharon, because he’s Sharon, Israel’s [unintelligible] after his Palmach days [unintelligible]. But even that —

KWS: But Dayan, in the midst of all this, in this very traumatic three or four weeks —

NV: Yeah.

KWS: —to-four weeks —

NV: — sees this.

KWS: — Dayan shows 

NV: Oh, yeah.

KWS: That would be fair to say, wouldn’t it?

NV: Oh, yeah. And — enormous courage.

KWS: And wisdom, wisdom, too. And [unintelligible] wisdom.

NV: Yes, and wisdom.

KWS: What did you know about the plans for the ’73 Geneva Conference? 

NV: Not much. I mean, well, I knew about ’em; they told us about ’em. We knew they were there. H, we knew they were the, uh, window dressing to the agreements that we had already [unintelligible].

KWS: Were you surprised that the Syrians decided not to come? At the time, not afterwards, but —

NV: But they didn’t go at the foreign minister level but they were there signing the agreement.

KWS: No. Geneva, ’73.

NV: Oh, Geneva, ’73. Not the disengagement.

KWS: No, not the — not in May of, of ’74. 

NV: I, I don’t know that we were surprised at not seeing [unintelligible]. I, uh —

KWS: What did you —

NV: Our focus was on the Egyptians.

KWS: What did you know — how did you understand the role of the embassy in this unfolding diplomatic drama? What was it? At times, you seem to have been involved . At times, you seem to have been purposely bypassed.

NV: Yeah. It was very uneven and I think that the production level of, uh, U.S. policy formulation had given them, uh, uh, the second Sinai agreement.

KWS: Mm-hmm.

NV: [Unintelligible]. Well, even before that, I, umm, used to be the [unintelligible] man, and he (Kissinger)was a ruthless man. [Unintelligible.] Uh, you would have to get into [unintelligible] plans [unintelligible]. It was quite [unintelligible]. Once, twice, that had to be [unintelligible] missed [unintelligible]. It was a — I’ll follow. So, when he comes back [unintelligible]. Well, about one in the morning, I called up [unintelligible] the embassy and said, “He’s going to get them. And [unintelligible] said, he said, “All right.” He said, “You know, tell her. I’ll take responsibility. This is crazy.” I made that [unintelligible] about two or three in the morning. I half expected, I mean, “’I’m going to see the prime minister,’ someone said.” I’m [unintelligible] and you don’t need to go on of those [unintelligible] snits, turn to Ken Keating in front of Henry and, “Oh, man, gee, by the way, why isn’t she available?” and Ken said, “Why [unintelligible]? Why isn’t she available?” And I said, “Because she’s asleep.” And afterward then, and you know, they yelled, and — substantively —

KWS: [Laughs.]

NV: [Laughs] — the, uh, uh, because of the way he operated, he tended to humiliate you in front of your host, of the others, and I wouldn’t take it.

KWS: You mean you as a state department official?

NV: Yes. Not me. Not me. [Unintelligible.] And I wouldn’t take it. And I got some of his grudging respect as a result. Because while he wasn’t there, because it made you seem irrelevant, what good is — are you to be respected? And, uh, so, and I had a lot of Israeli friends in the government and I thought [unintelligible; telephone rings]. Yup. Yes.


NV: Now, can’t keep ‘em running through, couples to run through, justifying my expense account.

KWS: Umm, when did you come to understand after Kissinger’s, after Henry’s involvement in this negotiations, when did you come to understand that this was a series of interim steps that — a series of interim agreements that we’re looking forward to and not something that was more comprehensive. In other words, was there —

NV: Right from the beginning.

KWS: Was there ever a time when you felt that — you intimated before that our focus was, was on Egypt. Did you ever think that our focus should have been more broadly thrust or —

NV: Well, we had —

KWS: — encompassing. 

NV: — two [unintelligible] We had, uh — yeah, close. The — I thought we should have done the disengagement agreement with the Jordanians.

KWS: When? 

NV: Right after we did the — we finished with the first which — when was the Syrian?

KWS: Sinai I was January of ’74. 

NV: Right.

KWS: Egypt and — Israeli-Syrian was May of ’74. 

NV: All right. Not after that. And I’ll tell you where we were.

KWS: After that, but not before it. 

NV: Not before it, because the two parties at war were Syria and Egypt. And it was logical. We had just reestablished diplomatic relations with Syria, reestablished diplomatic relations with Egypt. Yeah, I have no problem with the sequence of Sinai I and then the Syria, but I believed and erroneously assumed that we were then going to have an agreement with the Jordanians. Indeed, I spoke to Epi. [in the MFA], Tom Pickering, at that time, was in Jordan, as was this [CIA station chief and adviser to King Hussein] Jack [unintelligible] O’Connell [unintelligible]. And Yigal Alon was talking about the Alon Plan, starting with Jericho: a disengagement agreement. An agreement with Jordan which would’ve started by giving back Jericho.

KWS: After May of ’74 or —

NV: Yeah.

KWS: — before that? After?

NV: [Unintelligible.] Sure. And, uh, I was advocating that  and I was talking to Epi, and, uh, there was a parting to Washington, never heard a goddamn word back. Alon went to Washington. Epi called me the minute they got back and they said, “Nick, if anyone in the conversations — Yigal could not have offered this, but if anyone in the conversations had mentioned a disengagement agreement with Jordan, Yigal was prepared to engage. And what he’d give them? One —Henry didn’t

KWS: [Unintelligible.]

NV: — he talked about — Well, I’ll tell you what — There was a — So, he said, “It’s our plan.” And then you saw what happened. What a — [1974 Arab League summit in] Rabat happens, took the Jordanians out of the mix. Now, there was a lot of newspaper [unintelligible] about all of this, including reports from Jordan that the Jordanians would reject us. O’Connell told me that he was invited to a party at the palace where they were ready to celebrate the return of Jericho. The Jordanians would indeed have engaged and have accepted that as a first step, according to Jack O’Connell who was literally living in the king’s mind at that time. Now, sometime later, I was given a sheef of papers— and this was back then — telegrams to read. And there was a visit and Henry was working in Egypt and came to Israel, maybe to do the first discussions on Sinai II. And I said, “What the hell?” I couldn’t get anyone to talk to me about that, what happened. I was given a batch of telegrams to look at.

KWS: Hmm.

NV: In that batch of telegrams, what happened? I believe Sadat asked that. That would not complicate there, uh, working on the Palestinian issue [unintelligible]. You know, his anecdotes were [unintelligible]. [Unintelligible] and flattery. And apparently, we never said, “No, we want to go through this list.” This is logical [unintelligible] and then we went to Sinai II.

KWS: It makes a lot of sense, from other sources I’ve talked to, and this particularly deals with the meeting at Alexandria in July of ’74 between the king and Sadat in which the King got Sadat a promise that he would not re-endorse what was endorsed in Algiers the previous November 1973 at the Arab summit meeting, of making the PLO the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and in fact, that was exactly what Usamah [el-Baz, Egyptian foreign ministry undersecretary] and [Egyptian Foreign Minister Ismail] Fahmy did when they went to Rabat. And  let Sadat keep himself on track at being the only focus of American friendship and getting another slice of —

KWS and NV: Sinai.

NV: That sounds very, very good.

KWS: Let me, let me go one, let me go back one step further and tell you my interview with [Egyptian General Mohamed al-] Gamasy, since we’ve already passed this in our discussion.

NV: Yeah.

KWS: While the Syrians and the Egyptians had common knowledge of the date of the attack, the Egyptian general’s staff never shared with the Syrians the fact that they were only going to go across the canal and not break out the passes, go beyond the passes. The purpose of that was, was Sadat’s philosophy for Gamasy: “I’m not going to war to liberate Sinai; I’m going to war to harness the Americans.” And war — only Gamasy enough and Ismail understood that, that that was Sadat’s objective. Look at why Sadat goes to Jerusalem in 1977. Not because the Soviets being [unintelligible] from their October declaration [joint U.S.-Soviet declaration on the Middle East], but because Carter was — and, and [Cyrus] Vance and [Zbigniew] Brzezinski were messing around with how the P.L.O. would be represented, will it be high-, low-level element, and what — and now the Syrians — Once again, Sadat doesn’t like other people messing around with other areas in which the Israelis could get complexly involved and take the spotlight away from his goal and his Sinai [unintelligible]. 

NV: Yeah. We [unintelligible] that. And there was a very funny anecdote, uh, a footnote to that. When Sadat announced he was going to Jerusalem, it was when the American embassy [unintelligible] convening a conference and the radio was screaming about [unintelligible] fighting [unintelligible] the Russians [unintelligible], I think I must have walked with — for about a two week period, I must have met with the representatives and [unintelligible]. Citizens!   And Roy and I [unintelligible]. And when Roy Atherton and I heard that Sadat had announced that he was going to Jerusalem, our first question was, “What language did he make his announcement in?” He said, “Arabic.” I wanted to check and said, “Jesus.” And he’s going. We were watching in Jerusalem, and it was a very emotional time. [Unintelligible] out of this and [unintelligible] plan working on this [unintelligible] attached, was so supportive of what he was doing. I get a phone call from one of the journalists coming in the courtroom, wants to know, “Is it true, that the NEA [Near Eastern Affairs] Bureau is against that kind of choice?”

KWS: Where were you when, when he makes this announcement?

NV: I I’m the deputy in NEA, I’m on the road. 

KWS: Right.

NV: I mean, if it’s true, if the NEA Bureau was opposed to his going out [Sadat to Jerusalem], it was dirty Arabists again. To Jerusalem. And I said, “Of course not. Wherever did you get that idea?” The upshot of it was Brzezinski who made an intemperate remark when he thought what he saw his elaborate plans had no possibly of coming off, following the the Sadat trip,  that Sadat was himself taking center stage of now —   

KWS: Brzezinski’s [unintelligible] was that the state department was opposed?

NV: Brzezinski said something that someone repeated that somehow got translated into “we were opposed to it.”

KWS: Before you get there —

NV: Yeah, [unintelligible].

KWS: Let me talk about ’76-’77 when you arrived at policy planning.

NV: Yeah.

KWS: Umm —

NV: And it’s after the second disengagement.

KWS: Right.

NV: We were in the election hiatus.

KWS: And nothing’s — all right, what did policy planning know about the contents of the planning of the Brookings Paper of  November ’75?

NV: Well.

KWS: Were you guys involved in it at all? 

NV: No. We weren’t involved in it, but we knew the plans.

KWS: And they were —

NV: They, uh, you remember, one of the pe— key players was Bill Quandt. He used to be Kissinger’s NSC [National Security Council].

KWS: Right.

NV: So, we knew what they were coming up, we knew that they were coming up then and initially, which would allow [unintelligible]. But whether, you know, — One of my major responsibilities was sort of a coordinator [unintelligible]. It’d come front and center for Henry.

KWS: Let’s go back to my — Did you guys in Tel Aviv ever, were you ever aware of the degree which Watergate did or did not incapacitate Nixon?

NV: Nixon came out — Well, don’t forget, I was in Washington until the summer of ’73. Well, Watergate was [unintelligible] a sensation. I went out to — Nixon came out —

KWS: In June of ’74.

NV: June of ’74. Umm, his stay in Israel was chaotic. Kissinger, Ziegler, Haig was the middleman. You couldn’t get any decisions [unintelligible]. [Lawrence] Eagleburger. Henry was pouting. Someone in Congress suggested he might have lied to somebody [unintelligible]. Kissinger was mad because the White House wasn’t supporting. It was a disaster. You had to go to Haig to get any decisions of any kind, and, uh, my, uh, anecdote— I’m in charge of division. And, uh, Ken Keating’s got, had a [unintelligible] and he’s coming in for a visit. And for a week I go back and forth in function on the fact that I’m told the White House will not approve Nixon going to the Yad Vashem. I explained to the Israelis that the president can be kept presumably for political reasons, domestic maximum benefit. Yad Vashem. [Unintelligible] and Alon said he’s just yelling at these [unintelligible]. “Tell ’em that it’s a working visit. [Unintelligible]. You know these [unintelligible]. You know and I know [unintelligible].” Three days later, Yigal Alon comes back to tell me that [unintelligible]. “You expect this day to pass?” [Unintelligible] leading the ambassador, turns around and comes over, takes my head [unintelligible], turns to [unintelligible], he says, “You’ve got [unintelligible]. There is something. Yad Vashem [unintelligible].” So, I go back and I use the — first time ever — my special charm on Nixon. And that’s it.

KWS: [Unintelligible.]

NV: That’s Yad Vashem.


NV: Yeah. It’s Amer— it’s the state department channel but it only is distributed to the secretary of state.

KWS: Okay.

NV: And you know, and you worry. And so I say that. “You know, you gotta get to the White House. You’ve gotta tell them that they gotta go to  go to Yad Vashem. Or there won’t be a visit.” And Israelis knew that. The extent to which the secretary would take action by [unintelligible] remains [unintelligible]. “Meanwhile, carry out your instructions to the White House,” so at this time I met with the White House coordinator whose next, young man, and I managed that, and I said, “I haven’t bothered you with this, but presumably you’re interested in politics, right?” He said, “Yeah,” and I said, “Okay. How would it grab you if the president were here and word were to get out that the United States president would not go to the Yad Vashem and therefore the Israelis have cancelled his visit?” I said, “You know the Yad Vashem meaning  and you know what it means?” Very weird things are happening. The man there calls me back. He says, “Okay, I’ve taken care of it. I’ll tell you about it later. It’s all good.” Well, as it turned out, they didn’t tell Nixon that he was going to the Yad Vashem. He showed up at the Yad Vashem, put a hat on his head, pushed him through the door. Later I asked, that had nothing to do with the Yad Vashem, Nixon was so far gone that when they said he had to wear something on his head, he remembered a picture that was amplified during his campaign against [John] Kennedy and he blamed that picture as contributing to his defeat and he was never going to wear another hat again. The White House guys, after everyone left, they went to dinner and said, “Now we’ll tell you what this is all about.”

KWS: So it had nothing to do with Israel, had nothing in Middle East politics, had nothing with domestic reaction —

NV: No.

KWS: It had to do with a former incident in which —

NV: Right.

KWS: — he wore a hat.

NV: Yeah. Having seen the, the venomous relations between Kissinger to the White House on the spot and having the view of this nuttiness and being told this, I had [unintelligible]. I had an idea before that, when Nixon went to Egypt and [unintelligible] were going to give the Egyptians a nuclear reactor.

KWS: You know who he called [unintelligible]? For god’s sake,  said Khaddam we were sitting there and Assad asks Nixon, “Would you abide by the Israelis remaining on the Golan Heights?” He didn’t answer the question. And he asked the same question again. And he did not get an answer and probably asked him a third time and he said, “The United States of America will never agree to allowing Israel to annex any of the occupied territories. Israel should withdraw from all the occupied territories at which point Kissinger then entered the conversation according to Khaddam in a gross matter and said you are elected president by the people and you will be held responsible. Nixon said, “ The president of the United States will not permit Israel to remain on the Golan Heights.” [Unintelligible.] At that point, Henry interrupted — Henry rudely interrupted, if you [unintelligible]. Henry rudely interrupted and said, “Mr. President, you can’t make a promise like that.” And Nixon turns [unintelligible], and says, “Henry, I’m president of the United States. I can make any promise I want.” 

NV: I believe that.

KWS: [Unintelligible] said — If you read Nixon’s memoir — and read Henry’s memoirs, he’s said, very obliquely, he said, “Nixon made some statements or promises to the Syrians that perhaps he should not have made.” I mean, that’s how Henry talks about it in his memoir. Umm —


KWS: He said to me, “You know, you made this promise here.” That’s what he said. And then, [unintelligible], if you had any doubt. I looked at [Syrian politician Abdul Halim] Khaddam and said, “You mean to say you think that Nixon had to resign because the promise he made to you he couldn’t keep because of the American Jews?” He said, “Absolutely.”

NV: That’s the weirdest [unintelligible].

KWS: I said, I said, “You actually believe that had nothing to do with domestic policy?” “No,” he said. “The Jews are in control of everything.” Now, you and I know that logically it’s not correct. You and I know that political math doesn’t equal diplomatic arithmetic in the Middle East. You and I know that. But that’s exactly the way Khaddam believed it.

NV: Nothing would shake it.

KWS: No. 

NV: It can’t.

KWS: This would be, this would be in, in step with a promise to the Egyptians about a nuclear reactor. This would be in step with this notion about having to wear a kippah at Yad Vashem. Then, Nixon was on, on the edge.

NV: And yet, you know, externally, it was magnificent. I mean, externally. He never flinched —

KWS: Yeah.

NV: — He had [unintelligible] case. He gave a terrific extemporaneous 40-minute speech at the Knesset. Carried by VOA. And then he left with [unintelligible]. And to have his people say, “How can you carry this strange land? What [unintelligible]?”

KWS: When you’re policy planning during the election year — it was an election year. I guess the reason things are sleeping as far as the Middle East is concerned is, in part, because it was an election year.

NV: Well, we had a fellow on our staff called Reynolds. Did you ever meet Reynolds?

KWS: No, I did not. 

NV: And [unintelligible] was always sort of a critical point to a civil servant, come in and out of a think tank, [unintelligible]. He was a simple activist and kept coming up with these proposals, which I would say don’t make any sense. “You’re not going to get an initial [unintelligible] without you.”

KWS: No.

NV: Don’t expect that. As I said that, the international initiatives that we caught in [unintelligible] at that time, but he really — he did two things in that time period. The very — one — he went to Africa. He didn’t want to go, we talked him into it. I mean, he was interested in starting something else, in something else. And then he took on the [unintelligible] as his own, got into it [unintelligible] too bad [unintelligible].

KWS: Were you in — you were at policy planning then when Win— Winston Lord takes over.

NV: He has taken over. He was Kissinger’s man.

KWS: Okay.

NV: And I come in, gonna last [unintelligible] the administration.

KWS: But before he was?

NV: Yeah.

KWS: But you’re there in the layover into —

NV: Carter.

KWS: — Carter. And head of policy planning is?

NV: Tony Lake.

KWS: That’s correct.

NV: But I’m getting mad at policy planning. I don’t want to stay on.

KWS: But I wanna know what the attitude was at policy planning toward the Middle East peace process in the transition from the Ford administration to the Carter administration.

NV: Well, the transition isn’t a good time to [unintelligible] attitude towards anything, cri— critical point being change in the career officers [unintelligible].

KWS: Would Phil Habib used you when he became undersecretary of state to deal with the Middle East planning?

NV: Yeah. He became undersecretary of state and, uh, [unintelligible] me, and I was down at, remember, two [unintelligible] Congressional [unintelligible].

KWS: Mm-hmm.

NV: And I had been working on Congressional elections, policy planning, [unintelligible situation [unintelligible]. And, uh, Habib was undersecretary and that was the [unintelligible], which I was happy. So, I went back. But he was a legacy, I think — undersecretary. He stayed on.

KWS: Were you aware of anything particularly different during the transition from the Carter administration when they were elected until they were inaugurated?

NV: Not on the Middle East. They were very big on, uh, human rights. And, uh, early on, we knew they were going to split on policy that Brzezinski had, how to deal with, uh, Africa, [unintelligible]. But, uh, I didn’t read it. I can’t say [unintelligible].

KWS: Yeah, but ’75 —

NV: Roy Atherton made the, uh, uh, assistant secretary. He was the assistant secretary.

KWS: That’s right.

NV: ‘Cause Habib took over consistent [unintelligible; Habib, who had been ambassador to South Korea from 1971-1974, then served as assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs from 1974-1976]. Roy was the continuity, assistant secretary [Atherton, who had been deputy assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs from 1970-1974, then served as assistant secretary for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs from 1974-1978]. My guess is Roy, uh, and Hal Saunders — he was over in NSC — were in touch with Bill Quandt, umm — I wasn’t. Others may have been, uh —

KWS: But this notion — we’ve done these interim steps with the Egyptians and the Syrians. Nothing had happened with the Jordanians. Rabat [unintelligible]. Umm, Sadat really didn’t want anything. ’76, what were people expecting after the elections — that we would continue interim or we’d do something different, like comprehensive?

NV: Well, I think that — I, I’m not sure what we had [unintelligible] back then. [Unintelligible.] We were — you know, Ford had, uh, 30 points behind Carter in the middle of September.

KWS: [Unintelligible] you tell it was the timing?

NV: Yes, we were, you know, we were catching our breath, in a sense. Our focus is on a path November, elections. Uh, whatever — I believe — you know, actual activity wasn’t [unintelligible]. It was being done outside of the government; this was being done in the trenches. 

KWS: Ah.

NV: It probably had cooperation with people in the government. But I wasn’t a player, and I, uh, you know, I was arguing that, uh, the Carter administration had 15 men, should not, uh, look through our truest, uh, career. I mean, things like, I wouldn’t give musicians to play. 

KWS: But Brookings captured the surface of —

NV: I think so.

KWS: — our policy orientation during the early months of 1977?

NV: Yeah. I can’t enter the policy planning’s [unintelligible]. I don’t recall that we were independent of other [unintelligible]. We were covering, umm, a second Sinai agreement in ’75, in ’76. Umm, [unintelligible].

KWS: May, ’75. 

NV: I really don’t remember Middle East [unintelligible].

KWS: Saunders was up to Capitol Hill and gives some testimony and —  

NV: — in which he says the Palestinian problem exists for which he’s just clarifying it.

KWS: Yeah, yeah. He was fried [laughs]. 

NV: [Laughs.]

KWS: I mean he was fried like, like, like Atherton and Sisco — like Atherton was fried after the, uh, the October, the, the October 1 declaration [1977 Joint U.S.-Soviet Statement of the Middle East].

NV: Yeah.

KWS: It was just [unintelligible]. Umm, what do you remember about the Massachusetts —  the Clinton, Massachusetts, Carter’s address, “Palestinian homeland” —?

NV: No, I remember that very well.

KWS: Any reactions?

NV: Absolutely stunned that he would give that away for nothing.

KWS: Give it away to whom?

NV: To the Palestinians and the Arabs. 

KWS: Mm-hmm.

NV: I mean, he didn’t even try to see if we made that statement, would the PLO accept our terms for recognizing Israel and living with them in peace. We were never asked.

KWS: Meaning the state department.

NV: The state department.

KWS: Do you think Brzezinski didn’t ask, but Brzezinski —

NV: I know Brzezinski didn’t ask because Atherton knew nothing about it. [Answers telephone.] [

NV: I went screaming down to Roy’s office, and then when we were asked a question in the press conference, Carter said, “Well, this is consistent with American policy.” Carter  called me in and he said, “I want to know every U.N. resolution we’ve ever voted for on the Middle East and the Palestinian rights.” I said, There are two of them, 242 and some other one,” and I said, “We have never, uh — “Well, what’s this now, he’s [unintelligible].” I said, “Let me check the records and [unintelligible]. That’s our plan.” What it was  Carter’s second misstep;  We were stunned and furious at — it was utterly stupid. That was important. I’m not one of those people who gets excited;  I’ve never cared for the masses; what were they thinking.

KWS: [Unintelligible.]

NV: It might be worse.

KWS: You think Quandt knew that Brzezinski that Carter was going to say this?

NV: Bill was such a bright guy that I can’t believe that he would’ve told anyone that that was the way to go. Uh, uh, I don’t know. You ask him? What did he say?

KWS: Brzezinski had no idea of it. Quandt had no idea of it. And I asked Carter, and he said, “It came up in the question-answer session and I just used the term and I guess I had to pay for it afterwards.” Because of — 

Carter said it was— in fact, afterwards, as soon as he got finished, on his way back to Washington, he sent word to Vance and Brzezinski specifically, “Do not make any comment about ‘homeland,’ any reference to it, and direct it to me. I will do all the explanations.” But Brzezinski said he was surprised by it and so was Quandt.

NV: Yeah. He gave away a huge amount. Yeah. Years later, I ended up negotiating with Arafat for over a year, trying to get him to accept our terms (accept 242, etc}  having nothing to offer because Carter had given it away. 

KWS: In, umm — you went off to, umm —

NV: And then, Vance for some reason, closed and tightened up our agreement with Israel. We — Henry knew exactly what he was saying in the context of the Sinai Agreement. Two of them. He said, “We would not recognize nor negotiate with the PLO.” He never said we won’t talk to them.

KWS: And Vance tightened up on the, the promise.

NV: Yeah, I was told a certain train of thought was dishonest. 

KWS: Did you ever try —

NV: No one talked to us about that either.

KWS: You remember Rabin’s visit in March of ’77? Or Sadat’s visit in April of ’77? [Both were to Washington, D.C.]

NV: Nah [unintelligible].

KWS: Were you at all privy to the planning for the U.S.-Soviet declaration?

NV: Well —

KWS, I mean, Roy was essentially —

NV: Roy —

KWS: — the first.

NV: Yeah, I knew it back then, but I wasn’t there.

KWS: Umm —

NV: When did he and Vance [unintelligible]?

KWS: October 1st, ’77. And, but the planning for —

NV: Right, but your guess?

KWS: The planning for it, came in, in, in May.

NV: Yeah, but it had nothing to do with, uh, the business of, uh —

KWS: — Clinton.

NV: [Unintelligible.]

KWS: No.

NV: It came out of Sadat’s [unintelligible], I was told — I have the time to live. Uh, Sadat wanted to [unintelligible].


NV: [Unintelligible] almost didn’t get it. I found out [unintelligible]. Our military and our aircraft knew more about the Russian airplanes than anyone — and the Russians [unintelligible] and, uh, it could have been [unintelligible].

KWS: What, what — how did the — I mean, you were in policy planning when, when Begin was elected.

NV: No, I was — that was May ’77. 

KWS: Yeah.

NV: Deputy assistant secretary, They just sent somebody else.

KWS: And, and, as deputy assistant secretary, you were still involved with Arab-Israeli affairs.

NV: Yeah, that was [unintelligible].

KWS: Well, how did it, how did the Begin election — what did it do to you, your [unintelligible]?

NV: [Unintelligible.] I studied him. He would then be a very strong man, and, uh, and he was. And I thought that fit in, put him in opposition comprehensive settlement.

KWS: How much was that view shared by others?

NV: Well, most people considered him intelligent, but I think, uh, there you have — let me put it this way: We — It took Begin a few months to get his feet wet. In those few months, [unintelligible]. Do you remember, we gave him a [unintelligible]? The message we sent to Begin, to get him out of Lebanon -Feb-March 1978, the strongest message we could ever send. Incredible strength — get out or we are going to apply pressure.

KWS: But this was ’78.

NV: Wasn’t ’77 the [unintelligible]?

KWS: Asia was the spring of ’78. It was after, it was after Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem. In fact, Sadat was embarrassed because he had just met with Begin in Ismailia.

NV: Begin’s election knocked everyone out of the way. We knew the Labor party. We knew how to deal with the Labor party. We knew that we shared common goals with the Labor party. With the Likud coming in, we had often identical tactics or similar tactics, but we had lost the common goal. And that was that, what we and Israel should be working together, was peace between Israel and its neighbors based on a land-for-peace formula. We had some hopes. One of the hopes was, “You wouldn’t last long.” But the administration decided, rightly, that the regardless we had to move ahead. It was in our interest to seek, to reactivate the peace process. And you know the vehicle that was chosen — to recreate the Geneva conference because of [unintelligible] and to work on a comprehensive peace. And it became a clapper because the Russians were bad guys and because the Syrians wanted to have a veto over, essentially, over  the Egyptians. The Syrians wanted to have all, uh, all working groups linked, with each working group having a veto over the other one. Sadat had already figured it out before we had, and he was never going to get into negotiations under the American plan because of Syrian resistance anyway.

KWS: When did Hussein figure he could broke [unintelligible] between Assad and Sadat?

NV: Well, you know, he had said since — ever since Sadat went [unintelligible] that he, the King  was on the verge of working with the Israelis; He wasn’t. In a way, he could broker that gap between Sadat and Assad. Sadat insisted that he have a free hand in cooperation with his Arab partners but that he be responsible for Egypt’s national interest in bilateral negotiations. And Assad’s insistence on having a veto.

KWS: — Assad’s insistence.

NV: Assad’s insistence on having the veto. And that’s what drove him to Jerusalem, basically. Going nowhere, and he needed momentum in order to continue to justify his policies, [unintelligible] in his lap to [unintelligible] the Americans, and starting down the road to a conference

KWS: When you got to Amman in the middle of ’78 —

NV: No, I got to Amman in the last week of Camp David.

KWS: September ’78, that [unintelligible] in the middle. What did you learn about Jordanian attitudes towards either Carter, comprehensive peace, the U.S.-Soviet declaration, Sadat’s visit? What, what was what was the atmosphere like>

NV: Great apprehension. The first thing when I arrived — my deputy was Rocky Suddarth — he says, “This is the one thing that you better do [unintelligible]. He handed me the call guide that the embassy had sent, with the letter from Hussein to Carter, saying, “I’m all for peace with Israel and all for comprehensive peace with Israel and I wish you well at Camp David. Don’t put me in the impossible position of having to support a separate peace between Israel and Egypt, because I can’t.”

KWS: This was sent by Hussein —

NV: To Carter. 

KWS: — to Department of to Car—

NV: To Carter.

KWS: To Carter. Before —

NV: During Camp David.

KWS: During.

NV: Before Camp David.

KWS: Mmm.

NV: And he said, “This I cannot do.” And that’s exactly the way they interpreted it at Camp David, giving cover to Sadat who said that, with 13 mentions of Jordan.

KWS: And this was seen as a slap in the face to Jordanian territory, integrity, and sovereignty [unintelligible] —

NV: To Hussein personally [unintelligible]. Uh —

KWS: Mmm.

NV: And it took us almost two-and-a-half years to overcome that [unintelligible].

KWS: Between Hussein and Carter?

NV: Yeah. Everybody [unintelligible]. Sadat promised Carter, “Don’t worry. I’ll bring the Arabs on.”

KWS: Did you know that?

NV: No, not until later. 

KWS: And, I guess the first official visitor was Hal Saunders, who has the answers to the questions.

NV: That’s right. [Unintelligible.] but there was something else [unintelligible] that. Hal and I went to see Hussein before Hal went to Saudi Arabia and Hussein had a chat about the letter to Carter. “Hal, you put me in exactly the position I told you would be untenable for me to be in and now you want me to join these negotiations. I won’t have the PLO on my side.” 

KWS: Was he saying this from the point of view that he didn’t want them or they wouldn’t be there?

NV: They won’t be there. He said, “I must have some cover, some support. I must have either Palestinians or the Saudis. Someone’s willing to stand up and say publicly, ‘Yes, do it. We support you.’ You ask for that and you get it.” Hal [unintelligible]. Hal came back, met with the king and said, “Well, what happened there? [Did] You ask why?” And he said, “Yes.” “What was the King’s answer?” He said, “No, , can we change the subject?” [Unintelligible.] Then, we had the visit of Cy Vance.”

KWS: Uh-huh.

NV: He comes and he [unintelligible].

KWS: After?

NV: While this was on.

KWS: Mm-hmm.

NV: Carter had stated, uh, a breakfast with journalists, our national association of editors and whatever, that there would be — [unintelligible] had a drink to a five-year hiatus on settlements a, a period during which was a visit in Camp David, you had your interim agreements and then your final status negotiations, including [unintelligible]. Begin, whatever he may have said to Carter — and I think Sam Lewis will agree to [unintelligible] — 

KWS: [Unintelligible.]

NV: — and I wasn’t there. All I know is what Carter told the world, and which I took up to the palace, forthright. I said to the secretary, “This is the only issue: Will there be a five-year freeze? If there is a five-year freeze, that covers Hussein’s Palestinian pact and this gives us a good chance of success.  I was there when Cy Vance uncharacteristically slammed his fist down [sound of NV hitting the table] on the table and said, “I guarantee you, Your Majesty Hussein, and your entire power structure that there will be ……”

KWS: Guarantee what?

NV: There will be a five-year freeze on settlements. He then sent Roy Atherton out to the gulf. You know, there was night and day and Cy was [unintelligible]. That, in my absence, [unintelligible]. Carter then was taking the risk.

KWS: [Unintelligible] by the United States?

NV: Yeah.

KWS: Umm.

NV: [unintelligible for about two minutes]

KWS: Why did Vance make such a categoric statement about the freezing of the settlements for five years? [unintelligible] make such a categorical mistake?

NV: I have no idea. But that ended it. Then, just before the [November 2-5, 1978] Baghdad conference [of leaders from 20 Arab states and the PLO] — you remember it, after Camp David [unintelligible], said a lot of nasty things about Egypt. It stopped short of breaking relations. The next step was to be to convince Sadat not to go to the peace treaty. That meeting was supposed to take place in Baghdad. I was called back to Washington for consultation and I was asked, uh,  I was asked “What about Brzezinski coming to, to the Middle East?” [Unintelligible] conflict and I said, “Who’s going to convince the Saudis and the Jordanians to support the agreement; I said, “You can’t convince the Saudis and the Jordanians. You will be having a war.” He said, “He represents the president throughout the region.I said, “[Unintelligible] he has, he has [unintelligible]. That’s why. They’re going to that [unintelligible] and they’re bringing back [unintelligible]. Too bad, but that’s what’s going to happen.” And he said, “You’re right. [Unintelligible.] Tell them that. Let them tell you how to fix [unintelligible]. [Unintelligible] in the Middle East.”  “Unintelligible] “I know what he thinks he’s going to do,” he said. “His [unintelligible]. Sorry this took place.” The damage from this — when you sit back there [unintelligible] — add up the damage to a person’s prestige out there. He said, “When you get on that plane to talk, two surprises happen.” So, I saw the brief importance of things, terrible things. Very sick once and, and — talking to him as Brzezinski, to inform him. 

We got to Saudi Arabia, [unintelligible], had a meeting and listened around a swimming pool. Everyone is jet-lagged and they’re sitting in the sun around a swimming pool, with the man you’re briefing [unintelligible] and a pair of dark glasses. And uh, poor [U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia] John West, [unintelligible] saying, “Well, I think you’ve got a pretty good chance of succeeding.” And I said, “John, I don’t think that’s the case at all. It’s a dispute and I don’t see why you’d want it.” “[Unintelligible.]” We break up. John comes running after me. And I said, “Am I going to get it now.” He says, “Nick, thank God you said that.” He said, “I’ve been saying that and I’ve been officially reprimanded in writing from the White House for saying those things. I’m being portrayed as too pro-Saudi.” He said, “I just —.” I said, “But John, you should’ve said those things. And I will continue to say those things, [unintelligible] terrible things.” Roy has his meetings with the Saudis. For some reason, he thinks they’re going to see what our position is. We get on the plane and I’m called into Brzezinski’s office [unintelligible]. And again, he’s lying down on the couch. And I’m standing. And he spent ten minutes bawling me out about what I said to the Saudis.

NV: Yeah. He’s not serious. [Unintelligible] the first place. “You’re coming into Jordan for a few hours and then you’re going to see Sadat, so the first problem I have is the king’s already alienated from us, is being treated as a second class citizen. It would be better if you could have stayed overnight, had a meal, talk quietly with him. Who knows? So, I’ll expect this to be pro forma. You won’t get anywhere on this.” Now, if Chris was there, Warren Christopher was there, I said to Chris, I said, “There’s only one turn, king — if the king ever suggests or — and I forget the issue — I may have this — and this issue comes up, and the king responds positively, that’s the time to say, ‘Your Majesty, may I have a private meeting with you?’ Then you go off. I don’t have to be there. I’m not one of these ambassadors — if you wanted me there, I’d be there. But listen, then you go off and you follow this up. And maybe something good will come of it.” All of a sudden, I can get to where I’d set up for the meeting later and it went badly;  Brzezinski responded. Hal was there. This was the moment for them to chat; Your majesty, I have decided that I can not stay any more; I’m sorry, said Brzezinski, we can’t stay any longer, but I’ve got to go off and see Sadat.”

KWS: [Unintelligible.]

NV: That night, I’m back at the embassy, walking into a certain crowd that [unintelligible], and Karen [unintelligible] — she was in [unintelligible] — and she said, “The king has just given his only, give you an on-the-record interview, and I want you to know what he says. He just lashed at us in our policies. And Sadat. It was real insensitivity over in the White House on these issues. Very [unintelligible].

KWS: Why do you suppose there was this insensitivity? 

NV: I don’t know. Arrogant? It got so bad that in the middle of the problems that we had — remember the Mecca mess [1979 siege of the Grand Mosque] — 

KWS: Yeah.

NV: — the fall of the Shah [1979 Iranian revolution], Soviet invasion of Afghanistan [December 1979], the creation of the Rapid Deployment Force [announced by Carter in October 1979] — we were really worried about the Gulf. I got the king to agree; there were military exercises with us and to put a division at our disposal. That would mean going with us to the Gulf, at least  one division; And of course, the Pentagon wanted to go: Harold Brown – Defense Secretar, General Jones, these guys, but the White House and Cy Vance would not do it. I felt Cy, because he was really opposed to using military force, for whatever reason, he wasn’t very sympathetic to the military intervention. The White House never understood that it would have served a political — a military need that we had. And find a political bridge to try and get back in. And, uh, finally they got consent, but it took a hell of a lot of persuasion. Then, I mentioned it to you, I hoped that maybe Begin would go away, and it was coming clear by the early ’80s, 1980, that whatever was going to happen on the Egyptian treaty, nothing was going to happen on the Palestinian side because of theological and ideological reasons, deeply held belief systems. And Begin had reneged from Camp David on the  Palestinian side [unintelligible], you know. My goodness, his closest supporters during the bad old days were voting against him. Camp David, you remember? Yitzhak Shamir and —Geullah Cohen and the others.

NV: It really got to him So, in early ’81, Labor thought that they were going to win the election and Shimon Peres had written an article in Foreign Affairs [“A Strategy for Peace in the Middle East,” Spring 1980] in which he resurrected the, uh, Alon Plan, with a twist that he had privately communicated to Sam Lewis. Sam had written me a letter. I spoke to the King I said, “How would you respond if an Israeli government made you an offer of the Alon Plan and said, ‘You got 90 days to say yes or no.’? What if they withdraw their forces, and then they start negotiating the final status with you, but unless you do it, we’re staying. And remember this.” I hope a lot of this is on background.

KWS: Mmm, Sure [unintelligible].

NV: And I thought this might be helpful to you. 

KWS: It’s good, thanks.

NV: The queen: “Oh no, we’d never do that one” and on and on and on. And the king said, “I.” Interesting. And I applaud him. And I probably would emphasize that [unintelligible] assistant secretary, umm, in Washington. So, I was gonna get this feel  on something that was, and I said, “That was Atherton.”

KWS: [Unintelligible.]

NV: [Unintelligible] U.S. definitely was the eye-opener. The Palestinians didn’t work out that way, and I, I gave them a [unintelligible] as a warning and [unintelligible]. Well, what other questions?

KWS: Well, let me do this. Let me leave the assistant secretary of state slot and the ambassador position to Egypt for another time.

NV: Okay.

KWS: I guess.

NV: And think about this: if there are other things, uh —

KWS: There will be.

NV: And I’ll be happy to talk about them.

KWS: Fascinating. I was, I’m delighted that I could resurrect some memories.

NV: Well, you know, I — I don’t spend much time on this issue, at least not —

KWS: But everything that you recalled, pretty bits. The other person had been [unintelligible] very [unintelligible].

NV: I remember when we went in to see him, Yigal Alon, on the ninth. I remember he was deputy prime minister [he served as deputy prime minister from July 1968 to June 1977].

KWS: On the ninth of November.

NV: Of October. ’73.

KWS: Uh, so.

NV: And he said they stopped the guns , stopped them last night. And they’re gonna need some help out there but basically, “We stopped them there too. But that’s not good enough.” One of the fascinating things at that time — whether Israel was the same, I don’t know — but I’m convinced that hundreds of people knew about the plans to go across the canal, roughly the base. I’m sure  Mira (journalist) You know Mira. Mirel is the most widely-read journalist in Israel. Sort of a combination of People magazine, political, Israeli.  And Mira was in the embassy, while all this was going down, taking it down to the front border. And she wrote “I know you have a lot to do. You have to [unintelligible],” she said, “[Unintelligible.]” [Unintelligible.] Absolutely connected. This was widely known. This is the way I was going to go.”

KWS: Third Army had not been surrounded — and that’s where Henry could’ve made his case stronger to Sadat.

NV: He tried. Look, of course, Sadat didn’t want the Russians back in. No, it — look, we were not calling for a suicide. They wanted the Israelis to be [unintelligible] respond as much as — they didn’t want to deal with it, the positions. But Henry’s delay in resupply, to the extent there was a delay in the political decision although I don’t think it made a huge amount of difference militarily beyond the Israeli adventure how it [unintelligible] in battle [unintelligible].

KWS: You still amazed now when the American government [unintelligible] Sadat and Hussein [unintelligible]?

NV: Do you know Don Bergus?

KWS: No, I know the name though.

NV: He’s in, he’s retired. He was an interest section chief [Bergus was principal officer in Egypt from 1967 to 1972]. Have you talked to Mike Sterner?

KWS: Twice. 

NV: Yeah.

KWS: Mike went out twice to, to Cairo and he said, “Sadat told me, and I brought it back and no one listened.”

NV: “No one listened.” Uh, Don Bergus — uh, how did he do it? He came up with a bad plan [unintelligible] trouble and something else — No wonder, it’s true.

KWS: Think about [unintelligible]?

NV: Sure. Don Bergus? 

KWS: Bergus and, and O’Donnell. Jack O’Connell.

NV: Uh, Jack O’Connell.

KWS: O’Donnell. Got it.

NV: Yeah, so I, I recommend it. O’Connell’s [unintelligible].

KWS: Think Larry would be of any s—, of any help? 

NV: Eagleburger? [Unintelligible.] Maybe on questions of, umm, discrete questions, like the decisions that fed into the delay on military support.

KWS: I talked to [former assistant to Henry Kissinger, Peter] Rodman a couple times about this.

NV: And Peter was the most — an amazing, that’s right, he was Henry’s walking memory.

KWS: What about Winston Lord? 

NV: Win was before me. Win at that time was not in the details, I’m not even sure that [unintelligible].

KWS: I’ve talked to Sisco and Saunders and Atherton and Sam and Hermann [Eilts] and April [Glasby] and you. If there’s a gap — I haven’t talked to the Kissinger folks, other than Peter.

NV: Right. 

KWS: [Unintelligible.]

NV: [Unintelligible.] 

KWS: And, and Henry, Henry doesn’t want to do any more interviews.

NV: Why not?

KWS: Because ever since [unintelligible] by Kissinger, he just —

NV: Yeah, but you know, I would still go back.

KWS: I’ll try again.

NV: What you do is say, “Mr. Secretary, I, uh, I really want your [unintelligible]. I really [unintelligible]. This book cannot be completed with this [unintelligible]. And you know, you might have to write a biography —

KWS: No [unintelligible].

NV: [Unintelligible.] Seriously. Umm — Hal Saunders, Roy Atherton, who knows, [unintelligible].

KWS: [Unintelligible.] I mean, Evron, Evron and, and, and [unintelligible] —

NV: Sisco.

KWS: Sisco, yes. Sisco in fact has a manuscript that’s never published, in which he [unintelligible] about policy [unintelligible] after the ’73 War. Fascinating. And he never did anything with it.

NV: Did you talk to Simcha [Dinitz]?

KWS: Sure. Then after Simcha, Mordechai Gazit, Shlomo Gazit, Epi before he passed away, [Motta] Gur.

NV: Epi Evron passed away?

KWS: Epi Evron passed away of cancer in middle of July. 

NV: Oh my God. 

KWS: I’m sorry. I thought I told you.

NV: God.

KWS: You might want to write to [unintelligible]/

NV: Yes, yes. Do you have the home address?

KWS: Yes, it’s 1Rehov Ashi, Ramat Aviv. Number one.

NV: Rehov?

KWS: Ashi. A-S-H-I. Ramat Aviv. Ramat —

NV: Ramat?

KWS: Avivi. Ramat Aviv.

NV: Aviv. 

KWS: That’s right near Tel Aviv University campus.

NV: Yeah, Yeah. It’s Ramat Aviv —

KWS: Israel.

NV: It’s not Tel Aviv?

KWS: No, it’s Ramat Aviv, Israel. Umm, I think, umm, something like July 15th or July 16th of last [Ephraim Evron passed away July 17, 1995]—

NV: Did he have it for a long time?

KWS: Yeah, probably about two years.

NV: Because it was about two years ago — was it, uh, prostate?

KWS: I don’t, I don’t know.

NV: [Unintelligible.]

KWS: I don’t know what it was, but I, I wrote a note, had thought to write a note.

NV: Want to have lunch?

KWS: I just —

NV: Or do you have other things?

KWS: I just have to make a phone call.

NV: Sure. Go ahead. [Unintelligible.]

KWS: Umm, I just need to check on my friend, [unintelligible], Israeli embassy. 

NV: Uh, whatever your schedule is. We can go across the street to a little Chinese place. Or there’s a Greek one, a Greek one down [Avenue] U.

KWS: Mm-hmm. Umm —

NV: [Unintelligible.] 

KWS: Yeah.