The October 1973 War and its Aftermath – Quotable Quotes and Key Conversations

In carrying out research in the 1990s for Heroic Diplomacy: Sadat, Kissinger, Carter, Begin and the Quest for Arab-Israeli Peace, Routledge, 1999, I undertook 84 interviews with individuals who participated in the diplomacy. (A full list of the 84 interviews appears as an appendix in the book). These were extensive recollections by extraordinary civil servants, ministers, heads of state, and ambassadors. These individuals almost always had crisp and unbiased memories of events, personalities, and relationships. Those interviewed were key personalities from every country and organization that was associated with Middle East diplomacy in the 1970s. The interviews were undertaken from 1991-1996, and include coverage of events, essentially from Nassar’s death in 1970 to the years after Sadat’s assassination in 1981. Other sources used in writing Heroic Diplomacy included memoirs, newspaper interviews, parliamentary speeches, documents from Israeli and American archives, other published interviews, and documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. The sampling of viewpoints below focuses on the October 1973 war period. Full transcript interviews are available at the Center’s website (here). Each person interviewed provided written permission to record, transcribe, and publish their remarks. Intentionally, these interviews are being released only a quarter century after they were made because matters relating to personal sensitivities of content were often provided. Citations for these remarks may be made freely. Please reference the specific interview and the url at                      Ken Stein, October 17, 2021

The October 1973 War and its Aftermath –

Summary of participants’ conclusions on the October War period

(1) Egypt and Syria each went into the October 1973 War with very different objectives: Sadat wanted to initiate a diplomatic process, the Syrians to regain land. 

(2) Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger preferred Israel not to win a lopsided victory in the war.

(3) Sadat surprised Kissinger by starting a war; and he equally surprised him by wanting to use the war as an engine to start negotiations with Israel, to harness the US to assist in Sinai’s return to Egyptian sovereignty; Kissinger enjoyed working with Sadat. 

(4) Golda Meir decided not to strike pre-emptively against the Arabs in 1973. 

(5) GoldaMeir  kept Abba Eban from being informed of all the diplomatic detail; she trusted Simcha Dinitz the Israeli Ambassador to the US; much less her Foreign Minister.

(6) Kissinger abruptly curtailed the considerable progress made in the Egyptian-Israeli military talks that unfolded at the end of 1973 war at the Kilometer 101 mark from Cairo. Kissinger needed the substance of what the generals had negotiated there as the basis for the January 1974 Egyptian-Israeli Disengagement Agreement. 

(7) Kissinger-Sadat-Meir agreed to use the December 1973 Geneva Conference as a pass through for negotiations to be choreographed by the US. 

Differing Egyptian and Syrian motivations for going to war in October 1973. “Sadat’s decision to go to war was precisely to get what he wanted, namely, a negotiation started with the Americans.” By contrast, said Syria’s Foreign Minister at the time, Abd al-Halim Khaddam, “For Syria, it was a war of liberation, not a war of movement.” Ken Stein interview with Joseph Sisco, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, February 27, 1992, Washington, D.C., and Ken Stein interview with Syrian Foreign Minister, Abd al-Halim Khaddam, July 18, 1993, Damascus, Syria.

Israel did not pre-emptively strike; that was Golda Meir’s decision – “Golda made the decision against preventive strikes, like you know, and her reason was that she said we would depend on supplies from the United States, and it would be next to impossible to get supplies from the United States if we strike first because she feels that we need to show that we did not strike first. In the cabinet, Dayan showed her and others that we can manage without a preventive strike. It is to say the battle started but we will have sufficient defense. There was no consensus for preemptive strike at all. There was her decision to–she informed the cabinet she decided. There was no voice in the cabinet that said no we should have, ah… no. No, no, no. Not at all. In the conversations that preceded it the—Dado (David Elezar, the IDF Chief of Staff) was for preventive strike. And Moshe Dayan was not for preventive strike. So, in the cabinet she just informed as a matter of fact. The cabinet at that time it was consensus not to have preventive strike anyhow.” Ken Stein interview with Israel’s Ambassador to the US, Simcha Dinitz, March 20, 1992, Jerusalem, Israel.

Nixon and Kissinger- Israelis should not have a resounding victory to be so euphoric with victory to refuse talks. Nixon realizes Israel’s border will need to be changed.  Both thought the war would be over in five days

President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger- “TELCON – The President/Secretary Kissinger, 7:08 p.m. October 8, 1973. (Additional telecon communications dealing with the war may be found at the National Security Archives,


RN:  Hi, Henry. What’s the latest news?  I got the military news.

HK: Yeah. Well on the diplomatic front, we had another message from Brezhnev asking us not to table a Resolution without consulting with us, telling us they are using a great effort on the Arabs. 

RN: Yeah.

HK: First of all, if this turns out to be true—-Well, first of all, we’re in no hurry to table anything.

RN: No.

HK: We’re making our record. We’re the only ones that are pushing for anything. By Thursday it will be over in my view. 

RN: Oh, sure.

HK: If we bring it off, Mr. President, if this thing ends without a blowup without either the Arabs or the Soviet, it will be a miracle and a triumph.

RN: Right. The one thing we have to be concerned about, which you and I know looking down the road, is that the Israelis when they finish clobbering the Egyptians and the Syrians, which they will do, will be even more impossible to deal with them before and you and I have got to determine in our minds, we must have a diplomatic settlement there.

HK: I agree with you.

RN: We must have. We must not tell them that now but we have got to do it. You see, they could feel so strong as a result of this, they’d say: Well, why do we have to settle? Understand? We must not, we must not under any circumstance allow them because of the victory that they’re goofing to win  – and they’ll win it, thank God, they should – be we must not get away with just having this thing hang over for another four years and have us at odd with the Arab world. We’re not going to do it anymore.

HK: I agree with them completely, Mr. President.  But we are doing this week is putting us in a position to do—-

RN: to do something, that’s right.

HK: To do something. 

RN: And to do something with the Russians too.

HK: Exactly.

RN: I’m not tough on the Israelis. Fortunately, the Israelis will beat these guys so badly I hope that we can make sort of a reasonable—-You and I know they can’t go back to the other borders. But we must not, on the other hand, say that because the Israelis win this war as they won the ‘67 war, that we just on with the status quo. It can’t be done.

HK: I couldn’t agree more. I think what we are doing this week will help us next month.

RN: Maybe. I hope so. But in any event on Brezhnev, he may be wanting—- Of course, the other thing that Brezhnev may be thinking of, his clients are going to get clobbered. You know, that’s the only reason Kosygin came to see Johnson.

HK: Yeah, but in ‘67 they were steaming their fleet around. They were threatening war, they were castigating us at the Security Council….breaking diplomatic relations with us, threatening our oil installations. And no one has made a peep against us yet. 

RH: That’s great.

On October 13, Henry Kissinger warns Ambassador Dobrynin that the Arabs will be pushed back-Evidence is clear that during the war, Kissinger wanted to have Moscow put pressure on the Arab sides, keep the USSR close to him, but emerge from the war with him controlling and influencing heavily all sides to the conflict, so he emerge from the war with virtually exclusive choreography over the unfolding diplomacy.

Roy Atherton reaffirms Kissinger eagerness to utilize Sadat’s initiated war to start diplomacy, October 18-23, 1973 We went to Moscow because the Soviets had finally begun to get worried about their clients really losing this war. And the tide of battle had begun to change and Henry’s sense was this was the time to move towards, you know, to use this as a basis for trying to get a process of some kind of negotiations going. We all knew that. But we knew it because Henry had decided it happened. It wasn’t that we were recommending it and he was saying “That’s a good recommendation, I’ll follow it.”  He was probably ahead of us. I would say Henry was probably ahead of most us in seeing this as the opportunity to convert a war situation into a peace process.” (Atherton helped draft UNSC338 then in Moscow) Ken Stein interview with Roy Atherton, member of Kissinger’s staff, July 16, 1992, see also Henry Kissinger, Years of Upheaval, Boston, 1982, p. 203.

Kissinger wanted no winner or loser in the October War. “According to Israel’ Ambassador to Simcha Dinitz, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, “Kissinger’s early strategy was to have a situation emerge from the war which “was not to devastate Egypt, but to have an Egypt that would be prepared for peace. It was not to have a victorious Egypt. It was not to have an Egypt where Russian arms win over American arms. In no way did he want Egypt to have any advantages of the war. Dinitz noted that, “we [the Israelis] want them to surrender. We want them to leave the equipment, we want them to go back to Egypt with — empty-handed, not with their equipment and not with a war, so this is clear that they have lost the war. In fact, we were interested that this should be the case, and he was not against it, but there was a combination if we were going in that [diplomatic] direction. A combination of two things here: one, the general policy of no devastation, no humiliation, no decimation of the Egyptian regime. Not that he had such high regard for Sadat. He had higher regard during the war than he had during the diplomacy that preceded the war.” Ken Stein interview with Simcha Dinitz, Jerusalem Israel, March 20, 1992,

Dinitz’s reveals Kissinger self-view of himself as mediator and minimal role to be played by the UN Dinitz’s view of Kissinger as a mediator, ‘he was a great genius in negotiations and what-have-you. But he was a great believer that he, given all the ingredients, can produce the best solution rather than… If you are a cook, okay, and you can — say you give me the powder, you give me the sugar, you give me the plumbs, I will make the best cake. But if you are going to distribute it and give the plumbs to somebody else” then the result will not be ideal or what could be accomplished; Kissinger remarked to Dinitz, “I was there to be the architect of the peace, not only the manipulator of the war. As for the UN role, Dinitz said, “We never liked the UN you know. We never liked it to have a dominant role. It was a big discussion of what role at all should be; for the UN Secretary General’s role: how much of a doll, or dummy we can make out of him.” ,…”Ken Stein interview with Simcha Dinitz, Jerusalem Israel, March 20, 1992,

Kissinger and Sadat–October 1973 – the making of a relationship November 6, 1973 first meeting “I think Henry never became totally convinced of [Sadat’s reliability] until the 6th of November when he went to Cairo and met Sadat. And that meeting was a transforming event. I mean, Kissinger came out of that saying here’s a man that I can take seriously. ‘I think I misjudged him all along.’  He had already begun to realize that he misjudged him. We all had.  But I don’t think that his final judgment, I can totally trust Sadat, we’re going to work together and I don’t have to play games, probably didn’t happen until we had that meeting on that first Middle East trip.” Ken Stein interview with Roy Atherton, member of Kissinger’s staff, July 16, 1992,

Golda Meir keeps Abba Eban out of the information loop- “[Golda] she dealt with Dinitz and Rabin before him, behind the back of Eban, and they kept from him in fact, on occasions where there were cables, sent from Jerusalem to Washington.  Cables were especially edited for his “benefit.”  So that even when he was there physically, he wasn’t always entirely aware of what was going on.  It was one of those situations that which should never occur anywhere.  For political reasons, Golda kept him, she kept him.  She didn’t really rely upon him. “[Eban] did not treat her as a state’s lady.  She had an elephantine memory.  She personally never forgave anything, she never forgot.  Once she became Prime Minister in 1969, she kept him on as foreign minister, but the relationship was not good. I do not think he [Eban] was aware of all the traffic between Golda and Kissinger.  Kissinger knew it [Eban was out of the loop].  Certainly, Dinitz was a key figure in keeping him out of it.” Ken Stein interview with Epi Evron, Assistant Director General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, during the 1973 War. March 24, 1992.

Egypt’s purpose for going to Geneva 1973 – “Geneva was, sometimes you need ceremonies to do weddings or death, to dramatize; to make peace is a possibility to overcome a backlog with an enemy, to show that we are waving, we are moving the mountains. Peace diplomatic ceremonies are like theaters; they expiate a lot of sin. They also create drama and the people need drama. In the world now is with us, if the world is in peace, we should not lose that game. We should be an initiator of peace. Because he was the conductor then, not simply how to get from the Israelis, that he knew, but he had to transform the Egyptian political scene, and at least neutralize and gain some gains in the Arab political scene.” Ken Stein interview with Tahsin Bashir, Egypt’s spokesman to the 1973 Geneva Conference, November 10, 1992 and July 7, 1993.

On Sadat-Meir-Kissinger secret understanding on future negotiations at end of November 1973, “A secret understanding was reached between them in late November 1973, which said that the conference would have a “ceiling” in terms of tis content, on what would and would not happen at Geneva and afterward. The understanding noted that the conference would be held only to set up the disengagement committees and to strengthen the cease-fire, not to discuss substance. Henry and I were thinking on a strictly unilateral role on the part of the United States.” Ken Stein interview with Joseph Sisco, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, February 27, 1992, Washington, DC. 

On the pre-cooked nature of the 1973 Geneva Conference – “I think it was pre-cooked.  All of us assumed that this was to go through the motions.  Everybody making a statement for the record, every delegation.  And that the result of it would be that it was agreed ahead of time, and it would be summed up by Waldheim as it was that the conference would adjourn.  There were negotiations on the disengagement of forces as a first step towards reconvening the conference, working towards comprehensive peace and all those good things. And my recollection is that this was sort of something that everybody agreed ahead of time that because of an understanding between Sadat and Kissinger, nobody could object to it.  It wouldn’t do them any good to object.  The Soviets had to understand this.  Kissinger kept them briefed and on the string.  But basically the understanding was that he had been asked by Sadat to negotiate a disengagement and that this would relieve the potentially volatile, unstable situation.” Ken Stein interview with Roy Atherton, member of Kissinger’s staff, July 16, 1992,

US purpose for the 1973 Geneva Conference – Kissinger noted, we wanted, “one symbolic act [the conference], to enable each side to pursue a separate course… Our [U.S.] strategy required first that we assemble the conference to defuse the situation and symbolize progress, but then we use its auspices to establish our central role.” Henry Kissinger, Years of Upheaval, (Boston: Little, Brown and Company), 1982, pp. 747 and 752.

Israeli and Egyptian generals negotiate at Kilometer 101 from Cairo in October -November 1973 For Israeli General Yariv, the most startling revelation during the Kilometer 101 talks was Egyptian General al-Gamasy’s assertion at their second meeting that ‘halasna Filastin’– “we are finished with Palestine.” Al-Gamasy said, “We started the war to liberate Sinai. We did not do anything for the Palestinians during this war. Ken Stein interview with former Israeli General Aharon Yariv, March 26, 1992, Ramat Aviv, Israel; Ken Stein interview with former Egyptian General Abd al-Ghani al-Gamasy, November 10, 1992, Heliopolis, Egypt. For detail on how the Kilometer 101 talks evolved and ended, please see  “The Kilometer 101 Talks- Between the October War and the 1973 Middle East Peace Conference,”

Egyptian goal from the war, “Making peace with the US not with Israel”— In January 1974, Sadat astonished General al-Gamasy, the Egyptian Army Chief of Staff by accepting the presence of a minimal number of Egyptian tanks in Sinai.  Gamasy was incredulous. Sadat told al-Gamasy, “My dear General, we are talking about a long period of policy. Peace will not be hurt by ten tanks, or twenty tanks, or thirty tanks. We are planning for peace with the Americans, not with Israel.” Ken Stein interview with former Egyptian General Abd al-Ghani al-Gamasy, November 10, 1992, Heliopolis, Egypt.

For an expanded bibliography of books and articles on the October War, please visit,