Friday, July 22, 2011

Inside the White House in 1973

The U.S. Department of State Office of the Historian just released historical archives detailing the foreign relations of the United States from 1969 through 1976. Volume XXV of the material highlights the Arab-Israeli Crisis and the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

The materials makes for a fascinating read! In going through the material, here is an example of the kind of exchanges I found to be of interest.

During a White House Bipartisan Leadership Meeting on November 27 (just after the war, as arrangements were being made for negotiations), President Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger gave their frank assessment of the war...and of current realities in the Middle East. At one point Congressman Stratton from New York asked, "What is the significance now of Resolution 242" [the UN resolution passed in 1967 calling for Israel to return all land captured during the Six Day War]? Kissinger's response seems to indicate that, as far as the circle of leaders gathered at the meeting in the White House was concerned, the resolution was meaningless. He said, "In the family--242 doesn't mean a thing" (p. 1026 of the pdf file, 992 of the document itself).

President Nixon also responded suggesting that any final deal on borders would give Israel at least some of the land that had been captured by them in 1967. Immediately after Kissinger's words, the President added, "It means 1967 for the Arabs and for Israel it means what they have plus ten percent."

Senator Fullbright objected to these two statements and responded, "It is not right to say 242 doesn’t mean anything." The President answered by saying, "It means different things to different people. To us it means what is negotiated."

Later in that same meeting the issue of nuclear weapons came up. Senator Mike Mansfield asked, "Do Egypt and Israel have the capability to make nuclear weapons?" Henry Kissinger's response appears to have been deliberately understated. "Israel has the capability to make small numbers. Not Egypt" (p. 1027 of the pdf file, 993 of the document itself).

If you want to know what was happening inside our government as this crisis unfolded, click on the link above to download the file. It makes for fascinating reading!

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