Robert Sid Ahmed,
INT: Could you tell me... could you just describe for me the various options considered for getting the supplies from America to Israel? What options were considered, and what stages did it go through?
AE: The replenishment of Israel (Clears throat) by the United States took several stages. The first, of course, was the announcement that they intended to replenish. That was psychologically of great importance, especially for our military command. The second stage was to decide whether American aircraft would be used. This was positively adjudicated by President Nixon and Kissinger, who were the chief supporters of the replenishment of Israel at the time. The third was the actual arrival of Hercules aircraft, which were received rhapsodically by the military command.
INT: Why has it been said...
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INT: So, you've described to me the options considered for the resupply. Why has it been said that America kept Israel dangling?
AE: It should not be said that the Americans kept Israel dangling, because those who know the ways, the habits of American bureaucracy, ought to believe that it was absolutely providential that between our asking for these arms on Tuesday, and Friday when they were all in the air, that was a shorter time for an American bureaucratic process to work its way out than any that we had ever expected before. This a legend; I think it has its sources in various conflicts and disputes within the American establishment itself. But what I must make very clear is that the two leaders who were most constant in their view that the balance of power had to be restored in Israel's favor, were President Nixon and Secretary Kissinger.
INT: Very good.
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INT: But Israel had to apply quite a lot of pressure on America to make them move to begin with. Do you have any anecdotes or any stories you can tell me about making America move, making America see the seriousness of the Israeli situation?
AE: The United States began to understand that we were in a serious situation when we suddenly changed our tune from this very blithe, typically Israeli self-confidence that "We're going to win the war by Friday" to a report that, as a result of what happened on that Tuesday, we were losing our life-blood: we were losing the planes and we were losing the tanks. That's when they really rose to the understanding that we were in trouble. I made a visit on the Saturday to Secretary Kissinger, and he started getting on the telephone in my presence. He called up the British Foreign Secretary, Alexander Douglas-Home, and said would the United Kingdom propose a cease-fire. And Sir Alex said he had examined the situation; no, the British delegation would not suggest a cease-fire: the Egyptians would be against it - which did not seem a very convincing reason for us. And then Kissinger called up the Australian who was the Security Council president at that time, and said would he get the Security Council into action. At that period we were in a quandary, because Israel has the following experience of Security Council cease-fires: if we are in military trouble, then nobody will offer us a cease-fire; if we are militarily successful, then we could get a cease-fire anyhow, on our own volition. And therefore we were blocked, and the cease-fire ... Security Council was not an option. And therefore, the only option tremained really was unilateral American replenishment.
INT: Wonderful answer. We're just going to stop there and change tapes. Thank you very much.
(A bit of preliminary talk)
INT: Can you tell me why the resupply was important, and how it was received - what people were saying and doing in Israel?
AE: The replenishment by the United States of Israeli armaments, especially tanks and aircraft, became very important indeed, bewithout the assurance of replenishment, our own military command would have been very parsimonious and very niggardly in the distribution of existing weaponry. And therefore, it's not that the planes and tanks were going to reach us in time - there wasn't going to be any in time because the war came to a very quick end. But the knowledge that the pipeline was being filled with American weaponry was absolutely crucial psychologically, emotionally, and in the strict military sense.
INT: How did people respond in Israel?
AE: Oh, Henry Kissinger arrived here from a trip to Moscow. He went to Moscow, and he had made commitments which some of our leaders, especially Golda Meir, our Prime Minister, believed to have been rather rash. And when he landed, he said, apparently, "I'm going to be (Laughs) chastised and... for this." And we then took our car through, and he was cheered rapturously wherever he went. In other words, there was a sense that if anybody could deliver Israel from that sense of strangulation, it could only be the United States. And he in fact became very popular, and he faced with us, in very close consultation, the problem of the Third Army; and this was really resolved by an Israeli decision, because when our chiefs of staff told us that in order to get the Third Army into our captivity - which sounded to be a very useful thing to do - we would have to lose 1,000 Israelis, the answer was as follows... the governmental answer in Israel was as follows: that the Third Army, if we capture it, we'll have to give them back anyhow through the Red Cross, and the 1,000 Israelis will never come back. And that was the very macabre kind of foundation on which our decision was made to call the thing off.
INT: Wonderful. I'm going to go back and just ask you a few questions, just to pick up. Firstly, can you tell me what the popular feeling was in Israel when the American resupplies arrived, what people were doing and saying?
AE: The arrival of the American supplies was held for some time in some kind of secrecy. Therefore, there was never a very clear-cut expression of relief. But when the planes actually began to arrive and, in these capacious hulls of these Hercules aircraft, tanks, one after the other, came out, the Israeli reaction was really rapturous, and we did understand then that we did have an ally.
INT: Wonderful. ... After Kissinger's visit to Moscow, you went to meet him at the airport. Can you tell me why he was afraid about his reception, how the crowds responded to his arrival, and then what he had to ask you? You know, he had to ask you about how Golda Meir felt and so on. Could you tell me that in a story - what was Kissinger's fears on arriving in Israel from Moscow?
AE: When Kissinger arrived in Israel from Moscow, he was rather apprehensive about how our Prime Minister Golda Meir would treat him, because she had been alienated by the fact that there had been a kind of a (Phone rings) radio silence...
INT: So, when Kissinger arrived in Israel from Moscow, what were his fears, and why, to the cease-fire? And how did you greet him at the airport? What did he ask you about the reaction of Golda Meir and the Cabinet, and what did you tell him?
AE: When Henry Kissinger arrived from Moscow, I met him at the airport, and he seemed to be apprehensive - he thought that our Prime Minister would assault him in a rather punitive way. I think he did regard Golda Meir as a kind of a punitive schoolmistress, (Laughs) and therefore he was a bit agitated. But when we took the car through various areas, he was applauded wherever he went, and I think he then understood that he did have power to affect Israeli decisions. The first decision was to dissuade us from attempting to capture the Third Army, which would have meant hundreds of thousands of Egyptians in our captivity, but of course we would have had to release them to the Red Cross.
INT: And was in fact the Cabinet... was Golda Meir rather angry with Dr Kissinger for arranging a cease-fire quite so fast and without consulting Israel?
AE: The fact that Kissinger had really committed the United States and the Soviet Union together to a cease-fire, and had even accepted a resolution called 338, which laid down for the first time the idea that there had to be a negotiated settlement... Golda's reactions could have been more severe than they were. But I think the meeting that they had - and they had one meeting alone - was one in which they did understand that the United States and Israel were really now in the same boat, and that they were now afflicted by an enemy, the Soviet Union, too powerful to be ignored.
INT: ... Do you think, during the war, there was a real possibility of the Soviet Union facing Israel on the ground?
AE: There was a period when the Soviet Union addressed the United States in the following language - and I heard this from President Nixon himself: "The Israelis are advancing too far, beyond Suez, beyond the city of Suez. We can't tolerate this. The best thing would be that we and you" - namely "we" the Soviet Union and "you" the United States - "should work together to stop them. But if that's not feasible, then we are prepared to go in alone." That was the real flashpoint at which the United States had to say to the Soviet Union, "We will not tolerate your encroachment into that area," and therefore, instead of the Soviet Union sending troops, an arrangement was reached under which observers, unarmed observers of the United Nations would come in and take up their positions - countries from Poland, Czechoslovakia and some of the Western countries.
INT: Wonderful. Another question about the cease-fire. Could you tell me... when Dr Kissinger came to Israel on 22nd October, what was his attitude to the cease-fire, when it would start, and how was it that Israel should proceed? I'm thinking about a working lunch that you had with Dr Kissinger, when he wanted to negotiate a framework, and there was an understanding that the cease-fire would only start after a couple of days - there was a little bit of time for Israel to continue with the war.
AE: When Kissinger arrived on the 22nd of October, he had two motives. The first motive was, of course, to get a cease-fire, because the war was escalating in a very undesirable fashion. But the second objective was to see that what he called a "balance of power" could be reestablished, and the balance of power at that time meant that Israel had to be rather stronger on the ground than it had been; and he therefore played around very skillfully, as always, with the timing of the cease-fire.
INT: Very good. Could you tell me once again ... I just wanted as clean an answer about the nuclear capability given to Israel by the United States... can you tell me why it happened and when - when and why in fact it happened?
AE: Some time in the third week of October, the fact that alarmed the United States was that the war tended to be internationalized. The Soviet Union said quite bluntly to the United States: "The Israelis have got to be stopped in their present advance. We think it should be done by you and we together, by our deterrent influence, but if necessary we are prepared to do it alone." Now these words - "we the Soviet Union are prepared to do it alone" - struck all the alarm bells possible in Washington, and forced President Nixon to reply, first of all by sending in naval units, and then letting it be known that these naval units included what he called a "nuclear element".
INT: ... Some more general questions. Could you give me an assessment of Kissinger in the way managed this, and his personal style as a diplomat? What is your assessment of Dr Kissinger?
AE: The first thing everybody has to acknowledge with Henry Kissinger is, of course, his skill, especially in making two adversary parties each convinced that he was acting in their interests. That isn't an easy task. But the fact is that that is endemic really to mediation. You never say exactly to one party what you say to the other, and that sometimes gives the impression of duplicity. It is in fact an essential, endemic part of the mediatorial role: toeach party you give a version that is more congenial to it than it would be to its enemy. But behind all of these maneuvers, Henry Kissinger (Phone rings) came to this area...
(A bit of preliminary discussion)
INT: So could you conclude, really, with your comments about Kissinger's style of diplomacy?
AE: Everybody has to acknowledge Kissinger's skills, of course. His major skill was to let each party believe that he was acting basically in their interest. But behind all these maneuvers, there is the fact that he had a very strong attachment to the idea of Israel, and he never wanted to be in a position where he could be portrayed as letting Israel down; and this was at work, I think, throughout the whole of his mission.
INT: Very nice indeed. I'm thinking of Kissinger's trip to Moscow, when he went to Moscow to talk to Brezhnev about the cease-fire and so on. Do you think there were times when détente threatened Israel's interests, Israel's security in the Middle East?
AE: Israel's security in the Middle East, of course, was never more precarious than when the Soviet Union was threatening to intervene directly, because at every stage throughout the Cold War, the idea of Soviet hostility was much more prominent in Israeli minds even than the reality of Arab hostility; and unless the Cold War aspect is fully understood, one will never understand why Israel was so vulnerable in its reactions as it was.
INT: And did détente, do you think... was the interest of Israel made second to the interests of détente?
AE: There was a point where the détente attitudes may have threatened Israel's interests. This, however, was because at a certain stage, the United States and the Soviet Union, at a meeting in California, displayed such an apathy about the Middle East that Israel had the sense of being abandoned. We were not being urged to do anything, we were not being asked to do anything, and there was a feeling that there would be deadlock. There were some people in Israel who thought that deadlock was favorable because it seemed to be consolidating our existing territorial positions. Others of us believed that without a movement, without some kind of dynamism in the peace process, we might be left adrift and would probably lose our American friendships.
INT: Wonderful. Did the Cold War help or hinder the search for peace in the Middle East?
AE: There's no doubt that in general the Cold War was a negative influence upon our security, and therefore upon Middle Eastern stability. It was the Soviet Union that armed the Arabs, it was the Soviet weaponry that poured into their coffers, it was the Soviet Union which closed off Israel's access to international agencies, it was the Soviet Union which led this great campaign of defamation, which sometimes reached anti-Semitic formulations against Israel, and therefore the Cold War was certainly not an affirmative background for Israeli policy to operate.
INT: What started the peace process, and how would you characterize the initial stages of it?
AE: The peace process began as a direct result of a new orientation in Israeli policy. For the first time, under Prime Minister Rabin and Foreign Minister Peres, for the first time Israel made the Arab world and the Moslem world the focal point of its foreign policy. Israel had always looked outside its region for assistance. In the First World War, it had been Britain; in the... then it had been the United Nations, which providentially, unexpectedly came to Israel's aid and offered its recognition; then, for some brief, shiny moment, it was France that supplied the weaponry and the... what we called the "nuclear deterrent"; and thereafter it was always the United States. But now, instead of looking outside the region, there was a decision by the Rabin-Peres administration to say the Middle East should be the area in which we should seek a breach of the wall of hostility. And the first results of the peace process were sensational: suddenly Israel was in relationship with 15 Arab states, not only with Egypt and Jordan, but also some of the states of the Gulf and North Africa and Morocco and Tunisia, and it seemed to be that... it seemed to us that we were all set fair for the great Israeli dream of creating centers of contact and influence in the Arab world. This, however, came to a very strict and screeching halt with the election result in 1997.
INT: Very nice. Just very briefly: what was the importance of Resolution 242?
AE: Throughout the whole Middle Eastern conflict, Israel was always looking for some formula on which a real peace process could be based, and 242 was that formula. I myself took part in about 50 meetings with the American and British representatives who proposed Resolution 242. One of the virtues of 242 was that it was the same whether you wrote it from left to right or right to left: it was just 242. But in fact, that formula, which put withdrawal and peace in this harmony and this concerted context, became, first of all, the basis of a treaty with Egypt; then it became the basis of a treaty with Jordan; then it became the basis of our relationship with the Palestine authority, and it therefore was a successful political gambit.
INT: That's a lovely answer. My last question, before I just check. I know you were at Princeton at the time. Can you tell me what you think the achievement of the Camp David agreement in 1979 was?
AE: The Camp David agreement of 1979 was the major breakthrough of Israel into a relationship with an Arab country. Of course, it was then said, "Well, it's only one Arab country." Egypt is not just one Arab country: Egypt is the political and cultural center of the Arab world, and it would be impossible to have a real peace process unless Egypt was the leader in that particular dynamism. Quite recently, I went to interview President Mubarak, and when I said to him that "the peace process started here in this city, and could never have started anywhere else," the look of rapture on his face was really worth everything.