Israel, Kissinger: “I advised Golda not to attack, perhaps it was a mistake”

The speech by the former US Secretary of State at the Council on Foreign Relations for the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War

“It was one of the most significant events of my career. We didn’t expect it, but after the outbreak of war in 1973 we thought it was a crucial moment that could end with a peace agreement between Israel and Egypt and be a pillar for agreements with other Arab countries. For me, Israel could not be a country like the others, because of my family history and the ties that one must have with a democratic country that has built itself to become a formidable force. But I was the secretary of state and it was not always easy to align the interests of Israel and the United States.” Henry Kissinger says so in an excerpt from a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations for the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur war published today in Corriere della Sera.

“I had underestimated Sadat – recalls the former US Secretary of State during the presidencies of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford between 1969 and 1977 – I saw him as a character from Aida, who made threats in words without following through in actions It was a perception so crystallized that in the first meeting of the Washington Action Group, the assessment was that Israel was the one attacking but I knew they wouldn’t start a war on Yom Kippur. Nixon and I thought that if Israel launched another attack on surprised as in 1967 the reaction of the world would have been so negative that it would have been difficult to support Israel, so we told Golda Meir not to do a surprise attack even though in retrospect maybe it was a mistake. But I don’t think there was much inclination in Israel , until two days before the war and even then the government was divided.”

“I adored Golda on a human level – says Kissinger again – Her generation had prevailed in Palestine with dangers at every mile, she wanted peace but it broke her heart to give up anything conquered. She invited me to dinner with my wife, like her favorite aunt; then he would take me into the kitchen so that Nancy wouldn’t hear and give me a once-over. Like the first time I visited Sadat without a visit to Israel: I thought about telling her everything later but it was a symbolic mistake. The idea was that the best solution was a Israeli victory managed by US diplomacy so that Egypt would come to peace, rather than continuing the war until Sadat is overthrown and a radical replaced. But we also wanted to bring Russia into negotiations with the West. I’m uncertain: on the one hand I would welcome an agreement between the Saudis and Israel; on the other it should be based on mutual interests and the fact that a third country pays doesn’t give you much hope. But I’m still thinking about it, I don’t have a formal position.”