EXCERPTS FROM A RECORD OF A MEETING BETWEEN SOVIET JOURNALIST, VICTOR LOUIS, AND GENERAL DIRECTOR OF THE PRIME MINISTER’S OFFICE, MORDECHAI GAZIT
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get citationRecord of a meeting between Mordechai Gazit (MG), General Director of the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, and Victor Louis (VL), a Soviet journalist. The meeting was held the week before a summit meeting between Richard Nixon and Leonid Brezhnev. The two discussed the immigration of Jews from the Soviet Union and the low state of Israeli-Soviet relations."Excerpts from a record of a meeting between Soviet journalist, Victor Louis, and General Director of the Prime Minister’s Office, Mordechai Gazit," June 15, 1973, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Israeli State Archives, Record Group 130 (Ministry of Foreign Affairs – the Main Office), File No. 5973/4. Obtained for CWIHP by Guy Laron. http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/114294
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M E E T I N G
June 15, 1973
VL: I never miss a chance to come here. It wasn’t your invitation; it was an invitation starting in January, so no one could say I planned it to coincide with the discussions in New York. So I have a sort of nice official cover. I won’t embarrass anyone. Well, unfortunately even if I write something about Israel, it seems a kind of political issue and Arab ambassadors begin to complain immediately… That is why I come here on this pretext. It was for a cover.
I don’t know in which way you have been briefed about me and you have your own reservations. Again, I’d like to sort of publicize myself in a way that I hope I prove in a way, if any proof is necessary, my sympathy towards Israel and the way I am speaking here is non-Soviet official; I am not a Soviet official – that is not the way I talk in Moscow about Israel with any Russian official. That is why I take the liberty to put things straightforward and please don’t take it as a sort of… black-mailing or whatever, otherwise we will start with diplomatic language. Well, I know that you have your contacts which I should know and you have your way of expressing the high policy, what-not, and so on. Well, apart from political things there are some number of personal things concerning Brezhnev which sort of coincide now and again especially after Dr. [Mair] Kahane [a right-wing Israeli activist who became known for his struggle for Soviet Jews’ right to immigrate] wasn’t allowed to go...
So the general feeling is that for the people in Moscow still believe that the Zionist organizations are aimed from here and directed from here and you couldn’t explain to them that you can[not] press one button or another button, that it doesn’t work that way, the way it works in Moscow. Because you are a Russian specialist, you understand you couldn’t expect from people to think in a different mentality…
There is no Watergate coverage in Russia at all, and all the Watergate in Russia is the Voice of America, is jammed in Moscow. The Voice of America would tell the impressions… So the idea is one would think [that] if you tell Israelis, you know, please don’t embarrass Brezhnev too much, just press another button like Watergate and it will be finished, and they couldn’t understand why you can’t stop that in America. Well, that is the way of mentality of the mediocre people. And only one two days left, you know [before the Nixon-Brezhnev summit]. You see, the idea is one should personally think, I personally think that if my country’s situation to the extent that the favor of the visit, is always like in the good old jokes, always blame Jews for that. I don’t like this, that it will go on blaming Jews for that …
And you haven’t got the Russian background, and a number of the things you have to feel in your skin and not have it explained to you. And because the man [Brezhnev] might come home and say: well, look after all the insults [i.e. – anti-Soviet demonstration of American Jews] I got because of Jews, stop it, finish it. All right, another ten years [of a halt to the immigration of Soviet Jews] or whatever it is, but you should understand this sort of mentality of dictatorship in the sense that a man can [make this decision]. [A] personal thing is involved, you know, it is too much at stake for nothing. Well, that is the sort of feeling at home and [let me] tell you, look I talk to people and I couldn’t speak on behalf of Israel saying, look American citizens to do what they want and there will be demonstrations. It will be hardly any American [Jew being able to demonstrate in front of a] well-guarded White House, well-guarded Camp David, Houston is a military base you know, and is always isolated. But what I may suggest to you, if it is all right… if you could say through your usual contacts so you got the message and you are doing your best under the circumstances. Because there are a number of people who jumped at our people and said, well, look, it is directed from Israel. And now it is unfashionable to blame Americans, Jewish Americans for anything that might happen…
MG: [I do not know] whether you want me to react on it, or you want to go on with other points. I could react to this, if you are interested. The situation is a complicated one for the simple reason that on the one hand, there is some aliya [Hebrew for immigration] from the Soviet Union and we are glad. Last year over 30,000 people came. We are not happy with the precise figure but we are happy with the phenomenon of the aliya for those who want to come.
Now, we have already indicated on several occasions, public occasions the fact that… the contradiction doesn’t make too much sense to us. Maybe it can be explained to a people who, as you say, feel on the skin the Russian way of thinking, or there is some other reason that has to do with general considerations in the Soviet Union which I don’t follow too closely. But the contradiction is that on the one hand this phenomenon of immigration is taking place, at the same time there are all kinds of difficulties… The result is public opinion, Jewish public opinion and other public opinion, is quite worried because this is a development or rather a problem of Russian Jewry has been a problem which the world press has not followed for many years something like 8 or 10 or more years. This has become part of the things covered by the press, and I think you will not disagree with me when I say that in the Soviet Union now it is all to the good. There is a little more possibility to let such news come out than in Stalin’s era, so one knows about arrests and even hunger strikes. Right now there is a hunger strike of Jewish scientists. So the public opinion has its effect.
Now regarding American organizations and American Jews, as you said yourself, we do not [have control over] Israeli Zionist cause and [over] Jewish causes in general. And they are worried, deeply worried. But they would be happy if tomorrow there is nothing to worry about or so little to worry about that one emphasizes the good part and just ignores some side issues. But right now you have on the one hand a phenomenon which is favorable but not large enough, but favorable nevertheless, and at the same time the other things. So, this is how we feel about it. Now American Jewish organizations are responsible organizations… To the best of my knowledge and from what I read in papers, from what I hear from time to time from people who come back, from their impressions, etc. they are certainly [will not do] anything of the kind you described. Certainly they will not do anything of the kind. I hope – for this I cannot vouch at all – I hope that some small splinter, not even splinter, completely fringe organizations will not do something. As you know, the Israel government concerning violent activities has expressed itself in the past, quite unequivocally. But now we are dealing with psychology, the psychology of a man, Mr. Brezhnev. This is difficult, what can we do regarding a man we have not met [Redacted]. Even though this would also be possible, theoretically… So this is basically what I have to say about it. I could add particular impressions later regarding what I call the non-positive, the negative, phenomenon… regarding people who are sent to Siberia and the accusations, the allegations, I don’t know, indictments against them are very, very flimsy to put it politely. So I don’t know whether it is fair to say it but I heard from David Bartur that you yourself years ago wrote on the victim of that sort of thing and were sent to a camp.
VL: … You couldn’t sort of blame anyone [for sending people to the camps], that is like earthquake. I spent nearly ten years [in a camp] and came out, others spent more time or less time, but this is like war. There is no one to blame for it. It is the system. All the cruelty which goes on now, people sent to Siberia, the Russians think it is justifiable and this is complete justice because it is not only Jews that are sent there. The same thing is done to the Russians…
I keep saying give me the list of people [you want to get out]… There are a number of explanations [which the Soviet government uses], acceptable or not, but there are some reasons for [refusing immigration of certain individuals]. There are a few students they wouldn’t like to let them out…. It is not a question of bargaining. They say they couldn’t let three or four scientists out… Then they said, look, while I am here in the office, you Ginsburg, would never leave the Soviet Union, and poor Ginsburg is going to stay in the Soviet Union because of this personal attitude of the official. There is no logic to that. Nor other things like, there is one colonel on the list… They don’t have anything against him personally, they would let him out, but he is a colonel. Well, you know, the colonel will come to Tel-Aviv, then he will be sent on a trip… Then there will be Col. Varshansky who would know all the military secrets. That would be embarrassing for the army. So let him sit for a while. This is the sort of logic that goes behind. The other people – personally I was utterly surprised. I haven’t checked it myself, but the same top official told me for instance, I saw him the day before yesterday, and he said [to me, ‘why these is] too much fuss about it, what is the reason… [that specific applicant has] been told now[:] as soon as you apply, bring all the documents necessary, keep your mouth shut and we will let you out. But he has not applied and the official told me: look, in a private conversation, we couldn’t [let him] apply before [because] he gives an interview to Israeli radio.
MG: What an idiot.
VL: All right, he is an idiot. As soon as you say you are going to Israel they will kick you out of the party. Or they wouldn’t give you documents…. People ask me from London for instance to help Tiompkin. And there is a headline in the “Daily Express”, this poor woman in a camp, but she is in a [labor] camp; it is no Auschwitz. There is a limit. And there are also family problems… a father who wants to go to Israel. He is absolutely ready to take his daughter. And the mother wants to stay in Russia. Gentlemen, where is the limit? How could we discuss that on a sort of common international level? For instance, the father was against his son going, pressing [to stay] and trying to prevent his son from going. Now I saw him three days ago and now he said[:] we want to go to Israel… Every Jewish family is a sort of small tragedy…
MG: Regarding such cases, regarding this phenomenon of families, I think if there has been some kind of arrangement by which we would be able to discuss such cases – you can say to us: [so and so] hasn’t yet filled out a form. So then we say to you, okay suggest it to him. And we can talk to him and you can talk to him. Then his problem is settled and one other point of aggravation, point of trouble does not exist. Or if you take the son of Levitch. He is not a great scientists. It is the father. He is the son. And he has been sent, and apparently been sent to a camp where he is not physically fit to be. The climate is not good for him… As long as the son [is there], this keeps appearing in the press every week at least or maybe more, if you take all the press. [Why] complicate it?
VL: … There is a brutality in Russia. Sometimes they say no to you and you can do whatever you want, that’s the [power of the bureaucracy].
MG: Here you are a little bit confused. I will tell you why. On the one hand, you say that there is a problem, namely that there is a brutality, officialdom a certain logic which I am [unable] to understand. Okay, this being so, you say sometimes the right thing to do, if one protests, goes on a hunger strike, and there is therefore a kind of war going on inside the Soviet Union, because as long as you have this problem with officialdom and so on, then you must have a counter-balancing factor. But let’s look at it from the other side, from our side, and from the point of view of those who have left already. Those who have left argue if this is so, then we also must make [noises], and some of them make noises which really irritate. And irritate us… So we do not control this. We can try and convince and persuade etc. sometimes, but here again the contradiction that I sense in your analysis is that you say there must be some protest, it hurts, the fact that stories get published in the western press and it does help occasionally…
VL: Yes. It’s contradiction. The only thing I said is if there is someone who could – probably no one exists in the world who could – know the extreme to it. There is a limit. Israelis protest and Americans protest. It is overdone. It might overweight the necessity.
Talking about the people involved in the [Leningrad] airplane [hijacking] attempt [on 15 June 1970 by a group of Soviet Jews who were denied permission to immigrate]. The officials said now we couldn’t let them out of prison logically. They would let them out and then there would be protests in Russia: ‘the Jews can have everything they want, they get out of prison.’ It is too much. You see, as soon as one of them will be released in July or something from this airplane in Leningrad case, or some of them are already released – not the woman, I am talking about the others. Their terms finish in July or August or whatever it is, but anyhow two of them are coming out this year. So there is no problem. They could go to Israel the following day, but we couldn’t reduce their sentence at the present moment…
MG: I think I understand you perfectly. I really thank you very much because it just verifies what was in my mind. However, I think you understand my points too… I think now the question is, as you say, [whether] can one find the balance. And when psychology is involved or certain logic is involved of a different kind which cannot exactly be gauged, especially when one has no control over all this. People are reacting independently… So to the point that you do not have control – by you I mean Moscow in general, over officialdom, over certain mentality which is built into the regime, how can one have control over the actions of individuals in a free society.
But coming back to your point about Mr. Brezhnev, you know we made already certain statements, one by our Ambassador in the States, in which the hope was expressed that this meeting would be a good meeting [and as far as] relations between East and West were concerned, [Israel was] in favor of détente, improvement of relations. We were not cold war mongers, we are not interested in cold war. This is certainly our position…
VL: [Now,] about curbing out limitations, they decrease now. It is not artificial, because that is what they claim. In Moscow [there were] about 6,000 applications before, now about 5,000 applications. It is a seasonal thing. There are letters coming from Israel whether it is so good or not so good, [Soviet Jews] think and decide and so on. There are other people who would like to and haven’t applied. With There are those who [do] not [have] permission to go and haven’t left. It is more of a family thing. Very small exceptions, the question is now about 30 people or 60 people for whom you are sort of fighting constantly, otherwise there are no objections…
Another thing is how would you think about the idea of tourism before the diplomatic relations or relatives coming here on the pretext of being tourists. Because there are a number of people who would like to go and see Israel for themselves. It is positive or bad or what would be your reaction?
MG: I don’t have an immediate reaction to that. I would have to refer it to people who deal with this and have ideas about it. In principle, I would say in the past we were in favor of this sort of thing, but the assumption being that it was on a bilateral basis, in other words, if there are tourists they go both ways. Our tourists can go there and your tourists can come here. If it is on a unilateral basis, I don’t know…
VL: People do come here as tourists, not exactly as tourists, with a relative visa. And then for a couple of months. It is much easier now because a lot of people go to France and America. In principle it is much easier than ever before. Some of my Jewish friends who went to France and to visit an uncle or whatever it is, they were allowed to go to France…
VL: [Armand] Hammer was in Moscow, he has been to my house-
MG: The millionaire?
VL: Yes… There are a few things because Hammer suggests that the Soviet Union should start a little bit of trade with Israel, because there is a most favorable national agreement which still exists between the Soviet Union and Israel. He thinks it might help to get [support] in the States with [Senator Henry ‘Scoop’] Jackson [D-Washington]. This is the sort of more personal interest I would say than anything else. I am not in the position to agree on trade, but it might be nice to mention and discuss it... So I mean in state terms here in general, anyone who is ready to open something… And whether Israel is interested, with a sort of neutral trade where no on could blame Russia. Of course, you couldn’t give me an answer immediately but you are ready to bring anything constructive and push it… Well, that is the Hammer idea which he was also trying to sell Moscow and push there but again then comes the political question. It would be interesting to know if there is anything else you could add to the well-known position, officially well-known position, unofficially if you have come to any, and how shall I say, concessions or minor concessions, promises of concessions. If there is anything you haven’t said before… Well a lot of people, the majority of people, are in favor of better negotiations between Arabs and Israelis, and the Arabs are sort of provoking Russia to – push to be responsible to that… the Egyptian delegation in Moscow, much more unbending and strict and tougher. Even tougher than they ever were before. [They offered] no concessions… But Egypt would appreciate it of course if Russia would start to press the issue. In this case they would say: Look, what else can we do, they pressure us. This is what they would like.
MG: Let me get this straight. The Egyptians would like to have Russian pressure?
VL: That is what he Russians understand, that the Egyptians would like to have Russian pressure. That is [why] the Russians would press for direct negotiations, they could present the case as a sort of pressure from the Soviet Union and that there would be no way out. And the Soviets don’t like to be used to [be] blamed for that by the rest of the Arabs… But in principle, Russia is much in favor of negotiations beginning.
MG: That is sort of change in the Soviet position…
VL: Sometimes I am mixed up, I am not choosing the words, I would say. It is not a sort of unofficial message. It’s more of a summary, so it’s easier for you to understand the moods.
MG: [I] understand the mood. If I understand correctly, you have a feeling, you personally, that this latest visit by the Egyptians gave the impression that the Egyptians are more inclined to direct negotiations but would like the negotiations to be-
VL: No they are not. Their position is much tougher than before.
VL: However, Russia is more and more now in favor [of negotiations and] always advises [the Arabs to start] talks, and more and more in favor as the only way out…. And [in] Egypt also come people there [that]… would like that Russia, one had the impression, would like the Russians to press them, not sort of advise them. There is a sort of ridiculous thing which I heard from Americans, off the record, that we know more about the position in the Middle East, negotiations in the Middle East, from the Americans than we know from the Egyptians. That’s the-
VL: Attitudes or let’s say approaches on the Egyptian side. [They] give us less than the American side. So that is the attitude of these people. But we are sort of so tied up with the Arab world that we couldn’t sort of break loose, and I would say that at the meeting now we will be more bound by our alliance to Egypt, and the ridiculous thing would be that if the Egyptians would change [their position and] Russia is not doing anything, if they will change their position, because if it will go on then the Soviets will be in an idiotic position as before that they are trying to press for something that the Egyptians are already not insisting on because of previous instruction, previous decisions, we stick to that. Egypt being more flexible on this position, they could shift away from the rigid Russian position which the Russians should do, without sort of trying to find language of conciliation... I am interested to know if there is anything you could suggest sort of behind the scenes, if you could absorb all that, shall I say, deadlock between the Russians and the Egyptians diplomacy and American diplomacy, if there is anything you feel can be done, if there is anything new which could give off the record… I know you have your own way of funneling your thinking but then there is less possibility to discuss. If there is anything new, because from all that is known it is not, not concessions, any ideas if you think the Egyptians might change and it would help Russia to be prepared for that and push sometimes Egypt, and then Russia would be responsible for all their decisions, because that is what the Egyptians would like and that is what makes people headaches there.
MG: I don’t know if I have any new ideas or if anyone can have any new ideas because the situation is such that it is difficult to have any. But I think I could explain to you several things one tends to forget. Because [there] is a tendency to forget such things and this doesn’t help. I agree with you one hundred per cent when you said that in the past, maybe this is a hangover, Soviet policy was one hundred per cent identified with the Egyptian position. Kissinger said [that] and I think he is right. I had a talk with [a] Soviet [official] in Washington, before the Six Day War and I made the same point: It is not good for you… I fail to understand why a super power should commit itself so heavily on the side of one country, especially with a country that is basically a problematic country in this generation – I hope not in fifty years time – but Egypt is problematic, and you will get yourself into trouble. So therefore to the point that the Soviet Union detaches itself, face saving-wise, from this sort of commitment which is not a political commitment, this would be a good thing for all concerned, I think. Also [it would be a good thing] for the Egyptians eventually because it would bring about a closer realization of things as they are, they would become more realistic, it would sober them up a little. This is the first point I’d like to make. The second point is this. You [asked about] concessions. What is our position? We say we are ready to compromise. A compromise from the Egyptian point of view is unacceptable because they want everything one hundred percent back. And if our experience with past arrangements was a good one, and if there were not 1948 and not 1956, 1967 and the war of attrition – but all this happened. So we say therefore, look, gentlemen, because the situation in the Middle East is what it is, Egypt has problem, and today there is [Libyan dictator, Muamar] Kadafi and tomorrow there will be an Egyptian Kadafi, or even this crazy man Kadafi could take over theoretically speaking, if we could have an arrangement by which we get what we want –secure boarders, after all it’s a desert, it’s a good thing, thank God for geography, because we have a desert, we can have a defensible line.
We can be indifferent then to what happens with Mr. Kadafi in Egypt, and if he assembles his tanks, we wouldn’t like it very much, but no war would come about and the cost is a very low cost. Even regarding that particular cost the Egyptians could come up with all kinds of face-savers, with all kinds of ingenious arrangements to make it easier from their point of view, for the symbolical aspect, historical aspect, emotional aspect, sentimental aspect, the fact that they are boxed in with their position and so on. But the outcome of it would be as I described, namely that we get secure [and] recognized i.e. defensible borders. This would be a concession [on our part]. Because we could have taken another attitude. We could have said: you are untrustworthy to us and because you are untrustworthy we shall now wait and expect the moment when you become trustworthy and then we shall negotiate. We could have taken this position.
VL: How much of the Egyptian territory do you think is necessary? [You want to] divide Sinai and then it starts with all the desert here, you know, and Jerusalem is probably you have settled now and that [is a fact on the ground]. Is there anything new?
MG: Now, you see, here I can only refer you to what we have said. People get angry sometimes when we repeat this position, but you see in a democracy [we have no other choice than taking] that position… We could have drawn up the map. I think it would have been a mistake. Even a map which would look nice, would look acceptable to friends of Israel… So we haven’t drawn a map. But as I said to you, there is no secret. We don’t want all of Sinai but we want a defensible border. There would have to be a new line in the Sinai Peninsula, not where the cease fire lines are now and not where the ’67 lines were, to be drawn on the ground, on the basis of negotiations.
Incidentally, since you mentioned negotiations and so on, I felt that Mr. Malik’s speech the day before yesterday, in which again he said the Soviet Union would never agree to anything which would be done outside the United Nations concerning the countries, this was the idea, I felt very unhappy about it. Because what does it mean, the UN? Altogether, it means that we have to take into account an organization which by its very arithmetic is anti-Israel. Why should we take this seriously, how helpful is such a statement at a time when all over the globe one is negotiating different, directly?...
VL: What do you want from Russia? That is easier for you because there is no decision in principle. What apart from all the usual known statements, I mean what do you feel personally as a politician…
MG: You are talking now about Egypt?
VL: I am talking in general. In Russia, when I talk about the subject I talk with different people, talking about the Middle East [with bureaucrats running Moscow’s Middle East policy] and they don’t care about North America, and the others who are [dealing] with America, [do not care] about the Middle East or Sinai, they don’t care. But for you, it is sort of in the role.
MG: [I want to come back to] the Jewish problem, the proposition that we would like very much to see free communication, which means also no harassment, no arrests, and also a solution of the very difficult problems which [we have talked about]. This is regarding the Jewish question. Regarding our bilateral relations, I think that we have in 1967 seen when there are difficulties this is the time to break off relations, and if the Soviet Union is ready to set up relations we will certainly consider that. I would add one little point. If we this time set up relations we shouldn’t do it – because we had in our history ups and downs – this time it should be done so that we do not get in each other’s hair within two weeks or three months. It should be a much more serious renewal of relations. So if we set up relations and then three days later you say we are aggressors and that sort of thing, this is a little bit – So this is regarding relations. I am talking generally because I know this is not going to happen.
Regarding the Middle East question, we think that here objectively speaking, not talking now about the U.S. and the Soviet Union… first of all Egypt, let’s forget Syria for a moment. Here objectively we are facing a situation where the Egyptians have a regime which for [its own] reasons about which one can be sorry has not yet decided to make peace, to start serious progress towards conciliation. Therefore what can we suggest? We can only suggest that one helps the Egyptian president, the Egyptian regime towards the realization that he must make peace, that he must become accustomed to the idea of making peace. We think on the whole we are moving in this direction. It is not tangible but we are moving in this direction, and some of the things you said also show that on the one hand, they assumed a very though position and on the other, they also feel they have reached a point where it cannot go any more as it was. And they say therefore [that they want] confrontation, they say we must go to war… very serious business to go to war.
VL: Are you willing to give Egypt another lesson, as some people keep saying?
MG: Certainly not. From our point of view, this is completely unnecessary, against our interests. But we are ready if they start, we are ready.
VL: Because the Russian military information is that you would win this war .. ..
MG: We don’t want to win a war, we want to win a peace. The cease fire lines as they are at present time are good cease fire lines and we are not [looking forward] to fight over the cease fire lines, what we are anxious is to reach agreement concerning final lines. Now some people could argue that maybe the Egyptians are in such a mood that without another war they will never agree to anything without that. We doubt that. We don’t think another war will necessarily bring about peace. We think that there is a process that will lead eventually to peace. We don’t know whether it will last two years or much more, but we think there is such a process. We would like to see that what we are saying, the way we analyze the situation, is more generally accepted. In other words, do not come to us as you were in the habit before and say: Look, here, we want you that what will happen is this, and you are doomed and you are endangering the very existence of the State of Israel, etc., etc…
VL: In the meeting now with Brezhnev, Nixon, one should expect apart from all this… super nations, super power [stuff, Nixon and Brezhnev will discuss] changes the situation or help the peace to some extent in the Middle East, there wouldn’t be any danger now of two powers fighting each other whether it’s Vietnam or Israel. [In] the meeting [the] question of the Middle East now become as number one… So there will be propaganda on both sides and [you need] somehow to understand that anything could happen after the meeting when both sides will be agreeing to help, you know, and at the same time one might expect that the Arab states might try to undermine the spirit of the meeting itself… unfortunately Russia still stick to the idea that we have to support Egypt because otherwise the Arab world [would turn against the Soviet Union]…
MG: Yes, I agree. You say it is a muddle, but it could easily become less of a muddle. If for example, without even saying so much publicly, you would reach a conclusion, and the last summit was a little in this direction, at least this is how the Egyptians interpreted it, they were very unhappy about the last [summit] so if you were to accept, whether you state in publicly or not is another question, that you have a policy, you have interests in the Middle East, you have a fleet in the Mediterranean, and so on, but at the same time, there are certain aspects that should be better left alone, that if you get involved in them your commitment becomes very heavy and this causes you all kinds of problems… In other words, the expression of defensible borders, how neighbors live with each others, what borders they have, this is for the countries themselves to negotiate, this cannot be enforced. Altogether peace cannot be enforced… This is the crux. The question of the borders being the crux, the center for this, this should not become the very point upon which all involved, all interested, get themselves into trouble. This is what I would hope could be brought about, announced or unannounced… Now, what would the Egyptians do afterwards? That is their problem. Maybe they would become more realistic, maybe they would become unhappy for six or nine months, but eventually they would become more realistic… [The Egyptians] can’t pin everything on [the border question], which has become for them out of proportion, completely out of proportion into a kind of national trauma. I think it is unnatural. I don’t think it is healthy for them, and I think they basically realize that this is not healthy for them, not their real national problem. This is what I can say, I don’t have any new ideas but I think those are the facts of life.
VL: But [the Egyptians] are unpredictable to us all as well, you see, and I would say concerning your prediction and the predictions of the Israelis [that they are] not only of great interest but also a source of information. A [message] from Jerusalem sometimes gives more than [a] message from Cairo…
Another thing. Once the attitude is, there is a kind of, that is my own idea, if there is a sort of
the Soviet-Israel club or Russian culture club for whatever it is, done by the Israelis with the help of Russians embassies and propaganda… I am trying to find a way if [a] Soviet cultural center [would be reciprocated by an] Israel culture center in Russia, but [if] there is anything, I can always talk to [you about it, than deliver the message to] the friends I know [in the Soviet government] and discuss it [with them]… [these cultural centers] will be a kind of recognizable link but at the same time, it might be a kind of substitute of a body on whose behalf one could speak. They could help. It would be something which is sort of supported and recognized [conduit for communications]… instead of all that private messages, secret messages, sometimes a word from this kind of club would mean something. You know, this is a sort of again feelings of Soviet psychology, non-political, whatever it is. That is my thinking, which I don’t want to push without your blessing. I talked in Moscow about it, they said, well, in theory if it won’t be anti-Soviet, of course we would help…
MG: Yes, I would want to add this, not officially, I would like to say just personally what I feel, and I think more people than just myself would feel about it. Point number one is that our experience with substitute arrangements of this kind has not been a good one. If we did that then for the next 20 years you just have that and you have nothing else. This has been our diplomatic experience with such arrangements, and I think the time will come in a year or two or three or more when we… will change completely our relations. Then such a thing may become an obstacle. Point number 2 is that I believe [that] our relations [were] so stormy and unhappy since 1962 or ’63, for ten years now, such an unhappy affair our relations with you, in the field of commerce it never worked nicely. So that because of this unhappy past, any arrangement we make must be on a healthy foundation.
VL: All or nothing.
MG: I give you my personal view. It is a matter of checking with my immediate superiors and certainly with the Prime Minister. And they may think too and she may feel too that is an important thing and [Redacted] but is she were to ask me what an average Israeli felt about this problem and talked with her about this problem, I could guess by introspection what she would say would be in terms of what I am saying.
VL: Another thing is if I may ask you, from my journalistic position… keep it in confidence and I didn’t say to anyone I was meeting with you. From your side someone asking you whether I saw or haven’t seen you-
MG: You see, here we have a little problem. We must settle it. This is completely off the record, obviously. Regarding whether we met or not, what is the situation there? It is already in all the papers they said of course Victor Lewis is not here officially and so on, but one has to remember that last time when he was here he met with Director-General of the Prime Minister’s office, etc. So supposing – this morning I had a call from the Israeli press officer. I thought now he is going to ask me whether I am going to meet with you or not… I really would have been in a fix, because if I lied. So therefore, I think that if asked we should say that you requested the meeting, the meeting took place and was not of a general character.
VL: … I don’t like to embarrass anybody, but on my last meeting with [Simcha] Dinitz [formerly Director General of the Prime Minister’s office and at the time of this meeting Israeli ambassador to Washington], for example, when I was asked directly about the meeting, what could I say? Then the exact words were there saying Victor Lewis says that now he is going back to Moscow, which is my original words, if someone made a statement from this end… because I always play the role, if anyone would like to talk with me I talk with him.
MG: We are not taking the initiative, I think. I offer a suggestion but I think we shouldn’t take the initiative, but when asked, to say, yes there was a meeting. I would say, yes, I met yesterday with the London Times correspondent and today I met with Mr. Victor Lewis. What did you discuss? Just general things.
VL: I am going to write a general story as I usually do…
MG: But I want to ask you personally for my own gratification. From my point of view, when I inform Mrs. Meir of this conversation, what am I going to say to her, roughly speaking what you said to Mr. Dinitz last time, that you came to this country and so on, but at the same time you were representing certain ideas which you discussed with people. How do you want me to - ?
VL: You can say that…
MG: Then I can say to Mrs. Meir that before coming here, before coming to this conference, you thought it would be a good idea to talk to come of your friends in Moscow, and this means for all practical purposes friends dealing in more or less three separate-
VL: Soviet officials.
MG: Dealing with three subjects. First, the Middle East, second the summit meeting, and third, aliya.
VL: An example, about aliya. Three or four times, I usually go and ask what is going on, etc. So it is the same here. So they give me last minute information. I say I am now going to Israel, do you have any questions to raise, whether its Foreign Office, whether it’s political row, whether it’s advisors, what do you want to know. So now I put it in a sort of summary way, because they say: Look, tell them so and so. It is not the way I put it, but it’s the way I get the message [I do not want to give you an] ultimatum, but that’s the way people speak… And your answers, they go on to the appropriate departments.
MG: Yes, okay.
VL: If there will be anything else, I am planning to be here a week. If there is anything you would like. I am planning to to Elath on Friday and come back on Sunday morning. Then to see some friends here and then go back home. I will be here until Wednesday. In Jerusalem, and other places as well. If I [can meet] any politicians, simply ask to shake hands. If you could help me, if you wish to help me, thank you. If you -