144. Letter From President Carter to Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev 1

Dear President Brezhnev:

I am pleased to inform you that President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin signed today two documents which were drafted in the course of intensive, thirteen-day long negotiations which I conducted with them at Camp David. One is titled “A Framework for Peace in the Middle East,”2 and it defines principles that may apply to the negotia[Page 454]tion of peace treaties between Israel and all its neighbors. The other document is titled “A Framework for the Conclusion of a Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel.”3 Our Ambassador will transmit these documents to you. Together, they provide a constructive framework for the resolution of the tragic and difficult conflict between Israel and her Arab neighbors. I believe that a historic step toward peace in the Middle East has thus been taken.

Because the Palestinian issue has been so central to the Middle East dispute, the first document concentrates on developing an agreed basis which will permit the progressive resolution of that issue over the next five years. The parties to the Camp David meeting agreed on the need for a five-year transitional period during which the inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza will establish a self-governing authority with full autonomy to replace the Israeli military government. Israel will retain a military presence only in specified locations for security purposes. To negotiate the details of the transitional arrangements, Jordan will be invited to join the negotiations. There is a provision in the agreement for a Jordanian role in the maintenance of security, if Jordan so desires.

During the five-year transitional period, the Palestinians will also participate in negotiations with Egypt, Israel, and Jordan (if Jordan agrees to participate) on the final status of the West Bank and Gaza. The Palestinians have a right to join the negotiations on a peace treaty between Jordan and Israel. These negotiations will be based on all the provisions and principles of United Nations Security Council Resolution 242. There will be no new Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza during the negotiations to establish the self-government in this area.

These arrangements recognize the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and will permit them to participate in the determination of their own future. The Palestinians will decide how they shall govern themselves, their representatives will take part directly in the negotiations affecting their future, and their elected representatives will vote on the agreement on the final status of the West Bank and Gaza.

This document also provides for security arrangements and commitments to peace which should be part of a comprehensive settlement between Israel and each of her neighbors.

The second agreement, “A Framework for the Conclusion of a Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel,” affirms both Israel’s willingness to restore to Egypt the full exercise of its sovereignty in Sinai and Egypt’s willingness to make peace and to establish normal relations with Israel. In the course of the Camp David negotiations, agree[Page 455]ment was reached on the establishment of three security zones, on the limitation of forces and armaments, on the phased withdrawal of Israeli forces from all of Sinai, and on the return of the Sinai airfields to Egyptian civilian control.

The first major Israeli withdrawal from Sinai will take place between three and nine months after the signing of the peace treaty, which itself should be signed within three months of this framework agreement. At the completion of this interim withdrawal, normal relations will be established between Egypt and Israel. The final Israeli withdrawal will take place between two and three years after the signature of the peace treaty.

There is one major issue on which agreement has not been reached. Egypt states that agreement to remove Israeli settlements from Egyptian territory is a prerequisite to a peace treaty. Israel states that the issue of the Israeli settlements should be resolved during the peace negotiations. Within two weeks the Knesset will decide on the issue of the settlements.

Obviously, not all of the problems in the Middle East conflict could be resolved by these Camp David agreements on a framework for peace. But with patience and good will, I believe that this achievement will generate the momentum necessary to resolve justly and constructively the remaining issues.

Because the Middle East issue is of such significance for relations between our two countries, I know that you share with us the conviction that peace in that region will contribute to a reduction of tensions between our two countries. I very much hope you can use your influence in the Middle East to bring about the comprehensive settlement that the United States and the Soviet Union both desire.

With my best wishes,


Jimmy Carter 4
  1. Source: Department of State, Special Adviser to the Secretary (S/MS) on Soviet Affairs Marshall Shulman—Jan 21, 77–Jan 19, 81, Lot 81D109, unlabeled folder. No classification marking. Sent to numerous diplomatic posts as telegram 236043, September 18. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780379–0641)
  2. For the text of the framework, see Department of State Bulletin, October 1978, pp. 7–9.
  3. For the text, see Department of State Bulletin, October 1978, pp. 9–10.
  4. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.