106. Memorandum of Conversation1

SUBJECT

  • President’s Meeting with Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan of Israel

PARTICIPANTS

  • The President
  • The Vice President
  • Secretary of State Cyrus Vance
  • Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski
  • Ambassador Samuel Lewis
  • Mr. David Aaron
  • Mr. Alfred L. Atherton
  • Mr. William B. Quandt
  • Mr. Hamilton Jordan
  • Mr. Stuart Eizenstat
  • Mr. Robert Lipshutz
  • Mr. Jody Powell
  • His Excellency Moshe Dayan, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Israel
  • His Excellency Simcha Dinitz, Ambassador of Israel to the United States
  • The Honorable Ephraim Evron, Director General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • The Honorable Hanan Bar-on, Minister, Embassy of Israel
  • Mr. Meir Rosenne, Legal Advisor to the Foreign Minister
  • Mr. Naphtali Lavie, Foreign Ministry Spokesman, and Advisor to the Foreign Minister
  • Mr. Elyakim Rubinstein, Director, Foreign Minister’s Bureau, and Advisor to the Foreign Minister

The President: We have already had a good discussion which I enjoyed very much.2 I appreciated the frankness with which we were able to discuss many important matters. I particularly want to welcome General Dayan here since he is a man whom I have admired for a long time and who is well known as a war hero. I have asked Foreign Minister Dayan if I could describe the discussions we have already had and if I could summarize some of the concerns that I raised with him. I’ll also try to summarize what we decided and he can correct me if I am wrong.

I told him that in my opinion Israel had taken adamant stands on the key issues and that the Arabs had shown more flexibility lately. I said that I was afraid Israel may not really want to negotiate, but he assured me that I was wrong. We discussed the major issue of settlements, and I repeated our long-standing position that settlements in occupied territories are illegal. After Prime Minister Begin returned to Israel from Washington, there were statements by Minister Sharon, which have not been contravened, which left the impression that Israel had a massive program of settlement. It would be hard to see how we could get to Geneva and how we could settle the West Bank issue which is one of the issues mentioned in Resolution 242. The formulation of “no foreign sovereignty over the West Bank” contravenes Resolution 242. With Prime Minister Begin, I said it would be easier for us to accept expansion of some existing settlements instead of new ones.3 Foreign Minister Dayan has said that Israel could live with this arrangement with the understanding that new settlers would be restricted to settlements already in place. New settlers would be incorporated into military installations, so that existing settlements would be [Page 534] expanded somewhat. He showed me a map4 indicating six locations where this would happen. I responded by saying that I could not acknowledge the legality of this approach, but it would be better than the Sharon plan.5

I also discussed at length the possibility of Palestinian representation at Geneva. Israel’s position on this issue had been too intransigent and it has been hard to find common ground. Some of the Arabs insist on separate Palestinian representation. Some prefer a unified delegation and some prefer that Palestinians be represented as part of the Jordanian delegation. I understand that Israel favors this latter position. When Prime Minister Begin was here, he stated that he would accept Palestinian representation in the Jordanian delegation if it did not include well-known PLO figures, and that he would not examine the credentials of the Palestinian representatives. But later at a press conference, he said that he would not accept PLO members at all.

I hope that Israel will agree that for the first sessions of the Geneva Conference there might be a combined Arab delegation including Palestinians, provided that there are no well-known PLO members. Later the negotiations would break up into individual negotiating teams and treaties would be signed with Egypt, Syria, and Jordan separately. When the Palestinian question is discussed, without regard to boundaries, there could be a multinational dimension to this group, so that other Palestinians might join the discussions, including representatives of the refugees. The Foreign Minister said this would probably be acceptable, but he could not speak for Prime Minister Begin. My hope is that we can use this approach to get agreement with the Arabs.

I told Foreign Minister Dayan that our position on territory has not changed. Prime Minister Begin asked me not to use the phrase regarding the 1967 borders with only minor modifications, and I have not done that, and I have not drawn any maps. I think our discussion has clarified Israel’s position in my mind. The other item we discussed was Israeli activities in Lebanon. The Prime Minister said that we had received some wrong information on their forces in South Lebanon. There were some Israeli forces helping the Christians hold one hill. [Page 535] That was the limit of their involvement and he said he thought the fighting was unlikely to escalate. I hope that I have described our discussion correctly.

Foreign Minister Dayan: I will recommend to Prime Minister Begin that we agree to form a committee on the Palestinian issue, provided that this is a separate item from the Geneva Conference; that it not be in the Geneva framework; that it be treated as an issue by itself. This would aim at solving the refugee problem only and not the status of the West Bank or other issues. That would justify other parties being there, since they also have refugees. They could be members of this committee, but they could not discuss the future of the West Bank territories. It would not be part of the conventional Geneva peace conference. I agree that the refugee problem needs to be dealt with. It should be considered in a committee separate from the framework of the Geneva Conference, and it should not deal with the territorial problem or the status of the West Bank.

President: Could you separate that into two parts? Could you let the territorial question be included at Geneva, but let the refugees be part of the negotiations with a multilateral group? Do you insist that Jordan is the only country with which you will discuss the status of the West Bank?

Dayan: Yes, that is our basic concept. Geneva should only be for the original states that participated. The West Bank was under Jordanian control or sovereignty before. Jordan will be at Geneva and no other Arab country should have any say in the West Bank issue.

President: You also told me that the West Bank territory could be subject to partition if Jordan preferred that and if it were acceptable to Israel.

Dayan: That is not our proposal. We prefer the modus vivendi, but we are open-minded and we will discuss other proposals. If Jordan submits an idea to partition the West Bank, we will discuss it. But this idea has been rejected for ten years. I personally cannot see any line dividing the West Bank into two parts. This is our view, but if they want to divide the area, they should suggest that, and then we will discuss it.

President: Let me ask a question. Can you see the possibility that if this West Bank area is not partitioned, but given local control, that there might be a referendum in the West Bank after two, three, or four years, which would let the inhabitants of the area decide their relationship to Israel or Jordan?

Dayan: I can tell you now what the outcome would be. They would say to us to get out, and that’s all. There is no point in trying to gain time. We would get the same response in four years. Our idea of trying to live together may not be the last word. This is a complex question. [Page 536] There must be some resettlement of the refugees, and a final decision can simply not be found today.

President: How do you see a final decision?

Dayan: I don’t know, but I could recommend that after a certain number of years we should be ready to re-discuss the issue, but we cannot decide now what will happen later. Now we can talk about what is happening today and we can only agree to consider at a later date the final outcome.

President: If your approach is unacceptable, could you envision giving the people on the West Bank two choices: affiliation to Israel or affiliation to Jordan?

Dayan: They will prefer to join Jordan.

President: And you reject that?

Dayan: Yes. We oppose any annexation of the West Bank to Jordan and the creation of a Palestinian state, but if they think of partition as only annexing part of the territory, then we could deal with their proposal. But if all of the West Bank and Gaza are to be annexed to Jordan, this would lead to the future destruction of Israel. If the old green line were to become the border and the Arabs were to control the high ground, and if it were to return to Jordan through a referendum, we would have to remove our military installations and our settlements and I would have to consider the consequences for my country. To accept such a boundary for the future would be impossible and I could not recommend it.

Secretary Vance: It might be useful for me to talk about some of the fundamental principles of US policy.

President: Before that, is there anything more we should discuss on the Geneva Conference?

Secretary Vance: I am not sure I understood. As I heard him, his proposal would not apply to Geneva, but that the Palestinian issue would be apart from Geneva, with separate discussions on the refugee problem.

President: On matters of West Bank territory, Israel prefers to talk to Jordan, but there could be Palestinians with the Jordanians if they were not well-known PLO members. With respect to Palestinians elsewhere, the negotiations could take place in a multinational delegation dealing just with refugees.

Secretary Vance: But Israel will discuss at Geneva the West Bank problem with Jordan, if there are no well-known PLO members.

Dayan: We will not look at their credentials, provided the negotiations are with Jordan. The President suggested that the unified delegation would just be for the ceremonial opening.

[Page 537]

President: I don’t want to make it that restrictive. It would be for the convening of the conference, but when you divide up the negotiations would be directly with Syria and Egypt and with Jordan, including Palestinians.

Dayan: In the collective delegation, there would be Palestinians, but not known PLO members. They would belong only to the Jordanian delegation and would participate with the Jordanian delegation. The collective group will not negotiate peace treaties. For that we will talk to Syria, to the Egyptians about Sinai, and to Jordan about the West Bank. Eventually, we want peace with each of these countries.

President: I don’t want to define this too narrowly, but there should be negotiations with each country.

Dayan: For peace negotiations to take place, Israel will have to talk to each Arab country separately, not with a collective group. The Palestinians should be part of the Jordanian delegation, at the opening and during the negotiations. One other item should be dealt with and that is the settlement of the refugee problem. I attach special importance to this. There are refugees in Lebanon, Syria, Kuwait and elsewhere. To deal with this question, there could be a different committee and the Arab countries and the Palestinians could take part. But this would not be part of the Geneva Conference and would not be on the agenda. The parties would agree to deal with the question, but it should not be included as part of the Geneva Conference, which is a conference to reach peace with Arab states.

Secretary Vance: I would like to react to two aspects of what you have said. Suppose we could not get agreement on Palestinians in a Jordanian delegation, Jordan might not accept. It would be a mistake to completely rule out the alternative of a unified Arab delegation. Your solution may be preferable, but if it is impossible, that would leave no choice for Palestinian representation.

President: Do we have any indication of how Jordan would respond to this?

Dayan: They say that whatever is acceptable to the other Arabs is all right with them. They would accept the PLO representing the Palestinians, they would accept a Palestinian state, and they would accept a Palestinian delegation made up of the PLO. They are not strong enough to take other positions, even if they do not like those positions. They will follow the others.

President: Will Sadat agree to this?

Secretary Vance: He will go along with the consensus of other countries on this. He has advocated that as a preferred solution.

President: So that only leaves Assad?

[Page 538]

Secretary Vance: That’s right. He prefers a unified Arab delegation.

President: Would Assad accept a combined group first, and then for discussions of the West Bank, could he leave that to Jordan? There is no reason for the Palestinians to be in on the discussions concerning the Golan Heights.

Secretary Vance: You could split up for Egyptian-Israeli talks on Sinai, Syrian-Israeli talks on Golan, but there is a question about the West Bank.

Dr. Brzezinski: Perhaps that could be done later. The negotiations could move in a synchronous manner, so that once negotiations had been started on one front, the West Bank issue could come up later. Then it might be easier to bring the Palestinians in, while on the surface at least they would not be present at the outset. The question of participation would not have to be addressed at the outset. You could start the process, then bring them in later.

Secretary Vance: That’s a possibility.

Dr. Brzezinski: The other alternative is a non-starter from the beginning.

Dayan: There are three stages to the process of negotiations. There is the opening; the actual negotiations, which will be very long and will probably not take place in Geneva, since one needs to deal directly with the heads of State; and then the reconvening of the conference in Geneva to sign the peace treaties. If there is really a chance of a break-through, we should find a way for an opening session, and this should be agreed, but the Arabs should accept that the negotiations will go on in bilateral channels through the United States. They will not really sit in Geneva. That would be a hopeless task.

Secretary: I agree.

President: If, for example, the Arab countries say that they prefer to start as a unified delegation, would that be all right?

Dayan: It would be ok, if there is agreement, but the real negotiation would be separate, not as a collectivity. I hope that a peace agreement can be reached with Egypt, but Assad should not be involved with that. There is no legal reason to talk with Assad about Egypt.

President: We will pursue this with the Arab foreign ministers. We may be able to get Hussein and Sadat to agree. I don’t know about Assad. Does he really want them all to negotiate as a group on territory?

Secretary Vance: He favors that, but Sadat will not agree. Sadat wants separate negotiations.

Dr. Brzezinski: Even that could be obscured if the parties wanted to. You can have a committee on Sinai with an Egyptian chairman.

[Page 539]

Secretary Vance: That’s too complicated.

Dr. Brzezinski: But it offers a formula.

President: We should be forceful on this, and we should not comply with Assad’s view that the actual negotiations be held in a unified delegation.

Secretary Vance: I agree.

President: If it is necessary to agree to a multinational delegation for the Palestinian issue, would you object to postponing the talks on the refugee problem?

Dayan: No, not at all. We could deal with it as a separate problem if the timing can be agreed. No one of the Arab leaders knows the answer for the Palestinians. For example, they do not want them to stay in Lebanon, but there is no alternative. This is the problem in each one of the countries. Jordan wants to settle the refugees in Jordan and we want to settle those in Gaza. But the timing is up to them. This is the only issue on which a combined delegation would be justified.

President: We not only have to try to work out areas of agreement between the Arabs and Israel, we also have to do this among the Arabs.

Dayan: It is a tough problem.

Secretary Vance: If we were to go the Jordanian delegation route, and if someone were to ask a low-level Palestinian if he were a member of the PLO, does it all fall apart if he says that he is?

Dayan: If everything else is ok, that would not be a cause for failure. I was asked this morning if I thought the West Bankers support the PLO, and I said that all of the mayors are supporting the PLO as their leaders. We have not driven those people out, since they replaced the old mayors because they did support the PLO.

President: Does the PLO represent the Palestinians on the West Bank?

Dayan: We will negotiate with whoever is there on the West Bank if they are not actively engaged in military operations against us. They have been elected by their own people. We can’t tell them who their leaders are. Our only condition is that they not be active in military operations against us.

President [to Secretary Vance]: Would you like to cover the fundamentals of our policy now?

Secretary Vance: The core issue in our policy involves maintenance of the security of Israel. This is based on a sense of justice and of moral commitment to Israel’s security. Israel can also count on us for the military support to help it defend itself. We are prepared for a long-term military commitment as part of a peace settlement. This is fundamental and underlies everything else.

[Page 540]

President: If in the final stages of a peace agreement, it becomes necessary for us and the Soviets to guarantee the peace, would that be significant, or would that concern you?

Dayan: There are two aspects. We would not like to be in a position where US troops had to fight for us. American soldiers should not be in the position of having to protect Israel. Israel has never asked for soldiers, only for arms. So some Israelis would object to an American guarantee. On the other hand, if the Soviets become involved with soldiers as they almost did in 1967 and 1973, we hope that you will take care of it. Then we had the bad experience of Sharm al-Shaikh. In 1957, this was handed over to the UN and we got a vague promise from Dulles that the Strait would not be closed. But the UN forces did not stand up to Nasser in May 1967, so war came. I think that if US soldiers, and maybe even some symbolic Soviet forces had been there, Nasser would never have dared do this, or they would not have left in any case. The issue would have immediately gone to the Security Council, so I would support that kind of involvement, not as a replacement for secure borders however. For example, if we were asked to remove our soldiers from the Golan Heights, and to replace them with Americans with early warning systems, then I would be reluctant to agree. That would be more than a symbolic force. They would be required to take care of us even in time of peace. But if you are talking about a buffer area, with UN forces, and with us living together with our neighbors, and with someone in between, that would be all right. But if a peace agreement requires a US shield, then I would say no. But I am very anxious to know how far the US is ready to go to assume responsibility in the peace agreement. Maybe you see the situation as in Europe and you would want some garrison in the Middle East. If you are interested, this could be discussed. We want to know how far you would go.

President: We have no position now. I cannot say anything at the present, but we do very much want a peace settlement and we will consider this question. For the moment, we do not have a position.

Dayan: Ben Gurion, who was our greatest leader, once wrote to President Kennedy and to General DeGaulle and asked them to assume responsibility for defending Israel’s borders. He wanted this as a way of deterring war. Maybe it could be an approach to a solution.

President: That helps me to understand your position.

Secretary Vance: Our second principle has to do with the nature of peace. Peace should involve the end of belligerency and open borders, trade, cultural and diplomatic relations. We believe this could occur in synchronized phases tied to withdrawal. Our third point has to do with bilateral Arab and Israeli security arrangements.

[Page 541]

President: Please excuse me for about fifteen minutes. I’ll be right back. [The President leaves.]6

Secretary: Now we have already discussed the priorities that Israel has as part of the peace process, and it is clear that diplomatic relations are the highest priority. Israel’s position is that one month after a treaty is signed, there should be an exchange of Ambassadors. We have discussed the feasibility of that timing. We agree on the elements of peace, but there are practical problems of timing.

Dayan: I told the Secretary that I have been trying hard for the past month to find out the positions of the Arab leaders on how far they are willing to go to get peace. Both Egypt and Syria are not ready for normal diplomatic relations. They all want full withdrawal, and in return will offer an end to the state of war. But they are not ready for normal diplomatic relations. They are not ready in one month or in one year. They say that in five years’ time or so they will discuss the issue, but it cannot be part of the peace treaty. Only Jordan accepts diplomatic relations.

Secretary Vance: We will keep on trying to persuade them of the vital importance of this issue.

Vice President: The President has been firm and strong with each of the Arab leaders in discussing the need for real peace. He has emphasized that this must be more than non-belligerency, and has pressed them all very hard. When Prime Minister Begin talked about a treaty, he emphasized that it had certain distinctive components and we have pressed the Arabs on this question and they all accept the treaty concept. We are somewhat more optimistic than you are about their positions. Before Geneva we expect to hear maximum positions, but we can hope for more, and we are totally committed to real peace as one element in a settlement.

Secretary Vance: Assad told me that he understood the issue and that he will consider it, but he has taken a harder position since then, and we do not know if this is just for bargaining purposes.

With respect to the question of borders, our position is that the final borders should be the 1967 line, with minor modifications on the West Bank. We have a difference of view on this. Prime Minister Begin and the President discussed this, and we will not refer publicly to this position without prior notification to you. On the West Bank, the US considers that the West Bank and Gaza are occupied territories from which Israel should withdraw in accordance with Resolution 242, and [Page 542] after reaching agreement with whatever party negotiates that issue. We also favor self-determination for the inhabitants of those areas and provision for a Palestinian entity, preferably in relationship to Jordan. We have different views on this and we disagree on the ultimate solution, but there is some similarity on what could be done in a transitional period. On settlements, you have referred to your discussion with the President in private and you understand our position.

Dayan: Let me repeat our position here. Maybe the Vice President could correct me. I assured the President that we have no intention of putting any obstacles in the way of peace negotiations. We don’t want any surprises for you and we don’t want to mislead you. We are sorry for some announcements that were made, but these did not come from the Prime Minister or from me. That is our only justification. For the future, and in the near future, you should remember that every Israeli government since the Six-Day War has established Jewish settlements, and this is not new to this Government. No Israeli Government can stop this. Begin cannot do it any more than Golda Meir could. I suggested that we should only have settlements in military camps, and legally this does not contradict Geneva or any international convention. We will tell Israelis who want to settle that they should put on their uniforms and join the military camps that are already there. We might build some military quarters for them, and some of them have families. But one year from now, there will be no new civilian settlements. There will only be settlers in uniform in military camps. If the President can be helpful during the negotiations, we can take a year and do just this.

Vice President: You were talking of existing military outposts, not new ones. So there would be some new military personnel in existing facilities.

Dayan: I can show you on the map. If you accept this, there would be new settlers in six existing military camps. Arik Sharon has already put some people into two of the eight camps that I originally mentioned, but six remain. The civilians can go into these settlements if they agree to join the armed forces, and later they could bring their families, but there would be no new land acquired, although I cannot promise you that for military reasons there might not be a new military camp here or there, over a longer period.

Vice President: But these six are already in place? How many individuals would be in each one?

Dayan: There would be thirty to forty families in each one. We won’t expropriate any land. The land already belongs to the military camp.

Vice President: Would their families go with them from the beginning?

[Page 543]

Dayan: Some might go, but the families would not go right away. For those who want to have their families, it will take time to turn these into normal military bases with some family quarters. It would not happen right away. The number of families would be small, and initially they would go without their families and only later would they come. I asked the President if this could be helpful. He said that the US position would not change, but that it would be “very helpful,” and better than the other plan, so I will be prepared to recommend it to Prime Minister Begin.

Secretary Vance: Would these be highly publicized events?

Dayan: Personally I wish we had no publicity on any of these. But if some individuals go to these camps, and if they join the army, they may be very highly ideological, and it will not be a secret. But they will be involved in genuine military service. It will not just be a cover. They will form special military units. We call these nahals, and it involves military service and settling of the land. We won’t turn any nahals into civilian settlements for at least a year. These operate as organic parts of our armed forces. We cannot promise that there will never be a settlement, but settlements will not decide boundaries and if a settlement is beyond our final border, it will either be removed or we will get an agreement with our neighbors.

Vice President: For the first year, would they just be military, or would families come during that time?

Dayan: There might be some in the first year, but they would be farmer-soldiers. We have in mind just these six.

Dr. Brzezinski: What is the average acreage involved in these settlements?

Dayan: It differs. Some camps are large where the Jordanians had bombing ranges, for example, but mostly they are small and are surrounded by a fence.

Vice President: Would the settlers become members of existing units?

Dayan: They would be separate units but they would be under the authority of the base commander. If there were an armored unit at a camp, the new settlers would not necessarily be armor specialists. These would be nahals, and there would be thirty or forty families in each.

Ambassador Lewis: There is the problem of the visibility and the effect on peace of these settlements. There is no chance that they can remain secret, but is there a chance that you could avoid dramatic announcements of settlement plans coming from the settlement committee?

[Page 544]

Dayan: I don’t know. The Prime Minister will do his best, but it will not be a secret. When Arik Sharon speaks of plans for the next two hundred years, but when he only opens two new settlements on the ground, it sounds like more than it is. I cannot assure you that the Minister of Agriculture will not say something.

Vice President: But when you remain silent, his statements assume authority. If there is a statement by Sharon and it is not corrected by the Prime Minister or the Foreign Minister, that leaves it in a semi-approved status.

Dayan: You might suggest something like this to the Prime Minister. I am not in charge of settlements. You could ask the Prime Minister his views and he would make an official announcement.

Ambassador Lewis: The problem is the public vs. private reassurances. The Prime Minister gave us private assurances and these were accepted, but he did not say anything in public.

Dayan: If you asked him to make a public statement, he would do so. If the Ambassador had asked, he would have.

Secretary Vance: Let us reflect on the settlements, and we will be back in touch. Let me go on to the next point concerning Jerusalem. We believe that the status of the city is still to be determined in the context of peace. There should be no physical division of the city. Concerning Israel’s economic viability, we support an economically strong Israel and we recognize the burden of Israel’s military forces and we will assist in maintaining Israel’s economic viability. [The President returns at 4:40 p.m.] On the US role, the US is determined to obtain a settlement that derives from justice and national interest. We are a directly affected party and we will actively promote a settlement. This is a brief summary of our views.

There is one question that I have. Where do we go on the participation question in the event that the preferred option of a Jordanian delegation with Palestinians does not work? There is a lack of clarity on this.

President: I want to try to understand your position. I can’t speak for the Arabs or for you—I wish that I could! But if you have any other possibilities, I would like to hear them. We will see Foreign Minister Fahmy on Wednesday,7 and then the Jordanian and Syrian. If we can get them to accept your formulation, we can move ahead. If not, we will be back in touch with you. Foreign Minister Dayan has told me he will be in New York for three weeks. I don’t know if there are any other options.

[Page 545]

Sec. Vance: The alternative is a unified Arab delegation with Palestinians included, but with negotiations on a bilateral basis, so that a Sinai agreement would be reached between Israel and Egypt, and a Golan agreement between Israel and Syria.

Dinitz: What would the unified delegation do?

Secretary Vance: It would go to the plenary, and we would hope to limit that and then break up into separate negotiations.

Dayan: I have already agreed to recommend this to the Prime Minister.

President: The unified delegation would not negotiate. I hope that they can accept this.

Dayan: Egypt wants peace and progress in negotiations. If they know that they have to take or leave this position because Israel is so inflexible, they will accept it. After the opening of the negotiations, there will be a long process and there will probably be disappointments in the negotiations. There are many obstacles to meet.

President: I agree that we ought to expect long negotiations, at least several months, but I hope we will not be disappointed and that we can get started on the basis of good faith. Once the negotiators get to know each other’s problems, this might lead to more flexibility. I learned a lot from my talks this year and I can see some possibilities for a solution, if there is enough flexibility to help make progress. We are going to do our utmost with Fahmy and Khaddam and Sharaf to get them to accept, or we will develop a new alternative and talk to you about it.

Dayan: I am not sure Fahmy is the best person from the point of view of getting Sadat to do business. It might be better to deal directly with Sadat.

Secretary Vance: He is not hesitant to deal with President Sadat.

President: Sadat has been here, and Secretary Vance has been to see him twice. Sadat wants peace in Geneva. When issues go to Sadat, he tries to accommodate. The same is true with Hussein, although I am not so sure of Assad and I am not so sure of Begin.

Dayan: Begin wants peace. He is a Prime Minister who wants to make his mark on history as a man who got peace for Israel.

President: We have no preconceived demands. If the parties can agree, nothing would please us more. We should let all the parties reach an agreement, develop mutual trust, work out security arrangements, set up recognized borders, and work for friendship and trade and open borders and diplomatic relations with the exchange of Ambassadors. We would hope to see the development then of the Middle East region. We want some progress this year. It would have been impossible a year ago for some of the Arabs to recognize Israel’s right to exist even five years in the future. Now all of them will. These discus[Page 546]sions have been fruitful, and we will continue them. You have a good attitude. I have no authority to speak for the Arabs. We can’t be sure they will adopt your position, but we will do our best.

I want to repeat that I am quite concerned by the settlements. We consider them a violation of the Geneva Convention and of international law. This is occupied territory. To whatever degree Prime Minister Begin can forego settlements, that would help the peace prospects. His statement to me on the possibility of settlers going to existing settlements is not the best solution, but I appreciate it.

Dayan: We believe that if they are in military camps, none of the international conventions should apply.

Secretary Vance: This would help, but we have viewed civilians in military camps as civilians in the past and that would be a violation of law. If they were in military uniform and if this were genuine, it would help.

Vice President: The numbers and the timing and the announcements would all be part of the picture in terms of whether it helped or hurt the peace prospects. We would prefer no settlements, but if it does go forward, you should try to limit the visibility and the political ramifications.

Dayan: In the near future, there will only be settlers in the six existing military camps. They will be in uniform and they will not bring their families at first, but within a year or so there might be more.

President: You see our problem. We have a legal and historic position. We will maintain that attitude. How the settlement issue is handled in public causes me concern. If Hussein and Sadat want peace, and I assume that they do, it is hard for them to listen to your talk about thousands of new settlers, about no foreign sovereignty over the West Bank, and about the West Bank being part of Israel. This almost forecloses the chance of a Geneva Conference. I hope that the Prime Minister and the Government will try to minimize those types of statements. I was really angry watching Sharon on television saying that there would be hundreds of settlers, maybe in the millions.8 That is not what Prime Minister Begin had told me, or what you have said. Whatever you do, we don’t want you to make it difficult for the Arabs. My doubts about Israel’s real willingness for peace stemmed largely from that declaration, which I viewed as a deliberate attempt to aggravate the situation. It did concern us. Your responses have been good and have been helpful.

[Page 547]

Dayan: I will pass on to Prime Minister Begin what you have said and we will try to avoid such statements from Arik Sharon in the future.

President: I have a strong friendship with Prime Minister Begin.

Dayan: One last point. When the idea of a unified delegation comes up, you should suggest it as your own idea, and do not say that we agree. You should say that we object, and then you can try to force it on us.

Meeting ended at 5:00 p.m.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East File, Trips/Visits File, Box 110, 3/21–22/78 Visit of Prime Minister Begin of Israel: Briefing Book [II], 3/78. Top Secret. The meeting took place in the White House Cabinet Room. Brackets are in the original.
  2. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Carter and Mondale met that day with Dayan between 2:31 and 3:25 p.m. (Carter Library, Presidential Materials, President’s Daily Diary) No memorandum of conversation has been found.
  3. See footnote 3, Document 54.
  4. The map has not been found.
  5. The Sharon Plan, first reported in the Israeli newspaper Maariv on September 1, called for “the establishment of large urban centers and a network of rural settlements to be located in sparsely populated areas, but so placed as to prevent the spread of existing concentrations of Arab population. The plan reportedly is aimed at finding an answer to security needs and revolves around three central problems: 1) increasing Jewish settlement in the Jerusalem corridor; 2) establishing a network of settlements covering the area west of the Jenín-Nablus-Ramallah line; and 3) planning for a longitudinal and latitudinal road network ‘in the center of the state of Israel’ between the sea in the west and the Jordan Valley in the east.” (Telegram 6599 from Tel Aviv, September 2; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770319–0086)
  6. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Carter attended a briefing on the Panama Canal treaties for state legislators from Southern states from 4:15 to 4:46 p.m. (Carter Library, Presidential Materials, President’s Daily Diary)
  7. September 21.
  8. The New York Times reported that Sharon discussed his proposals for Israeli settlements (see footnote 5 above) on Israeli television on September 2. (“World News Briefs,” New York Times, September 3, 1977, p. 2)