109. Memorandum of Conversation1

SUBJECT

  • Dr. Brzezinski’s Meeting with Foreign Minister Ismail Fahmy of Egypt

PARTICIPANTS

  • Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski
  • Mr. William B. Quandt, NSC Staff
  • H. E. Ismail Fahmy, Foreign Minister of Egypt
  • Ambassador Ashraf Ghorbal
[Page 563]

Foreign Minister Fahmy asked for Dr. Brzezinski’s assessment of the prospects for a peace settlement. Dr. Brzezinski replied that the important point now is to get the process going more formally. Once it is on the tracks, it will be more difficult to derail than it is now to obstruct. This means that a solution must be found to the difficult problem of Palestinian participation. Fahmy argued that Egypt needed to be reassured that Geneva would be a serious exercise, not like in 1973. He stressed the need for agreement on a framework. If he could be sure Israel’s position of refusing full withdrawal were merely tactical, he would be prepared to negotiate.

Brzezinski said that these questions cannot be answered in the present situation, but that, once negotiations begin, pressures would build against the intransigent party.

Fahmy replied that Israel could put the Arabs on the spot by offering full withdrawal for full peace, and Brzezinski replied that the Arabs could do the same by offering full peace for full withdrawal. The point is that now neither party wants to take those steps. Not much progress can be expected without Geneva, and events could occur that might hurt the prospects for peace. Fahmy said Egypt would get its territory back, one way or the other, and Brzezinski noted that the US had spoken of the 1967 lines, with minor modifications on the West Bank, as the likely and correct outcome. If Israel is reluctant to go to Geneva, it should be in Egypt’s interest to help remove remaining obstacles. In fact, both sides probably have reservations about negotiations, given the history of the conflict.

On the Palestinian issue, Brzezinski argued that the PLO should accept 242 without asking for too much in return. Fahmy said the Palestinians were being asked to recognize Israel, without knowing what they might get in return. Either the US should contact the PLO informally and secretly, or assurances could be given to President Sadat to convey to the PLO. Brzezinski noted that no official contacts can take place because of Sinai II, but that we hear through third parties the views of the PLO. The PLO, not the US, stands to gain from official contacts. Fahmy replied that an alternative would be for the UN Security Council to pass a new resolution, possibly at French initiative, which would endorse 242–338, but would also contain language on Palestinian rights. He thought mention could be made also of the right of all states in the area to live in peace. Then the PLO could accept this resolution and go to Geneva. Brzezinski noted that Israel would reject the new resolution, and might then also back away from 242–338. Fahmy said that if the PLO refused to accept an invitation, then Egypt would go to Geneva without the PLO. And if the Arabs at Geneva refuse to be logical, we’ll face them in an Arab summit and will go alone to sign a peace treaty. Brzezinski said that we would have to think about the idea of a [Page 564]new resolution. It is not as direct as the other approach we have suggested.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East File, Subject File, Box 67, Middle East: Peace Negotiations 1977 Vol. II. Secret. The meeting took place in the White House in Brzezinski’s office.