179. Message From President Carter to British Prime Minister Callaghan 1

WH70650. 1. Prime Minister Begin outlined two proposals, one dealing with Sinai and the other with the West Bank and Gaza.2 He said that much of the Sinai proposal had been discussed with Sadat. The main points were total Israeli withdrawal in two stages to the international border, with a UN presence in Sharm al-Shaykh and special arrangements to protect Israeli settlements in northwest Sinai. Egyptian troops would remain west of the passes.

2. For the West Bank and Gaza, home rule under an elected Administrative Council is proposed, with security and public order remaining in Israeli hands, conflicting claims to sovereignty would be left open, and formal Israeli sovereignty would not be extended beyond the 1967 lines, except in Jerusalem. These arrangements would be subject to review after five years.

3. I conveyed the outlines of Begin’s views to Sadat.3 He acknowledged that some of this had already been discussed between them, but he will object to the continuation of Israeli settlements in Sinai and to the residual security role for Israeli forces under the “home rule” proposal. Sadat also said that he could not accept Israeli sovereignty over Arab-Jerusalem, but that he would agree to Jerusalem being an open city.

4. I met again with Begin Saturday evening4 to go over his proposals in more detail. I urged him to build additional flexibility into his proposals for the West Bank and Gaza. I particularly emphasized the importance that Sadat not be presented with something he will feel he must reject in part or in its entirety. Since Begin is planning to see Sadat as early as Thursday5 of next week, it is important that Begin broaden his concepts before that meeting.

5. There are some positive aspects of Begin’s proposals: the abolition of military government; no claims of Israeli sovereignty beyond [Page 889] the 1967 lines; Israeli forces withdrawal to military encampments to deal with security problems; self-rule for the Palestinians, and the arrangements to be of a transitional nature and to be reviewed by all of the parties concerned after a specified period. We discussed the crucial issue of ways in which the powers of the Administrative Council for the West Bank and Gaza could devolve jointly from Jordan and Israel rather than simply from the Israeli military governor as Begin had envisaged. He was very resistant to my suggestion of a token UN military presence in the West Bank and Gaza, but I think he misunderstood this as a substitute for adequate Israeli security arrangements.

6. I also urged that he present his proposals as a general framework for discussion, not as a fully worked-out Israeli plan. This would make it easier for Sadat to respond and to help shape the ways in which the ideas eventually surface for public analysis.

7. My general impression is that the Sinai proposal will be substantially acceptable, but that the West Bank-Gaza proposal has a long way to go before Sadat and other Arabs can accept it. I did not agree to accept Begin’s description that it is (quote) a fair basis for negotiation (unquote).

8. It would be helpful if you could urge Begin to be flexible and if you could underscore the points that I have made.6

9. Because we are only stopping in Riyadh for a very brief time it will not be possible to see you there. Please send me your schedule for that ten-day period so that we can search for an alternative meeting time.

10. Merry Christmas to you and Audrey.

Jimmy Carter
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East File, Subject File, Box 3, Arab-Israeli Peace Settlement 1977: Volume II [III]. Secret; Sensitive; Flash. Sent via the Cabinet Office Line.
  2. See Document 177.
  3. Carter informed Sadat of his first meeting with Begin in a message transmitted in telegram 271710 to Cairo, December 16. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P850052–2257)
  4. See Document 178.
  5. December 22.
  6. Callaghan replied with an initial reaction to Carter’s cable on December 19 and then sent another cable to Carter on December 21 after meeting with Begin. Both are in the Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East File, Subject File, Box 67, Middle East: Peace Negotiations 1977 Vol. III [II].