185. Telegram From Secretary of State Vance to the Embassy in Israel1

Secto 13092. Dept please pass Vice President Mondale. For the Ambassador from the Secretary. Subj: President Carter’s Meeting With President Sadat.2

1. During President Carter’s phone call from Air Force One today to Prime Minister Begin, the President promised to send Begin a report on his talk with President Sadat in Aswan.3 You should get in touch with Begin as soon as possible and say that the President has asked you to convey the following report to him.

2. Sadat clearly attached great importance to the President’s stop in Aswan as visible evidence of our continued support for him and for the negotiating process which he and Prime Minister Begin have set in motion. In their conversation, the two Presidents devoted most of the time [Page 917] to a discussion of how the negotiating process should proceed from here on and, in particular, to the forthcoming meeting of the Cairo Conference Political Committee in Jerusalem. Sadat indicated that Egypt would have counterproposals to the Israeli proposals which the Prime Minister presented at Ismailia.4 He also made clear that he attaches first priority to an agreed statement of principles which he feels is essential to him politically as he pursues the negotiation of Egyptian/Israeli bilateral questions.

3. While acknowledging that difficult problems remain to be resolved with respect to the Sinai, Sadat thought that these were solvable and did not dwell on them in any detail. His primary emphasis was on obtaining agreement on the principle of self-determination for the Palestinians. The President explained the difficulties that this poses for Israel and made no repeat no commitments in this regard. At the same time, recognizing the importance of some public expression on this issue which would strengthen Sadat’s hand against his Arab critics, the President included in his public remarks following the meeting reference to the need for the Palestinians to participate in determining their own future.5 We believe this formulation will be usefully interpreted as reflecting some evolution in our own thinking, without prejudging the self-determination question in any significant way. In our view, however, it is not a viable position to insist that the Palestinians should have no say whatsoever in their future status, given the general acceptance in world opinion of the concept of self-determination.

4. In addition to the foregoing, Sadat made clear that he wants to continue to work for a comprehensive peace settlement which both he and we understand is also Israel’s position. He expressed some sense of urgency about the importance of early progress in the Jerusalem talks.

5. The Prime Minister should know that Sadat met with the President without any of his advisers present; the only other participant was Secretary Vance for part of their meeting. The President, therefore, believes that Sadat was reflecting his own views in all that he said.

6. Finally, the President wants to give the Prime Minister his judgment that Sadat remains as committed to the success of their current negotiating process as does Prime Minister Begin and that, in our view, he continues to have strong support for this process among his people. The President wants once again to express his support and admiration for Prime Minister Begin’s political courage and statesmanship in the way he has responded, despite criticism he has encountered domestically, to the unprecedented opportunity that has been opened up by the [Page 918] recent dramatic dialogue between the Prime Minister and President Sadat.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840072–1286. Secret; Immediate; Exdis (Handle as Nodis). Sent immediate for information to the Department of State.
  2. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Carter met with Sadat and Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany Helmut Schmidt in Aswan on January 4 from 9:15 to 10:10 a.m. (Carter Library, Presidential Materials, President’s Daily Diary) No memorandum of conversation has been found.
  3. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Carter spoke with Begin on January 4 from 11:15 to 11:22 a.m. (Carter Library, Presidential Materials, President’s Daily Diary) No memorandum of telephone conversation has been found. Carter wrote in his diary, “Immediately after leaving Aswan we called Begin, who seems to be under great pressure from his right-wing allies and the settlers concerning expansion of settlements in the Sinai and West Bank. We’ll have to prevent this disrupting the entire peace process.” (White House Diary, p. 161)
  4. See Documents 180 and 181.
  5. The text of Carter’s remarks is in Public Papers: Carter, 1978, Book I, pp. 19–20. See footnote 5, Document 187.