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19. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter 1


  • What Should Rabin Go Back With?

Rabin during his presentation this morning2 addressed himself to three issues:

  • 1. the definition of peace;
  • 2. the question of boundaries;
  • 3. the future of the Palestinians.

It was noteworthy that he was most precise on the first; he also indicated to us what it is that he does not wish with regard to the third (i.e., a separate Palestinian state); and he was notably vague on the second, i.e. the question of frontiers.

I think it is essential that we should not go into Geneva sometime this fall without some preliminary agreement with regard to substance. If we go into Geneva on the basis of a procedural agreement, it is likely that the substantive differences will quickly surface, that the Russians will exploit them, and the whole enterprise may then break down. The Israelis will then be able to blame the Arabs for their intransigence; the Arabs will blame both the Israelis and us for our failure to move toward a settlement, and the only beneficiaries will be the radicals and the Soviets.

That is why it is important that Rabin return to Israel with a much clearer understanding of your determination to move forward on all of the three issues mentioned above:

On peace, you should stress to Rabin that we will press for a much more precise and substantive definition of peace by the Arabs, and that we will try to define more precisely the stages of implementing the various elements inherent in a peace settlement: mutual recognition, the development of trade, free movement of people, etc.—in other words, the different elements of “reconciliation” of which Rabin spoke;

On boundaries, it is important to emphasize to them that we take seriously the distinction between sovereignty and security. Israel is entitled to recognized frontiers and to secure defense lines, but it simply is illusory to expect the Arabs to recognize frontiers that entail a signifi[Page 147]cant territorial change beyond the lines of 1967. You will have noticed that Rabin was remarkably vague on this subject, and it may be appropriate to tell him that the United States is prepared to support a peace settlement that provides for security arrangements beyond mutually agreed and recognized frontiers, but that the United States will not support major territorial acquisitions because that would be tantamount to precluding a peace settlement. You might tell Rabin that we will support the Israelis with regard to leases, temporary security lines, patrol quotas, and the like—all of which could be gradually terminated as the scope of peace expands, as per the paragraph above;

On Palestine, you might mention to Rabin that it is important that consultations begin to include the Palestinians to the maximum extent possible, and that their exclusion has had the effect of radicalizing them. At this stage, the question of the Palestinian future probably has to be left open, but it would be a mistake to freeze oneself prior to Geneva to any particular solution and to any particular formula for negotiating.

To conclude: I think it is important that you make clear to Rabin that we want greater specificity on the above points, that we are prepared to support Israel in a genuine search for peace, but that he should have no illusion about the United States indefinitely supporting a stalemate.3

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East File, Trips/Visits File, Box 103, 3/7–8/77 Visit of Prime Minister Rabin of Israel: 3/3/77–4/77. No classification marking. Brzezinski did not initial the memorandum.
  2. See Document 18.
  3. Carter held a working dinner with Rabin the evening of March 7 and met privately with him after the dinner. (Carter Library, Presidential Materials, President’s Daily Diary) No record of the discussion was found. In his memoirs, Carter wrote: “When he went upstairs with me, just the two of us, I asked him to tell me what Israel wanted me to do when I met with the Arab leaders and if there were something specific that I could get [Egyptian president Anwar] Sadat to do. He didn’t unbend at all, nor did he respond. It seems to me the Israelis, at least Rabin, don’t trust our government or any of their neighbors. I guess there’s some justification for this distrust.” (White House Diary, p. 31; brackets in the original)