203. Telegram From Secretary of State Vance to the White House and the Department of State1

Secto 1052. White House for the President and Dr. Brzezinski. Department for Acting Secretary and Tarnoff. Subject: Secretary’s Final Meeting With Prime Minister Begin, Jan. 19.

1. I had a final 1½ hour meeting this evening with Prime Minister Begin and Foreign Minister Dayan.2 Begin was calm and reflective and it was, on the whole, a good, substantive talk.

2. We began by reviewing the latest draft of declaration principles,3 discussing in particular various formulations that might resolve the remaining, rather wide differences between Egypt and Israel with respect to the Palestinian/West Bank/Gaza issue. Begin was, at the start, ready to accept the helpful proposal Dayan made in our last meeting yesterday to include the phrase “a just solution of the Palestinian problem” in the same paragraph as that dealing with fulfillment of all the principles of SC Resolution 242.4 Dayan recognizes that such a phrase is essential for the Arabs. Begin finally said he would agree to this going in a separate new para 3. Begin continues to insist, however, on his language referring to “Palestinian Arabs residing in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza district but is willing to accept West Bank and Gaza in the English text.” In addition to the Palestinian problem, some other important differences remain between the Egyptians and Israelis with respect to all but two of the other principles. I have the distinct impression, however, that the Israelis are anxious to complete this phase of the negotiations and that there will be further flexibility in their position. Begin made clear that, in any case, he cannot make any commitments with regard to the final text of the declaration until he has consulted the Cabinet. I am enclosing a revised copy of the draft text, as we understand it, after our talks with Begin. I will have a better feel after my meeting with Sadat about whether there is an equal desire on his part to complete the declaration. In any event, the fact remains that important differences remain to be resolved with respect to point 5 of the declaration.

3. We also discussed the question of reconvening the Political Committee, and Begin made clear that he hopes this will be possible. [Page 966] He said he would not, however, agree to an idea mentioned to him last night by Egyptian Foreign Minister Kamel that both committees meet in Cairo. Dayan suggested that perhaps the declaration could be completed with our help even before the Political Committee reconvenes, and that this might provide the impetus necessary both to get the negotiations started again and to bring Hussein in. I will explore this thought when I see Sadat.

4. The other principal subject of discussion was whether Israel was prepared to withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza at the end of a 5-year period if its security concerns could by then be adequately safeguarded. I reminded Begin that we consider that Resolution 242 applies to all fronts. Begin seemed to move slightly beyond the positions he has stated to us before. He said that Israel has a claim to sovereignty over the West Bank and Gaza; that it will maintain but not exercise this claim during the five years; that the status of those areas will be reviewed at the end of 5 years; and all of the 26 provisions of his self-rule plan (including IDF responsibility for security and public order and even sovereignty) will be negotiable, but that Israel’s claim will not be given up “in my life”. There was a glimmer in his comment that in five years, he will no longer be Prime Minister. In response to my question whether he ruled out a confederation of the West Bank with Jordan, Begin said his dream was of increasing cooperation leading ultimately to a confederation between Jordan and Israel of which the West Bank and, of course, Gaza would be a part. He repeated his view that, whatever the wishes of Sadat and Hussein, the PLO through intimidation would take over any independent Palestinian entity in 24 hours, and that Israel’s military presence can prevent this. The upshot of this part of our discussion is that, although we have made progress, if we succeed in reaching agreement on a declaration of principles, negotiations on the next agenda item (guidelines for negotiations relating to the issue of the West Bank and Gaza) will be tough sledding.

5. Following is text of declaration as we have revised it to reflect this conversation with Begin and Dayan. This has not repeat not been cleared with them and should be read only as our working version. Regarding para 4 and the bracketed para 5, the Israelis prefer the two-sentence para 4 while the Egyptians would drop the second sentence and turn it into the bracketed separate para 5. Regarding para 5, 5–A reflects Israeli views while 5–B reflects the Egyptian preference.

Begin text:

1. The Governments of the Arab Republic of Egypt and Israel are determined to continue their efforts to reach a comprehensive peace settlement in the region.

2. Within the framework of such a settlement and in accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 338, the two gov[Page 967]ernments express their willingness to negotiate peace treaties in fulfillment of all the principles of United Nations Security Council Resolution 242.

3. The two governments agree that there shall be a just solution of the Palestinian problem.

4. There will be withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the 1967 conflict. (There will be secure and recognized boundaries for all states in the region.)

(5. Boundaries between all the states in the area will be secure and recognized.)

5–A. The Palestinian Arabs in Judea, Samaria (the West Bank), and Gaza will be enabled to participate in the determination of their future through talks among Egypt, Jordan, Israel, and the representatives of these Palestinian Arabs.

5–B. There shall be a just resolution of the Palestinian problem in all its aspects which recognizes the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and enables them to participate in the determination of their own future through talks in which Egypt, Jordan, Israel, and representatives of the Palestinian people would participate.

6. There will be termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every state in the area and the establishment, in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter, of normal, peaceful relations through the conclusion of peace treaties.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P850036–2373. Secret; Niact Immediate; Nodis. Sent immediate for information to Cairo and Tel Aviv.
  2. No memorandum of conversation has been found.
  3. See Document 199.
  4. See Document 201.