204. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Meeting Between Secretary Vance and President Sadat


  • Egyptian
  • President Anwar Sadat
  • Vice President Husni Mubarak
  • Prime Minister Mamduh Salem
  • Foreign Minister Muhammad Ibrahim Kamil
  • Hassan Kamel
  • United States
  • Secretary Vance
  • Alfred L. Atherton
  • Ambassador Hermann Fr. Eilts
  • Harold Saunders
  • William Quandt
  • Hodding Carter
  • William Brubeck

(The Secretary and President Sadat met for one and one-half hours in private prior to the expanded meeting.)2

President Sadat said that he was pleased to see his dear friend, Secretary Vance, and was grateful for the help given by Secretary Vance during the talks in Jerusalem. Sadat expressed his appreciation for the American effort to bridge gaps and to keep the peace process going. He said that he had been very sorry to take the decision to remove his delegation, but it appeared that the approach to the whole problem was being twisted by the Israelis. They should recognize that the fact of sovereignty cannot be negotiated. From Begin’s speech yesterday, one can conclude that their main goal is land, not peace at all.3 Maybe the Israelis imagine that they can have land, settlements, and peace.

President Sadat said that initially he had taken the question of settlements as a joke. The idea of settling on other people’s land and then protecting them with your own troops not only contradicts peace, but [Page 969] is an attempt to humiliate the Egyptians. Begin had said yesterday that he did not take the land, but that he had turned it green and that now Israel had a right to stay there.

Sadat said that after his reevaluation of the situation, he had asked Secretary Vance to convey several messages to President Carter. He hoped to stay in constant contact and to exchange views. He had agreed to what President Carter had suggested on the telephone about the Military Committee reconvening in Cairo.4 He had agreed that the road to peace was not closed. But in his view, Israel should make a reevaluation of the entire situation. Egypt is not asking for demands or concessions. Begin’s offer to return the land is not a concession. He is talking about Egyptian land. Egypt is not putting a pistol to Israel’s head. It is simply asking for peace based on justice.

President Sadat said that he would consider with President Carter the efforts which would be required to continue moving toward peace. He would remain in constant contact and would try to agree on steps to take in the future. President Sadat said that he would discuss further with his own delegation some of the ideas that Secretary Vance had presented. Concerning the Political Committee, he said that it would not be in action for some time to come, but the door to peace was not closed. Whenever there is a reevaluation from the Israeli side, Egypt will continue.

President Sadat said that he had explained to Secretary Vance how he felt about Begin’s statement that Israel did not want Arab recognition. Things cannot go on this way. Sadat was worried about the American reputation in Egypt. Begin can only act the way he is now because of the large arsenal he is receiving from the United States. Sadat said that he personally understood the situation, but that his people were beginning to ask questions, as were others in the Arab world. Israel should know that the United States stands for its security, but not the security of its gains. Egypt can agree on security measures. Sadat had expressed his view of the necessity to recognize the issue of security for Israel. But this cannot be done at the expense of the land or sovereignty of others. All measures for security, such as demilitarized zones, limited armament zones, early warning stations, and any other devices that can assure them would be acceptable, but not at the expense of Egyptian land or sovereignty.

President Sadat said that he had explained the discussions at Ismailia. He and Begin agreed that they would turn to the United States for help when problems arose. Sadat had now asked Secretary Vance to convey to President Carter his view that the American position on [Page 970] many things contributes to Israeli arrogance. The Arab world may see that President Assad and the Soviets are correct. Sadat said that he was not worried about Assad and the Soviets, but if Israel is not put on a correct approach, the United States and Egypt may both face an awkward situation here and in Africa and in the world. He said that Secretary Vance’s visit was of great importance and he hoped that in the future we would continue to have constant exchanges of views to work on these issues.

Secretary Vance thanked President Sadat for summarizing their previous discussion, and expressed his appreciation for President Sadat’s understanding, and for the wisdom that he brings to these difficult issues. The Secretary reaffirmed the friendship that the United States feels for Egypt and the importance that we attach to our relationship, and the affection we feel for President Sadat and his leadership and for what Egypt has done. He assured President Sadat that we would work closely in the weeks ahead and he reaffirmed his view that the door to peace was not closed and that Egypt could count on the United States for full support.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East File, Trips/Visits File, Box 109, 2/3–4/78 Visit to President Sadat of Egypt: Briefing Book [II], 2/78. Top Secret. The meeting took place in the Barrages Rest House near Cairo.
  2. No memorandum of conversation has been found.
  3. In his comments in Jerusalem on January 19, Begin stated that Israel would never dismantle the settlements in the Sinai. He also claimed that Israel had never asked for Arab recognition or for Israel’s right to exist. (William E. Farrell, “Israelis Are Dubious on Revival of Talks,” New York Times, January 20, 1978, p. A6)
  4. See Document 198.