40. Minutes of a Policy Review Committee Meeting1


  • Middle East


  • The Vice President
  • A. Denis Clift
  • State
  • Secretary Cyrus Vance
  • Arthur Day
  • Defense
  • Secretary Harold Brown
  • David McGiffert
  • Leslie A. Janka
  • CIA
  • Admiral Stansfield Turner
  • Robert Bowie
  • JCS
  • Lt. Gen. William Smith
  • NSC
  • Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski
  • David Aaron
  • William B. Quandt

Secretary Vance: Let’s begin by discussing how we can make best use of the Begin visit. It seems to me that we have to make clear to him the importance of a conference and the achieving of a peace settlement. We should spell out our views on issues and sound him out on his flexibility.

Secretary Brown: We should also consider providing Israel with some of the non-controversial military equipment before Begin forms his government.

Secretary Vance: This is a subject that we will have to come to grips with.

Secretary Brown: This is a difficult point because we don’t want to give off a false signal. If we announce agreements immediately after the government is formed, it could give the wrong impression.

Dr. Brzezinski: We will be leaning on him when he is here, and he will lean on us. We may want to be able to give him something then. Are there any other items that will still have to be decided?

[Page 298]

Secretary Vance: Yes, the most important ones.

Dr. Brzezinski: We should look at the total picture. There may be some good will items that we should do now and there may also be some things that we should hold back on, and others we might want to give to him in exchange for his commitment to Resolution 242 or something like that.

Secretary Vance: The big ticket items are co-production and F–16s.

Dr. Brzezinski: These big items are ones that should be associated with movement toward a settlement. My point is that we should distinguish between things to do now, things that we should hold off until later, and things that we should give him as part of the bargaining process.

Secretary Vance: What is now in the pipeline?

Dr. Brzezinski: We shouldn’t exhaust everything now. We need to build up some goodwill in the American Jewish community.

Secretary Brown: There is no chance of exhausting everything now.

Vice President: Maybe I could mention agreement on some items in my speech.2

Secretary Vance: When is that?

Dr. Brzezinski: A week from today. A government could be formed by then.

Vice President: It would help me. But it should be before he forms a government.

Dr. Brzezinski: Why?

Secretary Brown: We don’t want to show strong approval for him before he leaves for Washington. Someone will interpret this as our approval of his policies.

Dr. Brzezinski: I’m not so sure. It might be a good thing to put into the speech.

Secretary Vance: We could look at the items that might be mentioned in a speech.

Secretary Brown: Maybe we should try to tie this to some kind of public statement. We should urge him to recognize that genuine security will only come from a peace agreement.

Dr. Brzezinski: You might also want to mention in your speech that there is a danger of major provocations on both sides in the months ahead. Begin might see some advantage in driving the Arabs toward the Soviets, and there are dangers of provocation on the Arab side too. [Page 299] We need to warn the parties against this. Perhaps we could put it in the speech.

Admiral Turner: The Egyptians are fooling around with the Sinai agreement right now.3 They seem to be putting themselves into a no-lose situation. If they put forces over there, Israel might strike back and would take the onus for breaking the ceasefire, and if Israel doesn’t react, Egypt will get away with it.

Vice President: It seems to be a clear violation of the agreement.

Secretary Vance: The SA–7s clearly are. We haven’t seen the excess number of people yet. I had a DIA briefing on it. They aren’t too worried, but the SA–7 is a clear violation. They also may have enough people over there for an extra battalion. They may be also pre-stocking some equipment.

Secretary Vance: Let’s talk about what we want out of the Begin visit.

Secretary Brown: We need to try to get across to him that security cannot only be achieved through arms.

Secretary Vance: We also have to be very frank.

Dr. Brzezinski: It’s necessary to isolate those issues which are of particular danger, such as settlements in the occupied areas, so this would force us to take stands against him.

Secretary Vance: Our position on that is very clear. We could repeat it.

Dr. Brzezinski: We need to go further.

Secretary Vance: This could be very bad if a settlements policy is coupled to intransigence on the West Bank.

Secretary Brown: Will Begin come here first, or might it be better for Dayan to come before him?

Secretary Vance: Begin ought to come first, so that we can talk at the top level.

Dr. Brzezinski: We should talk to the guy who is in charge, and we should do it soon.

Vice President: When will he be ready to come?

Secretary Vance: As soon as they form the government: by late June or early July.

Mr. Day: He seems to be moving faster than we thought in forming his coalition.

[Page 300]

Vice President: Is he anxious to have a meeting?

Secretary Vance: Yes, Ambassador Dinitz says he is. He seems to be concerned about the continuing doubts that are expressed here about his policies.

Secretary Vance: Let’s talk about the question of arms and coproduction.

Secretary Brown: I want to make one point. It’s not only a question of what we do with Israel, but we also have cases pending with all of the Arab countries as well, for example, the F–15s to Saudi Arabia.4 We can’t act on these in a piecemeal way. It will be important how we treat all of them.

Secretary Vance: On the Saudi case, I talked to Senator Humphrey about two weeks ago,5 and he said that he is ready to support the F–15 or F–16 and will help us to get it through Congress. He asked that we wait until about now before we go back to him, and urged that I ought to talk to Javits. I am going to see Senator Humphrey again on Saturday or on Monday.6 I want to talk with him on how to proceed and how this issue will fit together with other items of concern. We apparently have to be sensitive to the reactions of the Jewish community in the United States. In addition to the Saudi case, we also have items for Egypt. We have to think of how to handle the whole package.

Vice President: I am not current on the feelings in Congress. The Jewish community is getting restive about our policies. We seem to be thinking about how to put the pieces together in the Middle East, but it may be more important what American Jewish leaders think than what Begin ultimately does. We should keep in mind the Jewish community here and the need to keep it with us. I don’t know what it would take to set them off.

Secretary Vance: On the Egyptian question, what should we suggest to Senator Humphrey as a possibility? We have outstanding requests for TOWs, APCs, and up to the F–5s. If we start with the F–5s, and then add the F–15 for Saudi Arabia, this will be more than can be carried. The Egyptian case would even be more sensitive.

Dr. Brzezinski: Fahmi is meeting with Gromyko now.

Vice President: Didn’t we have a hard case with the C–130s last time?

Dr. Brzezinski: Maybe Dave McGiffert, Bill Quandt, and Roy Atherton could do a paper on this.

[Page 301]

Secretary Vance: We need to get political judgment on the sensitivity of the alternatives.

Mr. McGiffert: There is also the case of the Sudan.

Secretary Vance: That’s different.

Secretary Brown: It could have an effect on Egypt, however, if we gave F–5s to Sudan and withheld them from Egypt.

Secretary Vance: They might understand. They have stressed the importance to us of the Sudan.

Secretary Brown: But it could have an effect on the Egyptian military.

Dr. Brzezinski: A lot will depend on whether we can maintain the momentum toward a political settlement.

Secretary Brown: That’s just the point. Now we seem to be moving in the wrong direction.

Dr. Brzezinski: Much will depend on the Begin visit and Secretary Vance’s trip.

Secretary Brown: Even if Sadat understands, he has political problems with his military.

Dr. Brzezinski: It will make a difference if we are moving with determination or whether there is a stalemate. If the latter, his situation could become desperate.

Secretary Brown: I am judging how far we will be able to push Begin this summer.

Secretary Vance: What is our position on the repair work?

Dr. Brzezinski: Dave McGiffert and Bill Quandt need to talk about this.

Secretary Brown: If it is feasible, it is less of a problem than F–5s, but it is risky. It can’t be done covertly. It would be a significantly smaller problem than the F–5s.

Dr. Brzezinski: Bill Quandt and Roy Atherton should look at some of the alternatives.

Vice President: I suggest that we think about the best course to take on this and then talk to Senator Humphrey, because he is current on thinking in Congress.

Admiral Turner: I would like to raise a second-order issue. [8 lines not declassified] I’m a bit ahead of myself on this, but I wanted to bring it up.

Secretary Brown: It might help, but it would have to be kept secret, so politically, it would not help as much as other things, but it might be useful.

Secretary Vance: Let me suggest that Roy and Bill come up with a short memo which would look at our choices for Egypt in terms of the [Page 302] political risks. We know what we need to say on Saudi Arabia, but Egypt is the tough case. When we have that, we can make our own conclusions, and then I will talk to Senator Humphrey.

Dr. Brzezinski: We also need a paper immediately on the items for Israel, both the short-run decisions and the longer-term.

Secretary Brown: We should include consideration of the C–130s for Egypt.

Dr. Brzezinski: We need to look at the large items in terms of which ones we want to hold out on, which ones we want to offer, and which ones we can act on now. Maybe the Vice President can mention some of the decisions.

Secretary Brown: After we look at all of these, the Israeli and Egyptian cases will be the key. We can get the papers to you quickly on the Egyptian and Israeli cases.

Secretary Vance: Let’s get these by the middle of next week. Let’s talk about the post-Begin visit. I assume that I will go to the Middle East. What will the strategy be for that trip?

Dr. Brzezinski: The central objective should be to set up a process for indirect talks between the Arabs and the Israelis. The Begin visit will be the last of those on which we just sound out the parties. Now we should think of how to set in motion pre-Geneva informal consultations.

Secretary Brown: With the United States as intermediary?

Dr. Brzezinski: At first, but then maybe we would meet with the Egyptians, Jordanians, Syrians, and Israelis in Washington, perhaps in their embassies, with someone going back and forth. Later they might meet directly.

Secretary Vance: This is well worth considering.

Dr. Brzezinski: Israel wants face-to-face negotiations. The Arabs need progress toward Geneva. Maybe this is something that each side could do, and we wouldn’t yet have to touch the PLO issue.

Secretary Vance: Should we on this trip make suggestions of our own on principles and offer more details on what we think would be a fair and equitable settlement?

Dr. Brzezinski: We could start by asking each side to draw up statements of principle on each of the three issues. We should press the Arabs on peace and the Israelis on security and territory. They should spell out their positions in more detail. This worked rather well in the talks with Asad. It was a good experience. Now we need to start putting things down on paper. Then, everyone could meet in Washington.

Secretary Vance: But you think we should not give any more on our views?

[Page 303]

Dr. Brzezinski: Not yet, maybe more once they get here.

Mr. Aaron: Maybe on the Vance trip we should just write down the positions of each of the parties and then convey them to the others, and then present a synthesis to them when they come here.

Dr. Brzezinski: We might never get them here if we spell things out in advance, but once they are here, we might be able to get them to agree.

Vice President: What would the purpose of the Vance trip then be?

Dr. Brzezinski: We’ve already covered that.

Vice President: But it can’t be announced as just a fact-finding trip. We need some public purpose and we have to be sure we can deliver on it.

Dr. Brzezinski: Maybe we should state that the public purpose is somewhat different than what we have been discussing.

Vice President: Maybe we should try to get agreement before the trip.

Mr. Aaron: We could focus the trip on Geneva and the principles that would need to be agreed upon before meeting.

Dr. Brzezinski: I agree.

Mr. Aaron: Then you define your other goals as you go along.

Mr. Day: But can you get agreement on principles, if Begin gets too far out?

Dr. Brzezinski: That may be an issue to settle when he comes here. What we say will matter.

Mr. Day: He won’t give up on the West Bank, and if he doesn’t there can be no agreed principles.

Secretary Vance: We need to stress real peace, the need for movement, and normalization of relations. We continue to believe that 242 means 1967 borders with only minor changes, but these borders have to be secure, and there have to be physical means and guarantees. Then there is the Palestinian question as well. We need to state these principles.

Vice President: That’s what the President has already done. What more do we do on your visit?

Dr. Brzezinski: We need to establish a process to bring together the parties in order to probe more thoroughly their thinking. David’s idea is good. We could compare the record that we put together.

Secretary Vance: We should tell them that we expect concrete views in the upcoming talks.

Dr. Brzezinski: We could go back and forth and try to compare the views we hear.

[Page 304]

Mr. Aaron: Do we see the Palestinian homeland and secure borders as being linked? Israel says there is no security that can be obtained on the 1967 lines and with a Palestinian homeland. We need to talk of the linkages.

Secretary Brown: We have. We have emphasized that peace and withdrawal would be related.

Dr. Brzezinski: This raises the question of security lines and borders. I am prepared to agree that Israel’s security borders should be on the Jordan River, but this cannot be their permanent political border. They might have a security arrangement there for five, ten, or twenty years.

Mr. Aaron: That has implications for the kind of government that could exist in those territories.

Dr. Brzezinski: Jordan could buy that.

Secretary Vance: What would the validity be to have a UN trusteeship for some period of time and then to have a referendum?

Dr. Brzezinski: To whom would the trusteeship be given? Maybe Israel should be made a trustee by the UN?

Secretary Brown: You would never get a vote in the UN for that. You couldn’t do it in the Security Council or the General Assembly.

Dr. Brzezinski: Why not have Israel just as a trustee for two or three years?

Secretary Vance: It might put off the crunch.

Dr. Brzezinski: It would be a way out for Begin. Israel would no longer be alone.

Secretary Vance: But they can’t do it alone.

Dr. Brzezinski: They could if the Arabs and Israelis agreed on it. If this were a transition to a referendum leading to a homeland . . .

Secretary Vance: That would be hard to oppose.

Dr. Brzezinski: We should take a look at it.

Secretary Vance: Yes, let’s take a look.

Mr. Aaron: Maybe we should look at the idea of a referendum earlier in the process as a way of developing a negotiating partner on the Palestinian side.

Secretary Vance: It’s difficult to set up the right kind of referendum at an early date, but Jordan does think that they could get the community and towns of the West Bank to support them. This would give them time to establish an administrative structure.

Mr. Aaron: How do we get some leverage on the PLO to be constructive?

Dr. Brzezinski: They won’t unless they think they might win. We should look at the trusteeship idea. Pete Day and Bill Quandt should work on it.

[Page 305]

Mr. Day: We might think of West Bank self-administration with a UN oversight. It’s an easy area to administer.

Dr. Brzezinski: Dayan might agree to the idea of a Jordanian-Israeli trusteeship. It has interesting angles as an intermediate solution. It might make it easier to move later.

Secretary Vance: How does one keep the PLO from moving toward extremism?

Mr. Quandt: We could talk to them.

Dr. Brzezinski: Maybe the same process as we anticipate in Begin’s case would work for the PLO in getting them to be more moderate as they assume some responsibility.

Secretary Vance: If out of this comes the Palestinian-West Bank State linked with Jordan, this might be an easier way to do it than otherwise.

Vice President: The President seemed to think that all of the Arab leaders preferred a connection of the Palestinian homeland with Jordan, except for Fahd.

Secretary Vance: Fahd felt it had to be independent first.

Vice President: He said there had to be a Palestinian state first.

Dr. Brzezinski: I think we have stumbled on a good idea. On our attitude toward the Geneva Conference, we should still talk of having one this year.

Secretary Vance: This should be our strong and clear objective.

Dr. Brzezinski: We should keep up the pressure for Geneva. Israel probably doesn’t want a Geneva Conference, but if we press for Geneva, they will have to take it seriously.

Secretary Vance: We need to do adequate groundwork first.

Dr. Brzezinski: We should say the same things to both sides, but there should be nuances. To the Arabs, we could say that if the preparations have not been adequate, we would postpone the conference; to the Israelis, we could emphasize that we may have to go to Geneva in any case. Israel wants to slow down the process and we want to get them to take it seriously.

Vice President: But Begin may not want to come soon.

Secretary Vance: Begin has to come here to defend his case.

Mr. Day: During your trip, do you think you would try to resolve the Palestinian representation question?

Secretary Vance: If there is enough development on this, we might discuss it with the parties.

Dr. Brzezinski: We can have the preliminary talks here and they could begin without the PLO.

Mr. Aaron: If the group meets here, what would Israel’s role be?

[Page 306]

Dr. Brzezinski: Israel would be here too. Maybe one of the Arab representatives could even be from the PLO.

Admiral Turner: What would the Soviet reaction be?

Dr. Brzezinski: We should keep them informed but not involved.

Mr. Aaron: We should leave open the question of the Palestinians. If they are prepared to come, maybe we could let in a PLO representative.

Dr. Brzezinski: It might be better if they did. Otherwise, they might get radicalized.

Mr. Quandt: There are practical problems in holding talks in Washington. Most of the Arab parties would be unable to send a cred-ible negotiator, in part because they don’t have many people with au-thority, and the Egyptians may worry about the security of their communications.

Mr. Aaron: Couldn’t they get people who could represent them? They could have different kinds of people for each delegation. It might be better in any case to keep it informal so that it does not look like a Geneva Conference.

Dr. Brzezinski: Maybe they could find some political figure to send.

Mr. Day: If agreement could be reached at the level of Sadat, then representatives might be able to work on details.

Dr. Brzezinski: If Cy’s visit fleshes out some of the basic points, they could be used for more detailed discussions here.

Secretary Vance: Let’s try to think this through. If we want to think of how to conduct talks here, who would be involved? The other alternatives of holding talks elsewhere are less desirable.

Secretary Vance: Let me summarize what we have agreed upon. First, by the middle of next week there will be a paper on the Egyptian and Israeli military items. Second, we need a paper for the Begin visit and we need to prepare a good study on that in terms of what to expect and how to develop the issues. Third, we need to develop further the trusteeship idea, the pros and the cons. Fourth, there is the question of the follow-on to my trip. Fifth, we need something on my trip, its purpose and its conduct.

(Dr. Brzezinski leaves.)

Mr. Bowie: We ought to try to get a broader sense of the strategy for negotiations. It is not going to be helpful to bring the parties here. Israel will not be forthcoming and the Arabs will use that as an excuse not to say more on peace. Israel will only budge when they face the real choice of either going forward or having total stalemate. In my view, we first have to get on the table a forthcoming Arab position. This could create the environment for the United States to use its influence with Israel.

[Page 307]

Secretary Vance: I hope we can get this.

Mr. Aaron: The concept of getting them to Washington doesn’t necessarily mean that Israel will have to be here too. It could just be a gathering of all the Arab representatives in order to get them to develop their position.

Mr. Day: It won’t work short of the Foreign Ministers’ level.

Mr. Bowie: Maybe we could put off these talks until the Foreign Ministers all come to the UN in the fall. We should stress the need for a more concrete Arab position on peace.

Secretary Vance: That’s too late. If we were to indicate that these were the guidelines we favored, we could get it. We have to say it directly to them. We’ll work on the Arabs first.

Mr. Quandt: Maybe one way to do this would be to have someone other than the Secretary of State shuttle between the Arab capitals after the Secretary’s trip. That would at least keep the top decision makers involved on the Arab side.

Mr. Aaron: We should think of the domestic impact here if we just shuttle back and forth between the Arab countries.

Mr. Bowie: They can’t complain if we are pressing the peace line with the Arabs. If that is what we are trying to get pinned down, Israel cannot object.

Mr. Day: But they would see this as getting ready to mount maximum pressure on them.

Mr. Aaron: It would be a real problem.

Secretary Brown: We will have that in any case.

Mr. Day: We can’t ignore the domestic side and Israel’s reaction.

Mr. Aaron: We need to have this in mind for after the Begin visit. It won’t be of much use simply to get him to subscribe again to Resolution 242.

General Smith: We also need to think of how to get through the rest of the year.

Secretary Vance: Let’s get the pieces pulled together. If we have these, it will be possible to make progress. The President has some general ideas also. Let’s put them together and let me remind you of the sensitivity of these papers.

Mr. Aaron: I need a list of items for the Vice President’s speech. These should be pipeline items that we can make decisions on quickly. Once we see the list, we can decide whether it appears to be sufficiently forthcoming and meaningful.

Secretary Vance: We should talk about our on-going commitment and we should reaffirm our responsibility for the security of Israel. We [Page 308] need to say it again and we should mention that we will make advanced technology available if necessary.

Mr. Janka: Those are not the kinds of things that are in the pipeline, though.

Secretary Vance: But he can say it in the speech anyway.

Mr. Clift: We have some language already and we can draw on the arms transfer statement.7

Secretary Vance: OK. Let’s schedule another PRC meeting for June 24, if possible.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Country Chron File, Box 31, Middle East: 5–6/77. Top Secret; Sensitive. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room. Attached but not printed is the Summary of Conclusions of the PRC meeting. Brzezinski sent the Summary of Conclusions to Carter under cover of a June 14 memorandum on which Carter approved distribution of the Summary to PRC principals. (Ibid.)
  2. On June 17 in San Francisco, Mondale addressed the World Affairs Council of Northern California on the framework for a Middle East peace. For the text of his speech, see the Department of State Bulletin, July 11, 1977, pp. 41–46.
  3. A reference to the second disengagement agreement between Egypt and Israel signed on September 1, 1975. On June 3, Isreal accused Egypt of violating the agreement by deploying missiles near the Suez Canal. (“Egypt Accused by Israel of Violating Suez Accord,” New York Times, June 4, 1977, p. 6)
  4. In early 1977, Saudi Arabia requested F–15 fighter jets from the United States.
  5. No memorandum of conversation has been found.
  6. Saturday was June 11 and Monday was June 13.
  7. On May 19, the White House issued a statement by Carter on conventional arms transfer policy. (Public Papers: Carter, 1977, Book I, pp. 931–932) See also Document 33.