79. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Israelis
  • Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan
  • Ambassador Simcha Dinitz
  • Ephraim Evron, Director General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Naftali Lavi, Spokesman for Foreign Minister
  • Eli Rubinstein, Chef de Cabinet, Foreign Ministry
  • Americans
  • Cyrus Vance, Secretary of State
  • Philip Habib, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
  • Alfred L. Atherton, Jr., Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs
  • Ambassador Samuel Lewis
  • William B. Quandt, NSC Staff


  • Secretary Vance’s Meeting with Moshe Dayan

Foreign Minister Dayan began by reviewing the agenda for Secretary Vance’s talks. He suggested that the Secretary review the results of his talks in the Arab capitals with the Prime Minister, and particularly the question of PLO acceptance of Resolution 242. The next day might be devoted to discussions of Lebanon and Israel’s role there. In addition, there were some questions about arms. Israel is concerned about the Egyptian air force being rebuilt and about F–15s for Saudi Arabia. The Israelis would also like to review some of their arms requests. The Prime Minister will also be anxious to hear the Secretary’s views on how to proceed from here. General Dayan suggested that the Secretary concentrate in this talk on the PLO question and on next steps. Secretary Vance stated that since he had arrived in the Middle East, all of the heads of government and their foreign ministers had raised the question of the PLO and whether the United States was prepared to talk with it. They were told that under the commitment made in Sinai II, the United States will not talk to the PLO unless the PLO accepts Resolution 242. In Egypt, Sadat said that the PLO may be prepared to accept the Resolution. This was discussed and the US side suggested the type of language in which PLO acceptance of 242 would have to be phrased. When the Secretary was in Egypt, some language was suggested, but it [Page 422] was not satisfactory and the Secretary told the Egyptians that. In Damascus, the same discussion took place, although the Syrians had no specific language to propose. President Assad thought that it was possible that we would get some suggested language from one of the other Arab parties. This discussion was repeated again in Amman, and the Secretary informed King Hussein of his talks in Damascus and Alexandria. The Jordanians felt that it was important to have the PLO accept Resolution 242, even with some sort of reservation stating that 242 did not adequately cover the Palestinian question because it only referred to Palestinians as refugees, and did not mention a homeland. We said that we would understand such an exception, if it were clear that all states in the area had a right to exist. That is the core of the problem. In Saudi Arabia, the question was raised again and the Saudis said they were in touch with the PLO and with the other heads of government. Prince Saud showed the Secretary two pieces of paper with suggested language for the PLO to use, but neither was satisfactory as an acceptance of Resolution 242. The PLO is apparently still deliberating on whether or not they will be able to issue such a statement. The President has said if they do accept Resolution 242, with a possible reservation on the Palestinian question, this would satisfy the condition written into the Sinai II Agreement. They recognize that the right of all states in the Middle East to exist includes the right of Israel. This is where the situation now stands. The Arab leaders will talk to the PLO and we will see what they come up with. General Dayan posed a question. He stated that there are three problems concerning the PLO: First is the USPLO relationship. There seems to be some change in what the United States is asking of the PLO. Does the United States still insist that the PLO change its Covenant which calls for the destruction of Israel? Second, there is the question of PLO participation at Geneva. If the PLO accepts Resolution 242, does that mean that the US will recognize their right to participate at Geneva? Israel would object in any event. Third, is there some consideration of changing Resolution 242? Secretary Vance replied that he had addressed that question in Taif earlier in the day.2 If the PLO accepts 242, and the right of all states in the area to live in peace, that would be viewed as superseding the Covenant and its call for the destruction of Israel. Concerning participation at Geneva, the Secretary made it clear that a PLO acceptance of Resolution 242 would allow the US to talk to the PLO, but would not necessarily open the door to participation at Geneva, since that is for the parties themselves to determine. This has been made clear and is a different matter from talking with the United States. General Dayan asked a clarifying question of whether the United States would recommend the participa[Page 423]tion of the PLO at Geneva before discussing the question with Israel. Secretary Vance said that we would not. General Dayan asked that Israel be allowed to hear of any such plans first, and if Israel did not hear anything, they would assume that the United States had made no agreement on PLO participation at Geneva.

Secretary Vance discussed the alternatives for Palestinian participation at Geneva, noting that he had reviewed the four alternatives that had been covered with Prime Minister Begin, using the phrase Palestinians, with no reference to individuals from the PLO. The Secretary noted there are some rumors the French may be considering an amendment to Resolution 242, but that we think that is a very bad idea and we have tried to discourage any idea of amending Resolution 242. Under Secretary Habib noted that the Arab parties have not been urging an amendment of 242. Ambassador Dinitz asked whether a PLO statement saying that it accepted Resolution 242, with the exception of the clause dealing with the Palestinians only as refugees, would be acceptable to the United States. Secretary Vance answered that it would. Ambassador Dinitz asked whether that meant there had been a change in the American view, and the Secretary said that there had been no change. General Dayan thanked the Secretary for his clarification and asked about next steps.

Secretary Vance emphasized the importance of moving toward greater concreteness on both procedural and substantive issues. Otherwise, the situation would begin to stagnate and there would be a loss of momentum. In his view, the situation cannot stand still, and there is risk of sliding backward. In order to move forward, more concrete steps are required. Therefore, the Secretary has asked each of the parties to send him a draft of a peace treaty as they would like to see it between themselves and Israel. Even if they cannot provide great detail, they should send as much as possible. Only if they do that, can the parties move away from generalities. If draft treaties are provided, then the US will try to narrow the differences. The parties have given initial reactions, but have not given their final ones. If draft treaties are provided, the United States will show them to no one, but will review them and on that basis would be prepared to offer a draft document as a starting point for discussions. At the next session of the UN General Assembly, the United States would then be prepared to move between the parties on a bilateral basis to try to narrow differences. The emphasis would be on treaties between Egypt and Israel, Jordan and Israel, and Syria and Israel. Lebanon has also been asked to submit its positions. The United States understands that Israel agrees to Lebanon’s participation in the negotiations. The Lebanese were pleased to hear this. All of the parties have agreed in some form to put ideas on paper. The Secretary has also asked each head of government to send their foreign [Page 424] ministers to New York or Washington before the UN General Assembly for talks with the United States on a bilateral basis. All except for Lebanon have agreed. The Secretary expects to see all of the foreign ministers in the third week of September. They will be prepared to discuss with the United States all matters involved in a settlement. This is how the Secretary sees the next phase unfolding. He also reviewed with the leaders the set of principles that the Israelis have seen and he will report later in detail on those discussions. As a result of the talks, he has a better feel for the substantive views of the parties that could be translated into peace treaties. Under Secretary Habib added that there is a possibility of some joint meetings of the foreign ministers.

General Dayan asked if any date had been mentioned for the Geneva Conference, such as October. Secretary Vance replied that no one had made such specific reference, and they felt it would be an error to go to Geneva before adequate preparations had been made. Dayan said that Geneva might have to be later if meetings were not held with the Secretary until late September. The Secretary voiced his opinion that November or December was more likely as a date for the Geneva Conference. He does not exclude Geneva by the end of the year.

Dayan raised the question of refugees. Secretary Vance responded that in the discussion on the five points, one of the parties did raise the question of refugees, stressing the necessity for reaffirming the right of the refugees to repatriation or compensation in accordance with UN Resolutions. Dayan noted that this was a subject in which he had a special interest. He wondered if the delegations might be prepared to enter parallel talks on this issue prior to Geneva. The Secretary replied that he felt that such talks would be difficult, although the topic might be raised in proximity talks before Geneva. Dayan said that he did not care whether the parties talked with one another or through the United States. He did think that the parties should go to Geneva with proposals on the refugee problem. He then asked if in the draft peace agreements the parties would include anything on the Palestinians or on East Jerusalem. Or would the draft treaties just deal with bilateral relations with Israel? Secretary Vance said they would be bilateral, but each party might send some language on the Palestinian issue as well. Dayan asked if Egypt would be submitting language dealing with Golan and Syria commenting on Sharm al-Sheikh. The Secretary said that Egypt will write a treaty dealing just with Egyptian-Israeli issues, but they might submit a separate paper dealing with their views on the Palestinians. Dayan asked if the Palestinian issue might be covered in the paper submitted by the Jordanians, and the Secretary responded “yes.” Dayan asked if the Egyptians would include something on the future of Gaza in their draft. The Secretary replied that Gaza is within the 1967 borders issue as seen from Egypt. Israel might have to deal [Page 425] with Egypt on Gaza, but it would be spun off as part of the discussion of the Palestinian entity. Dayan wondered if the area could be returned to Egypt, but not annexed.

Dayan asked that the Secretary review the five points with the Prime Minister, but he would be interested in hearing any Arab reaction to the idea of an Israeli trusteeship over the West Bank. Secretary Vance said that the Arabs did not accept the idea of an Israeli trusteeship, but they would talk about an international administrative mechanism for a transitional period. They see some sort of international administration under the UN to run the West Bank for a transitional period, at the end of which there would be a plebiscite on self-determination. Dayan noted that once Sadat had said that Sharm al-Sheikh could be placed under UN administration to insure that Egyptian forces would not be the only ones there to guarantee free navigation. Dayan said he was surprised that Sadat talked about Gaza. The Secretary noted that Sadat still holds the same view on Sharm al-Sheikh. The Secretary also emphasized that the Egyptians feel very strongly about the 1967 borders. Whether Egypt cares strongly about Gaza or not can only be clarified in more specific discussions later. Dayan said that it would be one thing for Israel to evacuate Gaza and another for Egypt to return there. The Secretary said there was no detailed discussion of this, and he could not speculate on Egypt’s attitude. Fahmy had said that Egypt does not claim Gaza. Dayan asked if the Egyptians had raised the question of a Palestinian government in exile, and the Secretary replied in the negative.

Dayan noted that the inhabitants of Gaza now have no citizenship. The Israelis tried to convince King Hussein to give the Gazans Jordanian citizenship, but he did not. Only a few hundred took temporary Jordanian citizenship. Dayan wondered in a final settlement whether Jordan would grant the Gazans citizenship. The Secretary said he did not know.

Ambassador Dinitz asked about the working group idea. The Secretary said that Sadat had made the suggestion in the press conference, and the Secretary had said it was a good idea.3 It had not been discussed before in detail. The Secretary thought it was similar to his idea of meeting with the foreign ministers at the UN. The Syrians, however, reacted negatively. The Secretary now feels that he should move between the parties in New York, and if they want to meet together, that would be fine. But if it becomes a formal mechanism, that would give the Syrians difficulties because it would exclude the PLO. The Secretary had said the talks would only be with the front line states, not the PLO. [Page 426] Ambassador Dinitz asked if the five points still remained secret, and the Secretary said they did. Dinitz noted there had been some leak on the concept of trusteeship in Washington. The meeting ended at 5:30 p.m.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 50, Middle East: 7–9/77. Secret; Nodis. The meeting took place at the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Vance visited Jerusalem from August 9 to August 11.
  2. See Document 77.
  3. See footnote 7, Document 68.