89. Telegram From the Department of State to the White House1

191140. For the President and Dr. Brzezinski Only. Following repeat Secto 8155 action SecState Aug 12.

Quote. Secto 8155. Department pass White House for the President and Dr. Brzezinski only. Department for Dep. Sec’y and Tarnoff only.

1. To complement the fuller report I sent you on my talks in Israel,2 I want to pass along several additional points from a private meeting I had with Begin and Dayan.3

2. We reviewed the “misunderstanding” between us over the legalization of three existing Israeli settlements onthe West Bank.4 Begin stressed that he honestly had no idea that this kind of “routine action” would have been viewed so adversely by the US. We reaffirmed that in future cases we would try to consult through diplomatic channels, al[Page 471]though I pointed out that we had in this case waited for Ambassador Dinitz to confirm the facts before making any public statement.

3. On the substance of the settlement issue, Begin said that what he has in mind is to limit settlement activities during the “next few months” to about 6 or 8 locations, all on land included within existing military base areas on government-owned land under military control. About 40–50 civilian families would be permitted to settle in such areas, no acquisition of new land would be involved, and no Arabs would be displaced. (Dayan later acknowledged that some of the settlements would be close to the center of the West Bank, but he insisted that none would be close to heavily populated areas.)

4. I repeated that we continued to hold a different view of international law on this action and pressed him again on why it is necessary to engage in an action that has serious ramifications for the peace process. Dayan answered that no Israeli settlement will be an obstacle to any peace agreement because the Israeli Government will move any settlement which is left outside a border established in a peace settlement. However, he then said that there had never been an Israeli Government which did not authorize new settlements and that the ongoing settlement of the land will remain a fundamental principle for the Jewish state. I pointed out that even though he was suggesting putting civilians into already existing military bases, this too would violate international legal principles. It is the fact of moving (begin underscore) civilians (end underscore) of one country into occupied territory that constitutes the legal violation.

5. In concluding this part of the discussion, Dayan seemed to misjudge Arab reaction. It is increasingly apparent that the Israelis are trying to convince themselves and to base their legal case on the proposition that the Arabs will not react to settlements which do not result in displacement of Arab population.

6. Turning to South Lebanon, I promised Begin that I would raise with Assad the importance of Syrian assistance in supporting PLO withdrawal from the southern border area. I then went on to say that any Israeli military incursion into South Lebanon would have repercussions on international public opinion that would be very severe and damaging. Begin said he wanted to avoid any surprises and repeated that “if we do anything military we won’t stay in Lebanon at all.”

7. In discussing the prospects for introduction of Lebanese forces into South Lebanon, Begin said that Israel would not object to a UN force provided the PLO is removed from the border area. Dayan offered the opinion that a buffer area would probably have to be created extending from the border to the Littani River, an area about 20 kilometers wide. Dayan subsequently confirmed that the Israelis would not do anything in this area until I had discussed this matter with you and commented further to Begin. I will talk with you on Sunday5 about a message which we could send early next week.

9. The final subject discussed during this smaller meeting was Ethiopia. Begin said again that Israel would like to help Ethiopia in full consultation with the US. I explained to him again that we were not prepared to renew our arms supply relationship. I told him frankly how we viewed the actions of the Ethiopians in expelling our personnel on two days notice6 after we had made a major effort to continue good relations with the government. I left no doubt that we would not change our attitude on military supply question.

10. Later in the day, I drew Begin aside and got a specific commitment that he would take no action with respect to Lebanon until he heard from you. In the same conversation, I covered other matters I will discuss with you on Sunday.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Trip File, Box 42, Vance, Middle East, 7/31/77–8/12/77: Cables. Secret; Immediate; Nodis.
  2. In Secto 8128 from Jerusalem, August 10, Vance summarized his August 9 meeting with Begin and his Cabinet. (Ibid.) The memorandum of conversation of this meeting is Document 81.
  3. See Document 82.
  4. See footnote 5, Document 59.
  5. August 14.
  6. At 4 p.m. on April 23, the Ethiopian Government ordered the closure of five American offices and the removal of office staff within the next 4 days. A State Department spokesman released a statement at 9 p.m. on April 23 protesting the Ethiopian Government’s “unwarranted” actions, “particularly the short deadline” for the removal of U.S. personnel from Ethiopia. (“U.S. Protests Over Order,” New York Times, April 24, 1977, p. 5)