Structure and Scope of the Foreign Relations Series

This volume is part of a subseries of the Foreign Relations series that documents the most important issues in the foreign policy of the administration of Jimmy Carter. Two volumes in the subseries, Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, volume VIII, Arab-Israeli Dispute, 1977–78 and Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, volume IX, Arab-Israeli Dispute, 1978–80, document U.S. foreign policy as it relates specifically to the Arab-Israeli dispute. This volume begins in January 1977 and documents the Carter administration’s immediate efforts to find a comprehensive settlement between Israel and Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon and to seek a resolution for the Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza. The volume narrows its focus to Egypt and Israel after Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s November 1977 visit to Jerusalem. Documentation in the rest of the volume focuses more closely on U.S. efforts to help secure a bilateral agreement between Egypt and Israel. The volume concludes in August 1978 with the White House announcement of a summit to be held at Camp David, Maryland in September 1978, where U.S. officials would work in seclusion with Egyptian and Israeli officials in an attempt to produce a bilateral agreement. Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, volume IX, Arab-Israeli Dispute, 1978–80 documents the Camp David summit, the negotiations leading to the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty in March 1979, and the follow up negotiations that continued between Egypt and Israel for the remainder of the Carter administration.

Focus of Research and Principles of Selection for Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, Volume VIII

The focus of this volume is the Carter administration’s efforts to help negotiate settlements to the Arab-Israeli dispute. The first part of the volume documents the Carter administration’s initiatives to reconvene the Geneva Conference, which was first established in December 1973 to find a comprehensive settlement to the Arab-Israeli dispute. After talks with the various parties stagnated and Sadat made his momentous visit to Jerusalem in November 1977, the administration came to view a bilateral negotiation between Egypt and Israel as the most realistic avenue to an eventual settlement. Accordingly, the period from December 1977 to August 1978 documents the ways in which the Carter administration worked to find a path to a bilateral [Page VIII] peace agreement that would also include limited self-rule for Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza.

President Carter prioritized a negotiated settlement between Israel and its Arab neighbors from the very start of his administration, and he played a central role in the negotiations rather than leaving the bulk of it to his secretary of state, national security adviser, or a special envoy. Accordingly, documents selected for this volume reflect this unprecedented presidential involvement in seeking a negotiated settlement to the Arab-Israeli dispute. Carter’s prominent role is highlighted in the memoranda of conversation that feature his discussions with Israeli and Arab leaders. Through the record of these conversations, especially the verbatim versions, he and other leaders exhibited their distinctive negotiating styles as well as their personal rapport with each other.

In addition to Carter’s memoranda of conversation, this volume includes documentation on many of Secretary of State Vance’s meetings with Arab and Israeli leaders. Vance played a major role in laying the groundwork for Carter’s Middle East policy. When memoranda of conversation of these meetings could not be found, summaries of these meetings in telegram form were printed. In some cases, where the summaries offered a unique perspective not provided by memoranda of conversation, the summary was printed in addition to the memoranda of conversation.

Another significant figure during these negotiations was National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski. Brzezinski supplied Carter with the National Security Council’s (NSC) analysis and channeled intelligence, which is best seen in the various memoranda he sent to Carter. In several of these memoranda, Carter wrote extensive marginalia notes, which provide readers with important insight into Carter’s thinking regarding the NSC’s analysis and recommendations. Brzezinski also engaged in some conversations with Israeli and Arab leaders, as documented in this volume.

During the first half of 1978, Carter looked to Alfred Atherton, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs since 1974, to serve as Ambassador-at-Large in an effort to break through the deadlocks between the Israelis and Egyptians. Atherton engaged in shuttle diplomacy during the first half of 1978, traveling between Israel and Egypt in an attempt to resolve specific issues relating to the negotiations such as an agreed Declaration of Principles. The more prominent of these meetings in March 1978 and July 1978 are documented primarily through summaries of the negotiations in telegram form.

Due to the important role domestic politics played during tense negotiations among American, Arab, and Israeli leaders, certain documents relating to the administration’s contact with American supporters of Israel are printed. Additionally, with the increased role of [Page IX] Congress in the years immediately following Watergate, some documents involving congressional contact with Arab and Israeli leaders have been printed.


The editor wishes to thank officials at the Jimmy Carter Library, especially Ceri McCarron, Brittany Parris, David Stanhope, and James Yancey. Thanks are also due to the Central Intelligence Agency for arranging access to the Carter Library materials scanned for the Remote Archive Capture project. The Historical Staff of the Central Intelligence Agency were accommodating in arranging full access to the files of the Central Intelligence Agency, and Sandy Meagher was helpful in providing access to Department of Defense materials. The editor also thanks the staff at the National Archives and Records Administration facility in College Park, Maryland, for their valuable assistance.

Adam M. Howard collected, selected, and edited the documentation for this volume under the supervision of Edward C. Keefer, then General Editor of the Foreign Relations series. The volume was reviewed by Kathleen B. Rasmussen, then Chief of the Asia and General Division. Erin F. Cozens and Rita Baker performed the copy and technical editing, and Kerry Hite coordinated the final declassification review under Carl Ashley, Chief of the Declassification Division. Do Mi Stauber Indexing Services prepared the index.