12. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter1


  • Camp David

The State Department will give you a comprehensive book2 regarding substance, procedure, and schedule. At this point I would only like to make the following points:

1. The three leaders will not be truly in the same boat. Sadat cannot afford a failure and he knows it; both Sadat and Begin think you cannot [Page 32]afford a failure; but Begin probably feels that a Camp David failure is Sadat’s and Carter’s failure but not his own. Begin might well calculate that Sadat will be undermined and your policy will be discredited. Thus things will eventually return to what they were before you initiated the active search for peace.

2. It follows from the foregoing that you will have to make it very clear to both of them, but especially to Begin, that failure at Camp David will have directly adverse consequences for relations with the United States. In addition, failure is likely to reintroduce the Soviet Union into the region.

3. Sadat will define success in terms of substance, particularly in regards to withdrawal. Begin will define success largely in terms of procedure, since he prefers procedural arrangements to substantive concessions.

4. The above, in turn, means that you will have to extract substantive concessions from Begin, while persuading Sadat to settle for less than an explicit commitment to full withdrawal and return to 1967 lines with minor modifications.

5. You should avoid being overly absorbed in details or specific formulations, particularly during the first few days. Both Sadat and Begin will be trying to manipulate you to side with them, and Begin in particular will try to draw you into the details and verbal formulations that he enjoys discussing as a way of avoiding decisions. The State briefing papers include specific language on a number of substantive issues, but this should be thought of as illustrative, not as something you will want to introduce in the initial talks. As a point of reference, the attached table gives some idea of possible formulations on the central issues of withdrawal, borders, security, and sovereignty that we might try to get Sadat and Begin to accept.

[Page 33] Attachment


Illustrative Language on Central Issues

Minimum Objective Maximum Objective
I. Withdrawal “Withdrawal from territories occupied in 1967 in conformity with Resolution 242, including the principle of the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war.” “Withdrawal on all fronts from territories occupied in 1967. . . .”
II. Borders “Borders should be established on the West Bank/Gaza that satisfy the aspirations of the Palestinians and the security needs of Israel.” “Borders should be established in conditions of security and peace that approximate the lines existing between 1949 and 1967, with modifications as agreed among the parties.”
III. Security “Special security arrangements, including demilitarization, etc.” “Special security arrangements, including a continuing Israeli presence at strategic locations as agreed among the parties.”
IV. Sovereignty “The question of sovereignty will be resolved by negotiations by the end of the five-year period.” “The question of sovereignty will be resolved by negotiations in conformity with all the principles of Resolution 242 by the end of the five-year period.”
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 51, Middle East: 7–9/78. Secret; Sensitive. Outside System. Carter initialed “C” in the upper right-hand corner of the memorandum, indicating that he saw it.
  2. Vance sent the briefing book, designed to be a “first round of reading in preparation for the Camp David meetings,” to Carter under an undated covering memorandum. (Carter Library, Vertical File, Camp David Study Papers) In a second attached undated memorandum to Carter, Vance outlined the eight parts of the briefing book, covering objectives, meeting scenarios, model documents, the conduct of meetings and the personalities involved, building public support, the international environment in which the talks will take place, possible outcomes, and the “Nine Points” paper presented to Begin and Sadat in February 1978. Carter added the handwritten notation: “To Begin & Sadat: Analysis of consequences of failure. More ambitious goals. Communications w/ Hussein. Inform Soviets at all?” (Ibid.) Quandt wrote in his account of the talks that Vance, Saunders, Atherton, and himself worked out the basis of this briefing at the Middleburg strategy meeting. (Quandt, Camp David, pp. 212–213) Quandt submitted an August 17 memorandum to Brzezinski analyzing the briefing book and outlining his “reservations” with it. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 51, Middle East: 7–9/78)
  3. Secret; Sensitive.