157. Telegram From Secretary of State Vance to the Department of State and the White House1

Secto 14053. White House for Dr. Brzezinski. Department for Christopher. Subject: Discussions With PM and Cabinet Members.

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1. Secret Nodis Cherokee entire text.

2. I had two meetings with the Prime Minister today, the first with his small negotiating group, and the second with about one half of the Cabinet present. Dayan and Weizman were present on both occasions. We will be meeting privately tomorrow morning before another large meeting.2 I may also pay a farewell call on the Prime Minister later in the day before heading back to Cairo to report to Sadat that evening.

3. At this point the results at this end are about what we might have expected. The Israelis reacted negatively and argumentatively to most of the elements of the package that we brought from Cairo.3 To what extent this is an initial reaction that may to some extent soften over time is difficult to judge at this point. Toward the end of our second meeting there seemed to be one or two glimmers, particularly from Dayan, to suggest that the Israelis may become somewhat more flexible when they have had a chance to think about the proposition.

4. I started out by stressing the strategic objectives we shared in shoring up the forces of stability and moderation in the region, and said an Egypt-Israel peace would be an important component of this. I followed by outlining the degree to which the Egyptians had made concessions from their previous positions, and then explained the rationale for each document which had been developed.

5. They were most disappointed, as we might have expected, about the proposal to link the exchange of resident ambassadors to the inauguration of the self-governing authority in the West Bank and Gaza. Dayan at one point said that he would rather go back to the wording of the Camp David Accords for Annex III without any mention of ambassadors than to accept the concept that an element of this treaty is conditional on steps in the West Bank/Gaza. Begin argued strenuously that such a proposition was totally outside of, and contrary to, the Camp David Framework. They tried to depict Sadat’s withdrawal of his offer to exchange ambassadors one month after completion of withdrawal to the interim line as a violation of faith, and I had repeatedly to remind them that Sadat had originally offered this in return for subphasing, and when the Israelis withdrew that, Sadat, felt free to withdraw his offer as well. I pointed out that Sadat was making only one aspect of normalization of relations out of many contingent upon West Bank/Gaza developments, but Begin insisted that to establish conditionality on one point would set a precedent for the other aspects of normalization as well.

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6. Almost as troubling to the Israelis was our proposed treatment of Article VI (2) and (5). Most of their comments focused on the Egyptian interpretive note on Article IV (2) which they saw as fundamentally altering the meaning of paragraph 2. I pointed out that the Egyptians thought the present wording in the article could be interpreted to negate the preambular language, but the Israelis insisted that the effect of this note would enable the Egyptians to delay implementation of the treaty provision because of anything that was not congenial to them on the West Bank/Gaza.

7. On the West Bank/Gaza side letter Begin said, several times that the Israelis could not accept a target date, emphasizing that this concept had been rejected by the Cabinet by unanimous vote. He said if a Cabinet date could be avoided, there were several possibilities along the lines of more general language such as “as soon as possible,” etc. In general, however, the Israelis seemed somewhat less upset by the West Bank/Gaza letter than by the linkage and Article VI questions. Dayan at one point said that if we could resolve the question of interpretive note and of linkage between this treaty and West Bank/Gaza steps, he thought a solution could be found for the question of a side letter on the West Bank and Gaza, suggesting that in these circumstances even a target date might be acceptable. We had the feeling that on this issue we were beginning to get into an area which the Israelis even at this point saw as negotiable.

8. They also did not like the proposed Egyptian note on the review clause in Article IV, but this I think should prove to be solvable. The Israelis were sympathetic to strengthening the present language in the article to make review obligatory if requested by either side but they are opposed to the second paragraph which called for both sides to make a review five years after signing.

9. I should report that in the small meeting held earlier this morning, Begin criticized us for having sprung these proposals on him without adequate consultations as provided for in our undertaking to them. I told him that I did not think this charge was even remotely justifiable. We had been in the closest consultations with the Israelis throughout this treaty process and I told him that what we were bringing from Cairo were Egyptian proposals which the Egyptians themselves asked us to present to the Israelis.

10. We also provided the Israelis with the text of our legal memorandum on the subject of Article VI (5) but they made no extended comment on this subject in today’s meetings.

11. After dinner tonight I met privately with Yadin, Dayan and Weizman and told them very bluntly just where things stand with us [Page 550]and Sadat. At their urging, I will see Begin alone tomorrow morning4 to repeat the message before we meet further. They will be helpful, and all three are almost desperate not to lose the treaty. We explored some possible approaches, but the political complications within the Cabinet are serious obstacles.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840158–1480. Secret; Cherokee; Niact Immediate; Nodis. Vance arrived in Israel from Egypt on Decem-ber 13.
  2. See Document 158.
  3. See footnote 4, Document 156.
  4. See Document 158.