174. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Israel1

31592. For the Ambassador from the Secretary. Subject: (S) Message From President Carter to Prime Minister Begin on Resuming Middle East Negotiations.

1. (S entire text).

2. Please deliver following message from President Carter to Prime Minister Begin at the earliest opportunity.2

3. Begin text:

Dear Mr. Prime Minister:

I want to thank you for making Foreign Minister Dayan available for the useful talks with Prime Minister Khalil and Secretary Vance in Brussels,3 and for the time you spent with Ambassador Atherton during his recent visit to Jerusalem.4 Their reports have been helpful to me as I have reflected on how we can help President Sadat and you move forward in the peace negotiations. I want to share with you my thoughts on this critical question.

I am deeply concerned that the more time that passes, the less favorable will be the prospects for success. I believe we should now make a major, determined effort to complete the task we started with such high hopes at Camp David in September.

Secretary Brown will soon be in Israel,5 and I have asked him to discuss with you, among other things, our perception of the strategic [Page 600]situation in your region. Recent trends make clear there is a tide running against the kind of stable and moderate Middle East we both seek. Developments in Iran have contributed to this trend. I know they are of great concern to you, not only because of their immediate impact on the supply of oil to Israel, but also because of their broader implications for the region and for Israel’s security. As I told Ambassador Evron recently, we attach great value to the contribution a stable, strong and democratic Israel can make to security in your region. It seems to me self-evident that the single greatest contribution to stability in the Middle East would be the early successful conclusion of the Egyptian-Israeli peace negotiations. This would create a new reality with which those forces that have been hostile to the Camp David Frameworks would have to reckon. In the absence of early progress in the negotiations, I fear this opportunity may be lost and the security of our friends in the region as a whole will become more vulnerable.

Despite the difficulties that have prevented completion of the Israeli-Egyptian negotiations, I continue to believe that we can achieve the objectives we set for ourselves at Camp David. It is clear to me that all of the remaining issues are closely interrelated and need to be dealt with and resolved together. It is also clear that we must address ourselves to this task as a matter of some urgency, before time begins to work against us and in order to free our energies to deal with our common strategic concerns in your region. The question is how best to proceed. As you know, Mr. Prime Minister, I recently said that I would, if necessary, be prepared to meet again with you and President Sadat. I do not believe, however, that we have sufficiently tested whether such a meeting is necessary or would be fruitful.

I want to suggest for your consideration, therefore, that the negotiations be resumed at the Ministerial level in Washington among Prime Minister Khalil, Foreign Minister Dayan and Secretary Vance. I would be happy to make Camp David available for these talks, so that the three Ministers and their aides would be able to work in private, without interruption, and away from the pressures and glare of the news media. If it is convenient, I suggest that the Ministerial talks begin soon after Secretary Vance and I return from our forthcoming visit to Mexico,6 specifically, on Wednesday, February 21. I am also communicating this suggestion to President Sadat.

I recognize that Foreign Minister Dayan and Prime Minister Khalil would need to consult closely with you and with President Sadat, respectively, as the talks progress. For this reason, I would anticipate [Page 601]that, after several days of intensive discussions, the Ministers might then wish to return home to consult with their governments.

In making this suggestion, Mr. Prime Minister, I want to assure you of my continued personal commitment to the implementation of the Camp David Agreements, beginning with the successful conclusion of the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. I also want to assure you that I recognize and appreciate how fully you share this commitment. I am convinced that President Sadat also remains fully committed to a successful conclusion of the negotiations. The differences remaining between you touch upon matters of vital importance to the national interests and security of your two nations. I do not underestimate their importance. To resolve them will require difficult decisions. I believe, however, that they are not insurmountable. We have travelled most of the road already, and it would be a tragedy if we failed to complete the journey which began with President Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem7 and the statesmanship and vision with which you responded to that visit.

I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience, Mr. Prime Minister, and meanwhile send to you my warm personal regards and continued high respect.

Sincerely yours, Jimmy Carter. End text.

4. We believe it would be desirable to announce8 that Ministerial-level talks will resume at Camp David as soon as this has been agreed by both sides—hopefully in the course of this week. Our intention would be to issue a brief statement along the following lines: Quote: At President Carter’s invitation, President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin have agreed that negotiations between Egypt and Israel should be resumed at Ministerial level. Prime Minister Khalil, Foreign Minister Dayan and Secretary Vance will participate in these talks, which will begin at Camp David on February 21. In agreeing to these talks, all sides have affirmed their commitment to the Camp David Accords and their determination that these negotiations be completed as quickly as possible. Unquote. Please ascertain GOI reaction to an announcement along foregoing lines.

5. I would like you and Hermann Eilts to return to participate in these talks. You should plan to arrive in Washington by Sunday, February 18, which would give us a chance for in-house discussions with you and Hermann before talks with Khalil and Dayan begin.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P850061–2373. Secret; Niact Immediate, Nodis. Drafted by Atherton; cleared by Quandt, Sterner, Hansell, and Stanislaus R.P. Valerga (S/S–O); approved by Vance. Sent for information Immediate to Cairo and the White House. A draft version of this letter, bearing Carter’s handwritten amendments, and an attached, undated covering memorandum from Brzezinski to Carter upon which Carter initialed his approval is in the Carter Library, Brzezinski Donated Material, Subject File, Box 36, Serial Xs—(1/79–2/79).
  2. Begin formally accepted Carter’s invitation in a letter to the President dated February 12. In his acceptance, Begin added, “I respectfully agree with you, Mr. President that the events in our region—the upheaval in Iran is one of them—make it necessary for the United States and the Israeli Government to hold serious consultations about the future, including consideration of contingency plans in connection with any possible development. We hope that such consultations will be held during the important visit of Secretary Brown to our country.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, President’s Correspondence with Foreign Leaders File, Box 10, Israel: Prime Minister Menachem Begin, 1/79–2/80)
  3. See footnote 2, Document 162.
  4. See Document 168.
  5. See Document 176.
  6. Carter was in Mexico February 14–16, where he met with Mexican President Lopez Portillo and addressed the Mexican Congress.
  7. See footnote 3, Document 4.
  8. The U.S. invitation to Egypt and Israel to resume talks at the Ministerial level was announced by Department of State Spokesman Hodding Carter III, February 7. (“U.S. Invites Egypt, Israel to Resume Talks in Washington,” The Washington Post, February 8, p. A26)