180. Summary Prepared in the National Security Council1

First Day of Camp David Talks

The talks got off to a good start today, although no real negotiating was done. Khalil and Dayan get along quite well and are able to carry on a strategic discussion of developments in the Middle East in a very impressive manner. They work well together and with Secretary Vance. The real test will come in the next few days when we see if the good personal and intellectual relationship that exists between the two negotiators can be translated into agreements.

Khalil has come with broad authority to negotiate and he seems genuinely anxious to conclude the talks as soon as possible. At the same time, he is deeply worried about the risks inherent in any agreement which appears to be a separate peace. He is trying hard to develop a regional strategic context in which the negotiations can be concluded. His main point to Dayan is that it is not in Israel’s interest to see Egypt isolated from other Arab countries, particularly in light of the developments in Iran. Dayan acknowledges the point, but asks what price Israel is being asked to pay.

In contrast to Khalil, Dayan is under more constraints as a negotiator. He says that he has authority to negotiate and to recommend but ultimately the Cabinet must approve any agreement. He is worried about the regional situation and talks about this as the last opportunity to reach a peace agreement, but as usual he gives no indication of optimism. He is clearly anxious to see draft proposals on the specific points we have discussed, and in particular on the West Bank-Gaza side letter.

The “Gaza First” option has been discussed in some detail, without any specific agreement in sight. It is not clear that a detailed understanding can be achieved in these talks, but each side seems to feel that a new element is in play and that creates the impression of some positive movement. I personally doubt that any agreement that can now be reached on Gaza will have sufficient credibility to provide Sadat with the political cover in the Arab world that he feels he needs. Nonetheless, this is an idea which will get a full hearing in the next few days.

By Friday or Saturday, it is likely that the talks will have gone about as far as possible, given Dayan’s limited authority. At that point, he will want to return to Israel to talk to Begin and to get Cabinet ap[Page 622]proval for any positions he wants to recommend. He speaks of returning by mid-next week, with Begin if necessary. By contrast, Khalil says that Sadat will only come to a summit to sign an agreement, not to negotiate.

My impression thus far is that both sides do want to reach an agreement, and are worried about the regional situation. But each feels that the other side should make [the] most of the remaining concessions. The Egyptians are quite anxious to maintain the appearance of a common position with us, while Dayan is particularly interested in negotiating U.S.-Israeli bilateral agreements on aid and assurances that we might provide in the event the Egyptians do not honor the treaty. This leaves us with a large and difficult agenda ahead and the good feelings of the first day will come under considerable strain if we get down to specific cases. It would be a serious mistake to ease up the pressure on either side at this point, and if there must be a break in the negotiations, it should be as short as possible and should be followed by a summit immediately. We do have a chance to bring these talks to a successful conclusion, but it will be a close thing.

Tomorrow we will put forward a good draft on the West Bank-Gaza negotiations and the so-called linkage problem. We have some ideas of possible alternatives to introduce into the negotiations at a later date, but we want to hold back some of these ideas in the first round.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East, Subject File, Box 16, Egypt-Israel Negotiations: 2/79. Secret; Eyes Only. No memoranda of conversation for the day’s meetings have been found. Carter initialed “C” at the top of the memorandum, indicating that he saw the document.