185. Telegram From the Embassy in Israel to the Department of State and the White House1

4000. Subject: Letter From Prime Minister Begin to the President.

1. Secret-entire message.

2. Ciechanover’s office has just telephoned us following text of Begin’s letter to the President. We understand Ambassador Evron has been instructed to deliver the letter to the White House immediately upon receipt.2

Quote Dear Mr. President:

I thank you for your letter of February 263 and for the invitation it contained to participate this week in a meeting, under your sponsorship, with the Prime Minister of Egypt, Dr. Khalil.

Foreign Minister Dayan today reported in detail to the Cabinet on the talks at Camp David. It is clear that no progress was made towards an agreement between the parties on the outstanding issues. Indeed, Egypt actually hardened its positions and, in addition to its previous proposals which Israel could not accept, has now put forth further proposals which are either inconsistent with the Camp David Accords of September 17, 1978, or make the peace treaty so meaningless as to be totally unacceptable to Israel. My colleagues and I were compelled, therefore, to ask ourselves whether, under these circumstances, a meeting between Dr. Khalil and myself could be of value to advance an understanding between us in the peacemaking effort. Regretably but unavoidably, we reached the conclusion that such a meeting would not be useful. Mr. President, in your letter to me of February 6, 1979,4 you wrote: “I recognize that Foreign Minister Dayan and Prime Minister Khalil would need to consult closely with you and President Sadat, respectively, as the discussions progressed. For this reason, I would anticipate that, after several days of intensive discussions, the Ministers might then wish to return home to consult with their governments.”

[Page 629]Upon hearing the Foreign Minister’s latest report it became apparent to us that the deliberations of the Cabinet required more time in order to take, after due study, appropriate decisions.

In your aforementioned letter you also wrote: “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.”

Now that the “test” has been made it is evident to my colleagues and to me that a meeting between myself and Dr. Khalil empowered—as we have learned from President Sadat’s public statements—to stand obstinately on Egypt’s demands, could not be useful and perhaps even be detrimental.

I therefore am regretfully compelled to inform you, Mr. President, that I cannot leave tomorrow for the proposed meeting at Camp David.

I am, of course, prepared to meet with you as is the custom between us and in the spirit of our traditional friendship, for talks on all subjects bearing upon the peacemaking process, the regional issues in the wake of recent developments and our bilateral relations. I shall be ready to make a journey to you for such a meeting at your convenience at any time in the near future.

Yours sincerely and respectfully,

Menachem Begin.


  1. Source: 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. Secret; Flash; Exdis Distribute as Nodis. Printed from a copy that indicates the original was received in the White House Situation Room. Carter initialed “C” at the top of the telegram, indicating that he saw the document.
  2. A copy of this version of the letter, transmitted to Carter by Evron on February 27, is ibid.
  3. See Document 184.
  4. See Document 174.