202. Summary of Meetings1

March 8, 1979: 7:00 to 9:00 p.m., Abdin Palace, Cairo
American Side Egyptian Side
President Carter President Sadat
Secretary Vance Vice President Mubarak
Dr. Brzezinski Prime Minister Khalil

President Carter and Sadat one-on-one, followed by President Carter, Vance, Brzezinski/Sadat, Mubarak, Khalil.

President Carter assured Sadat that he would represent his interests as well as our own.

Sadat responded by stressing the gratitude of his people and repeated his “two directives”2 (which were previously communicated by Brzezinski to the President). The Egyptian people admire you. We are not governed for the first time in 2,000 years by foreigners. We want friendship with the United States. I shall always be proud of your friendship and brotherhood.

President Carter: I hope we will never let you down. You are probably the most admired statesman in the United States. I hope to conclude the peace process during this trip. The Israelis will be very difficult with implementation of the accords.

Sadat: Proposes an Egyptian-U.S. economic board under Prime Minister Khalil to cut through red tape in U.S.-Egyptian economic relations.

President Carter agrees in principle and stresses the importance of U.S. private enterprise having access to Egypt.

This is followed by detailed review of all negotiating issues and basic U.S.-Egyptian agreement.

[Page 689]March 9, 1979: 7:00 to 8:00 p.m., Maamura Rest House, Alexandria, Egypt (full memcon3 available)

American Side Egyptian Side
President Carter President Sadat
Secretary Vance Vice President Mubarak
Secretary Brown Amb. Ghorbal
Dr. Brzezinski Prime Minister Khalil
Amb. Atherton Hassan Kamel
Hal Saunders Hamid Sayah
Amb. Eilts
Jody Powell
Bill Quandt

Subject: President Carter reviews with President Sadat the proposals he will discuss with Prime Minister Begin; indicates that Secretary Brown will discuss military relations; reviews economic assistance problems. President Sadat conveys encouraging message from Mayor of Gaza; raises economic relationships; asks Economics Minister Sayah to brief on economic priorities; indicates to President Carter that he has authority to negotiate best possible agreement on behalf of Egypt.

March 10, 1979; 4:00 to (?) p.m.,4 Mena Rest House, Giza, Egypt

American Side Egyptian Side
President Carter President Sadat

Private conversation; no record available unless President Carter has one.

March 10, 1979; 8:00 to 10:00 p.m., Prime Minister Begin’s Residence, Private Dinner, Jerusalem, Israel

American Side Israeli Side
President Carter Prime Minister Begin

Private conversation; no record available5 unless President Carter has one.

[Page 690]March 11, 1979; 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Cabinet Room, Jerusalem, Israel (full memcon6 available)

American Side Israeli Side
President Carter Prime Minister Begin
Full American Delegation Cabinet Defense Committee

Subject: President Carter and Secretary Vance present full package of proposals. Prime Minister Begin reacts negatively to changes in notes to Article 6; rejects language in draft letter on West Bank/Gaza concerning implementation in Gaza first and possibility of Egyptian liaison officers.

The Prime Minister begins meeting by introducing his Cabinet. The President thanks him for his hospitality and his working throughout the previous night. He stresses close ties with Israel. He notes that we are now at a historic point. Peace can be achieved with Egypt and then with others and that in turn will enhance the relationship with the U.S. All of this is important to regional stability.

We recognize your need for security and for oil, and we will guarantee it. We will do our best to contain the negative Arab reactions. You have been forthcoming and we appreciate it.

The President then reviews specific points of the agreement.

He notes the extreme importance to the U.S. of the Gaza issue. The deletions are of great importance to the U.S. There must be access to the people of Gaza. The omission of the liaison officers would be a serious loss to us and to Egypt. I cannot send Secretary Vance otherwise to Egypt. I consider this to be crucial.

The Cabinet earlier agreed to withdrawal in stages. We need to know what these stages will be so that we can resolve the issue of ambassadors.

Oil issue: The demand for permanent pledge by Egypt is rejected. The U.S. is prepared to provide guarantees.

Only issue to be resolved: access to Gaza. This is not only for the U.S. but for Egypt.

Begin responds by noting that after normalization the Egyptians would be free to travel anywhere. He is very rigid on the subject of the letter and will not accept the inclusion.

The President: To me this issue is crucial. Your response is not adequate. Only once have we taken such a position. Unless negotiating teams have access, I do not feel I have fulfilled my obligations.

[Page 691]Begin: We will sign only to what we have agreed. None of this is in the Camp David agreements. (Begin keeps interrupting the President and the President has to say “let me finish.”)

March 11, 1979; 3:00 to 3:35 p.m., Cabinet Room, Jerusalem, Israel (full memcon7 available)

American Side Israeli Side
President Carter Prime Minister Begin
Full American Delegation Cabinet Defense Committee

Subject: Continued discussion of Gaza First option, text of West Bank/Gaza letter, discussion of bilateral memorandum of agreement on assurances. Prime Minister Begin asks for two changes in letter of assurances. President Carter concludes with strategic overview, asks each delegation to develop alternative language on Article 6, urges Israeli decision on accelerated withdrawal in exchange for early sending of ambassadors.

March 11, 1979; 5:00 to 5:35 p.m., Cabinet Room, Jerusalem, Israel (full memcon8 available)

American Side Israeli Side
President Carter Prime Minister Begin
Full American Delegation Cabinet Defense Committee

Subject: Discussion of words for notes to Article 6; Prime Minister Begin agrees to convene Cabinet Session in the evening to make decisions on all outstanding issues, including oil and exchange of ambassadors. Begin suggests that Vance then go to Cairo with Israeli proposals. President Carter strongly urges conclusion of all issues of the negotiations during visit. Begin resists, saying that Knesset must be allowed to have full debate.

President Carter makes a strong regional review, emphasizes the importance of progress to U.S. national interest and then adjourns the meeting, having clearly impacted on the Israeli Cabinet.

March 12, 1979; 10:20 to 11:20 a.m., Cabinet Room, Jerusalem, Israel (full memcon9 available)

American Side Israeli Side
President Carter Prime Minister Begin
Full American Delegation Full Israeli Cabinet

[Page 692]Subject: Prime Minister Begin reports on Israeli Cabinet decisions of previous night and Prime Minister Begin responds. Begin explains reason for removing reference to comprehensive peace in note to Article 6, paragraph 2. Begin explains rejection of language in West Bank/Gaza letter on Gaza First and Egyptian liaison. Offers language to the effect that Israeli will consider proposals on Gaza first in next phase of negotiations. Begin insists that Egypt must supply 2.5 million tons of oil annually over long term at market prices. President Carter says that Egypt will not accept this arrangement on oil and asks for Israeli reconsideration. Prime Minister Begin says he can go back to the Cabinet again, but not today. Other Cabinet members discuss importance of oil.10

March 13, 1979; 8:00 to 10:00 a.m., President’s Suite at King David Hotel, Jerusalem, Israel

American Side Israeli Side
President Carter Prime Minister Begin

No record available unless President Carter has one.11

March 13, 1979; 10:00 to 11:00 a.m., King David Hotel

American Side Israeli Side
President Carter Prime Minister Begin
Secretary Vance Foreign Minister Dayan
Dr. Brzezinski

[Page 693]Subject: The President pressed for Begin’s commitments on the issues of oil and withdrawals.

Begin would make no commitments but merely promised to bring this up at the Cabinet next Sunday12 or perhaps on Thursday.13 In general Begin insisted that these issues have to be negotiated out and one must not press for immediate resolution.

March 13, 1979; 3:00 to 5:00 p.m., Cairo Airport14

American Side Egyptian Side
President Carter President Sadat
Secretary Vance Vice President Mubarak
Dr. Brzezinski Prime Minister Khalil

Tuesday, March 13—Meeting at Cairo Airport

The President: I believe my assignment has been carried out satisfactorily. You will be pleased.

Sadat: Marvellous.

The President: First 2 days Begin himself—unpleasant, interrupting. Then moderates convinced Begin to be more accommodating. Begin will wait to hear your position. He will go to the Cabinet this Thursday or Sunday. I believe the Cabinet will approve but I have no guarantee. Then Knesset approval. Begin will pledge to resign. If approved, all invited to Washington for signing ceremony—then exchange of visits between Cairo and Jerusalem.

Items: On commitments—unilateral steps—letter by U.S. to Egypt.

Article 4—no change.

Article 5—technical Egyptian change accepted.

Article 6–V–2 contravene instead of derogate (discussion—Egyptians prefer “inconsistent with”)

Oil—Israelis wanted 2.5 million tons. Finally agreed that in context of normal relations Egypt would sell oil—and U.S. would guarantee for 15 years the needed amount. They have not accepted yet.

[Page 694]Subphasing of withdrawals/ambassadors—Cabinet also to review this. It would be helpful to have diplomatic relations—also El Arish would be evacuated. (Cy reads details of subphasing withdrawals.)

Targetting language—o.k.—“can” changed to “will”

Gaza—prolonged discussion. Could not arrive at acceptable language. Israelis would not agree that formal commitment be made to start with Gaza and Egyptian presence. Agreed to free passage. Israelis finally agreed if Israelis can move freely in Egypt, then Egyptians can do so in Israel, West Bank, Gaza. After diplomatic relations, Consulate or Cultural Center could be established—maybe on the fringes of Gaza.

Sadat: This depends on opening Egypt to Israelis?

The President: Even before treaty is signed any Gazan can travel to Egypt. After one month the negotiating teams can travel. The highway between Gaza/El Arish can be opened within three months. After normal relations, consulate or cultural mission.

Khalil: Designated liaison offices?

The President: No designated liaison offices but consulate OK. Israelis do not want to split off the West Bank from Gaza—not write it into documents.

Secretary Vance reads the proposed letter.

The President: It’s a very good letter, and it leaves you flexible.

Khalil: Wouldn’t it be better to have Gaza first?

The President: It’s better to have a genuine invitation to Hussein stand—for a while at least.

Khalil: When does the five-year transitional period begin?

The President: If the West Bank Palestinians and Jordan refuse to participate, Sadat/Carter would have to resolve the future of the West Bank without their participation because the clock has run out. So we fall back on the Camp David language. I would like to induce Hussein and the Palestinians to take part.

Khalil: Suppose Hussein doesn’t come in? He can block the whole thing. Discussion about implementation letter doesn’t cover it.

Discussion of this issue and intent of Camp David.

The President: I would like to have your approval of what we have negotiated, including U.S. position on oil and phased withdrawal/ambassadors (if Cabinet approves).

Sadat: Ambassadors—one month after? Yes, if the Cabinet approves the withdrawals.

The President: One month after interim withdrawal—we need your approval. I would like to ask two more things as gestures of goodwill:

—Open the borders to movement of people, maybe in three months after El Arish.

[Page 695]—Encourage Egyptian TV & newspapers to have a more friendly attitude toward Israel.

I hope you can help on these two things.

Sadat: According to the laws of every country.

The President: Yes, even without waiting for normal diplomatic relations. Begin would respond immediately.

Unilateral commitments—

—no peaceful political activity forbidden;

—no restriction on free expression;

—no restriction on freedom of movement and travel abroad;

—amnesty—under existing British law—32 under current detention. Begin will have the law abolished (others have been tried—range 2,000–3,400);

—will expand program on family reunification;

—there is a limit on return to West Bank/Gaza

—planning to move military HQ out of populated areas. No more military maneuvers in above areas.

I will give you a letter to that effect.

Last item: I don’t know if you can do this. I told Yadin I would ask you to invite Yadin to visit Cairo museum, pyramids. A small personal thing . . . maybe you can do it.

This is what I would like to say: that I reported to you; on all items there was agreement, you accept; on other issues there are U.S. proposals—and that you have agreed (oil/ambassadors-withdrawal); and that Begin has agreed to put these proposals to his Cabinet. This will be a U.S.-Egyptian agreement and the Israelis will have to accept or reject.

(Discussion of meaning of Article 6. The President makes the point that you should interpret the language as your victory. The Israelis always do that.)

The President: For the last 18 months I, the President of the most powerful nation on earth, have acted the postman. I am not a proud man—I have done the best I could—but I cannot go back to try to change the language. (Above in response to Khalil’s request for word change.)

Egyptians will send letter to Cy saying that “not consistent” = “not contravene.”

Sadat: Will invite Yadin after the signing; will open the frontiers after El Arish.

Hassan has asked for $22 [million] help in arms. Will need your help. Bokassa also asked for arms. SR–71 will have facilities for Yemen flights.

The President: Let Brown handle this—his military team.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Outside the System File, Box 66, Middle East: President Carter’s Trip to Jerusalem and Cairo: 2–4/79. Secret. The summary of meetings was found attached to a March 15 covering memorandum from Brzezinski to Carter in which Brzezinski pointed out to the President, “You will note that for some of them we have full memcons, and for some of them only you have any record since no one else was present. At some meetings, for example your last one with Begin, no record was taken because the format was conversational.” (Ibid.)
  2. See Document 198.
  3. See Document 203.
  4. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Carter was escorted by Sadat to the Scherazade Room at the Mena Rest House after attending a luncheon for U.S. and Egyptian officials. At 3:58 p.m., Carter went to a holding room before proceeding with Sadat to the terrace of the Mena Rest House at 4:47 p.m. (Carter Library, Presidential Materials)
  5. No memorandum of conversation for this meeting has been found. Carter provided an account of this meeting in his memoirs, including an excerpt from his personal diary, characterizing it as “extremely unsatisfactory.” (Carter, Keeping Faith, pp. 420–421)
  6. See Document 204.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.
  9. See Document 206.
  10. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Carter had an additional working luncheon meeting with the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee of the Knesset, following his televised address to the assembled legislature on the afternoon of March 12. The meeting, held at the Knesset, began at 2:02 p.m. and continued until 3:02 p.m. (Carter Library, Presidential Materials) No memorandum of conversation for this meeting has been found, but Carter’s handwritten notes and a list of talking points are in the Carter Library, Plains File, President’s Personal Foreign Affairs File, Box 2, Israel, 3/79. In his memoirs, Carter stated that during the meeting he listened as “the leaders of the various political factions expressed their hopes and concerns to me” and described the meeting as an “excellent, constructive exchange of views.” (Carter, Keeping Faith, p. 423) For the details of Carter’s speech to the Knesset and of the round of U.S.-Israeli Ministerial-level meetings during the afternoon and evening of March 12, see Document 207.
  11. No memorandum of conversation for this meeting has been found. Carter’s handwritten notes from the meeting are in the Carter Library, Plains File, President’s Personal Foreign Affairs File, Box 2, Israel, 3/79. According to Vance, the meeting took place at Dayan’s suggestion (see Document 207), following a round of discussions at the Ministerial level the evening of March 12. Carter recalled in his memoirs that during the meeting Begin and he “reviewed again the proposals which were necessary for Egypt and seemed to me advantageous for Israel.” “I could easily see a clear resolution of the remaining issues,” Carter remembered, and assured Begin that the United States would “guarantee” Israel an “adequate supply” of oil if Israel could not get access to Sinai supplies, that Sadat would agree to an exchange of ambassadors if Israel kept its “promise” to an “early withdrawal” from Western Sinai. Pressed by Carter, Begin also agreed that the Palestinians would “be permitted peaceful political activity” and limits on the movement of West Bank and Gaza residents would be lifted. (Carter, Keeping Faith, p. 424)
  12. March 18.
  13. March 15. Vance recalled in his memoirs that Begin agreed to take the U.S. proposal assuring the Israeli oil supply discussed by Dayan and Vance, March 12–13 (see Document 207), to the Israeli Cabinet “immediately.” Moreover, Carter agreed to Israeli suggestions regarding Gaza, whereby references to elections in Gaza first would be deferred to the planned post-treaty autonomy talks and references to Egyptian liaison officers in Gaza would be dropped from the West Bank and Gaza letter attached to the final treaty text. Carter also asked Begin whether “unilateral steps” could be taken by Israel on the West Bank to “improve the atmosphere,” a request Begin said he would consider “sympathetically.” (Vance, Hard Choices, p. 251)
  14. Carter’s handwritten notes from this meeting are in the Carter Library, Plains File, President’s Personal Foreign Affairs File, Box 1, Egypt, 11/77–11/81.