209. Memorandum From the White House Counsel (Lipshutz) for the File1

This memorandum is being dictated as we return on Air Force One from Israel and Egypt on March 13, 1979.

Approximately one hour ago, President Carter announced at the Cairo Airport, with President Sadat of Egypt standing at his side, that President Sadat had accepted in full all of the proposals for settlement of the various problems involved in the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. President Carter announced that he had just talked with Prime Minister Begin, which I witnessed at the Cairo Airport, advising him of [Page 734]this decision by President Sadat.2 And Begin stated that he would submit the final matters to his Cabinet. We heard shortly after takeoff from Cairo that Begin had called a meeting of the Israeli Cabinet for 10:00 a.m. tomorrow morning,3 Israel time, to discuss and decide upon these last outstanding matters.

Clearly, the final decision is in the hands of the Israelis on the few remaining and relatively less important questions, the resolution of which has been recommended by President Carter and agreed to by President Sadat, and which Begin previously had agreed with Carter to submit to the Cabinet (although he had not stated whether or not he would recommend them to his Cabinet).

On board Air Force One the atmosphere is one of exhilaration, tempered somewhat by the realization that there are still many weeks and months of difficult implementation lying ahead, assuming that the Israeli Cabinet will agree to the final details and that the Knesset of Israel will ratify these actions. The President himself has walked through the plane, thanking everyone who has been involved in the process for their help, and Secretary Vance has received particular expressions of admiration and congratulations along with the President for his role in this process, which has included 10 trips to the Middle East during the past couple of years.

In addition to the President and Mrs. Carter on board, also on board are Secretary and Mrs. Vance, Secretary Harold Brown, Dr. Brzezinski, Hamilton Jordan, Gerald Rafshoon, Ed Sanders, Roy Atherton, Harold Saunders, Bill Quandt, Herbert Hansell, et al. Secretary Vance commented very forcibly that this was a successful team effort and that everybody on board this plane particularly, as well as others, had made a significant contribution to the success of this long effort. One of the obviously important items which must be worked upon is the selection of the United States’ representative for the future negotiations between the parties, which are going to be extremely tedious, time-consuming, and complex. Secretary Vance mentioned that it is extremely difficult to find someone like Sol Linowitz, who was excellent in the Panama Canal Treaty negotiations, to handle such a project.4 Every effort obviously should be made to find a person who has the right characteristics and [Page 735]tenacity to represent the United States government, because these negotiations have proved that it is essential that our government play a key role in the relationship between Israel and Egypt.

In reviewing many of the details of the agreements which have been worked out, it is obvious that the various specific recommendations which I passed on to the President as a result of my communications with Leon Charney, which resulted from his communications with Ezer Weizmann, have been both accurate and helpful.5 It is important that first I write an appropriate letter to Leon and further that something from the President be sent to him as an expression of appreciation. This does not mean that the relationship is ended; to the contrary, it probably will continue for a very long period of time and hopefully be as helpful as it has in the past. It is obvious that Ezer Weizmann and Harold Brown have an excellent relationship established and therefore that it may be that many matters which we had handled through these “back channels” can be handled in a direct manner in the future. I have not discussed this with Harold Brown, I do not know if he is interested in getting into the diplomatic or political aspect of relationships, but we should determine these things to make sure that we are coordinated and utilizing this entire relationship with Weizmann in the most effective manner. Perhaps I should discuss this with the President first, and then with Harold Brown.

Having been so close to the day-to-day and hour-to-hour negotiations and other activities in connection with this matter, particularly over the past several days, it is difficult to comprehend the magnitude of the entire situation. Several of us have discussed this and realize that it really is a mammoth undertaking which the President embarked upon, and it appears that the success of it will have a profound effect on both the United States and Israel, as well as many other millions of [Page 736]people throughout the world. That is what makes it so difficult to comprehend when you are involved in the minutiae, as well as other things relating to a situation like this.

It is interesting to recall now how Jody and others handled the press treatment of this entire project. From the beginning it was represented, properly, as a mission which had no assurance of success and, to the contrary, had significant likelihood of not succeeding. It is obvious that many cynics felt that President Carter already “had it wrapped up” before he embarked upon the venture, but that is now quite obviously false.

The expectations of success for this trip were correct for two reasons:

1. In fact it was a high risk venture with no assurance whatsoever of success and with every possibility of failure.

2. By keeping the expectations low, should it prove to be successful (as it has) then the accomplishment would of course, seem even greater.

President Carter throughout this entire Middle East situation has demonstrated some amazing characteristics, and even though I have had almost unlimited faith in him for many years, even I did not comprehend his capacity to handle this situation in the manner he has. Among these characteristics are:

1. The ability to study and understand this tremendously complex situation involving so much history, emotions, geopolitical considerations, etc.

2. The ability to establish personal relationships with people who are attractive and people who are unattractive, but all of whom were necessary to give any hope of succeeding in these negotiations.

3. The willingness to devote the amount of time which he has devoted to this entire matter, much more than he has devoted to any other matter since he became President. (I personally believe that he really has taken this on as a “mission” not only because he is President, but because of his personal feelings and concern about this entire situation.)

4. His patience and tenacity in pursuing this basic objective of peace in the Middle East, which he has expressed over the last three or four years, and which he has demonstrated over the last two years. This obviously is in the face of tremendous opposition, frustration, and discouragement.

5. His ability to handle the numerous legal problems involved in negotiation of a treaty, injecting not only the necessary technical abilities, but also the psychological and other factors which have proved to be so necessary in order to reach some type of resolution.

[Page 737]6. His ability to use personal relationships in such a constructive manner as this, which heretofore I personally had seen only in much less significant situations.

For me personally, this of course is a tremendously meaningful experience. To play even a very small role in the achievement of peace in the Middle East between Israel and Egypt, hopefully portending a long term of peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors throughout the region, is something that I would have hoped to do, but never dared expect to do, or to be even a small part of, except for the fortuitous relationship which Jimmy Carter and I have developed with each other over the past six or seven years.

Perhaps incorrectly, I feel that one of the reasons which has made Jimmy Carter so tenacious in his efforts to bring about this peace in the Middle East, even though probably subconsciously, is his relationship with me, personally. Obviously there are even more compelling reasons for him to have done so, but it is a source of tremendous satisfaction to me that I have this particular feeling and it makes a lot of the effort of the past four or five years worthwhile.

And, it also makes the “slings and arrows” of the last two years, particularly from Jewish people and Jewish groups, lose their sting and dull the pain.

Bob Lipshutz
  1. Source: Carter Library, Vertical File, Camp David Accords. No classification marking.
  2. For the text of Carter’s statement at the Cairo airport following his meeting with Sadat, March 13, see Public Papers: Carter, 1979, p. 430. Although Carter references a telephone conversation with Begin in his remarks no memorandum of conversation of the call has been found, nor is the call logged in the President’s Daily Diary.
  3. See Document 211 for a discussion of the Cabinet meeting.
  4. Carter announced the appointment of Special Trade Representative Robert S. Strauss as his personal “Ambassador-at-Large” to the Middle East negotiations on April 24. (Bernard Gwertzman, “Strauss Appointed Envoy for Mideast,” The New York Times, April 25, 1979, p. A1) Sol Linowitz would succeed Strauss in this role on January 29, 1980.
  5. Charney, who was Weizman’s U.S. attorney and attached to the U.S. delegation in Jerusalem, wrote that the lack of progress in the March 12 talks had left Lipshutz “depressed.” Meeting with Lipshutz, Charney stated that he “pressed” him to “write a memo to the President urging him to insist on taking a signed paper back to the States with him; further, the Americans and Israelis should agree on what had been previously agreed upon and let time settle the outstanding matters.” (Charney, Special Counsel, pp. 132–133) Following this meeting, Lipshutz produced a handwritten memorandum for Carter at 10 p.m., March 12, which is in the Carter Library, Plains File, President’s Personal Foreign Affairs File, Box 3, Mid East, 12/78–3/79. As Lipshutz was delivering this memorandum to Carter, Charney wrote, Weizman summoned Charney to a meeting later in the evening of March 12. (Charney, Special Counsel, pp. 134–136) At 11:30 p.m., March 12, Lipshutz wrote a second memorandum for Carter, conveying the suggestions made during the Charney-Weizman meeting, including proposals for an exchange of Israeli and Egyptian military personnel in lieu of Egyptian liaison personnel in Gaza and for Egypt to sell Israel a fixed number of barrels of oil at world market rates “provided it does not jeopardize (conflict with) Egyptian national interests,” backed by a U.S. guarantee. This memorandum is ibid. Charney noted that this memorandum was passed to Carter on the morning of March 13. (Charney, Special Counsel, p. 137)