246. Editorial Note
President Jimmy Carter announced on April 24, 1979, the appointment of Special Trade Representative Robert S. Strauss as his Special Representative for Middle East Peace Negotiations. Strauss was appointed to the rank of Ambassador at Large, replacing Alfred L. Atherton, Jr., who had been named Ambassador to Egypt. The text of Carter’s announcement, along with statements by Strauss and Secretary of State Cyrus Vance to the assembled press, is printed in Public Papers: Carter, 1979, Book I, pages 687–690. Although Strauss had no prior experience in dealing with Middle East issues, he had recently returned from a trade and investment mission to Egypt and Israel. Strauss visited Egypt April 17–19, meeting with Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat, Vice President Hosni Mubarak, and Prime Minister Mustapha Khalil, and other top Egyptian officials to discuss the global economic situation as well as U.S.-Egyptian bilateral business relations. An overview of the Egyptian talks is in telegram 8106 from Cairo, April 20. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790182–0362) Strauss’s meetings with Sadat, Mubarak, and Khalil on April 17 are summarized in telegram 7910 from Cairo, April 18. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790178–1064) The Embassy reported on further discussions with the Egyptian section of the Joint Business Council on April 17 and top Egyptian economic officials on April 18 in telegram 7980 from Cairo, April 19, and telegram 8050 from Cairo, April 19, respectively. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790180–0311 and D790180–0943) Strauss arrived in Israel April 19 for a 30-hour visit, meeting with Israeli officials, including Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Minister for Foreign Affairs Moshe Dayan, Minister for Defense Ezer Weizman, Minister for Finance Simcha Ehrlich, and Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism Gideon Patt.
On April 20, Strauss and Patt signed the U.S.-Israel Multilateral Trade Negotiation Agreement. In telegram 8383 from Tel Aviv, April 23, the Embassy summarized all of Strauss’s meetings with the Israelis. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790186–0233) Telegram 8242 from Tel Aviv, April 21, and telegram 8249 from Tel Aviv, April 21, respectively reported on Strauss’s individual meetings with Dayan and Weizman. (National Archives, Central Foreign Policy File, D790183–0794 and D790183–1082) In telegram 8188 from Tel Aviv, April 20, the Embassy reported Strauss’s discussion with Ehrlich on April 19. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy, D790182–0592)
Before making the public announcement of Strauss’s appointment, Carter confirmed his decision with Begin and Sadat in separate telephone conversations on the afternoon of April 24. According to the [Page 826]President’s Daily Diary, Carter spoke with Begin from 3:33 p.m. to 3:37 p.m. and with Sadat from 3:38 p.m. to 3:43 p.m. (Carter Library, Presidential Materials) A transcript of the brief conversation with Begin is in the Carter Library, Plains File, President’s Personal Foreign Affairs File, Box 2, Israel, 4/79–11/81. No transcript of Carter’s conversation with Sadat has been found, though the President indicated in his announcement that both leaders were pleased with the decision. Carter’s handwritten notes related to the telephone discussions are in the Carter Library, Plains File, President’s Personal Foreign Affairs File, Box 1, Egypt, 11/77–11/81.