255. Summary of Conclusions of a Presidential Review Committee Meeting1


  • West Bank/Gaza Negotiations


  • State

    • Secretary Cyrus Vance
    • Harold Saunders, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs
    • Michael Sterner, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs
  • Defense

    • Deputy Secretary Charles Duncan
    • Robert Murray, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Near Eastern, African and South Asian Affairs
  • JCS

    • Lt. General William Smith
  • DCI

    • Frank Carlucci, Deputy Director
    • John Helgerson, Assistant NIO for Near East and South Asia
  • White House

    • Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski
    • David Aaron
  • NSC

    • Robert Hunter
    • William Quandt
  • STR

    • Ambassador Robert Strauss, Special Representative for Trade Negotiations
    • Ambassador James Leonard

1. Objectives. Secretary Vance stated that the West Bank/Gaza negotiations would have critical importance for the stability of the Egypt-Israel treaty and for the trends in the Arab world. Early progress will be essential, despite the difficulty and unfamiliarity of the issues. (S)

2. Trends. Ambassador Strauss noted that nearly all the trends in the Middle East are negative. Arab opposition to Sadat is deeper than expected. Israeli settlement activity is likely to increase. We must do something to reverse these trends. (S)

3. Settlements. It was generally agreed that the best issue on which to take a stand is Israeli settlement activity. Secretary Vance said that he would talk to both Prime Minister Begin and President Sadat about settlements. Sadat might then raise the issue directly with Begin. Ambas [Page 847] sador Strauss emphasized the importance of preparing the way carefully in Congress and the American Jewish community first. Begin needs to see that restraint on settlements will be advantageous to him in terms of his standing in this country, however much it may be difficult for him in Israel. Secretary Vance and Ambassador Leonard also stressed the importance of Israeli restraint in Lebanon. (S)

4. US Role in Negotiations. Ambassador Strauss urged that we not stake out positions on sensitive issues from the outset. Dr. Brzezinski argued that we should base our initial statement on the Camp David accords, allowing the Egyptians and Israelis to go through an inevitable period of arguing over how Camp David should be implemented. At a later date, the US could step in with proposals to help bridge the differences. (S)

5. Vance Trip. It was generally agreed that Ambassador Strauss should make an effort to accompany Secretary Vance on the first part of his Middle East trip.2 Ambassador Strauss felt that he should begin to be seen as directly involved in the West Bank/Gaza issues and would try to adjust his schedule. State and NSC will work together on a statement for Secretary Vance to make at the opening of the negotiations.3 (S)

  1. Source: Carter Library, Brzezinski Donated Material, Subject File, Box 25, (Meetings—PRC 107: 5/17/79). Secret. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room. The minutes of this meeting are ibid. Quandt sent the summary to Brzezinski for approval under a May 17 memorandum in which Quandt noted that he did not feel it was “essential” for Carter to see the summary and that he would instead prepare a short note for him. A notation in an unknown hand in the margin indicates that this was done on May 18. Aaron initialed approval of the summary, presumably on Brzezinski’s behalf. (Ibid.)
  2. Vance’s trip included stops in London May 20–24 for meetings with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington, and Begin; Cairo, on May 24, for a meeting with Sadat; and Tel Aviv and Beersheba, to attend the opening of the autonomy talks, as well as El Arish, to attend the ceremonies accompanying the transfer of power there from Israeli to Egyptian authorities May 24–27. Vance then visited Rome, Vatican City, The Hague, and Madrid May 27–June 2.
  3. Vance’s statement, delivered at the opening of the negotiations in Beersheba, May 25, is printed in the Department of State Bulletin, August 1979, pp. 48–49.