264. Telegram From the Department of State to Secretary of State Vance1

Tosec 50033/154608. For Secretary Vance from Saunders. Subject: Response to Israeli Query on U.S. Participation in Negotiations.

1. (C) Entire text.

2. For Mitchell: Following is the text of the response we propose to make to the Israelis on the U.S. role in the coming negotiations. The Israeli note2 to which we are responding is in para 16 of Tel Aviv 12823, which we are repeating to you. Sam Lewis after discussions3 with

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Begin, Burg, and Dayan urges that we get this response to him for delivery4 Saturday before the Sunday Cabinet meeting in Israel. He and the Israelis to whom he has spoken believe there is considerable advantage in closing this chapter promptly. I have cleared the proposed response below with Bob Strauss and Jim Leonard. When the Secretary is satisfied with a text, would you please send his decision directly to Tel Aviv and Cairo with an info copy to us.

3. Begin text: The position of the United States with respect to the West Bank/Gaza negotiations is based on the Framework for Peace in the Middle East5 and on the joint letter of March 26, 1979,6 addressed by President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin to President Carter. While as sovereign powers Egypt and Israel obviously have the right to reach agreements without U.S. assistance, the letter of March 26 confirms the understanding of President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin “that the United States Government will participate fully in all stages of negotiations.” We consider this to mean that the parties wish the United States to be a “full partner” in the negotiations with Egypt and Israel. As President Carter said on April 24 when he announced7 his appointment of Ambassador Robert Strauss to serve as Ambassador-at-large for the United States’ participation in these negotiations, “I have personally promised President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin that the United States will contribute our good offices to see that those negotiations are as successful as those which resulted in the treaty which was signed between Israel and Egypt last month.” Our purpose is to help the parties specified in the Framework reach agreement on a transitional regime for the West Bank and Gaza. As in the past, we will welcome any progress toward this goal that can be made by the parties. We are prepared, as we have been asked to do, to play the same kind of role that we have played in the negotiations which led to the two frameworks and the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty. Should the parties agree among themselves to invite the United States to sign an agreement in any capacity, the United States would respond in accordance with its consti [Page 871] tutional procedures after studying the nature of the request and of the agreement. President Carter’s instructions to Ambassador Strauss

are in keeping with the above position. End text.

4. For the Secretary: Please note the following origins of two points in the above text:

A. The next-to-last sentence is included to meet Boutros’ request that we keep the door open to signing as a party. This is the one specific request the Egyptians made. Our reply is that we will decide in the light of the situation and the document produced. Bob Strauss independently suggested this point.

B. The April 24 quotation from the President and the last sentence are included at Bob Strauss’ request. I believe they are useful additions because they show further continuity in our position reaching right down into the new negotiations.

5. For Tel Aviv: Please hold the above in readiness for delivery to the Israelis only when you receive a go-ahead from the Secretary in Vienna.

6. For Cairo: When you have seen the Secretary’s approval, please give the Egyptians8 the text of the above for their information.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790271–0802. Confidential; Immediate; Stadis. Drafted by Saunders; cleared in draft by Strauss and Leonard and cleared by Richard Castrodale (S/S–O); approved by Saunders. Sent for information Immediate to Tel Aviv and Cairo. Vance was in Vienna with Carter for the U.S.-Soviet Summit and the signing of the SALT II Treaty.
  2. Sent June 14. The note, believed by Lewis to have been “vetted (or perhaps drafted) by Begin” and distributed to the press on June 14, stated the Israeli Government’s position on U.S. participation: “Egypt and Israel undertook commitments in the Camp David Agreement and in the joint letter from President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin addressed to President Carter. These commitments are to be scrupulously carried out by both parties. In the Camp David Agreement, it is stipulated: ‘The U.S. shall be invited to participate in talks on matters relating to modalities of implementation of the Agreement and working out of the time table for carrying out of the obligations of the participants.’ In the aforementioned letter, dated 3/26/79, it is stated: ‘This letter also confirms our understanding that the U.S. Government will participate fully in all stages of the negotiations.’ This, therefore, is the United States’ role. Nothing shall be detracted from or added to these definitions.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790269–0287)
  3. Lewis met with Begin, Dayan, and Burg in separate meetings on June 14. Begin requested that the U.S. Government respond “very urgently” to Israel’s request for a statement on how it viewed the U.S. role in the negotiations. In a conversation described by Lewis as “very depressing,” Dayan stated that Rosenne had made a “stupid mistake” in using the term “observer” at Alexandria and emphasized that “no one disagreed that we [the United States] should be a full negotiating partner.” However, Dayan added, if the United States were to be a “party” in the “formal sense, this would indeed require a revision of the Camp David Accords.” In conclusion, Lewis commented to the Department: “The fundamental idiocy of the way the Israeli negotiating team and structure has been put together will put an enormous boulder in the road no matter how we try to ignore it. Dayan himself is determined to stay out of it to the maximum extent possible, since he cannot accept or agree with the way in which the GOI is approaching both the organizational side and the substance.” Lewis added that Dayan “regretted very much the fact that at Alexandria there was so little private contact between the American and the Israeli delegations, and that the Israelis all felt an intangible but very real atmosphere of coolness between the delegations.” Lewis noted that the “atmospheric issue” needed U.S. attention, since the Israelis “already are deeply suspicious that the U.S. and Egypt have mapped out the game plan together in a direction which is very contrary” to their “desires and purposes.” (Telegram 12917 from Tel Aviv, June 15; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790270–1209) Lewis met with Burg earlier in the day, where among the issues discussed was the appearance of an article in the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv, alleging that Leonard had been “unfriendly” to the Israeli delegation and that the United States had “tried to dominate” the talks, charges Burg dismissed as “totally fallacious.” (Telegram 12823 from Tel Aviv, June 14; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790269–0287)
  4. Vance and Brzezinski approved the text of the response on June 16. (Telegram Secto 5006 from Vance in Vienna, June 16; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790272–0324) Lewis read the text over the telephone to both Begin and Dayan on June 16. On the conversation which followed, Lewis reported, “Dayan said it sounded quite satisfactory to him” and that Begin “also thought it would be alright, but characteristically, he wanted to study it in written form more carefully.” Lewis also reported that he would deliver the text to Burg after the Sabbath had ended. (Telegram 12947 from Tel Aviv, June 16; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790272–1120) Burg’s more critical response is in telegram 13198 from Tel Aviv, June 20; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P850052–2703)
  5. See Document 57.
  6. See Document 239.
  7. See Document 246.
  8. Atherton delivered the U.S. response to Khalil on June 16. (Telegram 12413 from Cairo, June 16; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790272–0794)