276. Memorandum From the Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs (Aaron) to Vice President Mondale1


  • Middle East

The following is some updating requested today by Denis Clift:

UNEF. The Soviets informed us last week2 that they would definitely veto a renewal of UNEF when it comes up for renewal on July 24.3 They would, however, accept the use of UNTSO, provided it would not be seen as a “replacement.” Waldheim could work out details (and said he would want to about triple it, to around 250–300). No U.S. or Soviet forces would be involved. (C)

This all seemed pro forma. Egypt concurred. But the Israeli cabinet on Sunday4 rejected UNTSO (too lightly armed; distrust of the UN). The Israelis are confusing the pledge we made for a peacekeeping force for after their withdrawal, and the interim phase. We are pressing the Israelis, but Dayan is holding fast to his line that we must provide some non-UN alternative now—perhaps through U.S.-initiated talks with Israel and Egypt. The Egyptians will also press Israel on UNTSO (they are willing to go ahead with UNTSO on their side of the line). (S)

Settlements. At the UN Friday,5 we abstained on a Security Council resolution on the report of the Settlements Commission, but made a strong statement against the policy. The stated reason for abstaining was that refugees and Jerusalem were shoe-horned in. There was also a [Page 896] sense of not being party to yet another useless UN gang-up on Israel—while making our own position clear. Begin had wanted us to veto. (S)

Begin. The latest (unconfirmed) report is that the blood clot in a brain artery has cost him 25% of his vision in one eye, 10% in the other. Strauss and the President have sent messages.6 (U)

Palestinians. The UN Security Council is about to consider a resolution on Palestinian rights.7 Through the Kuwaitis, we have been told that the PLO is prepared to endorse 242 (our condition for talking with them). This subject will be the centerpiece of a “non-PRC” at 3 p.m. on Wednesday.8 Your attending would be of great benefit.9 (S)

Lebanon. From June 27 until Sunday, the Israelis had not used aircraft to strike at PLO bases in Lebanon. The Sunday strike10 was particularly bloody. State has put out a statement of disapproval. There are also growing signs of a possible major Israeli military action in Lebanon, though no hard information. Strauss suggested to Begin that he consider a moratorium. Begin said he would talk about it further when Strauss next goes to Israel. This subject—in broad context—will also be discussed on Wednesday. (S)

Autonomy Talks. Since Strauss’ visit, we have been working with the Egyptians and Israelis on the setting up of the two working groups (modalities of elections, and powers and responsibilities of the Self-Governing Authority). Each will have two members (Jim Leonard will be on both for us). Some Israeli members of the full talks wanted to attend, but we and the Egyptians have wanted to put the level down a notch, to give the groups a chance to work. We hope they can get to [Page 897] work this week, and we have some ideas on structure to put forward at the appropriate moment. (C)

Alexandria Summit. Begin and Sadat seemed to get along during their three-day (three-hour) summit11 (Strauss helped prepare the ground by relaying the positive comments each made to him about the other). They kept off really sensitive subjects, and agreed to disagree on settlements and on Lebanon. They agreed that Israel could begin buying Sinai oil the day after the field is returned; that they would see about reopening the Egypt-Israel railroad (there are some indications of Canadian backing); and there would be better processing of applications by Egyptian Jews to visit Israel. Not much; but the atmospherics were good, and the “routine” nature of meetings was established (the next to be in Haifa right after Ramadan). Remarkably, the Begin and Sadat reports to the President were almost identical. (C)

Strauss. He currently plans to go back to the area at the end of August, immediately after Sadat’s yacht trip to Haifa (after Ramadan). At the same time, he will in general seek to keep from being sucked into the day-to-day haggling at the Autonomy Talks. (C)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 51, Middle East: 7/79. Secret; Sensitive; Outside the System. Sent for information.
  2. On July 17, Soviet First Deputy Foreign Minister Korniyenko informed the Embassy in Moscow that the Soviet Union was prepared to accept the use of UNTSO observers in the Sinai. (Telegram 18354 from Moscow, July 17; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840142–2539) Two days later, an Austrian UN official informed the U.S. Mission to the Sinai of a conversation with a Soviet colleague in which the latter stated the Soviet Union would “certainly veto” a renewal of the UNEF mandate. (Telegram 1450 from the U.S. Mission to the Sinai, July 21; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790335–0500)
  3. On July 24, Waldheim informed the UN Security Council that the UNEF would expire and that he would consult with Egypt and Israel on the use of UNTSO in Sinai. (Memorandum from Hunter to Brzezinski, July 24; Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Presidential Advisory Board, Box 78, Sensitive X: 4–7/79)
  4. July 22.
  5. July 20.
  6. The Department transmitted Carter’s message conveying wishes for Begin’s “quick recovery” following his hospitalization in telegram 189702 to Tel Aviv, July 21. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790333–0166) Vance sent a similar message on July 20. (Telegram 188605 to Tel Aviv, July 20; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790331–0456) The text of Strauss’s message has not been found.
  7. The draft resolution was developed in response to letters produced on March 13 and June 27 for the Security Council from the Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People stating the centrality of the “question of Palestine” to the “problem” of the Middle East and the need for any solution to that problem to take into account the rights of Palestinians, the “full exercise” of which would “contribute to a solution.” Moreover, the Chairman reported, the participation of the PLO was “indispensable to all negotiations undertaken under United Nations auspices” and the “acquisition of territory by force was inadmissible and Israel must withdraw from any territory so occupied.” (Yearbook of the United Nations, 1979, p. 364)
  8. See Document 277.
  9. An unknown hand underlined this sentence.
  10. On July 22, Israeli aircraft struck targets in Naimah, Damour, Sarafand, and other locations in Lebanon, resulting in numerous civilian casualties according to press estimates. (Telegram 4070 from Beirut, July 23; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790335–0988)
  11. For Begin’s and Sadat’s respective reports on the Alexandria Summit, see Document 272 and footnote 3 thereto.