33. Memorandum of Conversation1



    • Vice President Mondale
    • Cyrus Vance, Secretary of State
    • Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Council Advisor to the President
    • Alfred L. Atherton, Jr., Ambassador at Large
    • Harold H. Saunders, Assistant Secretary, NEA
    • Samuel Lewis, Ambassador to Israel
    • William Quandt, NSC
    • David Aaron, NSC

    • Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan
    • Minister of Defense Ezer Weizmann
    • Prof. Aharon Barak, Member Israeli Supreme Court and Prime Minister’s Legal Advisor
    • Major General Avraham Tamir, Director, Army Planning Branch
    • Ambassador Simcha Dinitz
    • Dr. Meir Rosenne, Legal Advisor to the Foreign Minister


  • Meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister and Defense Minister

Secretary Vance introduced this first meeting of the two delegations by outlining the schedule of meetings for the rest of the day.


He then turned to Lebanon, saying that the President had sent a message2 to President Assad of Syria this morning as Prime Minister Begin had asked last night. Although there were no answers as yet to his earlier letter or, of course, to the President’s message, we hoped for some response soon. We were also waiting for a response to our approach to the Saudis.

Secretary Vance then said that Prime Minister Begin had mentioned to the President an attack by Syrian aircraft on Israeli aircraft. He asked whether such an attack had occurred. Weizmann said that there had been no exchange of fire. However, three times in recent days Syrian fighters had scrambled and attempted to go into an attack mode in a menacing fashion. They were unable, however, to join combat as the Israelis broke away. He said that over twenty Syrian aircraft had been scrambled over Lebanon in these incidents.

Secretary Vance said we have no late intelligence suggesting that the Syrians have yet deployed any missiles into Lebanon, only anti-aircraft guns. Weizman said their intelligence agreed, so far, although missiles were deployed right on the border.

Peace Negotiations

Turning to major subjects for the Camp David meetings, Dayan said that Weizmann wanted to clarify something after his informal talk3 the previous evening with Secretary Vance concerning Sinai. Weizmann said it was important to emphasize there are still serious unresolved problems over Sinai, although great progress has been made in the various earlier meetings. If the Egyptians have the idea that everything is settled, this should be clarified. He agreed with Secretary Vance that in essence the remaining issues are the future of the settlements and the air fields. Weizmann said that although there are many records of the meetings at which the Sinai has been discussed, there is nothing in the way of a written agreement at this stage. Dayan asked [Page 117]whether it would be possible to pick up the Sinai subject at these meetings and try to reduce understandings to writing. Secretary Vance said that the Egyptians are indeed prepared to discuss it here, and that despite Gamacy’s absence, Sadat is of course present. He went on to say that as for President Carter’s views, he wants to see as much accomplished here on both the West Bank and Gaza as well as Sinai as can be possible.

Barak then said he wanted to comment on President Carter’s discussion last night with Prime Minister Begin concerning Sadat’s desire for a statement on the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war. Barak said it seemed to the Israelis that it would not be fruitful to go into this subject. The language is admittedly in 242 and they are not denying or challenging that fact. But, he assumes that what Sadat is really talking about is withdrawal and that this is what the phrase signifies. He suggests, therefore, concentrating on breaking down the principle of withdrawal into its component parts and discussing how to implement it on the West Bank and so forth. To get into a debate over this phrase of inadmissibility will only require the Israelis to distinguish between wars of aggression and wars of defense and to argue their position about the origins of the 1967 conflict.

Dayan then underscored this point by saying they wished to go into the question of what withdrawal would actually look like in all its specifics rather than argue over abstract formulations. Secretary Vance said he understood the Egyptians have done more work since the Leeds talks4 on details of West Bank arrangements and will be prepared to do so. Brzezinski said he understood then that the Israelis wanted to talk first about the substance of the arrangements on the ground and then try to extract general principles from concrete agreements. Dayan agreed and said that they were now at the stage in negotiations where it is essential to get down to cases. (Rosenne tried to introduce an argument to the effect that the language about inadmissibility is only preambular language rather than “operative” language in 242 but Weizmann diverted his effort.) Weizmann again asked Secretary Vance whether he could understand that the Egyptians were now ready to discuss the West Bank in detail from a practical point of view. How far in this direction can they go without a mandate? Secretary Vance said he did not yet know. He would meet later in the day with Foreign Minister Kamel5 and hoped to tell Weizmann afterward.

Dayan said he was somewhat confused from Begin’s briefing after his meeting last night with President Carter on one or two points. He [Page 118]had understood from Begin that according to President Carter, Egypt would be ready to permit Israeli forces to remain in the West Bank after five years, while insisting on a statement of “full withdrawal”, perhaps leaving Israeli forces there in some special status. (Secretary Vance nodded agreement.) But, Dayan said he was not clear on the future of the West Bank settlements. Did the Egyptians mean withdrawal to include dismantling all settlements? Secretary Vance said this was unclear at this point and has to be further defined. The basic principle is that there should be no settlements in the West Bank or Sinai in the Egyptian frame of reference. However, what in practical terms they will accept is unclear.

Weizmann summarized a number of points from his various meetings with Sadat and Gamacy which he characterized as “very interesting and tangible”. The question however is whether Sadat still endorses that. (He mentioned such examples as joint policing, retention of Israeli forces, leaving West Bank settlements intact, permitting private land sales to Israel, open borders, full commerce, and so forth.) Weizmann said that when he met Sadat he would remind him of their discussion of these points and that “we don’t start from zero in these meetings”. Secretary Vance agreed and said that one important purpose here is to get down in writing agreement on some of these points thus far discussed but not recorded.

Dayan then recalled that in the U.S./Israeli “working paper” of last autumn,6 the United States and Israel had agreed on the parties to be included in the negotiations, and one of the parties was the Palestinian Arabs. He then asked whether we can, in the near future, see a way to bring in representatives of the Palestine/Arabs to these negotiations, either formally or as advisers. Dayan said he had recently met privately with some Palestine/Arab leaders and that he was encouraged by their point of view, though he recognized that they would not necessarily say the same things if other Arabs were present. Was there some way to get them now into the negotiations? Secretary Vance said he had discussed this point with Kamel this morning who said that if Camp David ends with a sufficient and satisfactory agreement, that then he believed Palestine/Arabs would be prepared to join the negotiations.

Weizmann inquired whether Sadat still wanted to start with a broad statement covering the West Bank problem and then with that in hand to go ahead on Sinai. Vance replied that to the best of his knowledge he is still in that mood, but “you will have to hear it from him.” Weizmann said he hoped everyone understands that there is a major difference between the Sinai and the West Bank.

[Page 119]Barak then interjected that he sees a clear analytical distinction between withdrawal and the settlements, and that withdrawal itself has two elements within it: withdrawal of the military government and withdrawal or non-withdrawal of the security presence. And, moreover, soldiers serving in the West Bank may have joint military government and security functions. Brzezinski said that he thought this was a manageable problem in differentiating elements to be withdrawn. Barak said this was the reason he thought it more useful to work initially on concrete details, a position to which Brzezinski said he was sympathetic.

Vice President Mondale then asked what approach by the Egyptians would be most helpful here at Camp David in order for the Israeli Government to be as forthcoming as possible. Dayan responded that they needed to know concretely more about the Egyptian proposals and to get into discussing their details, as was begun at Leeds. He said he thought they should pick up and continue the Leeds conversations about gaps between the Israeli and Egyptian positions to see what could be done to bridge them.

Vice President Mondale then asked whether it was fair to say that how much the Israelis could agree to on the West Bank depends at least in part on whether Sadat is ready to move ahead definitively on Sinai. Both Dayan and Weizmann said they were not sure. (Note: It was obvious that neither felt comfortable in responding to this question in Begin’s absence, but the context of their subsequent remarks suggested the answer would be “yes”.)

Weizmann then spoke at some length about the problem of getting Sadat to understand that his visit to Jerusalem, important as it had been, could not wipe out all previous history of conflict and remove overnight the reasons why the Israeli people still feel terribly insecure about their borders. Weizmann said he had tried to get this across himself to Sadat but without success. He stressed that the origins of the 1967 war, both in Sinai and in the West Bank (where the Israelis had urged Hussein not to intervene in the fighting) could not be ignored.

Vice President Mondale then asked whether, hypothetically, if the Sinai problem could be settled, and an agreement reached between Israel and Egypt in some form over the West Bank and Gaza, would that not be a great breakthrough whether Hussein joined or not? Dayan responded that he was convinced that if an agreement over the West Bank could be reached with Sadat that representative Palestine/Arabs would join in. In that case, Israel would certainly accept it and would not question Sadat’s “lack of a formal mandate for the West Bank”.

Brzezinski asked Dayan to review in more detail the outcome of his recent talks with the Palestine/Arab leaders, which Dayan did at some length. He said he had met with about six in individual meetings, [Page 120]and that they included the Mayors of Hebron and Bethlehem, Hikmat Al Masri from Nablus, Anwar Katib from Jerusalem, a leading lawyer from Ramallah, and two members of the Shawa family of Gaza. Although there were individual differences, they all expressed a great desire somehow themselves to have a role in determining their own future. They are afraid that they will be left with nothing if Camp David fails, and they want very much to see the military government abolished and their own administrative council established. They want to be able to meet to discuss general political issues, which they cannot now do. They want reunification of families displaced in 1967, with perhaps as many as one hundred thousand returning. They feel that there are all the elements necessary for genuine self rule in the West Bank and Gaza; for example, there are plenty of Arab doctors now in the hospitals and Arab agricultural experts. With respect to the Israeli Defense forces, the Arab leaders distinguish between what they would like (total withdrawal) and what is realistic. Dayan insisted that their major concern is to make sure the IDF will not interfere in their daily lives; that they would, of course, agree they had to give assurances that their Arab police would prevent terrorist attacks against Israelis from West Bank locations, and that at present they would need substantial help from Jordan or Egypt to do so. They could accept an IDF presence limited to the function of defending Israel in a strategic fashion, though they of course do not like it. With respect to sovereignty, they agree, said Dayan, that this issue would be decided at the end of or indeed during the five year interim period. Therefore, he said it is vital to them that new settlement activity be frozen for five years so that “all the land won’t be bought up by the Israelis”. One Palestine leader wanted all Israeli settlements removed. But the consensus position is to freeze settlements, at least insofar as new settlements are concerned. (He said that they might agree to permit some additional families to pre-existing settlements.) Dayan said they know full well there are more West Bank Arabs staying overnight legally or illegally in Tel Aviv, etc., than all the Israelis living in the West Bank, and that their priority is to keep free access to the Israeli Arabs. With regard to self-determination, the Palestine leaders want that right. If they had it, however, they would want to keep some relationship with Jordan. Dayan said he had pressed whether they would give up their Jordanian citizenship for an “Arafat citizenship”, and they did not wish to do so. They agree that the area is perhaps too small and too fragmented for a fully independent state but they want equal rights with other peoples to make that decision themselves. Dayan said he was also pleased to find that they put a high priority on keeping free contact with Israel; they do not want ever to return to closed borders with the Israelis or, of course, with Jordan. Dayan concluded this review by saying he was impressed that the leaders genuinely want to be involved in deciding their future, yet at [Page 121]the same time have fear of PLO retaliation. They cannot “volunteer”. He said that they made clear they would be talking to Arafat as well as with the Jordanians and presumably the Egyptians; he said they used such defiant phrases as “we will tell Arafat what we intend to do.” Dayan said he assumed that getting “clearance” from all three parties for their participation would be more complex, yet he felt confident that if agreement were reachable with Sadat that one way or another the Palestine leaders would manage to nominate their own representatives to participate either formally or informally as advisers perhaps to an Egyptian if not Jordanian delegation. Quandt asked whether there was any Israeli impediment to these leaders seeing Arafat in Beirut. Could they then return? Weizmann replied that there were now no restrictions on their travel. He cited several cases of PLO sympathizers who have travelled abroad and returned without difficulty. Weizmann also underscored Dayan’s recital by saying that the West Bankers “have really started talking a bit differently in the last few weeks.” Weizmann then recounted his conversations with Sadat about his concept of peace with Egypt as a “first peace” rather than a “separate peace”. He said he understood that Sadat’s problem was whether Israel could give him enough on the West Bank and Gaza to protect him from charges of treachery by the Arabs. But for the Israelis it is of course very difficult politically, since practically no one will agree to return to ’67 borders, even with minor modifications.

Brzezinski said that conceivably one could agree about the interim solution which might then well become permanent. But an interim solution needed to be attractive enough to permit Sadat to agree to it. Weizmann agreed. Weizmann then asked whether the United States was prepared to see an Egyptian/Israeli agreement over the West Bank if Hussein remained apart. Secretary Vance answered that such an agreement should go forward even if Hussein will not join, although obviously it would be better if he did. But, Secretary Vance emphasized, the real problem is to find an agreement over the West Bank and Gaza which is politically sufficiently attractive for Sadat to sell to the moderate Arabs, especially Saudi Arabia. Dayan again said that he really believed that the Palestine/Arab leaders would find a way to participate with Egypt and Israel, for they can almost “taste” what they sense to be in their grasp.

Weizmann said he wanted to ask how much influence the Saudis would have on whether or not an interim solution for the West Bank would be attractive enough politically, and how much influence they would have over Palestine/Arab attitudes toward it. Would they support it? Brzezinski replied he thought it depended on just how attractive the interim solution were. He said the Saudis are increasinly worried about other threats in the region and would like to support a [Page 122]solution if it is attractive enough. Secretary Vance said in his view the answer depended on how strongly Sadat supported the solution. If Sadat is very positive about it, then he believed the Saudis would also support it.

The meeting concluded in order for Secretary Vance to meet with President Carter.7

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 53, Middle East: Camp David Memcons, 9/78. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Lewis. The meeting took place in Holly Cabin.
  2. See Document 29.
  3. No record of this meeting has been found.
  4. See footnote 3, Document 3.
  5. See Document 35.
  6. Not further identified.
  7. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Vance did not meet alone with Carter on September 7. Vance spoke by telephone with the President from 1:43 p.m. to 1:45 p.m., following Carter’s trilateral meeting with Begin and Sadat. (Carter Library, Presidential Materials)