345. Editorial Note

On March 1, 1980, the United Nations Security Council passed draft resolution S/13827 as Resolution 465 (1980), condemning Israeli settlements in the territories occupied in the June 1967 Arab-Israeli war, including Jerusalem, by a unanimous 15–0 vote. Although the participants in the February 28 meeting among Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, Secretary of Defense Harold Brown, and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Zbigniew Brzezinski had decided the United States would abstain in the vote (see footnote 9, Document 344), which was originally scheduled for the afternoon of February 29, it was decided at President Jimmy Carter’s foreign policy breakfast meeting on February 29 that the United States would vote for the resolution if certain “objectionable wording,” especially references to Jerusalem, were removed from the resolution text. (Brzezinski, Power and Principle, page 441) The February 29 meeting was attended by Vance, Brown, White House Senior Advisor Hedley W. Donovan, White House Counsel Lloyd N. Cutler, White House Chief of Staff Hamilton Jordan, and Brzezinski and took place in the White House Cabinet Room from 7:31 a.m. to 8:48 a.m. (Carter Library, Presidential Materials, President’s Daily Diary) No memorandum of conversation of the meeting has been found.

[Page 1107]

The U.S. Mission to the United Nations transmitted the text of the draft resolution, as tabled late on February 28, to the Department of State in telegram 779, February 29. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800106–0545) That afternoon, following “telephonic instructions” from the Department of State, the Representative to the United Nations, Donald F. McHenry, met with Tunisian Ambassador to the United Nations M’hamed Essafi and Jordanian Ambassador to the United Nations Hazem Nuseibeh. At the meeting, USUN reported in telegram 800, March 1, “we had successfully obtained deletion of operative para[graph] 7 of the resolution when we stated that this would enable us to vote for the resolution.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800106–0545) This paragraph called upon Israel to “abide by the pertinent Security Council Resolutions concerning Jerusalem, in particular Resolution 252 (1968) and to respect and guarantee religious freedoms and practices in Jerusalem and other holy places in the occupied Arab territories as well as the integrity of places of religious worship.” In his account of this episode in his memoirs, Brzezinski wrote that “later” on February 29, Vance had “phoned me to say that the wording of the resolution had been modified satisfactorily and that he therefore felt free to instruct McHenry to support it.” Brzezinski told Vance that “he should transmit the revised text to the President or at least speak to him personally just to be sure.” (Brzezinski, Power and Principle, page 441) No official record of this exchange or of Vance’s exchange with Carter has been found. Shortly before the vote, McHenry was informed that the “text of the resolution that the Secretary had discussed with the President did not include the wording in oper[ative] para[graph] 6 calling for Israel ‘to dismantle the existing settlements.’” McHenry “considered it essential, therefore, to check back,” with the Department of State and successfully obtained a delay of the vote to noon of the following day, March 1. (Telegram 800 from USUN, March 1; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800106–0545)

Upon receiving “telephonic instructions” from the Department of State on the morning of March 1, McHenry telephoned Essafi to inform him he had been “asked by the Secretary to urge strongly [the] deletion of the wording in operative para[graph] 6 of the resolution calling for Israel ‘to dismantle the existing settlements.’” After meeting with the other delegations, Essafi informed McHenry that the proposed excision on paragraph 6 would not be accepted and suggested revisions to the wording instead. McHenry informed Essafi that “these formulations would create even more problems. He was instructed only to seek deletion. Under the circumstances McHenry thought it was best to leave the wording as it stood and go ahead with the vote. He said he would vote for the resolution but would include in his statement [accompanying his vote] a comment on this provision.” Following his meeting with Es[Page 1108]safi, McHenry also informed the Israeli Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations of his intention to vote for the resolution. (Telegram 803 from USUN, March 1; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800106–0938) The text of the resolution as unanimously passed was conveyed to Washington in telegram 801 from USUN, March 1. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800107–1249) For the text of McHenry’s statement to the Security Council, see telegram 802 from USUN, March 1. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800107–1263)

The U.S. vote, however, drew sharp criticism from Israel and Jewish groups in the United States. When informed of this by White House Chief of Staff Hamilton Jordan and Vice President Walter Mondale, Carter recorded in his diary, the President “told them that the Jerusalem references had been deleted. They showed me a copy of the resolution as it was passed, with ‘Jerusalem’ being mentioned six times. I couldn’t believe it. I called Cy in Chicago. He said he thought ‘Jerusalem’ had been deleted.” Carter continued, “My understanding with [Israeli Prime Minister Menachem] Begin was that we would let the issue of Jerusalem and the issue of dismantling existing settlements be resolved in the peace negotiations. That’s why the error was serious.” (Carter, White House Diary, page 406)

On March 3, Carter issued a public statement clarifying the U.S. vote, stating that it “does not represent a change in our position regarding the Israeli settlements in the occupied areas nor regarding the status of Jerusalem.” Carter explained: “While our opposition to the establishment of the Israeli settlements is longstanding and well-known, we made strenuous efforts to eliminate the language with reference to the dismantling of settlements in the resolution. This call for dismantling was neither proper nor practical. We believe that the future disposition of existing settlements must be determined during the current Autonomy Negotiations.

“As to Jerusalem, we strongly believe that Jerusalem should be undivided, with free access to the holy places for all faiths, and that its status should be determined in the negotiations for a comprehensive peace settlement.

“The United States vote in the United Nations was approved with the understanding that all references to Jerusalem would be deleted. The failure to communicate this clearly resulted in a vote in favor of the resolution rather than abstention.

“I want to reiterate in the most unequivocal terms that in the Autonomy Negotiations and in other fora, the United States will neither support nor accept any position that might jeopardize Israel’s vital security interests. Our commitment to Israel’s security and well-being remains unqualified and unshakable.” (Public Papers: Carter, 1980–81, [Page 1109] Book I, page 427) The same day, Carter sent a personal letter to Begin, in which he enclosed the text of his statement, adding “I trust that you will inform your Cabinet members about this inadequate communication between me and our U.N. delegation which caused a vote contrary to my understanding of the final text of the resolution.” The letter was conveyed to Begin in telegram 57573 to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, March 4. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, President’s Correspondence with Foreign Leaders File, Box 10, Israel: Prime Minister Menachem Begin, 3–12/80) Begin responded to Carter’s letter on March 10, stating that “my colleagues and I accept without reservation and with full respect the facts of which you were kind enough to inform me.” The Egyptians had a different response to Carter’s statement. In a March 16 letter to Vance, sent in telegram 6045 from Cairo, March 17, Egyptian Prime Minister Mustapha Khalil characterized the U.S. vote on Resolution 465 (1980) as “certainly a positive step in the right direction.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East, Subject File, Box 90, UN: Security Council Resolution 465 (3/1/80) re. Israeli Settlements: 3/8/80–5/80)

On March 20, Vance addressed the March 1 vote on Resolution 465 as part of a status report on the peace process to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The text of Vance’s statement is printed in the Department of State Bulletin, May 1980, pages 61–62. Before this appearance, Carter sent a handwritten note to Vance on March 20. Carter wrote, “Had I studied the UN resolution carefully, my concerns would not have been confined merely to Jerusalem references and to ‘dismantling.’

“a) Implications of ‘sanctions’ against Israel under Chapter 7 should be refuted.

“b) Prejudging permanent status of the West Bank by words ‘Palestinian and other Arab territories’ should be explained, although I realize this language had been used before.

“c) My preference is that the Commission on Settlements not be continued, and that this issue be decided in C[amp] David follow-up talks as specified re Israeli pressure in military enclaves.

“An emphasis on UN 242 & CDA and on our commitment to the ongoing negotiations can be substituted for answers to deliberately embarrassing questions concerning the above points or answers to hypothetical questions in the future. Good luck, J.C.” (Carter Library, Plains File, President’s Personal Foreign Affairs File, Box 2, Israel, 4/79–11/81)