35. Memorandum of Conversation1
- Walter Mondale, Vice President of the United States
- Cyrus Vance, Secretary of State
- Hermann Fr. Eilts, U.S. Ambassador to Egypt
- Mohamed Ibrahim Kamel, Minister of Foreign Affairs
- Ahmed Maher, Director of the Cabinet of the Foreign Minister
- Talk with Egyptian Foreign Minister Kamel
The Secretary first told Kamel about President Carter’s desire to have a meeting2 this evening with President Sadat and three members of the Egyptian side. Kamel said he would inform President Sadat. Kamel noted that after this morning’s tripartite meeting,3 Sadat was very relaxed.
The Secretary said that Sadat and Begin had begun to discuss the Egyptian paper.4 They had spent three hours on the subject and will discuss the paper further at their 5:00PM meeting.5 President Carter, the Secretary noted, has a number of questions on the paper. Some he has already raised, others he will want to raise. The Secretary was uncertain whether a discussion of the paper can be concluded today.
Kamel said he was not sure how things will move forward. The approaches of Begin and Sadat are totally different. Sadat is searching for essentials; Begin is concentrating on details. This difference of approach makes it more difficult for President Carter.
Kamel noted that the Egyptians had worked hard on the paper. They believe it is the minimum that can be presented to the Arabs. The Saudis and others will support the concepts set forth in the paper. Anything less will place Sadat and Egypt in a bad situation. Sadat is willing to agree to “everything on normalizing relations and security,” but on territory and sovereignty he cannot do so.
On the West Bank, Sadat had mentioned the possibility of insubstantial modifications. Kamel insisted that Sadat cannot go beyond this. There is no reason to give on this point. Egypt, he emphasized, wants real peace. Egypt is sincere. It wants to deepen the human relationship with the Israelis. If Palestinian rights are ignored or Arab territory is not returned, Kamel insisted that there will never be a permanent peace. He asked the Secretary’s views on the Egyptian paper.
The Secretary described the paper as an obviously serious effort and one which had been carefully put together. As President Carter had indicated, there is much in it with which we agree. On some matters, we do have questions. President Carter will want to talk about this and will want to make suggestions to overcome the difficulties.
Kamel later asked the Secretary how he saw the paper. The Secretary reiterated his view that it is a serious effort. We will have to go [Page 129] through it and try to find ways around points of disagreement. Kamel noted that some points included in the paper, specifically ending the boycott, will give Egypt problems with the Arabs. Egypt is nevertheless willing to go ahead if agreement can be obtained on essentials; he was certain that Egypt can carry the day.
The Secretary noted that the Israelis have said the Egyptian paper is unacceptable. Maher asked if the Israelis plan to present a counterproposal. The Secretary said the Israelis are still pondering this possibility. He noted that we are prepared to offer our suggestions.
Kamel noted that Sadat has reported to the Egyptian Delegation that President Carter had asked about a “partial” success. He, Sadat, had responded that the same degree of effort will be necessary for a comprehensive success. Kamel also noted that the Egyptians have used many American formulations in their paper.
West Bank Settlements:
The Secretary noted that Sadat had made it clear that sovereignty and territory are non-negotiable. He wished to know, however, what the Egyptian position is on West Bank settlements. In the case of the settlements in Sinai, he understood that these should all be removed. But is this also true of West Bank settlements?
Kamel responded that in principle the West Bank settlements should all be dismantled. The parties with whom to discuss this, however, are the Palestinians and/or the Jordanians. Egypt cannot make any commitment on retaining the settlements. The Israelis could visit the West Bank as any foreigner can. The Secretary noted that the Israelis make the argument that the security problem is different in the West Bank than it is in Sinai. Kamel responded that the Israelis seem to believe that they have a right to retain the settlements. It is not really security that is the issue. Security is something that the Egyptians are prepared to work out. He doubted that the settlements, if retained, will provide real security. They will simply be a provocation. Kamel reiterated Egypt’s readiness to provide all feasible security measures.
The Secretary asked if it might not be feasible to retain existing settlements, but freeze all further settlement activities. Kamel thought that even this arrangement will result in friction. If security is covered by other means, the matter of the future of the settlements is one for the Palestinians and Jordanians to decide.
Vice President Mondale noted that, for purposes of negotiations, it might be stated that the Sinai settlements will be removed but that the West Bank settlements will be frozen for five years while negotiations are underway. The parties could then negotiate the details of resolving the settlement issue, land purchase, etc. Kamel acknowledged that freezing new settlements might help. He noted that Egypt is not in[Page 130]sisting that the settlements be removed overnight. It is a matter that can be discussed.
The Vice President noted that it is difficult for Begin to waive the principle of Israeli settlements. Many Israelis do not like the settlements, but it is necessary to find some way to handle the matter. A five-year freeze in the West Bank should enable the subject to be handled through more permanent negotiations. Begin cannot abandon his life-long commitment to settlement activities.
The Vice President and Secretary pointed out that another problem is that some of the settlements in the West Bank were built by Labor in unsettled areas; Begin, however, has built settlements in populated areas. Kamel agreed that this is a problem. Egypt, he said, cannot say now that some settlements might remain. The Palestinians and Jordanians must decide this.
The Vice President noted that Egypt could say that it is opposed to all such settlements and believes they should be frozen. Kamel said that this sounded alright to him but Egypt cannot go beyond this. He would convey this idea to Sadat.
West Bank: End of Transition Period:
The Secretary then asked what Kamel foresees will happen at the end of five years as this concept is set forth in the Egyptian paper. Kamel responded that the Palestinians should at that time exercise their right of self-determination. Egypt can work with the Jordanians so that any Palestinian entity which emerges is linked with Jordan.
The Secretary noted that previously three options had been cited for the end of the five-year period: (a) linkage with Jordan, (b) continuation of existing status, and (c) affiliation with Israel. Are these three still feasible? Kamel said that the last of the three will be troublesome to Egypt. He was convinced, however, that Egypt can work out the linkage-with-Jordan concept.
King Hussein’s Role:
Vice President Mondale noted that King Hussein is gunshy when it comes to the peace negotiations. Kamel responded that Hussein has for the past eleven years built for himself a secure state east of the Jordan. He is anxious to keep this. Prince Hassan is even more so when it comes to the West Bank. Vice President Mondale agreed that Hassan thinks the West Bank is trouble. Kamel observed that King Hussein does not think so. He would like to have the West Bank back. Hussein is admittedly cautious, but if the right framework is developed, he can be influenced. He was sure that the Saudis and the U.S. can help to influence Hussein. Kamel opined that when Sadat talked about negotiating [Page 131] the West Bank, the President had done so in the belief that others will come in.
The Secretary noted that we have some problem with the Jerusalem section of the Egyptian paper. Nothing is said in it about an undivided city. Maher argued that the pertinent Egyptian language is intended to mean this. Kamel affirmed that Egypt does not want to divide Jerusalem again. There should be a municipality council with an Arab, preferably a Jordanian flag. The Secretary asked whether a Jordanian or an Arab flag is contemplated? Kamel responded that the Egyptian paper starts with an Arab flag. He noted that the Israelis are talking about the West Bank as a melting pot between the Egyptians and the Israelis. This, he argued, can also be the case in Jerusalem. An Arab-Islamic Jerusalem would be of global-wide interest. No Arab or Muslim, Kamel insisted, can accept a Jerusalem under the Israeli flag. The Egyptian paper, Kamel stressed, does not envisage a wall within Jerusalem.
The Secretary said he assumed that Egypt does not want border guards, checkpoints, or restrictions on freedom of movement. The Vice President thought that if we can make progress on the West Bank, Gaza and Sinai, this will already be a success. Additional problems should not be sought. Maher commented that he did not think the Saudis will support anything that does not mention Jerusalem. The Secretary observed that there are ways to handle this matter; Kamel agreed and had Maher read Article 6 of the Egyptian paper. The Secretary said he had tried to draft something on this matter. Kamel said the U.S. should always keep in mind worldwide Muslim sentiment when it comes to Jerusalem. The Secretary said he was mindful of the Saudi problem.
Kamel also spoke of Egyptian support for freedom of access to Jerusalem. The Secretary agreed. He noted that a joint municipality council has some appeal. There are also precedents in support of such a concept.
Egyptian Proposed U.S. Action:
The Secretary noted that with respect to items in the Egyptian paper calling for U.S. actions, he had to point out that Congressional approval is a factor that must be borne in mind. With respect to Article 9 of the Egyptian paper, he thought this could be eliminated since the ideas are already contained in Articles 7 and 8. Kamel agreed.
The Secretary then asked how important Egypt considers Article 8 on compensation. Kamel observed that the Israelis have taken Egyptian [Page 132] petroleum. The Secretary agreed, but noted such an article will only give rise to endless claims and counterclaims. Kamel pointed out that the Egyptian paper does not talk about damage to military installations. What is being talked about is compensation for damage to civilian installations. He suggested that the matter be taken up with President Sadat who has strong views on the matter.
The Secretary observed that during the morning tripartite session, Begin had responded to this article by citing a possible $120 billion-Israeli-damage claim against Egypt.
Vice President Mondale recalled that Sadat has often said he is open-minded on security arrangements. He asked about the possibility of existing security arrangements in the West Bank beyond the five-year transitional period. Kamel responded that the Egyptian idea is that after five years, Jordan and Egypt will assume security responsibility. The Palestinians and Israelis, he was convinced, should be able to coexist. They have many affinities during five years of trying to live in peace. Both sides will learn to live together. The Vice President and the Secretary agreed.
The Secretary then asked how the Sinai airfields issue might be resolved? Kamel responded that the Israelis should build airfields of their own in Israel. The Secretary said that the airfield near Eilat (Etzion) could be built elsewhere, but he wondered about the one near Arish. Kamel observed that Sadat is strongly opposed to having any Israeli airfields in Sinai. He suggested the matter be raised with Sadat.
Compulsory ICJ Jurisdiction:
The Secretary then asked about Article 4 of the Egyptian paper, having to do with compulsory ICJ jurisdiction. He asked if the Egyptians have any precedents for such compulsory ICJ jurisdiction? Maher thought there are some precedents and undertook to have the Egyptian lawyers look into the matter.
The Secretary then asked about Article 6 having to do with peace treaties to be concluded three months after a framework was signed. He asked why “treaties” was in the plural? What did the Egyptians have in mind? Maher responded that the reference is to all of the parties concerned. Kamel elaborated by saying that the Egyptian paper envisages that the Jordanians and the Egyptians will sign peace treaties.
The Secretary thought that something like “promptly” would be better than specifying a three-month time period. Kamel observed that [Page 133] the three-month time period is Sadat’s idea. He said he personally does not like such a specific timeframe.
After some further desultory conversation, Kamel said he wished to express the Egyptian Delegation’s deep appreciation for what the U.S.—and specifically President Carter and the Secretary—are trying to do. He knew that Begin is difficult. A success, he noted, will be good for all parties. The Secretary agreed.
- Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 53, Middle East: Camp David Memcons, 9/78. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Eilts on September 8. The meeting took place in Laurel Hall.↩
- See footnote 19, Document 28.↩
- See footnote 13, Document 28.↩
- See footnote 8, Document 28.↩
- See footnote 17, Document 28.↩