368. Memorandum From the President’s Special Representative for Middle East Peace Negotiations (Linowitz) to President Carter1

Dear Mr. President:

Having just returned from the Autonomy Negotiations in the Middle East,2 I want to give you my impressions about where we stand and where we ought to go from here:

1. As you know, President Sadat has instituted a postponement in the Autonomy discussions3 on the ground that he wants to reflect on the developments during our recent negotiations at Herzliya and to consult with his advisors. Originally he had agreed that the working groups could continue meeting despite the suspension of negotiations at the Ministerial level, but later, at the urging of Boutros Ghali, he decided to suspend the working group discussions too. In my conversation with Sadat at Ismailia Thursday afternoon,4 Sadat indicated that [Page 1234] the postponement would be a relatively brief one, probably not more than a week or so. One of the key factors in his decision to postpone is the forthcoming major address he will be making on Wednesday, May 14,5 in which he will announce some significant Cabinet and policy changes. The Israelis were at first puzzled but then philosophical about Sadat’s proposal to postpone the discussions, and they are anticipating that the postponement will not be an extended one. They can be expected to assert publicly that they had been perfectly willing to proceed with the negotiations and that Sadat’s action makes it less likely than ever that there can be an agreement by May 26. For his part, Sadat now is clearly miffed at Begin’s failure to move forward in the negotiations and tends to discount the possibility of making any real progress with Begin in the months ahead.

2. During the nine days we spent at Herzliya trying to find agreement,6 we accomplished little substantively on the major issues. For several days the Security issue was the major hang-up. Prime Minister Khalil and the Egyptian Delegation refused to discuss any other issues unless and until the Israelis agreed to move forward with discussions of Security by an appropriate group. Begin had asserted at the outset of this round of negotiations that Israel would not discuss Security on any continuing basis unless it were first agreed that Israel would have responsibility for both external and internal security. Predictably, the Egyptians refused to agree, there was almost a breakdown in the talks, and ultimately the Israelis dropped the condition and agreed to a discussion. The Egyptians then put forward their own security proposals which were dismaying to the Israelis and, in important respects, out of line with our own thinking. At that point the negotiations almost broke down for the second time. After some fast footwork and semantics, we were able to get things back on track again. (Reflecting the tone of the discussions and the hypersensitivity of the parties is the fact that I was able to get Egypt and Israel to agree on a formulation for security discussion by proposing that this be done by a “negotiating team” rather than by a “negotiating committee” or “negotiating group”.) The heart of the matter is that the two sides are actually not so far apart in implementation of Security measures as they are in the jargon and rhetoric. Accordingly, I did my best to try to get Ali and Weizman in center [Page 1235] positions for both teams and perhaps this can permit them to find common ground once the discussions resume.

3. It is worth noting that there were three potential breakdown situations, and after each of them the parties came together in good spirits and apparently with a determination to try to find a basis for agreement once a particular issue had been resolved. It seemed clear that although neither was disposed to give ground easily, both were unwilling to face a breakdown at Herzilya.

4. The Israeli negotiating team moved in a cumbersome and hog-tied fashion. Each point went through several steps: First, a position by Burg; second, an endless discussion and ultimate endorsement by the full Delegation of Ministers (including that great apostle of moderation General Sharon); and third, the telephone call to Jerusalem for the scrupulous scrutiny and ultimate grudging approval of Begin. (It is noteworthy that a couple of times Begin initially refused to approve a particular point but was later prevailed upon by Shamir and Burg to go along.)

5. For their part, the Egyptians were acting strangely. Khalil was impatient, hard-nosed, and uncharacteristically rough. Burg sensed this and seemed to be making a real effort to meet Khalil’s concerns. A couple of times I thought that Khalil had made up his mind to search for a reason to suspend the negotiations, but then when he finally acceded I concluded that he was adopting his position in order to try to eke out some concession from the Israelis.

6. We played a central position in the negotiations, shuffling from one party to the other and helping them overcome differences. We also surfaced several position papers as agreed,7 including draft of Heads of Agreement; Water paper; Land paper; and Security paper. I gave copies of the Water and Land Papers directly to Begin and also discussed with him the draft of the Heads of Agreement point by point. At Sadat’s suggestion I turned over to General Ali papers on Water and Land. It is perhaps significant that both the Israelis and the Egyptians focused on our Heads of Agreement paper and each presented written comments, suggestions and amendments. We are going to try to use these to put together a revised paper which may perhaps bring us closer to agreement. For the moment, however, the differences are wide. We have not yet had any significant reaction to the papers on Water and Land, although the Israelis have indicated that they find our water ideas very interesting.

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7. In a one-to-one discussion8 with Begin I tried out with him the Gaza First idea after I had already done so with Khalil and the other members of the Egyptian Delegation. Interestingly enough, Begin said that the only Gaza First proposal he knew about was one which would call for an overall agreement with respect to the West Bank and Gaza and implementation first in Gaza. I then asked him point blank whether he would approve an agreement which dealt only with a plan for Gaza for early implementation while further discussions continued with respect to the West Bank. He did not answer me directly but merely said that if such a position were presented “we will think about it”. The Egyptians, however, did not respond favorably when I put the same question, and Khalil said that Sadat had never intended that there be a Gaza First option which would not include agreement on an overall plan to be implemented first in Gaza. When I met with Sadat in Ismailia, the conversation was such that it simply was not possible to bring up the Gaza First option with him, therefore, I did not do so.

8. Begin’s political position is stronger than it was a couple of months ago. The recent Hebron killings9 and his visit to Washington apparently helped him in the polls since he now emerges as a tough fighter on behalf of Israel’s security. When I met with Shimon Peres10 he told me that there was no more than a fifty-fifty chance that there might be an election this year and asserted that he thinks Begin is stronger than he was earlier this year. Begin obviously feels this because he told me several times that he thought that his position on security had a national consensus behind it and the full support of the people. When I asked Peres and Rabin11 about their own estimate, they said that the nation would, indeed, be deeply concerned about its security but they thought that this did not necessarily mean support for Begin’s position. Both are confident Labor would handily win any election now.

9. As to Sadat, he is about to unveil a new governmental plan which he thinks will make a dramatic difference in the governing of [Page 1237] Egypt and his role as well as that of the Cabinet. When I met with him he was exhilarated and confident that his ideas would be of immense help to Egypt economically as well as politically. He regards his May 14 speech as a landmark.

10. At this juncture the prospects for significant achievement by May 26 are obviously not good. Assuming that the heads of delegation and Ministers reconvene around May 21 or 22 (as we had earlier agreed) then we will have about four or five days to come up with an acceptable agreement or at least significant and encouraging progress. Unless there is a complete breakdown, however, Sadat does not indicate any desire to terminate the negotiations, believing that ultimate agreement will have to await new elections both in Israel and the United States.

11. On this next trip, in about ten days, I would seek to accomplish the following:

A. Try to get agreement on Heads of Agreement or Points of Agreement which might be publicized as indicating acceptable progress. For reasons indicated, this is clearly problematical at this juncture.

B. Try to get agreement on paper on Water and, if possible, on Land.

C. Try to get agreement on one or more of the major legal issues now before us—Source of Authority, Residual Powers, and Jurisdiction.

D. Try to see what progress can be made with the Gaza First idea if it is clear that we cannot make any sufficient headway on the broader points.

12. If by May 26 there has been no progress worth talking about, then Sadat will, I believe, come down quite hard on Begin and will probably call for a suspension of the talks though he would refrain from terminating them. His attitude with reference to the European Initiative12 is still uncertain, but I tried to make clear that his and our involvement in such moves at the United Nations would prejudice further negotiations under Camp David. Quite clearly Sadat presently intends that the Autonomy Negotiations go forward during the months ahead but he does not anticipate any real agreement before the end of the year.


Sol M. Linowitz
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East, Trips/Visits File, Box 119, 4/27/80–5/8/80 Linowitz Trip to Middle East. Secret. A copy of the memorandum was sent to Muskie. The memorandum was found attached to a May 10 covering memorandum from Hunter to Brzezinski in which Hunter commented on Linowitz’s report and suggested, “It may be worth drawing out Linowitz (at the Monday [May 12] meeting [with Carter on the Linowitz trip]) on what the President might usefully do in an exchange with Sadat on Monday or Tuesday—before the speech on Wednesday that Sadat is scheduled to make. They need to be thinking along similar lines.” On this point, Brzezinski added a handwritten note: “RH, let’s talk by phone Sun. p.m. ZB.” (Ibid.)
  2. This round of the autonomy talks was held in Herzliya, Israel, May 1–7. On May 1, the U.S. delegation presented a draft Heads of Agreement to both Egypt and Israel. The text of this draft is in telegram 8164 from Tel Aviv, May 4; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P880143-2089. On the course of the talks, see telegram 8130 from Tel Aviv, May 2; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P890005–0383; telegram 8186 from Tel Aviv, May 5; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, [no film number]; telegram 8356 from Tel Aviv, May 6; Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 37, Israel: 5/1–20/80; and telegram 8463 from Tel Aviv, May 8; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P880143–2050.
  3. Meeting with Linowitz in Ismailia on May 8, Sadat informed him that he wished to postpone the next round of autonomy discussions scheduled to begin May 12 in Cairo. This, Sadat noted, “would be interpreted as a signal of his unhappiness with the Israeli position during the Herzliya talks.” Sadat, Linowitz reported, “made clear that, while he does not envisage more than a one-week postponement, he does not want to give any public indication at this point of when the talks could resume.” (Telegram 10411 from Cairo, May 8; Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 19, Egypt: 5/80)
  4. A draft version of Linowitz’s full report on his May 8 meeting with Sadat is in telegram 10457 from Cairo, May 8; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P900086–1876.
  5. During his May 8 meeting with Linowitz, Sadat described his forthcoming speech as a “‘turning point’ in his government’s efforts to institutionalize democracy and structure the government for taking decisive action in rebuilding the country.” (Ibid.)
  6. See footnote 2 above. Presumably, Linowitz intended to refer to the length of his entire trip, rather than the duration of talks.
  7. See footnote 11, Document 363.
  8. On April 30, Linowitz met with Begin for over two hours, during which, Linowitz noted, Begin was “totally unyielding” and “the toughest I have yet seen him.” After touching upon Vance’s recent resignation and replacement with Muskie, the two men discussed the “four points” Begin had proposed in Washington. (See footnote 5, Document 357) Linowitz pointed out that the Israeli positions “were bound to create serious problems and might prevent any progress in the negotiations.” Linowitz “asked him bluntly whether he really wanted an agreement on autonomy. He responded emotionally and vociferously that there was nothing in the world he wanted more than an agreement and he would do everything he could to achieve one except prejudice Israel’s security and wellbeing.” (Telegram 7965 from Tel Aviv, April 30; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P890005–0378)
  9. See Document 367.
  10. A record of this meeting has not been found.
  11. A record of this meeting has not been found.
  12. See Document 382.