370. Memorandum From Robert Hunter of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs1


  • Autonomy Talks (U)

We may be doing enough to get ourselves past the May 26 “goal”—but I am not entirely convinced. At the very least we should follow through on the steps decided:2

—message to Sadat (done)3 and Begin (tonight);4

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—Secretary Muskie’s talks in Europe;5

Sol Linowitz’ talks in Europe;6

—a speech on autonomy7 (where Muskie is preferable);

—low-keying the importance of May 26 in our public presentations. (S)

In addition, we need some form of presentation for the moderate Arab states,8 and especially Saudi Arabia. Perhaps Sol should go to Riyadh—or a message could be sent to the Crown Prince. (S)

I also believe that both Linowitz—and the speech—should get at the security question, by reassuring the bulk of Israelis and reducing the capacity of Begin to wrap himself in the flag on issue after issue because of their “security” implications. (S)

I remain convinced that we need to intensify the talks in some way. Holding a Blair House or Rhodes-type9 set of talks may be impractical at this point. But I do believe that Sol should spend longer at a time in [Page 1241] the region, and shuttle back and forth to nail down individual points. This is an exhausting process; but past experience (e.g. the Kissinger shuttles) indicate that this is the recipe for success. Of course, given Sol’s current status, at some point soon he will exhaust his remaining 50 days or so of his 120-day appointment, and some other status could be required. (S)

Intensifying the talks in this way—while being careful not to raise expectations unduly—could hasten the time (if at all) when enough work would be done to merit reconsideration of the option of bringing the talks to a head (perhaps through a summit). (S)

Under other circumstances, Muskie’s going to the area next month could give an added fillip of senior authority. For the near term, however, his becoming that deeply involved would probably not be a good ordering of his priorities. (C)

We also need to be alive to the risks that there will be a continuing rise in violence on the West Bank. This may be, as Sam Lewis argues, something Fatah has decided upon for internal political reasons within the PLO, basically unrelated to the course of the talks. I am less convinced (since tactics on Camp David is the issue on which much of PLO politics turn). And it may be that violence—and Israeli counteractions—will go down now that the pressure of May 26 is off. But I suspect we will still face a recurring cycle of violence and counteraction, including UN resolutions. (S)

One approach would be to make greater efforts to explain what we are about to the Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza (and working on the Israelis to “cool it” with regard to such steps as further deportations of mayors). (S)

There is another—more sensitive—line that bears thinking about (though I am not recommending it). I met this morning with Mustapha Zein, an American-educated Palestinian (who [less than 1 line not declassified] is close to the PLO). He argued that the PLO leadership, as well as Palestinians on the West Bank, are uncertain about the directions we are going, although he acknowledged that we have explained the process over and over in public. He suggested better flow of information (he did not, however, suggest any variation on our proscription on dealing with the PLO—since he argued there is nothing for us to talk with the PLO about!). (S)

Of course, he also took the argument a step further, in saying that an effort to isolate the PLO from the West Bank and Gaza is doomed to failure, and would only intensify Fatah’s efforts to assert control there—and also to be active. (This was at least in part self-serving stuff). (S)

Nonetheless, there might be some merit in exploring ways to seek a reduction in the tolerance among West Bankers for disruptive violence, [Page 1242] through an intensified effort on the West Bank and in Gaza to explain how we see autonomy coming out, in terms of powers and responsibilities, etc. (S)

We also should think through our UN tactics. I believe there is merit in taking the position, in advance, that we believe in Camp David, and thus will just abstain on resolutions that would upset the process, unless they get at the basis for peacemaking (242) and require a veto. It could save us a lot of squabbling every other week. (C)

Finally, we will need to get on with the talks10 with the Israelis on the oil supply agreement (Sam Lewis says that the President told him that this was okay); that is different, of course, from agreeing to a formula that would permit triggering now. But we don’t want to get accused (however unfairly) of reneging on an agreement because we were unprepared to talk. (S)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East, Subject File, Box 5, Autonomy Talks: 4–5/80. Secret; Sensitive. Outside the System. Sent for information. In the upper right-hand corner of the memorandum, a stamped notation reads: “ZB has seen.” Under the stamped notation, Brzezinski wrote: “let’s have a PRC on all this. ZB.”
  2. On May 12, Carter met with Mondale, Muskie, Brzezinski, Linowitz, Lewis, Atherton, Saunders, and Jordan to discuss the status of the autonomy talks in the aftermath of Linowitz’s trip and Sadat’s suspension of the talks, and to develop a strategy for continuing the negotiations beyond the original May 26 completion target. No memorandum of conversation of the meeting, held in the Cabinet Room from 8:00 a.m. to 9:34 a.m., has been found. (Carter Library, Presidential Materials, President’s Daily Diary) Carter’s handwritten notes related to the meeting are in the Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Plains File, President’s Personal Foreign Affairs File, Box 3, Mid East, 4/79–12/80.
  3. A draft telegram conveying a message from Carter to Sadat was prepared but not sent. On the May 12 covering memorandum from Brzezinski to Carter, under which the telegram was submitted for his approval, Carter wrote: “I called him [Sadat]. He will announce 5/14 that talks should resume next week. Ali will be Egypt’s negotiator. J.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Presidential Advisory Board, Box 79, Sensitive X: 5/12–31/80) A summary of the May 13 telephone conversation between Carter and Sadat is printed as Document 369.
  4. In his May 15 message to Begin, Carter informed the Prime Minister of the “thorough review” of the autonomy negotiations he had undertaken with his senior advisers and reminded Begin of the negotiators’ need to “concentrate intensively on the issues left unresolved at the end of Herzliya round.” Carter continued: “It is likely, in the period ahead, that other parties may strive to move the Mid East peace effort to a different forum or to disrupt our efforts to move forward with the Camp David process. More rapid progress in the talks is the best way of confounding such opposition and of silencing the opponents of our approach. At the same time, I have instructed Ed Muskie to tell the Europeans that we do not favor any alternative negotiating forum as long as the present negotiations are making progress. In that context, we will oppose any UN Security Council resolution which proposes to modify Resolution 242.” (Telegram 128532 to Tel Aviv, May 16; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P880143–2026)
  5. Muskie traveled to Brussels for a meeting of the NATO Defense Planning Committee May 13–15, before proceeding to Vienna for ceremonies commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Austrian State Treaty. In his May 15 meeting with Kreisky, Muskie stressed the need to allow the autonomy negotiations to continue beyond May 26. Kreisky stated he was “very pessimistic” about the negotiations, citing Begin as one who “is not yet ready for a solution.” He also emphasized that peace was “impossible” without PLO participation. Kreiske continued that he “saw Begin’s continuation in power as bringing only ‘disaster and a new worldwide wave of anti-Semitism.’ Fortunately, he said, more and more Israelis recognize this fact. To demonstrate this latter point, Kreisky passed on very confidentially the news that 15 Knesset deputies recently asked him whether he could arrange a private meeting for them with Arafat.” (Telegram 6145 from Vienna, May 16; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800242–0011)
  6. No memoranda of conversation from Linowitz’s talks in Europe have been found. In his memoirs, Linowitz wrote: “I met with the Foreign Ministers of Britain, Germany, and France in an effort to deflect, or at least delay, the “European initiative” that gave the Saudis, Hussein, and the West Bank Palestinians additional reasons not to play in what was—and still is—the only game in town.” (Linowitz, Making of a Public Man, p. 232)
  7. The planned speech focused on the “critical issues” remaining in the negotiations (security, land, water, the powers of the SGA, and SGA elections) and emphasized the need for uninterrupted talks, the impediments created by Israeli settlements, U.S. support for an undivided Jerusalem, the need for all participants in the talks to accept Resolution 242 and the Camp David accord, and U.S. opposition to the use of the talks to “lay the foundation” for an independent Palestinian state. It was not delivered by Muskie until he spoke before the Washington Press Club on June 9. The text of the speech is printed in the Department of State Bulletin, July 1980, pp. 3–5. However, a draft of the speech had been prepared by the Department of State and passed to Carter for his review on May 16 and conveyed to Muskie, who was in Vienna, in telegram Tosec 30088/129047 to USDEL Secretary, May 16. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800242–0533) Following revisions, a later version was conveyed in telegram 145299 to Paris, June 4. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800272–0224)
  8. See Document 375.
  9. Reference is to the talks held by Israeli and Egyptian delegations in February and March 1949, on the Greek island of Rhodes after the first Arab-Iraeli war. The delegations met separately with UN mediator Ralph Bunche of the United States, where both indirect and direct negotiations took place.
  10. See Document 378.