63. Telegram From the Department of State to the United States Observer Mission in the Sinai1

239358. Subject: Intsum 653—September 19, 1978. London for Glaspie. Paris for Nicholas Murphy. Other addressees for Chiefs of Mission.

Warning notice sensitive sources and methods involved not releasable to foreign nationals

1. Camp David Summit. The Jordanian Government issued an official statement on Camp David yesterday following a three-hour Cabinet session. The statement said Jordan:

(A) would not be bound by agreements it had not helped to negotiate;

(B) believes that the Arab-Israeli crisis requires a comprehensive solution; and

(C) criticized the signing of a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. “The dissociation of any of the Arab parties from the responsibilities of the collective action to reach a just and comprehensive solution . . . constitutes a weakening of the Arab stand and the chances of reaching a just and comprehensive solution.”

2. Despite this negative statement, King Hussein’s attitude toward the post-Camp David era is not yet clear. The King, however, seems aware that the outcome of the summit will oblige him to make a difficult decision on his entry into the peace process.

3. The Jordanian press has been universally critical, and the majority of Jordanians seem to oppose entry into direct peace negotiations. The East Bank Jordanians who dominate the government are very reluctant once again to be held responsible for the West Bank and the Palestinian problem. They also fear that if Jordan becomes saddled with negotiating for the Palestinians, the future of the Hashemite Kingdom would be jeopardized.

4. The large Palestinian community in Jordan is also unlikely to support a Jordanian role in the negotiations. They recognize the PLO as [Page 217]the legitimate representative of the Palestinians. Hussein seems also to be under pressure from the other Arabs not to break ranks and join Sadat. Syrian President Assad called him late yesterday, and Hussein spoke with Saudi Prince Fahd as well.

5. Following a special meeting chaired by King Khalid, the Saudi Cabinet also issued an official statement on Camp David. We believe it is likely that the Saudi and Jordanian statements on Camp David may have been partially coordinated. The Saudi statement called the documents an “unacceptable formula for a definitive peace” because “it did not make absolutely clear Israel’s intention to withdraw from all Arab territories it occupied, including Jerusalem.” The statement also noted that the Agreements failed to record the Palestinian right to self-determination and ignored the role of the PLO as recognized by Arab summits.

6. The Saudi statement goes on to say that, in spite of its reservations, the Saudi Government “does not consider that it has a right to interfere in the internal affairs of any Arab country or to oppose such a country’s right to regain its lost territories by way of armed struggle or peaceful means as long as these do not contradict the higher Arab interests.” The statement praised President Carter for his efforts but said Saudi Arabia’s decision was based on its deep commitment to its Islamic and Arab principles and to the decisions of Arab conferences. It called for a collective Arab stance which would lead to victory. We believe, however, that the Saudis are indicating that they do not object to Egypt’s negotiating the recovery of the Sinai but they oppose any agreement with Israel which fails to meet the fundamental demands of the other Arabs. (Confidential)

7. Israel. Embassy Tel Aviv reports2 that several dozen Gush Emunim members established an unauthorized settlement a short distance south of Nablus on September 18. Gush leaders claim this is the site of the biblical Elon Moreh and the action was termed the “proper answer by the land of Israel faithful to the Camp David Agreement.” The settlers have been joined by Knesset member Geula Cohen. Deputy Defense Minister Tzipori told the Embassy that he wanted to prevent the settlers from getting to the site but was overruled by a high authority, probably, the Embassy reports, Acting Prime Minister Yadin. The site was surrounded yesterday by the IDF. Yadin told the Embassy that the settlers would be removed forcibly if they did not leave voluntarily but he postponed resolution of the problem until conferring with Weizman [Page 218]and Dayan. The Cabinet reportedly decided last night that the settlement will be removed.3

8. There is certain to be greatly heightened interest and focus—as well as controversy—over the settlements issue as a result of the Camp David Accord calling for a freeze on settlement development for at least 90 days. Israel has steadily expanded its settlements in the occupied territories since the 1967 war. There are five types of civilian settlements, in addition to para-military Nahals. The most successful civilian settlements are associated with large kibbutz federations. The kibbutz is a communal settlement, in which the land is leased from the State, and worked collectively. A moshav is a smallholders’ community, in which each settler works a separate piece of land leased from the State. A dormitory settlement is a type of bedroom community, where most residents work elsewhere. A regional center is a larger community, surrounded by four to six small agricultural communities, for which is provided administration, support, and services. And finally, an urban center is a community planned and built by the government.

9. The 48 settlements on the West Bank, pose the greatest problem, as far as pressure for new settlements is concerned. Comparative photography of one such community on the West Bank, Shiloh, illustrates the rate at which one of the settlements can be expanded. A comparison of photos taken on November 13, 1977 and February 14, 1978 shows that the number of housing units at Shiloh had increased substantially. Tel Aviv has also continued to increase housing units at other existing settlements in the last several months, suggesting that Israel wanted to achieve as large a buildup as possible in the territory before negotiations with Egypt caused a halt to further development. Between late March and mid-July, 500 housing units were added at 17 settlements. These new units could accommodate up to 2,000 more settlers. They appear to be part of a broad-based plan, rather than efforts of one religious group or political party. (Secret/Noforn)

10. Steadfastness front. According to Embassy Damascus4 all “steadfastness” states except Iraq are expected to be represented by their leaders at today’s meeting in Syria.5 A Foreign Ministry official [Page 219]commented that his colleagues were studying the Camp David documents “phrase by phrase.” He said the Front members would compare their analyses and draw conclusions.

11. The Syrian Government has not yet reacted officially to the conference although the media have again begun calling Sadat a “traitor” and a “capitulationist.” A senior Baath Party official published a sharply negative commentary on the Camp David results. Not surprisingly, the reactions of many politically aware Syrians are more moderate than their leadership. They recognize that Egypt got a good deal in the Sinai but are concerned with the absence of any mention of the Golan. Despite Syria’s opposition to Sadat, these Syrians believe that Sadat had publicly committed himself to work on behalf of all Arabs.

12. A definitive Syrian reaction is not expected until after the Front meetings conclude but it will, undoubtedly, be very negative. Assad is known to believe that once Egypt is excluded from the Arab-Israeli equation, Israel will have little incentive to compromise further. (Confidential)

13. Lebanon. Reports are circulating in Beirut that Sarkis intends to call for the renewal of the ADF mandate which expires in October but hopes to blunt Lebanese rightist criticism by circumscribing the Syrian role. The Phalangist radio and other sources report that Sarkis is expected to try to reduce the number of Syrian troops operating in Lebanon and confine the Syrians to assembly areas from which they would be used as a ready reaction force in support of Lebanese forces. Even if Sarkis succeeds in restricting the Syrian role, this would not satisfy hardline rightists. Dany Shamun warned after leaving a meeting with Sarkis that it would be “a gross mistake” for Sarkis to renew the ADF mandate. (Confidential)

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780385–0095. Secret; Priority. Drafted by Albert A. Vaccaro (INR/RNA/NE); approved by W.D. Wolle (INR/RNA); cleared by C. William Kontos (SSM). Sent for information Priority to Abu Dhabi, Algiers, Baghdad, Brasilia, Cairo, Doha, Jerusalem, Kuwait, London, Madrid, Manama, Mogadiscio, Moscow, Muscat, Nicosia, Nouakchott, Paris, Rabat, Tehran, Tel Aviv, Tripoli, Tunis, Sana, USUN, and the Department of the Treasury.
  2. Telegram 12710 from Tel Aviv, September 19. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780381–0538)
  3. The Israeli Cabinet issued an ultimatum on September 20 to the Gush Emunim settlers, warning that if they refused to leave by September 21, Israeli troops would break up their unauthorized encampment. (William Claiborne, “Israelis Order Settlers to Leave West Bank Hilltop,” The Washington Post, September 21, 1978, p. A10)
  4. Telegram 5502 from Damascus, September 19. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780381–0794)
  5. The third summit of the Arab Steadfastness and Confrontation Front, or “Steadfastness Front,” convened in Damascus on September 20. The group, consisting of Algeria, Iraq, Libya, the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, Syria, and the PLO, formed at the end of 1977 in opposition to Sadat’s dialogue with the Israelis. In addition to producing a formal charter for the Front, the summit participants drafted a proclamation calling for the Front’s member states to break political and economic relations with Egypt and for the transfer of Arab League headquarters from Cairo. A full summary of the summit’s resolutions is in telegram 5738 from Damascus, September 27; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780395–0045)