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82. Memorandum of Conversation1

PARTICIPANTS

  • AMERICAN SIDE

    • Jimmy Carter, President
    • Walter Mondale, Vice President
    • Cyrus Vance, Secretary of State
    • Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Council Advisor to the President
    • Alfred L. Atherton, Ambassador at Large
  • ISRAELI SIDE

    • Moshe Dayan, Foreign Minister
    • Ezer Weizman, Defense Minister

SUBJECT

  • Middle East Peace Negotiations

The President opened the meeting by confirming with Dayan that he was prepared to stay in Washington until a peace treaty was concluded. Sadat was eager to conclude a treaty without delay. The President said he would be available to help if the negotiations slow down. The President said we had prepared a draft treaty which we would make available Wednesday to both the Egyptian and Israeli Delegations. We had studied the maps carefully and had done our best in drawing the lines.

Dayan noted that the Camp David framework speaks of full normalization of relations after the interim withdrawal but does not say this would happen immediately. Is it Sadat’s intention that normalization should be immediate?

The President said his position was that Sadat should move to full normalization immediately, including open borders and recognition, including the establishment of diplomatic relations, perhaps with the exchange of Ambassadors occurring a bit later. The President responded affirmatively to Dayan’s question of whether this meant full normalization would occur in a matter of weeks after the interim withdrawal.

[Page 295]The President said he would also like to see an early Israeli withdrawal. Weizman responded that this would be easy so far as military units and equipments are concerned but was more complicated with respect to the Israeli listening posts in Sinai. Israel would like to arrange for some of these to remain, perhaps with U.S. help. Weizman estimated there were five such sites involving radar stations and telephone systems (he mentioned for example at Jebal Libni). Israel would do its best to pull back within three months to specific spots in the northern, central and southern sectors but it would not be a direct line. Withdrawal would definitely be concluded to the interim line, however, in nine months. Israel may ask for U.S. help with respect to its intelligence sites. Weizman said he could also foresee a need for assistance with respect to the total cost of withdrawal from Sinai and relocation in Israel over the three-year period, which might amount to $2 billion.

The President said he would hesitate to ask Sadat to permit early warning stations to remain on Egyptian territory, though this might be possible if they were operated by the U.S. The Secretary added that if any Israeli sites remain on Egyptian territory, Sadat would want the same rights on the Israeli side. Weizman said Israel was prepared to discuss reciprocity and, in response to a specific question by the President, said this could include an Egyptian site in the Negev. Weizman said he would ask General Tamir to discuss these questions with General Magdoub early in the conference and would report the results to the President.

Dayan said Israel wanted to move as fast as possible and in some areas could withdraw within three months. He thought Egypt would cooperate with respect to intelligence sites until Israel constructed new ones even if this took more than three months, with U.S. personnel manning the sites in the meantime.

In response to Dr. Brzezinski’s question about how many personnel would be involved, Weizman said it was not the number of people but the installations themselves—e.g., fuel and ammunition dumps—which were the problem.

The President said Sadat would not yield on the exchange of normalization for withdrawal. If even a few Israeli troops were to stay on the Egyptian side, Sadat would delay an agreement and this would risk having everything go down the drain. If Sadat agreed, the U.S. could man two watch stations with each side choosing its own location.

Weizman said Israel would be withdrawing faster than it had ever imagined. It had to be an orderly withdrawal but Israel wanted to move fast for the same reasons the U.S. did.

[Page 296]The President turned to the question of the UN zones envisaged in the framework agreement. He had talked2 with Waldheim who thought the present UNEF of about 3,000 personnel could be used. If the number were increased, Security Council action would be needed and would risk a Soviet veto. In response to the President’s question, both Weizman and Dayan thought that UNEF with its present strength could do the job. The President added that we are prepared to leave the Sinai Field Mission in place for a period of time if Israel and Egypt wished.

Reverting to the earlier discussion, Dayan said the key question was whether Israel could be assured that Sadat would agree to full normalization a few weeks after the interim withdrawal.

The President replied that Sadat says he (the President) had forced him to accept diplomatic relations and open borders. The President had told Sadat this was in his interest, in order to have a means to discuss routine problems as they arose. The President said he would pursue with enthusiasm the objective of immediate normalization following the interim withdrawal. Dayan said it was not a question of having an Egyptian Embassy in Tel Aviv per se; he was worried about what might happen after two or three years if relations had not been fully consolidated. The President said he intended to marshal all possible U.S. help to consolidate normalization of Egyptian-Israeli relations—e.g., trade missions, capital investment, etc. Sadat was impulsive and could be brought to support this objective if handled correctly, but he could also be impulsive in negative ways.

The President then asked how soon Israel envisaged complete withdrawal from Sinai. Weizman said not before three years because of the airfield construction problem. Israel was squeezing itself back into a small area and needed the best possible new airfields.

The President said we would like to help expedite Israel’s airfield construction. With respect to Israel’s interest in using Sinai air space for training purposes, the President said he could not reveal Sadat’s position but thought that Sadat sees this as an inducement to expedite the withdrawal process. If the talks go well on both sides and we can get Sadat in a good mood, the President believed he would agree to Israeli training in Sinai air space. If Sadat agreed, however, it would be as a good faith gesture; he is not required to do this. Weizman said Israel would seek Egypt’s agreement to this, for unarmed training in specified corridors.

[Page 297]The President asked how long it would take for the Israeli settlers to leave Sinai. Dayan said a few months one way or other made no difference. The airfield construction would be the controlling factor.

The President said it is important to keep Sadat in a good mood. He can be generous if he thinks he is being treated fairly, but he can be mean if he feels pushed. Sadat wanted the President and Mrs. Carter to visit Egypt and this would be an incentive to him to expedite matters. It is important, the President added, to keep the trust of the Egyptian Delegation. If El-Baz proves difficult, the President instructed Atherton to bring him to the White House for a talk.

Dayan again emphasized that Israel wants to move rapidly. Sadat has problem, but Israel also has domestic political problem which must be taken into account.

The President asked how much could be accomplished in Washington on West Bank/Gaza issues. Dayan said nothing could be accomplished; with whom would Israel negotiate? The President replied it was not a question of negotiating but of discussing how to get the West Bank/Gaza process started, and how to get Hussein and Palestinian Arabs involved. We have questions from Hussein to answer, and there will be difficulties when the answers become public.

The President then raised the problem of settlements on the West Bank, saying that his personal word of honor was at stake. If Israel could write a letter relating the settlement freeze to the West Bank/Gaza negotiations for establishing a transitional regime and could combine this with the statement Dayan made on his airport arrival in Israel September 19,3 this would be sufficient.

Dayan replied that he would not advise Begin to do anything more on the settlements issue, given his political difficulties at home. Begin had already pushed matters to the limit and there was the risk of losing his Knesset majority, which would require new elections; this would require time and delay negotiations undesirably. There would be no new settlements for three months beginning Thursday, October 12. Why would this matter need to be raised now?

The President said he was not pushing it but was not certain that Egypt would not insist.

The President said there was no decision at Camp David to postpone West Bank/Gaza negotiations.

Dayan replied that Israel did not want to postpone them, but the reality was that there had to be Palestinians who would cooperate so [Page 298]that West Bank/Gaza elections could be held as a first step toward establishing a Palestinian administration and the withdrawal of the Israeli military government.

Secretary Vance said preliminary work could be done in Washington on how to organize elections and a local administration. The President asked how Palestinians could be brought into the process. Dayan responded that if the Palestinians see the Egyptian-Israeli negotiations progressing, they will join. In response to a question by the President, Dayan said he was referring to their joining a short time after the Egyptian-Israeli treaty was signed. This could not be done, however, in the next two or three weeks.

With respect to Hussein, Secretary Vance said he had three choices: to join the negotiations, to stay out but encourage Palestinians to join, or to reject negotiations entirely. The Secretary said he doubted Hussein would reject totally but was not certain precisely where Hussein would come out given the many pressures he is under.

Dayan thought it most likely Hussein would give a green light to the Palestinians while not committing himself. Hussein would watch carefully how the Washington talks would progress. If a treaty is signed in two to four weeks, the chances were that the Palestinians would join. Dayan said it would have a negative impact if in the Washington negotiations we seem to be patronizing the Palestinians by negotiating for them.

Secretary Vance said he saw another problem. While there is no linkage between the two frameworks, Sadat sees them as part of the same context. He needs to show that he has not forgotten the Palestinians. If there is no movement on West Bank/Gaza issues, Sadat will have problems. Dr. Brzezinski stressed that we needed to keep in mind Weizman’s distinction between a “separate peace” and a “first peace.”

Weizman responded that if West Bank/Gaza issues are rushed too much, nothing will result. Once an Egyptian-Israeli treaty is signed, Israel should seek to implement what it has promised by moving toward West Bank/Gaza self-government. If Israel demonstrates that it is prepared to go ahead—and Israel can do this—this will help Hussein.

The President then commented that he had honored his pledge to have no contact with the PLO. If he goes to Cairo, however, Sadat wants him (the President) to meet with some Palestinians. How far, the President asked, could he go in this respect? The President said he does not want to violate his promise to the Israelis but could not check the credentials of Palestinians Sadat might ask him to meet. Dayan said he did not know which Palestinians Sadat might bring to Cairo. The President commented that perhaps Hussein could choose them. Dayan said this would be better. If the issue to be discussed was the self-government proposal, they should be Palestinians who live in the West [Page 299]Bank/Gaza, whatever their political sympathies. The President asked why it could not be any Palestinians who were qualified to participate even if they did not live in these areas. Dayan said this would create a problem. In response to the President’s comment that Hussein could choose any Palestinians living in Jordan, Dayan thought this would be no problem; Hussein would not choose PLO Palestinians. He saw no problem with the President’s meeting Palestinians from Jordan but was not so sure about Egypt. In response to the President’s comment that he assumed there were thousands of PLO members in the West Bank and Gaza, Dayan said he was concerned primarily about a small group of leaders of the PLO. The best thing would be to let Israel look at the list of Palestinians involved.

The President said he would not want to show Israel the list. If he went to Cairo, he would ask Hussein to bring a group of Palestinians to meet with him.

Dayan said he saw no problem with this. Hussein might bring Palestinians Israel had expelled but Israel could live with this. Israel’s concern is about those Palestinians it must work with; they must be elected representatives. Dayan concluded this discussion by saying it would be a wrong move to focus now on West Bank/Gaza issues instead of concentrating over the next few weeks on the Israeli-Egyptian treaty. It would only antagonize the Arabs. Let us work within the framework agreement, Dayan said. The Palestinians will join when they see that the train is moving.

Secretary Vance said we need to move fast but urged Dayan not to close his mind to discussing West Bank/Gaza issues; this may be necessary in order to expedite the treaty negotiations. (Dayan and Weizman did not respond to this point.)

The President then raised the question of claims. Sadat had said in his and Begin’s presence that he would have a claim for the oil that Israel had extracted. The President said his own inclination was to try to get both sides not to make any claims against the other. Negotiations over claims could be a festering sore. If we could get Sadat to agree not to press claims, the President hoped Israel would also agree.

Dayan said Israel has questions to raise about the oil fields. Israel’s interest was in being able to purchase Gulf of Suez and Sinai oil; this could be left to the oil companies, which were American on both sides, perhaps with Israeli and Egyptian representatives participating. Dayan said he agreed the best solution would be to have no claims.

In conclusion, the President said we would prefer the same arrangements for briefing the press as had been adopted at Camp David. Dayan and Weizman both agreed. Dayan noted, however, that this would be harder to enforce in Washington than at Camp David, but if there were any leaks, they would not come from him.

  1. Source: Department of State, Bureau of Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, NEA Front Office Subject File 1978–1984, Lot 85D251, Box 3, 1978 Memcons—President. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Atherton on October 11. According to the President’s Daily Diary, the meeting took place in the Cabinet Room from 4:47 p.m. to 5:53 p.m. (Carter Library, Presidential Materials) Carter’s handwritten notes from the meeting are in the Carter Library, Plains File, President’s Personal Foreign Affairs File, Box 2, Israel, 11/77–2/79.
  2. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Carter met with Waldheim in Orlando, Florida, from 7:07 p.m. to 7:25 p.m., October 1. (Carter Library, Presidential Materials) No memorandum of conversation for this meeting has been found.
  3. The text of Dayan’s September 19 press conference, held jointly with Weizman at Ben Gurion airport, is printed in Israel’s Foreign Relations: Selected Documents, 1977–1979, vol. 5, pp. 535–540.