87. Memorandum From Ambassador-at-Large Alfred L. Atherton, Jr. to President Carter1

SUBJECT

  • Status of Egypt-Israel Negotiations

We have reached the stage in the talks where the issues we will have to contend with are coming into clear focus. They can be grouped [Page 312]in three categories: (1) issues connected with the text of the treaty itself, (2) Israel’s desire for U.S. assistance in connection with its withdrawal from Sinai, and (3) the West Bank/Gaza/Palestinian aspect.

I. Unresolved Issues in Treaty Text

There are two main issues and several minor ones that remain to be resolved in the treaty text. The main ones are:

A. Major Issues

1. How to correlate the Egypt-Israel process with language on a comprehensive peace framework. The Egyptians started out by proposing a number of additions to our basic treaty text, both in the Preamble and in the operative articles, that stressed the continuing commitment of the two sides to solve the problems of a comprehensive peace and the Palestinian issues. The Israelis immediately put up a stiff resistance. Following a meeting with Ghali, Dayan in an effort to be helpful suggested that all of the language along these lines could be embodied in an exchange of letters, either direct between Sadat and Begin or through President Carter. Sadat has agreed to this in principle, and it is now being considered by Begin. The two sides have not yet discussed the contents of such an exchange of letters, but Dayan insists it must not go beyond Camp David language.

The Egyptians have now also agreed that, with respect to the treaty text itself, it will suffice for language on a comprehensive peace to be only in the Preamble, omitting anything along these lines in the operative articles—though they probably want more extensive language than Dayan has in mind.

2. The question of how fast normalization of relations will be put into effect. The Egyptians are not yet prepared to discuss this subject in specific terms as laid out in our draft Annex 3 (they are meeting today to try to develop a coordinated position). They have received instructions from Sadat to put emphasis on a phased schedule for normalizing relations. I met privately with Boutros Ghali today to stress the importance that we, as well as the Israelis, attach to rapid normalization, and that we regard this as implicit in the Camp David undertakings. The Israelis attach the most importance to an immediate establishment of diplomatic relations; they warned in a drafting group meeting this morning that if the Egyptians tried to stretch this out beyond the interim period, it would cause Israel to reconsider its commitment to conclude its interim withdrawal within a shortened time-frame. This is going to be a difficult issue, but we will not know the exact dimensions of it until we see what the Egyptians propose for the specific steps outlined in Annex 3.

B. Minor Issues

1. Controlling third party acts of violence from either party’s territory. Israel wants more detailed and specific language than Egypt. The Egyp[Page 313]tians do not want language that seems to make the treaty specifically directed against the Palestinians. However, steady progress has been made in narrowing the difference on this paragraph, and we think that with a little bit more work, agreement can be reached.

2. The UN Role. The problem here is that the parties cannot, by mere agreement between themselves, commit a UN Force or observer presence which of course must also be authorized by the Security Council. Dayan feels that the treaty text which is based on the Camp David language is inadequate. In this morning’s session he cast around, in a thinking-out-loud manner, for the possibility of some kind of U.S. assurances in the event that the UN Force were withdrawn against the two parties’ consent. We are trying to come up with a range of options that might meet Dayan’s concern on this point.

3. Rights of Navigation. We now have agreed language on Israeli use of the Suez Canal, but a difference remains on the question of the Strait of Tiran and the Gulf of Aqaba. Israel wants, in accordance with the language at Camp David, to have the treaty state that the parties consider these waterways to be international waterways “open to all nations for unimpeded and non-suspendable freedom of navigation.” The Egyptians are resisting this language because they do not want to frame their commitment in terms of a general principle which could weaken their position to bar Soviet or other vessels from unimpeded passage in these waterways. The Israelis exhibit no sign of give on this point however. They take the position that because it was in the Camp David Framework it cannot be weakened.

4. Arms Limitation. The Israelis originally proposed an article on arms limitation but now request that it be withdrawn. The Egyptians do not seem to feel strongly about it one way or the other; they are checking with Cairo about dropping this provision.

5. Priority of Obligations. The Israelis want sweeping, all-encompassing language to the effect that this treaty supersedes any other Egyptian obligation. This causes the Egyptians severe problems because of their numerous defense pacts with other Arab states. There has been much discussion about this item; both sides fully understand the other’s problem; and they are beginning to try to formulate language that may in the end be mutually accommodating. The latest Israeli suggestion came from Dayan this morning: he wonders whether Egypt might not supplement the somewhat vaguer language it prefers in the treaty text with a letter to the U.S. stating that if Syria (for example) attacks Israel, Egypt would not honor its defense pact undertaking to come to its assistance.

6. Oil. The Israelis want to begin discussions about this as soon as possible; the Egyptians have not made up their minds about it. We see this as something the two sides will have to come to some under[Page 314]standing on before overall agreement is possible, and we have recommended to the Egyptians that they authorize their experts to begin discussions now.

7. Review Clause. The Egyptians want a provision in the treaty for review after five years, which in their mind would be linked to the five-year period for a transitional regime in the West Bank and Gaza. For the same reason that Egypt likes this idea, the Israelis don’t. The Israelis have countered with language providing that the parties can open discussions about “amendments” to the treaty “at any time.”

8. Security Council Endorsement. The Egyptians have signaled that they want to embody in this treaty the language in the General Framework on Security Council endorsement. We have signaled to them our concern that this might give the Soviets a handle on the treaty that none of us want. The Egyptians said they would give some further thought to the matter.

II. U.S. Assistance to Israel

Weizman has persistently brought up at our bilateral meetings the extra costs that are entailed for Israel in a speedy withdrawal from Sinai. He hopes the U.S. will assist Israel financially to compensate for these costs, and also possibly with certain equipment which the Israelis would have to leave behind. Weizman has informally put a $2 billion figure on this and has made it clear he sees it as over and above the assistance on the two airfields that we are already committed to. He told me this morning once again that he is anxious to come to grips with this as soon as possible. He has experts standing by in Israel who could come here as soon as we signal that we are prepared to begin discussions on this aspect. Weizman said clearly to me this morning in private discussion that he does not see such assistance as a condition to the rapid conclusion of a peace treaty, but he has also said our response on this is likely to affect Israel’s final interim withdrawal schedule. At minimum, he wants the discussions on U.S. assistance to be underway as the final terms of the treaty are worked on.

III. Israeli Gestures on West Bank/Gaza/Palestinian Question

We have discussed with Dayan practical steps or statements of intention Israel might make, in conjunction with the signing of the Egyptian-Israeli Treaty, to encourage Hussein and the Palestinians to begin negotiating, such as:

—Reduce military government presence and give more responsibility to the existing local authorities.

—Amnesty for Palestinian detainees.

—Withdrawal and redeployment of some Israeli troops.

—Permit political meetings in the West Bank and Gaza.

[Page 315]—Agree that Palestinian Arabs in East Jerusalem can vote in West Bank elections and hold office in the self-governing authority.

—Agree that the self-governing authority will take over administration of public lands.

—Relax procedures for Arabs crossing Jordan River bridge.

Dayan has listened with interest but has been non-committal on all but two points. He said he would discuss with Weizman drawing up a list of Palestinian political detainees to whom amnesty might be granted. He also is considering some unilateral reduction in the Israeli military government presence and responsibilities, though in a later timeframe than we believe desirable.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Presidential Advisory Board, Box 77, Sensitive X: 10/78. Secret; Nodis. Printed from an uninitialed copy. Carter initialed “C” at the top of the memorandum.