90. Telegram From the Department of State to Secretary of State Vance in Pretoria and the Embassies in Egypt, Israel, and Saudi Arabia1

Tosec 120078/263638. Jidda for Saunders from Atherton. Subject: Blair House Talks—October 17.

1. We met first today with El-Baz and his colleagues bilaterally. They handed us a proposed annex2 on oil and after some discussion indicated that they were now ready to begin negotiations with the Israelis on this subject. We conveyed our view that assurances about long-term supply of oil to Israel would be important in determining how soon the Israelis were willing to withdraw. El-Baz took the position that this could not be expressed in a contractual undertaking but “an understanding,” might be reached about it.

[Page 319]2. The Egyptians then gave us their proposed redraft of Annex III on normalization of relations.3 As we had expected, the Egyptian text details a more gradual establishment of the various enumerated elements of a normal relationship. In commenting on their text, El-Baz said there were two considerations that led the Egyptians to this approach: first, there had to be “parallelism, between the phased nature of Israel’s withdrawal and the establishment of relations; and, second, it was pragmatically impossible for Egypt to “throw the door open” all at once to the Israelis. He emphasized again the problems this would cause Egypt with the other Arabs.

3. I told El-Baz frankly that if the text were handed to the Israelis in its present form it would come as a considerable shock and disappointment to the Israelis, in particular stretched-out Egyptian phasing for establishment of full diplomatic relations which envisage an early announcement, then after some delay opening offices in capitals at Charge level, with Ambassadors being exchanged after six months. I said I thought President Carter would also be disappointed in this approach. We felt that this issue had been resolved at Camp David, namely, that in the general sense normal relations would be established immediately following completion of Israel’s withdrawal to the interim line. Using “gradual” to qualify normalization process would inevitably convey a sense of Egyptian reluctance to take these steps. As for El-Baz’s concept about the need for parallelism, I said this ignored the essential imbalance between the tangible and physical nature of Israel’s withdrawal, which could not be reversed without going to war, and the intangible nature of implementing Egypt’s commitments to peace and normal relations. I told El-Baz that I thought it would be helpful if we could sit down again with them over this text before they presented it to the Israelis. El-Baz stressed Egypt’s commitment to everything agreed to at Camp David and to full and permanent peace. He said Egypt’s interpretation was that “immediately” relates to starting process of normalization by phases, not to completion of process.

4. We then had a bilateral meeting with the Israelis, both Dayan and Weizman present. Dayan reported on a lengthy dinner conversation he had had with Boutros Ghali the night before. He was clearly depressed by this meeting. Boutros Ghali had discussed with him Egypt’s desire for rather extensive language in the preamble of the treaty reflecting the two sides’ continuing commitment to a comprehensive peace and to resolution of the Palestinian problem. They talked about a possible Begin-Sadat exchange of letters to supplement this preamble language, but Dayan said the Egyptians wanted to choose selectively and extensively from the Camp David Framework in a manner that [Page 320]would distort its balance. Dayan thought this might be overcome by having Sadat put whatever the Egyptians wanted in his letter, while Begin, without repudiating Sadat’s letter, would stress the points that Israel wanted in his reply. They also talked about Egypt’s desire for gradualism in the normalization of relations, which Dayan, even before seeing the text for Annex III, clearly found disappointing and not in keeping with Camp David understandings.

5. Dayan took a firmly negative position about putting comprehensive peace language in this treaty beyond the single agreed preambular paragraph. When I asked him whether he did not recognize that Sadat had a political problem about this and that it was in our joint interest to help strengthen him in Arab world, as well as to find language that might help bring Hussein and moderate Palestinians into negotiations, Dayan expressed impatience over Israel’s constantly being asked to worry about Sadat’s problems when in fact Israel had taken the extraordinary step of returning all of Sinai to Egypt and had difficult problems of its own.

6. President met separately in afternoon with senior members of Israeli4 and Egyptian5 delegations, which will be reported separately.6 Purpose was to review status of negotiations, identify problem areas and talk about ideas for dealing with them. We will be meeting bilaterally Wednesday7 morning with Egyptians and then with Israelis to follow up on these ideas, and are tentatively thinking of scheduling a trilateral drafting session for late morning or afternoon to see if we can resolve some of remaining differences in treaty text.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840148–2579. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Drafted by Sterner; cleared by Stanislaus R.P. Valerga (S/S–O); approved by Atherton. Sent for information Immediate to the White House. Vance was in Pretoria for discussions on the Namibian question with South African officials.
  2. A copy of this proposal has not been found.
  3. No copy of the Egyptian redraft has been found.
  4. See Document 88.
  5. See Document 89.
  6. The substance of Carter’s October 17 meeting with the Israeli delegation was reported in telegram Tosec 120114/265618 to Cairo and Amman, October 19. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Cables File, State Department Out, Box 113, 10/17–22/78) Telegram Tosec 120113/265619 to Tel Aviv, Cairo, and Amman, October 19, provides a summary record of Carter’s October 17 meeting with the Egyptian delegation. (Ibid.)
  7. October 18.