Structure and Scope of the Foreign Relations Series

This volume is part of a subseries of the Foreign Relations series that documents the most important issues in the foreign policy of the administration of President Jimmy Carter. The volume documents U.S. foreign policy toward the Arab-Israeli dispute from August 1978 until January 1981, focusing on the Camp David Summit among President Carter, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, and Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat; the negotiation and conclusion of the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty; the Carter administration’s ongoing efforts to broaden support for the Middle East peace process in the Arab World; U.S. involvement in the post-Treaty talks on Palestinian autonomy; bilateral security arrangements between the United States and Egypt, Israel, and Jordan; as well as U.S. efforts to deal with the ongoing hostilities in Lebanon and diplomatic initiatives taken in the United Nations vis-à-vis the Arab-Israeli dispute. This volume continues the narrative of the Carter administration’s efforts to seek a peaceful resolution of the Arab-Israeli dispute begun in Foreign Relations, 1977-1980, volume VIII, Arab-Israeli Dispute, January 1977-August 1978, which covers the period from Carter’s inauguration to Begin and Sadat’s acceptance of the President’s invitation to meet with him at Camp David on August 8, 1978. Readers interested in the relationship between President Sadat, the deposed Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, and the new Islamic government in Iran, culminating in Sadat’s decision to provide asylum to the Shah in March 1980, should consult Foreign Relations, Volume XI, Part 1, Iran: Hostage Crisis, November 1979-September 1980. The Carter administration’s broader policy toward the Middle East region, separate from the dynamics of the Arab-Israeli dispute, including its efforts to construct a regional security framework beginning in 1979, and bilateral relations with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the Yemens, and the Gulf States, is documented in Foreign Relations, 1977-1980, volume XVIII, Middle East Region; Arabian Peninsula. For further regional context, including U.S. policy toward the revolution in Iran and the implications of the 1979 oil crisis, readers should consult Foreign Relations, 1977-1980, volume X, Iran: Revolution, January 1977-November 1979, and Foreign Relations, 1969-1976, volume XXXVII, Energy Crisis, 1974-1980.

Focus of Research and Principles of Selection for Foreign Relations, 1977-1980, Volume IX

This volume continues the Foreign Relations series’ documentation of the Carter administration’s diplomatic efforts to achieve a compre[Page X]hensive negotiated settlement to the Arab-Israeli dispute begun in Foreign Relations, 1977-1980, volume VIII, Arab-Israeli Dispute, January 1977-August 1978. This volume begins with the August 8, 1978, acceptance by Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat of President Carter’s invitation to meet with him for talks at Camp David and continues until the end of the Carter administration on January 20, 1981. The volume is organized into five chronological compilations. Greater emphasis has been given to the first seven months of the period covered by the volume; three compilations are devoted to the period from August 8, 1978, until the signing of the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty on March 26, 1979. This emphasis reflects the most intense period of U.S. diplomatic effort in pursuit of what the Carter administration hoped would be the first stage of a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace settlement. Indeed, during this seven month period, the Arab-Israeli dispute reached its apex on the list of U.S. foreign policy priorities, reflected in President Carter’s direct involvement in the peace process at a level he had not reached previously and would not reach again throughout his presidency.

The Camp David invitation in August 1978 was an important juncture in U.S. involvement in the Middle East peace process begun by Sadat’s historic visit to Jerusalem in November 1977, a process which was languishing by the summer of 1978. Following the inconclusive tripartite talks at Leeds Castle in July of that year, Carter’s invitation represented an ambitious new step for U.S. diplomacy, one which sought, through intensive, direct negotiations at the highest level, to do more than merely continue an Egyptian-Israeli dialogue. For Carter, the goal of Camp David was the establishment of concrete foundations for an Egyptian-Israeli peace settlement, ultimately embodied in the two “Framework” documents signed in Washington upon the conclusion of the summit on September 17, 1978, in the hope of using this agreement as the springboard for a more comprehensive peace. In doing so, Carter placed the Arab-Israeli dispute at the center of the U.S. foreign policy agenda in a way no U.S. President had previously attempted and cast himself in the role of direct, personal mediator between Egypt and Israel. The compilation on the Camp David Summit documents U.S. planning for Camp David and the course of the summit itself. The reader will note the relative dearth of official documentation, especially memoranda of conversation, in the volume’s coverage of the summit. According to members of the U.S. delegation at Camp David, no written memoranda of conversation were kept of President Carter’s discussions with Prime Minister Begin and President Sadat. Carter kept his own notes of these meetings and afterward held debriefings with his staff. Much of this material is now in the Carter Presidential Library in Atlanta, Georgia, and has been incorporated into this volume as much as possible. The volume also draws upon the portions of Presi[Page XI]dent Carter’s personal diary relating to the summit that were published in 2010. The complete, un-edited version of this diary is held privately by the Jimmy Carter Center and, as of the publication date of this volume, is unavailable to the public. Requests by Department of State historians to secure access to this version of the diary for use in compiling the Foreign Relations series were denied by the Carter Center. Similarly, Department of State historians sought access to the personal papers of other U.S. officials in order to supplement the official record of the summit. Former Secretary of Defense Harold Brown and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Zbigniew Brzezinski granted Department of State historians access to significant portions of their respective personal papers collections at the Library of Congress, both of which remain closed to the public as of this volume’s publication, though Brzezinski denied access to his personal journals.

Although the Camp David Accords represented an important breakthrough in the peace process, the task of facilitating the translation of the Framework documents into a formal peace agreement between Egypt and Israel proved a slow, often laborious, task for the Carter administration. The compilation on the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty documents the administration’s efforts, beginning with the Blair House talks in October 1978, to work with the Egyptians and Israelis to reach an agreed treaty text, a process which reached a deadlock that Secretary of State Cyrus Vance’s frequent meetings with the Egyptian and Israeli leadership proved unable to break. The compilation on the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty negotiations after Vance made a December 1978 trip to the region, therefore covers the administration’s final push to work with Begin and Sadat to break the negotiating deadlock, marked by Carter’s personal re-intervention in the negotiations, first in Washington, meeting with Sadat and Begin separately during the first week of March 1979, and then in Israel and Egypt a week later.

Following the conclusion of the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty, the next round of negotiations, designed to address the question of Palestinian autonomy, largely took place at a lower working level. The final two compilations of this volume cover this period. In April 1979, Carter passed primary responsibility for the peace negotiations to a special representative, former Special Trade Representative Robert S. Strauss, who was in turn succeeded by Sol M. Linowitz eight months later. With the U.S. failure to broaden Arab support for its diplomatic efforts, highlighted by the negative reaction to the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty in the Arab world as well as the pressures brought by the growing number of foreign policy crises elsewhere, the Carter administration’s engagement with the Arab-Israeli dispute entered a far less intensive phase. During the last eighteen months of the administration, U.S. diplomatic efforts on this issue centered largely upon keeping the (ulti[Page XII]mately inconclusive) autonomy talks on track, securing the continued goodwill and stability of Egypt by negotiating resupply of the military with U.S. arms, mediating in Sadat’s mounting public rivalry with Saudi Arabia, dealing with the ongoing upheaval in Lebanon, and addressing the series of resolutions related to the Arab-Israeli dispute brought before the United Nations Security Council.

In keeping with the other Foreign Relations volumes in the Carter administration subseries, the emphasis of this volume is on policy formulation, rather than the implementation of policy or day-to-day diplomacy. As in other volumes in this subseries, the National Security Council and the Department of State were the primary agents of U.S. policymaking. Given the intense personal interest of the President in the peace process through much of the period covered by this volume as well as the President’s April 1979 decision to turn over the negotiations to a special representative answerable directly to him, the former occupied a more sustained place in determining policy. Following the conclusion of the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty, these two agencies were joined more directly in the policy making process by the Department of Defense, especially in assessing and meeting the perceived strategic needs of Egypt and Israel.


The editor wishes to acknowledge the assistance of officials at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum in Atlanta, Georgia, particularly Ceri McCarron, Brittany Parris, David Stanhope, and James Yancey for their patient and tireless assistance. Thanks are also due to the Central Intelligence Agency for arranging access to the Carter Library materials scanned for the Remote Archive Capture project. The Historical Staff of the Central Intelligence Agency were helpful in arranging full access to the files of the Central Intelligence Agency, and Sandy Meagher was helpful in providing access to Department of Defense materials. Thanks are due to the staff of the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress for expediting access to the papers of Harold Brown and Sol M. Linowitz. The editor thanks the staff at the National Archives and Records Administration facility in College Park, Maryland, for their valuable assistance.

Alexander R. Wieland collected and selected documentation and edited the volume under the supervision of Adam Howard, then Chief of the Middle East and Africa Division, and Susan C. Weetman/Adam Howard, General Editor of the series. Dean Weatherhead coordinated the declassification review under the supervision of Carl Ashley, Chief of the Declassification and Publishing Division. Stephanie Eckroth and Craig Daigle did the copy and technical editing. Do Mi Stauber, Inc. prepared the index.

Alexander R. Wieland, Ph.D.