183. Editorial Note

On August 25, 1977, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin visited Bucharest for discussions with Romanian President Nicolae Ceausescu. The Embassy in Bucharest reported in telegram 6444, September 1, that while the Romanian media had been “singularly uninformative on substance of talks,” according to the Israeli Ambassador to Romania, the two leaders had begun “getting through to each other if only in terms of personal rapport” despite serious disagreements between them on the Middle East issue. “Each side restated its well-known positions” the Embassy reported, and, although “no offer was made by Ceausescu to mediate nor was he so asked by Begin,” the two sides agreed to stay in touch with one another on the issue. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770316–0847)

Telegram 6719 from Tel Aviv, September 8, provided further details on the Ceausescu-Begin meeting reported from Bucharest. In his conversation with U.S. Ambassador to Israel Samuel Lewis and the Deputy Chief of Mission following his return from Romania, Prime Minister Begin recounted that Ceausescu “claimed [Egyptian President Anwar al-] Sadat told him earlier this year that he is ready for a direct meeting between representatives of Egypt and Israel. Begin asked if Sadat meant he was ready to meet with him (Begin). If so, Begin said he was prepared. Ceausescu thought a meeting at such a high level was not yet in the cards, but that the initial contact would have to be between ‘representatives’ of the two countries at a lower, unspecified level. When Ambassador asked whether Begin understood that ‘ball remained in the Romanian court’ to arrange meeting, response was that it remained in the Egyptian court.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770325–0731)

Talk of a Romanian mediation effort in the Middle East was not without basis. Bucharest was the only Eastern European Communist country to maintain diplomatic relations with Israel following the 1967 War, despite pressure from Moscow and the Arab countries to isolate Israel. Bucharest had also been involved in back-channel diplomacy in 1967 in Vietnam (see Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume V, Vietnam, 1967, Document 411) and in the initial stages of the Sino-American rapprochement from 1969 to 1970. (See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, [Page 548] volume XXIX, Eastern Europe; Eastern Mediterranean, 1969–1972, Document 199; and Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XVII, China, 1969–1972, Documents 20, 94, and 96)