(20 September 1978)
When Menachem Begin came to office in spring 1977, his long held political and ideological view was that the West Bank, or Judea and Samaria as he referred to the areas, was part of the historic land of Israel, and thus belonged to the Jewish people. He was persuaded by his Foreign Minister, Moshe Dayan, and others not to annex these areas while negotiations with Arabs continued, but to leave their status at least open for future discussions. Yet Begin made it clear to the US Administration and others, he would not allow foreign sovereignty over these areas, and he would not curb Israeli presence or growth in them. He also included the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights, areas won in the 1967 War, as legitimate areas for Jewish settlement. When Begin visited Carter for the first time in July 1977 he made his position clear: not to allow any foreign constraint on Israeli use of the territories. Equally adamant, the Carter Administration continued to make its case that Israel should not and could not continue to control and expand its presence in these territories. In the Carter Administration’s view, the West Bank areas were to be reserved for the future Palestinian homeland or state. Though Begin claimed to have made no promise to halt Israeli settlements in any discussions with Carter or members of his Administration, Carter himself and other officials stated explicitly that Begin had made such a promise to halt settlements “for the duration of the negotiations.” For Carter the “duration” meant five years until the end of the proposed transitional period for implementation of Palestinian autonomy. The note below, dictated upon Begin’s departure from Washington after the conclusion of the Camp David summit, along with other irrefutable evidence including the notes of their earlier meetings taken by Aharon Barak and recollections by members of the Carter negotiating team indicate that Begin never made the promise Carter and his Administration claimed. The disagreement on the promise to halt settlements and for what duration, if any, continuously caused bitterness between Begin and Carter, and subsequently between Carter and other Israeli leaders following his tenure as President. Because Carter consistently said in public that Begin made the promise and violated it, and could not impose on Israel a commitment to adhere to the so-called promise, it greatly hurt American credibility with Arab leaders.
-Ken Stein, November 2013
The President invited the Prime Minister to a departure chat in The White House that took place at 12:30 PM with the presence of Mrs. Carter.
A. At the opening of the meeting the President presented the Prime Minister with a ceramic art object from Jerusalem that he received from his sister.
B. The President then asked to be left alone with the Prime Minister. He told the Prime Minister that during the visit of Vance in Jordan and Saudi Arabia, he requested that both the Prime Minister and President Sadat should act with extra caution in their public declarations in order not to impede the situation.
The Prime Minister responded by noting that he is cautious in his public declarations, but when the spokesperson for the Administration presents a misleading interpretation on the agreement, it is the Prime Minister’s duty to correct the distortion. The Prime Minister added that from the government’s spokesperson’s message it could be understood as if Israel has no right to maintain military presence in the West Bank beyond a five-year period. The President responded that this is not true and that Israel has that right to do so beyond the five years.
The Prime Minister continued and that the Administration spokesperson also said that the obligation not to establish new settlements in Judea, Samaria and Gaza was also restricted to five-year period. The President responded that no such obligation was ever given.
C. The President reiterated his wish to visit both Israel and Egypt during the current year. The two leaders exchanged greetings and departed very amiably.
*Notes by Simcha Dinitz