Six July 1978 U.S. Documents on Egyptian-Israeli Narrowing of Differences
Moshe Dayan and Anwar Sadat meet in November 1977. (credit: Ya'acov Sa'ar, Israeli Government Press Office, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Six July 1978 U.S. Documents on Egyptian-Israeli Narrowing of Differences, Details Egyptian Proposals for the West Bank and Gaza. Preparation for the Leeds Castle, England, Foreign Ministers conference in July, with commentary and analyses from Cyrus Vance, Roy Atherton, Herman Eilts, Hal Saunders and Bill Quandt 

These six documents from the Carter Presidential Library show the enormous detail discussed between Americans and Egyptians prior to the 1978 Camp David summit. They reveal Sadat’s deep involvement with specifics and Washington’s analyses and policy planning two months before the summit commenced. Just as Sadat and Kissinger pre-cooked the December 1973 Geneva conference with Israeli Prime Minister Meir, this time highly talented American diplomats provided Carter with specific content before they met in early September. It is known from other sources that the first drafts of the Camp David Accords would written in England immediately after the mid-July Leeds Castle, England, foreign ministers discussion. Differences and gaps remained before the summit began, but Carter benefitted superb preparatory staff work.

Ken Stein, June 23, 2024 

Sadat’s proposal on a resolution of West Bank and Gaza issues

July 1978

Source: Camp David Files, Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, Atlanta, Ga

Summary: The document is a message from Secretary Vance to the embassy in Israel about Sadat’s proposal on a resolution of West Bank and Gaza issues, that he requested be passed on to the Israeli government. The proposal covers between which parties negotiations should take place, the areas from which Israel will withdraw, a rough timetable for the transition, and a few other matters relating to a peace agreement.

July 78

To AmEmbassy Tel Aviv

Info AmEmbassy Cairo

White House

Subject: Text of Egyptian Proposal on West Bank/Gaza issues

  1. Following is the text of the Egyptian proposal which President Sadat on July 3 asked Vice President Mondale to transmit first to President Carter and then to GOI:

(Begin text) Proposals Relative to Withdrawal From the West Bank and Gaza and Security Arrangements

–1. The establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East necessitates a just solution of the Palestinian question in all its aspects on the basis of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and taking into consideration the legitimate security concerns of all the parties.

–2. In order to ensure a peaceful and orderly transfer of authority there shall be a transitional period not exceeding five years at the end of which the Palestinian people will be able to determine their own future.

–3. Talks shall take place between Egypt, Jordan, Israel and representatives of the Palestinian people with the participation of the UN with a view to agreeing upon:

–A. Details of the transitional regime.

–B. Timetable for the Israeli withdrawal.

–C. Mutual security arrangements for all the parties concerned during and following the transitional period.

–D. Modalities for the implementation of relevant UN resolutions on Palestinian refugees.

–E. Other issues considered appropriate by all parties.

–4. Israel shall withdraw from the West Bank (including Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip, occupied since June 1967. The Israeli withdrawal applies to the settlements established in the occupied territories.

–5. The Israeli military government in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip shall be abolished at the outset of the transitional period. Supervision over the administration of the West Bank shall become the responsibility of Jordan and supervision over the administration of the Gaza Strip shall become the responsibility of Egypt. Jordan and Egypt shall carry out their responsibility in cooperation with freely elected representatives of the Palestinian people who shall exercise direct authority over the administration of the West Bank and Gaza. The UN shall supervise and facilitate the Israeli withdrawal and the restoration of Arab authority.

–6. Egypt and Jordan shall guarantee that the security arrangements to be agreed upon will continue to be respected in the West Bank and Gaza

July 3, 1978 (End Text).

  1. You are authorized to transmit GOE proposal immediately to GOI. You should notify Ambassador Eilts by immediate telegram as soon as delivery effected so that he may notify GOE.


Secretary Vance of the Egyptian paper on the

“Sequence for the Implementation of the Egyptian Proposals

July 1978

Source: Camp David Files, Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, Atlanta Ga.

Summary: Is the transmission to Secretary Vance of the Egyptian paper on the “Sequence for the Implementation of the Egyptian Proposals” that he had requested.

July 78

To SecState WashDC

Info AmEmbassy Amman

AmEmbassy Tel Aviv

Department for Asisstant Secretary Saunders; Amman for Ambassador Atherton

Subjects: Egyptian paper on implementation sequence for GEO West Bank/Gaza proposal

  1. After some prodding, have today gotten from Usama Al Baz the Egyptian paper on the “Sequence for the Implementation of the Egyptian Proposals”. This is the paper that you and Bill Quandt asked Nebil Al-Araby and Al Baz to provide:

Quote first: Present Phase

  1. Israeli acceptance of the Egyptian proposals.
  2. Participation of Jordan

Second: Preparatory phase.

Tripartite meeting between Egypt, Jordan, and Israel to agree on arrangements of the transitional period, and in particular:

  1. Fixing the date for the beginning of the transitional period.
  2. Timetable and arrangements for Israeli withdrawal to agreed upon points.
  3. Arrangements pertaining to the united Nation, the Mandate and the terms of reference of the peace keeping force.
  4. Return of displaced Palestinians to the West Bank and Gaz.

Third: Transitional Phase

  1. Termination of Israeli military government and withdrawal of Israeli forces to agreed upon points
  2. The United Nations shall facilitate the Israeli withdrawal and the restoration of Arab authority.
  3. Elections to be held udner the auspices of the United Nations for the Palestinian people to select the Palestinian National Council. The Council shall take over direct administrative responsibilities.
  4. Commencement of negotiations between Egypt, Jordan, Israel, the representatives of the Palestinian people and the United Nations to agree upon Point 3 of the Egyptian proposals.
  5. A Referendum to be conducted under United Nations supervision prior to the termination of the transitional phase to enable the Palestinian people to determine their own future. Unquote.


Summary of a meeting of US Ambassadors Roy Atherton (Negotiations)

and Herman Eilts (Egypt)  had with President Sadat,

where he voiced displeasure over how talks were proceeding with Israel

July 1978

Source: Camp David Files, Jimmy Carter President Library, Atlanta, Ga

Summary: Is an early summary of a meeting Ambassadors Atherton and Eilts had with President Sadat, in which Sadat voiced his displeasure over how talks were proceeding with Israel. Atherton and Eilts felt that the meeting was staged so Sadat could announce his “Final Word” on refusing further meetings or discussions with the Israelis until they gave up their claims to Egyptian land and sovereignty. He also voiced great displeasure over a letter from Begin in which the Israeli prime minister asked for concessions despite Sadat’s visit to Israel, which Sadat thought was a major concession.

Notes: The underlining is on the document, but was added after the document was typed.

July 78

To SecState WashDC

AmEmbassy Tel Aviv

For the Secretary and Saunders from Atherton and Eilts

Subject: Meeting with Sadat

  1. Have just returned from cordial, but tough, two and one half hour meeting with Sadat at Mamdura. He planned to give press conference immediately afterwards. (Have just seen FBIS text, which includes some of the points made to us.) We are preparing comprehensive report, but wanted you to have this advance summary. Thrust of Sadat’s comments to us, which he called his “Final Word” was that GOE with not RPT not attned another conference with Israelis at any level until and unless they forego in advance claims to Arab land or sovereignty. He was very forceful in expounding his position.
  1. After President Carter’s letter had been given and read to Sadat, Atherton explained importance we attach to another round of direct talks. He recalled his talks with Kamel and went over briefly, and within the limits authorized, highlights of our ideas on bridging the gap. In response to Sadat’s request, Atherton also briefed him in general terms on his meetings in Israel and his talks with Saud Bin Faysal and King Hussein. Sadat then asked Kamel for his thoughts and Kamel recounted our discussion of yesterday. He told the President that he believes our ideas will get us nowhere and that Egyptian proposal could be appropriately amended to serve as basis of the US proposal.
  1. As he is wont to do when he is staging something, Sadat listened attentively and then deliberately and methodically – but with much repetition – set forth his views. He expressed appreciation for President Carter’s letter and spoke of his high regard for and confidence in the President. But now, he insisted with considerable force and emphasis, “we have reached a climax”. He had long known that the basic Israeli aim is expansion and at Leeds Castle Conference Dayan’s admission that Israel requires a territorial dimension for security had proved this. Subsequently, Begin’s message, sent through us and refused, had reemphasized negative Israeli cabinet position. Sadat described phrase in Begin’s letter about not giving up something for nothing as “impertinent”. He recalled that his visit to Jerusalem had given Israel recognition which Arabs had so long denied her, and also alluded to his offer of willingness to make peace, security and good-neighborliness. These had simply been pocketed by Israel. Sadat is clearly deeply offended at having all of this described as “nothing.”
  1. Sadat insisted that Israel must put aside land and sovereignty from any negotiations. These are non-negotiable. Only then can negotiations be resumed. He recalled that he had asked for a new element if there are to be further direct talks. New element in the form of Dayan’s statement at Leeds and Begin’s letter reporting the Israeli cabinet’s decision had, regrettably, been negative elements. He recalled that in his July 27 speech he had announced that the USG is still supplying Israel with satellite intelligence on Egypt and spoke of our continuing military assistance to Israel. Implication was that this is making Begin more inflexible. In light of this situations, Sadat said that Egypt will attend no RPT no further ministerial or other meetings with the Israelis until and unless they acknowledge that land and sovereignty are not proper subjects for discussion. He had no wish to embarrass President Carter, but this was the way things stood. He had received a message from King Khalid expressing skepticism that further direct talks with the Israelis will produce anything. He would also later today be discussing matter with Prince Fahd. We tried several times to emphasize necessity of ongoing negotiations as framework in which US ideas could be presented. We went back at him several times to try to get him to reconsider and not close door on Sinai talks, but Sadat was adamant on no further meetings unless his conditions are met.
  1. Since Sadat had at one point negated Kamel’s statement that Egyptian proposal should be basis of any US proposal, Eilts asked his latest thinking on relationship of a US proposal to new round of talks. Sadat replied that he would advise President Carter not to present a detailed plan, but to limit himself to a brief set of principles. He mentioned specifically non-admissibility of acquisition of territory by force, the illegality of Israeli settlement activities in occupied territory, and the need to make clear that territory and sovereignty (except for minor modifications on the West Bank) cannot be subject of negotiations. He claimed that a new situation had arisen following Leeds Castle Conference and Begin’s message. The earlier ideas that we had been discussing have been superseded by events. In answer to question, the most he would say was that general statement along lines he had suggested, it if were made, might enable GOE to “study” whether it should participate in another direct meeting. But he stuck to his main point, frequently repeated throughout his comments, that so far as GOE is concerned there will be no further direct negotiations with the Israelis unless they forego in advance claims to Arab land and sovereignty. This position, he repeated several times, was his “Last Word”. This, he said, was his “second initiative”.
  1. Comment: Sadat was categorical in his refusal to attend another meeting unless his condition is met. He gave every impression of having reached the end of his rope in dealing with Begin and was scathing in his criticism of the Israeli Primin. Begin’s message seems to have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, but we rather suspect that Saudi urging and Prince Fahd’s upcoming visit have also been factors. We cannot be sure what effect Kamel’s report on our ideas may have had, but our preliminary impression is that Sadat had up his mind even before hearing Kamel’s report. Sadat clearly staged meeting so that he could make his “Final Word” pronouncement with VP, Primin, FonMin and others present and instructed all to act on this basis. He also asked that Gamasy be so instructed. Meeting was cordial, but Hermann notes that only once before during past four and one half years has he seen Sadat in so forceful and emotional a mood. This was in December, 1974, when “concessions” demanded by Allon for second Sinai Disengagement Agreement had to be presented. Secretary’s trip to area must obviously be weighed in light of Sadat’s tough new posture and we will be submitting our recommendations ASAP.
  1. Finally, in discussion after meeting with Foreign Ministry Undersecretary A Baz who attended meeting, Al Baz expressed personal view that in absence of change in Israeli position on territory, a US statement along the lines Sadat now says he needs might be a basis for Sadat to consider resuming direct talks. This was not explicit in anything Sadat said, but could perhaps be inferred. Eilts.

Ambassador Roy Atherton to Secretary of StateVance and Hal Saunders, Assistant Secretary of State on Egyptian President Sadat’s ultimatum

July 1978

Source: Camp David Files, Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, Atlanta, Ga


This is a message from Atherton to Vance and Saunders, providing further analysis of the situation after Sadat’s ultimatum. Atherton includes options for how to move forward, particularly in regard to the upcoming trip by Secretary Vance to the region, as well as the option he thinks will be the best way to move negotiations out of the impasse they were in.

Notes: The underlining is on the document but was added after it was typed. There is a cutoff in the PDF at the start of the fifth page. It is unclear how much of the original document, but it is at least the end of Atherton’s fifth point and the start of his sixth.

July 78

To SecState WashDC

For the Secretary and Saunders from Atherton

Subject: Where do we go from here in light of Sadat’s decision

  1. We must now give some thought to how we want to proceed in the light of the new situation created by what Sadat said to us privately yesterday and his public comments afterwards. First observation is that while this is obviously a disappointing development for us in the sense that it makes arranging a next round of talks in the near future much more difficult and perhaps impossible, it is important to recognize that Sadat has not changed his position in any fundamental way on the issues themselves. In his comments to us yesterday he made it clear, for example, that while there could be “no bargaining over territory or sovereignty, he was  still willing to agree there could be “minor rectifications” on the West Bank (he made it plain this was the only front where this could be contemplated) if we proposed this. This has really been Sadat’s position all along. He also reiterated at length his willingness to “go to the end of the road” with respect to security arrangements and the nature of peace, and to continue direct contacts with Israel—but only if it is clear that territorial changes (other than minor West Bank modifications) will not a be a subject for negotiation.
  1. Clearly in yesterday’s meeting the elements of anger and exasperation at recent Israeli actions – particularly the way they handled the Al-Arish enclave business – was apparent in Sadat’s presentation. But Hermann and I both feel it would be an error to conclude from this that there is a good chance Sadat could be persuaded to change his position on the talks once he “simmers down”. Things have probably gone too far from this. As was the case in Jerusalem last winter when he pulled his delegation out of the political committee talks, there was a triggering mechanism but more importantly the decision reflected an accumulating sense of frustration arising from Sadat’s perception of Israel’s tactics and its failure to respond “in the same spirit” to his bold and sweeping approach to peace-making. Although we are dealing with a man who was angered at a recent development, we are also dealing with one who, we are increasingly inclined to believe, has reluctantly come to the conclusion that the Sadat initiative has not paid off and that he must now begin to rebuild his bridges to the Arab world. With his action yesterday, however, he is thus far doing so, it seems to us, in a manner that does not slam the door in any final sense. But it is clear he has charted a different path to that door in the sense that he is no longer prepared to settle for a set of principles that retain a significant element of ambiguity on the territorial question. Put another way, he has returned four square to what the Egyptians (and Jordanians) claim we told them Resolution 242 meant when we were pressing them to accept it in 1967 – i.e. no changes in international border, and the return of most of the West Bank to Jordan, in exchange for peace, recognition and security. The Egyptians have correctly reminded us that we agreed to include the language about “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war” as the price for their acceptance of 242. The Saudis are obviously also at present seeking to move Sadat in this direction.
  1. The second question we might ask is to what extent our own ideas, as I conveyed them to Kamel, played a role in Sadat’s decision. We have the impression that this was relatively minor factor. Sadat hardly commented on our ideas beyond making the general observation that President Carter should concentrate on the “broad principles” rather than “the details” of a peace settlement. Sadat gave every evidence of having made up his mind about what he had to do before he even learned of our ideas. When they were reported to him they probably struck him as being too little to late and we imagine it had the effect of confirming him in the course he had earlier determined upon.
  1. The first judgement we must make is whether we think we have a chance of persuading Sadat to change his mind about further talks, either by my having more sessions with him, or by having you come to the area as planned in the hopes of arranging tripartite talks for some time in September. In our judgements, we cannot have any assurance that we stand a reasonable chance of succeeding in such an effort. A trip by you, then, if it is conceived and put out as having as its objective changing Sadat’s mind about the talks, runs a strong risk of ending in failure. We think it would be a mistake for you to come out with this as the announced objective.
  1. A more plausible option would be for you to proceed with your trip within the framework of broader objective. This would be to proceed along the lines we had previously planned, treating the Sadat decision as an adverse development, but not something that would justify derailing us from the overall strategy we have so carefully built up over the past months. Your trip would be projected as having the objective of discussing our ideas for breaking the impasse in negotiations, now made more obvious by Sadat’s latest move. During your trip, you would, of course, seek to persuade Sadat to change his mind about further talks, giving him the basis for this by enabling him to say that you had explained to him the full thrust of the US approach. But Sadat would still want to see the US “take a position” – by which he of course means a public position – on the issues. We would be left with the difficult decision of whether you would then leave with the parties written (which would quickly become [the first couple lines on the next page are cut off] trigger a strong negative reaction from the Begin government on the grounds that we were seeking to impose a “US plan” in the absence of negotiations. We would be vulnerable to Israeli charges that we were doing this, moreover, after Sadat had broken off negotiations and in the face of new “preconditions” that Sadat had imposed for resuming them. On the other hand, if we do not put forward our ideas in written form as something we support and are prepared to stand by, we are not likely to arrest the trend toward disillusionment with us either on the part of Sadat, or in a broader context throughout the Arab world. In reflecting on yesterday’s meeting with Sadat, I am struck by the number of times he referred to the need to “protect the US image” in the Arab world. At one point he said that, although he did not intend to do so, it would be easy to make political capital by attacking the US for its military and economic aid to Israel. And he has, of course, gone public with the charge that we provide Israel with satellite photography on Egypt. I was also struck by the language in Prince Saud’s letter to you (Jidda 5595) warning of the danger of “frustration” in the Arab world when it “realizes that the united States will not take an independent stance toward the Middle East issues in all its aspects and will not endeavor to bring pressure to bear on Israel for the enforcement of such (US) stance…”. These may be faint and veiled signals, and it is admittedly difficult to know how much they represent a gathering storm and how much they are simply pressure tactics on us without portending anything more ominous in the way of Arab actions. Having experienced the veiled signals in late 1972 and early 1973 which we tended to discount at the time, however, I do not think we can afford to ignore them totally today.

6. Another option we might consider is for us to do nothing for awhile. We could say without beating around the bush that we had been unable to arrange talks and that we were waiting for the parties to propose an alternative. This might have the merit of causing some sober second thoughts on both sides of the fence. But we can have no confidence that even this would induce either side to change the policies that are now the fundamental impediment to negotiations. For the Egyptians, moreover it would appear to be a reneging on our commitment at Camp David. What we said then was that we needed an Egyptian counterproposal to the Begin plan before we could move to break the impasse, but we said nothing so far as I can recall about needing a resumption of direct negotiations. Such a policy would also project the image of US inaction in the face of a gathering crisis. We do not see it as a tenable option.

7. Another possibility would be for the US to decide that this is the time to put forward its own views in the form of a major presidential address or “Report to the Nation”. This is presumably the kind of “forthright” position-taking that Sadat is expecting from us. To the extent, however, that we attempted to work in positions or phraseology that satisfied Sadat – such as “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war” – it would only make getting the Israelis to the table more difficult. A presidential address could also, however, be considered in conjunction without putting forward our ideas for the basis of negotiations – that is to say, as an essential way of mobilizing both US domestic and international support for our views on the elements of a reasonable peace settlement.

8. I am left with the overall belief, at least at this preliminary stage of our deliberations, that while Sadat has indeed thrown us a difficult curve ball, we should not treat it as sufficient reason to abandon a strategy to which we have given the most careful thought, and toward which we have been building, these many months. My recommendation would be that we proceed, in spite of the difficulties, along the lines of paragraph 5, i.e., that you make your trip as planned, that you discuss with the Israelis and Sadat (in that order) our ideas in their full form, that you attempt to persuade the two sides to agree to talks at some later date on the basis of  these ideas, but  that failing this, we be prepared to  leave our ideas with the parties in written form and mount a sustained public effort to justify them as the only possible basis for a first stage agreement. The last step will obviously cause us trouble with the Israelis (and our position may also now be seen as inadequate by Sadat), but  to both sides we would have to be prepared to be tough and take the position that we will neither back off those formulations nor go beyond them. If we do this – and above all we do it promptly – we stand an outside chance of ultimately getting the two sides back into a negotiating posture. In my estimation this course is the only one that offers such an outside chance. If we are to move along this course, however, we need to begin quickly preparing the ground publicly and with Congress for support of our judgment that the direct Egyptian-Israeli negotiations have gone as far as they can and have reached a genuine impasse now. This will not be easy in the face of the perception of many that Sadat has again broken off negotiations and set forth preconditions, without giving those negotiations a fair chance – even though we all know they were not going to go anywhere on their own in any case. We will certainly need to say that both sides share the blame for the impasse – Israel because of its West Bank/Gaza position and Sadat for not agreeing to further talks.

9. Finally, I think it is important that you as well as the other policy leaders in Washington have a clear picture of what I see as the essence of the issue the United States faces. It is really the issue that  all along has been at the heart of our policy on the Arab-Israel problem, with the difference that Sadat is now moving in such a way to make us face up to it. He is in effect saying that he has given us nine months to try to ease the two sides on the West Bank territorial question and our inability to do anything about it. This has not worked. He is in the process of abandoning negotiations as a means of getting us to help him solve his problems and reverting to a policy that seeks to bring his broader strategic equation in to play: i.e., that by having the US “declare its position” he will produce more clear cut daylight between the US and Israel with an eventual cost to Israel in terms of the resultant strain in US-Israeli relations. In this – his reversion to the earlier strategy – he will have full support of the other Arab states. If we are to have any hope of avoiding the unpalatable choice this forces upon us, we will need to bring our strategy into play promptly and decisively, with somewhat less concern, it seems to me, for attempting to fine-tune it so that it makes no waves in any direction – an objective that is unattainable in any case in my judgment.

10. I recognize that under this option, the odds are we will not be able to avoid this unpalatable choice, since a likely outcome (depending on the precise contents of our final ideas) is that Sadat will let us “impose” our views on him and Israel will not. The fact that I have not addressed the question of what we do when we face this dilemma does not mean that I underestimate its importance and the difficult decisions it poses for the President. I am acutely conscious of them, as I have been for the many years I have been working on this problem. I do want to underscore my belief, however, that the course of action we have so painstakingly hammered out in recent months is about as close as we can get to the essential compromise we must work out between “imposing” our views on the one hand, and on the other, abandoning the process to the stalemate that will inevitably ensue if we do not take action along these lines, with serious consequences for US interests in the area. Our approach still makes negotiations between the parties the focus of the peace process. I believe it will be seen as reasonable to a broad spectrum of US public opinion, as ultimately to a significant body of Israeli opinion as well.

11. One final thought that occurs to US is that if we do decide to put forward our ideas as a formal proposal, it might be worth attempting to get European support by briefing the Europeans about our approach generally, thereby laying the groundwork for a later effort to get more specific endorsement of what we were putting forward.

12.Ambassador Eilts concurs in the above. 

Eilts and Atherton

Secretary Vance to the embassy in Cairo proposing procedures

and goals for the upcoming London Talks involving Egypt and Israel

July 1978

Source: Camp David Files, Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, Atlanta, Ga

Summary: Is a message from Secretary Vance to the embassy in Cairo proposing procedures and goals for the upcoming London Talks involving Egypt and Israel. Desired outcomes for the talks include the two sides clarifying the language of their peace proposals, and also getting commitments from the two to continue a dialogue after the Talks.

Notes: The underlining is part of the original document but was added after it was typed.

July 78

To AmEmbassy Cairo

Info AmEmbassy Tel Aviv

Subject: Preparation for London Talks

  1. Now that we have Israeli agreement to attend London Talks, we need to begin to get both Egyptians and Israelis aboard common concept of how talks should be run, and what should emerge from them. On Egyptian side we have two basic objectives. First, we want to persuade Sadat/Kamel that it is important to make London Talks more than a pro forma exercise and that Kamel should prepare to keep his end of the dialogue going; second, we would like Egyptian agreement before the talks begin, with as much specificity as possible, to further direct contacts, presumably Dayan/Kamel, but perhaps Gamasy/Weizman or conceivably both.
  2. Absence from Egypt of both Sadat and Kamel (According to our information until July 14) complicates consultations. We leave it to your judgement whether you think it would be useful to take this up with Mubarak in the first instance, or whether it is best to wait until Sadat and Kamel get back. It will be important, if Kamel seems unresponsive to our ideas, to plan to see Sadat so as to get Kamel properly instructed. Whatever approach you decide is best, your comments to Egyptians should be along following lines.
  3. We understand reasons for Egyptian skepticism about utility of London talks. We ourselves do not expect it to provide major breakthrough in the negotiations. Nevertheless we are not regarding this as mere pro forma exercise, and we believe it would be mistake for Egyptians to dismiss it in this fashion. We see resumption and continuation of direct contacts between the parties as highly important. Negotiations involve tenacious probing of other side’s position and tenacious search for areas of accommodation. From our own conversations with Dayan we know he has definite ideas about how to approach West Bank/Gaza negotiations. While these may not be the same ass Egypt’s approach, they are worth exploring in depth and attempting to understand that process in itself can lead to narrowing of gap.
  4. It seems to us that London Talks, first exchanges between two sides with U.S. present to take place since talks in political committee broke off in January, can serve this purpose. We are sure there is much in Israeli “self-rule” plan and in Israel’s responses to our questions which GOE feels is unclear and ought to be explained. There is no reason not to zero in what Egyptians regard as key point: what happens at end of five years; can Dayan say what determining “the future relations” at the end of this period means? Dayan will also no doubt have number of questions or comments about Egyptian proposal that has just been handed to Israel.
  5. We believe two days in London can best be used in this fashion, with both sides commenting upon and seeking clarifications on what it regards as key issues in other side’s proposals. We would therefore suggest that Kamel and his team come prepared with questions and comments addressed to Israeli position on West Bank/Gaza issues, and be prepared to answer questions and comment of similar nature from Israelis.
  6. Our feeling is that format for these talks should be informal and that formal “conference” atmosphere should be avoided. We therefore propose that talks take place in various suites of delegations, with maximum of five on each side, so that even when all three foreign ministers are meeting overall group will still be small enough to preserve atmosphere of informality. With this kind of format in mind it seemed logical to house all three delegations in same hotel which also has advantages from security point of view.
  7. We envisage mix of bilateral and trilateral meetings. On first day, the eighteenth, secretary would propose to call on two foreign ministers separately in their suites. Following this, first trilateral session could open in secretary’s suite. After some introductory remarks by Secretary and any discussion that may be necessary of schedule of arrangement, Secretary would open substantive discussions by inviting Kamel to set forth and explain various features of Egyptian Plan. Dayan might then make any observations he might wish or pose questions about Egyptian plan, with Kamel addressing himself to Israeli proposal. Following trilateral session first morning, Secretary would like to invite Kamel and Dayan and their delegations to luncheon. Afternoon would be given over to bilateral meetings between Secretary and each of foreign ministers. No activities would be scheduled for evening but they could be used for further sessions if needed.
  8. We think it important to have at least one bilateral meeting between Kamel and Dayan during the two days. This might most logically come morning of second day, prior to second trilateral session in Secretary’s suite. Afternoon of second day might again be given to bilaterals between Secretary and foreign ministers with perhaps final brief trilateral session prior to press conferences and departures.
  9. Schedule of meetings, beyond those of first morning might best be kept somewhat flexible so as to adjust to requirements of discussions. We put foregoing forward for planning purposes and would welcome Egyptian comments or alternative ideas. 
  10. We also need to give some thought to results we would like to see emerge-from meeting. We believe it highly important that talks end with agreement that further direct Egyptian-Israeli contacts shall take place. This will be important not only to demonstrate Egypt’s continuing determination to pursue negotiated solution but also to enable U.S. to play more active role in the negotiations. Would Egyptians wish to propose venue and date for such meetings? Sadat has mentioned Al-Arish. This would probably be acceptable to Israelis, but if for some reason Egyptians have reservations about this, SFM could be alternative. (FYI. We leave to your judgement whether you see opportunity to sound out Egyptians about possibility of another round between Gamasy-Weizman, possibly at same time and location.)
  11. We would like to have London talks conclude with joint statement that would have following elements: statement that talks were useful that two sides plan to continue contacts with venue and dates specified for next round; Secretary affirming U.S. will be actively engaged; Secretary’s intention to send Ambassador Atherton to area immediately after London Talks to maintain continuity of discussions, and Secretary’s willingness to make trip himself at later date.
  12. Main purpose of Atherton mission would be to begin consultations with GOE on our concrete ideas for helping two sides reach agreement. Atherton would also go to Israel to continue consultations with GOI, and to Saudi Arabia and Jordan with purpose of building support for our ideas. Effort in Jordan would center on beginning to turn King Hussein around toward more positive attitude about eventually joining negotiations.
  13. With respect to subsequent steps, it would seem to us to be best plan if next round of talks could be arranged at some site in area such as Al-Arish for late July or early August, to which Secretary might be invited to participate. Secretary could then continue participation in these talks with consultations in both Jerusalem and Cairo and at end of that round leave with both sides our suggestions for formulations that might bring two sides into agreement.
  14. We would appreciate Egyptian reaction to these ideas. We will of course be in further contact with Egyptians between now and our arrival in London to convey Israeli reaction to our suggestions for conduct of London Talks.
  15. FYI: As afterthought, if as we hear from Egyptian embassy it is possible that Kamel will travel directly from Austria to London. We wonder if most sensible arrangement would not be for you to proceed to London via Austria in sufficient time to see both Sadat and Kamel there. If you decide this is best plan you have authorization to make this travel. Vance

Memorandum from William Quandt to Zibniew  Brzezinski laying out

analysis of Sadat toughening his position

July 31, 1978

Source: Camp David Files, Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, Atlanta, Ga

Summary: A memorandum from William Quandt to Brzezinski laying out Quandt’s analysis of Sadat toughening his position. Quandt thinks that it is an attempt to force the United States to clearly lay out its positions on various issues. Quandt provides three examples substantiating his analysis and offers recommendations on how the US should proceed.

July 31, 1978

Memorandum for: Zbigniew Brzezinski

From: William B. Quandt

Subject: Sadat’s Motivations

On reflecting on why Sadat has chosen this moment to toughen his position, I have been struck by a recurring pattern. Sadat has repeatedly tried to get a clear statement of an American position concerning a Middle East peace settlement. He views this as the precondition for successful negotiations, and shows much more interest in this type of political statement of principles than in the details of the negotiations themselves. As long as he sees us moving toward a clear statement of our position, he is inclined to work with us. But when he sees us shifting our attention to procedural issues, or if he detects some backsliding in our views, he moves to undercut our initiatives. The following three cases substantiate this pattern:

— Geneva. For the first eight months of 1977, we concentrated on selling a substantive framework for a Geneva Conference. During this period, Sadat supported a “well-prepared Geneva Conference.” When we failed to make headway in August 1977 on the general framework, we then shifted to procedural questions, e.g., how the Palestinians would be represented, whether there would be one Arab delegation or four, and so forth, and at that point we tried to convince Sadat that once negotiations began at Geneva, we would be able to put our own ideas forward. He never bought our line of reasoning and his trip to Jerusalem was his way of getting out from under a Geneva Conference which would have produced endless bargaining over each substantive issue, with the United States limiting itself primarily, in his view, to a chairmanship role.

–The Jerusalem Talks. Sadat’s primary objective in going to Jerusalem was to create a new political environment in which it might be possible to establish the broad framework for the comprehensive peace settlement. It was his idea to try for a declaration of principles, which would become the basis for subsequent negotiations. It was clear by December that the key principle, in his mind, was withdrawal from the occupied territories. He had reason to believe that we would support his position of withdrawal on all fronts to the 1967 lines, with only minor modifications. As you will recall, he was very reluctant to send his delegation to the Jerusalem talks in January because there was no prior understanding on what those talks might accomplish. In Jerusalem, he saw us trying to find a compromise position between the Israeli proposal and our own frequently stated views. For Sadat, this meant that negotiations would, at best, produce an outcome somewhere between known American positions and Israeli positions. He therefore pulled his delegation back from Jerusalem and came to Camp David to extract a promise from us that we would put forward our own views at an appropriate time. We reviewed the nine points with him as an example of our then current thinking concerning the West Bank and Gaza, and Sadat was told that we would make a proposal of our own, at some time in the future.

–Sadat’s Present Position. Sadat has been waiting since last spring for us to advance our own proposals. He has been speaking of the need for the United States to be a full partner, not just a mediator. When we made the argument that the resumption of negotiations was essential for us to be able to play our role effectively, he must have remembered that we had made the same argument concerning Geneva. He did not like it last fall, and he does not like it now. At our request, he did agree to send his Foreign Minister to Leeds, but he saw this primarily as a stage setting for the introduction of an American proposal. Instead, we came out of Leeds thinking that more negotiations were essential, and that we could best surface our ideas in the context of on-going talks. Atherton made this point in his meetings in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and with Kamil. Sadat no doubt detected both an erosion in terms of the Camp David strategy and in the American position itself. He therefore acted unilaterally once again to preempt a negotiating process which could, at best, lead to prolonged bargaining and compromise positions that would be at considerable variance from Sadat’s own views. 

From these three examples, I think we have to conclude that Sadat will not agree to serious negotiations in the absence of some agreed framework. The key element of that framework is a prior commitment by the Israelis to the principle of withdrawal on all fronts. This principle can be qualified by attaching conditions involving security, timing, and agreed border modifications, but the principle itself must be clearly stated for it to have political impact in the Arab world and in Egypt, If we cannot get Begin to make a clear statement on this issue, and all evidence suggests that we cannot, it will nonetheless be important for Sadat that the United States position be clearly articulated.

As was true last January, Sadat’s unwillingness to proceed with negotiations makes it more difficult for us to take the step that he wants. Both in Israel and perhaps in the United States as well, Sadat is earning for himself a reputation of impulsiveness and unreliability. While trying to honor our commitments to Sadat, we do not want to look at if we are catering to his pressure tactics. The Israelis will have to make a clearer statement on withdrawal, but it will be less than Sadat now demands. Therefore, one of Secretary Vance’s key objectives in his next trip is to explain to Sadat how far we can realistically go and how much we can expect from Begin. At the same time, he will have to tell the Israeli Cabinet that anything less than a commitment to negotiate the final status of the West Bank and Gaza on the basis of all the principles of 242, including withdrawal and the establishment of secure and recognized borders, could risk the entire peace process and could place the United State and Israel on opposite sides of this central issue.