CAIRO – 1 June 2018: New documents that were revealed on Camp David by the U.S. Office of the Historian have shown that President Anwar Al Sadat was negotiating with Israel to freeze its settlements in Palestine.
The correspondences released by the Office of the Historian run from 1977 to 1988 between the then Egyptian Prime Minister Moustafa Khalil and Secretary of State Cyrus Vance.
“I also stressed the importance of linking the question of the settlement in the West Bank and Gaza with the signing of the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel,” Khalil said in his correspondence to Vance on Jan. 7, 1979. “Moreover, I made it clear that it would not be in the interest of peace in the world, and particularly in the Middle East, if Egypt were isolated from the other Arab and African countries, as a result of concluding the peace treaty with Israel. Such a situation would be against the interest of security in the whole area,” Khalil explained in the correspondence.
Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin engages U.S. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski in a game of chess at Camp David, undated - Wikimedia/Jimmy Carter Library
In the letter, the Egyptian prime minister stresses extensively that if Israel does not honor the agreement, that Egypt would be put in a difficult situation in the region, and that it would no longer be able to assume its role as “as the defender of other Arab countries when threatened by aggression or destabilisation attempts.”
Khalil also points out that other Arab countries in the region do not oppose a peaceful solution to the issue. He also states that the Arab League pact, which was signed in 1945 before the creation of the state of Israel, does not contain any law or provision that can be interpreted as being against or promoting aggression against Israel.
“I also stressed that the treaty between Egypt and Israel, along with the solution of the Palestinian question in all its aspects according to the Camp David Framework, must be of such a nature as to attract the Palestinians and the other Arab countries to accept it and participate in the peace process, not to isolate Egypt, force even the moderate Arab countries to take a harder line and reflect negatively on the constructive role of the United States in the peace process,” the prime minister stated.
Jimmy Carter, Rosalynn Carter, Anwar Sadat walking at Camp David, September 5, 1978, - Flickr/CIA
Furthermore, in the correspondence, Khalil ties the religious contexts offered by Israeli officials for their expansion in Gaza and the West Bank with the aggressive Muslim movements that arose in Turkey and Iran at the time. He stated: “I would also like to state the fact that the Israeli insistence on inserting religious concepts as a pretext for its expansionist designs in Gaza and the West Bank has encouraged extremist Moslem movement in Iran and Turkey, and will no doubt give momentum to similar extremist movements in other Arab and Moslem countries if we fail to reach a comprehensive peace settlement.”
While Khalil’s correspondences address the Palestinian issue extensively and the importance of it, a
, which was written in July 4, 1979, states: “On settlements, Begin said that he knew with certainty that settlements are not a serious problem with Sadat, although he may raise it during our meeting. (In this connection, I heard from another source that Begin claims Sadat told him during their last meeting in Cairo that he understood Begin’s problems about settlements and only wished he would hurry and get things done as quickly as possible so as to get the issue out of the headlines.) Strauss restated the U.S. position on the settlements issue4 in response, stressing the damage that he believed it was doing to the peace process.”
The document also goes on and states that Begin knew Sadat would approach the issue of Jerusalem with him as part of the peace agreement, but that “he [Begin] gave absolutely no indication that he had any receptivity to pursuing the issue with Sadat.”
For more on the topic and to see the original transcriptions, visit
Below is the complete text of Khalil’s correspondence to Vance.
Telegram From the Embassy in Egypt to the Department of State
Cairo, January 7, 1979, 1256Z
358. For the Secretary from Ambassador. Subject: Egyptian Response—PriMinKhalil’s Letter to Secretary Vance. Ref: Cairo 0357.2
1. Set forth below is the text of Prime Minister Moustafa Khalil’s letter to SecretaryVance giving the Egyptian response to how negotiations should be resumed.
Although it is undated, it was completed last night (January 6) and given to me at midnight. Attached to Khalil’s letter is a statement which he made on January 3 after the Egyptian Cabinet discussions of the results of the Brussels meeting. Khalil tells me that GOE does not intend to publish the letter, but that he would be willing to consider doing so if you think there might be some advantage in publication. He wants a copy given to Israelis.
2. Quote: It is with great pleasure that I express our deep appreciation for the untiring efforts exerted by the Government of the United States of America in the cause of peace.
I believe that our discussions in Brussels have been very beneficial in defining the points of difference, and in explaining the logic behind our points of view concerning these differences.
The meeting also gave us the opportunity to discuss the latest world developments in the Middle East, with special emphasis on Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan and various Arab and African countries. I have fully explained to you and to Mr. Dayan, the utmost importance of achieving a comprehensive peace between Israel and its neighbours, as a factor for ensuring the Arab world against foreign aggression or internal destabilisation.
I also stressed the importance of linking the question of the settlement in the West Bank and Gaza with the signing of the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.
Moreover, I made it clear that it would not be in the interest of peace in the world, and particularly in the Middle East, if Egypt were isolated from the other Arab and African countries, as a result of concluding the peace treaty with Israel. Such a situation would be against the interest of security in the whole area.
It would also make it more difficult for Egypt to assume its natural and essential role as the defender of other Arab countries when threatened by aggression or destabilisation attempts.
During our meeting, I also pointed out the fact that all the other Arab countries, even the hardliners among them, have not rejected the principle of solving the Arab-Israeli confrontation by peaceful means. It is also worth noting that the pact of the Arab League, signed in 1945 before Israel was created, does not contain any provision that may be construed as being directed against Israel.
Furthermore, the Arab League Common Defense Treaty, which was signed in 1950 and came into force in 1952, does not contain a single word against Israel. Thus, if peace is established, this treaty cannot be interpreted as directed against Israel. Rather, it will be the instrument enabling Egypt to cooperate with the other Arab countries for mutual defense, and for the maintenance of peace and stability throughout the region.
I also stressed that the treaty between Egypt and Israel, along with the solution of the Palestinian question in all its aspects according to the Camp David Framework, must be of such a nature as to attract the Palestinians and the other Arab countries to accept it and participate in the peace process, not to isolate Egypt, force even the moderate Arab countries to take a harder line and reflect negatively on the constructive role of the United States in the peace process.
I would also like to state the fact that the Israeli insistence on inserting religious concepts as a pretext for its expansionist designs in Gaza and the West Bank has encouraged extremist Moslem movement in Iran and Turkey, and will no doubt give momentum to similar extremist movements in other Arab and Moslem countries if we fail to reach a comprehensive peace settlement.
Unfortunately, the recent statement of the Israeli Cabinet does not conform with the optimistic remarks and suggestions of Mr. Dayan.
Moreover it did not reflect enough progress, a fact that sheds serious doubts as to the value of molding new meetings similar to the Brussels meeting, since the Israeli Government insists on reaffirming its decisions of December 15, 1978 in their totality, and completely rejects the American interpretation of Article 6 of the peace treaty.
Israel also refuses the setting of a target date for the realisation of full autonomy in Gaza and in the West Bank as it had previously agreed in Washington.
Dear Secretary Vance,
I will now try to explain the Egyptian position as expressed in the communique issued by our Council of Ministers on January 3, 1979 which I attach to this letter, and then I will suggest a procedure to be followed for future steps, subject to your acceptance or modifications.
A. Concerning the Israeli refusal to set a date, or even a target date, for the establishment and inauguration of the self-governing authority in the West Bank and Gaza, we are of the opinion that the Egyptian-American agreement reached, in this regard, during your last visit to Cairo, is the correct way to solve this problem, for the following reasons:
1. It is the only way that will make the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel fall within the context of a comprehensive peaceful settlement according to the Camp David Framework.
2. It was mentioned in the Framework that ‘the parties express their determination to reach a just comprehensive and durable settlement of the Middle East conflict through the conclusion of peace treaties. . . etc; . . . for peace to endure it must involve all those who have been most deeply affected by the conflict’. This clearly refers to the Palestinians. Furthermore, the Camp David Framework is divided into three major parts: a. West Bank and Gaza. b. Egypt and Israel. c. associated principles.
In our opinion, this order of priority is a strong indication of the importance attributed by the Framework to the solution concerning the West Bank and Gaza, which must be solved before the question of peace between Egypt and Israel.
You will also notice that all important elements of the settlement mentioned in the Framework, had been included in the last Egyptian American proposal.
The Framework also mentions that the transitional arrangement will be for a period not to exceed five years, and that it begins when the self-governing authority in the West Bank and Gaza is established and inaugurated. The Framework also mentions that negotiations to determine the final status of the West Bank and Gaza, will take place not later than three years after the beginning of the transitional period.
Thus, fixing a date for the establishment and inauguration of the self-governing authority is of utmost importance, it completes the time-table adopted by the Camp David Agreement, because, if such a date is not mentioned, then the inauguration of this authority will be left to the unilateral will of Israel.
It will also mean that it may start after an unlimited number of years, which would practically make the treaty between Egypt and Israel a separate solution. In such a case, it will neither attract the Palestinians nor the other Arab countries, to accept it and participate in it.
It will also cast great doubts about the real Israeli intentions concerning the future of the West Bank and Gaza. Such doubts are reinforced daily by official statements coming from Israel.
The Israeli contentions that they will be held responsible in case of the refusal of the other parties concerned to participate, is not really valid. Such a matter has been taken care of in paragraph 2 of Article 6 of the draft treaty which stipulates:
‘The parties undertake to fulfill in good faith their obligations under this treaty without regard to actions or inactions of other parties’.
The same point is stipulated in the Camp David Framework under paragraph C of the associated principles. Article 5 states ‘the United States shall be invited to participate in the talks on matters related to the modalities of the implementation of the agreements, and working out the time-table for carrying out the obligations of the parties’.
B. Concerning the interpretative note attached to the treaty:
As you are aware, the Egyptian position concerning Articles 4 and 6 of the draft peace treaty was consistently unchanged. Egypt has accepted the American proposal of the interpretative note as a means to bridge the differences between Egypt and Israel. We still believe that they represent the most reasonable compromise, and that your support in this respect is the only way to convince Israel to accept such an interpretation.
In Brussels, Mr. Dayan proposed as a solution, that each party would forward his questions to the United States, who in turn would put down answers that are acceptable to both parties and will be attached to the treaty and constitute an integral part of it. To our great disappointment the Israeli Cabinet refused any interpretation of Article 6.
Our point of view concerning paragraph 2 of Article 6 is well known to you. We accept your interpretation that the provisions of this paragraph shall not be construed in a way to contradict the fact that this treaty is concluded in the context of the comprehensive settlement in accordance with the provisions of the Framework for Peace in the Middle East agreed upon in Camp David.
We firmly believe that this interpretation is the only correct one and conforms with what President Carter confirmed in my meeting with him. The Israeli refusal to accept this, reinforces the allegations that what is intended is a separate peace treaty. When Israel says that the treaty with Egypt should stand on its own feet, this must not be interpreted that the treaty must be a separate one.
Rather, it means that the obligations of the two parties must be respected and honoured within the context of a comprehensive peace settlement.
For all the above mentioned reasons, a mutually accepted interpretation of this paragraph, along the lines which the United States and Egypt agreed upon, is of utmost importance.
As to paragraph 5 of Article 6, our point of view is also well known to you. If Israel really wants peace, it must not try to prevent us from meeting our obligations to defend the other Arab countries against foreign aggression. As I told Mr. Dayan in Brussels, the Arab countries never started war against Israel, and will not accept to see Israel launch a side war with Syria in Lebanon.
Egypt cannot accept any compromise in this respect, otherwise we would be acting against our own interest, against the security of the Arab world, and indeed, against the interest of the whole world.
Dear Mr. Secretary,
Concerning paragraph 4 of Article 4, it seems to us that the Israelis have accepted in principal our interpretation agreed upon during your last visit to Egypt. Their only reservation is that they do not want to set a fixed date for the revision of the security arrangements. In our opinion, a solution can be found in this regard.
C. Concerning exchange of ambassadors:
The recent Israeli Cabinet statement did not mention this point at all. We consider that the text of the letter9 agreed upon between you and us during your last visit to Egypt is still valid.
Dear Secretary Vance,
I will now attempt to suggest a future course of action in order to overcome the present situation.
In this regard, you will agree with me that it is very difficult to enter into any negotiations with all the preconditions set by the Israeli Government. If we accept to start negotiations in these circumstances, it will relieve Israel from its responsibility for not accepting the interpretative notes and the joint letter of December 17, 1978, and Israel will seize this opportunity to try to convince the whole world into believing that Egypt will be responsible if the negotiations fail.
Your support is essential to overcome the present stalemate, for the benefit of world peace. Israel must realise the dangers that its position creates for the whole world.
The special relations between the United States and Israel should be directed towards establishing peace, security and stability in the Middle East. We do not ask you to put pressure on Israel, but rather to open Israel’s eyes to the serious dangers which would result from a situation where Egypt would be isolated and unable to assume its role in the defense and stability of the Arab world.
The Americans, as full partners in the peace process, should also convince Israel that the insistence of the extremist religious groups to build new settlements or reinforce the existing ones, is a very serious matter which has already had its impact in the Islamic countries, feeding the animosity of extremist governments hostile to Israel and to the United States.
In our opinion, the two sides must agree on the main principles concerning the solution of the points of differences. This can be achieved through you, either by holding a meeting with Mr. Dayan alone, or a meeting between the three of us. I do not think that a meeting on the technical level would be beneficial. On the contrary it might further complicate matters.
Another suggestion would be for you to resume shuttle diplomacy. I very well know your responsibilities, and very tight schedules but I also know that you are the only one who can assume such a delicate mission.
You could also think of inviting the parties to forward their suggestions to you, or, as Mr. Dayan suggested, to submit questions concerning the points of disagreement, the answers to which would be agreed upon by the two sides.
I believe that we would then be ready for a new round of negotiations.
I would very much appreciate hearing from you on the above mentioned suggestions. I wish to express the confidence of my government that the United States shall be able to help overcome the last difficulties. We are also confident in your sense of objectivity and good judgment.
Yours very truly
Dr. Moustapha Khalil. Unquote.
January 3rd, 1979.
Statement by Prime Minister, Dr. Moustapha Khalil
Prime Minister, Dr. Moustapha Khalil presented a report to the Cabinet today about the results of his talks in Brussels, December 23–24, with the American Secretary of State and Israeli Foreign Minister.
The Cabinet reviewed developments of the situation in the light of Egypt’s continuous efforts to realize a just, comprehensive and permanent settlement in the Middle East.
The Cabinet, reaffirmed Egypt’s continued interest in working for a stable peace in the Middle East area, especially in the light of recent world developments and variables.
The Cabinet reiterates what Egypt has always emphasized; that for peace in the Middle East, to be durable and permanent, it must be comprehensive and just.
Therefore Egypt will never sign any separate agreement, as this would constitute a deviation from the spirit of the Camp David Agreements which embodied the framework of a global settlement.
To achieve that, Egypt insists on linking the signing of an agreement regarding procedures for holding elections and establishing Palestinian full autonomy in Gaza and the West Bank with the signing of the agreement between Egypt and Israel, so that the establishment of Palestinians’ full autonomy and the abolition of Israeli military rule will be accomplished according to a time table agreed upon by the two parties in exchanged identical letters signed by the two parties and witnessed by the U.S.A. and annexed to the peace treaty.
The Cabinet stressed also that the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel should lead to the establishment between them of normal relations similar to their relations with other countries and on equal footing, giving neither party any privileged or preferential status in this respect. Thus it is not acceptable that this treaty should have any priority over other treaties.
The Cabinet also expressed its appreciation for the United States role as a full partner in the peace process. It also noted with satisfaction the worldwide support for Egypt’s stand and efforts, a support which will have its bearing in paving the way towards the just and comprehensive peace to which peoples in the Arab world and the world at large aspire.
The Cabinet affirmed Egypt’s keen desire and readiness to continue exerting all possible efforts to conclude a peace treaty with Israel according to the above-mentioned principles which will ensure durability and stability for the comprehensive and just peace in the Middle East.
The Cabinet also reviewed the Egyptian forthcoming diplomatic moves in all directions to inform all countries of the developments of the situation. Unquote.
3. Signed original will be pouched to the Dept, attention NEA/EGY, for delivery to the Secretary.