Camp David Negotiations




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September 16, 1978

After attending President Sadat's walk around the compound, President Carter returned to Aspin Lodge in order to review their current situation. Briefly, the President also met with the Israeli Defense minister, Ezer Weizman. Reviewing the current American proposal with his staff, the President chose stronger language constraining Israeli West Bank expansion. They also discussed the possibilities for including the Palestinians in determining their own future and the Sinai settlements question.

A morning meeting with the Israelis hosted by Vance focused on the issue of the West Bank and the UN Resolution 242 language.

In a late morning to early afternoon meeting, Vance and Carter proposed a solution to the question of Palestinian autonomy which Sadat accepted as well as language on the treatment of Jerusalem, as long as the US would agree to an "exchange of letters" reaffirming the US position that Jerusalem is part of the West Bank.

In a protracted meeting between the Israeli and American principals, Carter went through the entire draft framework listing the common positions and detailing the remaining sticking points. He hoped the litany of agreements would make it clear to Begin how few were the issues remaining. Begin insisted on an agreement over Sinai in which the parties would continue negotiating for a final peace treaty and after three months, if they were successful then he would submit the question of withdrawing the settlements to the Knesset. Carter pointed out that Sadat has consistently opposed such a proposition. Begin finally agreed to a Knesset vote over removing the Sinai settlements contingent upon settling all other Sinai issues (e.g., the question of airfields). With that agreement, Begin removed the roadblock to successfully concluding an agreement.

September 17, 1978

Sunday began with Carter reviewing with Sadat the agreement as worked out with the Israelis. Sadat disagreed over the treatment of Jerusalem, as had Begin. The American proposal was to drop the language on Jerusalem and Begin had agreed to an exchange of letters stating each party's position. The American proposal reaffirmed its longstanding position, including the contention that Israel's position in East Jerusalem was an illegitimate occupation. Begin refused to accept this letter and threatened that if the US did not change its letter, then the Israelis would not sign the accords.

Meeting with Dayan, Weizman, and Barak. Mondale, Vance, and Brzezinski, Carter discussed the possible revisions of the American and Israeli letters on Jerusalem. The American position merely restated the positions of its three previous UN Ambassadors. Carter suggested restating the American letter by simply "reaffirming" its previous positions without stating them.

The final issue remaining arose over the language on the Knesset vote. Begin's letter restated the agreement to mean that the Knesset vote would result in commencement of the peace negotiations while the agreement had been that no peace negotiations would commence until the Knesset voted. Carter insisted on the original language and eventually devised letters preserving that position and to which the Israelis would agree. With this final agreement, the three parties had reached a final accord.

The Camp David delegations arrived at the White House at 10:15 PM and went immediately to the East Room where they signed the Accords.


September 18, 1978

On Monday evening, President Carter addressed the Congress, reporing on the Camp David negotiations and the Accords. Both Sadat and Begin were in the audience. In preparing the speech, Sadat advised the President, "Just do not aggravate the Israelis, some of whom are quite excitable and unpredictable people." On the way to the Capitol, President Carter decided to add "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God."

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