Camp David Documents: Begin Sought Jordanian Involvement in Peace Efforts, King Hussein Left Confused

Camp David Documents: Begin Sought Jordanian Involvement in Peace Efforts, King Hussein Left Confused

Monday, 4 June, 2018 - 09:00
Washington- Atef Abdul Latif
A number of declassified documents issued by the US Department of State uncovered details surrounding pre-Camp David negotiations between Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin under the auspices of US President Jimmy Carter.

The documents cover all US-sponsored deliberations from September 5-17, 1978.

Jordan’s former King is revealed to have been dismayed with confusion when determining his position on negotiations. On the other hand, Syria was muddled with concerns about Israel's interference in Lebanon.

Israel’s then PM Begin was fixated on his desire to get Jordan on board for negotiations, and had faced tough challenges before he and Sadat signed a peace treaty.

Released documents also show other missing facts surrounding Camp David.

The documents included a letter from the US Consulate General in Jerusalem to the State Department, in which Harold Sanders, US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs at the time, spoke of his meeting with Begin on October 20, 1978.

“Although nationalistic West Bankers espouse their allegiance to the PLO and proclaim their pessimism that Camp David will result in Israeli flexibility, we have detected tantalizing indications that under certain circumstances authentic West Bank leaders might be willing to take part in an interim government and participate in negotiations with Israel,” the letter said.

“The challenge at Camp David is to find a formula part way between the PLO’s position and the Begin plan that Hussein and reputable West Bankers can be brought to swallow,” it added.

The US, Sanders suggested, should make “clear” that any peace settlement should provide for “demilitarization of the contested areas,” “Israeli (or joint) presence on key terrain to provide early warning and, at least initially, to control access to populated areas in Israel and perhaps in the West Bank,” “Israeli overflight rights in some areas to provide early warning,” “border adjustments to eliminate particularly dangerous areas,” “reduction of Arab forces contiguous to demilitarized areas,” and strict limitations on “foreign forces in Jordan.”

Begin also wrote to Carter on October 29, 1978 reporting on the growing affects of negotiations.

“This is the third letter I am writing to you today. I feel it my duty to do so at this crucial moment. My words are addressed to you not as by a Prime Minister to the President of the United States of America, but as man to man and, mainly, as friend to friend,” he said. 

“My colleagues and I hear very often the argument that we must understand the delicate situation of President Sadat vis-a-vis the Arab World and the Rejectionists. Today, may I ask: What about my situation, my difficulties? To prove the point, I will inform you of the following facts:

“The men of the Irgun3 (a former Zionist paramilitary organization which operated in Mandate Palestine between 1931 and 1948. It was an offshoot of the older and larger Jewish paramilitary organization Haganah) whom I led from the underground into a fight for liberty for five years are my most beloved friends. As far as I studied history, I can say that there were never cleaner fighters, nor more idealistic volunteers. For five years we were always together, through thick and thin, in good and bad days. Now, for the first time in thirty-four years a group of them is in ‘revolt’ against their brother and former commander.”

“Nearly half of my own party members in the Knesset either voted against or abstained. Some young people dabbed on the walls of Zeev Jabotinsky House the words: ‘Begin—Traitor.’ I have to live with all this phenomena.”

On the other hand, Carter wrote to then Syrian President Hafez Assad, addressing Syria’s concerns over Israeli involvement in Lebanon. 

“I want to add a personal note to my message to you of September 17, 1978, in which I informed you of the results of the talks at Camp David. Your country’s concerns have been very much on my mind in the past two weeks. I would appreciate very much hearing from you directly in order to avoid any possible misunderstandings,” the letter said.

“Let me emphasize a point that I made last night in my speech before a joint session of Congress—the peace we seek in the Middle East is a comprehensive one. The general Framework document signed by Egypt and Israel specifically deals with principles applicable to all fronts of the conflict.”

“United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 in all its parts remains the agreed basis for a peaceful settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict. I also stated in my speech that there must be a just solution of the refugee problem which takes into account appropriate United Nations resolutions.”

“I know of your deep commitment not only to Syria and the Arab Nation, but also of your concern for the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, which Israel has now, for the first time, recognized.”

“While the Camp David agreements do not answer all of the questions related to the Palestinians, they do provide a basis for solving the Palestinian problem in all its aspects.” 

“Under the terms of the agreement signed by Israel, a solution would be possible in two stages. First, the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza would be ended, a substantial number of Israeli forces would be withdrawn, and those that remain would be redeployed into a few specified locations to provide Israel with security from external attack.

Internal security would be handled by a strong Palestinian police force.”

“With the end of the military occupation, a freely elected self-governing authority would be established. After the signing of this framework and during the negotiations to set up the governing authority, no new Israeli settlements will be established. The issue of future Israeli settlements will be decided and agreed among the negotiating parties.”

“The second stage would involve negotiations on the final status of the West Bank and Gaza, and on peace between Israel and Jordan, with Palestinians participating in those negotiations. Those negotiations should be based on the principles of Resolution 242, including withdrawal of Israeli armed forces. The results of these negotiations should allow the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza to decide how they wish to govern themselves.”

“I know that there are many issues that we were not able to resolve at Camp David. But I do want to assure you of my deep personal commitment to remain involved in the search for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. I am hopeful that you will share your views with me and with Secretary Vance when he visits you in Damascus on September 23,” the letter concluded. 

Editor Picks

Multimedia