Documents released by the US Department of State cast light on the signing of the Camp David Accords in 1978.
The accords between Egypt and Israel brokered by Washington at Camp David, Maryland, were signed in September 1978 and led to a peace treaty the following year.
“Egypt and Israel proved that they want peace… I consider future action on this agreement to be crucial for peace in your troubled area, vital for the maintenance of stability among the peoples and nations, and of profound importance to the relations of the United States with the governments involved,” read a letter sent by president Jimmy Carter to King Hussein of Jordan following the Camp David summit in September 1978.
Carter asked King Hussein to personally support the Camp David talks between Egypt’s president Anwar Al-Sadat and Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin.
The letter was among documents released by the US Department of State last week. Though the newly released material consists largely of handwritten notes taken during the 13-day summit by Samuel W Lewis, US ambassador to Israel from 1978 until 1985, among the cache are letters between US, Israeli and Egyptian leaders dating from immediately after the Camp David summit in 1978.
Some of the documents express doubts that the summit would result in comprehensive regional peace.
Hussein wrote to Carter in December 1978 and stressed that the Arab-Israeli conflict was at the heart of instability in the region. He said most Arab states — Jordan included — viewed the Camp David negotiations as achieving Israel’s goal of isolating Egypt and weakening the Arab camp and underlined that Egyptian-Israeli peace was not the same as solving the Palestinian issue. King Hussein added that self-autonomy —whatever its nature and form — could never resolve the problem as long as the end of the peace process was unclear.
The Camp David talks were supposed to establish two parallel frameworks for peace in the region, says Rakha Hassan, former assistant to the foreign minister. The first was peace between Egypt and Israel, achieved with the signing of the peace treaty between the two in 1979 for which Sadat and Begin received the
Nobel Peace Prize. The second framework was supposed to resolve the Palestinian issue, something that has not been achieved till now.
Carter sent a letter to Sadat in September 1978 asking that the parties should hasten to transform the framework documents into a negotiating process that could quickly solve outstanding issues in Sinai. Carter wrote that he shared Sadat’s concerns regarding the importance of a quick start to negotiations to allow the Palestinians to form their own government and start implementing the understandings reached at Camp David regarding the West Bank and Gaza and in the same letter mentioned the importance of exerting efforts to stabilise the situation in Lebanon.
Carter wrote to Syrian president Hafez Al-Assad, stating that the Camp David framework deals with general principles applicable on all fronts of the conflict and stressing that UN Security Council Resolution 242 remained the basis for a peaceful settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
In his letter to Al-Assad Carter sketched a two-stage solution to the Palestinian issue writing: “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.”
Israel’s position was reflected in an October 1978 letter from Begin to Carter in which Begin reports on the growing rejection of negotiations inside Israel. Begin explains the difficulties he is facing at “this crucial moment”: “Nearly half of my own party members in the Knesset either voted against or abstained. Some young people daubed on the walls of Zeev Jabotinsky House the words: ‘Begin — Traitor.’ I have to live with all this phenomena.”
In a press statement the State Department said the letters and notes had been found during the course of research for a book covering the administration of president Ronald Reagan.
Other documents relating to the 13-day negotiations at Camp David were released in 2014.