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Camp David Negotiations: U.S. Preparations for the Negotiations

(September 1978)

In preparation for the summit, Carter asked National Security advisor Brezinski and Secretary of State Vance to prepare briefing materials for him, independently of one another. The intelligence community prepared profiles of Sadat and Begin and their close advisors. The Department of Defense worked on plans to meet Israel's inevitable security objections for returning the Sinai or Gaza Strip captured in the Six Day War.

The sum of these preparations began pouring into the White House. Both the Vance and Brezinski teams produced detailed briefing materials for the President. Both focussed on the Palestinian question as the critical achievement of the summit - pressuring Begin to make some concession on the status of Palestinians. In the State Department version, the critical question was the relationship between the West Bank issue and Sinai. The Vance briefing recommended that the President concentrate initially on Israel's agreement to freeze the development of settlements on the West Bank and acceptance of the UN Resolution 242's language on the "inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war."

The NSC briefing book emphasized the importance (even inevitability) of linking the peace agreement with the question of the West Bank and Gaza.

President Carter preferred a broader conception of achievements. He want plans made for a full-fledged accord that would set the stage for a peace treaty. In addition, Carter did not believe in the inevitability of linking an agreement with some break-through on the West Bank/Gaza issue. Carter's emphasis was on reducing mistrust, emphasizing how much each party had invested in success rather than in failure, and the attempt to achieve a broad agreement.

Not only did the administration worry with the details of policy options, but it worked to maintain an atmosphere in world opinion that would foster a successful negotiations. Through Secretary of State Vance, Carter sent messages to world leaders seeking their support. The administration asked religious leaders to make special prayers for the talks. Carter asked both parties not to make negative statements about the possibilities for success prior to the actual negotiations. And Carter decided to preclude the press from the summit. Carter felt it imperative that the Egyptians and Israelis would do best if they had the minimum opportunity for posturing before the press.

Sources: Camp David Accords — Framework for Peace