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Doubts Expressed Whether Begin Should Attend Summit Without Sadat

February 27, 1979
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The highest level political circles in Jerusalem expressed serious doubts today whether Premier Menachem Begin should accept President Carter’s invitation for a third Camp David meeting at which President Anwar Sadat would not be present.

Some of these circles, including Cabinet ministers, said that a summit without Sadat is an insult to the whole idea of a summit. Should Begin go to Washington he may find himself under very heavy pressure and it would be Begin who would be blamed if the summit did not produce the expected peace treaty, they said.

Other Israeli circles said, however, that even though Begin may hesitate to go to Camp David without his counterpart, Sadat, present, he will reluctantly accept Carter’s invitation to demonstrate respect for the American President.

Unconfirmed reports said that the invitation, though not yet officially conveyed to the Prime Minister’s Office, appeared to be an ultimatum. Some sources said that as Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan understood it, Carter’s invitation implied a hint that he may withdraw himself from any further involvement in the Israeli-Egyptian negotiations if Begin does not come forth with an announcement accepting the invitation. Dayan apparently agreed to the idea of a summit without Sadat.

What Dayan may not have realized at his White House meeting with Carter yesterday was that such an invitation could be regarded as an ultimatum and some Israelis were rather uneasy about it.

Begin reportedly was ready to accept the invitation without delay but had second thoughts and decided to await the special Cabinet meeting he called for tomorrow morning when Dayan presents his report on the latest Camp David meeting. After the Cabinet reaches a decision Begin will phrase his reply.

The prevailing mood in Jerusalem indicates that a significant number of ministers will not recommend acceptance of the invitation Dayan is expected to support acceptance of the Carter invitation which the President viewed as raising the negotiations to the heads-of-government level. Khalil, who is also Egypt’s Foreign Minister, was Dayan’s counterpart at the Camp David talks. At the summit level he would act as Prime Minister and thus technically be Begin’s counterpart.

But the fear here is that Khalil may request time to discuss conclusions of his talks with Begin with Egypt’s highest political personality, Sadat. Begin will have no one to refer to being at the highest political level in Israel. The Americans are said to be aware of this danger, but decided to take the risk and call Begin to Washington.


Israeli circles noted the strange situation that has developed. On one hand, Sadat said that he delegated full authority to Khalil to conclude the negotiations. On the other hand, Egypt has made it clear that there will be no more concessions on its part and only Israel will have to yield. If this is the case, sources here ask, why should Begin go to Camp David?

Dayan, who arrived here this evening from Washington, said he is convinced the Camp David talks which concluded yesterday will continue. He refused to elaborate, saying he will report on these talks tomorrow to the Cabinet. He added that Eliahu Ben-Elissar, director general of the Prime Minister’s Office, remained in Washington to maintain contact with all sides.

(In Egypt, the state controlled Cairo Radio said the call for a new summit indicated “certain obstacles had obstructed the process of the peace settlement.” The official Middle East News Agency quoted U.S. sources close to the Camp David talks as saying that a decision still had to be made on three or four points and that the delegates had gone a considerable way in formulating documents and some maps. There were no elaborations.)

Meanwhile, Labor Party chairman Shimon Peres also expressed uneasiness over the circumstances of the new invitation from Carter Peres said today that he is aware that two problems that were not solved at the meetings between Dayan, Khalil and Secretary of State Cyrus Vance are the same that came up after last November’s Blair House meeting. They are the questions of the “linkage” and “priority of obligations.”

Peres regarded the invitation as somewhat insulting but nevertheless believes Begin should go to Camp David because no effort should be spared in the quest for peace.

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