President Anwar Sadat’s Letter to Prime Minister Menahem Begin
Following Israel’s Enactment of Basic Law on Jerusalem
Cairo, 3 August 1980.
We started the current peace process of negotiations last year with the objective of reaching agreement before May 26, 1980. But it proved impossible to achieve this objective for reasons that I will not discuss at present. Nevertheless, we decided to continue negotiation, in view of the gravity of the subjects at issue and from our desire to give you sufficient time to make the necessary developments in your position.
We have followed this course in spite of the fact that it is only transitional measures that are at issue at the present stage, not a final settlement of the Palestine problem. We are merely opening the door to this settlement by establishing a transitional system for a specified period, with the aim of enabling the Palestinians to assume their share of responsibility.
But to our great regret, and to the amazement of many of Israel's friends, events have not taken the course that all hoped would bring us close to agreement. On the contrary, there have been numerous provocative and negative acts that constitute an open challenge to the process and the very substance of peace. Nevertheless, we hoped that the factors which led you to follow this negative course would disappear and be replaced by positive action and response. But these hopes have not been fulfilled, with the result that the situation has continued to deteriorate.
I am referring to the measures that have been taken with regard to Jerusalem and the settlements, and also to the acts of repression that have taken place in the West Bank and Gaza.
Some people may say that these measures you have taken as regards Jerusalem, through a number of branches of your government, amount to no more than a negotiating position that need not be taken seriously, especially in view of the fact that they are devoid of all legality. However, we cannot ignore the following facts:
(a) They are in clear violation of Security Council resolution 242, which each of us has undertaken to respect and implement. In fact, although there is no need for me to provide a detailed explanation of these legal questions, it is clear that these recent Israeli measures constitute territorial expansion and the acquisition of territory through war, which are prohibited by resolution 242; it may not be out of place to recall that your government has recently declared, on more than one occasion, that it will not accept or tolerate any meddling with this resolution.
(b) These measures also conflict with the letter and spirit of Camp David. For they infringe the provisions of the “Framework for Peace in the Middle East,” inasmuch as they infringe the provisions of resolution 242 which constitutes the established legal basis of this Framework. We undertook to solve all our differences jointly and in a spirit of conciliation, not through actions taken unilaterally. It was fully understood when we signed the agreements that neither of us would resort to imposing a fait accompli on the other.
(c) These measures also conflict with the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention which prohibits the annexation of occupied territories.
When I expressed to you my belief that it would not be impossible to find a happy solution to the problem of Jerusalem, I made it clear to the whole world that such a solution must not lead to the partitioning of the city, or to the erection of barriers to freedom of passage or worship. I proposed a formula that would provide a pattern for honourable coexistence and good neighbourliness between Muslims, Christians and Jews, the essence of this formula being a demand for the restoration of historical and legal Arab rights in the city which, for practical reasons, should remain undivided.
Quite frankly, I feel that you have not devoted sufficient study to the ideas that I put forward and published in this regard, and I have received no reply to or objective comment on the proposed formula, that safeguards the interests of all concerned, that performs a valuable service to the cause of peace and is an immense contribution towards the achievement of concord between Arabs and Jews.
Your government has also adopted a negative and injurious policy on another sensitive subject – that of the settlements. I do not think that I need to refer to the world's rejection and universal condemnation of this policy, at both the legal and moral levels, or to enumerate its grave consequences. It is sufficient for me to reaffirm what I have said before: that these settlements that have been established in the West Bank or Gaza constitute a real obstacle on the road to peace, so that they must be dismantled, whether they be old or new.
We reached an understanding with you that Israel should take a number of measures to build confidence without delay, and before the start of the transitional period. The aim of this, as we decided together, was to relieve the sufferings of the Palestinians and to improve the atmosphere in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in preparation for the election of the Palestinian authority. We talked, in particular, of a series of measures contained in a memorandum I submitted to you on October 13, 1978, during the Blair House talks. But it is clear that the situation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip has not improved at all; on the contrary, there has been an appreciable deterioration. Is this the way to win the support and confidence of those who are affected by the Camp David Framework and to whom it is addressed?
Our position has been clear and unchanging since I started the peace process with my task in Jerusalem, but it may be of use if I reiterate it as follows:
1. Egypt remains committed heart and soul to peace. For us peace is a sacred strategic goal, and we shall continue to struggle for it even if this requires redoubled efforts on our part.
2. We abide by the letter and spirit of Camp David and call for scrupulous respect for all the undertakings contained in these historic documents.
3. Egypt remains prepared to assist its partners in the peace process and will help them to find ways of reaching solutions, even if they fail to appreciate the true nature of the facts or the wisdom of such and such an action, and in this we are applying to Israel what we used to apply in the case of our Arab brothers.
4. We believe that everything will be settled eventually because this is the desire of all the peoples of the area and the world, and no one can put the clock back or plunge the area once again into the darkness of war and destruction.
5. We reject all measures taken by Israel unilaterally, in defiance of the world consensus, as regards Jerusalem or the settlements. These measures are absolutely null and void.
6. The historical and legal rights of the Arabs and the Muslims in Jerusalem must be respected, with the city's various functions remaining undivided. At the same time, freedom of worship and movement there must be assured.
7. Israel must halt all activities related to the settlements, and all the settlements that have been established in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip must be dismantled, as must all those in the other occupied territories.
8. No state, and certainly neither Egypt nor Israel, has the right to determine the future of the Palestinian people. This is a right granted them by God which they cannot be deprived of in any circumstances.
9. In the event of agreement being reached on the establishment of the Palestinian self-government authority, we are prepared to start on implementation in the Gaza Strip as a first step, to be followed by implementation in the West Bank.
Dear Prime Minister Begin,
I am sure that you realize at the bottom of your heart, that it is impossible for us to continue negotiations if the present course of action remains unchanged.
Therefore, in the light of the spirit in which I made my journey to Jerusalem and of the spirit of Camp David, I call on you to take the necessary measures to remove the obstacles that have been placed on the road to peace in the last few months. I leave it to you to choose the appropriate ways and means of achieving this. If we fail to remove these impediments and obstacles in time, we shall make the vital process of negotiation an action devoid of all meaning which is of no service to our cherished goal of peace, and I am confident that neither of us is either willing or able to do that. Finally, I expect to receive a positive answer from you, so that the negotiations may continue in an atmosphere full of hope, and as soon as possible.
Source: Journal of Palestine Studies, vol. x, no 1, Autumn 1980.