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(photo credit: AP)
The US sought to include a provision for self-government in Gaza and an Egyptian liaison role in the coastal strip as part of the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace accord, newly declassified US documents show.
The cache of documents, which were declassified last year, were attained from the Carter Library by a researcher from the Begin Center in Jerusalem as Israel and Egypt mark 30 years since the peace treaty between the two nations was signed.
The documents, which include drafts and notes to the president, reveal that the US administration sought to include movement toward a resolution on the volatile coastal territory, which was run by Egypt between 1948-1967, in the pending agreement between Israel and Egypt.
"A provision for the implementation of self-government in Gaza first is clearly important for Sadat. In our view, this is reasonable in purely practical terms," was written under a "checklist" for Carter's meeting with Begin.
The documents note that Sadat attached "major importance" to an Egyptian liaison role in Gaza, but was prepared to make clear that this was only "for the purposes of facilitating the negotiations for establishing the self-governing authority."
Begin was opposed to any Egyptian liaison role in Gaza, which he believed as part of Israel, and the "dramatic crisis" issue nearly held up the agreement until the Egyptians backed down, said Begin Center Deputy Director Moshe Fuksman.
A draft letter dated March 10, 1979 states that within a month of the peace treaty being signed, negotiations would commence in accordance with the "Framework for Peace in the Middle East."
"The Delegations of Egypt and Jordan may include Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip or other Palestinians as mutually agreed. In the event Jordan decides not to take part in the negotiations, Egypt and Israel will, prior to the elections, agree on the modalities for establishing the self-governing authority, define its powers and responsibilities, and agree upon other related issues," the letter says.
"The two governments agree to negotiate continuously and in good faith to conclude these negotiations as expeditiously as possible. They also agree that the objective of the negotiations is the establishment of the self-governing authority in the West Bank and Gaza in order to provide full autonomy to the inhabitants."
However, no such negotiations ever took place after the signing of the March 26, 1979 peace treaty.
A second newly declassified document, dated March 3, 1979 and written by Zbigniew Brzezinski to the president, offers two basic scenarios on reaching an agreement - one positive and one negative - for his upcoming trip to Israel and Egypt.
The document, repeatedly labelled "top secret," concludes with two columns, one marked "positive" and one marked "negative," which referred to the upcoming schedule following the weekend talks with Begin. In the event of an accord, a trip to Egypt was to be announced Monday for the following weekend, followed by a visit to Jerusalem and a trilateral summit. In the event the talks failed, the Egyptian foreign minister was to be summoned to Washington with a trip to the Middle East put off until "a week later or so."