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“These People Have an Irrevocable Right to Self-Government”: United States Policy and the Palestinian Question, 1977-1979
Victor V. Nemchenok

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To cite this Article Nemchenok, Victor V.(2009) '“These People Have an Irrevocable Right to Self-Government”: United

States Policy and the Palestinian Question, 1977-1979', Diplomacy & Statecraft, 20: 4, 595 — 618 To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/09592290903455717 URL:

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Diplomacy & Statecraft, 20:595–618, 2009 Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC ISSN: 0959-2296 print/1557-301X online DOI: 10.1080/09592290903455717

Diplomacy Statecraft 1557-301X 0959-2296 & Statecraft, Vol. 20, No. 4, Nov 2009: pp. 0–0 FDPS

“These People Have an Irrevocable Right to Self-Government”: United States Policy and the Palestinian Question, 1977–1979

V. V. Nemchenok United States Policy and the Palestinian Question, 1977–1979

Downloaded By: [Nemchenok, Victor][University of Virginia] At: 14:30 19 December 2009

Upon entering office, Carter Administration officials placed a heavy emphasis on integrating human rights into United States foreign policy. They also sought to contain festering Arab–Israeli tensions in the Middle East. The intersection of these two issues was the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. This article examines the Administration’s attempts to solve that conflict and to bring peace to the region. It argues that policymakers developed a sincere dedication to safeguarding Palestinian rights, but that their understanding of those rights was limited in scope and defined through the lens of United States security and strategic interests. In spite of a good-faith effort to satisfy Palestinian desires while maintaining a constructive relationship with Israel, the Administration ultimately failed to alter the status quo because of regional developments. As Washington’s strategic thinking changed, so did the urgency of Palestinian rights.

Jimmy Carter envisioned a central role for human rights in United States foreign policy. “Our commitment to human rights,” he proclaimed in his inaugural address, “must be absolute.” Yet the president neither illuminated the logic of human rights, nor concretely defined their subjects: although the nation’s values “dictate[d] a clear-cut preference for those societies” that shared “an abiding respect for individual human rights,” it was “peoples” collectively—“more numerous and more politically aware” and now “demanding their place in the sun”—whom he implicated in the country’s newly rediscovered humanitarian impulse. Nonetheless, by claiming certain “moral” duties to be in the country’s “best interests,” Carter shaded “human rights” with realist implications and further cemented their primacy.1 During the Carter Administration, however, the prominence of human rights collided with the importance of the Middle East.2 What the Carter Administration sought in the region was an end to the Arab–Israeli conflict and a lasting, comprehensive peace. Such a peace was more than a

countries like Italy. Moreover. Because he had made human rights “a central tenet” of United States foreign policy.” argued National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski. and protection of access to oil all depended on a comprehensive settlement. it was a strategic security interest.”7 But from 1977–1981. How did United States officials conceptualise human rights as a component part of Washington’s Middle East policy? How did their understanding of human rights interact with American interests in ensuring Israeli security. Appearing before the Senate Subcommittee on Foreign Assistance. Allied intransigence would guarantee Israel’s complete isolation. the Palestinian issue at the root of the conflict also acquired a strategic dimension.9 In Spring 1977.8 The way in which officials approached Palestinian rights would have immense significance for Washington’s ability to pursue peace and to reconcile competing interests. Twenty years later. Desperate for oil and lacking the domestic reserves enjoyed by the United States. and ensure “serious consequences for Western Europe. speed the re-entry of the Soviet Union into the Middle East. Nemchenok humanitarian concern. Short of a comprehensive settlement. they were also a people under occupation. another war “would likely generate a major United States–Soviet confrontation. Carter and his senior advisors saw the Palestinians through a humanitarian lens. and Turkey became politically alienated from Israel and refused to allow United States armed forces the use of bases to resupply Israel.”5 Regional peace was imperative. the festering situation would further the radicalisation of the Arab world. which was impossible without due attention to the Palestinians. V. the alienation of the United States. no Carter official ever mentioned the plight of the Palestinians in a vacuum. sometimes at the expense of the very rights Carter claimed to have been defending.3 Policymakers worried that similar restrictions regarding bases and air space in future conflicts would adversely affect the ability of the military to achieve American objectives in the Middle East. many of whom had negotiated important base rights with Washington. Japan. set out to elucidate the Administration’s human rights thinking. United States involvement in the Yom Kippur War of 1973 on Israel’s behalf contributed to an oil embargo that devastated United States allies. stemming Arab radicalisation. The prevention of Soviet influence.596 V. Christopher Downloaded By: [Nemchenok. projection of American power.4 Should a particularly prolonged engagement occur. and the United States. human rights and a comprehensive peace settlement converged into a single issue: the Palestinian problem. Warren Christopher. Palestinians were a people without a home. When the resolution of the Arab–Israeli conflict became a concrete interest of the United States. it was impossible for the president “to ignore the very serious problems on the West Bank” and “the continued deprivation of Palestinian rights. Spain. and the fragmentation of the international system. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and his deputy.6 After 1948. Victor][University of Virginia] At: 14:30 19 December 2009 . and maintaining reasonable international oil prices? In the Middle East.

that the Administration would uphold. including the Universal Declaration of Human rights and two attendant covenants—the International Covenant on Economic. suggests that its applicability would be subject to one of the Justice Department’s reservations.13 Like Christopher. and the exercise of national will. even as he acknowledged the ICCPR.10 In an address at the University of Georgia Law School.” Vance’s failure to refer to self-determination.” both of which required a careful country-by-country approach to human rights. Vance also addressed the issue of perspective: “Have we been sensitive to genuine security interests. The emergence among the Palestinian people of a distinct national identity by the 1920s and the renewal of that identity following the 1967 war placed collective self-determination. a right “to be free from governmental violation of the integrity of the person.” concerned torture. Second was the right “to the fulfilment of vital needs” such as food.12 Vance made no mention of such collective rights— a glaring omission given the Administration’s strategy of basing the definition of human rights in international law. 1977–1979 597 noted that human rights were vital to preserving America’s leadership and influence abroad. however. United States security was paramount. realising that outbreak of armed conflict or terrorism could in itself pose a serious threat to human rights?”14 The last point identified a fundamental tension in the pursuit of human rights. Vance in turn identified three kinds of rights. Victor][University of Virginia] At: 14:30 19 December 2009 . rather than individual rights. cruel and unusual punishment. But at the heart of the Palestinian problem lay a collective desire for sovereignty. and freedom to take part in government. at the core of the Palestinian issue. religion. Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). shelter.” for example. health care.” human rights could also lead to instability and radicalism. explicitly stated that “all peoples have a right to selfdetermination” and that all parties to that covenant. Officials would need to temper the promotion of American ideals with security considerations and “a concern to achieve practical results. which was binding upon ratification. The first. would be responsible for “promot[ing] the realisation of the right of self-determination. and while an emphasis on human rights would theoretically benefit the nation by fostering “a world that shares common freedoms and in which prosperity and economic justice create the conditions for peace. Roosevelt’s freedom from want.11 The secretary’s list espoused only those rights that pertained to the individual.United States Policy and the Palestinian Question. reflecting the traditional values of classical liberalism shaded by Franklin D. speech. freedom of thought. and arbitrary arrest. and education. Article 1 of the latter. autonomy. and assembly. all adopted from the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. freedom of movement. What if their promotion threatened America’s security interests instead of reinforcing them? To speak of “majority rule and equal Downloaded By: [Nemchenok. The last was a right “to enjoy civil and political liberties. but they could not be pursued everywhere uniformly. Its tactics entailed pushing through the Senate the ratification of several major human rights treaties.

without ever mentioning the Palestinians explicitly. . stressing that the Administration “should candidly talk about how we intend to relate future arms and aid decisions to the upcoming diplomatic effort. The PRM. sent Brzezinski a memorandum responding to an updated presidential review of the Middle East—PRM-3. . was “a comprehensive . alluded to a settlement of “the refugee problem.” Second. The PLO likewise refused to recognise Israel. To be sure. Quandt strongly disagreed. Arab leaders unanimously approved a resolution recognising the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. This created an impasse because Israel would not negotiate for fear that doing so would recognise a Palestinian “people” with collective Palestinian rights. Nemchenok rights” in Southern Rhodesia or “civil and political” rights in Namibia. at a minimum. Victor][University of Virginia] At: 14:30 19 December 2009 . there Downloaded By: [Nemchenok. be considered in conjunction with non-security objectives. V. was one thing.” Sceptical. two countries that had a limited impact on United States security. Quandt emphasised that the Administration would need to come up with a solution that was acceptable to Arabs and Israelis alike. in particular. without which the further radicalization of the Arab world and the re-entry of the Soviet Union into the Middle East could not be avoided. called on each state in the region to be recognised and. but to address human rights in “such a crucial area of the world” as the Middle East was quite another. officials showed little inclination to think about the Palestinians more deeply. cognisant that such recognition constituted its only diplomatic leverage. Just as those responsible for human rights policy were concluding that assistance decisions could. United States officials hoped to garner the agreement of all parties to a set of principles and to establish a framework upon which they would negotiate at the Geneva Conference. however. the State Department concluded that aid to Israel could not be used as a form of leverage to help achieve American objectives. simply “gloss[ed] over the extremely difficult Palestinian issue. settlement. Quandt found the document unimpressive. The United States insisted that any peace be based on United Nations Security Council Resolution 242. the senior staff member of the National Security Council responsible for the Middle East. On 3 February 1977. It gave the impression that the Arab states would help get Washington “off the hook.17 This approach presented an immediate obstacle. which had established a “land-for-peace” formula. Washington needed to break the impasse. the examination of the impending peace negotiations was too fuzzy. as defined by Brzezinski in a memorandum to Carter. Morocco.598 V.”16 To achieve that goal. bothered him.15 The objective of United States Middle East policy. William Quandt. Two problems. The objective was to get all the parties to the Geneva Conference to reach a comprehensive settlement.18 At the policy review meeting the following day. The first concerned decisions on aid to Israel.” one of the main factors preventing progress.” At the 1974 Arab summit in Rabat.

Contrary to Sadat’s substantive focus. the Palestinian question rose to the fore.” thus alleviating the problem altogether. Vance concentrated on procedural issues. reported that the Egyptians. In the context of informal talks. and unwilling to push the Israelis into a harder bargaining position. Constrained by Israel’s position on the PLO as an illegitimate negotiating partner. and Saudi Arabians were being constructive in trying to convince the PLO to moderate its position. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat stated that the “Palestinian question is the core of the whole problem. 1977–1979 599 was consensus on the urgency of an American initiative. because UN Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim was pressing for a conference. Syrians. and his approach—a one-day meeting that would establish a series of working groups and then adjourn— was “not sensible. At a news conference in Cairo. When asked whether Israeli withdrawal to 1967 boundaries and the “establishment of a Palestinian entity” would be enough for achieving a comprehensive peace. he chose not to express himself in the language of human rights. despite the agreement in Washington that his trip address substance as well. Vance minced no words: “it would mean that there would have been a determination prior to the conference as to who should attend—that is a procedural question. Brzezinski believed the moment more auspicious for a settlement than any other in the past 23 years. the Egyptian president implied that Palestinians had an inherent right to have a say in the settlement. and the Downloaded By: [Nemchenok.” Sadat’s comments were substantive. Brzezinski stressed that the Arabs needed to articulate a more explicit definition of peace. which would be difficult if the Palestinians were present at Geneva. the problem posed by the PLO would be obviated. Victor][University of Virginia] At: 14:30 19 December 2009 . Geneva could not be put off beyond September. Vance also thought the time was ripe for a breakthrough. however. suggested that “if the Arabs and Palestinians can reach an accommodation.”21 Since this comment was both preceded and followed by a question on Palestinians.United States Policy and the Palestinian Question. Carter’s vocabulary of politically aware “peoples” finding “their place in the sun” for the sake of human rights seemed inapplicable. Vance was clearly referring to Palestinian representation. When asked whether a Geneva conference would mean that all parties would be at the conference. Sadat pointed to the need for “the creation of a Palestinian state. Ultimately. everyone agreed that a semi-formal round of discussions prior to Geneva would be helpful in clarifying the long-term objectives of all—all but the Palestinian— parties. Knoche. the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) representative at the meeting.” albeit one linked to Jordan. paralleling the approach that Quandt had found so naïve in PRM-3.”19 Because the short-term goal focused on the conference itself and not on the potential outcomes of negotiations. Enno Knoche.20 As Vance travelled the Middle East for consultation with local leaders in mid-February. the Palestinian issue received short shrift. the Arabs will probably agree to go to Geneva without the PLO. Adding that Palestinian participation was necessary for the desired outcome.

Carter left the logic implicit: in the absence of peace.26 Just two months into his term and enjoying approval ratings of over 70 percent. Italy.27 Yet the language he used is instructive. the vocabulary of “rights” did not yet apply to them.”23 After meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin the following week. Carter chose to speak in terms of a “homeland” for “refugees. Not only had the Israelis been stonewalling the negotiations. many years.25 Carter’s deviation from the traditional script was undoubtedly purposeful. Carter quickly shifted focus. oil prices would skyrocket.” He explained that Many countries depend completely on oil from the Middle East for their life. mounting tensions in the Middle East would lead to Arab radicalisation. the president reiterated those three issues. Not wishing to alienate the JewishAmerican community any further.” he told a crowd assembled in Clinton. and other countries. we could survive.” he declared. Vance distilled the core issues of a potential settlement for the House International Relations Committee. They involved “the nature of peaceful relations between Israel and her neighbours. “What happens in the Middle East in the future. Nemchenok Downloaded By: [Nemchenok. France—are also heavily dependent on oil from the Middle East. Israel’s right to exist permanently.600 V. “There has to be a homeland for the Palestinian refugees who have suffered for many. Whatever the suffering of Palestinians. and”—still vaguely phrased—“the future of the Palestinians. Carter highlighted the humanitarian dimension of the problem.” making clear that the national consciousness of a Palestinian “people” and an independent Palestinian state lay outside the contours of United States policy. Israel’s right to exist in peace” had to be recognised by its Arab neighbours. Carter went on the offensive. 24 But on 16 March. they had attempted to manipulate the Administration’s policy by appealing to the American Jewish community and by characterising the Administration’s position as consonant with Israel’s. Crucially. If all oil was cut off to us from the Middle East. the boundaries of peace. The absence of Palestinian rights contrasted starkly with his observation—made just minutes earlier—that “Israel’s right to exist. Victor][University of Virginia] At: 14:30 19 December 2009 secretary would not go beyond the lacklustre formulation of a “resolution of the Palestinian question. Massachusetts.”22 After his trip. V. like in Europe—Germany. vulnerable American allies . expanding the vocabulary surrounding the conflict far beyond Washington’s conventional wisdom. “might very well cause a major war there which would quickly spread to all the other nations of the world. with the Palestinian issue in similarly amorphous language. after illuminating his view of the humanitarian nature of the issue. The ultimate focus was not humanitarianism but peace. but Japan imports more than 98 percent of all its energy. Were the Arabs to engage in political blackmail. We don’t.

Forging ahead. Syria. the Arabs could not accept it without facing the accusation of turning their backs on the Rabat declaration and confronting domestic difficulties. and the United States would be left dangerously alienated at a moment when the Soviet Union was bound to take advantage of the situation and when the chances of a superpower confrontation were greatest. with the Palestinian issue just one of its components. the National Security Council. Alternately. 1977–1979 601 would become politically disaffected. that now seemed unlikely. Policymakers had initially assumed. and the CIA agreed at the policy Downloaded By: [Nemchenok. in spite of Quandt’s warning.United States Policy and the Palestinian Question. “Selfdetermination” went a step further by implying distinct nationhood. but with the explicit understanding that Geneva would be based on the right of all states to live in peace. The Israelis were adamant about excluding the PLO from the conference negotiations. Sensing the Middle East situation steadily deteriorating in the absence of a comprehensive peace. As officials from the State and Defense departments. and Saudi Arabia upheld its claim to represent the Palestinian people and would not appear at a conference without its presence. written solely for internal discussion. In this context. United States officials had three options. indicated an understanding on the part of policymakers that “human rights” could be used. convening a Geneva conference was impossible. not just as rhetorical flourish to align “politically aware” people with the United States. would be taken up in the negotiations. In lieu of that caveat. the question of Palestinian representation was still stalemated. the suggestion was a non-starter—as the PLO would not be the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people within that arrangement. but as a means to attain concrete interests. On its face. peace was the ultimate security interest. Victor][University of Virginia] At: 14:30 19 December 2009 . however. that the Arabs would be able to resolve the problem among themselves. Without its resolution.” This was a stunning expansion of language. officials also continued to treat the problem strategically. the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Washington could invite the PLO to attend separately.28 Yet the most intriguing option was the one that seemed the least plausible: that the Jordanian delegation contain a Palestinian group. The fact that it appeared in a paper with a secret classification. According to a new State Department analysis. In private. After many consultations with Sadat and Rabin. the United States could seek Arab and Soviet agreement on a conference without Palestinian representation on condition that a decision on the question of representation would be its first order of business. or Palestinian self-determination. Jordan. which would constitute a de facto recognition of Israel. United States policymakers mulled over sweetening the offer with an “explicit inclusion of the substantive Palestinian issue on the agenda for the negotiations or by United States assurance that a Palestinian homeland. Carter had introduced the term “homeland” into the dialogue in the hope of putting pressure on Israel to soften its position without alienating Jewish leaders at home. One was to arrange for a united Arab delegation that included the PLO. but Egypt.

At an address in San Francisco in June. statements concerning the West Bank needed to be delicately phrased. the participants—Vance. leaders like Rabbi Alexander Schindler—chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations and a relative “dove” on the question of Israel’s occupation—made peace with Likud’s hard-line stance. Vice President Walter Mondale intimated that Downloaded By: [Nemchenok. for example. V.29 Those present at the meeting understood that human rights.”32 Caught between an Israeli extremist and a seemingly biased. In the ensuing balancing act. Leaders of the JewishAmerican community were initially uneasy about Begin’s election.31 To curry favour with Israel’s supporters. however. but gave nearly exclusive attention to the fact that it “pre-empt[ed] a Begin move to incorporate the territory into Israel”30 This would be beneficial to Washington because Arab leaders expected the Administration to achieve results. and its constituents looked upon the land-for-peace scheme with extreme disfavour. Brzezinski. If disappointed.33 To regain the support of the American Jewish community. When the Policy Review Committee discussed the idea of a trusteeship and an eventual referendum for the West Bank on 10 June. meaning self-determination. many years. reconvening a Geneva conference remained a “high-priority” concern because it would stem political deterioration in the Arab world. When Carter spoke in Clinton in March. could be the key to the whole process. the Administration continued to explore the procedural aspect of the Palestinian issue and began to pay more attention to substance. the new prime minister. pro-Arab Administration. and Admiral Stansfield Turner. with the result that the tone of official conversations lost the kind of moral and humane quality that Carter had exhibited in Clinton. Victor][University of Virginia] At: 14:30 19 December 2009 . Israel’s conservative Likud party had just come to power. Carter officials put a priority on the human rights-related components of the Palestinian issue in a way that minimised humanitarian concerns. but Carter’s public statements about the Palestinian problem gave them the impression that the Administration espoused an openly pro-Arab line. his language was infused with earnestness: “There has to be a homeland provided for the Palestinian refugees who have suffered for many. director of the CIA—acknowledged that this scheme was based on the principles of self-determination. cautioned Quandt. Nemchenok review meeting on 19 April. loudly promoted Israeli settlements in the occupied territories with the hope that they would make the future incorporation of the West Bank and Gaza into Israel inevitable. the Administration visibly dampened the intensity of its language concerning Palestinian rights. As Spring gave way to Summer. their moderation could give way to radicalisation and a strategy of confrontation that would stymie Washington’s plans for a strategically formulated peace.602 V. Defence Secretary Harold Brown. To keep the hopes for Geneva alive. Menachem Begin. American officials had to win him over without alienating the key Arab participants.

The Arabs would then see “a sense of movement on the Palestinian issue. . but since the Geneva framework called for joint co-chairmanship of the conference by the United States and the Soviet Union. Quandt veered in another direction. however. the United States would need to contact the Palestinians directly to explain that Washington remained committed to a solution of the Palestinian problem. suggesting that Vance should “inject the idea of self-determination for the Palestinians” on his next visit to the area. Two paragraphs later. Limiting Soviet influence in the Middle East was a fixture of United States policy. the President has made clear that. in the context of a peace settlement.” noting that its survival was not a political issue but rather a “moral imperative” of United States foreign policy. Washington would be amenable to “leaving aside the details of the Palestinian question for the moment” and would work for a conference at which the PLO was initially absent. It had been agreed that the Soviets Downloaded By: [Nemchenok. . Mondale emphasised America’s “unique and profound relationship with the state of Israel. however. the latter’s presence at the negotiations was unavoidable. The strategy worked. . Were he to do so. Mondale ratcheted up the emotion. including the possibility of some arrangement for a Palestinian homeland or entity. policymakers initially had sought to limit the extent of Moscow’s participation and influence. Washington had to take stock of the USSR.36 In their private deliberations. Quandt quickly added.34 Where Israeli security was concerned. 1977–1979 603 if the Palestinians are willing to exist in peace and are prepared to demonstrate that willingness by recognising Israel’s right to exist in peace. Nonetheless.” and might “agree to sidestep the question of PLO representation and a Palestinian state at this stage.” In addition to placating both the Arabs and the Israelis. If that were the case. .35 Aware that Israeli intransigence would derail the progress to Geneva. or otherwise annexing. Victor][University of Virginia] At: 14:30 19 December 2009 . policymakers continued explicitly to articulate the need for balance. but felt obligated to start with other issues. Mondale sought to balance the Administration’s humanitarian impulses with reassurances to Israel and Carter’s domestic detractors that Washington would not abandon its ally.37 With respect to the latter. American officials would have to convince Begin to refrain from extending Israeli law into. Unlike Carter’s dispassionate statement on Israeli security in Clinton. the president’s approval ratings among Jewish Americans reached 66 percent.United States Policy and the Palestinian Question. a figure equal to his approval among the general population. we believe the Palestinians should be given a chance to shed their status as homeless refugees and to partake fully in the benefits of peace . the occupied territories. . By August. Quandt rightfully noted that the necessity of establishing a working relationship with Begin’s government collided with that of keeping the confidence of moderate. pro-West Arab leaders and steering the Palestinians into their sphere.

the focus of the discussions about the role of the Soviets shifted.”45 The inclusion of this phrase caused an immediate backlash. the Administration seemed to have the answer. Soviet tactics of “talking peace while quietly encouraging Arab intransigence”. In their discussions with the Soviets over the communiqué.43 In addition.604 V. They had always supported the most radical Arab positions. officials agreed to invoke the language of “rights” explicitly. Brzezinski argued that it was good strategy to pressure the Soviets. significantly departed from earlier formulations used to talk about the Palestinian problem. the havoc they would wreak would kill all prospects for a workable Geneva conference. discussions with Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin in mid-September convinced Vance that the Soviets were finally willing to moderate their position. a significant concession suggesting that United States–Soviet cooperation had the potential to break the impasse by making Begin uneasy and leading him in a more constructive direction. the question was slightly altered. Internal dissatisfaction in Egypt and Syria. but should not be involved in the substance of negotiations”—at least at that point in the process. and that Begin himself later referred to “Palestinian rights” at Camp David. On 1 October. the United States and the Soviet Union issued a joint communiqué that reiterated the necessity of a peace agreement.39 By June.” asked one PRCM discussion paper. Nemchenok “should be kept informed of the progress of our conversations with the parties. Wedged between the withdrawal of the Israeli Armed Forces and the establishment of normal peaceful relations was the issue of “the resolution of the Palestinian question. and Israeli policies designed to make Arab participation in the negotiations impossible—all these factors contributed to the growing sense of futility. V.42 American officials were pessimistic about the prospects for Geneva in early September. including insuring the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people. and they would need to act constructively to gain entry into the substantive negotiations. betraying a sense of anxiety. Victor][University of Virginia] At: 14:30 19 December 2009 . Carter introduced the idea of a “homeland” for Downloaded By: [Nemchenok. Quandt has argued that the wording was innocuous. In February. nonetheless. and that the conference had to be convened no later than December.46 The language. “without that involvement itself becoming an obstruction?”40 Were the Soviets shut out of the process. “How can we keep the Soviet Union sufficiently involved to forestall obstructionist efforts on Moscow’s part.44 Officials were certain that United States– Soviet strategic cooperation would finally clear the path for Geneva.41 The superpowers stressed that such an agreement had to be reached within the framework of the Geneva conference. an agreement with the Soviet Union would pressure Syria and the PLO to agree to negotiations. that all substantive issues needed to be addressed. however. By the Autumn. They were no longer calling for a separate Palestinian state. In Clinton. the PLO’s inability to respond to the American initiative. The communiqué was a “tactical device” for advancing toward a conference.38 Four months into Carter’s term. Luckily.

pointing out that the Geneva conference would address the Palestinians’ “legitimate political aspirations. but implied none of the entitlement of “rights.United States Policy and the Palestinian Question. it suggested that they had no national aspirations. the communiqué backfired. that qualification adroitly circumvented the implications of a Palestinian “people.” In two ways.48 Seeking to soften hard positions and to move all parties closer to the negotiating table.” “legitimate rights of an independent state” and so forth.” First.50 Yet to speak of “ambiguous” and “unambiguous” contexts was misleading for. creating an intense backlash in the American press and public. By combining “legitimate rights” and “Palestinian people” into a single clause. sovereignty over the West Bank and Gaza was by definition a murky issue that could only be addressed in negotiations. Mondale once mentioned the “Palestinian people. reenforcing Israel’s position that “the Palestinians as individuals possessed rights which had to be recognised.”47 Equally importantly.” “Legitimate political aspirations” could be granted to the Palestinians by other parties as a reward for good behaviour. Victor][University of Virginia] At: 14:30 19 December 2009 Palestinian refugees. the use of “rights” was unambiguous. 1977–1979 605 Downloaded By: [Nemchenok. as Atherton had explained earlier in the hearing. noted Atherton. Within days. but steered clear of mentioning either “the Palestinian people” or their “legitimate rights. Because the document spoke. the communiqué gave the impression that the United States government was significantly expanding its support for the Palestinian cause at Israel’s expense. moreover. Atherton explained that the shift in language had less to do with commitment to rights and more to a change in context: Historically we have spoken of the legitimate interest of the Palestinians for a very good reason. Carter’s approval ratings dropped to 55 percent.49 By the time Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Near East and South Asian Affairs Alfred Atherton appeared before Congress on 19 October 1977. the term “aspiration” conveyed empathy with certain Palestinian desires and ambitions. of both the United States and the Soviet Union as guarantors of a future settlement. then. the State Department distanced itself from the document and. it became clear that no greater commitment to the Palestinians accompanied the sharpened language of Palestinian rights. In the context of the joint communiqué. These were used in a context which was ambiguous as to whether or not this was to be at the expense of Israel’s rights of sovereignty. however. many sensed that Washington was needlessly allowing Moscow influence in the Middle East. they were not something to which the Palestinians had an irredentist claim. We used that formulation in circumstances where the phrase “legitimate rights” often is described as “legitimate national rights.” Three months later in San Francisco. by November. The United States supported .” He framed the discussion very narrowly. but that they had no rights or status as a people or a nation.

[so as] not to stay vulnerable in the long run. and Palestinian intransigence.” but absent consensus over whether. on one final push for negotiations. Atherton elucidated that “rights. Sadat’s visit to Israel came at a price. chose to focus on the silver lining—that Israel and Egypt. Palestinian “rights” like self-determination were important only to the extent they contributed to that peace. American interests lay clearly in regional peace. however. Egypt and Israel were far apart on points of substance. On 9 November. Americans’ worries were justified. Victor][University of Virginia] At: 14:30 19 December 2009 . and at what time the inhabitants of these regions should practice self-determination.52 Amidst Israeli.” to the extent that they connoted entitlements. The problem was that “translating that principle into practice in a specific political context” was very difficult.51 Irrespective of context. Although he unequivocally renounced the idea of a separate Israeli–Egyptian treaty unaccompanied by a broader peace. V. I think he is wanting either to come back to them or to some resolution of the question.” he noted in his diary. Nemchenok the principle of self-determination “as a principle. and the prestige of the United States. with some in Iraq and Libya calling for his assassination. With Egypt’s economy stalled and unrest rising. “and. and although he made numerous references to a Palestinian right to statehood and a Palestinian right of return. were irrelevant. United Downloaded By: [Nemchenok. the PLO and Syria turned against him. and with memories of 1973 still intact. a desperate Sadat was unwilling to give up. were conducting direct negotiations.54 Although it quickly became clear that Sadat’s initiative would fail to lead to a reconvening of the Geneva conference. the strongest and most populous regional powers. he sought to achieve a breakthrough that would allow him to tap into United States aid and alleviate domestic problems. Yet. Syrian.56 In the wake of the sharp Arab reaction following Sadat’s outreach to Begin. Congressman Lee Hamilton of Indiana pressed the point: “you don’t recognise the principle of self-determination as a controlling factor?” Selfdetermination was one of many factors to take into consideration during the negotiations. As before. how. Carter decided to stake his own prestige. replied Atherton. During the early months of 1978.”55 If Sadat was trying strategically to engineer a crisis. in fact—to talk with the Israelis about peace. Washington could not get the parties to agree to a set of principles for reconvening the Geneva conference. Begin’s intransigence and Sadat’s impatience continued unabated. American interests were foremost on his mind. “The Arabs are really pushing Sadat. Carter worried that the Egyptian president would precipitate a conflict. Atherton reiterated that the communiqué’s heightened rhetoric was simply a policy instrument designed to achieve United States policy objectives. By noting that America’s “priority objective” was to get the negotiations started.606 V. the best thing was to commence the negotiating process and to see what happened. he publicly announced his willingness “to go to the ends of the earth”—to the Knesset itself.53 The Carter Administration.

60 Where. some of them were vitally important to United States national security interests—an unfortunate fact that Christopher had acknowledged to the Senate Subcommittee on Foreign Assistance in March 1977. Notwithstanding the moderating influence of Saudi Arabia. the right to food.57 Although human rights gained relevance in discussions concerning the Palestinian question in the months surrounding the Camp David talks— Atherton spoke of meeting the “humanitarian needs” of the Palestinians and of Washington’s role in “efforts to end a conflict which has taken countless thousands of innocent victims and has deflected the nations of the area from using their bountiful resources and talents for bettering the lives of their people”—they did not overlap with “Palestinian” rights. Nicaragua. the occupation of the West Bank was not the equivalent of Anastacio Somoza’s regime in Nicaragua. foreign territories and foreign people to whom the governing power had no inherent moral obligation. to their own people. the crux of United States human rights policy lay with freedom from arbitrary government action. 1977–1979 607 States officials could logically expect rapid radicalisation in the Arab world and among the OPEC countries. however.59 To be sure. South Korea. The three types of rights that the Administration incorporated into its human rights policy were formulated specifically in the context of opposing dictatorship. which they had a moral commitment to uphold. Carter could ill-afford to do nothing as the Middle East seemed to drift toward another war. Palestinian rights came up against Downloaded By: [Nemchenok.58 The State Department had unfurled its human rights policy to “reduce the identification of the United States with repugnant regimes” that were anti. however. and Uganda were denying these rights. Carter invited Sadat and Begin to Camp David. and the ability to exercise civil and political rights—all were informed by the fact that dictatorial regimes in countries like Argentina. But a policy of alleviating human rights abuses would help the United States regain its position of moral leadership in the wake of Vietnam whilst mitigating the appeal of the Soviet Union abroad. for example. The right to be free of arbitrary arrest. health care. and execution. and education. Against the unanimous advice of senior Democratic leaders to avoid direct involvement in negotiations. and thus not at heart a moral issue. under military occupation. did Palestinian rights meet human rights? Originally. Victor][University of Virginia] At: 14:30 19 December 2009 . did not fit this framework. torture. The United States did not take issue with Israel’s military occupation per se.United States Policy and the Palestinian Question. in the political and legal morass that comprised the Palestinian problem. shelter.61 With respect to torture and arbitrary arrest in the occupied territories.or noncommunist. The dynamics of the Palestinian problem. Although Washington discouraged Israel from promoting new civil settlements and “thickening” old ones. They involved the democratic government of Israel administering. such radicalisation might spike already-inflated oil prices. harm the global economy and exacerbate America’s relations with its oilstrapped allies.

prepared by the State Department and submitted to Congress in February 1978. Victor][University of Virginia] At: 14:30 19 December 2009 . That report referenced the UN Special Committee’s investigation of human rights abuses in the occupied territories and its determination that prison detainees were subjected to treatment “which cannot be described as other than torture. torture. It referenced allegations of “a widespread pattern of officially condoned use of torture during interrogations in the occupied territories. exhibited a certain clarity. proposed to Brzezinski an employment programme to help solve the Palestinian refugee problem. if not compelling. and degrading treatment: the use of excessive force was usually performed by “inexperienced reservists” and did not reflect “government policy”. legal. Administrative detention even allowed inmates the right to appeal and the right to petition for writs of habeas corpus.”62 The section on Israel within the Country Reports on Human Rights.” The authors noted the lack of evidence to prove that Israel was systematically torturing Palestinians. and self-reliance. she argued. refugees would improve their material existence while enhancing their “dignity. V. which exhibited much sharper conclusions. a philanthropist seeking to alleviate worldwide poverty. further illuminates Washington’s outlook. and British Mandate codes prior to 1967 and.608 V. to which Carter’s personal commitment was “unshakeable. not arbitrary. therefore. had “declined greatly in recent years. independence. the selective expulsion of Palestinians from the occupied territories stemmed from terrorist activity. too. From that point of view. Jordanian. acknowledged this tension but played down the seriousness of the violations. The Administration considered economic rights no more salient. Mildred Robbins Leet. It took action only when its security was endangered. and imprisonment.”65 The Library report departed widely from the Country Reports in its conclusions. Israel was not “systematically” engaging in a policy of arbitrary arrest. A Library of Congress report on human rights six months later. inhuman. which ran the original article.”63 Concerning arbitrary arrest.”66 Senator Richard Stone of Florida pitched the creation of an Downloaded By: [Nemchenok. “later narrowed the scope of its allegations. They also attenuated Israeli culpability for cruel.64 The overall logic. Nemchenok the sanctity of Israeli security.” but seemed to lend credence to the Israeli government’s quick rebuttal by noting that The Sunday Times of London. though that practice. Given the opportunity to perform community projects. by definition. so its behaviour was. with the focus on Israeli transgressions implying that the Palestinian problem constituted an instance where United States interests outweighed Washington’s humanitarian ideals. a concern for the integrity of the individual in the occupied territories seemed to lie outside the human rights framework. in spite of an outpouring of suggestions focusing both on the Palestinians and the region as a whole. the report contended that three-fourths of the non-Israelis imprisoned were held for security offenses—with the implication that this was a legitimate reason for incarceration—whilst the rest were under administrative detention that was provided under Israeli.

and American officials knew as much. public good will did not last long.”69 None of these schemes were implemented by the Carter Administration due partially to a lack of local support.68 And. with Americans reluctant to pay for a strategic Egyptian– Israeli peace.5 billion for peace was a comparatively small outlay. Victor][University of Virginia] At: 14:30 19 December 2009 . any plan for economic development would be ineffectual. such support was not forthcoming. Gallup polls registered a 62 percent disapproval rating of Carter’s handling of the economy. American officials had to assess the economic and social infrastructure of the West Bank and Gaza.75 Here too. it would have been difficult to convince taxpayers that an economic development plan for the Palestinian people—with whom only 14 percent of the population sympathised—would be worth the price.” the “Carter Doctrine” proposal would have to come at a dramatic moment in the peace process so as not to look like a ploy. and the president’s overall popularity receded to 43 percent. he answered. The violation of such rights consisted of a government diverting resources to elites at the expense of the poor. Israel’s guilt was Downloaded By: [Nemchenok. $4. As part of its guarantees to Egypt and Israel for accepting a peace treaty. Although Carter’s approval rating jumped by 17 points to 56 percent following Camp David. But United States citizens were not keen on such expenditures.70 Brzezinski agreed that without Arab support. Ultimately.72 By February 1979. according to George Assousa of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. A month before the talks. because social and economic projects would effectively relieve the Palestinians’ “deep sense of hopelessness and growing radicalisation.United States Policy and the Palestinian Question. however.73 Atherton. now Ambassador-at-Large. the same percentage of Americans considered a recession likely.74 Nonetheless. the United States promised to provide both with military assistance. even those programmes explicitly concerned with the Palestinian problem did not accord with the logic of economic human rights. Quandt’s colleague on the NSC.67 Another proposal called for “a cross between the Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine—a Carter Doctrine” that would work toward regional peace by promoting potash development in the Dead Sea and economic and industrial development in the West Bank. Nor were domestic factors conducive to American spending abroad in the aftermath of Camp David. Gary Sick. Many of the proposals were designed explicitly to invest the Arab states in a negotiated peace settlement. acknowledged the “gut reaction among many people: ‘Why should the United States pay for peace in the Middle East?’” Yet in comparison to the “tens of billions of dollars in direct costs and billions more in inflation and loss of jobs” that American taxpayers paid in the course of four Arab–Israeli wars. wrote to Brzezinski that “to strike sparks” and “to enlist the necessary genuine support in the region. 1977–1979 609 Inter-Agency Task Force for Development in the Middle East to help countries participating in peace negotiations with economic development.71 With a radical rejectionist stance adopted by most Arab leaders after the Camp David Accords.

of an occupier’s obligation to ensure that right. but it called upon an occupier only to allow the free passage of consignments of foodstuffs. stated that “everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family. Nemchenok murky.610 V. including food. not their production and provision. to maintain peace. The Fourth Geneva Convention. When Begin came to Washington to present American officials with his plan for Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza. everyone understood that the most salient issues involving the occupied territories were political. it had to neutralise Egypt as a belligerent. was moot: the Country Reports indicated that economic wellbeing within the territories was increasing. economic rights would not factor into United States policy toward the Palestinian problem. Washington deemed that document applicable to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Begin sought explicitly to negotiate a single agreement over the latter. The point. clothing. and residents would have the option of Israeli or Jordanian citizenship. his ideas carried a positive gloss. V. Washington could not alienate Sadat. in any case. Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Regional politics further complicated matters. While he insisted on “linkage” between Israel’s withdrawal from the occupied territories and Egypt’s goal of regaining the Sinai. they did so as civil and political rights—the third leg of the human rights tripod. The Palestinian inhabitants in those territories wanted an independent state within which to exercise autonomy.78 Where “human rights” penetrated the Palestinian conflict. Although a step in Downloaded By: [Nemchenok. concerned the distribution of already-provided consignments. Victor][University of Virginia] At: 14:30 19 December 2009 . The West Bank thus became the lynchpin through which the United States could both secure its interest in regional peace and work toward Palestinian rights. however. therefore. Despite Palestinian complaints that Israel was deliberately restricting economic development.” Mitigated by a finding that income levels in Israel and the territories had steadily converged since 1967. medical supplies. which concerned protection of civilians in wartime. Sadat needed peace with Israel to revitalise his nation but could not afford to be seen as abandoning the Palestinian cause. largely because of the thousands of jobs now held by Palestinian Arab workers who commute to Israel proper. and clothing to inhabitants. “real per-capita income has more than doubled during the occupation. was also silent on that issue.”76 The Declaration said nothing. He proposed to abolish the military government administering the territories and to grant the inhabitants home rule. housing and medical care and necessary social services. on which Carter’s human rights policy was based. but American officials could not completely acquiesce to Palestinian demands because of a commitment to Israeli security. Although officials had found a more humane language with which to approach the Palestinian problem in the first year of Carter’s presidency. An elected Administrative Council would govern all domestic affairs.77 Israel’s obligation under the Convention.

In case of another war to liberate the Palestinian territories from Israeli control.79 The issue of Palestinian self-rule remained unsettled prior to Camp David. summarised Brzezinski. Lack of self-determination. He made clear that on crucial issues like land and immigration. Council authority would be subject to Israel’s security and interest in public order. leaving those present to conclude that Begin’s self-rule proposal was designed as a substitute for Israeli withdrawal and Palestinian self-determination.” he told Begin. “A continuing military occupation and deprivation of basic citizenship rights among the Arabs. and were Iran to be destabilised and turn against it.United States Policy and the Palestinian Question. Defence Minister Ezer Weizman. at [his] expense as well as our own.” replied Israeli Attorney General Aharon Barak. Carter was especially exasperated by the duplicity of Begin’s position regarding autonomy.” both of which corresponded to what Vance had called “freedom to take part in government” at the University of Georgia Law School. and Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan. Jordan. Israel would experience wrenching disruptions in its access to petroleum. “was unacceptable to the world. The prime minister’s comments implied that he would not allow the Palestinians “any appreciable control” over their own affairs. Knowing that the negotiations would end in failure short of a commitment to Palestinian self-rule and an abrogation of Israeli military control. “Does the Military Government reserve the right to revoke the powers that [the military governor] has delegated?” asked Vance. but the national security advisor continued to mull over the problem in terms of “rights” as well as United States interests. yes. 1977–1979 611 the right direction. “In principle. not as the first step in a longer process to transfer political control to Palestinian Arabs.80 Carter pushed hard for Israeli acknowledgement of Palestinian rights at Camp David. Victor][University of Virginia] At: 14:30 19 December 2009 .” Brzezinski stressed that Palestinian self-government constituted an “absolute minimum” to which Begin would need to agree. no formal withdrawal from the West Bank. were the “bad aspects” of the proposal. . and a devolution of power from the Israeli military governor instead of the international community—these. Egypt. “No self-respecting Arab would accept this. Brzezinski wanted Washington to seek from Israel “a visible termination of the military occupation” at the start of a five-year transitional period and the granting of “general self-government for the Palestinians.” stressing that the strategic dimension of these rights was important and relevant. .” Carter noted. “We are talking about full autonomy—self-control.” he told Downloaded By: [Nemchenok. which Sadat could not afford lest his moderating influence in the Arab world deteriorate further and the Soviet Union “find opportunities to strengthen its position . the moderate powers that provided stability in the Middle East and prevented its radicalisation—Saudi Arabia. The president included Iran for strategic emphasis: Israel depended heavily on Iranian oil. and Iran—would be left vulnerable. this proposal disappointed Carter officials because Begin purposely omitted the issue of sovereignty and remained vague on how much control the Administrative Council would exercise.

would serve as the basis for negotiations over the West Bank and Gaza. Egyptian–Israeli peace had to be achieved. therefore. the Palestinian people. and withdrawal from. at which point all Israeli authority would withdraw.612 V. in a “Framework for Peace” that. Begin demanded that the Palestinian issue be divorced from any Egyptian–Israeli treaty. By mid-October. all parties agreed. but more “for the stability of the Egypt-Israel treaty and for the trends in the Arab World” than in themselves. When he travelled to the Middle East for a last-ditch effort to hammer out a peace. First.” To bolster the forces of moderation in the Middle East. Begin publicly reneged on many of the agreements he made regarding Israeli settlements in. argues Quandt. however. which elicited a sharp reaction from the president: “What is important is whether these people have an irrevocable right to self-government. ensure reasonable oil prices.84 Yet Palestinian rights were still indispensable: without them. the West Bank and Gaza.” Begin protested that autonomy was not equivalent to sovereignty. leaving armed forces in specified locations to assure Israeli security. Carter would need to alleviate the political pressure placed upon him by the Arab rejectionists. If any hope remained of convincing Sadat to negotiate a treaty.”81 The tortuous talks at Camp David did conclude. Nemchenok Begin. the self-governing authority would establish “a strong. local police force” to assist in providing security.83 As negotiations between Egypt and Israel over their peace treaty began to waver. the elected representatives would participate in negotiations over the future of the territories and. I would prefer the present Israeli occupation to this proposal of yours. If I were an Arab. Victor][University of Virginia] At: 14:30 19 December 2009 . Second. but an Egyptian–Israeli treaty was imperative to prevent backsliding into war and the political chaos that followed. Immediately after the talks.87 Downloaded By: [Nemchenok. the president pledged to Egypt’s national assembly that he remained “personally committed to move on to negotiations concerning the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and other issues of concern to the Palestinians. Carter knew as much. for fear that dwelling on them “would risk the Sinai agreement he so badly wanted.82 This document sought three developments. and maintain secure access to oil. ultimately. and “you are not giving them autonomy if you have to approve their laws.”86 Palestinian rights remained relevant. Moving forward. free elections would produce a self-governing authority to replace the Israeli military government. V. Third. Those rights were important. The commitment to Palestinian political and civil rights within this broad outline was unmistakable.”85 Two months after the treaty was concluded. the Administration attenuated its commitment to Palestinian rights. Administration officials still considered West Bank negotiations “critical” because they would factor into American efforts “to reconcile Sadat and the rest of the Arab world. American diplomats and officials would not revisit the linkage question. Carter seemed to give up on forcing Begin to change his position on settlements. Sadat would destroy his credibility in the Arab world.

with Saudi Arabia at its centre. In an effort to secure American interests while working toward the “just and peaceful world” that Carter had outlined in his inaugural address.91 Whereas the Administration had earlier maintained that “progress toward achievement of a durable Middle East peace is seen as the primary requirement for long-term security and political tranquility” and “the most effective means we possess to protect our interests in the region. Regional developments. and the opening of diplomatic relations with China.89 From Carter’s inauguration until the conclusion of the Egyptian–Israeli treaty in March 1979.United States Policy and the Palestinian Question. officials Downloaded By: [Nemchenok. Washington turned to its relationship with Saudi Arabia to achieve its goals. Egyptian willingness. and Arab moderation would converge to produce a settlement conducive to American objectives. surging oil prices. Because the Palestinian problem was at the heart of the Arab–Israeli conflict.” by 1980 the Administration espoused a new regional security framework. By invoking and incorporating a limited definition of those rights into United States policy. 1977–1979 613 Peace between Egypt and Israel was a major success of Carter’s foreign policy. for the sake of national security. appointing Robert Strauss and then Sol Linowitz to head efforts to resolve the Palestinian problem. the alienation of American allies. global economic dislocation. could not be uniformly applied everywhere. oil embargos.” Even a partial cut-off of American access to Persian Gulf oil was “widely recognized as meaning economic havoc to the West. the Administration hoped to create a window of opportunity in which Israeli flexibility. The Administration’s over-arching policy goal in the region was peace. Victor][University of Virginia] At: 14:30 19 December 2009 . Palestinian rights were a meaningful part of the equation. the president distanced himself from further negotiations. but negotiations over Palestinian autonomy soon stalemated. without which Arab radicalisation. Administration thinking about human and Palestinian rights was strategic and tightly connected to American interests in the Middle East.92 The Saudis had displaced the Palestinians as the strategic lynchpin to United States regional interests. led the Administration to alter its strategic thinking. Soviet re-entry into the region and the prospects of superpower conflict all seemed a distinct possibility.”90 Securing access to reasonably priced oil was one major motivation to a regional peace settlement. American officials turned their attention to other concerns—the fallout from the Iranian revolution. The United States and its allies. SALT II negotiations. however. became sensitised “to the vulnerability of Persian Gulf oil-producing states by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the chaos in Iran.88 With a peace treaty signed. State Department officials consistently maintained that human rights could not be the sole consideration in United States foreign policy and. Tired of trying to find common ground between the Arabs and the Israelis and in need of bolstering the meagre 29 percent approval rating his performance was garnering by June 1979. maintained Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Robert Komer. the resumption of war. but following the Islamic Revolution.

“Inaugural Address of President Jimmy Carter. and so long as officials conceived of comprehensive. and Cambodia. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Jimmy Carter. Human Rights. Ultimately. 27 (2003). With the demise of détente. regional peace in those terms. “Standing Firm for Principles: Jimmy Carter and Zimbabwe. remains largely unexplored. DC. guidance. Andrew J. In the absence of a coherent framework specifically tailored to Palestinian rights.95 Nor did they fit the context: United States human rights policy sought to create pressure on the USSR within international society by targeting dictatorships who shirked certain moral duties toward their citizens. Palestinian rights had a meaningful role to play in United States policy. for as defined by American officials. policymakers re-defined American interests in military terms. Congressional Research Service. 10n3. Tony Smith. Although Carter decried “the very serious problems on the West Bank” and the “continued deprivation of Palestinian rights.” Diplomatic History. the author would like to thank James Wilson. Committee on Foreign Affairs. 1977). Washington backed away from them whenever they proved a stumbling block to United States objectives. 239–65. 657–85. Jackson. 1977). p. 703–21. pp. DC. Italics appearing within direct quotations have been added for emphasis. 1st Session. Kenton Clymer.” 20 January 1977. Deroche. 27 March 1977 (Washington. The Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza was a political problem and not a moral one to be resolved through exhaustive negotiations and careful diplomacy. Precisely for that reason. United States–European . With so much on the line. the “legitimate rights of the Palestinian people” could not but be defined in strategic terms. safeguarding them proved difficult. and Stephen Macekura. however. The Administration’s human rights policy respecting the Palestinian conflict. Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division. “Jimmy Carter. Victor][University of Virginia] At: 14:30 19 December 2009 had initially tried to channel the president’s humanitarian impulse into their Palestinian policy. 3. Barin Kayaoglu. They were unsuccessful. 1977 (Washington.” Diplomatic History. 2. 95th Cong. 1. For specific studies of Carter Administration human rights policy. pp.614 V. pp. Scholars have both praised Jimmy Carter for devoting substantial attention to the issue of Palestinian rights93 and criticised him for abandoning them in the face of immense pressure. “The Carter Administration and Somalia. they cannot be made on the basis of the Administration’s record of promoting human rights.” Diplomatic History. United States House. 23 (1999).” the collective and national rights of Palestinians claiming the occupied territories as their own lay outside the purview of the individual human rights delineated by the State Department. see Donna R. pp.. pp. Nemchenok Downloaded By: [Nemchenok. 1–4. V. however. and support. America’s Mission: The United States and the Worldwide Struggle for Democracy in the Twentieth Century (Princeton. to pursue Palestinian rights was to cultivate American interests. human rights were inapplicable to the Palestinian issue.94 Whatever the merits of these conclusions. 31 (2007). NOTES For their comments and suggestions in the preparation of this article. 245–78. United States Military Installations and Objectives in the Mediterranean: Report Prepared for the Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East of the Committee on International Relations. and Melvyn Leffler for his feedback. 1994). NJ. The Palestinians would have to wait.

April 30. “Policy Review Committee Meeting. The United States and the Soviet Union were to serve as co-chairmen. Box 24. 1977..” in Michael W. 1986). DC. Muhammad Y. 14. 9. in United States Department of State. pp. ed. American Foreign Policy: Basic Documents. 113–44. “Carter Administration” concludes that despite their greater sympathy for the Palestinians and willingness to pursue a comprehensive settlement. Power and Principle. ibid. 1994). Kathleen Christison. 18. 145–75. “Meetings-PRC 2: 2/4/77. the Soviet Union. p. 2001) analyses Carter’s attempt to balance peace between Egypt and Israel with a solution to the Palestinian issue. 1988). 1977. Henry Kissinger’s step-by-step diplomacy. nonetheless. pp. 93rd Congress. Public Papers . 1995) hinges on the president’s fear of the pro-Israel lobby and a weak commitment to Palestinian rights. 386–87. 1977–1979 615 Relations and the 1973 Middle East War: Hearings before the Subcommittees on Europe and the Near East and South Asia. After noting that human rights officials like Patricia Derian. Andrew Young. Carter. American Foreign Policy: Basic Documents. “The Carter Administration and the Palestinians. Christison identifies a “frame of reference” that limited Carter’s thinking and actions. Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness (New York. Brzezinski memorandum to Carter. Jimmy Carter. 20. Summary of Conclusion. Muravchik contends. p. and the Cold War (New York. 7. DC. 1974). Leffler. Carter officials made the convening of a Geneva conference a major policy objective.S. 16. Donald Neff’s negative portrayal of Carter in Fallen Pillars: U.. Keeping Faith. U. pp. p. the Geneva conference was the forum agreed upon to reach a settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict.” 4 February 1977. and Jessica Tuchman recognised the attraction of social and economic rights to the Third World. . Muslih. 15. Suleiman. Soon thereafter. pp.” Diplomatic History 28(2004). Perceptions of Palestine: Their Influence on U. For the Soul of Mankind: the United States. In their search for a comprehensive peace in the Middle East. Installations and Objectives.S. The Uncertain Crusade: Jimmy Carter and the Dilemmas of Human Rights Policy (New York. 11. Ibid. 19. pp. 13. Victor][University of Virginia] At: 14:30 19 December 2009 . 1999). Terry. DC. In Perceptions of Palestine. Janice Terry. 17. Keeping Faith: Memoirs of a President (New York. 8. 263. ibid. Office of the Historian.” 3 February 1977. Schmitz and Vanessa Walker. Zbigniew Brzezinski. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger began his shuttle diplomacy in the Middle East. William Quandt’s Peace Process: American Diplomacy and the Arab-Israeli Conflict Since 1967 (Washington. 277. 1983). in altered form. Quandt to Brzeznski. 19 February 1974 (Washington. 12. few scholars have given sustained attention to the substance and rhetoric of Palestinian rights in the formation of policy. 1983). 407. 2007). Power and Principle: Memoirs of the National Security Advisor. Brzezinski. Memorandum. Middle East Policy (Berkeley. somewhat polemically. 48. pp. 83. however. p.United States Policy and the Palestinian Question. Brzezinski Collection [Zbigniew Brzezinski Collection—Subject File. 6. p. Rashid Khalidi. 4. “PRM-3—Middle East. 165–66. 54–5. 75–105. incisive. the Administration deeply misinterpreted the realities of intra-Arab politics and continued. Address by the Secretary of State (Vance) Before the University of Georgia Law School. Joshua Muravchik. pp. Jimmy Carter Library (JCL)]. 165. In the wake of the 1973 Yom Kippur war. 410. IL. but focuses more on the way domestic political factors and regional events affected the conduct of foreign policy. see David F. 409. “Jimmy Carter and the Foreign Policy of Human Rights: The Development of a Post-Cold War Foreign Policy. 1977– 1981 (New York. Policy on Palestine from Wilson to Clinton (Normal. 1977–1980 (Washington. Melvyn P. 1 November 1973. 10. that the Administration chose to conceptualise these rights in the same way as the Third and Communist worlds so as to find “a common tongue in which to communicate” with them. Carter. p. “Summary Report to Conclusions on PRC Meeting on the Middle East. p. Within the robust literature on Carter Administration Middle East policy. 1997). CA. Downloaded By: [Nemchenok. . For detailed examination of the development of Carter’s human rights policy. 2nd Session. 1982).” 4 February 1977. 5.” 16 March 1977. “Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session at the Clinton Town Meeting. as well as his understanding of the Palestinian desire for nationhood. His argument that self-determination was not part of the lexicon of “human rights” is. The Origins of Palestinian Nationalism (New York. 411.” Folder. The participants gathered for a plenary session on 21 December 1973. and the conference was not convened again during the presidencies of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. p. Policy towards Palestine and Israel since 1945 (Washington. especially 117–38. 278.S. DC.

24. Downloaded By: [Nemchenok. Summary of Conclusions. Gallup. Power and Principle. Carter. 25. Brzezinski. 1967–79. pp. p. 4–7 March.” 21 February 1977. 639. Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division.” Undated. 17 June 1977. ibid. 33. 342–43. pp. 1171. 143. 91. “Discussion Paper for the PRC Meeting on Middle East—April 19. ibid. 1st Session. . 1979). “Discussion Paper for the PRC Meeting on Middle East—June 22. “News Conference by Secretary Vance and President Sadat.” 10 June 1977. 1977. 188. 76 (14 March 1977). 27. pp. Keeping Faith. Brzezinski Collection Subject File. p. Nemchenok 21.S. Christison. ibid. “Meetings—PRC 13: 4/19/77” Folder. pp. 108. p. 639–40. 52. Congressional Research Service. 77(7 November 1977). Brzezinski. Carter. Victor][University of Virginia] At: 14:30 19 December 2009 .” Public Papers . 1985). 155..” 1 October 1977. Brzezinski. 1977. 223. “Meetings—PRC 17: 6/10/77”. Ibid. 42. 51. 48. 23. Address by the Vice-President (Mondale) Before the World Affairs Council of Northern California. 22.” 4 February 1977. 269. . Thornton. 293. Power and Principle. Department of State Bulletin. 44. p. 87. “Meetings— PRC 18: 6/25/77” Folder. “Middle East. “The President’s News Conference of March 9. “News Conference. 55. 160. 76 (21 March 1977). pp. 26. 225. 1977. In Gallup polls conducted 18–21 February. 189. “Meetings— PRC 18: 6/25/77” Folder. Department of State Bulletin. 40. respectively. 1977. . p. 1972–1977. Carter. See George H.” Undated. 1977. Policy Review Committee Meeting. Peace Process. 276. 1991). .. p. “The President’s News Conference of November 30. pp. Quandt. 386–87. . Power and Principle.” Undated. p. “Meetings—PRC 2: 2/4/77” Folder. V. DC. Public Papers . . from Truman to Reagan (Chicago. 37. 1023. 38. 43. 1977. IL. 31. Gallup Poll . 162. Department of State Bulletin. . Gallup Poll . Department of State Bulletin. 1977. “Summary Report to Conclusions on PRC Meeting on the Middle East.” 1 March 1977. 29. United States House Committee on International Relations.S. 54. Report Prepared for the Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East of the Committee on Foreign Affairs (Washington.” Public Papers . American Foreign Policy: Basic Documents. DE. “Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session at the Clinton Town Meeting. Christison. The Gallup Poll: Public Opinion. “Clinton Town Meeting. p. 338. Spiegel. The Search for Peace in the Middle East: Documents and Statements. pp. 70 percent. 616.-Soviet Statement. p. 170–72. 95th Congress. Gallup. p. Box 24. p. p. 139. Quoted in Carter. Folder. “Meetings— PRC 18: 6/25/77” Folder. “Joint U. 35.616 V. 30. 34. . Quandt. 316. Keeping Faith. 1972–1977 (Wilmington. 211–13. 994. Policy Review Committee Meeting. 1978). Steven L.. Perceptions of Palestine. Brzezinski Collection Subject File. “Joint U. 108. Brzezinski Collection Subject File. ibid. 614. 32. Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Territories: Hearings before the Subcommittees on International Organizations and on Europe and the Middle East. Box 24. 1978). 1036.. Carter. 1225. Damascus. 28. Gallup. Peace Process. p. DC.” 17 February 1977. “Discussion Paper for the PRC Meeting on Middle East—June 22. 1977. p. 46. ibid. Box 24. Brzezinski.” 1 October 1977. Brzezinski memorandum Carter.” 16 March 1977.. p. Power and Principle. Summary of Conclusions.” 19 April 1977. San Francisco. p. 386–87. 154–5. . p.” Undated. p. Ibid. p. The Carter Years: Toward a New Global Order (New York. 53. The Other Arab–Israeli Conflict: Making America’s Middle East Policy. 220. Ibid. “Middle East. Cairo.-Soviet Statement. Perceptions of Palestine. 106. 77(7 November 1977). 1977.. 45. 47. 2054. pp. 227. p. 49. pp. Ibid. 39. 50. . “Statement Before the House Committee on International Relations. “Meetings—PRC 13: 4/19/77” Folder. ibid. 41.” 16 March 1977. Paper. and 18–21 March. 1972–1977. 36. 19 October 1977 (Washington. Richard C. and 75 percent. “Discussion Paper for the PRC Meeting on Middle East—June 22. p. Carter’s approval ratings registered at 71 percent.

p. Quandt. pp. and political rights in United States foreign policy. 1/20-77—12/31/78” Folder. 60. Downloaded By: [Nemchenok. 73. George H. 20 December 1977. which it had acquired following the 1967 war. DC. Lincoln Bloomfield paper. Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division. Eck and Sick memorandum to Brzezinski. Box CO-6. Brzezinski Collection Geographic File. “Peace in the Middle East: Achievement and Future Challenge. 77. Carter meeting with Begin. 17. p. p. 139. 61. pp. Current Policy. 72.United States Policy and the Palestinian Question.” Jimmy Carter Library and Museum (20 May 1977): www. 79. 62.S. “The Carter Human Rights Policy: A Provisional Appraisal. Keeping Faith. because there was never a legitimate sovereign in those areas in 1948. “NSC Accomplishments—Human Rights” Folder. Sanders and Lewis memorandum to Carter. “CO 1-7. U. and Committee on Foreign Relations. pp. “no one question[ed] that the first group [on governmental violations of the integrity of the person] ought to be included. 4. 1979). The Gallup Poll: Public Opinion. “CO 120: 1/20/77-1/20/81” Folder. Peace Process. while there was uncertainty about the inclusion of economic. 1948–1998”: http://www. Brzezinski Collection— Geographic File. “CO 1-7. 7 February 1978. 274. 1978 (Wilmington. 197. Hard Choices: Critical Years in America’s Foreign Policy (New York. 1980). George H. Box 13. Brzezinski Collection Geographic Files. 78.htm. 1/20/77–12/31/78” Folder. 74. 2.S. Stone to Carter. Brzezinski memorandum to Carter. “Strategy for Camp David.. 93–5. 63. 1977–1979 617 56. House of Representatives. This lent de facto primacy to the prevention of arbitrary government action.S. See Israeli Settlements. which stemmed from an interpretation of the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War that differed from Washington’s. Box 13. p. Address by Secretary of State (Vance). Gallup. 1978). Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War: http://www. Israel considered the Fourth Geneva Convention inapplicable to Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Carter. 67. his main contention was that Israeli settlements were “inconsistent” with international law. Box 13.jimmycarterlibrary. Christopher observed that. 80. 1983). both ibid. Carter. “Fiftieth Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.S. 76. Congressional Research Service. 75. 366. Country Reports on Human Rights. 74. 150. Senate (Washington.” United States Department of State. 58. Leet to Brzezinski. 59. p. 16 February 1978. 69. 365. Brzezinski Collection Subject File.” The only choice Christopher identified was between giving priority to this first set of rights or giving equal weight to the others as p.html. American Foreign Policy: Basic Documents. Ibid. Gallup. “Middle East— Negotiations: 1/78–7/28/78” Folder. Response: Prepared for the Subcommittee on International Organizations of the Committee on International Relations.” 11 January 1981. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Report Submitted to the Committee on International The Gallup Poll: Public Opinion. 20 December 1977. Brzezinski memorandum to Carter. No. 409. “Middle East—Negotiations: 10/77–12/77” Folder. 11 January 1978. Human Rights Conditions in Selected Countries and the U. but he accepted the implication that the parameters of the whole question were political and legal. Quandt. WHCF – Subject File. 1978). Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. DE. “Middle East Peace Process: A Status Report. 193. p. p. Brzezinski memorandum to Carter. U. 65. 315. House of Representatives (Washington. ibid. p. 70. Department of States. Articles 59–62 of Part III of the Convention address the topic of consignments. when the Convention was adopted.un. 3 March 1978. Atherton noted that Washington disagreed with this reading. WHCF – Subject File [JCL]. p. DE. No. “CO 120: 1/20/77–1/20/81” Folder. Box 34. DC. 368.” Current Policy. 71. not moral. “PRM on Human Rights. civil. 16 February 1978. Victor][University of Virginia] At: 14:30 19 December 2009 . Box CO-6. U. 16 December 1977. 1979 (Wilmington.pdf (13 April 2008). 63 (April 1979). 57. 64. 199. Cyrus Vance. 68. Assousa to Carter. Keeping Faith. When Atherton appeared before the Sub-committees on International Organizations and on Europe and the Middle East on 19 October 1977. 69. p. Peace Process. Warren Christopher.unhchr.” Undated. 212. Box 13. Brzezinski Collection Geographic File. 66. p.

Peace Process. 1986). “A Framework for Peace in the Middle East Agreed At Camp David. 4/16/80. Carter. p. DC. Peace Process. DC. Box 25. Keeping Faith. Quandt. p. 414.” 17 May 1979. p. 178. Gallup Poll . “West Bank/Gaza Negotiations. Quandt. Komer. p. p. 10 March 1979. 1979. “Address Before the People’s Assembly. Perceptions of Palestine. 161. 84. 96th Congress. Spiegel. 90. 82. Christison. 289. 185. 357 suggests that Carter and Vance actually understood themselves to be working toward a Palestinian state. Fallen Pillars. Reason. p. Smith. Public Papers . . Neff. p. pp. Nemchenok Downloaded By: [Nemchenok. Review of Recent Developments in the Middle East. Public Papers . Christison. pp. 1st Session. 9–10. ibid. 83.” Cairo. 277. Spiegel. President Review Committee Meeting. 95. Morality. Keeping Faith. 1979 (Washington. Presidential Review Committee Meeting. Christison. United States House. p. Perceptions of Palestine. p. . 1979). 92. . pp. 93. 157. 88. Carter. 26 July 1979 (Washington. Carter.” Undated. DC. 1523–526. . 1980). 118. pp. Committee on Foreign Affairs. . Reason. pp. 335. Camp David: Peacemaking and Politics (Washington. Keeping Faith. Other Arab–Israeli Conflict. pp. however. Victor][University of Virginia] At: 14:30 19 December 2009 81. Gaddis Smith. Summary of Conclusions. pp.618 V. ibid. “Meetings—Vance/Brown/Brzezinski: 3/80–9/80” Folder. separated self-government from statehood and national rights. 94. 91. Brzezinski Collection Subject File. DC. Quandt.” 17 May 1979. 1978 (Washington. Morality. 315. William B. 180. Box 34. Keeping Faith. and Power. 1986). 376–77. 89. Carter. Jimmy Carter.” 17 September 1978. 1979: Hearing before the Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. 1979). 290–91. Carter. 189. 361. Brzezinski Collection Subject File. 238–39. 348. “Oil and Western Security. See Carter. 9. Perceptions of Palestine. and Power: American Diplomacy in the Carter Years (New York. 87. “Meetings—PRC 107: 5/17/79” Folder. Gallup. 86. 405. . 85. p. Other Arab–Israeli Conflict. 209. p. . Ermath memorandum to Brzezinski. V. “West Bank/Gaza Negotiations.

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