...Prime Minister Begin:President:
I want to discuss the question you raised about settlements. This is a very serious matter for us. I want to speak with candor. No settlements will be allowed to become obstacles to negotiations. Jews and Arabs live together in Jaffa, in Haifa. There are many towns named Hebron in the United States, and many named Bethel and Shiloh.
Just 20 miles from my hometown there is a Bethel and a Shiloh, each of which has a Baptist Church!
Prime Minister Begin:
Imagine the Governor of a state declaring that all American citizens except Jews could go to live in those towns. Can we be expected, as the government of Israel, to prevent a Jew from establishing his home in the original Bethel? In the original Shiloh? These will not be an obstacle to negotiation.The word “non-negotiable” is not in our vocabulary. But this is a great moral issue.We cannot tell Jews in their own land that they cannot settle in Shiloh. We cannot do that. This is a serious issue to us. One day I hope you will come to visit Shiloh.
I have already been to Bethel.Prime Minister Begin:
You will find it interesting to see Shiloh. There are many Biblical stories about it.
I can tell you that this might prevent a Geneva Conference from even being convened. Even though you see this as no problem for negotiations, my impression of the attitudes of the other leaders is that they would view this as a sign of bad faith on Israel’s part. The previous government discouraged settlements, and I have no reason to draw conclusions, but I would not be responsible if I did not point this out to you. If you could say that there would be no new settlements until after you had met with the Arab leaders in Geneva, that would be a very constructive step.
Prime Minister Begin:
Thank you, Mr. President.
We should adjourn now and our discussions can continue later.
Begin neatly avoided any commitment to a "settlement freeze".
And on December 17, 1977:
Do you see any special status of the Israeli settlements?
No special status. We stand by our right. I have told you about Shiloh and Bethel. There are Arabs in Israel, and there are Jews in the territories. There is no problem. Of course, there are settlements, but we have a principle of symmetric justice. The residents of Israel can buy land in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza, and Arabs can get land in Israel. There will be reciprocity. They can come to Tel Aviv and buy land and build homes.
Message From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to the Ambassador to Israel (Lewis)
Washington, January27, 1978, 2005Z WH80181.
The President wishes this message conveyed to the Prime Minister immediately after Sabbath. Vance concurs.
I deeply regret the effort to establish another illegal settlement on the West Bank at Shiloh.
However, I am confident that Prime Minister Begin will honor the commitment personally made to me and thus will not permit this settlement to go forward.
Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, MiddleEast File, Subject File, Box 48, Israel:1–2/78. Secret.
On January 23, members of Gush Emunim, a religious settler movement formally established in 1974, dedicated a settlement in the West Bank town of Shiloh. Israeli officials claimed it was actually a camp for workers at a government-sponsored archaeological excavation and that they had provided no official sanction for a settlement there. (Los Angeles Times, February 24, 1978, p. B10)
Acording to Carter’s January 30 diary entry, “The [Israeli] government did not authorize a new settlement at Shiloh, except for an archaeological site, but they’ve already moved twenty-five families in there — with Begin’s knowledge — and he’s too timid to remove them.” (White House Diary, p.167)