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Though the Middle East agreement creates an aura of success around the President, it does not by any means solve all his problems. Last week revised figures showed that the inflation rate in the second quarter of 1978 was a grim 11%. Despite the good news in the Middle East, the dollar continued to fall, reaching an alltime low of 1.51 Swiss francs. The dollar has now fallen about 37% against the Swiss franc in a single year. The price of gold rose to a record high of $216 per oz. Carter met with his top economic advisers last week to work out a plan to combat inflation, now the No. 1 domestic issue, and although he has repeatedly rejected all proposals for wage-price controls, there were indications that his advisers were definitely considering guidelines with some force in them. Both the Business Roundtable, a group of top executives, and AFL-CIO President George Meany denounced all plans for such guidelines. Nevertheless, Carter's group seemed to be leaning toward limits of 7% a year in wage increases and 6% in price boosts. Federal contractors might then be required to sign a pledge to abide by the guidelines if they want to continue to do business with the Federal Government.
Addressing a meeting of the United Steelworkers, in Atlantic City, Carter pledged that in "waging this war on inflation, I reject the politics of the past. I will not fight inflation by throwing millions of Americans out of work." He did not spell out a specific program, but in his new combative Camp David mood, he promised that it would be tough. "I will ask for restraint and for some sacrifice from all. I will ask you to consider what I will have to say with open minds and in a spirit of cooperation and patriotic concern."
In the midst of Carter's triumphant week, though, he encountered some serious difficulties with the Camp David agreement itself. The agreement so carefully worked out in 23 successive drafts had a number of gaps and ambiguities. Since several very touchy issues could not be resolved at Camp David, the three leaders agreed to postpone any decision on them. They also agreed to state their views in the form of letters, to be subsequently made public. But Begin wasted no time in setting forth his opinions in a series of televised appearances—not only his opinions on resolved issues but also his contrary view on a key issue that the other summit negotiators thought had actually been settled.
This inflamed controversy concerned the Israeli settlements on the West Bank. U.S. officials thought that Begin had agreed not to build any more of these communities during the five-year transition period while the Israelis and Arabs negotiate the future of the West Bank. Not so, said Begin. The only "negotiations" he had in mind were the three-month talks scheduled to lead to a peace treaty with Egypt. He had never, he insisted, made any commitment for a moratorium longer than that.