PM Begin in an Interview with Barbara Walters and Walter Cronkite
Walter Cronkite: Mr. Prime Minister, why is it helpful, at this stage of the game, for you and President Sadat to publicly interpret the agreement? Would it not be better to let them remain simply as they seem to be interpreted, as they came out of Camp David, until the dust settles a bit, to get the Knesset approval and so forth?
Mr. Cronkite, I don't interpret the agreement at all, but you must understand that we are a democratic country and public opinion in our country is a great factor and if things are being sent over which are not, let me use the most delicate expression, completely accurate, then I must correct the version in my own country. For instance, information came from this country that I gave a commitment to the president that for five years there wouldn't be any more settlements. I met, the day before yesterday, the president in the White House, while saying goodbye to each other. And I asked him, directly, "Mr. President, did I give you a commitment that for five years there wouldn't be any more settlements?" And the president said, "You never gave me such a commitment." But that confirmation was published. My people probably was shattered to hear that. Five years is an eternity. And I didn't give such a commitment. So I have to say that the commitment given was for the period negotiating the peace treaty. And now we negotiate the peace treaty only with Egypt and Sadat and I promised each other that the negotiations would last three months. Or perhaps earlier, as I suggested to him. So my commitment on this issue is for three months. There is some difference between three months and 60 months. So surely I have to explain to my people, though, that I didn't give a commitment to a moratorium that would last five years.
Barbara Walters: Mr. Prime Minister, on that subject, I think there's even more confusion. What the president says he said, and what he said in his speech to Congress Monday night, is not that it would be five years, but that the stopping of the settlement on the West Bank would be for the period of the Palestinian negotiation, that is, for the setting up of that committee. It could take three months. It could take two months. It could take two years. And what you said is that it would be while the Egyptian Sinai agreements were taking place. The White House has insisted that what the president said about the Palestinian formation was entirely accurate, that it was said in front of you, in front of Secretary Vance, Secretary, Minister Dayan, and so forth. It's that rather technical business of Palestinian negotiation, or Sinai negotiation, in which there is complete conflict and the White House said yesterday they have letters to support the president's position.
Respectfully, I also letters. What I said was completely accurate and we shall prove it. I got in the morning a document written by Professor Barak during our meeting. I don't want to go now into details, I don't want to have any misunderstanding. For the time being, I can say perhaps it's a general misunderstanding. And what I could have told Secretary Vance before he left for the Middle East is that when I come home, I shall call in our delegation and we shall compare notes. Everybody has his memory, and Professor Barak took notes. And then I will formulate a letter in accordance with those notes and the memory of my colleagues. Here I cannot do anything more except to send the letter I formulated in the presence of my colleagues, the foreign minister, defense minister and Professor Barak. And they all agreed on that text which I sent, which now the State Department said is not sufficient. So, I said, "Let me go home, I will call in my colleagues, we shall consult each other, compare notes, and then I'll send you a letter, a letter." It is the most proper way to deal with this.
Third interviewer: Isn't the question also…
But I stand by what I told you this morning. Three months and no more.
TI: Isn't the question also not simply whether you and the United States are in agreement or disagreement but also what the Egyptians are supposed to be understanding?
I beg your pardon?
TI: Isn't it also important what the Egyptians took to be the understanding about the [unclear 05:44] of the Sinai?
No, the Egyptians have nothing in common with that. I heard yesterday President Sadat saying, "What is wrong with three months?" Just like this. He asked such a rhetorical question, "What is wrong with three months?" But in my opinion it is not a great issue, it is a minor question and it will be clarified. In other words, we should make it ready. I was really astonished in the morning as I listened to the media that it was made out as it would be one of the most serious issues after the negotiations. It is not so. It is a minor issue. As I remember, we talked about not establishing new settlements during the period of the negotiation for the peace treaty. I also said three months. I also said something about the Nachal, which is part of our defense forces, and then about that period which naturally comes out as three months. I have it also in writing now, because I got the cable from Professor Barak in the morning. It will be clarified and it shouldn't be taken so seriously as was done today on CBS or NBC, I can't remember.
TI: Prime Minister, just a technical question. Do you regard this as still open for negotiation or is it settled and finished in your own mind?
What is settled?
TI: The question of the three months.
I can only say what I remember. I spoke about a period on the negotiations for the conclusion of that peace treaty. We do not have now a negotiation with Jordan, we have only with Egypt. It should last three months. And therefore it is interconnected. If, as Barbara rightly said, we start negotiations with Jordan, they may last one month, they may last two years. Or, perhaps, the difference in time will last two years. Perhaps King Hussein will not join now our negotiations and he will do so a year later. Are we going to wait now until he joins our negotiations? We have a time limit of three months in connection with the negotiations with Egypt. This is a concrete issue, but not with Jordan. And, therefore, the construction is for the negotiation for the actual peace treaty being three months. This is the period I promised the president not to establish new settlements in Judea and Samaria.
TI: So, as far as you're concerned, sir, this question is really closed. It is three months.
It is now reopened, because I have to talk to Dayan and Ezer Weizmann and Professor Barak. Usually, people in the Knesset say my memory is not the worst. However, don't rely on your memory. If there is an issue, check it. So I want to check it in Jerusalem, that's all. And therefore, next week, I suppose, I will be able to send the letter, with the agreement of my colleagues, in accordance with what I said at Camp David.
WC: On the West Bank, Mr. Prime Minister, assuming no agreements were made about the settlements, would it not be your view that the whole process of getting the Jordanians into a negotiation and setting up that part of your peace plan in the Middle East, that that would be enhanced if you did not pursue settlements in the West Bank?
A commitment was made for the period of the negotiations with Egypt, first. Secondly…
WC: Well, I'm only talking about the West Bank now.
No, it concerns what you call the West Bank. The proper name is Judea and Samaria. West Bank is all the territory between the Jordan River and the sea and it is absolutely mistaken because it is routine language to say that that little part of Judea and Samaria which was conquered by Abdullah in 1948 is the West Bank. Therefore, from time to time, I apologize, gentlemen, to you, I have to make this correction. It is a geographical inexactitude. But that is not important, and I come to your question. Our peace plan envisages, openly and rightly and, as we said, also orally, that we have a right for settlement after the treaty signed with Jordan, after the autonomy is established, and vice versa. We call it symmetric justice. The Arabs living in Judea and Samaria will be enabled to buy land and settle in Israel. So there is no question of covering anything up. This is the basis of our negotiations. Now, may I say that in my opinion we have a perfect right to establish settlements in Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip. On this we have a genuine difference of opinion with the American government. To state it simply, from time to time the American spokesmen say that our settlements are illegal and are an obstacle to peace and, from time to time, we say they are perfectly legal, legitimate and they are no obstacle to peace. So we will have to live with this difference of opinion. If anybody reminds us of the Geneva Conventions, Article 49, fourth part, sometimes it is shattering to us because we knew what is called the leges ratio, the reason for taking, for adopting that article. It is connected with what happened in Europe during the Second World War, when the Nazis used to uproot the local population and bring in the members of their race into those places and, therefore, Article 49 states that such practices are forbidden. For God's sake, how can this be put on us? First of all, it would be sacrilege to make such comparisons. Secondly, we don't evict one Arab from his land. There is no confiscation of land whatsoever. It is all government land, never filled, never filled, just barren completely, for centuries. Now come our men and start to build it, without any harm done to anybody. Therefore, it is our perfect right. We shall stand by it. Everybody should know it. Perfect right. But, in the United States, there is a different opinion. With all due respect, we have our own opinion about it. And it is no obstacle to peace because Jews and Arabs can and should live together. Arabs live with Jews in Jaffa, in Haifa, in Ramle, in Lydda, in Akko. All over the country, and there is no reason whatsoever we should not live together in Hebron and Bethlehem. This is the real road to peace and hope, where we live together, we understand each other, Jewish children learn Arabic, Arab children study Hebrew. We come together. I think this is the best way to peace, as it was already proven and it will be proven in the future even more so. When the Arabs have their autonomy and let the administrative council rule themselves, decide their daily affairs, issues themselves, we will not interfere whatsoever. The whole role we shall play there will be security and public order. And, if the peace is kept, it won't even be felt, not only it won't be seen by anybody. And we hope so it will be when peace is established.
WC: Prime Minister, feeling as strongly as you do about this, why then did you feel it important to make the no settlements for three months a negotiation…
I don't think it is so important, but the president of the United States asked me to make an effort and for the period of negotiations to refrain from establishing such settlements and my colleagues and I thought that a three-month period is not a long period and we can do so, just to create a better atmosphere for the negotiations.
WC: Do you think it was important for Sadat or to the Americans?
Well, I suppose it had some importance for Sadat, some, because his problem is Sinai and, therefore, he stands by the removal of our settlements which are in Sinai. To what extent it was important to him, I can't say. If he yesterday said, as I read in the cable, "What is wrong with three months?" it proves that it was not so greatly important to him. Alright, let it be three months. The commitment I gave to President Carter is just out of the recommendations the president gave to me. And if our commitment can make the atmosphere around the negotiations better, why not? But it is not giving up the idea of settlements or settlements themselves, to which we have an absolute perfect legitimate right.
TI: Have the misunderstandings since Camp David and the Jordanians and the Saudis dimmed your optimism, or do you still feel as confident as you…
As long as I sit alongside Barbara, I will always be an optimist. I am a born…
TI: I was thinking in terms of politics.
I am a born optimist. There is no reason why. The secretary of state went to Riyadh and to Rabat Aman and he talks to the rulers there. We want King Hussein to join the circle of peace. I invited King Hussein a year ago from the platform of our parliament. I said, "Your majesty, come, let us negotiate peace. Believe me, I now can say, I am convinced we shall achieve peace when we negotiate with you." He refused all the time. As far as King Khaled or Prince Fahd is concerned, I can say anything. They are not our direct neighbors. They have some postulata, but they didn't ask for any negotiations with us, we don't ask for negotiations with them. They have oil, this is true. It has some impact, that oil.
WC: If Jordan refuses to participate, is it nevertheless possible to go forward with the proposed arrangements regarding Judea and Samaria or will it…
It is possible, but we shall have to think about it. We will take it into consideration.
TI: Could you amplify that, Prime Minister? You said you might have to think about it. Does that mean it might not come about if King Hussein will not join the circle of peace?
Mr. Chancellor, I didn't make now any mistake…Mr. Chancellor, it is a serious matter, therefore I said we have to think about it. We want peace with Jordan. In our peace plan, we gave a role to Jordan. For instance, we gave three options of citizenship to the inhabitants. Any man or woman living in Judea and Samaria will have a right to choose between Israeli citizenship and Jordanian citizenship. If he chooses our citizenship, he will get it. We will not impose it upon him, as it happened in 1871, after the Germans conquered Alsace and Lorraine, then coerced the local population, all of it, to accept German citizenship. And, since then, under international law, this coercion is being considered a wrong. We give three options. If the man wants to be a Jordanian citizenship, it is perfectly alright with us. If he wish to have a vote for the Knesset, then he accepts Israeli citizenship, it will be alright with us. If he accepts Jordanian citizenship – actually, if he continues, because inhabitants of Judea and Samaria are now Jordanian citizens, since the act of annexation – then he votes to the Jordanian parliament, of course. And there are problems, so we want to have a committee in which Jordan will be represented, Israel and the administrative councils, how to make the arrangements for daily life. There may be elected men who have to go to Amman and represent the people. There may be electors. It's a problem. Then there are problems of legislation. In Judea and Samaria, we have now British legislation, Jordanian regional legislation and our own legislation. We want a committee in which Jordan will take place, in which decisions will be taken what legislation will continue, what will be reformed, what will be absolutely liquidated. Again a committee. So we give Jordan a role. Therefore, it is important to us that Jordan also joins the negotiations. But let us assume it doesn't. That doesn't mean, as I can say, that we deny the local population autonomy. We want to give them autonomy. But these are serious matters. We will not have peace with Jordan. We have to think about security. And, therefore, I said we have to think it over. But it is on our agenda intellectually, because we don't want to prolong, anyhow, not for too long the military government administration. We want to abolish that military government. As I said in this country many months ago, I suppose to Barbara, I don't remember exactly, anyhow, in one of my television interviews, in our opinion, the military is to defend the people, not to rule a people. And this was my belief and I stood for 20 years for the abolition of the military government in the Galilee, for 20 years before the Six-Day War. Ultimately, it was abolished. Of course, now we don't have any other option. We have the so-called PLO. We have attacks, we have bombs, etc. But we want to have their own autonomy, under a civilian elected, democratically-elected civilian council, and that means the abolition of our military government administration. We want to liquidate that military government administration. Therefore, it is on the agenda. But, of course, we have to be very careful. We deal all the time with lives of human beings, my friends. We discovered in the last two weeks 30 bombs which did not explode. Had they exploded, I suppose there would have been hundreds of casualties in killed and in maimed and in wounded. So that is why I answered with we will think it over.
WC: As I understand, sir, there is a three-year period between the establishment of a peace treaty with Egypt and the establishment of an embassy, diplomatic relations.
Not three years, not three years. Nine months. The establishment of diplomatic letters will take place after the first phase of our withdrawal is accomplished, to the Ra's Mohammad Al-Arish line, which almost divides the Sinai Peninsula in two equal parts. This should be carried out in a period between three and nine months. For instance, if we carry it out in six months, so six months after the signing of the peace treaty, normal diplomatic relations should be established, with all the other arrangements you described.
WC: Including embassies?
TI: Prime Minister, how far in the future, assuming you sign the peace treaty with Egypt, are cultural relations and economic ties? How do you see the future developing with Egypt?
As I already said, this is a matter for the first phase of our withdrawal, between three and nine months. Then there will be an exchange of our ambassadors and there will be cooperation in culture and in commerce. I think it will be a revolutionary change in the situation in the Middle East. Egyptians will come to Jerusalem to pray in the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Our people will go to see the Pyramids, even the ones our forefathers themselves built. We don't ask for any compensation for the hard labors performed there.
TI: Do you see a time when Israeli students might be in school in Egypt and Egyptian students might be at school in Israel?
I think it will be a pleasure to have such an exchange.
Ti: You're looking for a whole range of ties and activities.
Absolutely. Full cooperation. Absolute normalcy and I will be very glad if Egyptian students come to our universities and we send our students to Egypt.
TI: Are there things in agriculture and public health that you've thought about?
Yes, yes, it can be because, you see, I wouldn't like to say, Mr. Chancellor, that we can help Egypt, because that would be considered kind of a condescending statement. I prefer to say we shall help each other. And we can help each other.
WC: But you're saying all these cultural developments and diplomatic can begin only after the implementation of the first phase and need not wait until the complete implementation.
No, it is written in the document that normal diplomatic relations and the other arrangements will start after the implementation of the first phase of the withdrawal, and that is a matter of three to nine months, as is again written in the documents. I can now make the following demand. Actually, the framework which we signed at Camp David, from the point of view of the peace treaty, includes almost all the sections concerning a peace treaty except the first state of war between the two countries and has been terminated and a solution of the problem of settlements. Everything else already is agreed and, therefore, I am so optimistic. It can take us even only two weeks. Even solve the problems and then we sign it. Although, we already agreed to shorten the period. I made a suggestion to President Sadat, why three months? Perhaps earlier, and he said, "I agree." And yesterday, he said, "I think we shall conclude the peace treaty in two months." If we will go like this, we can reach two months, even.
TI: Mr. Prime Minister, assuming you have a favorable vote in the Knesset, would you expect the peace with Egypt to move ahead almost regardless of any further disagreements on the settlement elsewhere, the Jordanian settlements?
The two documents, the framework for the bilateral Egyptian-Israeli relations and the framework for the solution of the Palestinian Arabs, are linked, but they are not interlocked. The difference is that if King Hussein refuses to join the circle of the peacemakers, I am now quoting President Sadat, he, President Sadat, will continue negotiating with us and will sign the peace treaty. It is a delicate matter. I would like you to know, lady and gentlemen, that we never suggested to President Sadat a separate peace treaty between Egypt and Israel for a simple and psychological issue: we didn't want to embarrass him. The rejectionists would jump at him. And Moscow, too. All you want is a separate peace treaty with Israel and nothing else interests you in the Arab world. That is not the case. Sadat is interested in the issue of the Palestinian Arabs, etc. But he said to us, "I want King Hussein to join, but what can I do if he refuses? And I want peace." So we want peace. And, therefore, we shall continue ourselves. Then the position may be that, if the king of Jordan is outside the circle for a long time, then we shall sign a treaty with Egypt. Then we shall say, not only orally, also in writing, that both sides do not consider that conclusion of a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel the end of the road, but the beginning of the path and we want then negotiations with Jordan and Syria and Lebanon. A peace treaty with Egypt and Israel, then, will not be a separate or last peace treaty, it will be the first, to be followed by others. It may take some time. To give you an example, I will remind you of the armistice agreements of 1949, which were signed in Rhodes Island. They are almost peace treaties, very important international documents. As far as I remember, the order of signing was Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Syria, in a matter of some nine or ten months. If you have to correct me, please do.
WC: Egypt, Lebanon…
Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria. So I made a mistake, thank you for your correction. But only one difference. Not so terrible. Anyway, Syria was the last. On that I didn't make any mistake. And it took some nine months.
WC: Seven months.
[Pause for laughter]
I reached the conclusion that when you speak about time, you are most accurate when you don't mention the time itself. Therefore, our prophets always speak about Aharit Hayamim, the end of the days. And you never know where is the end of the days. Therefore, they are called the prophets of the Jews. Anyhow, seven months, nine months, Egypt first, Syria last, but during a period of time, they signed each after the other an agreement. So it will happen this time as well. Perhaps it will take more time. Then the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel will be the first, but not the last and not the only one. That may happen.
WC: Prime Minister, do you think that…
[Audio cuts at 30:11]
[Audio starts at 00:25]
…the United States everything can continue with someone overseeing, etc. etc. The United States has got a role under the framework.
So you will not go the way of Ismailia. In these next few weeks, you will use Camp David's method.
Yes, I think rather we shall follow the way of Camp David, yes. I think both sides agree that, from time to time, we'll need the assistance of the United States government because it has a role now, as well, in connection with the airfields.
Barbara Walters: Is it true…
The airbases in Sinai, we'll relinquish. They will be turned into civilian airfields and the American government promised us to help us to build two new airfields in the Negev and we shall relinquish those two airbases in the Sinai which we have now in the Sinai only when the new ones, the alternative airbases will be operational. It may take two years, but no more. So therefore there is a role for the United States. We have to explain what role we do not envisage. There was news in your newspapers that there may be a proposal by the United States government to station US troops in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip. We don't agree, and I said so to the president, because we do not want any American mother to worry about her boy in a danger zone. There is a so-called [unclear 02:11] on in Vietnam, [unclear 02:13]. And secondly, most importantly, we just don't want an American soldier to die for us. We can defend ourselves and sustain our independence. And if American troops should be in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, they are in danger. Grenades and bullets and guns. We don't want them to be hurt. However, if, in the point of view of the free world, the common interests of the United States and Israel, to defend the interests of the free world, the United States should require, let me say, a base in Sinai, we would be willing to give it to them. We will be in the Sinai for the next two years. During that period, we can do so. After that period, the United States will have to turn to Egypt. Understand that we were willing to do so but Egypt was not. There is another problem. You have the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean and we have the best harbor in the eastern Mediterranean which is called Haifa. If the United States should ask us to give in Haifa facilities to the Sixth Fleet, we will be willing to do so.
Walter Cronkite: Has there been?
I beg your pardon?
WC: Has there been a request, informally or otherwise?
There was an informal request at the time, not at all a proposal. I said to the president that if you asked us to give you such facilities, we shall be willing to do so. Meanwhile, the Nimitz carrier visited Haifa and the 5,000 sailors were very happy. Friendly country. Very safe. Apparently, in other countries in the Mediterranean, they don't feel so welcome. It's not for me to judge why.
TI: Mr. Prime Minister, how did the question of American troops arise at Camp David? Did President Carter suggest it?
No, but there were news in the press and I was asked why did I make a public statement in Israel that said we don't agree to have American troops in Judea and Samaria, and this is what I explained. The question was put to me, "Why did you make such a public statement," and I made that explanation.
TI: Prime Minister, I think my notes are wrong. You said, "In the interest of the free world, to defend the area, if the United States should require a base in the Sinai, we would give it to them."
TI: But, after the peace treaty, the Sinai won't be yours to give.
That is why I say, after three years, we are not the address.
TI: In the three-year period.
Now, for instance, we are in the Sinai. If, for instance, the United States of America would ask us now, we are now inside it, "Could you give us a base called Eitan, around the Mediterranean, or a base called Etzion, around Eilat, etc., around it, we will build an airfield, etc.," we would be willing to pursue very positively.
TI: Has there been…
So you are not mistaken at all, Mr. Chancellor.
TI: Was there a request on the basis [unclear 05:29]?
TI: Was there a request for a base from the United States?
No, not yet. Perhaps there will be, I don't know. But I declared to the president, "If you ever wish to have facilities in Haifa for the Sixth Fleet, we will be willing to give them to you." And now we wait. If there is no initiative by the American government, we will have to repeat our offer. We made our offer.
WC: Are the bases the Americans are to help you build in the Negev to be exclusively Israeli bases?
They are not American bases. They only help construct them. They will be Israeli airfields.
WC: Do they have the possibility of becoming American bases at some time in the future?
I don't think so. We have to defend mainly the southern part of our land, especially after the famous package deal, as a result of which Saudi Arabian planes, or planes which Saudi Arabia now possesses and may go to another Arab country as a contingency, may reach Eilat in seven minutes and Tel Aviv in 27 minutes. This may be a very great potential danger. And, therefore, we have to have our own bases to defend the country against the possibility of being attacked.
WC: And what is the importance of the road of Egypt to Jordan. Is that going to have to go through Eilat or through the Negev?
No. Near Eilat, through the Negev. It's a good idea. I would normally only like to explain to you that originally in the document was written "an international highway will be built" and I said, "International? That name smack with extraterritorial status, and to that we don't agree." Therefore, the word "international" was deleted and now is written "road." I think it's good for everybody, especially for tourism. Egyptians will go to Jordan, in the meantime they'll visit Israel. The Jordanians will go to Egypt, in the meantime they'll visit Israel.
BW: What about a road or a corridor from Gaza to the West Bank?
Not corridors, my friend.
BW: No connection between Gaza and the West Bank?
But there are roads between Gaza and Judea and Samaria. Beautiful roads. What corridor? There was enough, enough to have but one corridor.
BW: Could I ask something about your dates? When you turned to President Sadat the evening of the signing and said, "Maybe less than three months," President Sadat suggested that wasn't being rather whimsical but it was our feeling that what you were actually aiming for was the anniversary of the visit to Jerusalem, November 19, and that's what you were looking towards, to sign the peace agreement on that particular day. Is that so?
Barbara, today you gave me an idea. It never occurred to me. That's an idea.
TI: Prime Minister, what would the Israeli government do if the United States said, "We'd like to have a base in defending the free world in the Negev"?
TI: No. Why is it alright to have a base in the Sinai and not in the Negev?
For obvious reasons. The Sinai is a desert. By the by, it's a great debate about the sovereignty of Sinai, as well. I don't want now to go into the details. It's a desert, it is unpopulated, and therefore a base in the interests of the free world is alright, both from the point of view of Egypt and Israel, in my opinion. Egypt thinks differently, it is their perfect right. The Negev is not a desert. It is populated. What we don't want, Mr. Chancellor, is to create the impression in any part of the world that we are a protected state. I will tell you a story of the Middle Ages. In those days, the Jews were a persecuted minority all over the world and they used to buy protection from the prince. So they used to be called even by a special name in German: "schutzjuden," or, in English, "the protected Jews." Sometimes you can see in many cities in Europe streets which are called to this very day "judengasen," "the Jew street." Why? Because they were very near to the palace of the prince and he gave them protection, so-called, against pogroms, attacks, etc. And that is a special concept, shutzjuden, the protected Jew. Now, since we came to Zionism, we never again wanted to be protected Jews. And, therefore, when it was necessary, we picked up arms and fought for our people and also for our human dignity. Now, we don't want to have a schutzjudenstadt, we don't want to have a protected Jewish state. Our state should be able to defend itself. And we can do so, as we proved. It is true that, from time to time, we need some tools of defense, but what wonder. I can give you the following figures that, for the past five years, since the Yom Kippur War, the Arab countries bought arms, the most sophisticated modern arms, at the total price of $127 billion. That's a fantastic amount of money. We're a little country, so of course, from time to time, we need some tools. And then we come to you, from time to time, and ask for some planes, for some tanks. I think it is absolutely natural. The more so that we, too, contribute to your national security. We have and we do, until this very day. I will only appeal to my friends around the table not to ask me following questions on this issue. But I want to state the very fact that we contribute to the national security of the United States and, therefore, it is not unilateral when we get from you some planes, some, my friends. Not in the thousands, only a few scores, in order to be able to defend ourselves against those masses of modern weaponry given to our potential enemies or to our actual enemies by both the East and the West, but the job we shall do ourselves, and we are ready to do so and we don't want anybody to protect us. If there should be such a basis in the Negev, or United Nations forces should come to Judea and Samaria, we lose our real status of a people reborn, of a nation reborn, that can stand on its own feet, can defend itself, can sustain its independence. We don't want to lose that status. That is the essence of what we call Zionism, the liberation movement of our people.
WC: Mr. Prime Minister, will peace with Egypt enable you to reduce your defense expenditures?
May you repeat the question I just didn't hear it. Please repeat the question.
WC: Will peace with Egypt enable you to reduce your defense expenditures?
To a certain extent. Not completely. First of all, we have Syria, and they don't sign a peace treaty with us. They are an implacable enemy. Now lately, the president of Syria was in Germany, made a speech at the dinner, attacked us so violently that the president of Germany had to get up in unprecedented form to have polemics with the president of Syria, say he cannot agree with such a speech. An implacable enemy. There is the so-called PLO. Jordan is not as radical towards us as Syria is, but still, we don't have a peace treaty. Iraq, you can't talk to them at all. And let me say that Iraq lately acquired 1,000 tank trucks, so they can bring in four armored divisions above the desert to our border in 48 hours. It never could have happened until now. The desert is a very large desert dividing Jordan and Iraq and it used to take them weeks on end to place an armored unit because they used to go on their own force and then the tanks, when they reached the front lines, were spoiled because of that long march in the desert. But now, with those 1,000 trucks, in 48 hours they can bring four armored divisions against us. So now we must be careful also for the future. We are not going to dissolve our army if we have a peace treaty with Egypt. But, in the south, in the west, in connection with the Egyptian forces, I think there will be a diminishment on both sides and that will diminish also our expenditure on defense which is immense. We spend 43% of our budget on defense and a third of our GNP, a third. To make comparisons, in this country, you spend between 8 and 9%, and in Europe it's 4%. And there are countries which spend 1% of their GNP for defense purposes.
WC: Any idea what the Egyptian peace might mean in percentage reduction of the defense forces?
To a certain extent, I can't say exactly.
BW: But numbers, how much. Mr. Cronkite asked, as a percentage, how much you might reduce as a result of this.
I can't answer this question at this time. That belongs now to the Ministry of the Exchequer. To be accurate, I don't want to go into mathematics.
WC: What you were saying before we started talking about these matters of defense expenditures, you foresee no role at all for outside forces of peacekeepers in the area.
The United Nations forces will be employed at Sharm-el-Sheikh.
WC: But where?
I said. At Sharm-el-Sheikh. We declared, both of us, Egypt and Israel, in the document we signed, that Sharm-el-Sheikh is, or the Tiran Straits, an international waterway, to be open for all maritime nations, for all shipping. But there, at Sharm-el-Sheikh, in the area, there will be a United Nations force to make sure that it is so and that the story of U Thant and Nasser is not repeated. In 1967, when Nasser said to U Thant, "Take away your forces," he took them away and, as Abba Eban at the time aptly said, he took away the fire brigade exactly as the fire started. That we don't want to have repeated, there we said only by a vote, by a unanimous vote, of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council the removal of those forces can take place. In other words, the United States will have a right to veto. And also in the northern Sinai there will be United Nations.
WC: But not in Judea and Samaria.
Oh, no, no, no. God forbid, no. Then we would be that protected state, as I described it. No, sir. There will be the Israeli Defense Forces, after a withdrawal, and they will keep the peace and ensure the peace for us and the Arabs.
TI: Mr. Prime Minister, what can you tell us about the negotiating style and techniques and so forth of the president? You were with him for long days at Camp David.
First of all, the man worked harder than anybody else. I must say he was devoted, he never gave up that there will be an agreement. He worked day and night, day and night, never showed any tiredness. There were sometimes exchanges between all the three delegations and the president never despaired about the hope and possibility of reaching an agreement. Our sabras say in our country kol hakavod. I would like to say so about President Carter. Kol hakavod means "all the honors are due to him" for the work he did at Camp David. We, from time to time, got a little tired, first of all because of the [unclear 19:03]. You know, I said to Professor Brzezinski, "It's a concentration camp deluxe." Small space, every day walking to the [unclear 19:15]. The same. We almost got claustrophobia.
BW: Tell us about the chess game.
The chess game?
BW: With Brzezinski.
With Professor Brzezinski? Oh, that is a famous game. He plays very well, but he lost two. I also lost two, because he plays very well.
BW: Tell them why you lost two.
The fact is that my first game with Professor Brzezinski was my first after 38 years. The last I played was in 1940, September, when the KGB men came to arrest me and they interrupted the game. I was then 26 years old. When you are at such an age, you have a better sense of humor and therefore when my wife accompanied me to the car into which they schlepped me in from the west, I said to my wife at the last moment, "Tell Yisrael," he was my partner, "that his position was better and I concede." And then they disappeared me. Actually, it was forever, because were it not for the German-Russian, there was no chance for survival. But, when you are 26 years old, you always keep your sense of humor. Anyway, that was the game in 1940. Since then I didn't have an opportunity to play. The first came in Camp David with Professor Brzezinski. So I didn't have training, therefore I lost two. Otherwise, I would have beaten him four times. Don't publish it. Please, don't publish it. And now they're going to tell me [unclear 21:05] "Mr. Prime Minister, you must win all the games, because if he wins against you, we will not be able to talk to him." So I said I'll do my best.
TI: Actually, sir, Professor Brzezinski has briefed the press on those games and his interpretation is different.
What could he have said? He told me the games were most interesting. What did he say? That I should have lost all the games?
TI: He said you thought he could beat you in five years and you said you could beat him in three months.
I need more training.
BW: Did you ever, I think President Sadat told us both that he was ready to walk out on Friday night. Was there a point in which you said, "I tried it, I'm going to leave," and, if so, can you tell us, of the negotiations, what was the biggest sticking point?
Astonishingly, Barbara, I never heard in Camp David the story of the threat by Sadat to walk out. I heard it in Washington. Nobody told me, neither one of my delegation or the American delegation or President Sadat himself, who revealed to me that his foreign minister resigned. But I never heard the story. I don't know. As far as I'm concerned, we never threatened leaving, we only joked about leaving. And I said to Professor Brzezinski, "If it goes on like this, I have a friend. His name is Yaakov Meridor. He was in British concentration camps. Tried seven times to escape. Six times he was recaptured, the seventh he did escape. And all the time he [unclear 22:51] panels." So I told Professor Brzezinski, "If it goes on like this, I will invite here to New York Meridor and he will start work immediately." That is the only threat I made. But, indeed, there were other declarations. And I suppose they were also made by the Egyptian delegation. I don't know. But we said several times to the president, your president, "We will not sign if this is not changed or amended or taken out, we will not sign the document."
BW: Was there any one thing…
Yes, ma'am, there was. Jerusalem. And I can tell you the story. There was a beautiful paragraph about Jerusalem. And it was an American proposal. And then, suddenly, at the last moment, we got a draft letter to the effect that the American government considered Jerusalem to be occupied territory and international law about occupied territory should apply to it, etc. So we couldn't live with that letter, and I said so to President Carter. And Dayan talked to Vance and Simha talked to Mandel and we told our American friends that we will not sign the document if such a letter is sent to us. This is the heart of our people, our history. Why occupied territory? The Jordanians in 1948 occupied the eastern part of Jerusalem, destroyed completely the Jewish corpus, killed and exiled all the three, 4,000 people who lived there, destroyed all our synagogues, [unclear 24:50], destroyed the famous Olive Mountain cemetery, never let us go to what you call the Wailing Wall – it should be called the Western Wall – to pray, for 19 years. Then they attacked us on the first day of the war. We sent King Hussein a letter in the morning, through your ambassador, that if he doesn't attack us, we will not touch him at all, despite the fact that at 1 o'clock he attacked us, because he had a phone conversation with Nasser who told him that he, Nasser, shot down all of the 80 planes and his armies are marching on Tel Aviv, etc. etc. It was like Mussolini during the Second World War with France. He thought that we are already prostrated, now he can take part in the war, take part in the spoils. That was the story. Now we have Jerusalem. There is the university, which the Jordanians destroyed. The hospital, which the Jordanians almost destroyed. Now, after all that story of legitimate self-defense and liberation, it's called occupied territory? Occupied territories? It's one city. We couldn't leave it like that. And, therefore, we expressly said that we would not sign the document if the letter stays [unclear 26:18]. That was three hours before we went to Washington. It was the latest crisis of all. It was a complete surprise to us. It was the 12th day of our conversations. It never happened for the 12 days that we got such a letter. And, again I stress, the paragraph about Jerusalem was an American paragraph. We agreed to it. It was very well-defined. We didn't have any objection to it.
TI: The original paragraph.
Yes, the original paragraph. But then, after reconsidering, that letter was not written, another letter was written which was tolerable. It isn't the best but it's tolerable. And the condition was that I would answer with my letter. I wrote a letter to the president about Jerusalem to the effect that in 1967 the Knesset adopted, promulgated and enacted a law that the government, by decree, is empowered to apply the law, the administration, the jurisdiction of the state to any part of Eretz Israel, the land of Israel, Palestine, and, as described in that decree, I quoted it word by word, even my friend, Dr. Blum, is not able to correct me here, word by word, I quoted it, and on the basis of that law we incorporated the whole city of Jerusalem into the state of Israel and it is now a unified city and the capital of our country. And so I wrote to the president and so it will be. That was the harshest crisis of all, first of all because it came at the last moment, complete surprise, it wasn't mentioned for the 12 days, and then because of Jerusalem. There was another crisis, but a lighter one. It ended on a light tone, as they say. Suddenly, we got the demand that we shall sign a paragraph in which it will be said that the flag of an Arab state will be hoisted in Jerusalem. And when we asked where it will be hoisted, Horash weiz. "Horash weiz" means the Temple Mount. And this is the holy of the holiest of our people of the last 3,500 years. It is occupied by two Muslim mosques. We accept it. We respect their holy shrines. When I go into one of those sites, I take off my shoes, as it should be. And we give them free access. But the place itself, the mountain, the Temple Mount is the holiest of the holy. There, people in ancient times used to flock from all over the country, three times a year, used to pray. There were two temples – actually, three temples, because the Second Temple, which was built after the Babylonian Exile, was very poor, small and poor, but our king, Herod, who was a very cruel king, was a great builder. He brought in marble from Italy. He was connected with the Romans, as you know, etc. And it became one of the most beautiful edifices in the world in those days. It was destroyed by the Romans. But it is still the Temple Mount. If we hoist there an Arab flag, we say it doesn't belong to us at all. It is not so. We respect the two holy shrines of the Muslims, but without a flag. And then, one of our interlocutors – you will divine who it might have been, I won't say – said, "Not on the mountain, but perhaps you find some institution to hoist the flag." So I said, "For God's sake, what institution do we have in Jerusalem to hoist an Arab state's flag?" I agree to have 22 Arab flags in Jerusalem, the number of the sovereign Arab states
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