PM Begin with the Jewish Leadership, New York

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28 In mar 1979
autonomy plan , Economy , Egpyt , States - Egypt, Syria, USA. Underground - Etzel, Haganah, Palmach. Security - Fundamentals of Israeli Security, Self-Defense. Foreign Policy - Israel-U.S. Relationship. Israeli-Palestinian Conflict , Diaspora - Jewish Communities (abroad). Individuals - Moshe Dayan, Yasser Arafat. Peace - Peace, Peace Agreements. Peace Agreements , State of Israel Bonds , UJA
Begin addressed his upcoming trip to Cairo in a speech given shortly after the peace treaty with Egypt was signed. "It is not time to rest on our laurels," he said, calling for Palestinian Arab autonomy as well as ensuring Israel's security from all sides. He then called for a campaign in the United States to ensure Israel's security, as well as for Jewish communities in the United States to stand by Israel. Later, Begin discussed Israel's poverty problem, referred to the Bonds' role in helping Israel's economy, and urged the audience to donate to Project Renewal.
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Mr. Chairman, my friends on the dais, my dear friends in the hall, ladies and gentlemen, representatives of the great American Jewish community.

[Audience member: Hear hear!]

You will.

[Pause for laughter]

Some patience. This is no time to rest on laurels. We did, indeed, sign a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. A unique event in human history. A day will come, we will not be here anymore, when the whole story will be divulged and written about and studied in high school. How, after 60 years of unbridgeable conflict, 30 years of war, five direct wars, two nations signed a peace treaty and pledged to each other no more war, no more bloodshed, no more bereavement, no more [unclear 3:25]. Peace.

Well, some of you were present at the ceremony of signing. I apologize to all the Gentiles to whom I read out loudly chapter 126 of the Psalms. But I thought they don't have to understand every word. They should feel the spirit of it. But you, as all the Jews throughout America and Canada, and throughout the world and especially in Israel, understood what it meant. "Be'shuv Hashem Et Shivat Zion Hayinu Ke'cholmim."

Next Monday, Im Yirtze Hashem, I will be going to Cairo. 11:30 I will take off on an air force plane and I will land in Cairo Airport 45 minutes later. A unit of the Egyptian army will present arms. The military orchestra will play the anthem of Egypt and Hatikva. My dear friends, I must say this is the second unique event in one week. For the first time since we left Egypt, the Hatikva will be played on Egyptian soil. But the Hatikva is less than one hundred years. And still, it is our national anthem. It may be counted the first event after 3,700 years, since we left Egypt, an anthem of the Jewish people or of the state of Israel has never been played on Egyptian soil.

I must admit, we cannot even appreciate the significance of these events. We live in it. To see, to hear about it. But if a man like Dayan, who is far from being sentimental, before we left yesterday New York, told me, "You know, we did a great thing," that should mean very much to all of us. I agree with him. A great thing was done.

But, as I started, I will repeat again. It's no time to rest our laurels. We have to look into the future. The signing is behind us. There will be a year of a great political campaign to assure that we can live together in Eretz Israel with our neighbors. And then no border within Eretz Israel. It would be a bloody border, a border of constant attacks, under the curse called PLO, which the president of the United States likened to the Nazis. What should I add to that? Live together, in autonomy. We will not interfere with their lives. If they wish so, they will elect their own self-governing authority, administrative council. They will have their departments for every sphere of life and that administrative council will conduct those affairs without any interference whatsoever by Israel. Now, I can say that our idea of autonomy, it is our original idea. Nobody gave us this idea to us. It is one of the most humane and human ideas of Jewry and of Zionism.

What we want to make sure is security. That security means the life of a child and of a woman. I can ask rhetorically what sin did we commit as a result of signing a peace treaty? Already there are casualties in Israel. Is it a sin to sign a peace treaty, or is it one of the most progressive acts in humanity? And yet, they try, as they did in 1948, to drown the Jewish state in blood, to do so also with the peace treaty. They shall not succeed. But we shall undertake all the measures possible, in conforming with the Camp David agreement, that we will have security and the Arabs will have security. If they don't attack us, if they be unable to attack us, no Arab will suffer. So when we do assure security for our people, at the very same time, we make secure the lives of our neighbors. This is our goal, but it will be a campaign.

We are amid the leaders of the mighty Jewish community of the United States. And it's my duty to tell you, be ready for that campaign. You have to wage it in this country. As loyal citizens of the United States of America, you have to and you will be able to say, the security of Israel is an enlightened self-interest of the United States of America. The more secure and the stronger Israel will be, the better the free world and the United States of America will be served and helped.

So there may be a campaign. And envisaging it, I call upon you in advance, if there are difficult days, stand with us, be with us, help us. Never flinch. Never doubt us. We proved that whatever we pledge, we do our best to carry out that pledge. I may say that in 16 months, there is a democratic revolution of the status of Israel, internationally and also nationally. So, on behalf of the government of Israel, I call upon you, as I will say tonight to the larger audience, to be prepared to stand with us as you did for the last year and a half. You don't have to regret it, do you? And you will not regret it even a year later. Compare March 1978 with March 1979 and then you will see what we achieved during one year through our consistency, through being proud Jews, free men and women, and through our solidarity. So it will be also during the next year.

Secondly, my dear friends, we must rush with our project anew. Of course, the peace treaty with Egypt doesn't give us complete peace because we have the north and eastern front of hostility and they're serious fronts. We are not frightened. I don't have to repeat what I always said. If attacked, we shall counterattack. Everybody knows it already. The Jewish state cannot defend itself on the outskirts of Tel Aviv. Then we shall be with our backs to the sea. Whenever attacked, we will carry out the war on the other side, immediately, in 24 hours. But today we speak about peace. Therefore, I don't want to devote any more words to the possibility of war. What I want to say is that the Syrians from the eastern and northern front, it is also an anti-Egyptian front, an anti-Israeli front, and an anti-American front, as you could have heard that gentleman, Yasser Arafat. What a gentleman.

But will all those problems, we must now turn our eyes and our devotion and our work to what I may call our internal social and economic problems. While we may make our very beautiful slogans – "Peace with Egypt," "War on poverty," beautiful slogans – let us wage a peace campaign during 1979, both in the Bonds and the United Jewish Appeal. But in contents, all those slogans are not so important. What is important is the task itself. Project Renewal is a great idea. And we said to each other it will take five, six, perhaps even seven years to solve the problem of those 47,000 families, or 300,000 people, who live in abject conditions, intolerable in a Jewish society, and the children not even being able to study and to make their homework. [unclear 13:11] transferred them into proper apartments and they have their surroundings, which are appropriate to civilized men, women and children, then we do a great thing, but it cannot last seven years, neither five years. We must shorten the period. And we can do so, if we make an additional effort. I believe our people in this country and all over the world will understand it. Let us cut it short. At the most, four years. Perhaps we can do it in three years, if our people make an effort. Three years to collect for this purpose $600 million, $200 million per annum is not an exaggerated figure for the Jewish people on such an issue, and we shall match it with $600 million in Israel. Then we have the total amount which we need to solve this problem. We can do it. And why shouldn't I ask for a present to the state of Israel after the peace treaty was signed? The state of Israel does deserve now a certain present, a Bar Mitzvah present, as you say, to the state of Israel, a chassan present, a present. And let us think. The shorter period will be, the better for all of us. Imagine your nachas when you come to Israel after three years and we bring you to those apartments and you remember those slums and you make the comparison. What an achievement. It's not an economic achievement, even not a social one, it's a moral achievement. We liquidate completely poverty in Israel, now this is the society which can serve as an example to all the nations of how we want to live. Not only in [unclear 15:06] and in independence, but also in justice.

As far as the Bonds are concerned, [unclear 15:15] does not apply to the Bonds. One day, I made a speech in Los Angeles for the Bonds, as I mentioned [Yiddish 15:24].

[Pause for laughter]

What did you do? What did you say?

[Pause for laughter]

Since then, I'm very careful.

[Pause for laughter]

They say, for an interview, it doesn't apply to [unclear 15:47]. But the Bonds are, themselves, one of our greatest projects ever. They helped to develop the country economically. Without the bonds, it would have been very difficult for Israel to survive. But the Bonds can now make an effort, during 1979, to double the purchases. It's a purchase.

And there are the promissory notes. I go into the details. The details are very important. Napoleon Bonaparte always used to say, "Remember the details." So we, the small people, should always take a leaf from the book of great men. The details are more important. There are promissory notes of a million dollars. So I got, in the morning, a cable from Henry Ford. Why should we take a few million promissory notes? If he congratulates me on the peace treaty…

[Pause for laughter]

It's no problem for Henry Ford to do so. You just cable him or phone him and say, "The prime minister is very grateful for your cable, but now do something with it." So I think every man of good will can be convinced that Israel needs now help and this buying of bonds, which is no harm to anybody because we are paying back, it's a loan, and then we can invest in building up the economy. We shall have to build up the Negev when we, after three years, have our army in the Negev instead of the Sinai. We shall have to invest billions for that purpose. And as it was decided, the main part will be a loan, to be paid back, and we shall pay it back, then we need more help from our own people, so that we can fulfill our commitment. We pay back $12 billion every annum. The rates. And we didn't lag behind even one day. We have now an external debt of $12 billion and internal of 300 billion Israeli pounds. What a burden. But we really can appeal to you, and I ask Sam to do so. The slogan should be, "Double up." I understand it, not everybody will double up, but I suppose that everybody will increase. Therefore, we have a good feel that if the Jewish Appeal on the one hand and the Bonds on the other will make this additional effort, we shall solve soon the problem of our poverty, of those 300,000 people, and also build up the economy through our [unclear 18:49].

I want to tell you that, on behalf of American Jewry, as I invited today my dear friends, Ted Mann, if he decides to, will go with me to Cairo next Monday and he will represent, as it is due to him, the Jewish community in the United States. He has got my invitation. It is up to him to decide whether to accept it. I do hope he will. I want to tell you also about the composition of our delegation. I invited fighters of the Haganah, Palmach, Irgun and Lechi. Those who brought about our independence, each in their own way, their own time, but all of them contributed decisively to the creation or recreation of the state of Israel. Invalids of our army. Former prisoners of war in Egypt. Bereaved families. And delegates from the United States and the Sephardic community. And we shall all be in Cairo at that moment. You'll watch it on television. And when you hear the Hatikva played in Cairo, then you will be able to say, "Baruch She'hecheyanu Ve'kiyimanu Ve'higianu La'zman Ha'ze."

[Pause for applause]

Prime Minister Begin is living through the busiest and happiest days of his life. This meeting is adjourned.

[Audio cuts at 24:01]