What Begin Told Sadat

Newspaper: Jewish Herald
posted on:
29 In nov 1977
Individuals - Anwar Sadat, David Ben-Gurion. Foreign Policy - Diplomacy. States - Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria. Jewish Heritage - Holocaust, Linguistics. Greater Land of Israel - Jerusalem. Knesset , Peace , peace process with Egypt , Social Reform , The Five Mem's , Security - War of Independence
Begin delivers a speech in response to Anwar Sadat's address to the Knesset. He starts off briefly reflecting on past events to show that Israel has been dedicated to making peace with its neighbors since declaring independence. Then Begin shifts to agree that a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt should not put a wedge between Arab nations because Israel also wants peace with its other neighbors. He hopes that there will no longer be wars between Egypt and Israel and if there are disagreements between the countries, ambassadors will handle it. He shifts to expressing disagreement with Sadat's statement that Israel took a foreign country. Then he talks about the importance of conducting negotiations respectfully so that there will eventually be a reached consent and thus, a signed peace treaty. Begin includes that he is open to negotiations with neighboring Arab countries and closes by quoting both the Bible and Koran.
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"What Begin Told Sadat"



This was the address which the Israel Prime Minister, Mr. Begin delivered from the rostrum of the Knesset in response to President Sadat's historic address:

I GREET and welcome the President of Egypt on the occasion of his visit to our country and his participation at this Knesset session.

The time of the flight from Cairo to Jerusalem is short, but the distance between Cairo and Jerusalem was, until last night, almost indefinite.  But President Sadat crossed the distance courageously.

We, the Jews, know how to appreciate such courage.

Mr. Speaker, this small people, the residue of the Jewish people who came back to the historic homeland, always wanted peace.  And when the dawn of our freedom arose on the 14th of May, 1948, on the 4th of Iyar, David Ben Gurion said, "We ask for your hand in peace and to all our neighbouring countries, all the people in those countries.  We call upon them to  co-operate to help each other with the Jewish people, independent in its own country."


But our extended hand, our hand extended for peace, was not grasped.  One day after we had rescued our independence—as was our eternal, undisputed, unassailable right—we were assailed.

We do not believe in might, and we have never put our trust in might in our relationship with the Arab nation.  Quite to the contrary.  Force was used against us.  During all the years of this generation, we have never stopped being attacked, as the might of the strong arm stretched out to destroy our nation, to wipe out our independence, to deny our rights.

With the help of God Almighty, we overcame the forces opposing immigration and we ensured the survival of our nation not only for this generation, but for generations to come.

We do not believe in might, we believe in right.  Only in right.  And therefore our hope, our aspiration from the bottom of our hearts from time immemorial to this very day, has been and is, peace.

Mr. President, President of Egypt, I am sure that I am expressing the consensus of all, the sense of the whole of this House, when I say that there is one aspiration in our hearts, one desire in our minds, and all of us are at one with this desire and aspiration—to bring about peace, peace for our nation that has not known even one day of peace ever since we started returning to Zion; and peace to our neighbours, to whom we wish the best, all the best.

And we do believe that if we make peace, if we make a real peace, we can help one another, and a new period for the Middle East can be ushered in, a period of growth and blossoming of development.  It can flourish as in times of old.

May I therefore today sketch the contents of this peace as we understand it.  We wish for real thorough peace, with all the full reconciliations between the Jewish and Arab nations, without being bogged down in the memories of the past, the most terrible bloodshed.  Wonderful scions of the two nations fell in battle.  All the days of our lives we keep the memory of the young men who fell in battle, all so that this day, could come about.  We recognise the valour and courage of the adversary, and pay tribute to the valour and courage of the young men of the Arab nations who fell in battle.

But let us not be bogged down by the memories of the past, all these bitter memories.  Let us overcome them and look to the future, for our nation and for our children, for our nations and for the many children of our nations, for our joint and common future.

Mr. Chairman, we are to negotiate as free negotiating partners for this treaty, and with the help of God Almighty, we believe with all our hearts that the day indeed will come when we can sign such an agreement with mutual respect; and then we shall know that the era of the war is over, that we have extended our hands to one another, we have shaken each other's hands.  And the future can be glorious for all the nations in this area.


When you come to a peace treaty, the first and foremost idea is the abolition of belligerency.  I agree with you, Mr. President, you have not come and we have not invited you to our country in order, as people have been saying, to put a wedge between the various Arab nations.     

We wish for peace with our neighbours—with Egypt, with Jordan, with Syria, with Lebanon.

We learn from our history that war is avoidable.  Peace, however, is unavoidable. Many nation's have waged wars one against the other and sometimes have used the silly notion of eternal, perennial enemy.   There are no perennial enemies.  After all wars, the inevitable does come, and that is peace.

Therefore, we would like to ask you to establish with us, in a peace treaty, normal relations, as exist among all cultured nations.  Today in Jerusalem, two flags fly side by side, the Egyptian flag and the Israeli flag Mr. President, you and I have seen together little children waving those two flags.  I do hope that the day will come when the Egyptian children will fly the Israeli flag with Egyptian flag, just as the children of Israel waved the two flags at once.

You will have an Ambassador in Jerusalem—you will have our Ambassador, and we will have yours.  Even if there is a divergence of opinion, we will be able to clear it up.  We are civilised people, and through the good offices of our ambassadors, we could do that.


We suggest mutual work hand in hand, economically, for the further development of our countries, further development of the Middle East.

We have wonderful countries in the Middle East.  This is how God created this part of the world.  It is an oasis in the desert, but we have deserts too.  We can make those deserts flourish.  But let us join hands in this respect.  Let us develop our countries.  Let us do away with poverty, overcome hunger, by getting a roof over your head.  Let us help our people rise to the level of developed countries, and let us not be called any more, developing countries.  

With all due respect, I am ready to confirm that which was said by His Honour, the King of Morocco.  His Highness said in public that, if there be peace in the Middle East, then the combination of the Arab genius, the Jewish genius, together, can change this part of the world to paradise on earth.  Let us open our countries to free movement from one people to another.  You come to our country, and we will visit your country.

I am ready to announce, Mr. Speaker, today, that our country is open to the citizens of Egypt, and I make no conditions on our part.  I think it is only proper and just that in this matter there should be a joint announcement.  But, as we have different banners, different flags, we have today a mission from Cairo in our country, in our capital.  Let the number of visitors increase.  Our borders will be open before you, and all other borders will be open.  And, as I pointed out, we want in the south and in the north and in the east to have the same situation.  Therefore I renew and repeat my invitation to the President of Syria to follow in your steps, Mr. President, to come to us and to begin negotiations about the bringing about of peace between Israel and Syria, to sign a peace treaty with them.

I regret to say that there is no justification to the mourning declared across our northern border.  On the contrary, such visits, such contacts, such clarifications must and can be days of rejoicing, days of a good approach of attitude for all people.

I invite King Hussein to come to us, and we shall sit with him and discuss all the problems which face us.  I invite them—the other representatives of the Arab countries—to come and to clarify and to share our future, to ensure the liberty of mankind, social peace and mutual respect.

If we are invited to come to your capital, to their capitals, we shall respond.  If we are invited to open negotiations in Damascus, in Amman or in Beirut, we shall go to those capitals in order to negotiate there.  We do not wish to separate.  We want a real and true peace with all our neighbours, to be given expression in peace treaties and their contents, as I made clear already.


The President mentioned the Balfour Declaration.  No sir, we did not take a foreign country.  We came back to our homeland.  The contact between ourselves and this country is eternal.  It was created in the dawn of humanity; it was never disconnected, never disrupted.  We developed our civilisation here, we had our prophets here.

This is where the kings of Jude kneeled before their God.  This is where we became a people, and this is where we had our kingdom.  When we were expelled from our land, we never forgot this country, this land, not even for one day.  We prayed for the country, we longed to see this country, we yearned and spoke about our return to this country, since it has been said, "when God will bring us back to Zion we will be like dreamers, our mouths will be filled with laughter and our tongue will speak of song and rejoicing."  These verses apply and are true about all our tribulations, days of suffering, this consolation that the ingathering to Zion will come and be true.

This, our right, was recognised.  The Balfour Declaration was recognised by the League of Nations.  The basis of this international document is the recognition of the solemn connection of the Jewish people with Palestine.  The historical contact between the Jewish people and Palestine—or, in Hebrew, the Land of Israel—for the rebuilding, the reconstruction of a Jewish home in the very same country, Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel.

In 1919, this was also recognised, this right, from the spokesman of the Arab people on January 3, in 1919, in an agreement signed by Emir Faisal and Chaim Weizmann, which reads: "…existing between the Arab and the Jewish peoples…with the closest possible collaboration in the development…" And then we see all the sections following this one, the treaties between the countries and the country of Israel.  This is our right.

I was with you this morning on a visit to Yad Vashem.  You saw with your own eyes the fate of our people, when this homeland was taken away from the people.  It cannot be restated.

We both agreed, Mr. President, that he who did not see with his own eyes all that is displayed at Yad Vashem cannot grasp what befell this nation when it was homeless, when this homeland was taken away from this people by force.

We both read the document dated January 30, 1939, wherein we see the word "annihilation."  If there will be a war, the Jewish race will be annihilated and liquidated in Europe.

The entire world heard these words but no one came to our rescue, not during the nine decisive months after this was made public, something which had never been heard of before, since the creation of the world and the human being, man, was created---and he created the devil.

During those six years, when millions of our people, and one and a half million Jewish children, small children, were killed by burning, nobody rushed to their help, neither from the East nor the West.  Therefore, we took the oath of loyalty, all this generation, the generation of annihilation and revival, that we shall never put our people, our wives and our children in danger again, it is our duty to defend them, if need be, even at the cost of our lives.  They will not be put within the range of fire for annihilation.  Since it is our duty for generations to come to remember certain things which are said and uttered against our people, we must take them with all seriousness.


President Sadat knows, and he knew from us before he came to Jerusalem, that our attitude is different from his as far as the borders around us, between ourselves and our neighbours, are concerned.  But it hurts; and I'm concerned about the President of Egypt and all our neighbours.  They say certain things are not negotiable.  I suggest, and this is the name of a majority in this Parliament, that we shall discuss and negotiate about every point.

We will conduct our negotiations with respect.  If there is a divergence of opinion between us, anyone who studied the history of war and what happened to peace treaties knows that all negotiations began with a difference of opinion, disagreement.  And that in the framework of negotiations they reached agreement and consent, consensus which brought about the signing of peace treaties.  This is the way that we suggest that we follow.   

We shall conduct these negotiations as equals. There are no victors and no vanquished.  All the people in this area, in this region, are equal.  Let everyone treat his neighbour with due respect in the spirit of openness, of readiness to listen one to the other, to hear facts, explanations, reasons.  With all the experience of convincing each other, let us conduct negotiations as I requested and suggested, to continue negotiations and until we reach the good hour of a treaty for peace.

We're ready to sit with representatives of Egypt and representatives of Jordan and Syria and Lebanon—if Lebanon is ready.  We are ready to sit together at Geneva, we suggested to renew the Geneva talks based on two decisions of the Security Council, 242 and 338.  On the contrary, if there are problems between us, by convening the Geneva Conference, we shall be able to clarify matters.  And if the President of Egypt wishes to conduct negotiations in Cairo, I'm for it.  I have no objection to a neutral pace.  Let us sit and go into each matter before Geneva, to clarify the problems.  It is better to make clear before we go to Geneva with open eyes and our ears ready to listen to all suggestions.

Mr. Speaker, this is a special day for our legislative chamber.  This day will remain in the memory of our nation, I suppose in the memory of the Egyptian nation, too, and perhaps also in the memory of all the nations, for many a day to come.  My masters and teachers, members of Knesset, I shall say a prayer with your permission on behalf of you, to the God of our fathers, our common fathers: Implant in our hearts the wisdom required to overcome the difficulties and barriers, obstacle and difficulties, calumnies and slanders, incitement and attacks.  May God Almighty grant that we reach that day we yearn for, that day all of our nations pray for—the day of peace.  For indeed, verily so, the Psalmist of Israel does indeed say: "Justice and peace have become one," and the Koran says "Love, truth and peace."