Barbara Walters interviews Prime Minister Begin on “ABC” about the progress of the peace process with Egypt, the meaning of Palestinian Arab autonomy, reactions to the Iranian hostage crisis and the Olympic Games in Moscow. He closes with how he wishes to be remembered.
At a Speech to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Begin stated that the peace treaty with Egypt precedes all previous agreements between the two countries, and urged sympathy for Sadat’s hostile situation within the Arab world. Begin then emphasized the importance of the Israeli people’s support for the peace treaty, saying that it will be presented to the Knesset for approval regardless of party discipline. Later, he explained how the US government’s peace proposals to King Hussein included departures from the Camp David Accords, in matters such as the legal status of Jerusalem, the IDF presence in Judea and Samaria, the establishment of settlements and the autonomy plan. Finally, Begin noted the sacrifices Israel had made for the sake of peace, including evacuation of settlements and the waiver of the Sinai Peninsula.
Begin addressed the halting of settlement construction for the duration of the Palestinian negotiations in an interview shortly after the Camp David Accords were signed, noting a difference of opinion with the US government on the matter. Begin outlined the autonomy plan’s fundamental elements and defended the morality of Judea and Samaria’s settlements, expressing a wish to end military authority in the region. Later, Begin considered the prospect of negotiating a peace treaty with Jordan and other Arab countries, saying that Egyptian-Israeli relations and the Palestinian Arabs’ solution are not interwoven.
Subsequently, Begin emphasized his desire to follow in the footsteps of Camp David and use the US government’s aid in drafting a peace pact. He proposed providing facilities for the US navy in the Mediterranean and establishing US bases in Sinai, but denied the conception of stationing US soldiers in Judea and Samaria so that Israel could defend itself independently against its surrounding enemies. However, he noted that Israel sought military assistance from the US in order to do so, acknowledging Israel’s contribution to US national security. Begin went on to discuss his Camp David experiences, his impressions of Carter as a negotiator, and the sticking points in the negotiations over the legal status of Jerusalem.
Begin writes a response to a letter doubting Begin’s peace efforts. The original letter suggests Begin to go to the polls and argues that if he does not have majority support, he should no longer remain Prime Minister. Begin’s response letter first acknowledges that Israel is not just a country for its residents, but also a country belonging to Diaspora Jews. He also says that a national election is an internal issue. Then Begin talks about how his campaign in the 1977 national election focused on “the political-security problems and the socioeconomic problems.” Israelis voted for Begin fully aware of his political-security visions. Begin talks about how he takes his duty as Prime Minister seriously and it’s his responsibility to strengthen Israel’s security. Begin believes that strengthening Israel’s security means having peace with its neighbors. He claims that the original letter’s idea of security would lead to permanent bloodshed and thus, threaten Israel’s existence.
Begin discusses Israel’s plan for peace and the different obstacle Begin has faced in the process. The first part of the peace plan focuses on Palestinian self-rule in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip. Begin then talks about Israel’s peace plan with Egypt, specifically regarding the Sinai Peninsula. In order to give up this land, it must be demilitarized so wars do not reoccur. However, while Anwar Sadat and Begin agreed that the Egyptian army will remain about 200 kilometers from the international boundary, the Egyptian War Minister presented their army being only 40 kilometers from the boundary. This brings Begin to talk about Israeli settlements and how they strengthen Israel’s national security. Then Begin questions the U.S.’s change in opinion about Israel’s peace proposal. He mentions the strong relationship he has with Sadat and then hints of anti-Semitism were published. He closes with still having hopes for peace.