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Menachem Begin Administration: Joint Press Conference with Egyptian President Sadat and Text of Agreed Communique

(November 21, 1977)

At the conclusion of the Sadat visit, a joint press conference given by Prime Minister Begin and President Sadat was held in Jerusalem. At the beginning of the conference, Mr. Begin read the agreed communique in which Israel and Egypt agreed to pursue the Sadat visit through a dialogue, leading to the signing of peace treaties in Geneva. President Sadat explained the reasons why Mr. Begin could not come to Cairo, but that the initiative he embarked on would be pursued. Mr. Begin said that he and Mr. Sadat agreed on the main principle of - no more war, no more bloodshed.

Prime Minister Begin: With the permission of the President, our noble guest, I will read to you, ladies and gentlemen, the text of the agreed communique issued at the conclusion of the visit to our country of President Sadat:

"In response to the sincere and courageous move by President Sadat, and believing in the need to continue the dialogue along the lines proposed by both sides during their exchanges and the presentation of their positions in the historic meeting in Jerusalem, and in order to enhance the prospect of a fruitful consummation of this significant visit, the Government of Israel, expressing the will of the people of Israel, proposes that this hopeful step be further pursued through dialogue between the two countries concerned, thereby paving the way towards successful negotiations, leading to the signing of peace treaties in Geneva with all the neighbouring Arab states."

Thank you for your attention, ladies and gentlemen.

Q. Mr. Prime Minister, have you received an invitation to go to Cairo and, if so, when will you go?

Mr. Begin: We discussed this issue, with complete candour. I think that President Sadat would like to reciprocate. I would like to see Cairo, but I do understand the reasons why, at this stage, such an invitation was not issued. I would like to say, I do hope to visit Cairo, Mr. President.

Q. In addition to agreeing, in principle, that the dialogue between the two countries will continue, did the two of you, during the course of President Sadat's visit, work out specific, practical details for the continuation of this dialogue, even before the Geneva Peace Conference?

Mr. Sadat: Well, for sure, we had a big survey of all the problems that we are facing. We gave great importance to the convening of the Geneva Conference, but not more than this, the time was so short.

Q. I would also like Prime Minister Begin to respond to that question. How do you continue a dialogue without an Israeli Ambassador in Cairo and an Egyptian Ambassador in Jerusalem? How will you do it, practically?

Mr. Begin: The establishment of diplomatic relations usually goes together with the signing of peace treaties. In fact, sometimes the establishment of diplomatic relations does precede the signing of a peace treaty, as was the case between the Soviet Union and Japan, when, in Moscow, in October 1956, they signed a peace declaration which, though not a peace treaty, included the establishment of diplomatic relations. But, in our case, I suppose it will be logical to have diplomatic relations established as an integral part of the peace treaty which, in God's good time, we hope to sign.

Q. Mr. President, why aren't you inviting the Prime Minister of Israel to visit Cairo at this stage?

Mr. Sadat: Well, after I was invited here by the Prime Minister, and after I addressed the Knesset and the Israeli People through the Knesset, the Prime Minister has the full right to come and address our Parliament in Cairo. For certain reasons that we discussed together, we have found that we should postpone this issue for the future.

Mr. Begin: Mr. Kital, you heard from the President that I have a right, and we have only postponed the exercise of this right.

Q. Mr. Prime Minister, in view of the political and physical risks that the President of Egypt took by coming to Israel, do you feel that you have gone far enough in giving him something that he can take back home?

Mr. Begin: We appreciate very much the courage of the President, in his decision to come from Cairo to Jerusalem. We did our best to make his stay enjoyable. I think he enjoyed his stay, and we had a frank discussion, both in public, from the rostrum of the Knesset, our Parliament, and in private. It is not a matter of a kind of compensation. What we wanted to achieve during this visit was to make sure that we started a serious direct dialogue about the ways to establish peace in the Middle East - not only between Egypt and Israel, but also between Israel and all the other neighbouring countries. I think we can say that we made progress on this issue, and the key word is "continuation". We agreed that we are going to continue our dialogue and, ultimately, out of it will come peace.

Q. Mr. President, my name is Abie Nathan. I am from The Voice of Peace - the peace ship that sailed into the Suez Canal, thanks to your permission, early this year. My question to you, sir, is: How did you get the idea, and who were the leaders around the world who encouraged you to take this bold initiative for peace, to help to bring our peoples together? And, when can I hope to come with an Israeli football team to Cairo to play against the Cairo eleven?

Mr. Sadat: Well, for the first part of the question - about this initiative and if I have already discussed it with any other leader - my answer is this: It started before I began my last trip to Romania, Iran and Saudi Arabia. I didn't discuss it with anyone except my Foreign Minister and, for sure, our Security Council in Egypt. The whole situation needed action, the peace process needed momentum again, and these are the motives behind this initiative.

Q. A common key question to President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin: After so many conversations, did you really reach an agreement on the meaning of the word "security" concerning Israel and the neighbouring countries? The second question is directed to President Sadat: Arab hospitality is very well known all over the world. Did you feel a little bit embarrassed about the fact that you had to postpone the invitation of Mr. Begin to Cairo?

Mr. Begin: I am not embarrassed.

Mr. Sadat: Well, the first question about security - with the Premier and with the various parties in the Knesset today, we agreed upon the principle. Upon security we agree. But, on the meaning of security, we differ. I think that, through Geneva, we can reach an agreement, and let us hope that what I have said already today in the Knesset -let us hope that the two slogans that I want everyone to say are: "Let us have no war after October" and "Let us agree upon security." I think those are the main issues.

For the second question, on hospitality - very sly - either I am an Arab and hospitable or not. No, as I said before, we have discussed this, Premier Begin and myself, and we have agreed together to postpone it for the time being.

Mr. Begin: I would like to add one remark. I would say to the questioner and all of you, ladies and Gentlemen, that, during the visit of President Sadat to our country and to Jerusalem, a momentous agreement has been achieved, already, namely: No more war, no more bloodshed, no more attacks, and collaboration in order to avoid any event which might lead to such tragic developments. When I addressed the Egyptian people directly, I said: Let us give a silent oath, one to another: No more war, no more bloodshed, no more threats. May I say that that mutual pledge was given in Jerusalem, and we are very grateful to President Sadat that he said so from the rostrum of the Knesset, personally to me, and today also to my colleagues in Parliament, both the supporters and the opponents of the government. It is a great moral achievement for our nations, for the Middle East and, indeed, for the whole world.

Q. Mr. Prime Minister, according to the joint communique, it is understood that the dialogue is going to be resumed. How is it going to be resumed, where, and will there be any place for the Palestinians to participate in this dialogue, now or later on in the Geneva Conference?

Mr. Begin: In the Geneva Conference the proper representation of Palestinian Arabs will take place. We agree on it. As far as the places in which the dialogue will continue, believe me, President Sadat and I know some geography.

Q. Mr. President, as you prepare to leave Israel, do you have a message for the people of Israel, with whom you are, after all, still at war?

Mr. Sadat: If I may say anything through you to the people of Israel, I must say this: That I am really deeply grateful for the very warm welcome and the marvelous sentiments that they have shown to me.

Q. Mr. President, I am Shmuel Segev from Ma'ariv. The Israeli government has allowed many Egyptian journalists to come and cover your visit. Will you now be prepared to open the doors of Egypt for Israeli journalists?

Mr. Sadat: When Mr. Begin visits us, for sure you will be coming.

Q. Not before?

Mr. Begin: Mr. Segev, "L'Hitra'ot Be'Kahir" ("See you in Cairo.")

Q. I have two questions. First, after all your talks, are you now both convinced of the sincerity of the desire of each of you? The second question: Did you fix a date for the reconvening of the Geneva Conference?

Mr. Sadat: For the first question - yes. For the second question, we shall be working in the very near future for the convening of the Geneva Conference.

Mr. Begin: For the first question - yes, and we shall together work for the reconvening of the Geneva Conference.

Q. Mr. President, what psychological and what substantive progress have you made in Israel on your visit?

Mr. Sadat: Well, maybe you have heard me say before, that one of the main motives behind this visit to Israel was to give the peace process new momentum and to get rid of the psychological barrier that, in my opinion, was more than 70 percent of the whole conflict, the other 30 percent being substance. For the substance, as I told you, we have made a very big survey, but the time is too short to have progress in this way.

Mr. Begin: The time was so short that I think that, before I go to Cairo, I will have to invite President Sadat to Jerusalem for a second time.

Q. I have two questions for President Sadat. The first: After your meeting with the delegation of the Armed Services Committee of the US House of Representatives, you were quoted as saying: "The Soviet Union will for sure make difficulties for me and I am making my calculations so that this attitude should not create any obstacles at Geneva." Mr. President, was the Soviet Union, in the circumstances, blocking the road to Geneva?

Mr. Sadat: You must have heard of the communique that was issued by the Soviet Union and the United States for the convening of the Geneva Conference. What I told the committee you mentioned is this: That my relations with the Soviets are strained and it appears that whatever I do doesn't go to their liking at all. For instance, the visit here also, in their comments, doesn't go to their liking at all. I fear that the same attitude could be adopted in Geneva, and they are one of the co-sponsors. But, in the same answer, I said that, whenever the parties concerned reach an agreement, no-one, neither a big power nor a small power, can prevent us from fulfilling it, as much as we have agreed upon it.

Q. Egypt agreed to a joint venture with the black-listed US Ford Motor Company. Mr. Mohammed Mabruk, head of the Arab Boycott of Israel, attacked the Government of Egypt. Don't you think, Mr. President, that the time has come to put an end to the boycott?

Mr. Sadat: Well, I have an idea on this. I consider all these to be side issues. Let us try to solve the main issue, then all the side issues, automatically, will be solved.

Q. Mr. President, I thought it was significant that you went out of your way this morning to congratulate Mr. Peres on his speech. You called it constructive. Could you tell us what, precisely, in Mr. Peres' speech you found constructive?

Mr. Sadat: I said that, and said it in spite of the fact that we differ on several issues; don't forget that. I said: " spite of the fact that we differ on several issues," but his speech was still constructive.

Q. You repeated several times in the Knesset this morning that, whatever happens again between Egypt and Israel, the solutions must be sought not through war. Does this repeated statement cancel your previous repeated statements in Egypt that, if you cannot get back the territories by diplomatic means, you will get them back by force of war?

Mr Sadat: For sure, I must tell you quite frankly that I am issuing this after I made my visit here and at the same time when we are preparing for Geneva. Well, after we had this new momentum and this new spirit, let us agree that, whatever happens between us, we should solve it together through talks rather than going to war. Because, as I told you, really, I was very deeply touched when I saw the children, the Israeli children, hailing me here; the Israeli women. Really, I was very touched, and the same thing happens in Egypt also. Maybe you know that my people now are 100 percent behind me. They don't want any war. They want that we settle our differences on the table. But, mark this. I also said in the Knesset, and on this I differed with Premier Begin - he considered this as a condition - I said that the issue of the withdrawal from the occupied territories should not even be put on the table, except for the details of it, not as a principle. We differ on this. But when I made my statement, this is behind it. I mean this will be automatically, in Geneva, negotiated and decided.

Q. Mr. President, have you discussed today with the West Bank personalities the political future of the West Bank, and do you think they should participate in Geneva? When are you going to visit King Khalid?

Mr. Sadat: Well, for the first question, I received them. They were very kind to come and apologize for those who are abusing me in the outside world, from their patriots. I was very happy and elated when I prayed yesterday in Al Aqsa, and I met with our Arab citizens. I was very happy and elated regarding their representation. I should not say anything about this because the Palestinians should decide this for themselves.

About the visit to Saudi Arabia - whenever there is any issue, there are very close contacts together, and whenever there is any need to discuss anything, I may go at any time, or King Khalid may come to Cairo at any time. We do not have protocols and so on between us.

Q. Mr. President, now that you are more acquainted with the facts of the Nazi Holocaust, do you have a better insight into Israel's determination to maintain appropriate security positions against the extremist elements that are openly committed to the destruction of the Jewish state?

Mr. Sadat: Could you repeat the question?

Q. As above.

Mr. Sadat: As you have heard me say just now, security is one of the two main issues or two main slogans that should be raised now. I quite agree. I quite understand the point of view of security for the Israelis but, on the other hand, it shouldn't be through any compromise on land, because that would mean expansion. And, in my opinion, we shall discuss this thoroughly afterwards. A few kilometres here, or a few kilometres there, will not provide security. The intention is what provides security.

Q. Mr. President, you have faced very strong attacks from much of the rest of the Arab world for your visit here. You've even been faced with the threat of assassination for what you have done. What do you say to these people?

Mr. Sadat: I shall not be saying anything to those people. I think I shall be telling my people in Egypt what has happened here. I shall be giving a speech before the Parliament a few days after my arrival. I need not answer all those who have attacked me. Let me remind you that, after the disengagement agreement, for one continual year I was much more vehemently attacked than I am now.

Q. I have a question for both Prime Minister Begin and for President Sadat, and the premise is the same for both questions. Since there are 23 other Arab countries, with millions and millions of miles and plenty of money, and since Israel's territory is so small, by comparison, and since, as President Sadat just said, some of this land was not acquired by what he termed expansion, but was actually acquired by defensive war, after it was started, does Premier Begin believe that any of this land should be given up, in view of the biblical injunction not to surrender one inch of land acquired with the help of God?

And my question to President Sadat, would a larger demilitarised Sinai with joint development of the oil resources or the other resources of the area and with economic development and cooperation required to help his battered economy - wouldn't this and tourism be better for Egypt and for Israel than giving any of the land; or is vanity to win territory more important?

Mr. Sadat: Two words only for my answer - our land is sacred.

Mr. Begin: My friend, if you asked me a question about security...

Q. No, the question was about territory, not about security.

Mr. Begin: Will you please allow me to reply?

Q. O.K.

Mr. Begin: Thank you for your permission. I will explain now what security is to us: The lives of every man, woman and child. This is what national security means to us. We have long experience: In one generation we lost a third of our people and, in this country, 11 times we had to defend ourselves against repeated attempts to destroy us. With such an experience we will care for our people, for our women and children, as I said yesterday in Parliament. I think that we have almost a complete national consensus - with the exception of one party, the Communist Party, which is completely subservient to Moscow. This is the consensus by the overwhelming majority of our Parliament, whether in coalition or in opposition, and this is going to be our attitude during negotiations. Of course, I can respect a statement as was made just now by President Sadat: "Our land is sacred," and, because I respect it, I can say now: "Our land is sacred."

Q. Mr. Prime Minister, do you note a certain lack of symmetry in the fact that President Sadat is crossing a political canal and exposing himself to risks vis-a-vis his own people, while you stayed within the relative safety of Israeli official concept? In other words, while President Sadat came to Jerusalem and addressed himself to us, you came to Jerusalem and addressed yourself to us. Is this symmetry?

Mr. Begin: As I told you, my friend, I am ready to go to Cairo any day. And then, if to accept your statement, I will take that risk. So, if taking risks is a problem, both of us, I suppose, are prepared to take risks.

Q. Yesterday, in his speech, President Sadat spoke about the Palestinian problem being the crux of the Mid-East conflict. Israel, in his view, would have nothing to fear if a new state were established. No peace can be established without solving the problem. I should like to ask the Prime Minister, why did you not relate by so much as a word to what Mr. Sadat had to say?

Mr. Begin: I did, but I spoke in Hebrew. And I must correct you as I do always. Palestine is the name of a country, and in this country there are two nationalities. There are Palestinian Jews and Palestinian Arabs. When you say Palestinians, you do not explain the problem at issue. We do recognize the Arab nationality in our country, and therefore I always say: "Please, the question of the Palestinian Arabs." And in Hebrew I say "Haba'ayah shel Araviyei Eretz-Yisrael," because in Hebrew, the name of this country is Eretz-Yisrael. Since the book of Samuel, and President Sadat knows the Bible perfectly well, no less than the Koran - so he knows the book of Samuel as well - where it is written for the first time: "And no locksmith shall be found throughout Eretz-Yisrael." The translation of Eretz-Yisrael is Palestine. I spoke about the Arabs of Eretz-Yisrael, or, in other words, about Palestinian Arabs. It is an issue, and we have proposals to solve this issue.

Q. Mr. President, do you have any plans to meet with President Assad and persuade him maybe to join you?

Mr. Sadat: From time to time we do meet in the Arab world. I was asked in Damascus, before I came here, whether President Assad tried to put pressure on me not to complete this visit. I told them that no-one put pressure on the other. This is our way.

Q. The fact that you have come on this visit, is it really a breakthrough towards peace?

Mr. Sadat: We have always been speaking about and, indeed, the most important thing today is that we should go to Geneva. And that is what we have been talking about - going to Geneva.

Q. I come from Australia, which last week was a much shorter visit than yours from Cairo. May I ask you, since you have been here in the last 24 hours, do you feel closer to reconciling the just rights and needs of the Israeli people and the just rights and needs of the Palestinians?

Mr. Sadat: I am sure that the progress that we started through my visit here will enable us to solve all the problems.

For example, we consider that there is an urgent problem of security. I also consider that the Palestinian state is

very important. In spite of our differences upon this issue, we can decide in Geneva on all these. If you ask me

whether I am optimistic or pessimistic, I can tell you, I am optimistic.

Mr. Begin: Ladies and gentlemen, it will take another two hours until President Sadat will be on his way to his country, to Cairo. May I now sum up this momentous visit. It is indeed a momentous visit. We are formally in a state of war, our two countries. As far as I can remember, I do not know of a precedent that the leader of a country that finds itself in a state of war with another country paid such a visit to that country, and was received with so much warmth and sincerity. The reaction was positive in the government, in Parliament, but first and foremost, among our people.

We drove, President Sadat and 1, several times together. We have seen our people in the streets, in the thousands -men, women and little children - all of them greeting the President, taking him to their hearts. The children waved both flags, the Egyptian flag and the Israeli flag. I wish, with your permission, Mr. President, to express the hope that the day is not too far when Egyptian children will have the Israeli flag and the Egyptian flag. This visit is a real success for both countries, and the cause of peace.

And, as we both believe, the President and I, in Divine Providence, before the departure of the President and his party, we pray to the Almighty that he give all of us the wisdom to continue in our efforts to bring peace to our nations - real peace - and so to make sure that this region, with all the nations dwelling here, achieves peace, advances, and lives in liberty, in justice and in happiness. Thank you.

Mr. Sadat: Well, ladies and gentlemen, may I take this opportunity to thank Prime Minister Begin, the Israeli people and President Katzir for the very warm welcome that was accorded to me here. We are at a crucial moment. Let us hope, all of us, that we can keep the momentum in Geneva. And may God guide the steps of Premier Begin and the Knesset, because there is a great need for hard and drastic decision. I already did my share in my decision to come here, and I shall be really looking forward to those decisions from Premier Begin and the Knesset.

All my best wishes to my friend Premier Begin and his family, and all my deep gratitude to the Israeli people, whose welcome I can never forget. Thank you.

Sources: Israeli Foreign Ministry