Ken Stein interview with Ambassador Moshe Sasson, Jerusalem, Israel
L-R Moshe Sasson, Israeli Ambassador to Egypt, Kamal Hasan Ali, Egyptian Foreign Minister, Saad Mortada, Egyptian Ambassador to Israel, and Israeli Prime Minister, Menachem Begin, March 16, 1982, Chanania Herman/Israeli Government Press Office.

Ken Stein Interview with Ambassador Moshe Sasson, Jerusalem, Israel, August 6, 1992

(Thursday, August 6, 1992)

Note to reader: when the interview was recorded, there was a considerable amount of noise outside of an open window which made some of Moshe Sasson’s remark unintelligible, and thus could not be transcribed. Moshe Sasson (1925-2006) was born in Damascus. Fluent in Hebrew, Arabic, English and French, he served in various capacities in pre-state Palestine and Israel. His language skills provided him enormous insight into Arab society, in working in the neighboring Middle Eastern states and with Arab leaders.   

In recounting his research and his diplomatic roles (1960-1966, chargé d’affaires in Ankara, Turkey; 1973-1977 ambassador to Italy; 1981-1988 ambassador to Egypt), Sasson shares the relationships he built with Palestinian, Egyptian, Jordanian and Syrian leaders, his analysis of people and situations on which he based recommendations when asked and the lost opportunities for peace that he witnessed. 

Sasson first served in the Haganah’s Arab department of intelligence; once cabinet permission was given, he joined the Foreign Ministry where his father held a role. In 1949, Sasson was called from his intelligence-gathering activities in Paris to go to Lausanne, where his father was involved in the Palestine Conciliation Conference. Arab delegations in attendance refused to speak with the self-designated Palestinian delegates. Israel had no official track within the conference’s framework either. And so, Sasson became an unofficial liaison to the Palestinians; friendships developed (to the point of being called when a skinny-dipping incident led to jail). Unofficially, Sasson asked these representatives from the refugee camps what they would do if the two sides were to arrive at an agreement; the Palestinians said they’d have to sell it to the other countries before they could accept. This was the first lost opportunity.

Almost 20 years later in his role as Prime Minister Eshkol’s advisor, Sasson went to Ramallah in 1967 to visit Aziz Shihada who had been at Lausanne. Sasson’s was contributing to a report for Eshkol on Israel’s Arab and Palestinian relations. He took the opportunity to push Shihada to do something, now that Israel, and not Jordan, was in the picture. But again, nothing happened. Again, a lost opportunity.

When Sasson speaks about Egypt, he not only shares Sadat’s acuity regarding how he had to navigate the waters of relationships with Syria and Saudi Arabia while progressing towards the peace agreement with Israel, but how Israel’s 1981 bombing of Iraq’s nuclear reactor and its 1982 invasion into Lebanon complicated the relationship. In Sasson’s analysis, had the treaty between the countries been viewed as an opportunity for normalization, i.e., for building day-to-day relations between the people and not just as a strategic step, Sadat could’ve presided over something larger than he had. And had Mubarak viewed Egypt’s role not as an advocate for Palestinians but as trustworthy mediator between Israel and Palestinians, progress could’ve been made. “Egypt could have played an extraordinary role because it’s the only Arab country we have relations with.” More lost opportunities.

Sasson stresses that confidence in leaders is important – as is knowledge. His story about asking Eshkol to spend two hours a week with an Arab is as telling as his expressed desire for Arabs and Israelis to have textbooks which would “describe the development of the Arab national movement and the Jewish national movement. Conflicts, the history, the facts…” 

He himself sought opportunities to learn applicable lessons, e.g., in Ankara about development in the Arab world and in Rome about the Vatican’s special agreement with Italy. Sasson’s language skills helped him become close to leaders. His intellectual curiosity drove him to think about possibilities. And his presence at conferences, summits and negotiations in Lausanne, Geneva, Alexandria, Cairo, Amman and Jerusalem and during key points for over four decades granted him a place in history.

(Wendy Kalman, September 2021)

MS: So, I [unintelligible] because I talked to Sadat later, I chose those moments or events that have a meaning from this time, from [unintelligible], the entire dialogue and sincerity and so on and so forth. So, give an example, one of them, which I think is one of the best. You might remember that two days before bombing the Iraqi atomic center…

KWS: In June of ’81.

MS: Yeah. Two or three days before, there was summit meeting between Sadat and—  

KWS: Begin?

MS: Begin, in Ophira, in Sharm el-Sheikh. I came with Sadat from Cairo on his plane and went back the same day. It was a meeting. And so, three days later, we bombed the—we bombed the nuclear center. And two days after the bombing, I got a cable from Begin, “Go and explain the situation, what happened.” So the man was—I mean, two days later. And everybody in the world suspected that he was informed about it, in the meeting, at the end, [that is, that] Begin, Begin told him. And it was quite an embarrassing moment. It might have—I was very concerned about it.

KWS: But Begin hadn’t told him.

MS: Hadn’t, sure he hadn’t. Hadn’t told him and he also stated that he didn’t. It was obvious he wouldn’t have told him. But everybody in the Arab world, you know, in those days [were] against Sadat, that [had] made peace with Israel, he’s trash… So I went and…to speak with Sadat. He was in Alexandria. There’s [Montaza] palace there [unintelligible] all the presidents and all [unintelligible], beautiful, on the beach. Marmoura [Beach] And he prepared two chairs in the middle of the garden, seen from the palace behind us, green, beautiful garden, quiet, one could hear the sea, and there we sat alone and we spoke. I gave him a message, a written message from Begin. He sat down and read it and read it slowly. He wanted to grasp every word. Then he finished reading it, put it in the envelope and put it aside on a small table that was near me. For the coffee, he never drank coffee, but for me coffee, but for him, he usually drank tea. [unintelligible] Special, there was no waiter, he brought us the coffee and he left. No assistants, nobody tried [unintelligible]. So he put down the envelope and got up, the president got up, I got up also. He said, “Moshe, sit.” I said, “Mr. President, if you are standing, I will stand.” He said, “No, I want you to sit.” “I won’t sit Mr. President,” I said [MS and KWS laugh]. He said, “It’s a presidential order.” “All right, Mr. President. I’ll obey presidential orders.” “Especially if you want to know my reaction to this letter from Menachem.” And then, standing here this time, and he started walking, back, around— 

KWS: walking…

MS: Back…

KWS: Not saying a word.

MS: For a moment. And then he stops. And he started to make his way to present his points, one after the other. But he did it in a way that, for a moment he was speaking to me. Another moment, he was speaking to himself. And another time, and again, standing and speaking to Mena—Begin, he used to call him Menachem. He was speaking to Menachem directly, in direct speech, as if he’s there. And what he said is written there [Seven Years in the Land of the Egyptians 1992 Hebrew, 1994 Arabic]I am telling you about the—Sadat, the man. And then he finished and he sat down. It’s time for me to tell him what I have to say. And we started our conversation. Later on, years later, Jehan [Sadat] wrote her memoir, maybe you read it.

KWS: Sure.

MS: She says about—she says that she never heard Sadat shouting or speaking really loudly, except once. When he received the Israeli ambassador at Marmoura, two, three days after the bombing of…And I was sitting there and I saw Jehan coming out of the balcony and going in, and out and in. She was the only person there. She was far coming in and going out. He didn’t shout. I told her, “Jehan, you are wrong. You are mistaken.”

KWS: He never raised his voice.

MS: He never raised his voice. It was so, he was not a man to raise a voice at somebody. He could raise his voice on somebody [unintelligible]. But he was so excited, he was so…

KWS: Agitated?

MS: Agitated, not at rest. Speaking to himself, speaking to G-d, speaking to Menachem, speaking to me.

KWS: How long did this go on?

MS: More than an hour.

KWS: Did you say anything during that hour? 

MS: Yeah, sure. When he sat down, I started speaking. It’s there, what I said. It’s in the book. It’s quoted in writing. And I wanted to go then and he said, “No, no Moshe, sit down, let’s just talk.” And he used a word in colloquial which means to chitchat. And we sat and I asked him all sorts of things, and he asked me on the different subjects. And then I said, “I have to go now.” But years later when I saw Jehan, I told her, “Jehan, he didn’t raise his voice. You are mistaken. What he did was…” so and so on. “So,” she said, and this is also in the book, sha said, “You know, we have an argument between Anwar and me on that meeting of Mr. Begin in Sharm el-Shiekh. I told Anwar.” she said. “’Don’t you understand, Anwar, that he wants it for the election?’” It was two weeks before the elections in Israel. “’And okay, if you decided to intervene in the elections in Israel, I would prefer Paris. Why are you going to meet?’” she asked him, told Sadat. [unintelligible] “’Why are you going to help Begin?’” “And what did he answer?” I asked her. “Oh, he said, ‘You think I’m timid to that extent, not to know that he wants [unintelligible] elections? That’s exactly why I go. I deal only with a strong man, a strong leader, that can implement [unintelligible].’” So, what did he say? What did he answer? It’s in the book, if you read Hebrew, you can read it.

KWS: Well, I hope to. Ummm…well, first of all, thank you for seeing me. And…

MS: So, this is one of the slides, what I say. It’s written in slides. I can open them a little and read anything.

KWS: I’ll look forward to doing that. Ummm, let me first do two things.

MS: Yes please. Tell me about—Go ahead, sorry.

KWS: This is the result of my dissertation. 

MS: Oh.

KWS: —which I did the research for in 1971 to ’73, here in Jerusalem. 

MS: ’71 to…

KWS: ’73. I was a graduate student.

MS: During the Yom Kippur War.

KWS: Right.

MS: Oh, how nice that you were here to see…

KWS: And considering you and your father have a very special place in the history of Oriental studies in this country, at least for the last 90 years.

MS: Studies, I don’t know. Practice.

KWS: Practice, okay practice. At least you’ve had an influence, we’ll say that.

MS: Well, we tried to play a role, I don’t know.

KWS: Okay…Ummm, it’s probably—much of it you know. I was fortunate to work with, or use as an advisor, Yehoshua Porath.

MS: Really?

KWS: —and the late Gabriel Baer. 

MS: Yes, yes I…

KWS: And both of them taught me what scholarship was all about. 

MS: Really? That [unintelligible] makes sense, yeah.

KWS: And since then, I’ve been working on social and economic issues.

MS: [unintelligible]

KWS: And then after I finished that, in 1982 I met Jimmy Carter. He came to Emory University as a professor. And then I helped him establish his institute at Emory. And since then, I’ve been working with him as a, well, sort of a Middle East yoetz [advisor]. I don’t know if I had any influence, sometimes I don’t think I’ve had any. And then most recently, I got involved with the notion of comparing Middle East peace conferences. Taking my knowledge of St. James Palace and the London Conference of ’46, ’47, and Lausanne, I wrote a proposal to the United States Institute of Peace, which is headed by Sam Lewis. I got a grant.

MS: He’s still there?

KWS: Yes. And I’m in the middle of writing this book on international conferences. So my focus is Arab-Israeli diplomacy. Using the conferences as a vehicle, as a mechanism, but not necessarily the conferences themselves. 

MS: Yeah, yeah.

KWS: Out of that, Sam asks me last year if I would convene a study group…

MS: When did you write the paper on that?

KWS: Did I write the book? No, that’s what this interview is for.

MS: Ahh, you are writing this…

KWS: That’s what I’m doing now. 

MS: Oh, I see. 

KWS: And I’ve interviewed people in Israel, Mordachai Gazit, Epi Evron, Dan Pattir, Abba Eban. I will next week see Shlomo Gazit, Ariel Yariv. And then last year, Sam asked me to convene a group of American foreign policy makers. People like [Alfred “Roy”] Atherton, [William] Quandt, [Hal] Saunders, [Richard] Murphy, [Sol] Linowitz. 

MW: Yeah. 

KWS: We met for three one-day sessions in Washington to look at what has worked in Arab-Israeli diplomacy over the last 50 years. So sort of a snapshot through history. Because we have no historical memory in America. Because every administration comes and leaves. 

MS: When was it?

KWS: It was in April.

MS: I’m sorry, I don’t know [unintelligible].

KWS: In any case, out of it came this pamphlet.

MS: “Making Peace Among Arabs and Israelis.”

KWS: And it’s a compilation of what we learned about our experience. It’s not a prescription for a solution…

MS: Yeah, yeah [unintelligible], yes.

KWS: …as much as it’s a discussion of procedure and method. 

MS: Procedure and method, not going into the heart or the substance.

KWS: No. So that’s also, when you can’t sleep…

MS: [Unintelligible] and you hear the points of views of the different speakers. 

KWS: Yes, what I’ve tried to do is create a synthesis…

MS: Oh, I see.

KWS: …things that create…things that repeated.

MS: Everybody, then?

KWS: Well, I don’t know about everybody, but it’s a good, it’s a good…

MS: From the American…

KWS: Yes, from the American side.

MS: From the American side. Everybody from that point of view. Yeah, that’s fine [unintelligible] You can limit [unintelligible]?

KWS: I brought for you, but I thank you. I mean, I thank you in advance.

MS: Thank you very much.

KWS: So, I first came across your father’s name when I sat using the S-25 files of the Jewish Agency, in the Arab department. So it’s not like the name Sasson is new to me. My purpose is to use your memory. So, what I would like to know first of all is when did you join the Foreign Service…

MS: Tell me first…

KWS: Yes, please…

MS: I’ll tell you about myself but tell me first…

KWS: Yes, sure.

MS: Did you read the book, there are two books of importance, I am sure you, you read Hebrew you said?

KWS: Yes.

MS: Did you read the book of, new book, it came out a year ago or so ago, the name is Shoreshe Ha’optzia HaYardenit [Roots of the Jordanian Option].

KWS: By Shuftan?

MS: No, no.

KWS: Shuftan wrote a book earlier.

MS: Shuftan, I didn’t like Shuftan. There are two, three, four, five books on Jordan. This is not—this is—it deals with…

KWS: Who’s the author?

MS: Yaron. Ron Yaron.

KWS: No, but I’ll certainly look at it.

MS: Look at it. Buy it and read it. Don’t read the preamble, it’s no good. It’s bozo.

KWS: [Laughs]

MS: But except that, read the book. The name is Shoreshe Ha’optzia HaYardenit, Shoreshe Ha’optzia HaYardenit [Roots of the Jordanian Option]. Now, this is the name, but it tells a story, I think in the most accurate way, of the contacts between King Abdullah and the Jewish Agency since the beginning of these contacts until ’49.

KWS: Ma shem mishpacha shelo? [What is his last name?]

MS: Yaron Ron. Yaron haprati veRon hamishpacha [Yaron is the first name and Ron the last name].

KWS: Beseder. Yesh kama sefarim k’elu. [Okay, there are a few books like this.]

MS: Kein, ani karati, karati. Yisraeli. Mekal hasefarim haelehyesh kal miny sefarim k’eleh [Yes, I read, I read. Israeli—From all these books…There are many books like this…

KWS: Including…

MS: …400, 800 shel ma shmo [of what’s his name].

KWS: Including the—including [Avi Shlaim’s] Collusion Across the Jordan.

MS: Collusion Across the Jordan, of 700 pages. It’s collusion, and it’s a lot of book. Not that I didn’t like it, he didn’t understand the whole thing. But here, it’s really on the academic level and you can use the material and there are a lot of examples concerning the subject that you have here. That’s one of them. The second book that I recommend very much is one of Itamar Rabinovich.

KWS: Oh, Itamar Rabinovich’s The Road Not Taken?

MS: Huh?

KWS: The Road Not Taken.

MS: No.

KWS: The one on Syria.

MS: No, about, no…how does he call it?

KWS: The Road Not Taken.

MS: Oh, well that’s a good translation.

KWS: The one dealing with Syria and Husni Za’im and 1949.

MS: He is treating three cases. Husni Za’im and then he treats Abdullah. And what’s the third? I think these two and maybe the third.

KWS: Okay. No, no. That one I know. I know Itamar—I know Itamar and I know Itamar’s book.

MS: Okay. It’s an excellent book. I think Itamar is our best—at the level of [unintelligible] the academy, is the best historian that we have in the academy.

KWS: That’s quite a statement, quite a statement.

MS: Look, on the level of academy…I don’t think that on the level of practice—he’s non-negotiating—[that] he’ll be the head negotiator.

KWS: He doesn’t have any experience.

MS: He doesn’t have any experience. So, but in the academy, I think he’s the best. And appreciate him.

KWS: I’ve known him for 20 years.

MS: Okay, maybe you agree, don’t agree, but…

KWS: I do agree [laughs]. And my wife, my wife agrees even more.

MS: Okay, he’s not here so I can say it. I could have said—I couldn’t—I could have said nothing [KWS laughs], but I said it and I believe in it and I stress on the academic, on the academic, level, he is the man. Now, what do you want from me?

KWS: Okay, what I want to know is before you were ambassador—you became ambassador to Egypt in 1981.

MS: That’s right.

KWS: And before that, what was your posting in the Foreign Ministry?

MS: Oh, well I sat in the Foreign Ministry from the beginning. 1949. There were problems as far as my—I was—I didn’t trust [unintelligible] government [unintelligible] and foreign affairs. But before the war, the Independence War, I used to be in the Arab department of intelligence of the Haganah. In Jerusalem, I was Deputy Director of that department, Arab department, of the intelligence of the Haganah. I was deputy to the head of that—and the head of that was Yitzhak Navon. And during the war I was attached to Haifa and there I was the head of the Arab department of the Haganah information intelligence. And then, naturally, I was in the battle of Haifa and all this, and after the war, they…we were transferred. We had already, Zahal [Israel Defense Forces] and Modi’in [intelligence], Amman [abbreviation for Agaf HaModi’in, The Intelligence Branch]. So we’re there and immediately after the War of Independence, a group of people, very small group of people—including Mordachai Gazit, I think was also in all this—that were transferred. He was a higher rank. We were transferred to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, by order, I don’t remember how. But we found ourselves in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in order to organize the research department of the ministry, the Middle East. They choose some, a few people, I think the director of the department in those days was ???  And I found that there was a problem with me because according to the rules in those days, nobody—in the first instance of relatives cannot work in the same ministry. First degree relatives. My father was one of the founders of this ministry. Automatically he became, you know. He was a Middle Eastern man, Jewish Agency, he was immediately nominated director of the Middle East department in the ministry of foreign affairs and here is his son. How can he work at the same ministry? It was forbidden. And unless there is a special decision of the government in the cabinet. So they had to do that and this is how I was accepted and found myself there. Now, there is a proverb I’m thinking of that says whenever you see a group of people sitting, counting money, it’s good to stand near them. Maybe something will make its way to you. [KWS laughs.] So, it so happened, when I looked to my minister of foreign affairs, I was lucky, in a sense. Because whenever there was an attempt to negotiate or to, something concerning a peace with the Arabs, I was around. Very low degree, high degree, I was there. And it started in a very funny way. When—those days, when they established a research department of the ministry of foreign affairs, it included, those days, all what the Mossad later did or had to do or is doing. 

KWS: Mm-hm. 

MS: Two years later, or a year and a half later, there was a separation and the Mossad was created [1949.]. So, I was there in the ministry for a very short time in Tel Aviv and then I was sent to Paris to be assistant of Ben Natan, Asher. Maybe you heard his name, later ambassador to Germany and director general of civil defense. Asher was the man in Europe doing, in those days, what the Mossad later did. I mean, the operations of how to get information from [unintelligible] all these things. It was a part of the ministry. And when I was with him in Paris, I got telephone calls from [Israeli delegate Dr.] Walter Eytan. He was in Lausanne, PCC [UN convened Palestine Conciliation Commission]

KWS: This must have been ’49.

MS: ’49, yes. 

Kws start here

KWS: April to September 

MS: Yes. I got telephone call from Walter, at the time he was in Lausanne. He was there with you know, with [unintelligible], with my father, for the PCC conference. The Palestine Conciliation Conference. He said “Moshe, take your car and your wife, and everything you have and come. Come immediately.” Okay, here I come. I was very curious. And I had a very small car, a Cabriolet, a very small seat Simca Cinq [5]. I spoke French, but… What happened? You know that we, at the Lausanne conference, our delegation was in Beau-Rivage Hotel and the Arab delegations were in Lausanne [unintelligible]—the city, and we’re near the lake. Very bad [unintelligible] a beautiful chance. They were there six months. And no one meeting took place between the Arab delegations and the Israeli delegation.

KWS: No official…

MS: No official. No one. There were cocktails with them and other Arab contacts and so on. And each and every Arab delegation came to Lausanne with its own Palestinian—I have my Palestinian, the Jordanians have, and the Egyptians had. And suddenly, appeared, came to Lausanne a delegation from the camps of the refugees. Five men, headed by a certain Muhammad Nimr al-Hawari.

KWS: Hawari?

MS: Yeah. Hawari was before the war, he was heading the opposition to… He had his—the Mufti [of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini] had his semi-military group  Fatua] and Muhammad Nimr al-Hawari. had his own semi-military group, organization, called al-Najjada And the day the war started, Hawari decided just not to operate in the military field, he said there’s no hope. He has [unintelligible] when he decided that—we, which means [unintelligible]. I was a very small boy [unintelligible]. And then later on he left with all the refugees and the ride to Beruit and the camps were in an awful situation. A delegation from the camps came. He was heading this delegation. Aziz Shihada from Ramallah, later to play a certain role. Zakib al-Akeit, Hamed Yehair from Nablus, Yahya Hammuda also. And they addressed, first of all, the Arab delegations. They wanted to be in contact with the Arab delegations, with the PCC also. The Arab delegations refused even to see them. “We have our Palestinians. No need.” They were not as Palestinians in the sense that we are speaking today. From the refugee camps, they are refugees. They are organized, intended to—people that were ready to consider any, any, any solution. So, nobody of the Arabs would meet them. The PCC—the three delegations of the PCC—didn’t want to be in contact with one another. So they called Muhammed. They knew Muhammad Nimr al-Hawari before the war. And they had a few meetings. But then Walter Eytan decided that from the official point of view, the framework, and the procedure and the whole thing, it’s of the essence. And the Arabs don’t want to speak with them. We are there to negotiate with Arab delegations. So, it’s not nice to be in contact. Yet, we want to hear them. We want to see if they can do something, if they can help. So, the decision was a project to call me and to be assigned unofficially to the delegation.

KWS: You were the liaison to the Palestinians…

MS: I was a liaison. [PHONE RINGS.] That’s just how it started. Hello.

MS: That’s how my…our… there…

KWS: What happened, if you don’t mind my pursuing it further—what happened in your liaison role, in your discussions with them? How long were you there and what then?

MS: Well, I was there three months. The whole, they stayed six months. 

KWS: What did the Palestinians who spoke to you, what did they hope to accomplish?

MS: See, there is a book, if you want to go into details, just—I mentioned it. There is a book written by Muhammad Nimr al-Hawiri. The name is, eh, the name is Asbab AlNakba, Asbab A-lNakbah, The Reasons of the Catastrophe, Asbab A-lNakba by Muhammed Nimr al-Hawiri [actually, the book’s name is Sir Al Nakba, The Secret Behind the Disaster]. He wrote the book—a very long detailed book, not always reporting in an accurate way. But the essence is there. And I’ll tell you this in less than two sentences. When we started the contact, we put a question. We said, “Look, we are now an independent state, a government. Let’s suppose that we achieve an agreement with them.” And their problems were not on the national level in a sense, politically motivated. There were all sorts of demands from their side. But they, they wanted to discuss. So, we said, “We are now a government. Let’s say that we arrive to an agreement. We will sign it. We can implement it—we are a government.” [unintelligible] What’s it got to do with that [unintelligible].” So they say, “We’ll take it and we’ll roll around, to all Arab capitals and we’ll try to sell it. To convince the leaders and so on.” Our position then was very, very simple. We said “Look, you have two possibilities: either you go for us and take power of attorney and we’ll discuss it. Or you go where there are Arab delegations. Convince them. There’s no point in going into details.” Yet, on the other side, we are ready to exchange views to see if we can help here or there, for people, that is. We understood that the trouble of the refugees was the most important trouble in those days. And we are here at the beginning of an organization that might be important in the future and might play a role. Although they are not posts, official posts…and they are leaders of the camps.

KWS: They came from…

MS: Different camps in the area.

KWS: And different camps in different countries. 

MS: Yeah. So, they were not [unintelligible] dignitary in the sense of you can negotiate, but this is something we’re presenting really, people that are refugees, that are one of the main problems.

KWS: Is it because Eytan in the foreign ministry held out for recognition?

MS: There were –no, there were difference of views there. You can find it somewhere. Maybe between father and Eytan. Father was by far more…

KWS: Open?

MS: Yes, his position was very open.

KWS: The foreign ministry documents of the state of Israel are clear, absolutely. No, I’ve found them, I’ve read the files.

MS: So, you read them. You’ll see that Eytan was reserved.

KWS: No question.

MS: And that father was, take a position of preaching to go and to see and to hear and this and that. Now, that’s the summary. When I came, I repeated the same questions. I was there and we became friends and we discussed everything, really. You know it went to such an absurd—episodes. One night, I got a telephone call from…

KWS: From who?

MS: From Muhammad Nimr al-Hawiri [unintelligible] Aziz with [unintelligible], he rings me up and says “We’re in a very, very awkward situation. Please come and help us.” “Where are you?” “In the police station.” “What are you doing in the police station at Lausanne?” He says, “[unintelligible] was swimming in the pool, in the lake of Lausanne. It was an idea of mine. And he was naked. And we didn’t find his clothes and the police came and caught him and caught all of us. We are here. We gave him something to wear but he carried on like [unintelligible]. Please come.” I went to [unintelligible] police station. Israelis. Refugees…and such….Anyhow, years later, years later when I became the advisor of Eshkol in 1967, ’8, ’9, as a liaison between Eshkol and the Palestinians, after the war, immediately after the war. I took my car and went to Ramallah to Aziz [unintelligible] and sat down there. Then— 

KWS: It was the first time you had seen him in 20 years. 

MS: I went in and saw his wife, I knew his wife. He’s always in Ramallah. And I went to see him just what I wanted to see. I think I was one of the first civilians that went there. Ramallah. He received me and hugged me and this and that. It was really emotional. Those days, Prime Minister Eshkol nominated a small committee, very small, four men, to give him in two weeks a report of the recommendations. The four men were [Dr. Yaacov] Herzog, myself, Dave Kimchi, and somebody called Shaul Bar Haim. Dave Kimchi from the Mossad, I from the ministry of foreign affairs, Herzog as the, he was commander-in-chief of the [director general of the Prime Minister’s Office]…and somebody called Shaul Bar Haim [also, ministry of foreign affairs]. [Unintelligible]. Just a moment.


MS: So it was another reason why to go see and look for Aziz.

KWS: You said the four of you were asked by Eshkol, when? Right after the war?

MS: Umm hmm.

KWS: To do what?

MS: To contact local dignitaries [unintelligible], to see what’s the situation and to report to him the outcome from contacts and recommend to him on a policy concerning the future of our relations with these Arabs and the [unintelligible] and the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. And we did it, we wrote a report of two pages, two and a half pages, very short, very brief summary. But later on, when he decided—Eshkol—that the future of the West Bank and the future of our conflicts with the Arabs, with the Palestinians is the most important subject as far, and top priority. And there was discussion between him and [Moshe] Dayan. Dayan wanted to be responsible on the political contacts with the dignitaries. And Eshkol said, “It’s the most important issue, I want to do it myself. You will help me as minister of defense, but I want to do it myself.” And he decided to do it, and he took me as his advisor and I was a go-between for three years. We tried. That’s a special chapter, I come to it later. But I’m telling you about Aziz now. So, two days after the war I was there. And I told Aziz. Initially, I told him “Look Aziz, you remember our meetings in Lausanne? Then, you couldn’t do nothing because the land was in the hands of your brothers, the Jordanians. Now the land is under our occupation. Come on. Let’s see. Move.” In this chapter of our political activities with them after ’67 started. This is a long story and I’ll come to it after. You are asking about myself, not about the issues. I might—My second book might be on this subject, which means why the negotiations failed? What was the reason? To what extent were we [unintelligible] now. And there was at least one. There is a feeling of an opportunity that was lost, a [unintelligible], generally speaking.

KWS: Several opportunities.

MS: I’m speaking about this one.

KWS: Okay.

MS: And I would like to, maybe I’d like to write on that one day. I’m not sure of two things. So, eh…

KWS: And after ’70, ’71?

MS: Well, I’m speaking about Lausanne. ’49.

KWS: Okay.

MS: This is Lausanne and something later. 

KWS: All right.

MS: Then I came back home from—and the negotiations, the secret negotiations with Abdullah were going on. Father was leading these negotiations. Later, he left [unintelligible], the first minister in [unintelligible] legation, minister in Ankara. Why did he go to Ankara? Because one of the three leaders of the PCC was a Turk with the name of [Hussein Cahid] Yalcin. And through him father got recognition, de facto, of Turkey, the agreement on establishing diplomatic relations. 

KWS: Mmm.

MS: Moshe Sharett, deciding that this is the first [unintelligible] of [unintelligible] powers, a Muslim country, and came through [unintelligible]. So, he left the negotiations with Abdullah. Reuven Shiloah took over his negotiations.

KWS: Your father left the negotiations?

MS: Yeah, went to Ankara and the negotiations with Abdullah continued, headed by Reuven Shiloah. At a certain stage, at the last stage of negotiations with Abdullah, I was asked to join, by Sharett. My father left. And Sharett said, “Moshe, I want you to go.” Moise, he used to call me.

KWS: What did he call you?

MS: Moise. His father called me Moise. His mother too. He says “Moise, I want you to go to [unintelligible].” At that stage, that was the last stage, we didn’t discuss peace. We might have discussed this chapter of negotiations with Abdullah [unintelligible] and—There is one mistake to be corrected in Itamar’s report, but I divide these contacts after the war, after the signing of the treaty of the armistice agreement with Jordan, into four different chapters. He speaks about three chapters but there were—First phase was, the aim was to achieve peace. Failed. Very quickly. Second phase, we suggested [unintelligible] to pass Jerusalem because the United Nations had to discuss it and international [unintelligible] and so on. We thought that it would achieve an agreement on Jerusalem with Abdullah; we are the occupying forces here, he is on the other side. There is an agreement between United States on decisions of United Nations. We failed on that too. Then, negotiate a third phase. And this time, Dayan—Shiloah and Dayan, on a non-aggression pact. It was successful in six weeks. We had the end already signed, they initialed the document. All right, they didn’t want—I mean they were afraid too, [unintelligible] because Jordan might notice. But he ordered that too. [unintelligible] And then came the fourth phase. After this failure, that he couldn’t implement the agreement of non-aggression pact that we had signed and he said that he needs time to reorganize his home in order to find a prime minister and then—He said he needs time and we suspended the arguments. I was—not him— I’m speaking about myself, not on the negotiations—to give you just the background. We—After the suspension, during the suspension, he had this Jericho Conference,  if you remember…

KWS: 1950.

MS: 1950. The protest that we just….Then we resumed our negotiations in 1951. That phase, Sharett asked me to join. I was during my last—I took two months’ leave from the ministry in order to write my thesis, in order to finish my university, and—

MS: And he said, “I want you there for two reasons. First, I want you to write the report. After every meeting, you write the report, you have also a little [unintelligible] in Arabic,” because he’s not so [unintelligible]. “But—but, the main reason is,” he said, “you know, I want the king to feel the continuation of the [unintelligible]. You are the son of your father. When he will see you, he’ll treat you differently. And you might be in a position to help, maybe, on things that use negotiations.” So, he was right in that because the way that the king received me, “My boy, my son,” and kissed and hugged me. And I permitted myself to ask all sorts of naughty questions.

KWS: Really?

MS: So, the negotiations were in Amman, either in the palace or in the house of the man who was responsible on his property, a certain [unintelligible]. 

KWS: They weren’t held in Shuna?

MS: And Shuna. These two or three places, at least two places in the palace. The villa in Amman and Shuna. Shuna, in the small palace that he built. You know why, the name of that palace, why it’s called—Abdullah had an eager wife, Nahda [unintelligible]. And he built her this palace and he called [unintelligible] Casablanca, of the white… And we had a lot of meetings and the day he came. Friday, the 20th of July, when he was assassinated. When he came to Jerusalem, we had to have a meeting that Friday evening in Jerusalem. He didn’t come for the meeting, but as he came, he suggested that we have a meeting here in Jerusalem. According to Plan A, I used to be the liaison between the advisor of the king and preparing with and being in contact with him. Preparing these meetings, as I was assistant to [unintelligible], shum davar [nothing]. I was living in the same building, property, the first floor, it was a very small apartment. I had the direct telephone call to him on the other side. The adviser was in Jerusalem. I used to go to his house, he used to come here. We had in those days the [unintelligible] center. So where from can I have whiskey? He liked whiskey. He used to come with a whiskey bottle with him. “Do you have soda, please?” [MS laughs]. That night, a Thursday we had a lot of work to prepare for this meeting of Friday night, the day when he was assassinated. And in those days, Abdullah wanted me to meet Jordanian people, Palestinians especially, and to discuss with them, to convince them. He said, “You talk with them very nicely, please do it.” And he sent his adviser,  “See to it that you see the people in Jerusalem. Speak with them.” And [] prepared for a day before Friday, a dinner at his house in Palestine. And it was agreed that he would come at 8 o’clock, right about 8, and take me and go there. We’ll have dinner and talk with, the governor -[Anwar al-Khatib] had to be there and others. You know, Palestinians. And discuss with them and then I stayed the night there. The next morning, Friday morning, go to [intelligible], prepare the meeting that had to take place. We had a lot of work to do. And details, complicated. And then when we come and go back with [unintelligible]. At 5 o’clock, three hours before I had to cross the other side, a telephone call from his adviser. He tells me “Moshe, I just got a telephone call from his majesty,” we used to call him. “He’s coming to Jerusalem,” he said—through Nablus, and he wants me to be in Nablus to receive him because he wants to talk with me on the way. On our meetings, to give me orders, directives, directions. So, there’s no point in doing this, right? I can’t know [unintelligible] when he will come. “Prepare this, let’s do whatever we can. In the evening we will meet. So, let’s postpone this dinner for tomorrow. You stay, through when we go back Friday night.” Okay. 

KWS: You went to Nablus?

MS: I didn’t go. He went. He was asked to meet Sadat, I no. 

KWS: I see. Okay.

MS: So I didn’t go to the other side at 8 o’clock in order to have dinner. Dinner was postponed until Friday. And Friday, I was at home, sitting at noon. I like to—I knew the king is in Al Aksa. So I tuned my radio on, to hear what’s the hoopla, now with the king. And I heard shootings. I didn’t understand what’s happening, so I took the phone, rang up to the UN operation room. Who is there—so, I don’t remember the name—I said, “This is Sasson speaking. What’s going on there?” “Oh, you the Israelis, the Jews are always sitting back, nothing is there, everything is all right.” Okay. Of course, I didn’t say anything. I closed the phone. Ten minutes later, the man on the line, the same man of the UN, speaking around [unintelligible] or something like that. “Where from did you know?” “Did I know what?” “That the King was assassinated.” 

KWS: And you said…

MS: At that moment, you know what I thought. What would have happened if the king wouldn’t have asked him, are you going to come to Nablus? I would have been there. On the other side. At 4 o’clock, [unintelligible] was nominated ambassador, same day, to Madrid. On a special plane, he flew up. [unintelligible] decided it had nothing to do—the assassination of the king—with the secret negotiations he had with us. He was assassinated by the man of the mufti—the volatility between the Hashemites and the people of the mufti.

KWS: Did you know that the young Hussein would be with him?

MS: Well, he was there.

KWS: I know. But did you know when you…

MS: No, what I knew in those days, you see the King was very—only once he told us, on other occasions there were a lot of stories. Once he told us about the illness of his son, Talal…

KWS: Of his father. Oh, Abdullah, of his son. Right, sorry.

MS: There were two brothers, Talal, and the brother of Talal. One was dealing in smuggling money, all sorts of things, the name will come to me. And, uh, Talal was sick, sick. And once he told us the reason why he thinks how a Bedouin dealer speaks about the disease of his son [unintelligible]. He was schizophrenic. So, he knew that he would not be well. So, he started last year, to prepare. He used to bring him to all the meetings, not with us, yet. It was very dedicated. Small boy. But he used to take him with him everywhere. In our consultation cabinet meetings, he was there. Why he was with him, the mosque? I didn’t know he was there but… now, how in this phase I participated, was dealing not with peace, not with the implementation of the treaty, the non-aggression pact. In one subject only. Full implementation of the different articles of the document of the [Rhodes] Amistice agreement. Article 8 and Article 10, I think, of our special committee. Article 8, free access to any—Al Aksa and this and that and all these things. Full implementation. So here I’m telling you not the essence of the negotiations, but you asked me about myself. I am giving you a very long answer. So that was the chapter on the Hashemites, then and the king. I did miss the assassination, I had to stay. It was later, I was very near to Sadat when he was assassinated.

KWS: Let me suggest that when Itamar concludes an agreement with Syria, you do not go to Damascus [laughing].

MS: Oh, I don’t know. 

KWS: Third time is not the charm.

MW: No, no, no, no. I didn’t tell this story in this way because I didn’t want people to arrive to that conclusion.

KWS: [Laughs.] 

MS: Now— 

KWS: Let me jump ahead, if I might.

MS: Yes, then we had, then we had, eh—If you’re asking me, later on I was in Switzerland for about three years with one aim. The Swiss knew it. To try to establish radio contacts with the Arab leaders that are passing through Switzerland and to see if there’s a possibility of peace.

KWS: In the 50s?

MS: In the 50s. ’Til ’56, with the Kadesh operation [before the Sinai War]. I stayed until ’57 or so and came back. Then, in 1960 I went—I asked to go to Turkey. [Unintelligible] Golda was there [unintelligible]. Her reaction was “Moshe, I don’t like the Turks. You like them, go.” I said “Golda, this is not the issue. I want to tell you why I want to go. I have a very special aim.” “And what is it?” I said, “Look, I read somewhere in my studies that the Industrial Revolution of the last century in Europe stopped on a certain line while it’s spreading to the east of Europe.” And it happened to be, or not, I don’t know why this is the reason I want to look, it stopped on the line of Islam. Why? There was no spreading of the… is it the religion? Has the religion to do—something to do with the development? What’s the correlation? Because, here in Israel the Arab minority is one of the highest [unintelligible]. Technical point of view, no problem. But they are the majority in the region. And perfectly, we learned that during the riots of 1936 and ’39 here, that the Arabs that used to infiltrate and to attack the kibbutzim and other places, used to pass only through poor villages, Arab villages. No rich Arab village would permit them to pass through them. Retaliation from Israel and [unintelligible]. So poor people, their tendency is to be more [unintelligible], once they have nothing to lose. And if we will have once peace with these Arabs, our neighbors, that will be one of the main questions, before and after. So, this development of the area is a very important issue that I want to study. That’s why I want to go there, to Turkey. The first and only Muslim country that we have, and the place where development stopped. So, sure enough, Golda looked at me and said, “Moshe, go yesterday. Go.” And I stayed six years, Ankara, and I arrived at some conclusions, but I am speaking about myself. And then when I came back from ’66, I became director of the armistice affairs in the ministry of foreign affairs and I was the first Israeli negotiator with, again, [unintelligible] with the Syrians. I went up to…

KWS: You followed Abram Kidron?

MS: Yeah. Reggie, not Abram.

KWS: Reggie? Ah, Mordechai Reginald.

MS: Reggie, Mordechai. Reggie karoo lo [called him]. He was the…

KWS: South African.

MS: That’s right, yes. He worked—I came immediately after him. And negotiated with the Syrians in Ramat HaGolan [the Golan Heights] in December ’66 and January ’67 in [Kibbutz] Mahanayim [Syrian-Israeli Mixed Armistice Commission]. One could feel the work and, we had, in those days, difference of views on all sorts of incidents with the Syrians on the demilitarized zone. Very serious incidents. And I tried to see, I wanted to see—We, we, we—We decided to boycott the discussions of the Mixed Armistice Commission [unintelligible], sorry. The reason was that the Syrians wanted to discuss the zones, our activities in the zones of the, the demilitarized zones. And there were complaints that they endorsed to the Commission. And we said the Mixed Armistice Commission is not authorized. And we discussed this, and they said yes, and no meeting.

KWS: They wanted to expand the terms of reference for the Mixed Armistice Commission.

MS: To include, yes, to include the demilitarized complaints on our activities in the demilitarized zones. Complaints to the Mixed Armistice Commission.

KWS: Essentially, by then though, the Syrian and Egyptian Mixed Armistice Commissions had essentially become defunct.

MS: Collapsed.

KWS: Only the Lebanese and the Jordanian ones were…

MS: That’s right. They collapsed because of different reasons but mainly the armistice treaties were shaped for a short-term. And suddenly they had to hold [unintelligible] for years, they became paralyzed. They were not shaped for that. They were not made for that. In ’49, in the preamble of the old armistice agreements—it’s a military, keep peace, and everybody was practically under the impression that the [unintelligible] will meet and negotiate peace. So I was there with the Syrians, ’66, and then there was no place for any more department of armistice affairs in the ministry of foreign affairs. The war of ’67, Six Day War…

KWS: And you joined Eshkol.

MS: So, Eshkol asked me to join him.

KWS: And that was until ’70?

MS: Three years and half a year with Golda. And then I left, went back to the ministry of foreign affairs, became deputy director general for the Middle East.

KWS: Until when?

MS: Then there was—Until’73, the eve of Yom Kippur War, when I had to leave a week before the war, to go as ambassador. And the war was there and immediately after the war I was sent to Rome as ambassador for 3 and a 1/2 years. In Rome—I wanted to go to Rome…

KWS: You weren’t back here for the war at all?

MS: The war?

KWS: You weren’t back here during the war at all?

MS: The war?

KWS: Yeah.

MS: I was here in King David. I rented my house and I had to leave in a week time and the war broke out, so I stayed to see what’s happening.

KWS: How long did you stay?

MS: Where?

KWS: In Israel after the war broke?

MS: I stayed during the whole war and I left immediately after the war to Rome.

KWS: Like around before the ceasefire, or after the ceasefire?

MS: After the ceasefire, I left, when there was already ceasefire—and I had to go. Rome, you remember, I’m speaking of ’73, the 21st of December, we have a Geneva peace conference. 

KWS: Did you go?

MS: So, Abba Eban invited me to be a member of the delegation.

KWS: Can we dwell on that for a moment?

MS: Yes. But there, my mission was totally different. I mean, it was not a part of the whole—My, my, my main mission, I—what I tried is to see if we can establish contacts with each country.

KWS: At Geneva?

MS: At Geneva. We were not successful. I knew when we went, some people of the delegation, but they wouldn’t do that. It was very…Geneva, you know, the press and all this and all that. There was no point. I immediately said, “There’s no point even in trying it.” After Rome I came back in a very, very special, in a very special circumstance. 1977. Three years after being in Rome. In Rome, as I told you, what interested me was that—why I went [unintelligible] discovered a lot of things I learned from [unintelligible], but I wanted to study the Vatican in Jerusalem. I wanted to know the details from first-hand [unintelligible] and what happened. And that I did in Rome. 

KWS: What conclusion did you arrive at?

MS: That we can arrive, where the—with the, with the Vatican, we can arrive to a formula that, you see, the position of the Vatican when I left was already quite—we could live with it. The formula was—start two talks with [unintelligible] garantito a livello internazionale [special statute], which means these four words: internationally status guaranteed, internationally guaranteed. What did it mean? Not that the status of Jerusalem will be international. That there will be an international status agreement on the holy pla— on Jerusalem, concerning the rights of different holy places. And—

KWS: Religion?

MS: —and nations and religions—that will be guaranteed internationally, why? Because maybe there will be elections in Israel, another, and Arik Sharon will come to power. [Unintelligible] Arik [unintelligible] and he will change the law. So, the law, the status, must be guaranteed internationally. So, if it’s not international city, but international status, a law, we could find… You see the difference between them? It’s a very delicately and intelligently phrased. Anyhow, there I also found something that could help us with the Arabs when we’ll negotiate Jerusalem—if we negotiate, not when. You see if you look to the agreement between Italy and the Vatican, letter of agreement, 1929, you will find there, in the annexes, the status of the—of five big churches, like Santa Maria Maggiore, that are in Rome. And you’ll find that they have made special status, locally, for these buildings.

KWS: And it can be done similarly, and the precedent of this, and their own [unintelligible]. 

MS: I think in Annex #13, I’m not sure, all of the annexes. I learned a lot during that time about, especially if you take into consideration a very simple fact that is not noticed. I know the emotional side, what is Jerusalem for them and etcetera, etcetera. But, holy cities, so to say, in Islam, are not necessarily political capitals or vice-versa.

KWS: No, on the contrary.

MS: On the contrary. That’s what I say. So the argument concerning Jerusalem is not, as far as Islam is concerned, religious. Because as you said, on the contrary. But political. So, let’s discuss it politically. You see my approach. One day when, if, so there is, I think there is a hope. It depends on the climate, on the atmosphere, on what will be the political situation then. This is a subject that will be discussed in a different climate [unintelligible]. When and if.

KWS: I understand. What happened after Rome?

MS: What happened after Rome? After Rome, happened something very strange. On the few months before I came back, on February ’77.

KWS: Just after Carter’s election?

MS: Just after?

KWS: Carter’s election. Carter was elected in November…

MS: Who?

KWS: Carter.

MS: Carter, yeah sure. 

KWS: November ’76, just after his inauguration.

MS: Something in February, Alon was the minister of foreign affairs. Yigal Alon, was a good friend of mine. And he called me to Rome and said. “Moshe, I am stopping over in Rome for an hour on my way to Paris. I want to speak with you, that’s why I’m doing it. Please come to the airport, without your Italians. Because I want the whole hour with you.” I said, “All right, I’ll make arrangements.” [Unintelligible] I’ll take a taxi. I told my Italians, “You come with me, the protocol, five minutes and then you leave us alone. We have things to do. And we’ll find a room, don’t put me through [unintelligible].” And we managed. He said something, he said “Moshe, we are nearing the elections here in Israel. After the election, I’m sure, this is my assessment, the peace process will start and I think we’ll negotiate peace with the Egyptians.” Alon in February ’77. “I want you in Jerusalem. I want you to be the deputy, the number two in the ministry.” After the meeting with Shlomo Avineri, and then he was the [unintelligible] director general. And they want you to organize the whole thing, the process of negotiations between the two. So leave your Rome and come back as quick as possible. So I said to Yigal, I said, “Yigal look, you say after the election it will be. Okay, I’ll come after the elections.” So, he said, “No, Moshe, you come before the elections. I don’t know what will happen in these elections. I’m a politician. I can gamble on that. But anyhow, I want you there before the elections, to organize, or at least to be there.”

KWS: To organize?

MS: What are the negotiations that we are going to have, the peace process, whatever. His assessment was that—it was before the statement of Sadat, before anything we knew—his assessment was…

KWS: Do you remember when in February this was?

MS: I think I can check it out— 

KWS: Because on Feb—

MS: …something on 19 or 22 or something.

KWS: It may have been 22. The reason I say that is on something like the 17th to the 20th, [US Secretary of State Cyrus] Vance was here. Vance came out here with a fat loose-leaf book of agenda items and procedures on how to reconvene Geneva. He came, went to Cairo, went to Jerusalem, went to Amman, went to Damascus.

MS: Either 19 or 22, I don’t remember. 

KWS: I would think it was—

MS: You can check it very easily, because I can check it, because we can—he was on his way officially to Paris.

KWS: I wouldn’t be surprised if one of Alon’s stimulus—

MS: Maybe. Maybe.

KWS: —was his notion that the Americans were really going to get engaged.

MS: Yes, yes. He was convinced that we are going to start the peace process and especially with the Egyptians. Peace negotiations. I came back a few weeks before the elections and I was deputy to Avineri when the mahapach [Hebrew for upheaval, due to Likud winning the elections] took place. And Moshe Dayan…

KWS: Nakhba [catastrophe]? Or is this naksa [Palestinian Day to commemorate the 1967 displacement]?

MS: Naksa?

KWS: ]laughs] 

MS: Lo yodea [I don’t know]. No, he didn’t. Begin didn’t joke. Then the question would become why did he choose me, knowing me at the time from the Labor party. So, I came back and I was the deputy of the director general for quite a while. Then I asked—then Moshe Dayan—I left it and I wanted to be and I became the head of the research—that was a big organization that was reorganized, you know after the Yom Kippur and the Vaadat Agranat [Agranat Commission], all this. And it was a very big organization…

KWS: Can I ask you about ’77 for a moment, before we get further down in history?

MS: Yeah.

KWS: You came back in May. From May until Sadat’s visit, the Americans had been with this full court press on trying to reconvene Geneva.

MS: Yes, I remember that. And they were successful in a way with Sadat. The problem was there—to have one Arab delegation or different delegations. Do you remember?

KWS: Yeah.

MS: That was the issue. And then Vance agreed with Sadat on the formula, to have different delegations. 

KWS: Mm-hm.

MS: And then he went—he came to Israel and then he went to Syria. And Assad told him no. And he put a veto. At that point Sadat decided that this is the end, that he will take to [intelligible]. That was the turning point as far as Sadat is concerned. Concerning the turning point to start his activities. That was 1977, before he came.

KWS: Vance was here in August of ’77.

MS: Yeah. So why did Sadat decide to come on that date to Jerusalem? That was the thing that broke the whole—because Sadat ’til then was going on with the Americans concerning reconvening of Geneva conference, how to find the right formula, Vance was dealing with it. And the only thing that was left open was the composition of the Arab delegations. Will it be united or not? And Sadat came to an agreement with Vance. And Mr. Assad put a veto and the whole thing collapsed. So he decided to come to Jerusalem. The idea of coming to Jerusalem was not new to him. It was inside. He started thinking of the whole thing, of peace and so on and so forth, and I am writing about it in the book, in ’71.

KWS: Yes, that we have record of. No question about that. February ’71.

MS: Yes, February ’71. And just lately his statement. And I remember hearing the speech of Sadat on February 6th or was it February 9th?

KWS: 9th.

MS: And the next day—Abba Eban was foreign minister in those days, we had a meeting so it happened, the next day with the minister concerning the situation and so forth and so on. And I reported there—under the protocol of that—I reported that I heard Sadat yesterday and my impression is that if you get the whole southern [unintelligible] back and all of Sinai. he’ll make full peace with Israel. And he was very impressed, Abba Eban, with my analysis and went to Golda. And Golda kicked him out. [Unintelligible.] You remember, the suggestions of Sadat for those police to cross the canal to open the canal. It came later and [UN Special Envoy Gunnar] Jarring, bringing the answer from Sadat, Egypt is ready…

KWS: No, Gideon Rafael told me, he said, “Ask [unintelligible]. I’m getting [unintelligible]”

MS: Ask Gideon. Gideon was Director General…

KWS: Exactly!

MS: And I was there and I gave that analysis and I said, “I am sure—my assessment is that the man is trying to enter a peace agreement with Israel. [unintelligible]” Then later on—and on this also I am writing—there is a real small story about this episode, what did it mean? Because it so happened that I met— Kamal Hassan Ali was prime minister, he left office, resigned because of health reasons. We were very close. And I was at his home and two men came—a lot of friends came to reconcile, so to say, or to encourage command. So they were coming in and out, there were two men came, I didn’t know who are they and then he presented them to me. Two generals, former generals, of the army. One of them was commander of the division and the other one was commander of a certain region and he himself was a general. He was commander of the armed forces. So, we sat some hours, two or three hours, and discussed just like all we used to discuss. And I asked them, “Do you remember this statement of Sadat on February?” Everybody remembered. I said “Look, tell me, theoretically, suppose Israel would have responded exactly to what Sadat wanted in those days. Do you think he would have signed a peace treaty then? Two years before Yom Kippur?” One of the three, I will not tell you who, said, “I know him, I’m sure he would have signed a peace agreement then. He was excited.” The two others said, “Even if he wanted, he couldn’t have done it without crossing the canal.” The prestige, the drama of the whole thing. What does it mean? What does it mean in terms of Assad today? So, I’m [unintelligible]. We come back to—you were asking about what?

KWS: Vance, Geneva. Did you ever ask Sadat why he went to Jerusalem?

MS: Why he went, he came to Jerusalem? No, it was obvious why he came. It’s there. He understood that he has what called to “break” the psychological war. And he was convinced—he decided to do it—he knew that they will boycott it.

KWS: The Arabs?

MS: The Arabs. He knew it. He decided to do it against the consensus of the Arab world. [Unintelligible.] More than that, I asked him a question concerning this. This is again, in the book. I asked him, “Mr. President” —this question I asked when we sat down and we said [unintelligible] in Marmoura. I said, “Mr. President, you remember when you decided to come to Jerusalem, I was there,” I told him, “as head of research in Israel.” And a question I had—and I get an answer to it, I’ll tell you later on what was my assessment that I gave—I told Sadat, on the following question: “You went to Assad. You told him that you are coming to Jerusalem, you invited him to come. He was furious about you. He said he will never do that. And then you left and came back to Cairo. Then you went to Saudi Arabia through Iran, visiting the shah first. And you didn’t tell them a word about your plans. And they were insulted later. You tell Assad, you don’t tell Saudi Arabia, the king? Why did you do that?” He said, “Moshe, listen and listen well. When I decided to come to Jerusalem, I knew that I had a chance to be successful, only if I will have Assad out. If he will be in, he will spoil everything. How to have him out? I went to Damascus, I invited him, he said no—I was sure he will say no. So, ‘all right, I don’t mind that you’ll take it even, when I’ll do that.’ And left. But, to come to Jerusalem after a veto from the Saudis, I couldn’t. So all right, let them be hurt. But it’s better than a veto.” [Unintelligible.]

KWS: He had the sensitivity.

MS: He knew that the Saudis would say no. And then to come to Jerusalem after a no from the Saudis? He couldn’t permit himself to do that. So, all right, so they were insulted some. But that’s better than saying no. “Because I decided to go. And I needed to go there alone without Assad.” You see the point? And this is then—

KWS: After the visit, where were you in the foreign ministry?

MS: Well, I’m telling you. I was head of research and then…

KWS: Until when?

MS: No, until when, when things had started, I mean with Sadat coming to Jerusalem, and things started moving…

KWS: Did you participate? You didn’t go to [Hotel] Mena House [December 1973 Conference]

MS: No, no, I didn’t.

KWS: Did you participate in the political talks here in Jerusalem in January?

MS: Yes. No, I was a member, I was only in the famous lunch, you remember that?

KWS: The Muhamad Ibrahim Kamel lunch [Egyptian Foreign Minister]

MS: The Ibrahim Kamel, Begin sitting with Ismet Abdel Magid, he was here. And Abdel Magid, and a table alone. But I was a member of the Military Committee…

KWS: In Cairo?

MS: In Cairo. He wanted, I mean Dayan wanted me to be there for a very special reason. I was head of research.

KWS: Of the foreign ministry.

MS: Foreign ministry. I was not involved in the—I was preparing papers, analysis, and so on and so forth. Everything on a half a page because they only read one. He can’t, he couldn’t. He couldn’t, practically, and one had to—He called me one Saturday when I was there and said. “Moshe, please come in.” He wanted coffee from his, from his, from—he was in Mitzala, living there. I said, “What do you want Moshe, tell me?” “Take your car and come. That’s what I want.” I [unintelligible] morning, 10 o’clock, and I went there. And he said “Moshe, I want you to go with [Defense Minister] Ezer Weizman to Cairo for the talks. Military Committee.” First of all, I told him, “Thank you, I am glad to do that.” Because I wanted to see Cairo and to see the Egyptians. I was not interested in the committee here.

KWS: Well hell, you’ve been to Amman, you’ve been to Istanbul. 

MS: And Ankara.

KWS: I think you have a goal here. I better tell Itamar [Rabinovich].

MS: That’s all right. I will tell you what my goal later, if you will ask.

KWS: [Laughter]

MS: Now, I went to Cairo and I said, “But Moshe, what do you want me to do in Cairo? I am going. Do you have a special reason?” And he said “By all means, I have a special reason. If Ezer will need help, help him. But this is not the reason I want you to go. I want to know from you…” I will tell you something if you will close that for a second.

KWS: It won’t be used.

MS: No, because he said, it’s in his words. He said “Moshe, between you and me, you are alone here. There are only two that understand the Arabs. Me and [unintelligible] zeh helek katan, zeh ktzat atah [it’s a small part, it’s a little bit you].”

KWS: (Laughter)

MS: “So what do you want Moshe?” I said. He said, “I want you to go and I want an answer on one thing. In your assessment, your opinion. I am not sure. Will they do a separate peace with us? Will they sign it?” He was not sure at even that moment. So, I said, “All right, Moshe, I’ll go.” And I knew that when we came back, when we arrived with two o’clock from Cairo and very late at night. I think I arrived here about 1 o’clock after midnight. I knew that he will call me, he will not wait until the morning to call. And he called me. So I prepared, in one sentence, to tell him. And I told him, “I am sure that they will sign a separate peace agreement and will be committed to it. Provided there will be something very vague—no commitment concerning the whole question, the whole sikhsookh [disagreement].” Something that, which means that they will go and do a separate peace, without having nothing more than the Camp David concerning the frame of the peace and…

KWS: You came back at the end of January?

MS: Yeah, it was not at the end of January, it was—We  had two meetings. December, late in December and the first days of January.

KWS: Ahh, this is before the Jerusalem committee meeting.

MS: Yeah, that’s the military committee.

KWS: Ahh, so you’re talking about, this is the connection that Weizman makes, the telephone connection…

MS: That’s right.

KWS: This is after Ismalia.

MS: That’s right. No, no. Not Ismalia. That’s after Ismalia.

KWS: Right. I mean after Ismalia.

MS: After the meeting in Ismalia they decided to establish two committees. Military one and political one. The political will be in Jerusalem, the military will be in Cairo. The head of the military committee that will prepare the material for the military annexes and so on, of the treaty, will be headed by the two ministers of the defense, Ezer Weizman and [Mohamed Abdel Ghani el-Gamasy. That will be in Tahera palace, in Cairo. I was assigned as a member to that as a representative of the minister of foreign affairs in that committee. And he wanted me there to feel, through discussions, conversations, with the people that will be there, are they really ready to sign a separate peace agreement? He was not sure even then.

KWS: Did Abrasha [Tamir, head of the IDF’s Strategic Planning] feel that they were?

MS: I didn’t ask Abrasha. Abrasha was there, but I didn’t ask Abrasha.

KWS: And how did Ezer feel?

MS: I didn’t pose the question.

KWS: No, but I mean from your sense.

MS: Yes, yes, yes. Ezer was…

KWS: But you know—look, let me step back for a moment. Dayan had met [Egyptian Deputy Prime Minister Hassan] Tuhami in September. Never made a hardcore, iron-clad commitment that Israel would withdraw from Sinai. Merely said that Begin would be very, very interested in talking to him.

MS: He didn’t say no.

KWS: Exactly. 

MS: Which is a very important thing.



KWS: Dayan made no commitment. Herman Eilts told me that, Sam Lewis told me that. 

MS: Okay. He didn’t say, “Look, there’s nothing to talk about.” But vice versa, he came back and he took the material—he reported that Begin would be interested and so on. And the Prime Minister’s the only one to answer but I reported. And Dayan could say no if he felt that there’s nothing to talk about. He didn’t shut the door. He left the door open, which means that there is a possibility.

KWS: But we go through the Tuhami talks, Sadat’s visit, Begin’s visit to Washington, Ismalia, the Tahera talks, we’ve now spanned three months and Dayan still has this question mark in his head…

MS: This is why he’s telling me, yeah.

KWS: And what did you say to him when you got back?

MS: I told you. I told him “I’m sure they will sign a separate peace treaty with Israel, provided something very me’od hirury [very perforated], vague, without, not including any practical commitment concerning the whole sikhsookh [disagreement], the whole—Palestinians [unintelligible].”

KWS: Dayan was really asking you, “Will they sign something without…”

MS: The Palestinians. And Syria. And my answer was yes.

KWS: Do you know what Gamasy said to [General Aharon] Yariv on the second day of Kilometer 101 [talks in November 1973]? “Halasna Filastin” [We are finished with Palestine]. Okay. 

MS: Alright. Look, I saw Gamasy and if I answered that—I gave my answer to Dayan. He said, “I want your opinion, your assessment. You can feel it. And this is why I want you to go to Cairo.” And I was very pleased to do that because I wanted to see Cairo, to see the Egyptians. To the direct contact with them and we talked. We talked with Gamasy until 2 o’clock in the morning, Ezer and myself. 

KWS: And Gamasy…

MS: With Gamasy. Gamasy was the minister of defense.

KWS: And what did you glean from his attitude?

MS: Well, I’m telling you. My conclusion was that they would sign a separate peace treaty.

KWS: So it wasn’t just Sadat.

MS: Look, it was—you know Egypt. You know the Middle East. You know that in the Middle East and in Israel, we are not still a part of, on that I have a story to tell you. But, in these countries a decision is taken by Pharoah and only by Pharoah. And the others obey. Now, it was very easy. One of the problems I had that I write about in the book, when I came to Cairo, I had three problems that I was concerned about. Very concerned. As any other Israeli. One, what will happen if Sadat really—he started to hint that he wants to leave the presidency? What will happen with the peace treaty if he will leave the presidency? Nobody thought that he will be assassinated, that he will leave in this way. But I was concerned. The second problem I was concerned about, what will come out—what will happen to our peace treaty with Egypt from the point of view of the content and there I think after we deliver the goods, after they withdraw from Sinai. 25th of May ’82.

KWS: April.

MS: April. Why did I say May? And the third question was, that I was concerned about it, what will happen on this peace treaty if we find ourselves in a war initiated by Arabs in one of the other Arab countries. Lebanon [unintelligible], questions there. But I mentioned it because what was your question, you said, what was it…

KWS: The question had to do with, so it wasn’t just Sadat?

MS: It wasn’t just Sadat. I said Sadat decided, I said Pharoah decides and I said others obey. Now, yes, I wanted to tell you this because of the following. When Sadat was assassinated, you do remember?

KWS: October 1981.

MS: 6th of October. Hosni Mubarak became president on the 14th of October. A week later. He was elected. The acting president was not Hosni Mubarak. When he was elected as president, he could, I say very easily, declare that he abolishes the treaty with Israel. And the whole Arab world would have applauded to him and the people in Egypt would have accepted it. Why did he do that? You will find the answer there but I’ll tell you why did he do that, I was mistaken in the depth of my concern, being concerned. After the assassination of Sadat, the main concern of Mubarak was how to ensure the withdrawal. If he would have cancelled the treaty, the first thing is that he would have withdrawn from parts of Sinai, and we were in el-Arish-Ras Mohammed line. We would have had—the same day would have been again on the canal. That’s one. Two, he was the vice president of six years of Sadat. And he accompanied him and was with him and he agreed to all decisions that Sadat took on setting his peace process. Three, the direct income of Egypt every year—direct, not indirect—was five billion dollars, 2.2 from the Americans, oil, the canal, the tourists and transfer of money of Egyptians abroad because of [unintelligible]. Five billion dollars. So a man like Mubarak, having the same targets, quick development of Egypt, having the full partner with him, America, to help him. This is why Sadat decided to have the Americans as a full partner. Because Sadat didn’t do peace because he is a man of principles that sees in peace a value that stands on its own ground or feet. I believed in peace because for me, peace was a value. From the days of the Haganah. On top of that, I believed and I do believe, that we can say that Israel is here forever when we sign the last peace treaty there. Then the Zionists, Zionists can say we achieved it. Not that I think that they can throw us to the sea, but this is my concept. I think peace of [unintelligible]. So, I didn’t become [unintelligible] Zionist. He didn’t want peace because suddenly he liked peace.

KWS: For Jews or Zionists. 

MS: Look, the tragedy of Sadat is, if you want to put in this way, I tell you immediately what’s the tragedy. Sadat wanted, decided, to do peace with Israel because his two targets were A: to get back the land, the whole land; B: to create a climate and situation for a quick development of Egypt that will solve the problems of Egypt. In order to do that—he knew Ataturk did, and for Sadat, Ataturk was a figure—Look, the names—his name, his brother’s name, the others, all of them Turkish names, Anver, Anwar, and so on and so forth. For him, Ataturk—and I know it. I talked to him—he came to power, he said in Turkish and a very non-Turkish thing: Yurtta barış, yurt dışında barış, “peace at home, peace abroad.” He knew that only in a climate of peace with all Israel and his neighbors, he could really do something about development of Egypt. Quick development. Now, unfortunately—and the tragedy of Sadat that this peace had to be with Israel. So, he had to do peace with Israel, in order to get these two targets. 

KWS: It’s rather—

MS: So, you see, we are speaking about Mubarak, Mubarak continues away. Mubarak, when he came to power, he knew—you know what he did when he came to power, the first thing he did, and I’m writing about this also in the book—he called all opposition leaders to his palace. And he told them in so many words, “I don’t want you to— Any criticism from you, in Parliament or anywhere else.” The opposition against Israel. “He who will do it will be considered as a traitor because Israel will, might reconsider the withdrawal. So be careful. Not a word.” And all of that. It was a very good [unintelligible]. You do remember, maybe, the issues that were raised here in public opinion and by certain leaders, to reconsider the withdrawal. 

KWS: Yes.

MS: Then we will know—

KWS: Yes! Will you make the peace with the person or with the country. That is—

MS: Yeah, yeah. We are making peace with the person, with the leader. There is no such thing. And tomorrow you should do it with King Hussein or with Mr. Assad [unintelligible]. But it has its value—what is it and so on, it can be discussed and be [unintelligible]. But—people here started to suggest reconsidering the withdrawal. Others suggested postponing the withdrawal [unintelligible] to the 25th of April, ’til we will know where he is heading to, the new leader, the new Pharoah. I would say [unintelligible]. The maneuvers of Arik Sharon—and I’m writing here about one maneuver he did. Why? Because of this. And, on the other side, Begin wanted some assurances. And you know, when we got the first assurance from them after the assassination of Sadat? What was for me the test of the whole thing. I am writing about it here. The participation of Sadat—of Begin in the funeral of Sadat. There was a moment on that night, immediately after Yom Kippur, it was after Yom Kippur [unintelligible] Shabbat. So, that night when they informed me, when I had to make arrangements for the arrival of Begin. He arrived, he had to arrive at 1 o’clock Friday, to land in the airport. Saturday is the funeral. And he was suffering from his [unintelligible] And they had to find a place very near to the place of the ceremony. And when I spoke with Usamah [el-Baz, undersecretary at the foreign ministry] on a certain moment, he said, Usama was organizing the whole, so on the phone I said “Moshe, what do you think? Maybe it’s better that Begin will come and stay in his hotel. First of all, come pay a visit to Jehan and then to Mubarak. And then stay in the hotel until Saturday night and put flowers on the front of the…” I told him, “Usamah,” I told him, “Usamah,” —I was really angry about this, I told him, “Usamah, look, I suggest to you not to ask me to transfer that proposal to Begin. And I want to know from you, do you want him here in the funeral?” “Yes, sure.” Kamal Hasan Ali is on the phone after 10 minutes, “Moshe, Usamah told me about this, now I want to tell you. I spoke with Mubarak. He wants very much Begin to be here. It’s a very big honor.” I told Kamal, “Look, Kamal, you know why it’s important for Begin to be here? It’s important because I want him to shake hands with Begin and which means peace forever. And that will be the act. So, he’ll come, he’ll go first to Jehan and then to Mubarak.”

KWS: Usamah covered his ass, didn’t he?

MS: He tried to play.

KWS: Boy, did he cover his ass. 

MS: Ahh, he tried to play. 

KWS: Wow.

MS: So, so, he said, “Moshe, you are, you are so—”

KWS: It’s typical Usamah.

MS: Yes. He said “Moshe, you are so right not to tell it to Begin. I just spoke with Mubarak.” After the stop here of having this conversation between you and Usamah. And Mubarak asked me to tell you that he wants Begin to be here. And we’ll make all the arrangements. And so and so forth. And then Begin on the phone, and I tell him and he said, “Moshe, see to it,” he didn’t say clearly, “see to it that the place where I’ll be will be very near to the—” I had already a talk, a telephone call from his doctor, telling me, “Moshe, look, he can’t walk.” So, something of 200 meters, 300 meters, even this is a lot. And this is private, don’t tell the Prime Minister.” I said “All right. Professional…” It’s in the book. Then Begin on the phone and I said, “Mr. Prime Minister, they asked me about to bring somebody or to come alone.” I said, “You come with others, you come with a few ministers, might I suggest a foreign minister, minister of affairs [unintelligible] autonomy.” And this is it. I said “All right, I’ll have to ask on the phone to make a cabinet consultation on the phone, to ask for official agreement. I’ll come back to you.” And then I said to Begin, “Look, I have an idea. What about, if it will be far, stay Shabbat and then you put flowers and you go to Jehan and to Mubarak.” He said “Moshe, look,” already I had the conversation, I asked Usamah and I had the talk with him, I didn’t tell him yet what the message of Mubarak. I said but “maybe you will stay on.” He said, “Moshe, look, if they will suggest this, it means that they don’t want me there. So, if they hint to it, on the spot, tell them no. I want to walk behind his coffin. Because—not only because he signed the agreement, the peace treaty—but because he was a great friend, personal friend, and I’m mourning him. And I will walk.” And what I said, Mubarak, you have [unintelligible]—

MS: You see, the problem was, what we were talking about— you said decision of Sadat already then and not only him but others. I answered you, in a very long answer because…

KWS: What kind of—Right after Sadat’s assassination, the economy talks picked up again. November 10th to 12th, Egyptian-Israeli-American negotiating teams were there for two days—

MS: Yes.

KWS: —and they reached no agreement on the nature of Palestinian self-governing authority. 

MS: There was a problem of, I mean the main issue was agreement in principle, the Principles of Agree—how did we call it? Principles of agreement or something like that [unintelligible].

KWS: Declaration of principles.

MS: Declaration of principles, yes.

KWS: And they couldn’t arrive—the issues that separated them?

MS: No not the issues. You see, when [Interior Minister Yosef] Burg suggested that we’ll arrive to that declaration of principles before the 25th of April, so that’s when Hosni Mubarak said, “Before or after to me, any time you can get it, so we can get it, let’s have it.”

KWS: But he did want to reassert his Palestinian connection.

MS: But years later, or months later—and this you have to pick up and find because it’s a very interesting truth— When Arafat came on official visit after Beirut—

KWS: Yeah, why did he choose Cairo? But that’s a different question.

MS: Yes. When he came to Cairo on official visit, not the first visit when he passed through Cairo, through the canal, and Usamah went to meet him and so on, but when he came on official visit and he was received there like head of state. Meetings with the press, meetings with all the leaders of the opposition and [unintelligible] position. So he had a very long interview with al-Musawar [weekly current events magazine].

KWS: Arafat or Mubarak?

MS: Arafat. You know the date, pick up the date and find al-Musawar. I’m sorry I don’t have it.

KWS: That’s okay.

MS: Now, there at this very long dialogue, or interview, with [editor-in-chief] Makram Mohamed Ahmed and others from the al-Musawar, Arafat says that he asked Mubarak not to arrive to any agreement concerning the autonomy. And he says that Mubarak agreed to that. And he turns to Usamah who is sitting near him, and say, “Hey, Usamah, you remember?” He says, “Sure, sure I remember.” [unintelligible]. Mubarak was practically—was not announced by Arafat in those days. So, he continued these negotiations, Mubarak. So, I don’t speak about the aim of the Israelis or Burg. And Burg was there and Weizman left for the—also for there, and Dayan left the office because Burg was choosed [sic] by Begin. And he knew that Burg will not get to the conclusion. But the same suggestion was on the other side. We didn’t know that in those days. I—First time I saw it in al-Musawar and there you have it black on white. 

KWS: But it consistent with what was Sadat’s policy. That is to say—no, but listen for a moment—to be sure that Egypt got back all of Sinai but don’t totally disconnect yourself from your Arab orbit or the Palestinian issue. 

MS: Okay.

KWS: So it’s a consistency of policy. 

MS: That’s tactic, the second part. The main, major—the Egyptians were ready to make anything once they reported it, after Baghdad. Whatever you ask to have it implemented and that they have no way back. He did it. He crossed the Rubicon. He came to Jerusalem. He signed the peace treaty and it must be implemented. And the goods must be delivered. And whatever you wanted, you could get from [unintelligible]. It’s better for them to have this for the Palestinians, to bring—I don’t know. Arafat later, it was not before the withdrawal of Arafat in Cairo. It was after the war. But they were into the [unintelligible]. So that part, it’s not nice to be called as a traitor or whatever.

KWS: Okay.

MS: All right. So these are words. These are good words, nice ones, and policy not to do things to my, I mean—but it’s not a strategy. The strategy was very clear: to get back the land and to keep the basic aesthetic peace between Israel and Egypt. They called no more wars and peace forever. Now, the other things—Sadat was sure, and he told me this more than once, “They will come back to Egypt, sooner or later.” All right, they came now. “They will come.” He was not concerned. He was a protege of the Sadat? No. Mubarak. Protege of Arafat and guns? Yes. Why? That’s another chapter. That it had its influence on the day-to-day life for peace between Israel and Egypt? Yes. But day-to-day life, not the basic strategic peace. The fact that we have relations, diplomats, ambassadors, airplanes, [unintelligible], telephones—this is what I call a strategic peace. Egyptians [unintelligible] a day-to-day peace. Here they made a mistake in my assessment. Because the Arabs were not against the Palestinians, against that a writer or an intellectual is coming, or a newspaper man, journalist, will come to Israel. They were against the peace. Once they realized that peace is there, it’s not important, they will have normal relations or not. The other point, why Egypt cannot, could not have normal relations with Israel those days, was not because of Palestinians and the others. The [unintelligible] is a part of basic tactics. The reason was there was war between us and Lebanon. We entered a capital city, the Arab capital. We had these things in Al-Aqsa here. Now you want them to go on gazhir [the boys] with me in the streets when we have this in Al-Aqsa or we have an Arab capital. So what I aim to tell you is that my assessment is that we’ll have normal relations with Egypt only when we have solved all the conflicts.

KWS: Why, in the summer of 1984, summer of ’84—

MS: After the war? Lebanon?

KWS: Yeah. The idea of an international conference resurfaced. It goes to sleep in ’82, ’83, in speeches and press conferences of Egyptian officials, Abdel Magid, a whole series of people. And in July of ‘84, Cairo endorses the international conference publicly. Comes back out again, let’s go back to Geneva.

MS: In what dates?

KWS: July of ’84. Since early of ’84, Jordan has beginning to warm up relations, or think about warming relations, with Egypt which will culminate in September.

MS: Yes, yes.

KWS: [Jordanian statesman]Adnan Abu Audah  [Jordanian Royal Court Adviser]tells me…

MS: Who?

KWS: Adnan Abu Auda.

MS: [Unintelligible]. Yes?

KWS: Tells me 10 days ago in New York that it was almost a quid pro quo for Egypt to propound the international conference in anticipation of re-opening of diplomatic relations because this was Hussein’s way of keeping control over the Palestinians and the PLO.

MS: Yes.

KWS: You’re in Cairo. What did you see coming in the summer of 1984?

MS: Look, with all due respect to Abu Audah— 

KWS: Okay.

MS: I don’t know him personally but I know who he is and I know he’s not right here. but [unintelligible]. You have to remember one basic thing as far as Egypt is concerned—and you said something about it—is it Arafat. You asked a question why did [unintelligible]. He who gave the legitimacy of Mubarak to the Arab world after the summit meeting of Baghdad, I guess, Sadat, and started the process of renewing of relations between Egypt and the Arab world is not Jordan, although Jordan was the first one to recognize again…

KWS: No. Arafat made it kosher.

MS: Arafat made it kosher.

KWS: There’s no question about that!

MS: Once Arafat did it—

KWS: No. [Unintelligible.]

MS: The whole argument, the others were [unintelligible] because of Arafat.

KWS: Moshe, there’s no argument.

MS: So, all the other things are about—now, Mubarak wanted the Arab world to renew relations with Egypt. This was the top of the priorities, order of priorities of the aims of Egypt changed with the withdrawal. I wrote about it especially for before. In a consultation here in the ministry, three or four months before, I said, “The day of the withdrawal, Egypt will make a reassessment of foreign policy in the region and there will be a change in the order of priorities.” Today, the order—the first priority is to make everything for the withdrawal. Whatever you want, you can get from Egypt. Whatever. Because they want this. And they’ll make everything. Angry or not, they’ll say yes. After the withdrawal, the top priority will be resuming the relations with the Arab countries. And that will be through the Palestinians and the nearest is Jordan and then we’ll see who will follow. Saudi Arabia is very important. Syria is a big question mark. That was my assessment in those days and I think it came, I mean—it was not far from things that happened later on. You see, if you take one example—I didn’t think those days—I didn’t think in those days that immediately after the withdrawal they will start to do what I call [unintelligible] mizrahiyot [easterly something plural, unclear] to the Arabs, to be [unintelligible], the niceties and so on and put us aside. It was not imperative that the Arabs, that Egypt, will have cooler relations with Israel after the withdrawal. Because of this. 

KWS: It was not imperative.

MS: No. But it became imperative. Why? The best five or six weeks of relations between Israel, I mean it was a peak of relations, relations which were so warm, against all my assessment in the beginning when I arrived to Cairo, were the six weeks after the withdrawal from Sinai. Until the 6th of June, we started the Shalom HaGalil war [Operation Peace for Galilee, a.k.a. First Lebanon War]. You could see the people—I had three days after the withdrawal from the 28th of April, the reception of our independence day, in Cairo. Who was not there? [unintelligible], the government and most of the ministers. But you know, the minister of information came with a team of the TV. We had transmission from those sites, Israel TV, and I was interviewed a lot. I went to cut my hair in the [unintelligible] place. I entered, there was nobody except one sitting in the corner and they knew me because I used to be on TV. So, he says “Getting a nice haircut,” [speaks Arabic]. He shouting at [unintelligible]. So, and then we also had the first joint exhibition [unintelligible] and the ministers from both sides coming [unintelligible] and planning cultural relations, whatever. Decisions now will change the procedure for good. Commerce exchange. We’ll sign this and that. We signed 57 protocols on different items concerning the normalization. 

KWS: In what period?

MS: That period.

KWS: In that six weeks?

MS: Some of them before. Preparing, on the eve of, and afterwards. Started implementing them. All these agreements and protocols. 

KWS: Why did Jerusalem not even consider the impact of the peace for Galilee operations upon its relation with…

MS: At this point, there is a reason, a remark there, that when they will come, the Soviets will make the balance. They will have to take into consideration also the impact. Terribly—very, very big impact. Now, now, what is the situation? What was my recommendation? Begin’s point of view with the different [unintelligible]. Look, the whole concept was a very short operation. 40 kilometers.

KWS: And it changed.

MS: And it stopped. Now, there’s a big difference, and Egypt was ready to acquiesce with that. She understood our problem that we had. And it was understood, I mean they understood that we have here a necessity of real defense in the north, a problem. And when we said it will take only 40 kilometers and this and that, they didn’t say yes. They were not happy but they could very well live with it, understanding our problem. But there is a big difference between a war that goes on for weeks and you enter an Arab capital and you have afterwards a disaster of Sabra and Shatila, and that what happened. And you are there in Cairo. You have relations. The concept that the parameters of the political, desired policy of Israel, while having one peace treaty and only one—there’s a big difference between this and your parameters that you could permit yourself when you didn’t have anyone. Or before you have at least two peace treaties. This is the point. My job was to put it on the table of the government, to Begin and the others. And Begin understood. In his time, before, and say lehashkot et haaretz arbaim shanah, gamarnu [to water the land for forty years and we are done], we finished?  And on the same day to call [unintelligible] the same day, call [Egyptian Foreign Minister] Kamal Hassan Ali, tell him some deputy prime minister, it’s over? And then you have Raful [IDF Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan]and then you have Arik [Sharon]. And then you have Begin, leaving [unintelligible], closing himself and not saying one word to the people.

KWS: Now I understand. Kamal Hassan Ali…

MS: I think we have to finish now, or you have a lot more?

KWS: Well, we’re almost close. In 1985—the reason I raise 1985 is because I have to get an idea of the Peres-Mubarak meeting. 

MS: Alexandria.

KWS: In Alexandria. Already in ’85, Peres…

MS: It was ’86.

KWS: Right. Already in ’85, the Egyptians are talking more vigorously about an international conference, Peres is talking about it more vigorously. Tell me about the Alexandria Summit.

MS: About?

KWS: About the Alexandria Summit.

MS: Well, this took place…

KWS: It’s a very interesting document that comes out of it.

MS: Yes. The statement, joint statement, the first communicator, the first phase of the communicator. New era, bilateral and regional, yes that was…

KWS: What’s the source of that trip?

MS: Well, this is—you see, that meeting took place in the last week of Peres being a prime minister. And he achieved in it, practically, one thing, which I don’t remember if it’s documented or not, but he knew a lot of the relations on the level of the passes [unintelligible], nominating [unintelligible]. The—you see, something happens in the area, Lebanon, they call their ambassador back. Before calling him, they consider three options. This is also in the book. One, to abolish everything and to cut relations. Two, to ask their ambassador to come back and to keep [unintelligible] Israeli s their ambassador as the opposition was being mounted from Cairo. Three, only [unintelligible]. They understand the very, very serious impact of going too far. First of all, as far as their interests it was the Americans [unintelligible]. Second, what will Israel do? Some of them were sure and somebody encouraged these people to think so—that if they will abolish the whole treaty and so on and so forth, it’s totally against their interest. But Israel would be on the canal, second day. Can Mr. Mubarak be in that kind of situation? To come back to the beginning. Before they decide to do this small thing, asking their ambassador to come back, they called first of all the American ambassador. In those days it was Roy Atherton. They called Roy four hours before they do it. And they informed him, and telling him this is not a start of an escalation. This is just one act, the minimum that we decided to do. And we’ll repair it on the first [unintelligible]. They call me afterwards and tell me; we compared notes, Roy and myself. They want to ensure us that this is something not permanent, look, this and that. With time—so, the reason of doing it was something that happened in the region, southern [unintelligible]. To renew it, to send back their ambassadors, they will cash on the bilateral level. The prime minister will [unintelligible], to Cairo, and the ambassador will not be sent, our ambassador, unless you finish with [unintelligible]. Egypt comes first. 

KWS: A new linkage.

MS: Look, leave everything aside. What I want to tell you is that the Egyptian interest always [unintelligible]. The reason might be that something happened in the area, they can’t just close their eyes. Okay. But when they said that they will send an ambassador back, not when we leave, when the war will stop. They promised me there was a date that was fixed. Practically a few days, we are going to do that. And they didn’t ask that Israel will evacuate Lebanon. It doesn’t interest them to that extent. But let’s say that they have their own account with Assad and with Lebanese and this and that. But the fact that they had to do something at a very delicate moment. They are the only one having peace with Israel. Israel is there, [unintelligible], here and there and place—I don’t know what, and now Lebanon, capital, Arab capital. And he calls—at what hour was it? It was during the night, Kamal, he says, “You understand the meaning of entering into an Arab capital when we have peace?” “I don’t understand,” I looked at him and… “So, it happened because there was a certain something not expected, unusual in the area, and they had to do something and they decided to do the smallest tidbit, the minimal.” “Okay, when are you going to resume it, to repair it?” “You did it because of Lebanon. Now, Lebanon is okay.” “You said when we stop the war.” “Well, the war is stopped, there is peace plan. We are making arrangements cause you know, in order to withdraw and to do this and that.” “Look, we can, we will do it if we agree on Taba, on going to arbitration.” Now you know, I tell it was one thing that is not in the book: When they decided to postpone all sorts of activities that we had in the frame of the normalization because of the war in Lebanon, freezing all sorts of things, Kamal comes to me and says “Moshe, I suggest next week we have the meeting on Taba.” I said “Look, I don’t have instructions from my government, but I want to tell you something now. We always speak frankly. You are freezing there and you want Taba. And what do you expect? On Taba, you are ready to meet us. On resolving some things in the normalization, you are not ready. I suggest to you not to raise it. Be sensitive, Kamal.” He says “I understand, Moshe. All right.” He wanted to have the meetings on Taba continuing during the war because it’s Taba. Taba is needed to [unintelligible] to Cairo. Two tourist places in Egypt. One is this and one is Taba. 1020 meters, square meters. We get this 60,000 kilometers. They are theirs. All right. We had a problem with a small place of 1020 meters square. So it became, I don’t know what. [unintelligible], you know the [unintelligible] and he suggested we will continue discussing this. I said “All right. I am ready to transmit it. But Kamal, take care of what you are doing. Be careful. You’re not sensitive enough. You know what you are suggesting? [Speaks Arabic], habibi [friend].

KWS: What language did you guys speak?

MS: Arabic, always. [Speaks Arabic], habibi [friend]. I reported, but on the spot. Now, he calls his ambassador back because of Lebanon and the conditions concerning the return of their ambassadors changed every time from one to another. The day that you’ll have cease-fire, the day of this, the day of that, the day of the decision on the arbitration and not conciliation. The green light for the arrival of Shimon Peres—he didn’t come to Cairo during all his time as Prime Minister because of this arbitration and conciliation. The green light was given to Shimon Peres that he can take the airplane [unintelligible] and come was at 9 o’clock the night before his arrival the next day at 12 o’clock. When he arrived to an agreement on arbitration, it was at 9 o’clock in the office of Kamal Hassan Ali Having Usamah running and coming on all sorts of formulas that [unintelligible] with me. At 6 o’clock, we had…


MS: …was Abdel Magid, sorry, Abdel Magid says, “This is what I can do,” so we got out; the delegation is leaving Cairo and this is it. We were in negotiations concerning Taba and nothing to do. So then, we ask Abdel Magid, it means that it’s finished, we are leaving Cairo, the delegation says. And the Prime Minister is not coming tomorrow. Just a moment, and he takes [unintelligible] and he speaks with the rais [chief, leader], to Mubarak. So, he says, “You know, by all means, don’t let them go.” I don’t what his talk but it was in front of us that, “Let’s see what we can do. We can’t just let it go like that. And Shimon Peres will not come tomorrow and this. We must find a solution.” We stayed more, three hours and then we arrived at agreement[unintelligible]. And they—one of Russia, I don’t remember who—he asked [unintelligible] to phone Shamir, and [unintelligible] to the phone and spoke with Shimon, and he told him you can come tomorrow. And from that moment, we started preparing the meeting that had to start the next day. Midday, 12 o’clock, 1 o’clock or 12 o’clock—he led them in [unintelligible] to make all the arrangements. So you’re speaking about what? The preparations on the formula of this statement of Alexandria. Alexandria was shaped from two things: arbitration and not conciliation, and the coming back of the ambassador. That came with him on the plane [unintelligible] he came with him and went back with the credentials in his pocket. Mubarak consulted, I mean the problem who will be the ambassador was a different formula. Shimon recommended it will be [unintelligible], but this is not, I mean, then Egypt was in the mood of the international conference and Peres was very forthcoming. There were few words that we didn’t agree, here or there. And where, were we to count and we insisted, but Mubarak always, always remembered to pat the meeting with Peres as a big success. And he was very impressed of Peres from the beginning, but he, another occasion he would appreciate him so much. 

KWS: What did Egypt hope to accomplish—

MW: Mm-hm? 

KWS: What did Egypt hope to accomplish in the later part, in the last couple years of your tenure as ambassador?

MS: ’70s.

KWS: In the ’80s.

MS: I was ambassador in Cairo seven years.

KWS: Yes, until ’88.

MS: Yeah.

KWS: Yeah. During the last two years of your tenure as ambassador, ’86 to ’88, what did Egypt hope to accomplish by constantly advocating an international conference?

MS: Look…

KWS: What did Egypt perceive as its role in advocating such a mechanism?

MS: You are touching here a very important part: How Egypt sees itself.

KWS: Exactly. That’s my point.

MS: That’s your point. Egyptians consider Egypt as the center of the world. 

KWS: That I understand.

MS: They always were the leaders of the Arab world. They continue to be the leaders of the Arab world, even during the rupture of relations, more so when the relations started again. And the League is back and they are taking the [unintelligible] in Congress, and they never say that Egypt came back to the Arab world, the Arab world came to Egypt. All right, we’ll [unintelligible] is correct. But, Egypt wants to play a role, to play the role. Look back and you’ll find that Egypt played no role whatsoever. None. At all. What’s the rating of Egypt today? It could have played the role. It didn’t. I’ll tell you why, according to my assessment. But Egypt has interests. In what sense? First of all, Egyptian interests, pure Egyptian interests, very selfish and I understand it. Egypt does not want to continue for a long time to be the only Arab country having peace with Israel. It’s all [unintelligible]. They didn’t do it because of our blue eyes. As we said before, it’s in Egyptian interests. Their interest to continue to have this peace, it’s an Egyptian pure interest. And the only way is that Egypt and Israel will have peace with some other countries, it’s an Egyptian. On top of—we said, first of all, Egypt wants alone. Second, that Egypt is the leader. Three, that Egypt has an Egyptian interest here. And then it will be very nice if the Palestinians and the others will have a solution for their problems. They are not afraid to bite for that. No more wars. But if they can have that, such a [unintelligible]. As far as statements are concerned, well, they are giving statements, most excellent statements there can be in the Arab group. They are the [unintelligible], their positions are the harshest ones because they have peace with Israel so [unintelligible]. “I am [unintelligible], I am not a traitor.” But it’s not serious. Now, why Egypt in such a shape? Because the whole situation in the region changes. First of all, after the Gulf War, the fact that people started to think about their own interests in Saudi Arabia and other places. That in Egypt even people started to think about the possible agreements with Israel concerning the security of the region, of these people of theirs, that they’ll have to give answers and yet, Israel is there. And they’re not only there but she can be part of it. [Unintelligible] a few things that were in a seminar that was in Cairo University after the Gulf War. And what people said, a man like Gamasy, and the others. So first of all, the situation changed and they’ll agree. The waiting of Egypt, although Egypt participated first in the war against Iraq. But she would have done it even if alone [unintelligible]. Because it’s Egypt, they were afraid. Exactly as they were afraid that if something will happen, Saudi Arabia during Khomeini’s time, so Egypt will be in the front. They will have—they didn’t understand the role of [unintelligible] in those days, that we have some elements in the Iranian army. Because where is the common denominator in the strategic situation for Egypt? “Tomorrow we Egyptians might be in front of the Iranians and you are helping them?” So, first of all the suggestion after the elements, after the war, are different altogether, the whole strategic situation. Second, Egypt made two big mistakes that I couldn’t convince them, they were not—although I spoke with them a lot at the time. [unintelligible] inherent towards Israelis, towards Israel concerning the normal relations. People in Israel started to doubt, not only vis-à-vis the agreement with Egyptians, but if peace will really is the solution. “You can’t count on them.” “They promise and they don’t implement.” “They are [unintelligible], they are not serious.” Look, they signed an agreement. Three years pass [unintelligible]. You ask why is Israel implementing everything? A few days ago. As if people don’t know it. Do we have peace with Egypt? People in the streets don’t feel this peace and that’s the biggest mistake. Of Egypt concerning the feelings of people in Israel vis-a-vis peace as a venue for [unintelligible]. “You can’t rely on them. These are Arabs.” So you can’t rely on other Arabs.

KWS: It doesn’t help change the traditional, historical perception.

MS: And vice versa. You remember the days of the—Sadat coming here and how he was received and the whole…

KWS: Euphoria.

MS: Euphoria. The hopes. And where are we today? We don’t see Egyptians, yes, I spoke about it with Mubarak. Even my last conversation with him [unintelligible]. I explained to him what is from our point of view, violating commitments that Egypt took in the frame of its peace treaty. So we have two elements. First off, the treating of the people, second the value of an Arab signature. What is it? The credibility of the Arab signature.

KWS: What is the substance to an Arab signature?

MS: Acceptability, you can sign any paper. We are giving tangible things and you are giving me a paper and what’s the credibility in that? Now then, this is the second mistake. Egypt, three or four, could play a role provided—and this is a very important element—provided both sides have confidence in each other. And Egypt has confidence in both sides, with the Arabs and with Israel. Now Egypt refuses to see the Prime Minister of Israel. I’m not speaking of Mr. Shamir, I’m speaking of the Prime Minister of Israel. No dialogue, no serious dialogue. There’s no confidence between the two men. There are differences of views, it’s only natural. Because of the [unintelligible] negotiations. But with Egypt the problem is not the point of view, Egypt concerning the conflict and how to solve it. With all honors are due respect. The problem is what Egypt can contribute to the efforts of the negotiators on both sides to be successful. So, all right, that you think that the solution must be along a [unintelligible]. Thank you. But Egypt, please you have to work as a mediator or whatever, to play a role to bring these two nearer.

KWS: But she perceives herself as having that role. What you’re saying is she lacks the credibility to perform the role…

MS: She is doing—she was doing until now, until Rabin’s government, the advocate of the Arab exodus [unintelligible]. All ready to counsel her, or to tell them how to negotiate with Israel.

KWS: A trainer.

MS: A trainer. This is not the role. Egypt could have played an extraordinary role because it’s the only Arab country we have relations with. If we had confidence in Egypt, but if you come to me first and say, “Look, you have to know that my point of view is the most extreme one. And second, you behave this and do that. And three, I will not see your Prime Minister.” So stay at home. Stay at home! So, we don’t have confidence. This government of Shamir didn’t have confidence. They suggest Cairo. “So why to come to Cairo?” says Shamir. “What shall I get there, baklava or what?” The other one says “I don’t like to drink a coffee with Shamir.” [unintelligible] So what’s the point? Now, we have a new government. Now Egypt can reassess its mistakes, if you want our positions. I’m writing about this book, just yesterday I sent my book to Mubarak [unintelligible]. I tried to explain to him what’s Israel doing, now I’m doing my research. And the Israelis don’t know when the Egyptians [unintelligible]. They know less than other [unintelligible]. But I don’t—I say that there was an opportunity and there is now—today, what’s the situation? You have first of all, confidence between—chemistry between the leaders. Rabin and Mubarak, they know each other. But before that, there is a problem of Rabin, for a compromise. Not all but compromise with Egypt. Now, can Egypt play the role here? Rabin made a very important gesture by going first to Cairo. “Mr. Prime Minister, Mr. President, here I am. I don’t know yet what to do, certainly I am just here a days only but in principle, I am against this and against that.” So instead of encouraging relations [unintelligible], he says “But Egypt stands on this topic of [unintelligible].” Yeah, yeah, but you are important, your point of view is interesting. But you are not there for that. You are there to help the Syrians and Israelis, the Palestinians and the Israelis, the Jordanians and, this is your job. Don’t state your point of view. And there is America. So, let’s see if with America you can do something. The United States, together. You are Arabs, the others are not and Israel is there. Maybe you can help. Now, how can Egypt help? First of all, by getting back the public opinion confidence in Israel. And the government to have confidence. This government has no confidence in Mubarak. If I were Rabin, I would have said “We decide, not Washington, not Rome, Cairo. Prepare the nice things at Mena House, we are coming there. There we will decide on negotiations.” You can do that but provided that you will decide—agree on a definition of the role of Egypt. I wouldn’t like to ask Egyptians to normalize our relations. I think they have to do it by themselves, if they understand it. If not, nothing will help.

KWS: It can’t be done artificially.

MS: It can be done, so don’t argue and ask again and do nothing. Don’t ask impossible things. And with the new elements in the area after the war, with the new situation, international situation of having one super power, with the climate of the region, with the point of view of all these Arab countries that are near us, with the new situation in Israel, with the insistence of Cairo and the interests of her not to be left alone as part of the solution, things can move. If only the intentions of both sides are aiming to the same target. I don’t know [unintelligible]. I don’t know yet. I know the king. I never met him but I know the king, I know his intentions. But he always was and continues to be as his grandfather [unintelligible] with the goods. The key is in Damascus first and with the Palestinian organizations [unintelligible] all. Which means they can use their power of veto in order to have all [unintelligible]. How do we deal with it? There is some difference, we are now speaking of the peace process and I was speaking about the past only.

KWS: Terrific. You want to write your memoirs?

MS: Hmm?

KWS: Why don’t you write your memoirs?

MS: Read my book and then tell me what you think about it. I will write maybe…

KWS: Moshe, listen to me. I’m only 46.

MS: You are 46, yes. [unintelligible]. Yes.

KWS: I speak as a historian of Middle East and of the Arab-Israel conflict. I don’t speak for all of them, I can only speak for myself.

MS: Yeah sure.

KWS: I have learned in this endeavor of listening to people with clear and articulate memory, sometimes they don’t always agree on what events happened when and who was responsible. I mean, there are at least three people or four people who tell me who was responsible for solving the seating problem at Geneva. We lack good first-hand accounts. We have a [Tom] Segev who can do Ben-Gurion, we have Anita [Shapira], who can do Berl, we have [Gabriel] Sheffer who can do [Moshe] Sharett, but we don’t have the people who were there. You know, I have been trying to convince Eppie Evron to write his memoirs for four years. And I think I’ve almost convinced him. And if I can get the time and the money, I’ll come here next summer for a month and I’ll turn on the tape recorder three or four hours a day, and then transcribe the tapes. And then use that as the source for him to revise his memoirs.

MS: Well, Eppie has a lot to write.

KWS: Yes, but wait a minute. How many people can remember Lausanne but how many people can also remember Geneva? You know, think about it. You span 45 years, I’m not talking about the free state period. I’m not blowing smoke in any of your orifices now, but you have a crisp memory. I’ve interviewed four dozen people for this book already. And you come out almost on top, with two or three exceptions. You know, it’s tough to…

MS: All these exceptions…

KWS: But it’s a very selective memory. 

MS: It’s selective yes, I know that. He has a selective memory. 

KWS: Because his ego is in the way. You need to sit with someone who is gonna…look, you’re like a role of toilet paper. It’s just sitting there. What you need is someone to pull the paper from you.

MS: No, I am considering as far as I’m…

KWS: But do it! 

MS: I want to do two or three things. One, to write an essay. In a [unintelligible], in an important place, on one subject. Between the armistice agreements and peace negotiations that are taking place now, in peace process, peace doing process according to Rabin, there were ten attempts to achieve peace between Israel and the Arabs. Nine of them failed, one, Sadat, successful. I would like to write an essay on why all these failed and why the one with Sadat was successful.

KWS: How many words do want? 

MS: I don’t know words, it will be long, a long essay, or I don’t know, brochure. And to put my, why do I think so. It’s a very personal approach. It’s not academic but I think I know what I want to write.

KWS: So just write it.

MS: This may be this smallest book. 

KWS: [laughs]

MS: Why I say it, because I’ll tell you. All right, this is why. You, you give importance to, as an academic, to books of [unintelligible]. I’m not, I think to do what one has to do is more important today. But, on the other side, I mean if you ask me what we need in Israel today, I can’t do it. I want—I  give lectures to the Arabs here in Arabic, and to Israelis and I realized time and again that the Arabs don’t know their history, the Palestinians and others, the Israelis don’t remember their history, didn’t know it. I want a textbook for the secondary schools and the high schools. A book that will describe the development of the Arab national movement and the Jewish national movement. Conflicts, the history, the facts, first of all, when they don’t teach the kids something [unintelligible]. Now, what I want to do, I want maybe to write an essay on that, maybe, I’m not sure. It’s not important. It’s an opinion of somebody, all right, I’ve had some experience, okay. But in books, I want maybe to write—I didn’t decide which one would come first. Maybe I will write a book on the three and a half years of being the [unintelligible] negotiating with the Palestinians. The sources of this problem, how, what were they, what happened. You know, Eshkol—when Eshkol asked me to assist him on that, be his advisor, I said “Eshkol, I have you”—to Begin you say Mr. Prime Minister, to Eshkol you say Eshkol. So I said, “Eshkol.” I said. “Eshkol, I want from you a promise. I want from you two hours every week. Not for me. I want you to meet—you’ll think I’m crazy here, but I want you to meet the dignitaries here.” “Oh,” he says, “Musa,”—he used to call me—”you know, Musa, the last Arab I met was Mustapha in [unintelligible], Petach Tikvah, when I worked in the pardes [orchard]. When I came to [unintelligible]., I never met an Arab.” So I said, “This is the reason why I want you to see them.” And he did. What was the content of these conversations? Why, at the last moment, the agreement with [unintelligible] for autonomy in the south, they called it “Arab administration,” was not implemented? What happened? What happened again with [Ghassan] Walid Shaka’a, who was the number two of Shateri, came here in Nablus. And he came to me, telling me we are ready negotiate with Eshkol. And this is a movement. And you know all these elements are there, that we are negotiating today. The same problem of Jerusalem. They want [unintelligible].

KWS: What do you need to make you sit down and start one of them?

MS: Just hold on. And the second movement that I’m considering, this book on the West Bank and the Gaza will be different style—it will be real, economical, facts, and analysis and so on. Second book is something like that but concerning the whole important activities. To give you two examples: one, my meetings with Shukri al-Quwatli, he was President of Syria. And I told you, in ’56, I was in Geneva and when he decided to go back to Damascus to a rural farm to take back [unintelligible], and we had conversations with him. I had a conversation with him about an agreement between us when he will come and if he will come. And it’s a fascinating…

KWS: Have you talked to Itamar about this?

MS: Itamar knows about it. The second example—so it happened that in the history of the Jewish people, I was the only one who came on a certain date


MS: When Zionism—when the United Nations. Racism [unintelligible] [UN General Assembly Resolution 3379 equating Zionism with racism was adopted November 10, 1975].

KWS: ’75.

MS: And they endorsed it, the Vatican [unintelligible].

KWS: What did they endorse?

MS: The UN decision concerning [unintelligible] and I was sent to speak with [unintelligible]…

KWS: Naw, it’s all right, we’ve got time, finish.

MS: To tell them that it means declaration of war between the Jewish people and the church. And the government of Israel is having a meeting tomorrow at 10 o’clock or so in order to make a statement on that. I want to give you this…

KWS: No, no, no. Go ahead.

MS: So there are things that I want to write about.

KWS: So answer me the question.

MS: I write. I’m not sure, I want us to see how this book…

KWS: Why do you have to be sure? Why do you have to wait for anything? 

MS: You are the [unintelligible].

KWS: What do you want, a hechsher?

MS: No, I want to see how it will be seen, if it will be a contribution.

KWS: Oh Moshe! I sit here and I listen to this story about these five Palestinians and this guy who was at Lausanne, who was in jail and he doesn’t have his clothes on…

MS: Not like that!

KWS: No, no, no. But just think about how many stories are wedged in your memory that you haven’t…

MS: Yes, yes, I know that I have some memories. But I don’t like to be…you know the source of the bubbameisers, you know what’s bubbameisers?

KWS: Sure.

MS: What’s bubbameisers? You know?

KWS: The source of the word?

MS: Yes, what’s bubbameisers?

KWS: I guess it has something to do with Jewish mothers.

MS: Bubba is a grandmother.

KWS: Yeah.

MS: Grandmother’s stories. It’s not. There was a famous, very famous—I think it’s a source, a very famous story teller in Spain in the Middle Ages. His name was Bobbos. So I think this is the source. I can write in Hebrew or in Arabic.

KWS: Hebrew? English? Arabic?

MS: No, it’s all right. Kenneth, isn’t it?

KWS: Kenneth.

MS: How do you write, kuf, nun, tet?

KWS: Kuf, nun, tet, kein [yes]. Or Isachar.

MS: Why is this?

KWS: Ze shem…

MS: Your name is Isachar.

KWS: Isachar.

MS: Isachar Kennet. But you write Issaschar, double “s,” as in shin. One shin.

KWS: Two.

MS: You write with two? Is Issaschar your name or Issachar?

KWS: No, Issaschar.

MS: Really? The first time I met somebody with the name of Issaschar.

KWS: Issaschar ben Mordachai. [Pause.] Yea. Issaschar ben Mordachai. [Long pause while MS signs his book for KWS.]

MS: Not in English. In Hebrew and Arabic. I know why. Yerushaliyim. It’s the 6th today.

KWS: Yeah, Hiroshima Day.

MS: Well.

KWS: So what did you write?

MS: L’Issaschar Kennet, Im metav habrachot ve’ichulim. [To Issasschar Kenneth with the best blessings and best wishes]. Mah at [more in Arabic], Moshe Sasson. All right?

KWS: Hopeful.

MS: Best compliments. I could’ve added hanacha [discount]. [Both laugh.] I’ll see, I didn’t decide not to write, if it’s worthwhile…

KWS: Look, first of all, let me say this, I can’t speak on behalf of anyone, but I am sure that if you write the kind of essay that you’re talking about, dealing with the nine that didn’t work, regardless of its length, people like Itamar and [historian] Asher Susser and others, myself included, will find a very appropriate place to put it. I don’t think you have to worry about that. 

MS: I’m not worried about that.

KWS: But I can assure you that given the international environment where we live, I mean today, 1992, that these kinds of experiences from practitioners are wanted, needed, and we have a void. 

MS: You see the conclusions might be—I know what I want to write, I have a very clear idea and not that I think that I’m right, but this is my point of view.

KWS: Fine.

MS: That’s all. But the conclusions must have their impact. I mean, look, we are negotiating now. It’s a very delicate point. I want it so much to be successful. I might try things that differ from point of view and I differ on a few things with Rabin. I don’t think Rabin has the sovlanut, sovlanut l’hachshiv [patience, patience to listen]. He has his point of view and he knows. Okay. Let him try. I think the whole approach here, in a few items, are a big mistake. 

KWS: Such as?

MS: You see, to my mind, the key is Syria. And not only in the discussion of the Golan. With Syria I have at least ten items to discuss before we come to the Golan. I’ll tell you one thing only, I am ready to send at cost price, Lebanon to Mr. Assad. Okay. But at cost price. I want to know a few things about the area here. What are the interests of [unintelligible], he himself. What are the common denominators? I went to hear two generals that were commanders of the Golan Heights, I look at people that [unintelligible] about the importance of the security point of view. I spent three hours on that. One said no one inch [unintelligible] Golan is [unintelligible] security. The other general said I don’t need one inch. And the third said I have a piece here, a piece there. All right, all right.

KWS: Sounds like the Israeli Parliament.

MS: Look, either we speak seriously or we are making jokes. But I know on the other hand, [unintelligible] that I don’t know one Syrian alive, I don’t know a lot of Syrians, I didn’t hear of one Syrian ready to agree to it that the army of Israel will be at a distance of 41 kilometers from Damascus. If I would have been a Syrian, I would have said “This is a bit [unintelligible].” On the other hand, I don’t trust the Syrians. I was born a Syrian, technically [unintelligibly]. I think I know the [unintelligible], I’m not sure. I asked [unintelligible] once [unintelligible], “Tell me, how did you become President? Tell me, how one can become President of Syria.” You know what he answered? He looked at me and smiled and laughed and said “Moshe,” he used to call me Maurice, he said, “Maurice, you know it’s like being in a [unintelligible], there are [unintelligible] comes up and down, and you are riding on one of them, you are up and they are down, up and you become Chief of Staff, and up another bigger one and you are President. I don’t know how I became President, Maurice,” he said. “I suddenly became President. And you remember,” he said, “the answer of Ben-Gurion to me,” and started laughing, “do you remember when I said to Ben-Gurion don’t forget that the distance between Damascus and Tel Aviv is very short. And he answered me—and I liked his answer—he answered me, the dictator of Syria must not forget that the distance between Damascus and Tel Aviv is exactly as from Tel Aviv to Damascus.” He was a man, I am quoting [unintelligible]. So, it’s a conflict. Syria is the key. Remember what Sadat wrote. If Syria will be in, nothing will work. Now is a time when Syria is trying the political option, the diplomatic option. If this political option will not be successful, Syria will go back to the military option. When he will try it or do it, either when he will come to an assessment that he can do it, not to [unintelligible[, take the Golan and a few other places, two or three days, or when he will quarrel during the night with his wife and in the morning he will say, “I am going to [unintelligible].” I don’t know. So it must be successful. And we have a lot of discussing here and it doesn’t start from the Golan. Especially when the Golan—I have my point of view—but this is not the Golan. You have to remember why the grandfather of Mr. Hussein came to Amman. What was his name, it starts with an [unintelligible], then it continues. Anyhow, to write maybe the answer, I don’t know. Maybe I’ll do something. Now I see the name of Sam here. When you see him please convey my best regards, all right? If you see Roy Atherton, we had a lot together.

KWS: You overlapped a couple of years, didn’t you? Roy was there in ’83, ’84.

MS: Look, I had three American ambassadors.

KWS: (Laughing) All for lunch.

MS: Between my stay in Cairo. The first one was Roy, and then Veliotes, a tragedy that he had with his [unintelligible], do you remember, why that he was called back, remember. And then with Frank, Frank Wisner. Ahh, Frank was an extraordinary man, a very good man.

KWS: Yeah. You were in Cairo then for two of our three visits to Cairo.

MS: I was in Cairo when you visited Cairo. When did you visit Cairo?

KWS: Well, when I went with Carter in ’83 and ’87. And both of those occasions…

MS: You’d been there in ’87 when he was?

KWS: Yeah, on all three visits with him.

MS: So you remember the cocktail party at the ambassador’s place?

KWS: Exactly.

MS: I was there.

KWS: I know you were. I introduced myself.

MS: Yes, so you see, I have a very bad memory.

KWS: That’s all right. But you remember the important things.

MS: Selective. [unintelligible]. Carter in ’87, it was ’86 or something.

KWS: March ’87.

MS: March ’87. Yeah. And before that you said…

KWS: March ’83.

MS: No, no. Carter.

KWS: March ’83. And that’s when Roy was ambassador.

MS: Yes, then we had a cocktail there at Roy’s place. I have a picture then in ’83, because my wife was still in good—she was alive. She had Alzheimer’s, she died from Alzheimer’s. But she was all right in that picture, with my wife and Carter. So you see, yes I’ve been there but I have a bad memory of it. And this is another reason why sometimes with time, not that you have a bad memory, but you idealize things and you start to believe that they were in the way that you want them to be remembered.

KWS: But the other thing that happens is—it usually happens with incidents and events and personalities that you repeat when you constantly repeat the same personalities, events, and stories. There is no, when you don’t turn the soil over of your memory of certain events, it stays in the subconscious. But when someone pulls them out of you, they come out fresh and pure.

MS: They come out fresh or distorted.

KWS: No, almost never distorted. Because what you’re doing is—your subconscious doesn’t have enough time to correct them, I mean there’s no corrective revolution that goes on in your head.

MS: Maybe, maybe. Kenneth, I want you to read the book.

KWS: I promise.

MS: And please let me know, your, your, you not like it because…

KWS: Why?! Why wouldn’t I like it?

MS: The approach, you like things to be academic.

KWS: Mah pitom! [What, all of a sudden!]