Egypt’s former Ambassador to the U.S. Ashraf Ghorbal (1973-1984) spent a critical time representing Egypt to the US and in working with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. Prior to that posting, Ghorbal served as Egypt’s ‘unofficial’ representative in Washington, meeting Americans, Jewish community members, folks in the State Department and Pentagon, all part of Sadat’s effort to learn more about the United States. In early 1973, Ghorbal became Deputy Adviser to Hafez Ismail, Sadat’s National Security Adviser, and then Sadat’s press adviser in 1973. Ghorbal does not speak kindly of Ismail Fahmy the Egyptian Foreign Minister at the time, with whom he had a deep personal animosity as long as Fahmy was foreign minister until his resignation when Sadat visited Jerusalem

Ghorbal like other Egyptians interviewed for Heroic Diplomacy, Tahsin Bashir, Usamah al-Baz, Hafez Ismail, Omar Sirry, and Mummad al-Gamasy confirm that Sadat constantly kept his eye on his objectives:  turning Egypt away from Moscow, regaining Sinai, aligning with the US for economic and military assistance, and not allowing other Arab states to deny him or Egypt independent decision-making through Arab  constraints. According to Ghorbal, Sadat was concerned with the political ramifications of a separate peace with Israel, but also understood the “shortcomings of the Arab world.” He was not prepared to serve the interests of the rejectionist camp—chiefly represented by Syria and the PLO—at the expense of Israel’s continued occupation of Egyptian land. 

Ghorbal notes, that unlike his predecessor Nasser, Sadat had the “guts” to make bold decisions to “get rid of the occupying power in the Sinai.” This was his raison d’etre. Ghorbal states that it undergirded almost every controversial policy decision he made before his assassination in October 1981, including his expulsion of Soviet military personnel in 1972 and his waging of war against Israel in October 1973.  He notes, “Sadat went to war in ’73 in order to show again, to the United States and to the Israelis, that whatever length of time it would take Egypt to get rid of the occupying power in Sinai, he will do it.” He provides details surrounding the post 1973 October War diplomacy and Kissinger’s positive engagement with Sadat. Said Ghorbal, “Sadat was like Kissinger, five steps ahead of everyone else.”

At the same time, Sadat believed that Egypt had a decisive role to play as leader of the Arab world. “Sometimes we are ahead, and thus we appear to be separate from the rest of the gang,” Ghorbal states, “but we’re pulling the gang maybe with a little bit of distance.” Most revealing is the Ghorbal’s confirmation that he advised Sadat before meeting Jimmy Carter for the first time, not tell the president that “Egypt was prepared to end belligerency now, but peace would have to await the next generation.” Ghorbal explained to Sadat, ‘why would Israel withdraw from Sinai, if all you are offering non-belligerency?’ Ghorbal surmises that his advice was well received by Sadat, and Ghorbal said he never heard from Sadat if Sadat proposed an Egyptian peace treaty with Israel. We do know from my conversation with Jimmy Carter in early 1991, about the Carter Sadat meeting in April 1977, Sadat did tell Carter that his fallback position with the Israel’s would be a willingness to sign a treaty with them. If Carter knew it in April 1977, he did not share the idea with his foreign policy team but kept that ace in his pocket. 

What if Carter went to Camp David in 1978 knowing full well that Sadat was prepared to sign a separate agreement with Israel? The Israelis by October 1977, having tested out Egypt’s intentions privately were convinced that a separate agreement was certainly feasible, if not yet possible. 

Ken Stein, July 15, 2023 

Ken Stein Interview with Ashraf Ghorbal, Cairo, Egypt, November 9, 1992  


KWS: O.K., you were appointed Ambassador to the United States about November 6, November 7, 1973.  When did you leave for the States? 


AG: I left on the 1st of December and arrived on the 6th of December. 


KWS: Before you left, what was your position in the Foreign Ministry? 


AG: I was on loan to the Presidency. I was Sadat’s advisor, press advisor. I was first, when I returned home, in July 1972, I became Deputy Advisor to National Security Affairs, to Hafez Ismail. And then I became Sadat’s press advisor in ’73, March ’73, and was with him all through until I left for Washington. And I was his spokesman during the October War. 


KWS: And you stayed in Washington from December of 1973 until… 


AG: Until November 24, 1983, 11 years-minus 2 weeks. 


KWS: Minus 2 weeks… Can we begin with the period in ’72? Why did Sadat ask the Soviets to leave, but not ask something as compensation in return from the Americans? 


AG: You know, it’s interesting you ask that question because I once told Henry Kissinger that he was responsible for the October War. And he immediately threw it away, saying, “How? definitely not.”  I said: “No, you are because Sadat did what he did, and you did not respond, you did not act.” He said: “Well, we considered him, at that time, a fool. He took a major strategic step without asking something in return.” I said: “That shows that you misunderstood and misread Sadat, because if you did, you would have acted.  The fact that what you did is that…If Sadat would have asked you, let’s say, if Sadat would have asked you for something, one of two things would have happened: either you would have leaked it out, and thus destroyed all the plan of Sadat, or two, you would have bargained with it to the degree that it would be a ??? that he would get from you.” What Sadat, in my estimation, was working for is the larger scene, is to gain the credibility of America, to gain America to his side. He wasn’t looking for a tit-for-tat, an exchange. He wanted to show your people that this is the man that you can depend on him in the future. 


KWS: Did he want credibility, or did he also want attention from the United States? 


AG: Did he want what? 


KWS: Attention. 


AG: Well, attention was not enough, but definitely that America would believe in what he’s doing, and give him credit for it, and thus support him as he makes his moves into the peace process in due time, and have an honorable peace, not what Israel was offering, and what Henry was offering equally, with the Israelis. 


KWS: Was Sadat… (should we take this to the table, or…) 


AG: (We can take that…) 


KWS: When did Sadat come to the conclusion that the Soviet Union was no longer in Egypt’s interest? 


AG: I don’t want to give you a specific time because I’m not privy to that. I was essentially in the United States in my previous capacity as the man in charge of ??? relation, head of Egyptian interest. But definitely, I think one can say that the meetings between Nixon and the Russian leaders in which it ended up by showing that both of them decided not allow any power or any issue to bring them into a head-on collision showed that that understanding between them is going to stand in the way of the Soviets helping Egypt to get rid of the occupation. 


KWS: The Nixon-Brezhnev summit of May of ’72… there’s very meager mention of the Middle East-almost none. 


AG: Yes.  That was indicative enough of… 


KWS: I was here in July of ’72, I remember the day they were asked to leave. 


AG: That is the first time I knew that. I didn’t know that you were here. 


KWS: It was the first time I had ever come to Egypt, was in July of ’72, as a graduate student. I had spent 2 years in Israel, and I came here for 3 weeks and visited some friends, my first visit. 


AG: (Have some more fish…) 


KWS: (I will, I will… I mean, it’s a long afternoon…) 


AG: (laugh) 


KWS: Sadat’s decision to go to war in ’73 was like his decision to ask the Soviets to leave, to bring attention to Egypt’s desire to have Sinai returned, Egypt’s desire to have a Middle East settlement. The motivation was the same. Is that fair? 


AG: Yes. 


KWS: Did Sadat, at any juncture, to your knowledge, before you left for Washington, in his own mind, articulate to you or to anyone, that he was just interested more in Egypt than he was interested in a comprehensive settlement? 


AG: No, that is where I think a lot of people make their mistakes, a lot of the Arabs, and lots of others. He was always concerned about the globality of the solution. And he felt that it is the duty of Egypt to do its best in whatever actions or proposals to get a global solution. But he also knew the shortcomings of the Arab world, and their difficulty to come to a decision. Slogans were easy to agree to, but action was difficult to achieve. But at the same time, I think he felt strong enough that Egypt has a leading role in leading the caravan in war and in peace. And I think he never forgot that during the efforts to come to the arms disagreements, it was Egypt who led the caravan, and then was followed by the others.  So that was very much up on his mind. 


KWS: But he never separated the two. 


AG: I don’t think so. I didn’t detect ??? He felt that the others might be reluctant. 


KWS: But he was unhappy with this sloganeering.


AG: What? 


KWS: Sloganeering wasn’t getting for him his land back. 


AG: Yes. He certainly participated with his share in the sloganeering, when the time was needed to do that. But he also, as you’ve seen, felt that he needs to take the steps that he finally took without hesitation. 


KWS: And if you had to, in two sentences, describe why he went to war in ’73… 


AG: He went to war in ’73 in order to show again, to the United States and to the Israelis, that whatever length of time it would take Egypt to get rid of the occupying power in Sinai, he will do it. Then, he might not have all the equipment necessary to have a total victory, but he can still make the occupier bleed, and bleed hard. 


KWS: Make a statement. 


AG: That’s it. He, you see, he kicked the Russians out and you did not act. So alright, let war take place, and he will not hesitate from doing so. In my estimation, very frankly, I come to the conclusion that Anwar Sadat had more guts than Gamal Abdel Nassar. Gamal Abdel Nassar went to the brink of both war and peace and shrank. He didn’t plunge in. Anwar Sadat went to the brink and jumped in both. 


KWS: Mmm. 


AG: He didn’t hesitate to go to war, with even the limitations he had, and he didn’t hesitate to go to peace when he knew it was going to entail a lot of problems and difficulties. 


KWS: Did he have any doubt, that by going to war in a limited fashion, he would at the conclusion of that war have to enter into a political process? He knew that would be the outcome.


AG: No, he didn’t. He called a meeting before the war of the National Security Council… 


KWS: …before the war, or during the war? 


AG: Before the war, in which I was attending. He was taking our opinion. And each one gave his opinion. Mine, at that time, was that wars of this sort do not get to be allowed by the superpowers to extend beyond a certain limit. And then whatever the outcome is of the war, that will be the point from which negotiations are going to take place, whether it is an advanced position or a retracted position. And I coupled it with the second remark, that if we feel, militarily, that we can move from that line we have, from the Canal to a better and advanced position, by war, and then negotiate from there, then I will go along with that. And that was, apparently…that was what the military had come to the conclusion that they can do it 


KWS: Ashraf, where did the idea come from this speech on the 16th of October, when he made a speech to the Parliament? And in it, embedded in the speech, he talked to the Egyptian people, he talked about the need to have an international conference as that mechanism by which this political process would now be pursued? 


AG: ??? 


KWS: Where did the idea for this… 


AG: (Would you like some more?) 


KWS: (I’m fine thank you.) 


AG: (I’ll indicate then…We have meat…) 


KWS: (O.K.) Where did the idea come from? 


AG: International conference? It wasn’t a really totally novice idea. 


KWS: Because no American I’ve spoken to knows what the origin is. 


AG: In my estimation the origin lies in the fact that we were talking with the UN all the time. We were talking about getting the United Nations involved, getting the international community involved. We felt that we need, with us, a world public opinion. And the world public opinion was something that could weigh heavily on both Israel and the United States. And it was, in a way, a… a ground for security. Israel was always calling for bilateral negotiations. We were always calling for a multilateral forum. Because, if we lacked the military weapons, we didn’t lack world public opinion support. Security Council Resolution 242 spoke of withdrawal from territories. General Assembly Resolution in 1971 defined that as withdrawal from all territories, which you people vetoed later on, in the Security Council in June 1972. In my mind, which is the reason of it. 


KWS: The origins come from the discussions with the United Nations previously. The Un Mission, Kurt Waldheim. An international solution to the conflict. During the war, where were you during the ’73 war?  You say you were Sadat’s spokesman during the war.  Were you… 


AG: By the way, can I, would I be able to have a copy of that?


KWS: I’m planning on doing that. 


AG: Alright.


KWS: You get the same privilege as the Ambassador.


AG: O.K. (laugh) thank you. 


KWS: During the war, as the war progressed, were you with him, when for example, he had this meeting? These three days, he was here for three days, I don’t know how long his meetings were, but Gromyko was here from the 16th to the 19th of October. During the war, was there any discussion about the political aftermath of this conflict? Do you remember? 


AG: No, I wasn’t attending these meetings. 


KWS: I mean, did you explain the meetings to the press? 


AG: Then? I honestly can’t recall. 

KWS: I’m not surprised you don’t, because Gromyko’s visit here was secret and private and no one was supposed to know about it.  So, I can imagine that you’re not supposed to have… 


AG: Yes. 


KWS: O.K. 


AG: Maybe, you know who would help you in this regard? Hafez Ismail. 


KWS: But I don’t think he’ll talk.  He can’t… 


AG: You’re right. 


KWS: You know, his position at the time almost precludes it. The cease-fire resolution, October 22nd, October 23rd, how did you receive this notion that Kissinger was imposing a resolution without even telling Egypt about it? Sadat never knew about resolution 338… 


AG: Until the British told him, I think. 


KWS: That’s right. He had no input into it at all, just like the Israelis had no input into it at all. It was decided in Moscow and drafted by the Soviets, redrafted by Atherton. Atherton put in the phrase between the parties. It was passed at the U.N. Kissinger had Saunders send a telegram both to Scaly and to the Soviet ambassador saying: “No debate on this, introduce it, pass it, that’s what it’s going to be.” Period. I mean, both Israel and Egypt were hit with a fait accompli. Kissinger didn’t talk to either one of you. Any reaction, do you remember at all? 


AG: Not really.  I… 


KWS: Or generally, what do you remember about the period from the end of the war up until Kilometer 101? Those ten days… 


AG: Well, let me tell you that on the 16th of September when Sadat went to Parliament… 


KWS: September or October? 


AG: I’m sorry, October. 


KWS: During the war. 


AG: Yes. 16th of October when Sadat went to Parliament to report about the war and to talk about the peace, a peace conference. That day, after we returned from Parliament, I spoke to the military and learned that the Israelis have crossed… 


KWS: The Canal… 


AG: …the Canal, and that later became the cover up or the opening. I myself, I couldn’t believe, and the conclusion I came to was in a question-we surely caught them? And I got the answer that they are lost in the fields. And I said-don’t tell me that six or seven tanks can’t get through, can’t collect, get them and collect them. That was the actual situation. You know, in hindsight, I can say that maybe Henry was doing the right thing. The other resolution passed that telling neither side, and let them face the world, so to speak, ordering that cease-fire to take place, with the situation on the ground to freeze. If you ask either party, the party that has its upper hand, militarily, would tell you no and he who will have the lower hand will tell you yes. He had the background of it when he called on Sadat, a cease-fire, a withdrawal to the 6 of October line. That was a wrong approach and thus it could have reflected on the decision if he would have checked, again, with either party. But then, I wish Sadat did accept the cease-fire at that time, but he later on accepted. 


KWS: Because he didn’t accept… 


AG: Your people threw in a lot of military equipment. In normal circumstances, this would have rendered the country victim of that new situation, to become so much anti-American.  But here it was the prophecy, the strategy of Sadat all along: is to get you on board, if not on his side totally, to get you to see and appreciate his position, and thus act to reduce the vehemence of Israel, and to help a process that needs the help of the United States in coming to an honorable settlement. 


KWS: When did Kissinger understand that? 


AG: I think he started to understand it, he started in the beginning of the war. At least he started to understand that he made a mistake.   


KWS: By not paying attention… 


AG: By not paying attention. That’s what he admitted, even, in his book, that… When Hafez Ismail went to meet Henry Kissinger in both New York, and in France, Henry was still fully immersed in the conviction that Israel is untouchable, no one can hurt her superiority, Egypt can’t do anything, Egypt must, might as well sign in on the dotted line.  He wasn’t ready to accommodate an honorable solution. And he thought, like many, that Anwar Sadat is a buffoon. Israelis were of that opinion, and I think between them and the views of the administration or the people around Washington at that time, coincided that he can’t do anything. He’s just a ridiculous fellow who is trying to find excuses for his people of doing nothing.   


KWS: When the cease-fire was issued, Mordechai Gazit suggested to Golda Meir that the Israelis enter into direct talks with the Egyptians on returning prisoners of war and disentangling the troops.  And Golda, at first, was very skeptical… 


AG: Mmm? 


KWS: Golda was very skeptical about talking directly to the Egyptians. She didn’t think it was possible. But she said: “O.K., draft a cable, send a cable to Washington.” Henry then communicated the cable through the back channel, and lo and behold, Sadat said yes. 


AG: Mmm? 


KWS: Sadat said yes. He said: “Fine, we can talk.” 


AG: Sadat what? 


KWS: Sadat said: “Yes, we can talk about the disengagement.”  This happened about the 25th or 26th of October, and bingo! By the night of the 29th, Yariv and Gamasy are out looking for one another in the desert. You know the story that the Israelis showed up in the wrong place. They showed up at KM 106, and Gamasy apparently later told Yariv: “I thought you were standing us up!” 


AG: (laugh)  


KWS: Henry was not particularly keen to have the Israelis and the Egyptians talk directly. Henry, from everyone’s… everyone who’s told me, said that Henry was opposed to this. Henry was just opposed to it. And now Yariv and Gamasy are talking about blood, and supplies to the Third Army, and blankets, and who controls the roads, and where are the U.N. checkpoints… getting down to some meaty discussions. There was respect that developed between the two men, ultimately. And by the 6th of November, by the time Henry comes here, Gamasy and Yariv have come to not only agreement about disengagement, but now they’re beginning to talk about politics. And Henry was not particularly thrilled by that reality. In fact, Henry told Golda: “I think you have to tell Yariv he’s got to stop.” By the 6th of November, the Soviets and the United States already started talking about not only what appropriate auspices were, the term from 338, but they were talking about the nature of the conference. I mean, Henry already, by the time he visited Sadat for the first time-first time he ever met Sadat- the date that you were appointed, or the day after, whenever it was… 

AG: Yes. 


KWS: Henry has already got a plan for a conference, how it’s going to be run, and he really needs to just get Sadat on board. Roy Atherton says that Henry was five steps ahead of everyone, all the time. And he never let any of us know what he was thinking. I mean, maybe sometimes he let us in, but rarely. You must have been around Henry when he came on that visit. I mean, you must have been nearby. 


AG: Yes, Roy all came with Henry. 


KWS: That’s right, but Sadat and Henry 4 1/2 hours together. 


AG: Sure, they were locked up together… 


KWS: And you guys were pacing around in the yard… 


AG: And we were talking outside in the garden, from Ismail Fahmi and Joe Sysco down. And whoever tells you I was in on the secret -that’s a lot of baloney. 


KWS: No question about it, it was a private meeting. What do you remember from Sadat about his first impressions of him? 


AG: Definitely, he was impressed with Henry Kissinger, because if you talk about Henry being five steps ahead of everybody else, as Atherton described, you also need to talk about Sadat being 5 steps ahead of everybody on the Egyptian side, because it was he who had masterminded the actual operation of kicking the Russians out, of the October War starting and when to start, and in the final analysis, how to get the United States deeply involved. So, there you talk about two people who are planners, schemers, or whatever you want to call it. 


KWS: How did Sadat develop confidence in Kissinger? 


AG: How did Sadat what? 


KWS: …develop confidence in Kissinger. 


AG: Don’t forget what I told you. I think the principle point was he wanted to get the United States on Egypt’s side, recognizing that he will not lose the Israeli side. He wanted to have the lawyer work for both, so to speak, and not simply for one side. And thus, he had to convince Henry Kissinger A: of where Egypt will stand strategically and B: to show Henry Kissinger that he will rely on him, as much as possible, to achieve what he feels is very much necessary for… 


KWS: Essentially, he said to Kissinger: “You negotiate this for me.” 


AG: I think… I think… 


KWS: Can I say parenthetically, it’s no different than what he said to Jimmy Carter. He did the same thing with both gentlemen. 


AG: He was doing it with America, don’t forget, and these were the representatives of America who were, at the time, at the helm of the situation. 


KWS: And what was it about America that made Sadat… what was special about America, other than the fact that it was the, you know, the other superpower in the region? Herman Eilts says he had a certain special feeling for Americans and the Presidency… 


AG: I think he… Look at it back. When he visited the United States as speaker, of Parliament in Egypt, he was very much impressed by the way Congress handles things, especially the… what do you call them… the committees order… 


KWS: …committee system. 


AG: Yes. Committee system and bringing people to… 


KWS: Testify? 


AG: …to testify, and so on.  And he introduced that in the Egyptian system, but in an adapted form to fit in with Egypt. You can’t get people from the countryside to come to the city, it’s too much of a hassle for them. And he used to have these investigation committees go to the countryside and hold meetings locally. He was anxious to show that there is, even as early as that, a sense of democratization, participation of the people, listening to the people, fulfilling their needs and their requirements. Someone, when I told them that in America, he said: “He should have asked us, we would have told him it’s definitely the most miserable thing on earth to have.” 


KWS: When you got to the States, what part of the discussions were going on now from December 1st on? 


AG: The disengagement? 


KWS: Yes.  Now you weren’t privy to those… 


AG: Let me speak off the record… 


KWS: It’s off the record. 


AG: Fahmi was very anxious to keep things to himself, and thus… 


KWS: His book tells us that. 


AG: Yes, and thus it was very difficult to learn from Cairo what was going on. I relied more on one’s antennas, and then the contacts with Washington to know what was going on. 


KWS: What was Fahmi’s problem? Did he think anyone was listening to him?  Or, was it his personality, his way of doing things? 


AG: I think it’s his personality. 


KWS: Do you think you were intentionally excluded from information, denied information? You know, he’s got his own problem going on here at the time because he’s got Hafez Ismail to worry about. 


AG: Mmm? 


KWS: He’s got Hafez Ismail to worry about, who’s been Sadat’s conduit to America… 

AG: He didn’t want anyone but himself. 


KWS: That’s right, and there was a big blowup in front of Herman Eilts, between Hafez Ismail and Ismail Fahmi… 


AG: Yes, well… 


KWS: Because Herman said: “You deal through the State Department, you don’t deal through the back channel.” And Fahmi was delighted to have Eilts as a spokesman. And this happened in front of them, like, November 15th or 17th or 21st, just after Herman arrived. I mean, Herman tells me that these guys got along like oil and water, Hafez Ismail and Ismail Fahmi. He said they barely talked to one another. 


AG: Alright, let us follow that line. State Department, which means the regular channels. And the Embassies are, whether they are in Washington or in Cairo, they are the regular channels. But Ismail Fahmi wanted everything to be confined to him, and him personally, in Cairo, between Herman Eilts and him, Henry Kissinger and him, not otherwise. He wanted also to control the input to Sadat through him. 


KWS: That’s also what Herman told me. 


AG: I’ll just give you that for your background. When Sadat came for the first time to Washington… 


KWS: April of ’77… 


AG: Yes. What happened is that Ismail Fahmi held every detail about the program from me. And he asked Henry Kissinger not to give me any information about the program. I had started to talk with Freeman Matthews, head of Egyptian affairs about the program, and then all of a sudden contact was lost and I wouldn’t get any answer. I would be sending to Cairo my views, my suggestions, and finally I asked, just a few days before the President was due to arrive: “Where is the draft of the program?” He said: “I don’t have it, Protocol has it.” So I went, “where is it?” He said: “I don’t have it, the Secretary has it.  I said: “Listen, I know you people, and how organized you are, there is nothing here that is confined to the Secretary of State, there are so many departments that are handling it, surely.” He said: “Well, I’m telling you this is the real state of affairs.” I said: “Henry, let me put it bluntly. I have, until today, my credentials from Anwar Sadat addressed to the President of the United States, and I’m entitled to have the program of my head of state. You can deny it from me on one basis that I am a persona non grata. Then it is your right to hold it back.” He said: “Aren’t you really coming out loud?” I said: “Not loud enough, if you didn’t hear.” Later on, as the President was arriving at Williamsburg, yes, Henry and I were… Henry came to me. And he said: “Ashraf, you have to understand one thing. You have no problem here; your problem is with Cairo.” I said: “You mean, my problem is with Ismail Fahmi. Now, tell me Henry, how you want us to play the game. If you want me not to know anything, then I will go around town, and I will go to the Congress, and say to them what comes up to my mind whether it is relevant or not, whether it fits in the policy or not, because I don’t know. I don’t know it because there is a personal problem between the Foreign Minister and me. Do I have a personal problem between me and you, the United States?” And he said, “no.” <END OF SIDE ONE, TAPE ONE> Another thing I was offered, a few months after I arrived in Washington, 6 months, I was offered by Ismail Fahmi to go as permanent delegate to the U.N. He didn’t want me in Washington. 

KWS: Was he afraid of your previous relationship with Sadat? 


AG: Yes. 


KWS: And that Sadat had confidence in you? 


AG: I told him then, “Sadat appointed me to be his ambassador here, not to be his permanent representative to the U.N.”


KWS: Did Sadat know the difficulty between you and Fahmi?  


AG: He detected it. 


KWS: Did he ever say anything to you? 


AG: Only after.


KWS: Fahmi left? 

AG: After Fahmi left. And then he told me, in the helicopter from Andrews Air Force Base to the Washington Memorial. He said: “Did you see what your friend did?” 


KWS: Wait, this wasn’t in April, this was after his visit to Jerusalem, this was his second visit to the States in February of ’78.  


AG: That was after. At the time of his visit to Jerusalem, Ismail Fahmi resigned. And President Sadat came after that to Washington. 


KWS: In February ’78? 


AG: Yes, and he said: “Did you see what your friend did?” I said: “Which friend?” He said: “Fahmi.” I said: “My friend? Mr. President, you knew exactly what he was doing to us, and I couldn’t complain, because if I would have complained to you, you would have backed him against me.” He said: “Yes, you are right, and I made a mistake.” I said: “Well, there you have it.”  But… 


KWS: Were you involved at all in the discussions?


AG: …I don’t hold anything against Ismail now, we just put these things into, what do you call, brackets. 


KWS: Tell me… did you go to the Geneva Conference? 


AG: Mmm? 


KWS: Did you go to the Geneva Conference? 


AG: No. 


KWS: O.K. Were you involved at all in any of the discussions that dealt with any of the disengagement? 


AG: No. 


KWS: O.K. Recount for me in your mind, through your own chronology, ’74, ’75 and ’76. I mean, the high points of your first three years, before Jimmy Carter became President. 


AG: Well, there I was really involved, not with the details of the peace process at the time, the negotiations and so on, but with American-Egyptian relations. 


KWS: The bilateral relationship. 


AG: Yes, the bilateral. And then the image of Egypt in the United States, and ??? a lot of friendship for Egypt among the different sectors of the community, Congress, Press…  Fortunately, you people have a lot in the press that one can keep abreast of the situation, as much as possible, even though he might not be privy to a lot of… 


KWS: Details? 


AG: Details. And then during visits to Egypt, I used to see the President and there I would get a feeling, or when the President came to Washington, I always had a chance to sit with him. 


KWS: But his first trip to Washington was in ’77. Did he come to see Ford at all? 


AG: He came, yes. He came to see Ford, sure. The first time, he came to see Ford. Nixon came to Egypt in 1974. 


KWS: June of ’74, right? 

AG: And there you should have heard the people shouting, “Nixon! Nixon! Nixon!” 


KWS: Why such a positive reception for Nixon? 


AG: Well, it shows you that: A, there has always been a deep friendship, but a deep disappointment; there was also the feeling that a page is being turned, and a new page is coming up of friendship where America is going to stand by Egypt’s rights. When he took the train from Cairo to Alexandria, he felt, I think: “Why shouldn’t those thanks and cheers welcome me in the United States? I would have been a different man!” I think it raised his morale. The following meeting was between Ford and Sadat in Salzburg. There too, let me tell you a little story. I called up Fahmi before the meeting, and I said: “What arrangements have been made for the Salzburg meeting?” He said: “What do you mean?” I said: “Who is going?” He said: “It’s too early yet, we haven’t decided.” I said, “Herman Eilts is going?” He said: “He was with me last night, and he didn’t say.” I said: “Well, for your information, I know that he’s going.” Nothing happened. He didn’t say: “You’ll come.” He didn’t say. About 10 days later, I sent a cable: “What are the instructions concerning the visit.” And I got a cable saying: “The President has decided you’ll remain in Washington during the Salzburg.” And literally I debated between myself, whether I should resign or not. And I said-if I resign, that’s exactly what Fahmi wants me to do. So, I ended up deciding I’m going to go to the hospital, and that would be the reason for which I am not going to Salzburg. I got a call from Fahmi, the day before the Salzburg meeting at 7:00 in the morning. He said: “Did I wake you up?” I said: “No, you didn’t, I was just getting ready to go to work.” He said, “we want you in Salzburg. Joe Sisco is leaving tonight, so why don’t you come along with him on the same plane. You’ll be in Salzburg in the morning, and we’ll see you when the President arrives.” I said, “alright.” When I arrived, and we were waiting in the airport to welcome the President, the President said: “I am glad that you are here, Ashraf.” And as he went into the hotel, and we were all sitting, he said: “On the plane, I told Fahmi, I said its unfair. Why should America have its own ambassador in Salzburg, and we do not have our ambassador there?” And he looked at Fahmi. That was the end of it. I didn’t say anything, he didn’t say anything. It was stupid. It was stupid. 


KWS: But it was Fahmi. 


AG: Ahh. And you are the Foreign Minister. There was always the rumor that I will succeed him as Foreign Minister, but I never. I never became a foreign minister. Why should one take a rumor as a… and then, am I appointing myself, does anyone appoint himself? 


KWS: Ashraf, we’re telling stories. If we’re telling stories, during the ’73 war, Golda told Simcha Dinitz not to send all the cables to Eban. In fact, to leave out much of the substance in the cables that were sent to Washington, because she didn’t want Eban involved. Eban was kept totally out of the loop, and to this day does not know that he was. How do you like that? 


AG: (Laugh)


KWS: O.K., in time, Mordechai Gazit said they wrote cables especially for Eban, that went to no one else. 


AG: But these are politicians. I can understand. 


KWS: But Golda Meir tells her ambassador to leave the Foreign Minister out of the loop? She didn’t trust Eban, she trusted Dinitz. Period. So, I got news for you, just because it goes on here, doesn’t mean it doesn’t go on over there!  


AG: Oh, I’m sure it goes on everywhere. 


KWS: In the bilateral relationship, what did you find the most gratifying or the easiest thing to do in building the bilateral relationship, and what did you find most difficult? I mean, where were the problem areas and where were the positive accomplishments in these first three years? 


AG: I don’t think I encountered, really, problem areas, except maybe AIPAC, which was looking always over my shoulder to see if there is something that they can feel, that they can attack me on. In Congress…the prophecy of Sadat was getting that hearing, a good reception. The press was following, attentively, Henry Kissinger through his shuttle, and thus real exposure was on Sadat too. Business started to become active and interested in Egypt, so we were in demand to come and explain our position. So, very frankly, I did not find any center of aggravation and I was making myself available to everyone. I wasn’t hesitant at all to talk to many Jewish organizations, to talk to them about the peace that we want. Let us look ahead and create the conditions in which everybody will feel comfortable and secure in the area. So, you see, in the previous assignment-’68 to ’72, I was trying to cover all fronts including meeting people in the Pentagon. When we were being backed militarily by the Soviet Union, and Israel backed militarily by the United States, I used to go and see people in the Pentagon, and write to Cairo, cable to Cairo, that it is very important to do that because they are part of the policy-making apparatus and we need to win people to understand our side of the argument. I even invited Bob ??? when he was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, I heard he was going to the area, and I asked if he is going to Egypt. And they said: “No.” I said: “Why not?” I didn’t have instructions from Cairo, and I invited him for breakfast, and told him: “Why don’t you go?” And he said, “I’ll be glad to go, do you think I’ll be received?” I said, “why not?” And meanwhile, Mahmoud Riad directed to send me a letter asking how on earth I would logically invite the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense with the situation as it has been. And I answered in the fashion that I just explained to you. And I said, “Mahmoud Fawzi will be pleased to sit down with Bob ???, and Bob I’m sure will be pleased to hear all the views of Mahmoud Fawzi to take it in.” Mahmoud ended by spending 2 hours or 2 1/2 hours talking to Bob ???.  I believed in these dialogs, and that only good could come out of it. 


KWS: Let’s jump ahead to ’77-Sadat’s first visit to Carter. Describe for me what you remember of that visit, of Sadat’s impressions of Carter. Sadat had some apprehensions about Carter’s election. He wasn’t sure that Carter, who had made some promises to Jewish audiences, was a guy he could trust, he even told Herman Eilts: “I’m not sure about this man, after all Ford has promised me-that the comprehensive method would be the way to go-and this is a new fellow.” By the way, the same trepidations that Egyptians articulate today (regarding_ transfer of administrations, the same questions I get everywhere, the same trepidations that were present in the minds of Egyptian policymakers, transfer from Ford to Carter. Vance came out here in February of ’77… 


AG: Mmm? 


KWS: Vance came here in February of ’77, and Carter came to office with the notion that there would be a comprehensive peace. They go to Geneva, and the U.S. administration was headed off, essentially using the Brookings Paper as their blueprint. If anything, I say is wrong, from your view, please correct me, but this is the composite wisdom which I’ve been… 


AG: No, that is correct. 


KWS: Sadat came here after Rabin, here I mean, to Washington, and how did Sadat prepare himself, or how did you prepare Sadat for this meeting with Carter? I mean, you didn’t have a lot of communication because of stoppage in the arteries here. What did he know? What did he expect? What did he hope to accomplish? What did he accomplish by this visit? What did he learn about Jimmy Carter? 


AG: Well, to start with, definitely he had that profound relationship with Henry Kissinger and with President Ford, and he had that meeting with Ford in Washington as he came, as well. But he always… remember what I told you, he always had in mind America. It’s not a matter of personalization. It was a matter of dealing with the United States and dealing with who is at the helm in the United States. That was also, in a way, his look towards Israel. He wouldn’t have minded negotiating with Golda Meir if the chance had provided itself. And he didn’t hesitate to continue on his path which he knew would lead him to negotiate with who was at the helm in Israel, and that is Menachem Begin.  To him what was important is would he cut a deal? Would he make an agreement? 


KWS: Would… 


AG: Would Menachem Begin? I’m talking about Israel. When he talked to Nicolae Ceausescu and Nicolae Ceausescu told him that…he spoke positively of Menachem Begin. He told him: “He would he be able to cut a deal and to respect it.” On a larger fashion he relied on America. And he felt it’s going to be another process of building up a relationship with Carter. But it seems that they developed a liking to each other from the very outset. He felt there is a deal of commonality, a great deal of commonality, between him and Carter. He told me, as a matter of fact, that he feels that Carter being close to his religion, is a common element with him, close to mine. He was saying: “I feel I can have confidence in this man and I can rely on him.” He acted in that fashion. That was the beginning of a real friendship. And I think you saw a picture, once, as he came down from the helicopter, President Carter was waiting for him at the White House and both of them were reaching to each other. 


KWS: It’s on the 8th floor of the U.S. Embassy. 


AG: Yes. 


KWS: As you get out of the elevator. 


AG: Yes, yes. 


KWS: It’s one of the pictures on the wall. 


AG: Yes, yes. 


KWS: Why? Sorry. 


AG: You see, you can detect the confidence he has in the man, by bringing him not only the document at Camp David, the document that was written and presented officially, but by giving him what he feels is his fallback position, the minimum. Now I have heard him on several occasions, and I think in his book, he considered that as an act of weakness.   


KWS: On whose part?  On Sadat’s part? 


AG: Yes. He said, even before we start deploying every effort, he gives us his fallback position, and automatically we’ll know from that that there very well will be another fallback position. Not necessarily. This might be Western philosophy and thinking, it is not necessarily Eastern philosophy and thinking. It is an act by Sadat in order to show his partner in the process that, “I have my total confidence in you, now go and get me…”


KWS: …the best you can. 


AG: …the best you can. 


KWS: So, it’s not a sign of weakness. Did Sadat, during that first trip… apparently, he told Carter, according to Carter’s memoirs, that peace might have to wait a while? Carter in his memoirs said: “But Anwar, you know, Mr. President, it can’t wait a while, it’s got to be sooner rather than later.” There is some evidence, from a variety of sources, people I’ve interviewed, that on that trip in their private meeting, Sadat told Carter not only what his fallback position was, but he said, quote, and I have this from two separate sources, that he would be willing to sign a separate peace with Israel. This is April of ’77. 


AG: Well, in my estimation. What was I going to say?  


KWS: You were going to give me your fallback answer and… 


AG: No, I, you had two points there. The first one is that which you talked about right this minute… 


KWS: The question about, on that April of ’77 visit, I have from two sources that Sadat told Jimmy Carter… 


AG: That peace can wait. 


KWS: No, that peace, that he would sign a separate peace. 


AG: Yes, but you said earlier that… 


KWS: In Carter’s memoirs, it says one thing, but from the oral interviews, I get something very different. 


AG: Ahh. Sadat’s original position was, which was again tied up to the overall agreement that we talked about before, he used to say, and openly, that we can end belligerency now, but peace is for the next generation. You recall… 


KWS: Mmm. 


AG: I brought to his attention that, in many instances, I was hearing that if the peace is for the next generation, then withdrawal is tied to that. 


KWS: You heard that from him… 


AG: No, I was telling him, “Don’t use that argument, because if you talk about peace for the next generation, then why should Israel withdraw now and not have peace.” I think in order to make your point, you should talk about peace as a possible, achievable situation at the present, not for the future. You can’t make an impact if you talk about a peace in the future. When how and why should Israel withdraw totally from Sinai against a promise that there would be peace at the circumstance that she doesn’t know, and a circumstance that no one can control? You’re not making logic. I don’t say that the argument had its impact on him, but I think he was moving gradually, by steps, to the full and comprehensive settlement at the time that it would be concluded, that if there is to be a total withdrawal, then there has to be expected by Israel a total peace.   


KWS: In July, before Begin’s first visit, on July 16th, he says before a speech to the Arab Socialist Union on the 16th of July with ??? as the General Secretary, that recognition of mutual commitments under Resolution 242 means that all states in the area recognize their right to live in an atmosphere of peace, free from signs of war, within borders secure against acts of force and threats of force. These borders are naturally the borders of 4 June ’67. It must be clear that we are ready to sign an agreement providing for a lasting and just peace. This also means that for the first time in history, Israel’s legal existence, within its borders, will be recognized. 


AG: When is that? 


KWS: July 16th ’77. 


AG: Yes, yes. 


KWS: The real challenge is to exploit this positive atmosphere to move toward real peace. So, July 16th, this is five months before he goes to Jerusalem and this is two months, three months, after he’s visited Jimmy Carter. 


AG: Yes. 


KWS: This is the first time he publicly says this in Arabic. 


AG: Yes. Peace in our generation. 


KWS: Right here. 


AG: Yes. 


KWS: Right now. 

AG: Yes, but before that he used to say peace is for the next generation. 


KWS: So, between Carter’s entry in Keeping Faith… 


AG: Carter’s? 


KWS: The entry in his book, Keeping Faith, called the April 4th ’77 visit, and this July ’77 statement… April, May, June, July… three months or something… 


AG: Yes, it happened in between. I am not privy to… 


KWS: I mean, if I assume that Carter has told us the whole story, and people tell me that Carter’s Keeping Faith is not the whole story, that Carter has kept a lot back. 


AG: I won’t be astonished. Maybe there was a communication between the two, but what I know is that we were telling the President that his statements about peace being for the next generations was not making its impact on people. And he has to talk about peace now in order to make the impact, but there could very well be statements, communications… 


KWS: Private letters? Telephone calls? 


AG: I don’t know. When did Carter come in? 


KWS: January of ’77. 


AG: So, just a few months before they met… 


KWS: They met on April 4th. 


AG: So, between January 20th and April 4th, you think there were… 


KWS: I think either at that visit, or just before the visit, Sadat and Carter had a communication in which Sadat told Carter, “My real fallback position is a separate peace.” He never writes about it in Camp David, and my belief is that Carter never shared it with any of his advisors. 


AG: Now, about separate…you mean about separate settlements? 

KWS: Ashraf, Ashraf, the reason I say this, with a certain amount of confidence, is Jimmy Carter told me this. 


AG: Mmm? 


KWS: Jimmy Carter told me this. 


AG: Jimmy Carter? 


KWS: President Carter told me this, on tape. And I said: “Can I use it?” And he said, “yes.” He said, “when Sadat was here, in April…”


AG: …he told him he can have a separate? 


KWS: He said, “it’s not my preference, but I want you to know…,” and Carter told me, “I didn’t share it with anyone until after Camp David,” which just tells you what kind of man Carter was, because… it tells you had badly we didn’t understand Carter. Because Carter had this in his pocket the whole time and continuously negotiated to try and get to Geneva, to try and make it comprehensive, to try [to] include the Palestinians, he beat his head against the wall. Not trying the separate course, not being willing to settle. Only after Camp David was Carter willing, just for the sake of saving the Egyptian-Israeli part of the framework, was Carter willing to go in that separate direction. And that doesn’t surprise me in the least. Because Carter is never one to take the easy road to accomplish anything. 


AG: No, it was… 


KWS: It’s just not his personality. 


AG: Yes. 


KWS: He was convinced the comprehensive peace was the only way to go. He was convinced that the Brookings report was essentially the way it should be. And he had believed that… and Brzezinski, and Saunders, and Atherton, and all of his advisors who said comprehensive, in Geneva, was the only course, and he was dedicated to it. When you said to me in the car today, that history will prove, will vindicate him more than you and I know. And you know a lot more than I do. 


AG: I know that… 


KWS: I mean, it’s a rather incredible story.   


AG: Sadat…there might be a caveat here. 


KWS: O.K. 


AG: You could talk about a separate but related. But you cannot necessarily say a separate means a divorce. 


KWS: No, but this gave Carter the notion. Carter then turned to his foreign policy advisors, the working group under Vance, and asked them to begin to devise an outline on how the Egyptian- Israeli arrangement could be worked, and how an arrangement could be worked between Israel and the Palestinians and the Jordanians. Because it was only in March-May, March to May of ’77, that the State Department began to write down on paper what would a transitional authority look like. It was the first time they began to think about the transfer of Israeli control over the West Bank into Jordanian hands, but over a period of time. And it comes out of a Carter directive to Brzezinski. Now I learned, yesterday, that the first discussion of a transition comes in the minds of the U.S. State Department…not yesterday. I learned this from Atherton, a couple weeks ago. The idea of a transitional authority begins to evolve out of the State Department in the spring of ’77 after Sadat’s visit. Not before, but after his visit, which I think is significant, or maybe just coincidental. But the first time the PLO recognized… 


AG: But you had also Menachem Begin’s ideas about autonomy? 


KWS: That was in July. He brought that; he brought those ideas with him in July for the first time. 


AG: No, but he talked about that in Cairo when or in ??? when he came. 


KWS: Yes, but he brought the idea of separating the people from the territory in July when he sees Carter at the White House. Those are the first ideas of autonomy that he brings. And the Americans have already, in advance of Begin, begun to fashion an idea of a transitional arrangement. They didn’t call it autonomy. The point I wanted to make to you is, the PLO first accepted the notion of a transitional authority, a transitional arrangement in 1989 in the middle of the U.S.-PLO dialog. In other words, it was first discussed by the Americans amongst themselves in ’77 and it took twelve years for the PLO to begin to think about it seriously.  


AG: Now they have missed a lot of… 


KWS: Nabil told me yesterday, it was the first time, in the middle of our dialog, he said: “You know, maybe a transitional authority is the way we should go.” Twelve years, Ashraf. 


AG: Twelve years in which they sweat a lot of blood and tears. 


KWS: We won’t even talk about it. I’m interested in the summer of ’77 because it’s such a terribly important time. There is this notion, or this story that’s unconfirmed, that the Israelis provided private information to Sadat about an attack on his life by Qaddafi. And the Israelis provided information from the Mossad to Sadat, and Sadat really now believed that begin and the Israelis were serious. If the Israelis were going to provide him with information that was going to save his life, that he could begin to trust, at least consider trusting.  Carter had made a big deal about it at the meeting with Sadat saying, “you know, the Israelis are people you can deal with.” Of course, once Begin is elected, it’s a different cup of tea, a different person. I’m interested in the Tuhami-Dayan meetings and how they originated. What do you know about it? 

AG: I don’t know much, really. And I always wondered why in the name of the lord did Anwar Sadat pick someone like Hassan Tuhami to go and talk to the Israelis. 

KWS: You know, every person I ask that question to, that’s the first question they come back to me with! 

AG: I have no logical answer because it was an illogical situation. There is only one possibility in my mind. Sadat, being what he is, wanted to have an escape hatch. Hassan Tuhami is known to be fickle, and he (Sadat) can say, “if things go sour, if things get to be uncovered, that Hassan Tuhami is an unstable person, and probably he’s making it all up.” 


KWS: Can I ask you another question? 


AG: Ahh? 


KWS: Is it possible that Sadat chose someone who was totally disconnected to Ismail Fahmi? 


AG: Disconnected with Ismail Fahmi? 


KWS: Someone who had no connection to Ismail Fahmi… 


AG: Well definitely, he will have to choose someone with no connection with Ismail Fahmi, but he’s not…he could have chosen someone who is in, what I would call, stable mind. Hassan Tuhami is a cookoo. 


KWS: Was he a cookoo at the time? 


AG: I don’t know. 


KWS: Or only later? 


AG: Does one become cookoo?


KWS: (laugh) It’s a progressive process. 


AG: You know, when Sadat got the invitation from Cyrus Vance to go to Camp David, and he told Cyrus, “Let Menachem Begin bring a solid delegation with him to tackle decisions on the spot, and not come and tell us after all the negotiations that he’ll have to go and clear it with the Cabinet.” I went to see Sadat and he told me, “I told Cyrus Vance that I had known before ??? told me.” And I told him, “Mr. President, you do right by asking Menachem Begin to do that.” >END OF SIDE TWO TAPE ONE<  


KWS: (Go ahead.) 


AG: I told him, “You did right to ask Menachem Begin to do so, and I think to make the point hit home is to do the same.” And he said: “What do you mean?” And I said, “you ought to choose people who have a political standing in the country.” And he said, “like who? I have members of the National Security Council.” I said, “somebody like Mustafa Khalid.”  He was expecting that I would say someone like ???, because we were close then. And he said, “and I have Hassan Tuhami.” And I said: “Now you talk about Hassan Tuhami, Mr. President. Hassan Tuhami has had his contacts with the Israelis, are you going to go with the possibility of opening a channel with the Israelis, or are you going to go with a concentration in America to play its fair role in between?” And I said, “well, Hassan Tuhami send him to meetings with Dayan and so on, and he might claim that he is directed by you to say this or that.” He shrugged me off: “No, don’t worry about that, he won’t do that. And then the Americans have confidence in my… in what I tell them.” I just found it strange that he would include Hassan Tuhami in Camp David. Hassan Tuhami didn’t play any role except being there, at least to my knowledge. He once attended… we were once having lunch, and he was talking about how he controls all his muscles, including the heart muscle. Did you hear that story before? And we said: “What?” He said, “yes, the heart muscle and I can make it stop.” And at that moment, the physician of Menachem Begin left his table and came, he said: “Can I sit with you people and listen to that?” We said: “Gladly, sit.”  And he said, “Dr. Tuhami, or Mr. Tuhami, can you repeat what you said?” And he said: “Yes, I can control my heart muscle, I can make it slow, fast, go fast, and I can make it stop.” And he said, “how do you start it again?” We had to, all of us, laugh. So, we never took him seriously. Why would the President choose, of all people, that man?  It’s a dilemma.  He went once to… 

KWS: What a great story! 


AG: He went to King Hassan, and told him: “I dreamt, your majesty, that I married a Moroccan girl.” And King Hassan laughed and he told him, “I thus come to you to fulfill my dream, and you have to choose the girl for me.” He got married for about a few months.


KWS: To a Moroccan? 


AG: To a Moroccan girl, chosen by the king. 


KWS: So, you don’t have any… 


AG: No, I have no idea. And until today I have my question mark. Why? And I never got an answer. 


KWS: Were you part of any of the discussions that were going on about the procedures that would lead up to Geneva? About how Geneva would be convened, who would convene it? 


AG: No. 


KWS: What the agenda would be? 


AG: No, no, I think Ismail would have given you all of that. 


KWS: What do you recall about the October 1st communiqué? 


AG: Again, Ismail didn’t take us in. 


KWS: I’m sorry? 


AG: Ismail didn’t take us in. We went… I went with Ismail to the President. He was in New York and he asked to see him personally. So, he went in to see President Carter personally and Brzezinski was all furious. And he walked into the meeting. I never knew back then, as he walked out, the press came to ask me, I said: “I didn’t attend.”  


KWS: Why do you suppose Sadat went to Jerusalem? 


AG: Well, we know that Brzezinski had called me up one day to tell me that he’s got a message, a personal message from President Carter to President Sadat and he asked if I would care to give it to a special message to deliver to the President and I sent it. Ahmed Ismail’s son, who is now the Prime Minister.


KWS: This is October 27th. 


AG: Yes. And I never knew what its contents were. It was closed, sealed, and I took it to him. And a few days later we got the… and he knew what… he read that…President Carter said that: “I think he comes to the end of the road in some of the efforts that he has been deploying, and that there needs to be a dramatic action.” And that dramatic action led to two variations, one of them didn’t work, and one of them worked.   


KWS: Some people give credit, give credence to the notion that Sadat was frustrated and impatient with the process. Atherton and Eilts tell me that they think one of the reasons Sadat went to Jerusalem was because he was afraid that the Syrians were mucking up the process. The Syrian veto. The Israelis had extracted so much from Carter on October 4th in the Dayan discussions of the U.S.-Israeli working paper. There were so many new wrenches that were being thrown into this process. That was one of his motivations. He was impatient. Things weren’t moving as fast as they should. Is that all accurate? 


AG: I honestly can’t recall that detail, but you know, from a general point of view, the Syrians have never been the easiest. Not in that set of beans… but also because they are that way, we are inclined, all of us, to attempt to throw the responsibility on them. Needless to say, that when the situation and the circumstances change, here are the Syrians changing. They are by nature dogmatic and hard to convince, stubborn. And they always appear to try to be the patriot, and others are not. Maybe that is one of the reasons for which they get to be crowned with these adjectives. It could be. I don’t know. I can’t recall. 


KWS: O.K. Lets jump ahead to Sadat’s visit in February of ’78, unless there’s something special you want to recollect about the visit to Jerusalem, in terms of its impact on U.S.-Egyptian relations.  


AG: Let Ismail Fahmi tell you about that. 


KWS: About what? 


AG: About going to Jerusalem and his resignation. 


KWS: Why? He just said, he essentially said… 


AG: Anything revealing? Anything new? Same old story? 

KWS: He tried to talk the President out of it, tried to get the Cabinet, tried to get the National Security Council to listen to his suggestion. Sadat looked at him, laughed, and said “Ha! What Cabinet? Ha! What National Security council? If I decide I want to do something, I’ll do it!” 


AG: I think sometimes Ismail Fahmi imagines things.  


KWS: Not impossible, his book is fraught with errors. The book has errors of judgment, errors of fact, errors of date, errors of time, errors of spelling. It would not get a very good book review in a scholarly journal. I mean, it is just messed up. I never said that to him to his face, but you can’t use it as a benchmark for what went on. You can’t. You have to piece it together in other ways. You get some interesting quotations about his claimed discussions with Sadat, but everything in the book is so self-serving. 


AG: Yes. 


KWS: Unbelievably self-serving. 


AG: Yes. 


KWS: It just… 


AG: That’s the unfortunate… 


KWS: It reeks. 


AG: Two books were unfortunately written: this, and Muhammed Ibrahim Kamel’s book also, have you read it? 


KWS: Camp David Accords. 


AG: Muhammad Ibrahim Kamel, the story about Camp David, and about Sadat, was not honestly written. And this is why I think for Usama to write it more than anyone else, definitely more than I. As you see, there are lots of things I don’t know the details of. I can always get them from references or what not, but I’m not privy to them. 


KWS: Let’s talk about the February ’78 trip. 


AG: Yes. 


KWS: And then let’s talk about Camp David. Sadat’s purpose of coming to Washington in February of ’78. 


AG: I think it was to agree with Carter about what steps to be taken from then on in order to get on with the peace process. 


KWS: Because Geneva and an international conference were dead? 


AG: They were dead. And after all, he had gone to Jerusalem, and he did the impossible. But most important of all, I think, is the fact that he could not allow things to freeze after he has done all of that. He’s gone to war, he’s gone to agreements, disengagements, he did the impossible by going to Jerusalem, and he would not allow Menachem Begin to freeze it now after Ismail left, so he needed the President of the United States to get fully involved. That, to me, that was, from his angle, the real need. And I think also President Carter saw that, and thus the meeting in Camp David, was confined to the two of them. And I liked what President Carter did the next day when the two delegations joined. He said, “each one is going to summarize what the other told them in order to see if we both understand the position.” But certainly, what they wanted to keep for themselves, they kept for themselves. 


KWS: They certainly did. They were both very comfortable with doing that. 


AG: Yes. I think it was an excellent opportunity to strengthen the rapport between them, and to confide more into each other, what needs to be done. 


KWS: You didn’t go to Leeds Castle 


AG: Mmm? 


KWS: You weren’t at Leeds. 


AG: No. I did not go to Leeds. 


KWS: Tell me about the run up to Camp David. Tell me about Camp David. 


AG: Usama will tell you about that, because he is the one privy. We knew what Usama told us about the meetings that he had, or whatever we attended, all of us together would… we didn’t have any meetings with the Israelis, but it was with the Americans. The Americans handled the Israelis. We had, sometimes, individual meetings with Dayan or Weizman. But I certainly was there when Sadat called me in to tell me that he plans to leave, to call a press conference in Washington, to tell the whole story about Camp David, and that for me to make the arrangements accordingly. He had requested a plane to come in. And I immediately notified Cyrus Vance. I told him to hold on, that it shouldn’t break away, but he had made up his mind. At least, that’s what he said. Some of us believed that he was making a verbal threat, but not a meaningful one, not a true one. And some of us believed that his threat is a serious one. What we know is that the night before, at the suggestion of Weizman, he met with Dayan, and Dayan was talking to him about the mood in Israel and he told them that it’s going to be hard to convince the Israelis about withdrawal from Sinai because the mood in Israel is not ready for that. And that was the triggering point. Also, there was a rumor that the Israelis were not going to sign any communiqué, because they couldn’t agree on what was agreed upon, that there were two positions, one American-Egyptian and one Israeli. That would have been also a bad situation to reach. 


KWS: Did Carter represent Egypt to Israel? Did Jimmy Carter become the Egyptian ambassador to Israel at Camp David? 


AG: No, there was a…first of all, there was Usama, there was Sadat and Usama principally. In the negotiation, there was Sadat with Carter on a tit-for-tat basis, and Barak with Carter. 


KWS: And Vance, the drafting group. 


AG: Ahh? 


KWS: And Vance, the drafting group. 


AG: And Vance, the drafting group. You had that position quite clear. 


KWS: But did Carter, from your impression both there and afterwards, did Carter end up representing Egypt or did he, at Camp David, become the quintessential mediator. 


AG: I would not minimize that if Carter got convinced of some arguments of the Egyptian position, that he tried to clarify it well before the Israelis. But I think for the same purpose he did it in the opposite direction as well. He explained to us lots of Israeli points that we might have understood in one fashion or the other. No, he played the proper, the proper catalyst in between. But he found it easier, and he admits, to pressure Sadat, than to pressure Menachem Begin. And when in final conclusion that was necessary, he did not hesitate to do it. Let’s not forget that Carter himself, his reputation and future was at stake with all that he has invested in it. 


KWS: He said that Begin made more compromises at Camp David. 


AG: Mmm? 

KWS: Carter tells me that Begin made more compromises at Camp David than Sadat did.  


AG: That, I don’t know. His books suggest otherwise. 


KWS: Do you think the Israeli team was better prepared than the Egyptian team? 


AG: Mmm? 


KWS: Do you think the Israeli team, the negotiators, were better prepared? 


AG: They had more of a teamwork. Unfortunately, we had more single players.  


KWS: Well, they did act as a team. 


AG: Yes. 


KWS: Dan Patir thinks the Egyptians did not act as a team. 


AG: Well, I’m telling you. You’re asking me things that I don’t know. And you ask the Foreign Minister, Muhammad Ibrahim Kamel, things that he didn’t know. Whatever he claims in his book. 


KWS: In other words, the Ra’is (President Sadat) still kept it to himself. 


AG: Mmm? 


KWS: The Ra’is still kept it to himself. 


AG: The Ra’is kept things to himself, yes. And then there were things between the Ra’is and Usama. Instructions that we got to learn from either the President or from Usama, and our reaction with the President. For instance, Muhammed Kamel talks about what he told the President. We were all repeating the same argument: “Beware of the reaction with the Arabs etc. Etc.” Yes, he directed the words to Muhammed Ibrahim Kamel, and Muhammed Ibrahim Kamel claims that he’s oblivious, etc. 


KWS: What do you think the commitment on settlements was? 


AG: Mmm? 


KWS: What do you think Begin’s commitment on the settlements was? 


AG: To freeze the settlements as long as negotiations were taking place over the West Bank and Gaza. 


KWS: That was your feeling when you left Camp David. 


AG: Yes. 


KWS: Not something you developed afterwards. 


AG: No. 


KWS: And what brought you to that conclusion? 


AG: What we heard from the American side. 


KWS: Do you think the Americans represented the Israeli side accurately? 


AG: I think so. I [have] yet to see them not representing sides. It was from the President down. 


KWS: Why don’t you suppose the term self-determination ended up in the Camp David Accords, because the Israelis couldn’t live with it? 


AG: Well, the Israelis didn’t want it, but your people used participation in the determination of their future, and you told us it means the same thing.


KWS: After Camp David there was never any talk about going back to a Geneva conference, or an international conference, which was all dead? 


AG: Not to my knowledge. 


KWS: How did the bilateral Egyptian Israeli relationship benefit from Camp David? Or did it? 


AG: Oh, yes it did. First of all, there were no more threats. There was an atmosphere of peace, there might not have been an atmosphere of cordiality. I think there was more of an expectation of better behavior from the Israelis and then you had two things develop. One the attack on Iraq, and then the attack on Lebanon, and that was the worst. That was a…what many in Egypt call and consider as damaging the bridges between Egypt and the rest of the Arab world, isolate Egypt in the Arab world. It thus proved that it is a separate peace, and Egypt couldn’t do anything about it except swallow its pride. It was a very unwarranted kind of action on the part of Israel. And I think the Israelis did not gain from that in what I would call a long-term fashion. That might have scored points, short-term points, but it was stupid. Very frankly. It was a bad humiliation of Arab dignity after the peace treaty was signed between Israel and the principle Arab country. To occupy an Arab capital was the wrong thing to do at that time. Sharon might have tried to act in a Napoleonic fashion but ended up messing it up.  


KWS: Did Camp David get translated into financial assistance for Egypt? 


AG: Well, the whole peace certainly was translated in assistance that has benefited both Egypt and Israel to the degree that we swallow between ourselves more than half of the aid program, aid and military assistance, needless to say. But we paid heavily from the lack of support of the Arab world, and the divorce that took place. It’s something like an Arab industrial organization that lost totally its Arab participation. 


KWS: You were Ambassador until 1984. So, you were present not only for Camp David, but for the signing of the peace treaty. Were you at the Blair House Talks? 


AG: Mmm? 


KWS: Did you participate in the Blair House Talks at all? 


AG: Oh, yes. 


KWS: Do you want to tell me about Jimmy Carter’s attitude in October of ’78 as compared to Jimmy Carter’s attitude at Camp David and Jimmy Carter who met Sadat a year earlier? How had Carter changed, in his style and demeanor? 


AG: His what? 


KWS: His style, his demeanor. 


AG: Yes. 


KWS: You read Quandt and you get the feeling that this was a Carter who was becoming increasingly frustrated and impatient with the slowness. 


AG: Well, the mere fact that he crossed, one day, the Pennsylvania Avenue to come to the Blair House to see why we are stuck, and how we can give a… 


KWS: A push? 


AG: A push…I think, is indicative of… that was typical of the Israeli attitude, the hesitation about lots of things. When they talked, for instance, about conditions of peace, diplomatic enterprise, and Boutros-Ghali was telling them, “Why don’t we graduate into consulate relations and then diplomatic?” No, they want diplomatic from the outset. He said: “You know, you can end up by, if you insist upon that, that we can delegate one of our ambassadors in Cyprus or somewhere.” No, they wanted a resident ambassador. But we are afraid of having a diplomatic link. As a result of which, you know, the two delegations have gone back home and Simcha Dinitz and I were left in Washington. And I got a message from… 


KWS: Simcha Dinitz, or Epi Evron? 


AG: No, it was Simcha. I got a message from Kamel in Cairo. “Please meet Simcha and pass on to him the following message to his government.” I called him up: “I have a message to deliver.” “Alright, shall we meet at the Embassy.” I said, “Why? You know where the Egyptian Embassy is?” He said: “yes.” I said to come over. “At the embassy?” He couldn’t believe his ears. I said, “yes, why what’s wrong?” And he went to the residence. He entered from the front door, and they took him from the back door, he came up. And as he came and sat, I welcomed him. I said: “Where are you Simcha?” He said, “what do you mean?” I said, “where are you know? in the Egyptian Embassy.” I said, “we are not afraid of having the Israeli Ambassador in the Egyptian Embassy.” And I have no instructions, I did that on my own. “When we mean peace, we mean peace with all its trimmings.” 


KWS: What did he say? 


AG: He laughed and said, “I get your point.” Well, in any case, I think it helped to get the Israelis to understand that we are not that bad, after all. We are not as belligerent as they imagined us. 


KWS: They couldn’t believe Sadat at first. They couldn’t understand this man. They had some of the same images that Kissinger had of him. Its striking that no Israeli in November, December of ’73 was even thinking about a peace treaty with Egypt. 


AG: No, no. 


KWS: And they might have gotten one if they wanted it, Mordechai Gazit said. 


AG: They were still thinking about it in terms of superiority in arms. 

KWS: They were traumatized by this war in a magnitude I don’t think the Egyptians even know. If you talk to the Israelis, they say, “you know, this was unheard of. Our invincibility had been broken.” They never…they couldn’t…I don’t think they ever recovered from the ’73 War, to be quite honest. I think they still suffer from this stereotype, and they just didn’t understand Sadat. I don’t think the Americans understood Sadat. I know the American reacted very late to Sadat’s desire to see Begin and to create a warm relationship with him. They still had comprehensive and Geneva on the brain even after they learned of the Tuhami-Dayan talks. It wasn’t till October, it was two or three months later that it began to dawn on them that maybe Sadat wanted to do business, to deal with Begin directly for the time being. 


AG: I don’t know. 


KWS: Atherton says… 


AG: I think he was anxious to get America to play more of a positive role. Because what you are really talking about is one of two alternatives either America being totally on the side of Israel, or America being absent. He wanted the third option, America being an active in between with a fair sense of play. And America not fearful of the Arab world going to Russia, but America assured by Egypt, the head of the Arab clan, that there is a closeness that it is anxious to develop between America and the Arab world. 

KWS: And yet Sadat was willing to give up on his Arab brethren, and he certainly was willing to give on the Palestinians.


AG: There, you see, I think there is a misreading. You tell me that Sadat told Carter that he’s ready for a separate peace. I think that what he means is I am ready to get out in front and do what is necessary and I know I will be pulling, like a locomotive, all the rest of the cars. I have the power in my wagon, but they lack the power in theirs. So, it is Egypt that usually pulls, that is the caboose. You call it a caboose, 

KWS: An engine. What do you think your major contribution was as Ambassador? 


AG: Well, I think I would associate with the eleven years, the four and a half years before, because these were very important years in which there was a total absence of formal relations. Yet there was a very active effort on the part of Donald Ferguson and me and later on by ??? that we deployed to bring the two countries closer together and a better understanding. We didn’t succeed very much, but at least we prepared the ground for when the time came. 


KWS: People were ready. 

AG: People were ready for it. And I think it helped Sadat to orient his mind more to what he did later. And then we developed relations between the two countries that instead of estrangement, now we are one of your close allies. And we have helped you very much in the Gulf War. Had it not been for the attitude that Egypt took, you would have been without a reason, legally, for all your actions. 


KWS: And also, in the peace process. 


AG: Yes. So very frankly, I say we sometimes are ahead, and thus we appear to be separate from the rest of the gang, but we’re pulling the gang maybe with a little bit of distance? 


KWS: No question you’re pulling, and I think to the better for everyone.