Mustapha Khalil served as Egypt’s Prime Minister from October 2, 1978, to May 15, 1980. Khalil played an instrumental role in shaping the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty after the completion of the Sadat, Begin, Carter September 1978 Camp Accord negotiations . Khalil provides details of the Blair House talks. Khalil stayed the course with Sadat, unlike two predecessors, Ismail Fahmy (November 1977) and Mohammed Ibrahim Kamal (September 1978) who resigned their posts in angry opposition to Sadat’s peace treaty initiatives with Israel.  Khalil was granted a “free hand” to negotiate the treaty’s final details, but the task for which he was appointed proved demonstrably difficult. Several times in the September 1978-March 1979 period, Sadat stepped into the negotiations to unblock irreconcilable points of dispute.

According to Khalil, Sadat was not prepared to “put Egyptian policy under the control of any other Arab leader.” His primary objective was having Sinai returned to Egyptian sovereignty and he realized to do that he had to breach the historic barrier of no negotiations and no recognition of Israel. Khalil described Israeli Prime Minister Begin as a “strong leader” who made it patently clear to the Egyptians that he was willing to make territorial concessions in exchange for peace long before Sadat’s historic visit to Jerusalem in November 1977

Khalil explains that the Syrians and the PLO were not yet prepared to negotiate with Israel. Sadat was impatient. Khalil was responsible for translating this Camp David framework into a full-fledged peace treaty. 

In the end, Khalil developed a strong personal rapport with Israeli Foreign Minister Dayan, whom he praised as a “very acceptable person” and “very objective in his way of thinking.” Sadat for his part, had a tough time engaging with Dayan, more so because that Dayan represented the Israeli military that had defeated Egypt in the June 1967 war, then because of his personality, character, or wisdom in finding compromise solutions to outstanding problems.  In negotiations, Khalil placed a great emphasis on both parties sitting “not as enemies,” but as “amicable persons” attempting to “find a middle ground.” That Israeli and Egyptian negotiators were able to treat each other in this way was decisive in producing the Israel-Egypt peace treaty. 

What the six months of negotiations proved in securing the details of the treaty, as it did at Camp David in 1978, it would take the principal heads of government, Begin, Sadat, and Carter to negotiate the fine details required to complete the treaty’s negotiations in the last ten days prior to March 26, 1979,  White House signing. 

We learn that Israeli Prime Minister Begin, was very much the formalist, did not consider it appropriate that he should be negotiating with Khalil and appointed Prime Minister, while he Begin was an elected by the people. Khalil was not pleased that that Israelis wanted “special privileges” regarding Egypt’s oil reserves. Ultimately, the treaty did not link the implementation of the Egyptian-Israeli treaty with progress on the Palestinian front. The Israelis insisted on, and obtained, a separate treaty with Egypt with any linkage to Palestinian political progress. Israel’s treaty with Egypt received priority over  Egypt’s prior commitments to other Arab states. For a decade, Egypt remained on the outside of inter-Arab politics for signing its separate treaty with Israel, and returned at the end of the 1980s, this time adhering to its treaty with Israel, and once again engaged in intra-Arab politics.         

  Ken Stein, July 16, 2023

Ken Stein Interview with Former Egyptian Prime Minister Mustafa Khalil, Cairo, Egypt, July 14th, 1993 

KWS: (The beginning of tape is cut off) Secretary General of the party, and the reason that interests me is that in July of 1977, just before Begin went to Washington, Sadat spoke in the Egyptian Parliament. There was a delegation of congressmen here from Utah. And Sadat spoke for the first time, that I know in Arabic, he spoke from the Parliament about the necessity of Egypt to have a peace treaty with Israel. He said it to the congressional delegation and you were in the audience. Had you heard Sadat say that before in public?

MK: I have to tell you… you know, it’s very important episode that really gave President Sadat the green light. And I mentioned that publicly in my last visit to Israel. And in answer to the question that Mr. Rabin said that the Syrians are not accepting any talks between very high levels. Ezer Weizman was really suggesting that he would go and see President Assad and so on. I said the following… I said that Hassan Tuhami met Moshe Dayan.

KWS: In Morocco.

MK: In Morocco, two years before, or one and a half years before, Sadat announced his visit in Jerusalem. And I found out when I was in Israel two months ago that until now there is a debate inside Israel about what really happened between Moshe Dayan and Hassan.

KWS: I know very well.

MK: And I knew Hassan Tuhami very well. He was a wonderful, close friend of mine. I knew Moshe Dayan very well after the agreement. Once he was in Cairo, I asked him about the true story. And he said, “well, you know Hassan Tuhami is the biggest liar in history.” And I said: “All right.”

KWS: Dayan said that?

MK: Dayan said that. I’m telling you the truth.

KWS: Fine. Lovely.

MK: Of course, Hassan Tuhami was insisting on his story and Dayan was insisting on his story. But what really matters is that Hassan Tuhami came back and conveyed to Sadat an impression for a green light, you know, that told him that the Israelis were ready to make peace in exchange for land. Then came the visit of President Sadat to Romania. 

KWS: That I’m aware of too.

MK: Yes. President Sadat came back from Romania. And this was a very important visit because Begin visited Romania before.

KWS: In August, the last days of August.

MK: So Sadat came, and of course I was the Secretary General of the Arab Socialist Union at that time. I was a member in the Egyptian Security Committee of High Security. And Sadat really told the members of the committee what happened. And he said: “Begin is ready to make peace.”

KWS: But did he define what that meant? Did he define?

MK: He even went to the extent of saying that we had a map of Israel and he said that Ceaușescu said that Israel is willing to trade off the Gaza Strip, and the strip in the north of Israel, and that the Palestinians will be moved there. Of course we discounted this and we said the northern part of Israel is important to the Israelis because of the water resources. Those were present feelings discounted but Sadat said we really had the map and we had to measure the areas and so on. So, he was telling the truth.

KWS: So it indicated that Israel was serious.

MK: So that really gave Sadat an indication of the green light that Israel was serious. Most important thing in his way of thinking was the idea that “Begin is a strong leader and I would like to deal with a strong leader. And if I am going to talk peace, why shouldn’t I take the whole matter into my own hands and negotiate directly with the assistance of United States at the Parliament.” Here came, you know, the formulation of the Iron Gate speech and if he needs to go to the end of the world, including Jerusalem, he’ll go to the end. This is the true story, you know, of the whole thing. And I told Mr. Rabin, “You didn’t, until now, give President Assad the green light that you are going to withdraw from the Golan Heights. You said I’m going to withdraw in the Golan Heights, but Syrians will never accept that and you know it.” And the problem of security doesn’t really need the occupation of the Golan Heights. And he said: “But I didn’t say that I’m going to withdraw completely from the Golan Heights or anything like that.” “I know,” I said, “I know, because until now, the Syrians are not willing to say what peace would mean to them. You interpret peace as opening the borders, having normal relations, and exchange

ambassadors. The Syrians say that peace means non-belligerency and we are not going to fight the Israelis without them committing themselves to the three other things.” Then I said “let us see what happens between Egypt and Israel.” Sinai was occupied by the Israeli forces and then according to the agreement between Egypt and Israel, Sinai was divided into five zones. And we agreed that withdrawal would take three years. But then Sadat did not accept to exchange ambassadors, except after the withdrawal from El-Arish, which really was the first phase, meaning that if you are going to have a comprehensive peace with the Syrians, this could be coordinated or coupled with the phases of your withdrawal from the Golan Heights. 

KWS: Yes, and the phases of diplomatic recognition, presence, etc.

MK: If they find that they cannot exchange ambassadors from the very beginning, you can agree to…

KWS: Have a phase.

MK: You can have a phase.

KWS: I understand.

MK: Yes. And I told them that the process of negotiations is slow at the present time, and the negotiating teams are at a very low level compared to the previous negotiations between Israel and Egypt. In the negotiations between Israel and Egypt, either in the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty or in the West Bank and so on, it was conducted by me, as a Prime Minister…

KWS: Prime Minister or Foreign Minister, right.

MK: And by the counterpart, which was also a cabinet minister.

KWS: Did you have both titles when you were appointed?

MK: Yes.

KWS: You were both Foreign Minister and Prime Minister?

MK: Yes. I was Prime Minister and then after that I became Foreign Minister.

KWS: So when Muhammad Ibrahim Kamel resigned.

MK: This was before.

KWS: Right. He resigned after Camp David.

MK: Yes, but before I formed the government.

KWS: But when you formed the government, there wasn’t anyone else who was Foreign Minister?

MK: Fahmy resigned.

KWS: Yes, that was earlier, before Sadat went to Jerusalem.

MK: Before Sadat went to Jerusalem.

KWS: But after Camp David, Kamel resigned. Mohammed Ibrahim Kamel resigned.

MK: Kamel resigned. And then Boutros-Ghali became Minister of State of Foreign Affairs.

KWS: I see. 

MK: And Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, or a Minister of State. Any ministry in Egypt… really has duties and responsibilities assigned to him by the Cabinet Minister.

KWS: I understand. O.K..

MK: So when I became the Foreign Minister, I assigned certain responsibilities to him.

KWS: So it was you and Boutros and Kamal Hassan Ali?

MK: Exactly. We were leading the whole thing. 

KWS: Very different than the level of discussions, right. O.K., let me ask you a couple questions about what you just said. You were very careful when you recounted the story that Dayan told you. You said that the Israelis gave Sadat a green light. Did the green light include a commitment for full withdrawal or was the green light a general statement that Israel would exchange territories for peace?

MK: Very general one.

KWS: It was general. That’s what every Israeli tells me. That’s what Naftali Levi told me, who was Dayan’s press secretary, and what Yossi Ciechanover, who was the Director General, told me. That’s exactly what they said, so I’m merely confirming what I know already. Number two, when Begin saw Ceausescu in Romania in August, according to Kadishai, who I saw last week, Ceausescu told Begin on the boat that “Sadat is willing to make peace with you for territory.” So Ceausescu was a confidant for both sides, but I would like to go back even further. Do you know

of any effort that Sadat made early in ’77 to contact the Israelis to visit with Ceausescu, to speak with him?

MK: No.

KWS: You don’t know of any…

MK: Personally I don’t know.

KWS: O.K.. When you became Prime Minister, the Camp David Accords had already been signed and now your task was to outline or to put substance to the peace treaty. There was the priority of obligation issue; there was the linkage issue; there was a time table.

MK: Also the normalization of ties.

KWS: And the level of normalization as it would be phased in. Those are basically the four, unless I’m mistaken, the four major issues that confronted you in the period from September ’78 until the actual signing of the treaty.

MK: I’ll tell you something. Actually, you know, we had regular meetings with President Sadat before going to Camp David. And even before I became the Prime Minister, President Sadat really contacted me and asked me to become the Prime Minister. 

KWS: Before Camp David?

MK: Before Camp David. And then I really told him that the person that would be chosen to be a prime minister should be Hosni Mubarak. And then he said: “Why?” I told him: “I am a professional. I have been in the government since 1956. I know, I worked under President Nasser, eleven continuous years. I know the handshake of the government very well. I know all the procedures. I was a member of the Parliament, I was a member of the High Executive Committee of the Arab Socialist Union. I became the Secretary General of the Arab Socialist Union. But Mr. Mubarak came from the military and became the Vice President. Give him a chance to have the experience of running the government, so I hope that God wills, he will take it as long as you all vote, but nobody knows what the future will tell you.” So, I can tell you that I was in contact with the process which was going on in Camp David, through the telexes and through the correspondences sent to Mr. Mubarak here. So when Mr. Sadat really decided to go to Jerusalem, and before that, during the committee meeting, I supported him very strongly. I really thought that Mr. Sadat was completely right. And that’s why, when he came back at once from Camp David, he contacted me after one day from his arrival. And I met him the next day. And then he said “Well, you have to come in,” and the words he said: “I cannot stand alone.” I told him: “You have not been standing alone. I’ve been supporting you all the time. And I’m willing to come in now to carry out the peace treaty.”

KWS: What about your suggestion about Mubarak?

MK: I can tell you that we heard rumors even when Mr. Sadat was in the United States that Mr. Mubarak was forming or contacting people to form a government. And I told him that. I told him I heard rumors. Because whenever he would contact anybody, he said: “Well you don’t have to worry about this. I’m going to solve it.” This is the exact story. 

KWS: When you met, you were now Prime Minister for about seven weeks and the Arabs met in Baghdad. And you had the Baghdad Summit Conference. It was early November. Dr. Khalil, did you understand the level of ostracism, that the degree of distance that would befall Egypt because of this decision? Were you prepared for it as Prime Minister?

MK: Yes, I was. And they took a decision not only to ostracize Egypt, but to close down the Arab League in Egypt and transfer it.

KWS: They wanted to cut all of your links with the Arab world.

MK: And then cut all the links and then stop all kind of financial aid and all that. And my reaction to this was that I called on Mahmoud Riad. I told him that according to the charter of the

Arab League, this was not legal and we cannot really accept their decisions as binding to Egypt. And we are going to keep the headquarters of the Arab League as it is. And I refused to transfer any documents or anything from headquarters of the Arab League. And I told Mahmoud Riad that anyone who really thinks the headquarters should be transferred to Tunis or wants to go to Tunis, I’m not going really to forbid him from doing that, even if he is an Egyptian because this is a kind of a personal freedom. He has to choose. But after that, if the Arab League is transferred back to Egypt, he will not work in the Arab League.

KWS: I understand.

MK: As to the other Arab countries, my reaction to that was… I issued at that time a kind of a decree saying that all Arabs arriving in Egypt have to be well treated in all aspects. These

are individuals, they have nothing to do with politics, our disputes with their governments. And this was adopted.

KWS: But did Sadat anticipate the Arab world response?

MK: Yes, he did.

KWS: He did. Did he understand the degree of harshness, severity, the financial implications? This was not just ostracism. This was total isolation that the Arab world wanted to impose upon you.

MK: Yes, he did. And I was once asked about the financial conditions at that time, and some people even in Israel they were wondering whether Sadat really made his trip to Israel so that we

can gain economically or financially by having American help in this respect. I said it would have been more from the Arabs if he didn’t really go to Jerusalem. So the economical and financial aspects of the matter were known by Sadat and by all of us.

KWS: Tahseen Bashir told me that the Arab Delegation that met with him, or wanted to meet with him, offered him 50 billion dollars.

MK: Sadat refused.

KWS: They met with him and they offered it to him?

MK: I don’t know the facts. Really, I don’t know. But I can tell you that Sadat refused. Even when he really had severed all relations with the Soviet Union and expelled the Soviet Union

military advisors, they were in the neighborhood of seventeen thousand.

KWS: Yes sir.

MK: And Sadat really did not make this as a gesture to the American side. He said “I’m not going to really catch on and I’m not going to tell the Americans that I have done this because I am changing my policy. I’m changing my policy for internal reasons and also for the foreign policy that… you always express that the United States really has 99% of the cards.”‘’

KWS: In other words, Sadat was not going to be bought. He was too much of an Egyptian nationalist.

MK: Yes. And I really can confirm this because all this happened when I was with Sadat, when I was very close to Sadat. I knew the decisions and knew his convictions.

KWS: Describe Sadat for me in terms of his personality. He was a man who was not afraid to shock people by doing things that he thought, in terms of Egypt’s vision and future, were important and relevant. Whether it be the Soviets, whether it be the trip to Jerusalem, whether it be telling General Gamasy: “Who cares whether we have 300 tanks or 30 tanks, we’re not making peace with Israel, we’re making peace with the Americans.” I mean, at every juncture, he was willing to put Egypt’s interests up front. Is that fair? Is that a fair statement?

MK: It’s not fair. It’s the truth.

KWS: The truth. Well, thank you for that. But now tell me, when I write my history, how do I create the linkage between his attitude as an Egyptian nationalist, an Egyptian firstist, with his

being as an Arab and his commitment to the Palestinians. I’m trying to clarify that in my head.

MK: Yes. There is no contradiction whatsoever.

KWS: O.K..

MK: Because if you go to the Camp David Accords… if Sadat really meant to solve the Egyptian-Israeli dispute, and disregard the Palestinian or the other Arabs, then he could have really one paper at Camp David. Camp David comprises two papers.

KWS: Right. Exactly.

MK: One concerning Egypt and Israel, the other concerning the other Arab countries, including the Palestinians and Israel. So Sadat could have forgotten completely about the other one or could have excluded it from Camp David. But he insisted on that. And why he insisted, knowing that the other Arab countries are not going to participate, knowing that the P.L.O. at that time was not ready to participate in the negotiations and I’m telling you the truth. We never anticipated that they are going to accept, even Jordan because Jordan has at least two-thirds of the population as Palestinians. So King Hussein could never have come and joined Camp David. But we were under the impression that if we can succeed in finding out the way that can prove to the Palestinians that we are presenting to them an acceptable solution, then they will come in. This was Sadat’s point of view.

KWS: You also were involved in the Blair House, Madison Hotel talks. And I spoke with Hanan Bar-On last week, and he speaks very highly of you and I’m not surprised. He talked about the meetings that Dayan and Vance would have, and they couldn’t agree and argued with one another. And then neither one of them wanted to back down so they said: “O.K., you guys solve it. Have the solution in my office by 10 o’clock tonight.” I mean,all sorts of interesting stories. I think you may even recall these. The Blair House talks… the focus of the Blair House talks was basically to write the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, was it not?

MK: Yes.

KWS: Did it also include further discussion about the framework for the West Bank and Gaza?

MK: No.

KWS: At what point in the discussions did the issue, then, of linkage and the priority of obligation come into the discussions? When along…

MK: You have to separate between linkage and priority of obligation.

KWS: O.K..

MK: Because in the priority of obligations, this was one of the stumbling points.

KWS: Right.

MK: And I remember, especially in that aspect in the treaty, I had been to Washington. I met President Carter. I really stayed with him and you can prepare for President Carter in this, trying to find a kind of a draft that would be accepted by the Egyptians, and President Carter would write, “how about this language?” I would read it and say: “Why don’t we modify it in this way,” and so on. And we spent about three hours trying to find a solution to this and then we had another meeting, and until we came to an acceptable thing, that could be accepted by Egypt and the Israelis… In the negotiations, the most important thing was that I used to submit the report after each round with President Sadat. And then, before the second round of negotiations, I would sit with Mr. Mubarak and discuss what could be raised at the next round, and then

define the maximum and the minimum. And between these maximum and minimum, I had a complete free hand to negotiate and to come to conclusions. And that’s why when I was in the States, you know, I met with Mr. Carter trying to find a solution to such a problem. I knew that whatever I would accept would be accepted by President Sadat.

KWS: And Carter knew that you could speak on behalf of Sadat?

MK: Yes.

KWS: You met with President Carter on December 1st…

MK: President Carter was very kind with me and I remember him saying to me once: “I envy President Sadat because he has a man like you, who is experienced,” and such and such and such…

KWS: How did you find working with Vance?

MK: Secretary Vance is a true gentleman. A fine gentleman. And a man that I really have all the respect for him. And whenever he expressed his point of view, he expressed it in a very agreeable way, in a very fine way, in a gentlemanly way. But this, of course, did not discount that we had our differences in points of views, especially after signing the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.

KWS: Especially after?

MK: After. When Vance came to me with a draft saying if a dispute between Egypt and Israel in the future has an interference with the peace agreement, then the United States would interfere and try to solve the differences between the two countries. And then I refused the idea and sent him two letters which were attached to the agreement. And I told him: “I can never accept that Israel would be the country that our relations with the United States would depend on because I have to be frank with you, Mr. Vance, I know the power of the Jewish lobby inside the United States. Even if we discount this and even if we say the Jewish lobby is powerful with the Congress, and then with the White House… less powerful with the State Department, according to this, you know, range… but in Egypt or the Arab world, everywhere, you will be accused of siding with the Israelis. And people will never say that you have been fair with your decision. So I can not really base the relations between Egypt and the United States on solving any dispute between Egypt and Israel. Any dispute between Egypt and Israel has to be solved according to Article 7 in the Egyptian-Israeli peace agreement, meaning that such a dispute like that has to be either negotiated or conciliated. Conciliation or arbitration. So why should you interfere in this process?” And then I sent him two official letters, without consulting President Sadat. And I insisted on that. The meeting was at about between 5 and 6 o’clock in the evening, and I stayed the whole night drafting the two letters and I sent the two letters to Mr. Vance. And the letters were really attached to the Egyptian-Israeli peace agreement when they were represented to our Parliament here in Egypt, and when we transferred the document to be deposited in the United Nations. So my relations with Mr. Vance, of course, had its ups and downs in dealing with, shall I say, matters of interest in the negotiations. But personally, we, the two of us, have the greatest admiration to each other, the greatest respect, and I can say that Mr. Vance is one of the finest people I have ever met.

KWS: That’s quite a statement.

MK: Yes.

KWS: You met with Dayan in Brussels on December 24th, the day before Christmas, and do you remember that meeting?

MK: Yes.

KWS: Tell me about it.

MK: Well, I’ll tell you…

KWS: Had you met Dayan individually before or just at Blair House?

MK: No, I met him at Blair House. I didn’t really know Dayan before Blair House. The first Israeli that I met was Ezer Weizman.

KWS: Yes, I understand.

MK: And you know the story when I invited him.

KWS: Sure.

MK: And this really opened the door for that relations between President Sadat and Ezer Weizman and then Begin. But President Sadat had a complex of chemistry between him and Dayan.

KWS: A negative chemistry?

MK: A negative. And this was due to President Sadat really accusing Dayan of making so many statements about the 1967 war, how the Egyptians were defeated and so on.

KWS: And this hurt Sadat.

MK: Yes. And Sadat really didn’t talk to Dayan, never discussed anything with Dayan. And then when I dealt with Dayan, I found that Sadat really was harsh with him. And I found that Dayan was not against the peace process, or that he was the kind of a man that really would come and say this is it and nothing more. Dayan, on the contrary, was a very acceptable person to me. And I had a personal chemistry with him, and I liked him, and I liked to deal with him and discuss matters with him. I found him very objective in his way of thinking. Because I was frank with him, saying that we can’t accept this because of such and such and he will say the same thing. And then we tried to find a middle ground. The most important thing, according to my experience in negotiations, is that the parties would sit not as enemies, but as trying, you know, as counterparts, to find solutions to their differences. And that’s how it was dealt and conducted between the Egyptians and the Israelis. After each round, or after each meeting, we would sit

and have lunch or have dinner together. I would sit with them. Egyptians never really sat Egyptians and Israelis together. No, it’s not like this. But to mix, to really know each other personally, we dealt with them as amicable persons, not enemies. We were not going to the room and starting each one to go to the throat of the other or anything like that. And that’s how we really found solutions to our differences.

KWS: The meeting with Dayan in Brussels…

MK: I don’t think that I had any difficulty with Dayan. And the only piece that happened between me and Dayan was when I met with Dayan and Cyrus Vance in Camp David II. And here Dayan…

KWS: This was the end of February. This was ’79?

MK: Yes. Here Dayan, in front of Cyrus Vance, said, “Look, I feel incompetent to continue the negotiations. And I think that Mr. Begin has to negotiate with you.” My reply was that “this is not my job and I cannot say who will come and negotiate with me from the Israeli side. This is completely an internal matter, up to the Israelis to decide. I have nothing to do with it. If you would like anyone else to come and negotiate with me, this is up to you.” Next day, on the radio,

I heard Mr. Begin addressing me, saying “Look, Dr. Khalil, I am not going to come and negotiate with you. I am an elected Prime Minister and you are an appointed Prime Minister.” And then he made the statement that the Jews built the great pyramids and so on. I, at once, called on the Israeli and the American delegations, and I said: “Well, Mr. Begin addressed me on the radio and said such and such. My reply is that I didn’t ask Mr. Begin to come and negotiate with me. The second thing I cannot accept from Mr. Begin saying that he is an elected Prime Minister and I am an appointed Prime Minister. This would really mean his interference in our political constitution, it’s this simple. And I cannot accept this from him. Third point, I have to remind Mr. Begin that I am the Prime Minister of a country which is older than what he claims, much older, much more civilized and our history goes back seven thousand years, and the country that I am representing is ten times more important than his country. Please relay this to Mr. Begin.” Then when Mr. Begin came to Egypt, I didn’t go to the airport to meet him. 

KWS: He came here after the signing of the peace treaty.

MK: No, no. He came during.

KWS: Ah yes, that’s right.

MK: And I told President Sadat: “I’m not making excuses. I think Mr. Begin did not have the right to say what he said. I’m not going to meet him or see him.” So, President Sadat told Mr. Begin. And then I was in Alexandria at that time and the meeting was in Alexandria. And so Mr. Begin called me on the phone and said: “Well, Dr. Khalil, I was wrong. Would you accept to come and have dinner with me? Only the two of us would meet.” I said “With pleasure, Mr. Begin. Nothing personal. I am willing to forget what happened.” And so I went and had dinner with Mr. Begin.

KWS: In Alexandria.

MK: In Alexandria.

KWS: And how did you find Begin? What was your feeling about Begin? I mean, this was one of the few times that you met with him just one on one.

MK: Yes, I met with him, and it was a very funny story. When I met with him, the thing that struck me was that it was a kind of a talk…generalities, nothing specific, and he said: “You know, I read the Bible from cover to cover every week.” Then I was taken by surprise and I told him: “Well, we have people who read the Koran from cover to cover. But not every week, every month. How can you find the time to read the Bible from cover to cover every week? And do you also read the Talmud from cover to cover every week?” And he said: “No, as you know.” And I knew because I read it… I know that the Talmud is huge. He said: “No, I read the Bible from cover to cover.” But this really explained to me how he thinks, how he behaves, because in the back of his mind was always the Jewish history, the Jewish religion, the Jewish faith. And this reflected on that he once stated that the Jews built the Great Pyramids. And then after that, he withdrew that statement and said: “Well, I found out that the Jews did not build the Great Pyramids.” Then in one of our rounds of negotiations in Israel, we were sitting at lunch, and I asked Dr….

KWS: The autonomy talks?

MK: Yes, and I said: “Who convinced Mr. Begin that the Jews didn’t build the Great Pyramids?” And then Dr. said: “Why are you interested in this and why are you worried about that statement?” I said: “Well, you know the Egyptians are very proud of the Great Pyramids and I was really concerned because I didn’t know whether you’d come in the future and claim the Great Pyramids.”

KWS: (Laughter).

MK: Then we laughed and I told him who convinced him because, of course, Mr. Begin is an educated man. He knows the history, he knows that the Jews were in Egypt 2000 years after building the Great Pyramids, so how can the Jews really…



MK: I said “Yes, I know very well.” He said “He’s a very good archeologist.” I said, “yes he’s a very good archeologist.” He said Egaliadin(???) took the Bible and told Begin: “The Jews used to build in bricks and the Egyptians used to build in stone.” The Egyptian ancient civilization was a stone civilization, and Mesopotamia, you know, is a brick civilization. And he showed him that in the Old Testament and said the Jews could have never built the Great Pyramids. Only then was Mr. Begin convinced. Then my question was only then irrespective of the time span, irrespective of everything, he believed me.

KWS: Tell me, if you will, about Carter’s visit here, just before he went to Jerusalem, and then he went back and away…

MK: Here Cyrus Vance says in his book that I have objected to some of the…

KWS: Now you know why I’m asking you the question.

MK: This is a true story.

KWS: Vance is true?

MK: Yes, because everything has gone now and so on. President Carter came and he had a trip from Cairo to Alexandria on the train. And it was a kind of popular reception to him in every railway station. The people went up to greet President Sadat, cheer Mr. Carter, and we sat together with them, with Mr. Vance and all that. And we had our disputes between me and Mr. Vance. We had a lot of things to discuss. President Sadat was urging me to come to an agreement with them. I was saying: “No, we cannot accept what Mr. Vance is saying.” And then we had a meeting where we had come to an agreement about so many things. Then they went to President Sadat and some changes had been occurred on what we agreed, and I was not happy about these changes. But Mr. Carter took the whole thing and went to Jerusalem, and then he contacted Mr. Sadat on the phone. And before going to Jerusalem, we went to the airport. We had a meeting in the airport and I really was standing firm in my point of view and said: “No, this will not be accepted.”

KWS: Do you know what the issue was?

MK: No. I don’t like to say the issues because I’m not going to open that file again. What has been accepted has been accepted. And I also told President Sadat that “I always express myself but whatever decision you are going to take, I am going to accept it and turn the page and never discuss it.” But Cyrus Vance mentioned that. I never said it before.

KWS: Did you find Carter… you were Prime Minister through what date? You were Prime Minister from ’78 until…

MK: Until the 15th of May, 1980.

KWS: 1980.

MK: And why 15th of May? I’ll tell you. When President Sadat asked me to become the Prime Minister, I really… I told you that I had declined this invitation before, not once but twice. And when he asked me to become the Prime Minister, to head the negotiations and all that, I told him that “I accept that responsibility, provided that”… You know the relationship between the Prime Minister and the President is very delicate because, according to the Constitution, the President has a say, and a strong say, especially in all matters of policy and so on. So I told him: “If you have confidence in me, you are to give me a free hand, especially in choosing ministers and conducting my work. And I know the Constitution very well, I respect the Presidency very well, I know the limits of powers between the Prime Minister and the President. But I should have the powers to carry out my work.” And he accepted that.

KWS: He never denied you that.

MK: No. And then I told him: “I’ll be in my position until I finish the negotiations.” And we had a meeting in Alexandria that concluded the negotiations concerning the Western Bank. And I knew that I had to leave the government, because this was my agreement with President Sadat. And President Sadat when we talked about that said: “Then you will become the Deputy Chairman of the political party.” I told him: “No, I cannot replace Mr. Mubarak.” Mr. Mubarak was the Chairman of the political party. I told him that “I have the greatest admiration for him, greatest respect. I cannot really replace Mr. Mubarak.” Then he said: “What do you suggest?” I told him: “Well, I can become, if you accept this, the Deputy Chairman of the political party with Mr. Mubarak but I will take the responsibility of foreign affairs. And this will prove that our line of foreign affairs is continuous, and has not really changed.” And he accepted it all. So, from the beginning President Sadat knew that I’m going to leave the government, and from, you know, the conduct of the negotiations, and after that I really took a decision which was very important. Because as a Prime Minister I was really accused of leading the negotiations with the enemy, including the peace agreement, standing against the Arabs, you know. And then we had the incident in Ankara when the P.L.O. seized our embassy.

KWS: Right.

MK: And I dealt very harshly with them. I then realized that as a Prime Minister, I have to take a step backward so another man should really come in that position to change the policies concerning these respects.

KWS: What did you learn in your experiences with negotiations with the Israelis about their willingness to make compromise? When do they make compromises in the negotiation?

MK: I will tell you something: In our negotiations, as I told you, we sat not as enemies. And this is very important because if you look or watch the T.V. and see what happened in Madrid, the delegations came and no one even shook hands with the Israeli delegation.

KWS: That’s correct.

MK: And they sat there in disgust. We never did that. We at once went, you know, and cultivated, kind of, personal relations with Israelis. And I can tell you, whenever I felt a tension

between us or the Jews or the Israelis, it was a political dispute that had to be solved. So in our meetings, we never sat as enemies. We sat as counterparts, as I told you, and we tried to come to a solution. Each one of us. And I think the most important thing in negotiations is that you will be ready to submit alternatives. Because you start with a certain idea or you start with a certain proposition and each one will discuss, say the negative aspects and the positive aspects of that, that he cannot accept it, that he can accept it for certain reasons, and we have to analyze why you

don’t accept it, why you reject it and so on.

KWS: Sure.

MK: Then you have to be ready to submit an alternative.

KWS: Don’t just criticize but come with another idea.

MK: Another. A third idea, a fourth idea, and all that. And what we used to do on the Egyptian side is to sit together and I conducted that. And I say the issues will be such and such and such and such. People who are going to speak are, Boutros, you are going to speak on that, you know, in your own discussion, or Kamal Hassan Ali or sometimes I call on Usama for certain reasons. Because Tamir and Barak, or someone on the Israeli side, would become very stubborn in the negotiations and I would like someone else to come and…

KWS: Usama was your…

MK: To hit back. I would say “Well, Usama, you have to stop when I wink to you.” And then we sat together before the negotiations and said: “Suppose the Israelis, how are they going to

react to our propositions?” And then we say “If we are in their place, we would say so on and so forth.” Then we come with the second, and come to the third, and so on. And we prepare ourselves. There has been technical committees for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. And this committee will always come with recommendations in the various…

KWS: Provide you with ideas and papers and…

MK: Papers and so on. And that’s how we conducted the negotiations from our side.

KWS: Did Sadat get more involved other than saying to you: “This is my maximum and this is my minimum?”

MK: No, no. He never got involved in details, Sadat never was really happy to go into details. 

KWS: Was Sadat a man ahead of his time?

MK: I had a different point with President Sadat in some respects. The first one was our agreement concerning oil because I had a meeting with Ezer Weitzman and Moda’i in my office. And Moda’i was the Minister of Energy.

KWS: Right. 

MK: And he presented a letter from Mr. Carter to Mr. Begin saying that President Sadat has expressed to him that Egypt will supply Israel with a certain amount of petroleum on an ongoing basis, at a certain price. 

KWS: For a certain period of time, at a certain price.

MK: On-going, continuous, at a certain price.

KWS: Right.

MK: I told him, I told Moda’i: “You have an agreement with Mr. Carter that the United States would supply you with oil for fifteen years if you would be short of oil. And I know that you import oil from eight countries. And I know exactly how much you import from each country. And you know our oil position. But I’m going to tell you something, Mr. Modai, what can I do if one of our oil wells would stop production. We had that experience, that the Morgan well in the Gulf of Suez stopped production. And we were short of oil. You expect me to go to the international market and buy oil and send it to Israel?” And then the second point was: “Suppose our consumption of oil exceeds our production. What are we going to do? And how can you insist that I will give you oil, or sell you oil on an ongoing basis. The third one, I am

going to treat you Israelis on a business basis. In our trade or economical relations we are not going to ask you for favors and don’t ask us for favors.” You know his reply when I told him that you have an agreement with the United States that would supply you with oil for fifteen years. He said: “Do you think that I’m going to put my neck under the shoe of the Americans?” I told him…

KWS: Is that exactly what he said?

MK: Yes.

KWS: Wow.

MK: And you can ask Ezer Weitman because he was present. And I told him: “Well, Mr. Modai, you expect Egypt to put ourselves not under your shoe, but under your strong hand and accept these conditions?”

KWS: What would you have to give Israel?

MK: Continuously a certain amount, on a certain reduced price. 

KWS: You disagreed with Sadat on that issue?

MK: Ezer Weizman then said: “Mustafa, if we are not going to agree, I’m going to Sadat.” I told him: “All right, go ahead. Go to Sadat.” And they were asking for two million tons a year. And the two million really constituted the amount of oil that was expected from Sinai. And I know that all the wells were completely… you know the production and oil production. I told him: “We know all the details and all the facts. We cannot accept that. No way. You have to enter, you know, into the business of buying oil, according to our laws. I cannot go to the Parliament and ask the Parliament to exclude Israel from obeying these, for they’re buying oil according to certain conditions. And I am advising you to enter that option by buying from companies because I’m not giving you. I’m diversifying our customers. I do not sell to governments. I sell to private companies. If you don’t do that, you are not going to get away. And as long as I am here, this will be our policy.” Then he went to Sadat.

KWS: Ezer did go to Sadat?

MK: Yes, and Ezer said: “I am going to Sadat, I’ll come back.” I said: “Ezer, you know that I stay in the office until half past 3. I go back home because I had to eat my lunch and rest. If you come after half past 3, you are not going to find me in my office.” He went to Sadat and Sadat called me on the phone, and I insisted on my position. And Sadat really accepted that. And so Ezer Weitzman came back at 4 o’clock to my office. He didn’t find me, so he phoned me. He said: “Mustafa, I am in your office, you are not there.” So I told him: “I told you that I would not be in the office after 3:30.” So he told me: “Well Mustafa, why are you angry and so on?” So I told him: “Ezer, you have gone over my head to the President. All right. But I’m telling you to please not force me to tell you that we are not going to, in the future, and this is my point, we cannot conduct our business relations, conduct our trade relations, conduct our economical relations on the kind of special privileges that you are going to take.”

KWS: Or demand. Israel wanted to demand a special privilege for oil. You wanted to treat Israel like any other country. 

MK: Of course. And this is what happened after that. We formed the four companies. They entered the agreement and of course, you know, when there was a slump in the oil market, the Egyptian ministers went to Israel and increased the quantity of oil that would be really sold to the Israelis. This was one point. The second point was about… we heard rumors that Sadat was thinking about supplying Israel with water. And his idea was that we were throwing in the sea about 350 million cubic meters every year, for technical reasons.

KWS: That’s about a million a day.

MK: And the rumors, of course, were heard in Israel. And then in one of our meetings with Moshe Dayan in Israel, he told Boutros-Ghali: “Mr. Sadat made, or there are rumors that Mr. Sadat is going to suggest such and such,” because Sadat really was thinking of trying to convince the Israelis to build settlements in the Negev, in the desert, instead of building them in the West Bank.

KWS: Sure.

MK: And then Moshe said to Boutros: “Begin’s reaction is that he’s not going to sell his principles for water.”

KWS: He’s not going to sell his principles for water?

MK: Yes, and then we had a meeting about the political view of the party in Aswan. Before, Mr. Begin was supposed to come the next day to visit Egypt, especially Aswan, because there had been a garrison, a Jewish garrison, in one of the islands that he would like to go and see. They are talking about the summer and here, in that meeting, I told Mr. Sadat: “No, we cannot supply Israel with water because we have agreements with twelve other African countries concerning the water of the Nile.” I told him that “we cannot give water to a third party. If we give water to a third party, according to this agreement, it will be deducted from our share of the water. This will be against the policy of expanding the cultivated area and using the water for such an expansion. If we supply Israel with water for one year, they are going to have the right, internationally, to be supplied continuously after that. We cannot stop. And this will create a kind of continuous dispute between us and Israel.”

KWS: And Sadat’s reaction?

MK: His reaction was that if we supply Israel with water then this will touch a nerve with every Egyptian. They’ll never accept it.

KWS: That’s true. It’s a major issue.

MK: Yes. That’s why I stood in front of the Parliament and said, “no, we are not going to do that,” when the question was submitted to me. Of course Sadat didn’t say that I am going to supply Israel and this is the decision and so on. But I told him we had heard rumors saying such and such things. So when I remember President Sadat, I also remember that in that meeting President Sadat was trying to form what he said, not an Arab League, but a league composed of representatives of Arab nations. Not Arab governments, you know. And he was going to really cancel the membership of Egypt in the Arab League. I told him “President Sadat, why don’t

you form what you call the Arab Nations League and leave the Arab League as it is.”

KWS: What did he say?

MK: He accepted the idea because I told him: “How are you going to get in touch with the population over the head of their governments? We have no relations with them politically.” So

President Sadat was not a man that he would insist on his issues. I’m saying this to prove that point.

KWS: So, he was flexible.

MK: He was open to discussion. He would accept the other point of view, and he was willing to change his ideas.

KWS: The one impression I get from General Gamassi… I get several impressions, but one of the stronger impressions I get from him and from Ashaf Ghorbal is that Sadat didn’t trust Assad.

MK: Didn’t trust Assad? Why?

KWS: Because he thought that Assad would constrain Egyptian options diplomatically. That Assad would keep Egypt from making its own decisions and its own prerogatives. And that Assad would impose himself on Egyptian decision making. Herman Eilts said one of the reasons he believes that Sadat went to Jerusalem was because Sadat feared that all the discussions about a comprehensive peace in Geneva and all the procedures that were taking place at the time… frustrated Sadat, but there was also this concern that Carter was listening too intently and too frequently to Chadam and to Assad. And Herman said that one of the reasons Sadat went to Jerusalem was that he was afraid that the Syrians would short circuit Egyptian prerogatives. And all along in this discussion, even in the planning for the ’73 War, Sadat truly wanted the Golan to come home to Arab control but he wasn’t going to let someone else determine the pace or the course of the diplomacy. And he had his doubts about Assad, according to Egyptians and Americans with whom I’ve spoken. Maybe I’m wrong, but you talk to Atherton and you talk to Sisco, and you talk to Eilts as I have…

MK: You know the point of distrust is new to me. I’m telling you the truth. And expressing his ideas in front of me… I’m not saying anything that I heard from the others because I cannot really be sure…

KWS: O.K., but you heard from Sadat.

MK: What I heard from Sadat has always been that such a decision cannot be accepted or cannot be carried out by any other Arab leader. And that he is not going to put the Egyptian policy under the control of any other Arab leader.

KWS: So that’s true?

MK: Yes. We are a sovereign country. We are going to take a decision. I am going to tell Assad about it, but I’m not going there to take his permission or endorsement for that decision. I’m going to take the full responsibility for that decision. I’m not going to forget the Palestinian issue or the other Arab countries in my solution. But they cannot have a control on me concerning

the relations between Egypt and Israel. 

KWS: These countries define that as Egypt going a separate course.

MK: Exactly.

KWS: The Arab world used the term separate. Israel didn’t invent it. Hanan Bar-On said: “We never thought about a separate peace with Egypt. We thought about a comprehensive peace with the Arab world. It’s the Arab world that defined Sadat’s policy.”

MK: But, I can tell you, and I am following what is being written in Israel, I see the T.V. news, I’m following a certain program, some of the Israelis really thought that it would be much better. That Egypt would be separated from the other Arab countries and that separation would mean that “we can make peace with the Egyptians and ultimately the Arabs will find no way but to follow the Egyptians.”

KWS: Right.

MK: So, when I say Egyptian policy, how it was met in the other Arab countries… of course, it was described as a kind of peace between Egypt and Israel, forgetting all the other Arab countries, not caring about the Palestinian issue. In the meantime, it was not really badly met in Israel, but welcomed by some quarters in Israel.

KWS: Sure.

MK: On the assumption that they are going to separate between Egypt and the other Arab countries. But after all these years, when we come to the present situation, I can say that Sadat’s real way of thinking when he took the decision to dispel the Soviet ambassadors was to say that the United States owns 99% of the cards. It was to stand against the Soviet Union. I think Sadat really deserves from us a kind of recognition that he will see what is going to happen in the future to the Soviet Union and the Soviet Empire. And he did not really believe in solving the dispute between Egypt and Israel by cultivating the kind of differences between the Soviet

Union and the United States.

KWS: That’s an interesting thought. Dr. Khalil, do you think it’s possible to create a regional concept of the future, rather than one that’s based on national interests? I’m talking 10, 15, 25

years from now. Or is that a dream?

MK: It’s not a dream and I cannot deny that what Mr. Peres described as the Marshall Plan for the Middle East was a kind of a plan that was worked out by me and Mr. ???, the former governor of the Israeli Central Bank. And we worked out a plan, not behind the backs of our presidents here, but with their knowledge and I submitted a report after each meeting to President Sadat and then to President Mubarak, with the knowledge of the Israeli government. And I believe that such a regional plan can have a future, if, and I said that to the Israelis, if they can reach an agreement with their Arab neighbors. The second priority will come after reaching that agreement with their neighbors, with the other Arab countries. So then, after that, it has to start not in joint ventures, but it has to start in the infrastructure.

KWS: Why not joint ventures?

MK: By joint ventures, I mean having manufacturing companies with joint venture capital or to supply a kind of Middle Eastern market. This will be the step that will come after that. If we are going to think to create a kind of regional plan for the Middle East, it has to start with the infrastructure because the infrastructure is the responsibility of the governments. But the manufacturing and the production side will be the private sector.

KWS: And you think that the governments need to be bolstered first.

MK: Yes.

KWS: Because their populations need to see that they’re answering the needs of their constituents.

MK: Sure, because are we going to construct certain production processes financed by governments or financed by private enterprises? Of course, we, at the present time… if we adopt a market economy, we have to say it has to be a privately owned company. Then what will be the responsibility of the governments? The responsibility of the governments will be limited in the infrastructure. So without infrastructure, without communications, without travel, without revising the laws, without even extending the infrastructure to the educational systems, and all that. Then will come the second piece of trying to coordinate between the various projects in these countries. Then the third phase will come, that we create a kind of a market. But what kind of a common market, you know? What objective? The Common Market in Europe was created after the Marshall Plan because they had an enemy in the Soviet Union. But here, are we going to create the kind of Middle Eastern market to stand against the European Common Market or the American, or Japanese? I say no. I think such a grouping in the Middle East has to cooperate and has to be helped by these groupings in Europe and the United States and in Japan.

KWS: That’s true.

MK: This is my way of thinking. And I’m going to Israel after a week. I am invited to share in a discussion which is going to take place about what we think about the kind of regional cooperation…

KWS: By the way, I have very fond regards from Dan Pattir.

MK: Because unless we will put our way of thinking in effect that way, we are not going to accomplish anything.

KWS: Was Sadat ahead of his time?

MK: I think so.

KWS: Could Sadat have made peace with Rabin then?

MK: It could have been much easier, but remember something: the world conditions, international policies have changed, completely changed. What we are seeing at the present time is a disappearance of the Soviet Union. Disappearance of the Soviet Union doesn’t only mean the end of the Cold War, it means something more important in the Middle East. More important is the rise of regional powers. Now the regional powers issue. Israel, Turkey, Iran, and then you can take Pakistan, Saudi Arabia… these were under control either from this side or that side. By

the disappearance of the Soviet Union, and the American administration saying that we are not going to interfere in war unless our interests are at stake. This really meant a new Middle East where these regional powers are completely competitive. The only way that you would be able to solve such a competition, or in a future such an opposition, is to create what I call the Middle Eastern grouping that will really be directed towards economical and financial development of the region.

KWS: That makes sense. But you’re right about the four regional powers.

MK: Yes, because Turkey is now looking to the Soviet Republics. Why is it looking to the Soviet Republics? Because she would like to strengthen her position to be accepted to the Common Market. Iran… all the resources in Iran will be depleted after so many years, so

their interests are in the Gulf. They have no way to get into the former Soviet Republics because they are not accepted.

KWS: That’s true.

MK: And Turkey gives them a better example of an Islamic Republic than the Iranians. You have Egypt and we are concerned about our security if Iran will go into the Gulf states. And then you have Israel, which has agreed that if the other countries will collaborate, it will really endanger our security.

KWS: So what you need is an Israeli-Turkish-Egyptian axis.

MK: Not axis, but the kind of cooperation that would invite others to join in the future. Not a military axis. It would be foolish…

KWS: No, not military. The word “axis,” we take from World War II, but an economic axis.

MK: We don’t call it that. We call it cooperation.

KWS: Alliance. Cooperation. 

MK: It would be a nucleus.

KWS: To pull the rest in. The resources, the manpower, the technological advancement. 

MK: You would have to include the Gulf States because of financial…

KWS: And they would be the bed for it. Is anyone listening to you?

MK: We are trying very quietly and to convince the other people against the ideas. But I believe that once Israel concludes peace agreements with our neighbors, the whole idea will be accepted.

KWS: This has been marvelous.

MK: Thank you.

KWS: Please, I extend to you on behalf of President Carter an invitation.

MK: Give him my best regards.

KWS: Please come to Atlanta some time. Please visit with us when you’re in the States. Would you please? We’d be pleased to have you speak, spend some time with us.

MK: Thank you very much. I’ll always be very glad to see President Carter.

KWS: Well, he wants to come back here again to visit, but he feels every time he begins to think about it, he thinks people will take the wrong impression. He thinks people will say that he’s interfering in diplomacy or he’s been asked to come on some sort of special mission.

MK: I will tell you something. The best timing for a visit would be after the conclusion of agreements between Israel and even one of our neighbors because this would prove that what President Carter stood for, and what Sadat stood for, was the right policy.

KWS: That’s true. It would be a confirmation visit.

MK: Yes.

KWS: I’ll tell him.

MK: Tell him that.

KWS: I shall. I’m sure he’ll be glad to hear that you’re well. Well thank you.

MK: You’re welcome.

KWS: What a wonderful experience. A real pleasure.