Ken Stein Interview with Ambassador Ephraim Evron, March 24, 1992 and November 15, 1992, Ramat Aviv, Israel
L-R Ken Stein, Middle East Fellow, Carter Center, Jimmy Carter and former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ephraim Evron in the center, on the occasion of Carter's receipt of an honorary doctoral degree from Haifa University, March 1987, (photo with permission of Randall Ashley)

Born in Haifa, Ephraim “Epi” Evron,(June 12, 1920-July 17, 1995) was a life-long Israeli civil servant beginning his career as Political Secretary to Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Sharrett, and later served David Ben-Gurion and Pinhas Lavon. During WWII he served in the British army and later in the IDF. Over a distinguished career he served in London, Sweden, Canada, and the US.  During the 1973-1977 period he was Director General of the Mistry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), Director General, 1977-1978, and Ambassador to the US, 1979-1982. During those nine years he was intimately connected with US-Israel relations, Israeli Prime Ministers Meir, Rabin, and Begin, as well as all the American presidents and diplomats engaged in Egyptian-Israeli diplomacy. His insights are detailed, crisp and thoughtful

In this interview he tells us that Golda Meir intentionally kept sensitive information from being shared with her Foreign Minister, Abba Eban and preferred to undertake relations with the US with her Ambassador in Washington,  Simcha Dinitz. Evron noted that while Nixon was wrapped up in Watergate during the October War period, Kissinger, Scowcroft and others managed foreign policy, especially Middle Eastern issue. Evron recalls that when Sadat’s advanced team arrived in Israel on November 17, 1977, he told Evron, “you know it takes me an hour to cross the Nile bridge. We have spent all our resources on this war; it has to come to an end. We just cannot continue.” 

Evron differentiated the outlooks between Dayan and Begin about the West Bank – Begin and Dayan were in agreement that UN 242 should not apply to the West Bank; Dayan believed that the Palestinians there should have functional autonomy in coordination with Jordan with Israel’s eastern border the Jordan River, but not make the WB part of Israel. On the other hand, Begin, he said,  wanted the WB to be part of Israel, but he had not developed his thoughts in 1977, about how the Palestinians there should live in some self-governing apparatus, that is why he offered the concept of autonomy to Carter and Sadat, and it became part of the Camp David Accords. 

On Begin’s staunchly held views, and a basic reason why Begin and Carter clashed–Said Evron, Begin was convinced of the justice and logic of  his views. Begin was convinced of his persuasive power and even the righteousness of his views; he was convinced that if others listened to his arguments, they would have to be persuaded by deeply held viewpoints. By comparison we learn from other sources, that President Jimmy Carter possessed the same kind of stubbornness, righteousness and even self-assured arrogance in staunchly held beliefs. And like Begin was very difficult to move him from a deeply held vantage point. Besides Carter and Begin differing on the future of the West Bank or Palestinian self-determination, their respective staunchly held views, the pride with which they held them  did not allow for much give and take between them on critical issues.  

Ken Stein,  March 2, 2023

Ken Stein Interviews with Ambassador Ephraim (“Epi”) Evron

(24 March 1992, Tel Aviv and 15 November 1992, Ramat Aviv)

Note to the reader– the first segment of the interview focuses on the October 1973 war through 1979, pp.1-37; the last 15 pages deal with the 1977-1978 period.

KWS: Interview with Ambassador Epi Evron March 24, 1992, Tel Aviv, Israel, 4 p.m. His presence in the foreign ministry and relation to the peace process.

EE: But the main thing was they didn’t, eh, tell anybody. Most of the people involved are not alive. Certainly not from us. [Abba] Eban knew well about it. But I don’t remember if the cabinet knew. Eban’s recollections are rather suspect. [Unintelligible.] But they don’t want. They want me and the only other one who can really be very good is [unintelligible] which [unintelligible]. He was initiated then because he was very, very —  

KWS: What about Ezer [Weizman]?

EE: Ezer followed just the — He was chief of military operations. And you could see the development and angle came from the air force, but he didn’t see the wider picture, not at that time.

KWS: Who was the political — who is, who is number two at the embassy?

EE: I was — here?

KWS: No, in ’67.

EE: I was the number two.

KWS: You were number two. 

EE: Avraham Harman was number one. So, I, uh — but it caught up on me in June of the — we were involved in the, uh — 

KWS: Certainly before — 

EE: No, something comes, eh, it takes priority. So then finally we settled on Meir, Meir Amit. He was then head of the Mossad.

KWS: Mmm?

EE: [Unintelligible] and they are bringing a new [journalist Muhammad] Hassenein Heikal into the —

KWS: Ahh.

EE: That should be the, uh — 

KWS: To be sure.

EE: Because he was one of the main confidants. The article he wrote —

KWS: Oh, sure.

EE: — at the time.

KWS: Who else was in the Egyptian foreign ministry?

EE: Dick [Nolte] told me that the Zakaria Mohieddin was then the vice president, and in fact was invited. He was due in Washington on June 6, ’67. [Egyptian President Gamal Abdel] Nasser agreed to send him over to negotiate something. That was a deal made with Bob Anderson and Charlie Oates and, eh, in fact there are some who say that once we learned about his coming to Washington, we decided to strike. But the decision to go to war was made before we knew that he was coming. That’s when we confirmed our suspicions. [Unintelligible.] I didn’t realize he was still alive. I haven’t heard of him since that happened to him in ‘67. But he wouldn’t come out, because once Nasser die, he decided the only way to survive in Egypt — he did not want to be imprisoned by [Egyptian President Anwar] Sadat or anyone else. Hassenein Heikal, much to my surprise agreed to come.

KWS: When did you leave Washington as number two?

EE: In the summer of ’68.

KWS: And then what happened?

EE: I went to, eh, Stockholm — ambassador — but I stayed only three months. I didn’t want to go. I was at the point of resigning from the foreign service because [unintelligible] mission to go [unintelligible], and it was, eh, Arthur Goldberg pushed me on to resign. It was Joe Sisco, told me to — took me to lunch and said, “Look, we all at the foreign services have our ups and downs.” Very well [unintelligible]. Anyway, I went to Stockholm. Soon after, I arrived there, about a week, I heard that the ambassador in Canada died of a heart attack. I said to myself, “[Unintelligible] he have died a couple of weeks earlier?” because —

KWS: [Laughs.]

EE: I was the obvious choice to replace him, but I presented my credentials in Stockholm. And nothing could be worse than Stockholm, this time of the year: Dark, snow all over the place, the Swedes are not the friendliest of peoples. And then, a few weeks, later Eban asked to see me in London., and asked me if I would go to Ottawa as ambassador. They never forgave me because they had never had such a situation, where an ambassador came, and a month later he was withdrawn. And so I stayed for three years in Ottawa. I came [unintelligible], I came back as assistant director general [unintelligible] in Washington. 

KWS: You were director general during the ’73 War?

EE: No, I was deputy general. 

KWS: Umm  

EE: The director general was Avraham Harmon. Harmon was [unintelligible], was in Tel Aviv at the time with the prime minister as part of the general staff. [Unintelligible], uh, the minister of [unintelligible].

KWS: Great, I knew you were the right person. Where were you when the, uh, when the war broke?

EE: In ’73?

KWS: Mm-hmm. Physically.

EE: At home in bed in Jerusalem. No, not in [unintelligible]. That is also a good story. You may have heard of Meir Weisgal. 

KWS: Mm-hmm.

EE: Weizmann Institute.

KWS: Mm-hmm.

EE: Harmon called us up and said that he was going to be in Jerusalem for Yom Kippur; could he come and have the Yom Kippur meal with, with us at our apartment in Jerusalem Friday, [unintelligible], afternoon [before the holiday started at sundown]? So, he came. And in the middle of the meal, my sister-in-law, who lives in Herzliya Pituach called me up and said that her son, who now lives in Atlanta, [unintelligible] —

KWS: Really? What’s his name?

EE: We met him, when, eh, when [unintelligible]. Raffie Samach. 

KWS: Really.

EE: He was then with the air force at the time. He came home for the holidays. And he was being recalled to duty right away. She asked, “Is anything happening?” I said, “I do not think so.” But I called up Avram [unintelligible]. He was due to leave on Sunday for London. [Unintelligible]. He said that to [unintelligible]. I said good-bye to him at lunch about noon time on Friday.

KWS: Noon time on Friday?

EE: Yes. So, he said, “Let me check.” He called me back and said he had just spoken to Eli Zeira, who was chief of military intelligence. He said, “Nothing is going to happen. You go to London. HaKol b’seder.”  He said, yeah, he said, “Everything is fine.”


EE: He came, uh, at home, wake me up, asked me to come back right away to the ministry. He said the information, uh, in the middle of the night, is, eh, that the Egyptians are going to attack. I don’t remember whether it said two o’clock or 7:10. My memory sometimes — Two o’clock I went down to Tel Aviv.

KWS: So, essentially you and the director general of the foreign ministry were not told or did not know on Friday morning. 

EE: Nobody knew that

KWS: No, but, but Golda [Meir] knew. I mean, they had, they had intelligence estimates already by Wednesday.

EE: Yes, but they didn’t, eh, think it — the military intelligence discounted. What they told her I do not know and — 

KWS: They didn’t tell you that to keep you out of the loop?

EE: Oh no, no.

KWS: They told you that, because that was their assessment.

EE: That was their assessment.

KWS: Okay, I just wanted to be clear.

EE: Oh, no this was the point.

KWS: Okay.

EE: This is the point. This is the point. But, eh, only later, or rather early Saturday morning — let me tell you something: We were concerned. All signs were that this was going to happen. This was one of those strange cases where everything pointed to war. We watched the build-up. We heard the radio traffic. Later, [retired brigadier general and author] Aryeh Shalev wrote the [unintelligible]. Aryeh said to me, “You know, it was a copy of, of similar things that happened in May — and then we mobilized and then nothing hap—.” The concept of it all. We were convinced that there was nothing there, it was another one of those exercises. And then the war struck. ’67 was the exact opposite —

KWS: Mm-hmm.

EE: — when there were no signs. Nobody expected it. And the war was upon us.

KWS: And if I remember correctly, [Israel Ambassador to the United States Simcha] Dinitz was in Israel. —

EE: Dinitz was [unintelligible].

KWS: His father had just passed away. And — 

EE: He was sent that morning, Saturday morning, after their, uh — 

KWS: Only at two o’clock, he physically got on an airplane to leave, at the very moment when they heard —

EE: Yeah.

KWS: — that the war had started.

EE: That’s right.

KWS: He got on the airplane and went back to the States, because Golda said, “You gotta be out of here. You gotta get to the States, because I’m going to need you there.”

EE: I told you that the important [unintelligible] they kept from us but not the secondary [unintelligible]. They had information that they were going to attack a day earlier than [unintelligible] we were told, [unintelligible] something the day before, maybe couple of days earlier.

KWS: And he would have broken the shiva anyway, because of Yom Kippur, but he would have stayed on.

EE: That, that didn’t matter. 

KWS: No, no. How much — what part or role did the foreign ministry play in the unfolding drama of the next three or four weeks? How much came through cable traffic to the foreign ministry and how much went directly to [Shlomo] Gazit and to — 

EE: Most of it went directly. I’ll just turn the lights on. [Pause.] It all depends what you mean by that the contact with the U.S. I suppose.

KWS: Dinitz, [Henry] Kissinger, and resupply, and [James] Schlesinger, and [William] Clements, and Kissinger coming on the twenty-third— all this stuff — I mean, how close to this were you? What I really want you to do is to recount it for me from your personal knowledge, not what you learned afterwards.

EE: Eh, the ministry as such was on the sidelines. Eban was in the States. He went there for the [UN] General Assembly. I think his — he have — he [unintelligible] on the first of October. With him there anyway, you could say that the main weight of the military was over there. And Golda was the acting foreign minister. Eh, she dealt with Dinitz — [Yitzhak] Rabin before him — behind the back of, uh, Eban, and anyway, kept from him [unintelligible] that were [unintelligible]. In fact, there were, uh, cables, Washington to Jerusalem, Jerusalem to Washington [unintelligible] especially. They were edited for his benefit. They were censored. So that even when he was there physically, he wasn’t always entirely aware of what was going on. It was one of those, eh, situations which should never occur anywhere. For political reasons, Golda kept him back. She didn’t really rely on him, kept him back.

KWS: She didn’t have a relationship with him that she had with Simcha [Dinitz]? 

EE: She didn’t have a relationship with him, period. It goes back many years. It goes back, when she resigned [unintelligible]. I mean, because she resigned in ’66 and he took over from her. And uh people then thought generally that was the end of her political career. In that respect, she was not exceptional. He didn’t, uh, treat her as a stateslady.  But, uh, looking back she, uh, had an elephantine memory. 

KWS: [Laughs.]

EE: She [unintelligible] personally never forgave anything. She never forgot, never forgave. And, uh, once she became prime minister in ’69, she kept him on as foreign minister, but the relationship was not good. [Unintelligible], the prime ministry, as a ministry, was affected by this. Although she knew the ministry well because, after all, she was prime minister for many years, she knew everybody personally. She knew the ministry well. Maybe that was the reason why she didn’t think too much of him. But the, the point is [unintelligible], there was never a close relationship between them, although he stayed in the States at the time, in October ’73. I do not think he was aware of, uh, all the traffic between Golda and, uh, Henry Kissinger. Kissinger knew it. Certainly, Dinitz was a key figure in keeping him out of it. He was, for instance, he arrived here on Sunday— on the Saturday evening. It was a Saturday evening [October 20, 1973]. I met him at the airport. And he went to see Golda. She told him that she had just seen Kissinger. He had no idea that Kissinger — while they were speaking —

KWS: On the way to Moscow.

EE: — or in Moscow, Kissinger was in Moscow from October 20-22. Dinitz knew it before Golda and Eban. I think that that was [unintelligible]. But this was something that Dinitz, Dinitz was not aware of because it was  away Only when he was — Dinitz, — uh, Moscow But, eh, yeah, I remember particularly how deep and serious the Watergate Crisis was, because they discussed the situation, Golda and Eban, the future of Nixon, and so on. Eban expressed the opinion that the president would overcome it. And Golda too. That was a night, the long night.

KWS: The Saturday Night Massacre, October 20, 1973, when Nixon let go of the Justice Department’s attorney general, deputy attorney general and the special counsel investigating Watergate].

EE: Yeah. It just shows you how unaware we were of what was going on, but to come by good nature —

KWS: But, but, but that statement shows that you, you as a country were dealing with Kissinger, that Watergate didn’t interfere with — 

EE: Not at all.

KWS: — with your politics or policies — 

EE: Not at all.

KWS: — and, uh, had to be discounted.

EE: This is one of the, the most interesting things about the whole Yom Kippur war, eh, [unintelligible]. Here you have a president in the throes of the greatest crisis — 

KWS: — ever seen.

EE: — [unintelligible] that he has ever faced. 

KWS: Domestic political views.

EE: And, uh, he was in the point of breakdown. And yet, uh, United States foreign policy at the critical moment proceeded, eh, without any hitches. 

KWS: But had — At the foreign policy— 

EE: It was the result of [unintelligible]. Kissinger worked very closely with [Brent] Scowcroft and [Alexander] Haig. And the three of them, between them, managed, uh — 

KWS: They choreographed it all.

EE: Yeah.

KWS: Look, I think the word choreography is very, very applicable. And, and not — and not with a nefarious intent. 

EE: No, no. Not at all.

KWS: They handled it.

EE: They had to. They knew that they had to handle it. They knew that, uh, certain parts of the crisis had to be kept from us, from the Soviets, from the Egyptians. The president was practically immobilized. But yet the machinery of government kept, kept going on.

KWS: Did you know about the foreign ministry? Did you know about [Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei] Gromyko’s visit — no — [Alexei] Kosygin’s visit, umm, to Cairo between the 16th and the 19th? Did you, did — Did you have any idea about what that was about, at the moment? I don’t mean later on.

EE: I couldn’t tell you with clarity now. Because in my mind, it is completely — 

KWS: Let me refresh it. You brought with him — 

EE: I know. What I mean, what I knew at the time and what I learned later —

KWS: Okay.

EE: — was mixed. I would be untruthful to you if I said only this and that is all.

KWS: Let me, let me go back then to the sixteenth, to Kissinger, to Sadat’s speech to the parliament [he addressed the Egyptian National Assembly on February 4, 1971], when he went through this whole thing about the need for — I mean this was the first time he mentioned the word international conference. And in the American lexicon, according to Joe Sisco and Sam Lewis, and [Hal] Saunders and the memoirs of Kissinger, that was the first time that the term, or the concept, appeared to them then. They had no idea that a conference was necessary. They just knew that the Israelis wanted direct negotiations. You can go back to ’71, when Sadat threw up this balloon. Did you make anything of this speech?

EE: No, I don’t think so.

KWS: Because, I know the Americans didn’t.

EE: No, we didn’t. Not at all. And uh certainly there was no, nothing deeper down, say from Golda’s position, down to the ministry, say, “Hey fellows,” (A) “What do you think of that?” (B) Nobody [unintelligible]. 

KWS: Gazit. Gazit says the same thing, “We didn’t even take notice.

EE: Nothing.

KWS: It was identical, almost identical in response in the Prime Minister’s Office. When Kissinger arrived from Moscow, what did you know about [UN Resolution] 338? 

EE: Let me go back. That same night — Saturday and Sunday — he arrived on Sunday. I joined him on the — he met first Golda. He briefed the foreign affairs committee of the Knesset. And he was, on the whole, I think he was optimistic, in an upbeat mood. In the war, we were on the west side of the canal, we were getting close to the city of Suez. He did not know that Golda, uh, [unintelligible], we were cooking up something. But the way the war was going on at least, it was getting close to an end. We had reason to be satisfied. And in the middle of that briefing — it was close to midnight — a note was brought to him that the prime minister wanted to see him urgently. So, we closed up the meeting. He suggested that he didn’t know, had no idea how long this meeting with Golda would last. So, I went back home to Jerusalem. All this took place in Tel Aviv. Very early in the morning — was it five or six? — I was woken up by the telephone, and was told, (A), that Kissinger was in Moscow, that a, that a resolution had been [unintelligible].  been passed and that I —

KWS: [Unintelligible] at one o’clock in the morning —

EE: Right.

KWS: Four hours [unintelligible] you fell asleep.

EE: Yeah, and that, eh, I should come down right away. I rushed to go back to Tel Aviv. And I got there at seven o’clock in the morning. I went to the Kiryah, the Prime Minister’s office. There was hardly a soul there because they were up all night. I was told though by one that, you know, that Kissinger would arrive from Moscow, and that I was asked to take charge of the preparations for meeting and arranging the conference that will follow. And that will be done with, eh, contact, eh, consent, Eban and so on. So here I was with a Kafkaesque situation. The war is coming to an end; the Security Council passed a resolution. I was not quite aware of the impact of its meaning because I was asleep. I was probably the only one in the government who had a good night’s sleep. And they were discussing the merits and demerits of the Moscow decision.

KWS: When you went to the ministry, you finally got a hold of the text? 

EE: Yes, [unintelligible]. What, what explanations that come with it, I don’t know. It was something that was, uh, discussed at the time between Golda and Dinitz in Washington with the White House staffer who was, who was in charge. And, uh, Kissinger, then I remember, explained that there was a breakdown in communications between Moscow and Washington. And that’s how we did not know [unintelligible] the information in time. But we were faced with a fait accompli. 

KWS: It was explained to me at the — that Kissinger had to receive from Washington the power of attorney to sign the agreement for [Leonid] Brezhnev. He did not take it with him when he left Washington. He had to wait for it to come from the White House, and that was what was defined as the breakdown in communication. 

EE: Probably. But the explanation to us at the time was Golda was mad, absolutely mad, because here, a few hours earlier she did not know who was going, what was going to be discussed. And there was no, uh, no agreement between us, or discussions between us: what line were we going to take, what our position was to take, which interests to be safeguarded. The thing that has always worried all Israelis all the time to this day: that the two superpowers will [unintelligible] impose a solution of one kind or another. All of a sudden, it seemed to be materializing. So, that here — the Kremlin and the White House, between them, behind our backs, without any discussion with us, were going to meet, let alone know the subject of the meeting was going to be. It was then that she insisted on his going, eh, coming back.

So, I did not know (A) whether this secret was out; (B) what time he was arriving; (C) whom she wanted to invite. Where are they going to meet? Basic questions before you begin. I was told that I would have to wait until she wakes up [unintelligible]; she is the only one who could give me the answers to these questions. Nobody said [unintelligible] to ask Eban. So, I waited. Then I thought mainly, Ken Keating helped me. He was the [U.S.] ambassador [unintelligible], just about the time or arrival, because I had to alert security services, the army, and the airport authority, so that they would not shoot his plane down, I called him up. And he had no idea what I was talking about. 

KWS: [Laughs.]

EE: So, I felt a little better. 

KWS: [Laughs.]

EE: [Unintelligible], trust. But in the end, what happened was, uh, that she said that she wanted to meet him there in Tel Aviv. [Unintelligible.] She gave me, more or less, a list of the people that she wanted to be there. He was to arrive around noon time, and there’d be a series of meetings, a lunch meeting, a working lunch meeting. Then she wanted him to be briefed by the chief of staff in the air force. She wanted to see him alone also. And [Moshe] Dayan wanted to see him, and, uh, and, uh, we managed to arrange everything. The only other time when I was under pressure to meet somebody was because of Sadat. I had less than 48 hours to, uh, to arrange the state visit. We knew only Friday evening [November 17, 1977] that he was arriving Saturday night. And, uh, [Menachem] Begin told me, that, in fact, I sat down with — 

KWS: Who told you?

EE: Begin. I was with him on Sunday. He had a cable from [U.S. Ambassador to Egypt] Hermann Eilts that Sadat had accepted our invitation and would be arriving on Saturday night after Shabbat. But, uh, he said to me, “In fact, we don’t have 48 hours. We have 24 hours because I do not want any work done on the Shabbat.” He didn’t want any cabinet crisis. He didn’t want it to be on the Shabbat. So, here we were. And you should imagine [unintelligible], to project the whole feeling or atmosphere. It was the third week of the war, difficult times. Although we were winning, the price was very high. Those, uh, giant American cargo planes — 

KWS: C5As.

EE: C5As — kept coming regularly from the western horizon into Ben Gurion Airport, one after the other. [Unintelligible], maybe twelve. It made so much noise. And, eh, there was a lot of military traffic operating there. [Unintelligible.] And then suddenly — I was with Eban, of course, and a few people from the foreign ministry — then suddenly, this Airforce One with silver wings — I thought [unintelligible] when I saw it, it could only happen in America: a Jewish refugee from Germany becomes secretary of state; there he is flying to Moscow — from Washington to Moscow to Tel Aviv with the fate of whole nations in his hand. I remember thinking yesterday, we were under pressure, all sorts of pressure. The next thought suddenly stuck in my mind: I had never met Kissinger before that. Years later [on May 3, 1980], when I was ambassador and the [New York] Friars Club roasted him, I was invited to [unintelligible] with [Egyptian Ambassador to the U.S.] Ashraf Ghorbal, the [Egyptian] ambassador. I delivered a few words about him, [unintelligible] positions. I described [unintelligible]. I reflected at the same time [unintelligible]. I was wondering how someone like me had spent so many years in Washington and had never met Kissinger before. And the answer was very simple: Because when I asked friends and other people the identity of people who are important, worth my while to meet, nobody ever mentioned Henry Kissinger. 

KWS: It’s fascinating.

EE: It is a fact. He didn’t like it, but it’s a fact. I drove into town, together with, uh, Sisco. 

KWS: Wait, wait. [Unintelligible.]

EE: [Unintelligible], we conversed, Eban takes him in his car. 

KWS: Golda wasn’t at the airport?

EE: No, no. 

KWS: Okay, Go ahead. And you were there, got Joe?

EE: Protocol, eh, Eban with the prime minister — she was [unintelligible] Joe. [unintelligible]. Maybe Roy Atherton was in the car [unintelligible], I am not sure. And, uh, Joe was bubbling, “It was a terrific meeting.” It all comes back to your original question: 338, the text. The first time the [UN] Security Council said that they have to meet you face to face to tell you. I expressed to him the general feeling of disappointment with what had happened in Moscow.

KWS: The content of what happened or the method?

EE: Both.

KWS: Both.

EE: It wasn’t anything — We didn’t know exactly what was on Kissinger’s mind. Did he transmit something to Moscow, to Washington? [Unintelligible.] It wasn’t clear. Why did he have to go when he did? Why didn’t he consult with anyone? Why did he not coordinate with us? And here, Joe — this is another thing that I can remember — looks at this piece of paper and says, “This is one of the greatest achievements of American diplomacy.” We didn’t talk about the content. I don’t think anybody at that stage really, uh, knew what the next stage was going to be. The tension was [unintelligible]. This was going to be a very complicated operation, because of the way, the way the various armies were entangled. They were entangled [unintelligible]. It was quite clear that this was going to be a major problem. How were we disengaging? And everyone, I suppose, focused, focused on these two things: how to bring the war to an end, quickly and profitably, and what to do about the armies. We were suffering. Henry noticed this right away. He said later he wrote about also. He spoke about it. I think he was — he realized this was a historic moment. Then he was [unintelligible] very excited [unintelligible] secretary of state. And he saw the yearning in the eyes of the people. The reserve soldiers, the age of those who [unintelligible] the main air force was about 21 [unintelligible]. They were tired. It didn’t take him long to sense that the country wanted to keep everything [unintelligible], there was nothing upstairs that to gain from. And, I suppose the answer is he could count it, a card in his favor.

KWS: Mm-hmm. The environment, the atmosphere. 

EE: Yes. The general feeling — the generals may want another round or whatever, [unintelligible] knee-deep, capture of Ismailia or whatever — but the country as a whole wanted an end to the war. That was something he could sense right away, and he did. He told me later on — he wrote about it in his book — that when he met our people later at the guest house, particularly the chief of staff —

KWS: Dado [David Elezar]?

EE: Dado — that here he realized there was a very, very tired person. It was a dramatic moment when General Benny Peled, commander of the air force — he knows [unintelligible]. His son was a pilot. His plane or helicopter was brought down. Later, eh, he was — they found him. But at the moment that he was missing, Henry knew that he was, eh —

KWS: That he was missing.

EE: — his son was missing, he was shot down. So, all these little things added to the drama, to the tension, to the general atmosphere. He — when we met with — and of course, Larry Eagleburger was there. This was the first time I met him; I liked him very, very much. 

KWS: Was Hal Sonnenfeldt with him?

EE: No, Hal Sonnenfeldt wasn’t, eh — He, umm, he umm, he later told me that he was in that group, but he wasn’t brought to the meeting. He stayed at the airport. [Unintelligible.]

KWS: I have two questions. Why was Joe euphoric or enthusiastic about 338?

EE: I suppose there were — there were two things about it. (A) He may have felt that, eh, 338 was a breakthrough because, eh, both Syria, and particularly the Egyptians, had accepted the resolution of the Security Council. They were ready to sit down and negotiate with Israel, something that was new. (B) I think that he was, it was his way of being on the defensive. He knew that the Israelis were very suspicious about what had gone on in Moscow, what had been agreed between the Kremlin and the White House. Therefore, he had to put on a brave face and come out bubbling, optimistic, “It was a good meeting. We have brought you something you have always wanted.”

KWS: Did Joe ever tell you who drafted it?

EE: No. I don’t think so. 

KWS: If he drafted it, and Roy went over it, then they collectively wrote the cover memorandum that was sent to the U.S. and the Soviet representatives at the UN with the instructions that it be introduced in a coordinated fashion, that there would be no amendments, there’d be no discussion, and it was to be immediately passed. And Joe told me the story in the context of Gromyko, somewhat surprised, at the ability of the staff of Kissinger’s to sit down in a span of half-an-hour or forty-five minutes and draft this resolution and do it in a way that is acceptable to all sides. Gromyko didn’t have a staff like that. And there was somewhat of a wincing pain, according to Joe, that Kissinger had this quality group of people who could anticipate Kissinger’s needs and also then write the covering explanatory cable that Kis— so Nixon would understand exactly what was going on. And according to Joe, Gromyko was, just kept on shaking his head at what we had done. And Joe said. “It wasn’t that we had done anything so extraordinary, because we had worked together for four or five years almost. We knew each other.”

EE: It is typical of Joe. 

KWS: Okay, but the, the point of it was —

EE: [Unintelligible.]

KWS: — for them, in their context — 

EE: It couldn’t have happened.

KWS: Right. And that’s how Joe explained it.

EE: It sounds quite [unintelligible] possible. It could happen. It happened also here. You may remember in January ’78, when there was this political committee meeting in Jerusalem —

KWS: Mm-hmm.

EE: — and [Muhamad] Ibrahim Kamel was the Foreign Minister, he was with, umm, with Boutros Ghali — 

KWS: Muhamad Kamel. 

EE: Muhamad. 

KWS: He resigned at — 

EE: At Camp David, he kept, uh —

KWS: Camp David, yeah.

EE: And, uh, we had to make speeches. And that evening Begin received both of them, Kamal and Boutros. And Begin was very mad. Begin, eh, was mad at the Egyptian press because they called him another fascist and what not. So, he, uh, so, he let them have it. The meeting was Dayan and I, and [unintelligible] Begin was — He said, “I am a fascist, thank you. I’m a fascist? Look around. You know, Dayan’s background. [Unintelligible.] It’s a different [unintelligible] the government. He is from the Labor Party. And you call me a fascist? So [unintelligible]. Tell me would this happen in Cairo.”

KWS: [Laughs.] Very nice, Very nice. [Unintelligible] Gromyko [unintelligible].

EE: [Unintelligible.] Here, Kissinger had a group of experienced foreign service people who had worked for years and had gone through crises and knew how to do it. And their people of course wouldn’t dare breathe unless they were told to do it.

KWS: Describe Kissinger’s meeting with Golda. 

EE: I don’t, eh, I have nothing to tell you, because I really don’t know. Again, what I read later —

KWS: All I know, from what I’m told, is that when she met him, she took him aside for twenty minutes by herself and essentially said to him why she was angry. And then wanted to know what this resolution meant, and all of its implications, and all of its detail, and all of its permutations. And then they broke up and apparently, the meeting was at large. 

EE: But before that, there was a meeting between him and Dayan, also met for a few minutes alone.

KWS: Before Golda?

EE: Before Golda. Just as we arrived. And Dayan obviously wanted a couple more days to finish the job. Without, it’s one of those diplomatic dialogues where nobody commits himself. Dayan went out of that meeting satisfied. Obviously, he felt that if he had strength within the next twelve, twenty-four hours or so to do something, that wouldn’t create a major crisis. And what he described to him, I suppose, was the tactical situation on the ground. Where we were. Here I am hedging a little bit as far as, as far as my memory goes. I think that what happened was, that we were determined at that time [unintelligible] at that time the military, to capture Ismailia. That was to be the task. And we, obviously, couldn’t do it, we struggled when —after we tried [unintelligible]. When we planned it, nobody had ever really planned an operation west of the canal. And it went quite well for it went through a series of ditches and canals, that were natural defense lines — 

KWS: Didn’t have the maps?

EE: No. They did not have the maps. I was the first [unintelligible].

KWS: [Laughs.]

EE: [Unintelligible.] And then our entire troops, get into this situation and they turn south to Suez, eh, and they would surprise them. [Unintelligible] American [unintelligible] the aerial pictures showed it was a missile site and that was the turning point and [unintelligible]. The sense of it was, “Okay, if we need a few more hours. We are here to set the ceasefire timetable, exactly when it takes effect and so on. But if you keep it, [unintelligible].” Then came that general meeting. Golda invited, to the surprise of many of those that were sitting there, [unintelligible], Yitzhak Rabin. I recall that Henry was very surprised to see him suddenly turn up. And he said to her, “[Unintelligible] by those cold blue eyes.” I later heard that description about somebody else, [unintelligible] that they have the same — “They look at you with those cold blue eyes.” As we were sitting at the table engaging in talk and conversation, the main topic was what time would the cease-fire go into effect. And a very simple problem arose, whether Israel time was the same as Cairo time. So, if we said six o’clock in the afternoon — I am just throwing out a time now — would it be the same time for them? We would have to check. Golda asked me to go and check and I contacted, uh, the commander to double check with the Mossad and they said, “Yes, it is” —

KWS: [Laughs.]

EE: — and the others said there was one hour difference. 

KWS: [Laughs.]

EE: So, I was rather embarrassed, so I came back into the room — I did not want to make a show of it. So they sent Larry to find out the time — it was the same time, but that was an embarrassing moment [unintelligible]. It showed you that such a serious meeting with life and death of so many people were involved in such simple things. After the lunch, they had this meeting, briefed by Dado, by Benny Peled, and others. And we took them back to the office and Golda was very mollified. Dayan too. Dayan was nondescript. By his nature, he could go from one end to the other, he could be very high at one moment, “It’d be tough to capture Cairo,” and then they would come to him and go, “Via Ismailia.” But on the whole, yes. [Unintelligible.] She seemed a lot happier after he left than before he had come. But even then, I don’t think anyone could probably —

This does not follow chronologically- note to reader

EE: Say something, and then you, you can change it. With Shamir, eh, act of faith. [Unintelligible]. It’s wonderfully bad.

KWS: a person I interviewed said to me, he said, “You know, there used to be a time when we – the Israelis were pragmatic, and they {the Arabs] were absolutists. Now, we’re absolutists, and they’re pragmatic” — meaning the Arabs.

EE: Oh, the Arabs. I do not know about that. Let me think about that again.

KWS: Umm, let’s wrap up the Syrian-Israeli disengagement. There were thirty-three very intense days.

EE: One thing we have to bear in mind when we talk about Golda. Every step of the way, after the Yom Kippur War, she wasn’t the same person that she had been before. 

KWS: Mmm.

EE: She felt the need, umm, no matter what her personal views were, to get agreement in the cabinet to every move she was making, especially if, if it meant some compromise. So, you had, eh, sometimes it became ridiculous, because, let’s say, Henry, Henry brought a map from Egypt which shows the withdrawal of a few hundred meters near the oil fields in the, uh, the Sinai. The cabinet, eh, had to go into hard questions being put by some members of the cabinet who don’t — had never been there before, never know what a map looks like. But they looked at the map and asked questions, and asked the chief of staff, and asked the minister of defense. She, with tremendous patience, went through every paragraph, every sub-paragraph of the agreement, was scrutinized by the whole cabinet, what to do about Egyptian disengagement, later on with the Syrian disengagement.

KWS: Why? The war had been so traumatic?

EE: Both that, and probably she also felt that her strength, and the strength of her party agreement, and, uh, she wanted — she needed — much confidence. She needed the whole cabinet’s approval. And she had finally to get into the Knesset to get approval.

KWS: Did she truly believe now in cabinet’s responsibility? 

EE: Absolutely. I have never seen anything like it.

KWS: — whereas before, she made almost all of the decisions herself.


EE: Right, Yeah, everything was brought to the full cabinet for decision. And we mentioned earlier, she was, eh, sick with shingles during the disengagement negotiations. Meetings of the cabinet took place in her little, humble residence in Jerusalem. It was very, very crowded there.

KWS: Rabin took over in April of ’74? 

EE: No, he took over immediately after the signing of the Syrian disengagement.

KWS: Ah, in June.

EE: The same disengagement was negotiated by her and Dayan, but with [Shimon] Peres — uh, Rabin, Peres, and [Yigal] Allon present throughout. By then, Rabin was the prime minister-designate and waited for the formal change-over to take place after this was finished. 

KWS: What was special about this, the negotiations about the Syrian – Israeli disengagement as compared to the Egyptian-Israeli — besides the fact that you hate Assad more, and you didn’t trust him, and the POWs — besides the obvious?

EE: Besides the obvious, the obvious was I think Syria had always been considered to this day to be the main, eh, tenacious, enemy,  adversary, and a cruel one, and, and uh, the room for maneuver on the Golan Heights was by far, far smaller than, uh, in the Sinai. And you know, it nearly broke down on the question of — two issues: the settlements on the Golan Heights. We were determined not to withdraw any settlements. And also to make sure that these settlements were secure and safe. 

KWS: Mm-hmm.

EE: Kissinger  thought that if Israel did not stop building, if they did not stop, they will continue. What to do? You put up a settlement, you move forward and then you figure the border has to move a little further away in order to protect that settlement. There is no end to it.

KWS: [Laughs.]

EE: [Unintelligible.]

KWS: Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

EE: The sticking point, of course, was Kuneitra. Assad needed to have something of substance to show. In the case of Egypt, the canal would be open or you give back oil fields or whatever. Here, you — the passes which shows something. Here, the only thing you could show was Kuneitra. And it was a long list; whether Assad wanted, eh, wanted — the first discussion was is he going to sign an agreement by the end of the day with the Golan Heights, with most of it still in our hands — that was, eh, the first choice for him — or would be just sit down, “Okay, you folks will stay there but I am not going to legitimize it by any kind of an agreement.” And therefore, for him to eventually sign it was a tremendous achievement for Kissinger, although it was never signed by Syrian officers. The Syrian disengagement agreement was signed in the framework of the military, of the Egyptian-Israeli military committee of the peace conference, the Geneva peace conference. And an Egyptian general signed on behalf of the Syrians. They gave him power of authority to sign it. But, eh, but it was signed in Geneva by an Egyptian officer.

KWS: Umm, when Sadat went to Jerusalem, you were director general of the foreign ministry, and you did the twenty-four, forty-eight hours of planning of a rather “innocuous” state visit. Umm, how did you get a hold of the Egyptian national anthem?

EE: Let’s see. As I told you, it was only Thursday afternoon, late, when, eh, Sam Lewis brought Sadat’s reply. He brought the cable by, from Hermann Eilts and Begin asked me to make the preparations. It was just the two of us. And, uh, when Sam left, there was not much time left.[before Sadat was scheduled to arrive]. And I said, “What are your instructions?” “I want him to have, to be received like the head of every other friendly governmental head who visits on a state visit to Israel. So then, I then, afterwards, we called in the military attaché of the office of the Prime Minister’s Office to be sure of all the instructions to the various bodies involved. I said to him, “You know, I would be most happy —”

KWS: You said to Begin?

EE: To the attache in the PM’s office; so I thought that the first Israeli unit that was hit by the full might of the Egyptian army on Yom Kippur was the Jerusalem Brigade. They suffered hundreds of casualties. They lost their husbands, their fathers, their sons. The commander it in mind. What are your reactions? “Never mind,” he said. I turned out to be right, but I had to point it out. Do that unit played a role in Sadat’s visit.

KWS: Sure. That’s what your job is for.

EE: I know. So I — we called everybody together. We would have to have hundreds, if not thousands, of Egyptian flags, and the Egyptian national anthem. That was, that was for the army band, they are the best, what we did not have — we had an enterprising Jerusalemite who produces flags. When he heard and read of the [Walter] Cronkite interview and Barbara Walters 

he invested lots of money and manufactured thousands of flags. That night when the news was announced, that Sadat is coming, he came to the foreign ministry offering flags.

KWS: You jumped at it.

EE: And how. But what —

KWS: What a great morning.

EE: Friday morning. I got up at 7 a.m. on Friday morning and right outside our home there was an Egyptian flag flying on the masthead. During that first night, already, throughout all the streets in Jerusalem. Now, you have a picture. As to the national anthem. We did, at the same time, ask Sam Lewis to cable Hermann to send over the music as well as a sample of the flag. The music, the conductor, the bandmaster, they taped it from the Egyptian radio. At night, when the program finished at night, they played the national anthems. So, he had it already. He had the notes. That is how they were ready. The same night, about one o’clock in the morning, Sam called me by telephone. He said, “I have a long cable from Hermann —”

KWS: a long cable.

EE: They want to send an advance party on Friday. 

KWS: The Egyptians.

EE: To meet with us. And they gave the, the number of the plane —

KWS: The markings.

EE: — the markings, call numbers well as the names of the people in the delegation who are coming. Normally, I said I would come up from Jerusalem and deliver it. It would take me an hour or an hour and a half He asked, “Will you for once receive the consul general in Jerusalem?” 

EE: [Unintelligible.] It will be delivered to you within a few minutes. I knew that if I asked anyone formally — 

KWS: Absolutely not. [Laughs.] Not even a remote chance.

EE: [Unintelligible.] And uh — 

KWS: Who was it?

EE: I forgot his name. 

KWS: Whatever.

EE: And he came with this cable. It included the chief of protocol, chief of security, Hassan Kamal, who was the chef du cabinet, and somebody from the foreign ministry who later — who was the son of a former secretary general of the Arab League — later served in the embassy in Washington, and he represented the foreign ministry. And at that time, okay, it said that they were going to land at eight a.m. in the morning.

KWS: On Friday morning?

EE: On Friday morning, eight o’clock. And, uh, I called all the necessary people, the air force, that they would not shoot the plane down, and the airport authorities. And then, Ben-Elissar and I drove down to the airport to meet them. Sam was planning to be there. So, he would be there at the airport to make the introductions. For once I did not accept Sam’s authority. I argued with him. I later told Begin, that if they are coming to our place, if there were people that Sam knew, personal friends — even then, I don’t know, but he knows them as much as I do. And —

KWS: [Laughs.]

EE: — Eli Ben-Elissar did know Kamal, Hassan Kamal and the chief of protocol. For once, let us show the world and the media about, especially when they are our guests at the Ben Gurion Airport.

KWS: There was no press at the airport?

EE: Even if there is. On the contrary, there would be press. We, we, uh, we told the press that we’re going to in this advance mission.

KWS: You weren’t going to pass this one up 

EE: We were going to make the most of it.

KWS: [Laughs.] You were going to milk this. 

EE: This was one of the highlights

KWS: I got it, I got it. 

EE: So, I thanked Sam very much for his offer, because it was made in good faith. He thought there may be there would be some immediate embarrassment, maybe they needed somebody. And that was one of the highlights, I think, of my job. Absolutely. I told you earlier about Henry’s coming on the 22nd of October [1973]. In a way, that was much more dramatic because here for the first time an Egyptian plane, from the Arab Republic of Egypt, landed at the Ben-Gurion Airport, not because it was shot down or because it was brought down. And, and I felt very me’urgash, emotional about it. I am sure so did the, the others. [Unintelligible] we went both of us to the plane when it started to arrive at the terminal. The door opened and they began coming out. And I felt for them. I sensed that they must have been confused and; I thought myself how would I feel if I, what would happen today in Cairo? They did not know what to expect, what kind of reception they would get. We took them to the terminal. After the first meeting, they came down very quickly. Not right away, but, I could see what the first question was tachlis [bottom line, to the point] right away: “What kind of reception are you preparing for President Sadat?” And we told them that we had instructions from the prime minister to make this a special visit for a head of state of a friendly country. That would be the appropriate Then there was a sign of relief.

KWS: What were they expecting?

EE: They didn’t know. This is just it. There has been no precedent for a president in a state of war, not, never before had the head of state of one country visited the head of state of another country, with, eh, formal hostilities.

KWS: Did you ever figure why Begin made the decision to go all-out?

EE: That was typical of Begin.

KWS: Begin, the romantic?

EE: Either/or. Either I invited him. If I invited him. 

KWS: A gentleman, a diplomat.

EE: [Unintelligible.] Either I don’t have anything to do with him or if he is my guest —

KWS: So, when Begin said to you, “All the flags,” you knew. This was Begin.

EE: This was it [unintelligible]. Later, when we showed them the draft of the schedules that we had prepared, one point which, eh, caught their attention: the laying of the wreath for the fallen soldiers, was outside of their plan. Here, Egyptian president paying tribute to Israeli soldiers. They asked me, “Does every president do this?” I said, “Yes.” They said, “Okay.”

KWS: God, what a heady time to be alive. 

EE: Yeah.

KWS: I mean really — 

EE: When we got to the but in the car Right, from the apartment They could see everything what happened at the most. They stayed at the King David Hotel, with all the crowds. They wanted to see al-Aqsa and, uh, the Temple Mount. And I took them through the narrow streets of the Old City. We had a lot of security. But we were not sure how the Palestinians would have reacted. They were immediately accepted. And all the way to and from Jaffa Gate, they were cheered. People came up to them and shook their hands. Then they wanted to see Yad Vashem.

KWS: They wanted to see it. 

EE: They wanted to see it. So, I asked, “What do you want to see?”

KWS: But they did not volunteer; you told them about it.

EE: I told them it was part of the program.

KWS: In other words, what you were doing is you were doing —

EE: We were doing —

KWS: — the schedule.

EE: They wanted to see more or less the schedule, that Sadat would be seeing.

KWS: I see, I got you. They were an advance team.

EE: So, we went to it see it. On the way, we talked a little and I asked him why were their and they asked me, “Have you ever been to Cairo?” I said, “Yes, I was there with the British Army.”Well, what do you remember about Cairo?” I said, “It was a nice place, warm, with water, unlike Palestine at the time because of the war.”Was it quite crowded?” “I do not know.” He said, “Listen, Cairo was built as a city for two million people. They still have the same infrastructure, although we have 11 million: sewage system, telephone, bridges.  For me to get across the Nile to get to the office, it takes more than an hour just to cross the bridge. We have spent all our resources, all of our resources on this war. It has to come to an end. We just cannot continue.”

KWS: Hmm.

EE: Later, after he flew back, they left, the advance party, and the security people stayed. And Begin asked me to come and see him. He said to me, “What is your impression?” I described to him. I told him about this, I was talking about this conversation. And I said that I, I believed him. Somehow, told me also I may have to view this with suspicion. But it some— but this somehow rang true. 

KWS: Mm-hmm.

EE: [venue of discussion jumps to Begin’s thoughts on what he would say in his Knesset speech after Sadat] They [the Egyptians]just couldn’t keep this up. An] anyway  with the United States, this was an essential part of their strategy. And they needed it] Otherwise, he wouldn’t have come. Otherwise, they would not have taken this terrible risk. It was for them, unless it was of vital national interest. Begin listened very carefully and he said, basically, “I think that they are serious.” And then he told me about some of the things that he was going to say in his speech in the end. He should have written, written it down. Instead, he just had a few notes. On one hand, he did not know whether to respond to Sadat’s rather hardline speech and get into a scrap with him, right there and then, in front of the Knesset and he compromised. That was a good speech, but not his best. [Unintelligible.] Somehow, Sadat stole the, stole the show. And so — and this was something that stayed with him for the rest, for the whole course — somehow Sadat, at every time they were with each other, bested him. [Unintelligible]. 

EE: He did not know what to do with him. I remember the first night when he arrived at the King David. Nobody had any plan: To have a meeting with him, don’t have a meeting, who would have a meeting with him. They did not know what they wanted. Dayan was looking for [Hassan] Tuhami. Sadat, he went into his room. Begin was to come to him. Again, it was [Yigael] Yadin who took the initiative. But, uh, [unintelligible]. Yadin went to see Sadat. But Sadat was also disorganized. He knew what he was doing with the first step, but he wasn’t clear, was not clear about what the second step was going to be. Okay, you come to Jerusalem, you deliver your speech, no problem. What follows in organizational terms, in practical terms? He never paid attention to [unintelligible] because Hermann and Roy Atherton. He would take everybody by surprise. Nobody had the courage to say no to him. They all resigned. 

KWS: Fahmy and Gamasy. Impetuous. He was politically impetuous. I mean that’s why we made this suggestion at this conference in Jerusalem in 1977. We didn’t think about the implications of it.

EE: Yes, and the same with MENA House. You asked about MENA House. Ben-Elissar said to me once, you know, in discussion with me, he say, “You know, he —,” I remember, he said, “He didn’t have balance.” Because he was always trying to surprise us. So here they agreed that there would be two committees, [unintelligible], a military one and a political one, that Dayan would continue to meet with them secretly abroad. Ezer and Gamasy would meet in Egypt. Again, it wasn’t quite clear, there were no terms of reference, what they were aiming for. But something wasn’t right. And then before the first meeting could be set up for the political negotiations — for Dayan to go, and indeed Dayan was abroad, he was out of the country a couple of days.

KWS: In the end of November.

EE: They announced the meeting in Cairo. 

KWS: And you had no idea — 

EE: No, no idea. We heard about it on the radio. 

KWS: Mmm.

EE: Begin was very upset. He said this is not the way to conduct negotiations, especially this sort of a conference that he wants to have in Cairo with the PLO and everybody. And I think that the person who was particularly suspicious was Dayan. 

KWS: Mmm.

EE: Because Dayan — I brought him the text of the speech. He said, “Okay, we will go there,” of course not with the PLO. He wanted me and Ben-Elissar to go. And The next day, when I reported to him, he said, “I want nothing to do with this. I do not understand what he has in mind. I do not know if Begin knows what he is thinking.” [Laughs.]

KWS: This is Dayan talking.

EE: This is Dayan talking. So, he felt that somehow he was losing his grip on the negotiations.

KWS: Dayan was?

EE:  Dayan too. First, Begin, because of the Sadat initiative, and here, Begin went along with it, without government consensus or talking about this and that with the delegation. And he wanted to prove two points: (A) that there’s the matter of who was negotiating, he or the prime minister; but he wanted to also make another point, (B) since he was absolutely certain the whole thing would fail, he wanted nothing to do with it. He said, “[Meir] Rosenne should go because he is the legal adviser to the government. If you go, you are my representative.”

KWS: Meaning you, Epi?

EE: Me. So, they all went to Cairo, to MENA House. 

KWS: Who went? Ben-Elissar went — 

EE: Ben-Elissar went and Meir Rosenne went. There were others, but none from the foreign minister’s office. It was not too [unintelligible] — it was clear right away that they did not have an agenda set up. And it very quickly degenerated again into one of those meetings where people are hurtling speeches at each other. 

KWS: Mm-hmm.

EE: And nothing happened. You had Abdul Meguid on the one hand and Meir Rosenne on the other, and that, that’s what happened.

KWS: When Begin went to Washington, and took the autonomy idea, [December 1977] where did the autonomy idea come from? 

EE: I thought hard about it, but basically, I think the development was something which Moshe Dayan had always had in mind. Moshe Dayan talked for years about functional, eh, partition of the West Bank. He raised it formally with Golda’s consent in one of the meetings with Kissinger in ’74. Golda, I remember, said to him that Moshe Dayan wants to talk to you about an idea, that there would be this joint rule by Jordan and Israel, that whatever we won would be. This is what was called functional. It is very easy from this line of thought to come to think about the autonomy. Once the Jordanians were out of the picture in ’74, vis-a-vis the PLO,  and soon it will not be difficult to talk to the Palestinians [unintelligible]. And this basically, again, is functional partition. They would control their own daily lives and the Israelis would [unintelligible] security. Whether they had discussed it before or not, I am not quite sure. 

KWS: Hermann, Hermann says that it was Begin’s idea.

EE: Yes, I shall come to that. I don’t, I am not sure. I thought that to talk about autonomy from Begin, he talked to me about it at the Knesset and he told me that this is what he had in mind. This was after Ismailia; it was the middle of December.

KWS: Ismailia was Christmas Day.

EE: You are right. 

KWS: He took autonomy with him to Washington.

EE: Yes, correct, you are right. You are right.

KWS: Because he wanted Jimmy Carter’s stamp of approval. 

EE: [Unintelligible.]

KWS: Even if Carter didn’t stamp it, he wanted to be able to say to Sadat he’d seen it.

EE: So that was sometime in December. He asked me — he talked about it — and asked me for my ideas. I was going to agree to anything that would keep the Egyptians comfortable. When I heard Prime Minister Begin, and uh, that this was too little for the Palestinians. 

KWS: That was a feeling you had at the time — 

EE: [Unintelligible.]

KWS: —not retrospectively.

EE: No, no. I was listening to him. And at the same time there was within it, the beginnings of a Palestinian state. There’s a contradiction in what I say. On the one hand, it may not be good enough for them, and yet, but we are taking a great risk. But I thought it was worthwhile proceeding with it, trying it. Because otherwise, I had the feeling after the MENA House, that we may get cold feet and they would walk from the whole process. And by then we would only be in the soup, because then it would be that much more difficult to reconvene the Geneva peace conference — the Carter initiative — from September. We had been very much damaged by breakdown because the state of Egyptian-Israeli contacts. It is interesting now in retrospect. After I left, he called in Geula Cohen. No, no, he told me that he had already talked to her. And had mentioned it to her. He didn’t tell me what, eh, what she asked. Then he, a few days later, he said that he was going to London before going to Washington to have a visit with British Minister [James] Callaghan in London. Then Dayan went up to London, because Dayan’s mission was also,  to visit Romanian leader Nicolae Ceaușescu 

KWS: Mmm?

EE: Originally, he wanted to go alone with the head of the department. the person Taking across the there is one conference London.

KWS: To London? On the route.

EE: Yeah [unintelligible].

KWS: London on the way home from Washington.

EE: No, London on the way to Washington.

KWS: Well, in any case when he [Begin]talked to Callaghan, he wanted to see Callaghan and to get the stamp. Right.

EE: [Unintelligible.] But the British made a point that he [Begin]still had a price on his head.

KWS: As I recall, the British press made a big deal about it: “How can we accept this man?”

EE: Yes [unintelligible] he blew up the King David Hotel. He was responsible for some of the British casualties. And here he is, honored [unintelligible] Callaghan at #10, and it was a moment in diplomatic life, [unintelligible], honored at that dinner party.

KWS:  For a few hours. You [unintelligible].

EE: Yeah.

KWS: You went with Begin to the trip to New York, I mean to Washington?

EE: No. 

KWS: You met him in London.

EE: Yes, [unintelligible] in London. I was with him in London. In his response, in the course of humor, [Harold] Wilson was there, Callaghan, who was no particular friend of his, he was okay friendly. [Unintelligible.] So, he responded. He said, “[Unintelligible.] We had good days and we had bad days. We had good ones, we had bad ones. Tonight is one of the best days of our lives.” When it was over, he said that he wanted to see among other things the office of the Foreign Secretary, to see Balfour’s room, to see where he signed the Balfour Declaration. And, eh, David Owens was then foreign secretary, was present. We all went across the street to the foreign office, to the foreign secretary’s office. He asked if this was the way the furniture was the same as then. Owens said, “I really do not know,” I said to him, “I can tell you that it has not changed since the 1960s, when I was here, when [Alec] Douglas-Home was foreign secretary and Butler and Matthew Stewart.” He asked me to describe how the chairs were arranged then. But I did not know how it was in 1917. But for him, it was very important [unintelligible] for his own personal [unintelligible]. 

KWS: Umm, one of the things that Sam Lewis constantly said to me overriding imperative for Begin once he became prime minister was this insatiable quest for legitimacy.

KWS: The need to be accepted, not so much as Ben-Gurion’s equal, but just to be accepted. 

EE: You are right, very right. True. At one critical moment. There is no doubt that he sought that legitimacy. He was the advocate of freedom, liberty, protecting the Jewish people.

KWS: He said the same.

EE: While in Washington, he made no bones about it. 

EE: Dayan and Ezer were there already to tie up the loose ends in the negotiations. And we met with Cy Vance at the State Department ,March 1979 and Sadat wanted to advance some of the dates of the withdrawal, a month, [he wanted to show progress to the Arab leaders. I do not know. What it was that he wanted to jump over. There were big problems, I had no knowledge of the specifics, I do not recall now. And Cy Vance supported it, Ezer and Moshe were tied. They were under instructions from the government. They had limits set by Begin and nothing more. Carter began to become impatient, impatient with us, yeah. It was in the [unintelligible]. Friday morning, on a Monday. Begin was due in New York. Dayan and Ezer suggested to Cy, since I had that I would take with me and explain to him what some of the differences were So when I got on the plane, he told me, they called me promise me Monday and send me to —

EE: He said, “I would like tomorrow in Washington. Ask the secretary of state to arrange a meeting with President Sadat.” I said to him, “I’ll call up [Egyptian Ambassador Ashraf Ghorbal, find out from him if this can take place.” He asked, “Can you do that from here?” I said, “Sure.” I called up Ashraf and said to him, “The prime minister would like to see the president whenever, perhaps at five o’clock.” He asked his advice. He came back and said, “Fine, we will have to push away a five o’clock meeting we arranged with Peres.”

EE: Okay. He was delighted. Then it came. “A hundred years it couldn’t touch” and we were stuck  [in no progress with the Arabs]. When we got to the Hilton, he got all the ministers around him. And wanted them to know that he was going to have a meeting with Sadat to discuss some issues, and said to them that, “Epi is going to accompany me.” This was an easy way out for him. 

EE: Because I was the ambassador. 

EE: And therefore, there would not be any doubt in anyone’s mind as to who would be in the conversation. So we arrived. I had met Ashraf many times before, but not recently.. We came in. Ashraf and Hassan Kamal took notes. Sadat wasn’t there. Then we were taken up to the second floor. There it was: Ashraf and Sadat. As the conversation began with pleasantries, It was so icy. So unpleasant. So antagonistic that I felt sorry for the meeting. And then, without any reason whatsoever, the whole atmosphere changed, 180 degrees. And then Begin gave in on each and every point, each of the six points or whatever it was.You want to get to El-Arish six weeks earlier? Okay.” That was terribly important for him to show his people. Signing a peace treaty. What is he getting for it? El-Arish was the capital of the Sinai, more than half of the Sinai would remain in our hands, for three more years. So, Begin realized that this was really not that important. So we give them the oil fields earlier, something, 30, 40, 60 million dollars or more because we wouldn’t’ be pumping the oil. And by the end of the conversation, they were the best of friends. Sadat said to him, “You know, Prime Minister, I am now ready to invite you to come to Cairo.” Until then, he had never invited him to Cairo. Begin thought that this was the climax of the relationship. 

KWS: Maybe the second most important night of his life.

EE: Yeah, yeah, to be there in Cairo as the guest of the president of Egypt. Sadat said, “But it will not be simple, I have to work on it. Let us keep it a secret, you know. And I promise you within a few months you will be in Cairo. Now we’ll all go down together,” accompanying them. There was a whole battery of microphones. Sadat steps in front of the microphone and says, “I want you to know that my friend, Menachem Begin and I had a very good conversation, and I have invited Prime Minister Begin to Cairo.”

KWS: [Laughs.]

EE: So, Begin turns to me and says, “How can you deal with such a person? Five minutes ago, he said, keep it a secret.” Then in the car, as we go back to report to his colleagues he said to me, “Tell me, did I do the right thing?” And I said “Yes, you have shown today courage that would put you in the same rank with Ben-Gurion.”

KWS: You knew what you were saying to Begin, you knew the context of your remarks?

EE: I knew what I also was saying but I believed it. Begin (My own public). If didn’t make the declaration he made and the others.

KWS: A directed statement.

KWS: Pretty much everything right up and through ’77, through ’77 or to ’77, and you just barely talked about one or two incidents about the trip to Jerusalem and the planning for it, and you also made some mention about you and Begin being together in March of ’79 just before the, the treaty was signed. But I didn’t really take you through ’77 and so I’d like to do that if I might. Umm, and maybe begin with, umm, Rabin’s visit to Washington. And how did, how did Rabin view Carter, how was the — what was it, what was the anticipation for the visit, how did he feel when he came back, umm, and what impact did Carter’s public policy have on Rabin, the Labor party, and even the elections?

EE: You are now touching on a very, a very important phase. It’s no secret —. Let’s close the doors.

KWS: The window.

EE: [Unintelligible] there might have been sometimes when I could do something about it. We have to go back, eh, to the election campaign in ’76, and the statement that Carter made then. The visit of U.S. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski here in July of 1976. And it created certain concerns, to put it mildly. He underlined the Palestinian issue. He put it in center stage, more than any other American statesman had done before. And the visit of Brzezinski sent some warning signals as to what might happen if Carter won. And the general assumption was that the Democrats would win. In the event, all these concerns proved to be true. The background or the fact that, eh, Carter probably chose some of his aides, close associates who didn’t really know Israel for what it was and had no strong sentiments for it. They seemed to be cold to the issues and looked at them rationally and not sentimentally. And when you deal with Israelis you have to know that you meet with a certain paranoid people. There’s no avoiding this fact. If you live on the top of the volcano, no wonder that you feel paranoid sometimes. And that was a feeling that was missing, we felt, in the people around Carter, the new people we didn’t know from the Democratic party. And as I said, this visit, I think it was an eye-opener for Begin anyway. It also made us wonder as to what was to come.. Another point there was that these people had very few links, if any, to the Jewish community. When I talk about Jewish community. I don’t talk about Jews in the immediate advisory group. They had mention of some very close friends of the president, president-elect in that time of day, Carter. But what I mean is the sense that the Jewish community in the United States has a certain feeling about Israel which goes beyond the feeling that you find in Irish people for Ireland, Polish Americans for Poland, and they didn’t really delve into it as to why it was, what was behind it, what motivated it. And since many of Carter’s aides, friends of the Jewish community, didn’t support him in the primaries, or not just that they would’ve liked to, but they went for Scoop Jackson and others, who had been long and dedicated friends of Israel. There was probably the feeling that they didn’t owe, quote-unquote, anything to the Jewish community and therefore were free to act with less a feeling of indebtedness to the community and its feelings for Israel. They were free from any prior obligation toward Israel. That was the background before he assumed office. And when he assumed office, I remember sitting here and wondering if it’s clear that the Likud is going to make headway. But I for one didn’t expect the Likud to win in 1977. I think I was in the majority of maybe 90% of the people in Israel. And in this 90% I include Begin himself. He was as surprised as anybody. And it seemed to me that the administration in Washington was doing everything possible by an American president to undermine the Labor government. It began, apart from the background of his speeches about Palestinian entity, Palestinian rights and so on, it was in the far background. I remember the first visit about a month, it was after inauguration in February [15-17] ’77, Secretary Vance — and it was a terrible visit, Because  the main practical message that he brought with him was that the new administration had not planned to go through with the commitment that, eh, President [Gerald] Ford had made about the supply of a certain type of arms to Israel, eh, cluster bombs. The explanation was that the administration was against this type of weapon in any shape and form. They were not going to use it in the American armed forces, certainly they’re not going to supply it to us. But I remember Rabin’s reaction at the meeting with Vance. And Vance hated him. And I agreed with him, entirely, with, uh, Yitzhak Rabin. Rabin said. “Look, it goes beyond the question of cluster bombs. What we see here is that the commitment made to us by the president of the United States is cancelled by his predecessors [sic]. Today it’s the cluster bomb, tomorrow it may be something else.” So, here you under— undercut, undermine the very basis of the relationship. 

KWS: Mmm.

EE: You touch upon the most sensitive — the matter of our security and existence. [Unintelligible] this relationship with the United States. And if any administration can go back on this commitment, it doesn’t bode good for the future. A month or so later, I think, he went to Washington [March 6-8, 1977]. And there the president made, I think, made a mistake. Maybe the reason for it is, again, the background which I have described: he didn’t really know Israeli leadership. He certainly didn’t understand the way we feel. He didn’t understand our paranoid, paranoic sentiments, as I have said. He leaned very heavily on the issue of talking to the PLO and recognizing them. Here, this man, first thing on the election in two months now; Israel had, a couple of years ago, made serious, yeah, vitorim.(concessions)

KWS: Not accommodations. Uh, concessions.

EE: Concessions. To Egypt. On the issue — many people in Israel thought were vital. PLO was stepping up its authority. The situation in Lebanon was getting worse. And without any preparation, comes with the most difficult decision any Israeli government would have to make. Here we are, how long is it now? 17 years, 16 years after that, 14, 15, 16, and we’re still grappling with the same problem. And the president, uh, pressed him very hard on that. Then came the speech in [Clinton]Connecticut about national home. [Palestinian homeland]

KWS: Clinton, Massachusetts.

EE: Yes.

KWS: March 16th.

EE: And here Rabin is still in Washington. He’s still in Washington, or in the states, I believe it was still in Washington. Had no idea that this was going to happen. So, he came back, not very much enamored by Mr. Carter, or the intentions of him. 

KWS: This in addition to their private meeting?

EE: This is in addition to — I deliberately did not go into the private meeting — 

KWS: [Unintelligible.]

EE: Because we all know that. And although it may be important, in the case of Rabin it’s not that important. Because he was, eh, he was also, in this respect, I think like Carter. He looks at the issues and makes decisions He is a man of great hate too. He doesn’t forget and doesn’t forgive.

KWS: [Laughs.] One notices.

EE: But at the same time, he wouldn’t have left business affairs. Saying goodnight — not saying goodnight to Amy [Carter’s daughter] clouded his relations with Carter. But here, this thing, you come to the very core of our issue. Then comes Brzezinski and explains that this speech in Clinton is the Balfour Declaration of the Palestinian people. If you didn’t get —  

KWS: He said that?

EE: He did.

KWS: What did he say? 

EE: Eh — 

KWS: I’ll have to find out.

EE: Yeah, find out. And he will tell you himself, I’m sure he will. ’Cause if we were stunned by Carter’s, eh, speech, or remarks or whatever it was, certainly that — 

KWS: Comment.

EE: — The las comment by Brzezinski put the, the last nail in the coffin. And this went on and on for the next two, eh, months. Every week there was another statement, here, the Labor party fighting for his life.

KWS: Mmm.

EE: And what it was, what was it that they could claim most important asset? They knew the wall, they knew the American thing, they have those connections in Washington. Who are the Likud people? What do they know? And here, their friends in Washington, the people that they’re supposed to be able to deal with and so on, are hitting them over the head day after day. And the last week before the election, I remember meeting Yigal Allon — he took me along with him to London — had with Cy Vance — that’s where I first met Sam Lewis, not as ambassador. He was in the American assistant secretary, Sam Lewis served as Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs, 1975-1977, before becoming Ambassador to Israel. 

KWS: And your position?

EE: I was in between because my — I was a — I had been appointed ambassador to London, and a couple of weeks before I was due to leave, it was revoked because Peres became the, the leader of the Labor party after Rabin resigned in April. And he asked me not to go [unintelligible] — 

EE: — to be minister in London. 

EE: That’s right. And then I had to tell him to tell David Owen how the room was arranged, or being arranged. So anyway, I, uh, I accepted it. He told me that I should go to Washington. If he becomes prime minister, which he expected, he will send me as ambassador to Washington. So, they revoked one of the appointments to London. And Yigal Allon made me explain it to the British ambassador. I still have the diplomatic passports with the designation of ambassador to London and Dublin. So, I was in between, waiting. There were three weeks until the elections. So, Yigal took me along with him to the meeting with Cy Vance. 

And it was then that Carter met — went to Geneva to meet Assad, and came back with adoration, describing Assad as “one of the greatest statesmen of the twentieth century,” praising him to the sky. Assad was not exactly the most popular figure in Israel then. So here again — and this is about a week before the election, and this went on and on. So, in a way — unintentionally of course, not that Carter and Brzezinski and Vance wanted to help Begin and the Likud and to help out the government — but there are statements. There are public posture during those months, I mean, February and May, added to the Labor government’s problems in a very important and sensitive area: relations with the United States. Most people could say, “If you don’t produce, why not try somebody else?” Maybe his policy would — Begin very skillfully used this argument in the relations with, uh, with the Arabs. With Jordan, he said for years, “You’ve been talking about territorial compromise and so on and negotiating with them. Where are we now? Exactly where we were before. Why not try my method?” Here, this cooling of relations with Washington added to that sense that maybe the Labor party is not so strong in what they claim to be strong. So that was the start. Now, when the Labor party — it was clear that administration in Washington was pushing for the resumption of the Geneva peace conference. And the president’s gambits with the PLO and Rabin was part of this general scheme. Then comes the, the Likud and Begin. And here I might draw your attention, I’m sure you have read it carefully, but before you came yesterday, I re-read Dayan’s book — 

KWS: Breakthrough?

EE: Breakthrough. I’m not sure, I don’t know whether the English version is exactly the translation of the Hebrew — 

KWS: It’s very close, unlike Rabin’s, where there is a great difference. 

EE: Yeah.

KWS: Dayan’s is very similar [full title: Breakthrough: A Personal Account of the Egypt-Israel Peace Negotiations].

EE: Because from what I could see — I remember reading it at the time that it appeared, and I re-read part of it yesterday — it is the best and most accurate description of the events that led up to the breakthrough, beginning in May ’77, when Begin asked Dayan to become his foreign minister. There’s only one thing where I might, eh, take exception to Dayan’s, version. The break between Begin and Dayan came much earlier than Dayan assumes. Begin wanted Dayan for several reasons. First of all, it gave a legitimacy to the administration. It wasn’t just the head of a terrorist organization [unintelligible]. Dayan, secondly, long experience in negotiations with the army, going back to ’48. Dayan knew Washington and how to deal with the Americans quite well. He was well-known in the Jewish community. All these things were very important for Begin because it was a moment when he was very unsure of himself, and very inexperienced. And he didn’t take him because of his views, I don’t think. Maybe it’s easier for him, for Begin — because Dayan was one of the hawks in the Labor party — and for the government. In the beginning at least what the public saw. So, it was easier for him to take Dayan into a Likud government, in terms of how the Likud membership would react to that. They were not very happy when Dayan was appointed but nobody publicly argued with Begin. Begin knew that until he established himself, he needed to show a certain continuity, even if he meant —

KWS: Mm-hmm.EE: — to change. Because one of the conditions that Dayan made to him, according to Dayan in his book, when he was approached about the appointment was that the new government would follow and accept, not revoke, any of the commitments made by the previous governments. [UN Resolution] 242, for instance. 

KWS: Mm-hmm.

EE: And he, eh, accepted that.

KWS: Was there an interpretation that the Israeli government had made to 242, rather than accepting it? Now there seems to be the difference of course. 

EE: Mm-hmm.

KWS: The basis of negotiations is 242, that one no one disagreed with. I’m wondering if the Labor party put their own definition that maybe Begin disagreed with.

EE: The Labor party always said, said, eh, territorial compromise, including the West Bank. Dayan never accepted it. To his credit, one must say that going back to ’67, when the resolution was passed by the Security Council, he objected to it at the beginning. And [Levi] Eshkol had some difficulty in getting Dayan and Begin once it was in the cabinet, to accept the cabinet’s resolution to inform the UN that we will abide by 242. So, he had difficulties with it, together with Begin right from the beginning. But at the same time, he realized suddenly as time passed, especially after the Yom Kippur War, that 242 is the life and, uh, life and soul of any peace, eh, effort.

KWS: But Dayan’s connection to Begin other than these criteria for continuity which you outline, what about Dayan’s idea which he had already floated about functional — 

EE: But that goes back to ’73, ’74.

KWS: But my point is Begin had a reason to take Dayan on, a philosophical reason, I mean, he knew that this was going to be a secretary of state of his, a foreign minister who is not going to deviate too drastically from his own view.

EE: They agreed on one thing and disagreed on the second. What was the thing that they agreed on? They agreed on one important issue. Dayan always objected to a territorial compromise on the West Bank — that’s the functional, uh, partition, whatever. Dayan always felt that the security borders — if you want to call it official, it would be the Jordan River — that militarily, Israel should control the West Bank. And he never deviated from that. That was something that, uh, Begin could certainly approve. What they disagreed — and Dayan makes a point of it in his memoir — he said Begin wanted to incorporate the West Bank within Israel, make it part of Israel, although he was not quite clear in his mind, according to Dayan and I agree, so, what would be the exact status of the Palestinian Arab? Would they be full Israeli citizens or not? I don’t think he had a clear idea as to what he would do if and when that moment would arrive, of the annexation. Dayan was very clear on that. He didn’t want the West Bank to be a part of the state, an integral part of the state. And I remember, the first meeting after he was nominated but before he, uh, was sworn in, the first meeting with Sam Lewis — Sam had arrived two or three weeks earlier — and he asked Dayan, and Dayan called me at the foreign ministry, I remember [unintelligible]. I had been there but I was then in limbo.

KWS: Transition.

EE: ’Cause I had no official title, “counselor to the minister” or “advisor to the minister.” But Dayan had already indicated to me that until I go to Washington a year later, in ’78, I would, eh, be appointed director general of the ministry. And I suppose people in the ministry knew it, though officially [unintelligible] was director general — took about a month from the elections until the new administration was in place. It was unpleasant for all concerned. So, Dayan called me up and said “Look, Sam Lewis had asked to see me. I asked Begin whether I should or shouldn’t see him —”

KWS: Sam Lewis asked to see Dayan?

EE: To see Dayan. Although Allon was still the Foreign Minister, and Begin said, “Okay, go ahead.” “I want you,” he said to me, “to be present.” He didn’t want at that time, to see him alone. I have, I have a feeling that Sam was a little surprised to see me there, and, uh, but the interesting point — this is all trivia — the important thing is what Dayan said to him. Dayan explained to him that he is opposed to annexation, that as far as he’s concerned, the laws of Israel, applied to Israel up to the Green Line. The question of the West Bank is something different and should be handled differently, and though he would object to — of course vehemently — to a Palestinian state or to its annexation by Jordan. And for me it was a revelation because I didn’t — I thought that this would give an opening for the administration. It would be a good symbol to the administration [unintelligible]. Here, the foreign minister designate says “We, as far as sovereignty goes, will not go beyond the Green Line.” 

KWS: Mm-hmm.

EE: If you read the Likud manifesto before the election, they did say specifically that they would annex the West Bank. I even remember going back home later and trying to mull it over in my mind, ’cause I still look to see what kind of a creature it could be. In my simple mind, that business of what later developed into the autonomy line [Begin proposed a plan for Palestinian self-rule in December, 1977; nine months later Camp David’s autonomy plan was ratified ] could, at best, be a transition period of a few years. Two, three, four, five at the most. But couldn’t go beyond that. Eventually they’ll have to decide — and there’s no precedent for it anywhere in the world and certain people wouldn’t agree to it. So, I thought that if Dayan really meant — and to me he seemed very clear on that — that Israel is not going to annex the West Bank —

KWS: Mm-hmm.

EE: — and sovereignty stops at the Green Line, he is sowing the seeds for a Palestinian state. And I remember talking about this later to Shlomo Gazit, who was still the head of military intelligence, and who was my guru on Moshe Dayan — years ago, he was a —

KWS: Sure.

EE: — military secretary, when he was chief of staff — and Shlomo said to me that he always suspected, after Yom Kippur — ’cause Dayan before Yom Kippur and Dayan after Yom Kippur are two different people — that Dayan had come to terms with the idea that a Palestinian state is unavoidable. What he was trying to do is create as many ties as possible between Israel and this entity t make it as less harmful as possible. But that you cannot get —

KWS: Denuded of, denude it of its potential venom, take out whatever — 

EE: That’s right, that’s right. If you ask Dayan whether this was his view, he would certainly deny it.

KWS: Of course.

EE: And even in his book he insists on that. But I think that his actions and certainly his last act before he died — proposing to the Knesset of, eh, creating the autonomy on our own, without an agreement — 

KWS: Unilaterally —

EE: — unilaterally, he wasn’t that naive to think that here we’ll give them the autonomy and every time they pass a new law or something, that we’d send the army to reoccupy the country. But, uh, facing public opinion [unintelligible], he realized and also he knew that you have to have patience and you have to condition people’s minds here. They couldn’t, eh, switch like Carter did in ’77, eh, when he assumed the presidency. But that was, by the way, on a much lower level. Begin didn’t want to rattle, how do you say, to shake the boat?

KWS: Rock the boat.

EE: Rock the boat, too much when it came to Israeli representation. That’s why he kept [Chaim] Herzog at the UN and Dinitz in Washington and made me director general. Because with all Dayan’s influence, if Begin didn’t want me as director general, I wouldn’t have been director general. He would’ve sent me to Washington, knowing very well where I came from and what am I used for. I think he wanted us to help, eh — 

KWS: — steer Dayan.

EE: No, nothing like that. Help sell him —

KWS: Mmm.

EE: — to the public. [Unintelligible.]

KWS: Yeah.

EE:  And only later, then — 1981 when he won the election on his own, without Dayan, without Ezer, without Yadin — only then he felt strong enough to sweep away all the remnants of the Labor party [unintelligible] in high office. An event that began [unintelligible]. But to come back to that, the break I think between Begin and Dayan, that was the beginning of this whole rambling story, came very early in October.

KWS: October of ’77?

EE: Of ’77 . Or even before that. Although, as I said, Begin needed Dayan, needed him very badly, also he did not want to be overshadowed by him. Dayan was such a powerful personality, such a domineering personality, and yet he wanted to establish his own identity. And people evolve also, the president, the prime minister, and so on. You will understand from the beginning that they have to deal with him. He’s the one who calls the shots, not Dayan or anybody else. First opportunity came, I believe, when he went to see President Carter in July of ’77. He did not take Dayan with him. And Dayan was very hurt.

KWS: You went.

EE: I didn’t, no, he didn’t take me with him. I don’t think Dayan would have let me go, ’cause we saw that happening later [unintelligible] when the negotiations with Egypt began to take shape. Unless it was him, he wouldn’t let — but again, he did let Meir Rosenne who was a little bothered — 

KWS: He went to MENA House [talks with the U.S., Egypt, Israel and the UN in December 1977].

EE: But here, he [Dayan]was quite hurt. And I remember having to ship a letter from Arthur Goldberg about that time. I had known Arthur for many, many years and he — in this personal letter, he thought, he told me that he thought that Begin had done extremely well, in fact.

KWS: Mm-hmm.

EE: Dayan was very highly thought of and respected in Washington. And secondly, by appointing me as his director general, he had a good thing, and that I should express these sentiments, I should show it to Dayan, tell Dayan about how happy he was to see me in this position. So, I showed the letter to Dayan. He read it and said to me, “Can you get him to tell Begin that I should go to Washington with him?” ’cause the letter arrived when Begin was planning to go to Washington. And Dayan, who was a very proud man, for him to come out with this, to show to me how hurt he was, I mean, that — then we come to — But this was a typical Begin. First trip, I — he never, he didn’t have any compunction.

KWS: Did Ezer go to Kennebunkport?

EE: I [unintelligible]. When he appointed Shamir, Prime Minister Begin took him along to Washington. He didn’t have any problem then. The same with Ford. Golda Meir didn’t take Abba Eban when she met him. But here it was more than that. There was no doubt with Golda Meir who was in charge. But here, there was some doubt. And he wanted to make it clear right from the beginning. Then came the trip to Ceaușescu. Here, it was Dayan’s initiative. And he told Begin that — Begin originally wanted to take with him the head of our Eastern European division in the foreign ministry. But Dayan sensed that this would be an important — I think his instincts [unintelligible]. So, he took the initiative, and helped Begin to take me along. And Begin said, “Yes, it was no problem.” But that I think was the only time that I remember that Dayan, when he was bypassed, asked to have me. [Unintelligible.] Later, whenever he was given the cold shoulder or whatever — 

KWS: No one went.

EE: Sure that — No. So, we now come to the trip, eh, to Washington and New York in September, October ’77.

KWS: Wait, wait, wait. Before you get there, a couple of things. Umm, the Begin visit to Washington. Umm, in comparison to the Rabin visit, Begin was treated with kid gloves. Umm —

EE: When he came back, compared Carter to [Ze’ev] Jabotinsky.

KWS: Well, logically, it doesn’t make any sense. [Laughs.] If you don’t mind — of course, there’s no logic necessarily in foreign policy.

EE: No, but it showed that he was really taken in by Carter for this, eh, chemistry, warmth, which he thought he was receiving within Washington.

KWS: When Begin went, what was his purpose? I mean, what, what did he want to come back with? Smart people, when they go to a meeting, they know what they want to come out with. What, what did Begin want in return? What did he want Carter to start thinking about or look at or adjust in his thinking?

EE: In many ways Begin, who was very smart and a man of wisdom, and action, was also very naive.

KWS: Naive. You said that Begin was naive.

EE: Yes, and, and that relates to this visit. Because Begin [unintelligible], it reappeared again and again, for years to come. He really believed, he honestly believed, that when he met with the president and his top advisors and explained to them his policies, his objectives, what he wanted to achieve, that what he wanted was so just in itself that they will not doubt, upset the logic and the justice of his position. 

KWS: Mm-hmm.

EE: So, when he took with him a small cast and, eh, I can just imagine how Carter and Vance and Brzezinski, all of them looked when they heard — he said the nation, there not being a Palestinian people, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, and [unintelligible]. Begin, as I said, sorely, honestly believed that there’s no way that they could not accept his position. So, when he went to Washington —

KWS: In other words, there was a righteousness — 

EE: Yeah, yes. He believed in the righteousness of his cause to a degree.

KWS: But he could not permit anything — 

EE: He couldn’t conceive of anybody — 

KWS: — disagreeing.

EE: — not accepting this. Especially when he, his power of explanation, of hasbarah, as he would call it. I don’t know an English equivalent to the Hebrew hasbarah [literally, explanation, but commonly taken to mean public diplomacy]. All you have to do is explain your viewpoint. . And I had friction with him time and again during my service in Washington ’cause he couldn’t understand why people across the table wouldn’t accept our view. “You have to ask Kadishai.,” he kept saying again and again. So, there was this naivete about him when he first went to Washington. And the president was probably, eh, very polite, his first meeting with him. And Begin, because he believed so much in the righteousness of his cause and didn’t make the — 

EE: — had agreed with these people. And therefore, from this, this gave room for the comparison to Jabotinsky. There was a very “Beginistic “logic — 

KWS: Can I explain something to you? I learned after interviewing Carter. He believes that every time, at least initially, that he listened to Begin and he didn’t disagree with Begin, Begin took that to mean as implicit assent to whatever Begin was saying.

EE: I think he’s right. [Unintelligible.]

KWS: And Carter said, “After a while, Begin would go out on the White House lawn immediately after the meetings and he’d talk about how we were in harmony on this and that issue. And we weren’t in harmony, I just didn’t react to him.” And now, you’re finally [unintelligible] it — I finally understand it now. It’s because Begin believed they were in harmony.

EE: Right. Since he was so sure, so certain that he was right. And the president didn’t say, “No, you are wrong.” He — even before, when he’d think that the president had accepted it — but more than that, he was so sure that nobody can not agree, nobody can somehow deny the justice of his position. It was a deeply ingrained, it wasn’t just a political election. Some of the leaders of the Likud today for whom this is a matter of political axe to grind or use in the elections. They may change their positions and then they have to — [Moshe] Arens is not one of them. Arens, in that respect, is a typical Begin. Others, whom I will not name — the young— but in the case of Begin, it was a deeply ingrained, deeply rooted philosophy, ideal, and he just couldn’t see how people could not see the righteousness of his cause. But [unintelligible], especially if you don’t disagree with him, then normally, he was right — so, now we come — oh, you want to go — 

KWS: Just one more question, umm, why did Begin trust you?

EE: I asked him this question, as it [unintelligible], many times. Recently I found — I’ll show it to you later — a piece of paper from my file, which are very few. I couldn’t, eh,  decipher it. The handwriting was terrible. I could see the signature and my first reaction was to throw it away. [Unintelligible] second [unintelligible]. To cut a long story short, it was from Begin to me at the Cabinet, in October ’77. And it says more or less, “To Epi, for you alone. Why does he,” that’s Dayan, “make agreements with the Americans without clearing it first with me? And without discussing it in this forum, before he commits himself and others? Signed, Mem Bet” Menachem Begin. A few days earlier or later, he once said to me in a meeting I had with him, he, that is Dayan, thinks every time he commits himself to one of these people, to the Americans, I’ll back him up automatically in the Cabinet. It’s unfair and its wrong. I think that they’re there. That was in October.

KWS: Probably right after the working paper.

EE: That’s right. The working paper was the watershed. Eh, now you ask me why but I’ll come back to the discussion.

KWS: Okay.

EE: I knew Begin since 1950, ’49. I was at that time the deputy assistant for Moshe Sharett, the foreign minister, who hated Begin with a venom. He still lives in the years of the ’40s with the Haganah and Herzl and terrorists and [unintelligible] and hanging a member of the Irgun. He couldn’t stand that. Begin was the gentleman and he behaved very formally. Every time he went abroad, he wanted to be briefed. Every time he came from a visit, from abroad he wanted to be de-briefed. And Sharett wouldn’t, eh, talk to him. So, he assigned me the pleasure of spending time with Begin before he went and after he came back from visits. Then we had the regular meetings of the foreign affairs committee of the Knesset, which I usually attended because of Sharett and Ben-Gurion. Begin, of course, was — so that we came to know each other and he must have developed a certain kind of feeling for me. The fact is that the day after he became prime minister, he passed the word to me that he wanted me not to resign from the foreign service. He thought I would resign. Because he wanted me to go to Washington as Ambassador as of May 18th, 1977. I also think that apart from the [unintelligible] feeling about it and regard for my experience and so on, continuity, he felt it would be better for him if I represented him than a Likudnik, in Washington. I had the help — people would trust me much more.

Let me go back to July 1977

KWS: — We get to July. And Israel rejects the Egyptian Plan. Vance comes out here on the 6th and 7th of August delivers the invitations to Camp David, and Vance goes to meet with Assad after Camp David. Dinitz was at Camp David. Were you?

EE: No.

KWS: You were not.

EE: No, that was after I — the first of September I quit as Director General, and waited ‘til December, that was Dinitz’s coming, and I then replace Dinitz. So, I have three months of semi-vacation. I wasn’t involved [unintelligible]. The only thing I remember from that period was that again Secretary Vance went to see Assad. Hal Saunders went to see King Hussein.

KWS: Right.

EE: And he came to see me [unintelligible] He knew I was going to Washington, and he told me about the meeting with the King. Unhappy he was about the whole situation.

KWS: Hal Saunders was unhappy.

EE: Yes. Both Saunders and the King. The King [unintelligible] was behaving according to [unintelligible]. And the King could have joined Camp David Accords if he wanted, still with it Sadat was not too keen. But Carter was and in many ways we were suddenly the [unintelligible] realized that involvement of having Jordan involved in the autonomy process. It was also a part of the original contract of the functional, in fact the autonomy thing was the second edition, a newer edition of his functional partition idea. Like there would be a joint administration over the West Bank. But the King shrugged away from all agreements, and again he did not want to take the risk. So, I thought that the time that he was — the question which he publicly posed to Carter was something that is not done, captures him to a certain degree You don’t go public unless you are confident.  So, I wasn’t surprised by the failure by Saunders’ mission was though very unhappy because it further undermined Carter’s visibility in Israel.  Because he went beyond in his explanation what had been negotiated  with us. Then came, of course, the frantic discussions [over the treaty in Washington] in December.

KWS: This was after the Blair House talks.

EE: — and brought up at the Blair House talks. And when the President wanted to stick by a three month’s date [to finish the treaty negotiations] came up in December, and you know when you look back at how unrealistic one could be that result would be ty then;  that could actually get Sadat and Begin to sign the peace quickly; just like that and with Vance with intrusions from Carter. And then add discussions over Jerusalem. And I remember we were — we sided completely with the Egyptian view We didn’t make any bones about it. Sadat goes — right and correct in what we wanted and demanded and though here there was a very crucial bone of contention to which document would take primacy with our commitment to the treaty commitment to the Arab League, which meant they would participate in the war against Israel.

KWS: Priority publication.

EE: There was all [unintelligible] and it came as a very unpleasant, I wouldn’t say surprise, a provision which [unintelligible] supported the Egyptian position and his legal adviser produced a document which was far from satisfying us, which again was closer to the Egyptian position. Didn’t go down well in Jerusalem. What — the worst thing that [unintelligible] can do with Begin was to try and push him into a corner. And that’s what they did with the date you have to do it by a certain date and he would have to sign on the dotted line and he said no. And it was then that Vance sent him from here in Jerusalem by invitation to fly back immediately to Washington because they were going to announce the normalization of relations with China. It couldn’t be delayed. So,  it was a leftover thing when I went to Washington. And when the plane landed he told the reporter , which is very strong medicine coming from Cy Vance, that more or less it was approved Begin. The next day, I flew to Washington to take out my [unintelligible].

KWS: [Laughs.]

EE: And Roy Atherton invited us to dinner the day after we arrived. Vance made a very considerate move by me. When I landed at National Airport, usually a new ambassador it takes him two or three days before he meets the secretary of state and presents a copy of this, but then he can begin to operate. Otherwise, he’s a non-person. At the airport I was met by Hal Saunders. We landed about 12 or 1 o’clock, and he said that the Secretary wants to see me at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Just that, and go to work. That evening Roy invited Rivka and me to dinner with Saunders and he invited also Ashraf. That was the first time I met Ashraf and his wife. He said to me “You couldn’t have come at a better time because you’ve got nowhere to go but up.”

KWS: Who said that?

EE: Roy. That was my welcome in Washington.

KWS: Okay. All right.

EE: Okay. When will you be back?

KWS: Maybe January but certainly March.

EE: I’ll be here.

KWS: Would you, eh — if we put together a conference on 20 years after the October War, Gamasy has said he’ll come if we do it some place in the States. Maybe in Atlanta, maybe in Washington. Gamasy will come and Yariv has promised me he’ll come. I’d like to do it in such a way that it’s not packed full of people. That it’s a lot of recollection of people who haven’t seen each other but saw the same event from a different vantage point. And maybe have someone who’s a contemporary, who does contemporary stuff on that issue be a moderator. But not get bogged down with preparing papers of scholars. My most gratifying panel moderation experience was at this Jimmy Carter conference, where I had Sam Lewis and Hermann Eilts and Hal Saunders and Bill Quandt and Daniel Kurtzer; he  was the commentator, and I was the moderator. Two and a half hours of absolute joy. And the things that they remembered, and had never been in a room together before, since. And to hear about their perspectives, or the perspective of Begin, perspective of Sadat, the perspective from the White House, perspective from State, and then hear Kurtzer put it into a historical context of what that presented the policy maker, twelve years later. It was wonderful.

EE: When you talk about the Yom Kippur War, what would be, where can we pick up — 

KWS: I would like to focus on the war and the immediate diplomatic aftermath. I would go maybe through the first disengagement. So, I do something on the war, and Egypt and Israel just before the war. I’d do something on the war itself. I’d do something on Kilometer 101. And do something on Geneva and the first disengagement. Maybe four or five sessions. And prepare, you know, have two or three people for each one, two and a half hours for each segment so that everyone can, you know, you can just let it all, you don’t feel constrained — 

EE: At Geneva with the conference, of course, I would think(?), but if you remember well to the first disengagement, I was very much involved. 

KWS: I know. I have it all on tape. So, the question you’re going to have to, you know — 

EE: Okay, but that’s a year from now.

KWS: I think we’ll try and put it together for October. We’ll do it sometime in October, and I’ll know about the money part in January.

EE: Okay. Then we’ll have another few hour session.

KWS: Thanks.

EE: Are you going to [unintelligible].

KWS: [Laughs.]