(25 September 1978)


Mr. Speaker, Members of the Knesset.

I bring to the Knesset, and through it to the nation, the message of the establishment of peace with the strongest and largest of the Arab states; and, in the course of time, inevitably, with all our neighbours.

The documents agreed upon at the Camp David conference, and which I signed, on behalf of the Government of Israel, in the White House, are before you. Therefore I shall not read them out. On the other hand, for psychological-political reasons, I will not be able, today, to reveal the contents of two other documents, namely: the first Egyptian document which was presented to President Carter and to myself at our first meeting at Camp David, and the first American document which was presented to the Israeli and the Egyptian delegations. The day will come when these documents, too, will be published. And then it will become clear to every person in Israel and throughout the world what we achieved and what we did not achieve, what we precluded, what we rejected, what we received, and what sacrifices we made for the sake of peace, in order to prevent killing, for the sake of peace for our nation and for the peoples around us.

First of all, I would like to do my duty to thank the team: to Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan and to Defence Minister Ezer Weizman, without whose help and activity the attainment of the agreements would have been impossible; to our Ambassador in the United States, Simcha Dinitz; to Prof. Barak and Dr. Rosenne, our two salient jurists, who worked day and night; to Aluf Avraham Tamir, one of the paramount experts on Israeli security, to Tat-Aluf Poran and Aluf Mishne Ilan Tehila; to Yehiel Kadishai, to Dan Pattir, to Eli Rubinstein, and to our security men, who guarded us day and night with unbounded dedication and loyalty.

We had a team. We worked in the spirit of a team. Regarding every meeting between ourselves and the American delegation or every conversation between one of our members and a member of the Egyptian delegation. We would meet – whether it was day or night – for joint consultation; and each member of the delegation, without difference of state rank, expressed his opinion freely, and everyone tried to take into consideration the view of his fellow-delegation member. Of this team, I shall say, simply: Well done.

From this rostrum I would again like to thank the President of the United States, Mr. Jimmy Carter, for his very initiative in convening such an unprecedented conference. We searched for precedents in the history of the past century for the Camp David conference. We found none. This was a unique conference. The President of the United States initiated it. Ran it. Devoted to it not only days but also nights. Worked until dawn. And within an hour or two was on his feet again. He interested himself directly in the formulations and not just in the ideas. He discussed with us every clause, every sentence, every word, and, sometimes, as I shall yet show, even every letter.

There were difficulties at the conference – they were unavoidable. There were crises at the conference – they, too, could not be prevented in advance. The President of the United States did not despair even for a minute, not even at the most critical moments – and he believed that the result would be a positive one. He went from representative to representative, and he did not hesitate to visit the cabins of the Israeli and Egyptian delegation heads. He did not rest. Did not despair, and finally the three-way agreement was attained I am certain that I am expressing the view of all the members of the Knesset when here, from Jerusalem, from the rostrum of the house of representatives, I send our gratitude and our esteem to the President of the United States for his initiative, his toil, his devotion during this very important international conference.

Mr. Chairman.

The critical importance of the agreement with Egypt lies in the fact that this time we undertook to sign a peace treaty. No more partial agreements. No more interim agreements – in which the state of war remains as it was. But a peace treaty, which, in line with the known international models, generally opens with the following sentence: “The state of war between the two countries has come to end.” This is the difference – one of major importance. It means complete normalization of relations, including the establishment of diplomatic relations, an end to economic boycott, free movement of people and goods.

Experts on security assert and confirm that we have attained sufficient and satisfactory security conditions for the State of Israel, by laying down demilitarized zones, areas of thinned out forces and earlywarning facilities.

True, there is a problem of the airfields, and with regard to them a change has occurred between the agreements as signed and the original peace plan which we submitted last December. At that time me proposed that of the three Sinai airflelds – Eitam, Etzion and Ophira – two would be transferred to civilian administration and one – Etzion would remain in the hands of the Israel Air Force even after the transition period. This time, with regard to that airfield, nothing availed, and the Israeli delegation consented to transfer to Egyptian civilian administration all three airfields in Sinai. On the other hand, we were assured that with the help of our friends the Americans, two airbases would be built in the

Negev. Strategically, from the point of view of our security, whether in the south or in the northwest, this marks virtually no change.

The geographical distance between the existing airfields and those to be constructed is no more than a dozen kilometres – and in our day with supersonic aircraft, the difference in defence capacity is next to negligible. It was determined that we will not leave the existing airfields as long as the new, alternative airfields are not functional.

President Sadat and I agreed that even though the signed undertaking is to arrive at signing of the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel within three months we would try to cut this period to two months. Therefore, today I can say, without absolute commitment – as this depends on both sides – that it may be, there is hope, that by the end of the year the peace treaty between the two countries will be signed.

The most painful matter has to do with our settlements in Sinai – in northern Sinai and in southern Sinai. There were those who claimed that we ceded them even prior to President Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem in order to allow that visit to take place. Mr. Chairman, I assert from the Knesset rostrum, with all the responsibility devolving upon statements made from this rostrum, that this claim is baseless – and of this we have written proof. I am astonished that serious persons, who in the past held central state posts, permit themselves to spread these kinds of fabrications.

There are also those who claim that we did not fight for these settlements at the Camp David conference. Were it possible to ask President Carter and one of his chief aides how the Israeli delegation fought for these settlements, you would get a detailed reply. But that is not the main thing.

Let me put it simply and straightforwardly: This is a very painful matter, and not only will I not hide my pain, but I will express it in every way in which I can express human feeling. But today, as I well know, we are faced with the following choice: To accept the resolution as the government will table it, through me, in the Knesset. Or that the negotiations on a peace treaty will not even begin and all the things agreed on at Camp David will be completely done away with. That is the choice. Those are the two possibilities. There is no third. And I declare that with a sorrowful and painful heart, but with a quiet conscience. I shall recommend opting for the possibility which we chose yesterday at the cabinet session. Because that is the way that leads to peace. That is the supreme national interest including that of my settler friends. Therefore, I shall move that the Knesset decide and vote on the following motion, with the concurrence of the Government of Israel:

“The Knesset approves the Camp David agreements signed by the Prime Minister at the White House on September 17, 1978. If during the negotiations for the conclusion of a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, all outstanding issues are completely agreed upon, and the agreement is expressed in a written document – the Knesset authorizes the government, within the framework of the peace treaty, during a period to be agreed by the parties, to withdraw the Israeli settlers from Sinai, and to resettle them.”

The basis for the framework agreement concerning Judea, Samaria and Gaza is our autonomy plan, as we proposed it last December, and these are our proposals: The Israeli military government and its civilian administration will be withdrawn. The Arab residents will elect, on their own, an administrative council. We shall not intervene in the running of their day-to-day affairs. As regards our national security, the key point is that the IDF is to remain in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.

The agreement states that “a withdrawal of Israeli armed forces will take place and there will be a redeployment of the remaining Israeli forces into specified security locations.” In other words, we have agreed to withdraw a certain number of our soldiers, while the rest of the soldiers will remain in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. The deployment will soon take place, and the soldiers of Israel – and only them – will safeguard our national security. Our army will remain in Judea and Samaria beyond the transition period. That is the fundamental change in all the deliberations held over the past two years to this day.

We left no doubt, and we stated, that after the five-year transition period, when the question of sovereignty comes up for decision, we shall assert our right to sovereignty over Judea, Samaria and Gaza. If an agreement is reached against the background of counterclaims, very well. If no agreement is arrived at, the result will be that the autonomy arrangements and of Israel’s security will continue to remain in force.

I want to stress what we precluded in connection with this agreement, vis-a-vis the earlier proposals presented to us:

(A) There will be no plebiscite in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. At the conference, we had to remind our friends that Meinertzhagen writes in his memoirs that in the ‘twenties it was suggested to Arthur James Balfour that a plebiscite be held concerning Palestine, and the then British Foreign Secretary replied: “If a plebiscite is held over Palestine, then all the Jews throughout the world should take part in it.” That proposal was stricken from the agenda, and approval will be given by the residents’ elected representatives.

(B) There is not and will not be under any condition or in any circumstances a Palestinian state.

(C) The murderers organization known as the PLO – (in reply to an interjection, Begin stated: Since the days of the Nazis there has not arisen an organization as barbaric and anti-human as the so-called PLO) – the murderers organization known as the PLO is not and will not be a factor in negotiations (and we have heard from the President of the U.S. the apt comparison between the PLO and the Nazis). Because this is an organization which intends, supposedly, to annihilate the State of Israel – it will never know the day but it has made the civilian population the sole target of its attacks. In the end this boomerangs, and there is now a vendetta among its own wings. And you know very well what has recently transpired in Beirut. Learn a lesson from this, and be careful, gentlemen: You, too, could one day be among the victims of that organization.

(Interjection by MK Moshe Shahal, Alignment: Mr. Prime Minister, could you please clarify what you have today been quoted as saying to “Newsweek,” concerning your readiness to meet with and sit with the PLO people if they are elected…)

Prime Minister: No such thing. I was asked, if someone from among the PLO sympathizers should be elected, he is elected. And we will then say to him: If you behave properly, you will sit on this committee. But don’t even conceive of doing injury to anyone in Israel or of disrupting order. That was my reply, and I stick to it.)

As to Jerusalem: One day, at Camp David, it was proposed to us that the flag of an Arab state fly over the Temple Mount. We refused, and the flag was lowered before it was raised. On the final day of the conference the draft of a letter was presented to us, which was to be sent to me and to President Sadat, concerning the status of Jerusalem. We told the American delegation that if that letter remained in force and was sent to us, we would not sign any agreements. Therefore, that letter was withdrawn. In its place, another letter was sent us, and I replied to it, as follows:

“Mr. President, I have the honour to inform you that on 28 June, 1967 Israel’s parliament (the Knesset) promulgated and adopted a law to the effect: ‘The Government is empowered by a decree to apply the law, the jurisdiction and administration of the state to any part of the Eretz Israel, Land of Israel -(Palestine), as stated in that decree.’ On the basis of this law, the Government of Israel decreed in July 1967 that Jerusalem is one city indivisible the Capital of the State of Israel.”

The question of the settlements came up. As regards adding manpower to the existing settlements, no problem exists. In Judea and Samaria and on the Golan Heights we will reinforce them with more families. As regards Judea, Samaria and Gaza I had no doubts whatsoever: I promised President Carter that during the period of the negotiations for the signing of a peace treaty – and today we are engaged in just one negotiation: with Egypt – that is, during the estimated three-month period, we would not establish -new civilian, settlements. This matter caused misunderstanding. Therefore, even though I had absolutely no doubts concerning the substance of this assurance (and this was the only one given), on Saturday night, we examined, with the foreign minister, the defence minister and, Prof. Barak, all the notes and documents, and they showed that that is how it was. And it is in this spirit that I intend to write the appropriate letter to President Carter this week.

As to the terminology. I received from President Carter confirmation concerning the terms as they appear in the original English version, as we understand then, that is: President Carter writes to me:

“I hereby acknowledge that you have informed me as follows:

A) In each paragraph of the agreed framework document the expressions ‘Palestinians’ or ‘Palestinian people’ are being and will be construed by you as ‘Palestinian Arabs.’

B) In each paragraph in which the expression ‘West Bank’ appears it is being and will be understood by the Government of Israel as Judea and Samaria.”

Mr. Chairman, Members of the Knesset.

Neither at Camp David nor at the White House did we sign any secret document. All the documents have been published. And the additional letter which I will send to President Carter will also be published. All the material is before you.

I understand, Mr. Chairman, that there is a period of what may be termed birth pangs. This is a free people. There are diverse views. This is a democratic parliament, with various parties in it. And even within each party there are differences of opinion.

This is one of the great events of our generation. After 30 years which saw five wars, bloodshed, bereavement and orphanhood, we have arrived at the moment when we can, with very difficult sacrifices, sign a peace treaty with an Arab nation of over 40 million people. And afterward, the hope exists – there is a basis for the belief – that the day is not far when we will sign peace treaties with our other neighbours. This is a turning-point which can without any doubt be termed historic.

And it is our prayer that we may succeed on this path and attain the peace which is so longed for without difference of political faction. We have made every effort, and made the sacrifices too, so that this day will come.

We have placed the documents before you. Let each of you think his own thoughts, ask his conscience, and vote in accordance with his evaluation. This is my call to all Knesset Members, without distinction of faction. But I do request that all Knesset Members representatives of a great nation which has suffered much, fought much, sacrificed much – properly assess the moral significance of this turning-point. For 30 years we have longed for the moment when we could discuss directly the signing of a peace treaty; the complete normalization of relations the cessation of the wars, the promise of life not only for our generation, but also for our children and our children’s children.

This is the moment: A great moment. With God’s help, may we very soon arrive at the great moment of signing the peace treaty.