Israeli Prime Minister Begin’s remarks at the Camp David Agreement, 17 September 1978

Israeli Prime Minister Begin’s remarks at the Camp David Agreement, 17 September 1978


Mr. President of
the United States, Mr. President of the
Arab Republic of Egypt, ladies and gentlemen;
the Camp David conference should
be renamed. It was the Jimmy
Carter Conference. The President undertook an
initiative most imaginative in our time and brought
President Sadat and myself and our colleagues and
friends and advisers together under one roof. In itself it was a
great achievement. But the President took a
great risk for himself and did it with
great civil courage, and it was a famous French
field commander who said that it is much more
difficult to show civil courage than
military courage. And the President worked. As far as my historic
experience is concerned, I think that he worked
harder than our forefathers did in Egypt,
building the pyramids. [Laughter] Yes, indeed,
he worked day and night, and so did we… President Carter: Amen. Day and night. We used to go to bed at
Camp David between 3 and 4 o’clock
in the morning, arise, as we are used to
since our boyhood, between 5 and 6,
and continue working. The President showed
interest in every section, every paragraph,
every sentence, every word, every letter of
the framework agreements. We had some
difficult moments, as usually, there are
some crises in negotiations; as usually, somebody gives a
hint that perhaps he would like to pick up and go home. It is all usual. But ultimately,
ladies and gentlemen, the President of the
United States won the day. And peace now celebrates
a great victory for the nations of Egypt and
Israel and for all mankind. Mr. President,
we, the Israelis, thank you from the bottom of
our hearts for all you have done for the sake of peace,
for which we prayed and yearned more than 30 years. The Jewish
people suffered much, too much. And, therefore, peace
to us is a striving, coming innermost from
our heart and soul. Now when I came here to
the Camp David conference, I said perhaps as a
result of our work, one day people will, in
every corner of the world, be able to say
“Habemus pacem” in the spirit of these days. Can we say so tonight? Not yet. We still have to go the road
until my friend President Sadat and I sign
the peace treaties. We promised each other
that we shall do so within three months. Mr. President, tonight,
at this celebration of the great historic event, let us
promise each other that we shall do it earlier
than within three months. [Applause] Mr. President,
you inscribed your name forever in the history of two
ancient civilized peoples, the people of Egypt
and the people of Israel. Thank you, Mr. President. President Carter:
Thank you very much. [Applause] I would like to say a
few words about my friend, President Sadat. We met for the first time in
our lives last November in Jerusalem. He came to us as a
guest, a former enemy, and during our
first meeting, we became friends. In the Jewish teachings,
there is a tradition that the greatest achievement of
a human being is to turn his enemy into a friend, and this we do it
in reciprocity. Since then, we had
some difficult days. I am not going now to tell
you the saga of those days. Everything
belongs to the past. Today, I visited President
Sadat in his cabin, because in Camp David
you don’t have houses, you only have cabins. He then came to visit me. We shook hands. And, thank God, we again
could have said to each other, “You are my friend.” [Applause] And, indeed, we shall go on
working and understanding, and with friendship
and with good will. We will still have
problems to solve. Camp David proved that
any problem can be solved, if there is good will and
understanding and some, some wisdom. May I thank my own
colleagues and friends: the foreign minister;
the defense minister; Professor Barak who was the
attorney general and now he is going to be his honor,
the Justice of the Supreme Court; the Israeli
Brandeis; and Dr. Rosenne; and our wonderful Ambassador
to the United States, Mr. Simcha Dinitz;
and all our friends, because without them, that
achievement wouldn’t have been possible. I express my thanks to
all the members of the American delegation, headed by
the secretary of state, a man whom we
love and respect. And so I express my thanks
to all the members of the Egyptian delegation who
worked so hard together with us, headed by deputy prime
minister, Mr. Touhamy, for all they have
done to achieve this moment. It is a great moment in the
history of our nations and indeed of mankind. I looked for a
precedent; I didn’t find it. It was a unique conference,
perhaps one of the most important since the Vienna
conference in the 19th century; perhaps. And now, ladies
and gentlemen, allow me to turn to my own
people from the White House in my own native tongue. When you hear these words it
will be morning in Israel, an early hour, and the sun
will shine in the land of our fathers and sons. Will we be able to come to
you within a few days and to sing with you “We have
brought peace unto you?” I can tell you this, we have
made every possible human effort up to now in order
that the day may come when each of us can say,
peace has come to our people and our land. Not only in this generation but
also for generations to come. With the help of
God, together, we will achieve this goal,
and we will be blessed with good days of construction and
brotherhood and understanding. May this be God’s will. Thank you,
ladies and gentlemen.

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