Background Report Precedent for Sadat-Begin Talks

There is only one precedent in modern Jewish history for the encounter between Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat and the leaders of Israel. Premier Menachem Begin referred to it in his Knesset reply to Sadat. It was the meeting at Aqaba in June, 1918 between Dr. Chaim Weizmann and Emir Feisal, the acclaimed leader of the Arab national movement in World War I.

That meeting paved the way for further meetings between Feisal and Zionist leaders at the Paris Peace Conference and two important declarations of friendship by the Arab leader. On Jan. 3, 1919, Feisal and Dr. Weizmann signed an agreement in their respective roles as representatives of the Arab Kingdom of the Hejaz and of the World Zionist Organization.

Referring to the "racial kinship and ancient bonds existing between the Arabs and the Jewish people," it called for "the closest possible collaboration in the development of the Arab state and Palestine."

Article I stated that "The Arab state and Palestine in all their relations and undertakings shall be controlled by the most cordial good will and understanding, and to this end Arab and Jewish duly accredited agents shall be established and maintained in the respective territories."

Article 4 stated that "All necessary measures shall be taken to encourage and stimulate immigration of Jews into Palestine on a large scale, and as quickly as possible to settle Jewish immigrants upon the land through closer settlement and intensive cultivation of the soil. In-taking such measures the Arab peasant and tenant farmers shall be protected in their rights, and shall be assisted in forwarding their economic development."

Other articles guaranteed freedom of religion in Palestine, Moslem control of the Islamic holy places and Zionist advice about the economic development of the new Arab state. Feisal’s second public declaration of friendship for Zionist aspirations was contained in his letter, dated March 3, 1919, to Felix Frankfurter, a member of the American Zionist delegation at the Paris Peace Conference. Feisal wrote:

"We Arabs, especially the educated among us, look with the deepest sympathy on the Zionist movement….We will wish the Jews a most hearty welcome home….I hope the Arabs may soon be in a position to make the Jews some return for their kindness. We are working together for a reformed and revived Near East and our two movements complete one another. The Jewish movement is national and not imperialist. Our movement is national and not imperialist, and there is room in Syria for us both. Indeed, I think that neither can be a real success without the other."

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