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Carter, Welcoming Begin, Hails Israeli Leader As Man of Principle

July 20, 1977
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

President Carter welcomed Premier Menachem Begin on his first official visit to the White House this morning. He hailed the Israeli leader as a man of “independence and principle” just as the people of Israel constitute a nation of “independence and principle.” He said that parallel was manifest in the writings and biography of Begin which the President said he has read.

The ceremonial greeting on the White House south lawn under a blazing sun was accompanied by a 19-gun salute for the visiting head of the Israeli government. The Marine Band played the American and Israeli anthems. Begin, looking vigorous and healthy in a dark gray suit was accompanied by his wife, Aliza, Israeli Ambassador Simcha Dinitz and other members of his entourage. Carter, in a light gray suit, was accompanied by Mrs. Carter.

Vice President Walter Mondale, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, Undersecretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Alfred L. Atherton and the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Samuel Lewis, made up the official greeting party. Observing the spectacle from a White House balcony was the President’s mother, Lillian Carter.


Carter and Begin stood together before the microphones, their wives directly behind them. Carter declared, “This is a very important day in the history of our nation and I think the future of the Middle East and perhaps the future of the world. We approach the conference with a deep common interest and sincerity of purpose that naturally binds us together.” Saying that he “admires” Begin’s “deep and unswerving religious commitments,” Carter declared that he has been “encouraged” by the Prime Minister’s statements that “all points of dispute with his Arab neighbors are negotiable.”

The President remarked that “Although there may be deep differences of perspective” between them, the U.S. and Israel “have a common goal” of finding peace which will “inevitably bind us together.” Carter said that Begin “represents a nation that has just demonstrated again the importance of a true democracy” by peacefully transferring the reins of government from one party to another.


He said one thing that “particularly impressed” him was Begin’s first official act of admitting 66 Vietnamese refugees to Israel after they had been rescued at sea by an Israeli ship. He called that an “act of compassion and sensitivity.”

Then, in what many observers saw as an oblique allusion to the Palestinians, Carter said the act was a “recognition of him (Begin) and his government about the importance of a homeland for people who are destitute and who would like to express their own individuality and freedom in a common way.”

Begin responded that the admission of the Vietnamese refugees was “a natural act for us.” He referred to Jewish refugees turned away by many nations who later perished in the Holocaust.


Begin opened his remarks in Hebrew, saying: “Mr. President, I have come from the land of Zion and Jerusalem as a spokesman for an ancient people and a young nation. God’s blessing on America, the hope of the human race. Peace to your great nation.” Then, switching to English, Begin repeated that he is “a spokesman for an ancient people and a young nation” who, he added, “in our time” have “emerged from the depths of the pit” and then engaged in “an unequal fight for national self-liberation.”

He said that Israel “yearns for peace, prays for peace and will do everything humanly possible. . . for a real peace.” However, Begin added, peace is “inseparable from national security.” He said that to Israelis, national security means a life free from terror that endangers every man, woman and child. He said there were certain circumstances under which Israel could be put in jeopardy. Begin’s remarks indicated that he intends to stress national security in his talks with Carter to support Israel’s position on territorial issues.

Begin called Carter the leader of the “free world” which he said has shrunken. He said that all people of the free world must work to ensure human liberty. He told Carter, “We shall never disagree, we will only agree to differ.” The first meeting between Carter and Begin began shortly after the White House ceremony and this afternoon Begin participated in a working luncheon at the State Department hosted by Vance. (See related story P. 3.)

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