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Begin: Egypt Under ‘illusion’ That Recognizing Israel’s Right to Exist is All That is Required for I

January 26, 1978
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Israeli Premier Menachem Begin said in an interview shown on Public Broadcasting Service stations across the country last night that he believes the present Israeli-Egyptian impasse is due to the “illusion” by Egypt that its recognition of Israel’s right to exist is all that is required for Israel to meet every Egyptian demand.

Begin was interviewed early yesterday in his Jerusalem office by Robert MacNeil of the “MacNeil/Lehrer Report,” which is produced by WNET here and WETA in Washington.

The Premier noted that when he met with a group of Egyptian journalists in Jerusalem Jan. 18, shortly before Egyptian President Anwar Sadat called his delegation home from the political talks, the Egyptians kept on saying that the recognition of Israel’s right to exist was an important change in Egypt’s policy. “It suddenly downed on me,” Begin said, that this was how Sadat felt and for this he believed Israel “has to give anything he wants.”

He said this belief by Sadat was an “illusion, a misunderstanding.” Begin affirmed that what Israel wants is negotiations leading to “mutual recognition of independence, sovereignty and peace.”

“We have never asked anyone to give us such recognition,” Begin declared. He said that Sadat’s trip to Jerusalem was an act of courage but he cannot give Israel its right to survive. Israel’s right to survive comes from the Israelis themselves who fought for it, he declared.


The Premier said Israel was ready to resume the political talks and would be sending its delegation to Cairo next week for the military talks as long as there were no more anti-Semitic attacks in the Egyptian press. He said “the Jewish people have been humiliated by its enemies for centuries.” With the creation of the State of Israel no one can any longer “vilify our people and then say let’s negotiate,” he asserted.

Begin said he could not understand why Sadat broke off the political talks, noting it not only surprised him and Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, but also the Egyptian delegation. He said the only “logical assumption” he has is that the Egyptian Foreign Office felt that if its delegation stayed too long in Jerusalem the Arab rejectionist states would attack this as de facto recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The Premier also blamed the Egyptian Foreign Office, which he said comprises “the most intransigent element,” for the hardening in the Egyptian line. He said that Sadat deals with the overall problem and is not interested in details. Begin observed that the Egyptian President, who, “if he takes a decision–that’s it,” relies on the experts for the details.

An example of this, according to Begin, was that Sadat agreed in talks with him that Egyptian troops should go no further than the Gidi and Mitle passes. But then in the military committee the Egyptian generals demanded an advance of more than 150 kilometers closer to Israel, Begin said.

Begin also reiterated that Sadat knew that Israel wanted to maintain its settlements in the Sinai and guard them with Israeli troops. He said that Sadat objected to this but that he had agreed with Begin that this would be dealt with in the negotiations. Begin maintained he still considered Sadat a friend.

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