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Begin and Sadat Congratulate Each Other for Sharing in the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize

October 30, 1978
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Premier Menachem Begin and President Anwar Sadat of Egypt congratulated each other warmly over their sharing of the 1978 Nobel peace prize, in a telephone a telephone conversation between Jerusalem and Cairo last night. Begin, who had refrained from responding publicly to the announcement of the award in Oslo late Friday because of the Sabbath initiated the call to Sadat from him home as soon as the Sabbath ended.

Both leaders had fulsome praise for president Carter, who Sadat characterized as “the unknown soldier in this process” toward peace. Later, in a statement to reporters who had been waiting patiently outside his home, Begin said the prize “has in fact been given to the entire people of Israel and I am nothing but the emissary.”

A transcript of the Begin-Sadat telephone exchange had Begin speaking first. “Good evening, Mr. President. I want to congratulate you on the award,” Begin said. “Mr. Premier, I congratulate you, “Sadat replied. Begin recalled their meeting at Ismailia last Christmas Day. “Mr. President, do you remember, when we were in Ismailia, I told you that Beersheba is on the way to Stockholm. You laughed very much. “Then, he said, “Now, Mr. President, let our delegations resume their negotiations so that we can conclude the peace treaty and sign it and invite President Carter.”

Sadat replied, “Yes, the (Egyptian) Vice president has already instructed our delegation to renew negotiations with your delegation……president Carter, you know, is the unknown of course. He deserves it absolutely. I hope to meet you at the time of the signing of the peace treaty. The real prize is peace itself.”

Sadat said, “Yes, I agree with you absolutely.” He added, “How is your health, Mr. prime Minister?” Begin possibly did not hear the question or did not care to respond. He merely said, “Thank you and good night, Mr. President” and hung up.


Speaking to the press and on a television interview later in the evening, Begin minimized current difficulties in the negotiations and spoke of a peace treaty with Egypt as a virtual certainty. He suggested that once it is agreed upon, it should be signed both in Cairo and Jerusalem, in Hebrew and Arabic. He told the reporters at his home:

“I thank the Nobel prize Committee for the honor bestowed for our peace effort…..I believe that the negotiations will end successfully. But the prize, given to me even before the successful conclusion, has in fact been given to the entire people of Israel and I am nothing but the emissary through which the prize has been bestowed upon our people. As I have claimed all my life, no people yearn for peace as we do and surely no more than we do “In the course of his television appearance, Begin was asked if the Nobel peace prize was an incentive to encourage the negotiating process. He replied, “No. I had no need of any incentive. I wish for the peace treaty with all my heart and soul and you are aware of the debates taking place in Israel an this matter. These are great days, the pains of birth… I am sure, and whole heartedly believe, that the path we have taken is the right one. And therefore I had no need of an incentive But it is good that the prize was given, for it was given to our nation, which loves peace. “


Begin will be in New York later this week to receive the “Prize of the Family of Man” awarded jointly to him and Sadat by the National Council of Churches. It will be bestowed Nov. 2. Sadat is expected to accept the award in absentia. Begin will fly to Los Angeles to confer the Silver Medal of the prime Minister upon William Weinberg, Beverly Hills businessman and philanthropist. The event, the evening of Nov. 5, is the Man of the Year dinner of the Los Angeles Israel Bond Organization. From Los Angeles, Begin will fly to Vancouver to begin an official visit of Canada.

The Premier was asked by the television interviewer if he, as commander of the Irgun and a member of the opposition in the Knesset for 30 years, had ever believed that he would some day win the Nobel peace prize. Begin replied, “Since I became premier and could act on behalf of peace, I could imagine such a possibility. But the truth is that I never really imagined it. The difference between being in the opposition and. heading the government is, in the matter, decisive….. From the day I received this task. I began to work on behalf of peace.”


Messages of congratulations from world leaders began pouring into Jerusalem Friday. One of the first, from president Carter, congratulated Begin “for this honor you so fully deserve” and stressed that “the work you have done so for must not be left uncompleted.” The president sent an identical message to Sadat in Cairo.

Secretary of State Cyrus Vance said in a message Friday, “I warmly congratulate president Sadat and prime Minster Begin on their selection for the Nobel peace prize. We are proud the United States has been so closely associated with their achievements.”

Chancellor Helmut Schmidt of West Germany sent separate congratulations to was a ” fitting recognition” and expressed hope that ” present effort recognition ” and expressed hope that ” present efforts will contribute toward finding a comprehensive, just and tasting solution of the Middle East conflict, bringing the long desired peace to all the peoples of your region, including the Israeli and Palestinian people.”

Chancellor Bruno Kreisky of Austria expressed his views on a television interview in Vienna yester day-He said the Nobel prize Committee had made “a very wise decision” that will produce positive results for the Middle East peace process. “Now both sides can go back to the table and the peace process must go on, “Kreisky said.

Begin and Sadat received copious congratulations from American Jewish leaders who characterized both men as courageous leaders seeking to resolve 30 years of enmity. The Jewish leaders included Bernice Tannenbaum, president, Hadassah; Rich and Maass, president, American Jewish Committee; Howard Squadron, president, American Jew is Congress; and Benjamin Epstein, director, Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith.

Sadat and Begin also received congratulations from Congressmen. Sen. Robert Dole (R. Kan) one of the first to make a statement, said the award is first to make a statement, said the award “is another indication the road to peace in the Middle East lies between Cairo and Jerusalem.” Sen. Jacob k. Javits (R. NY) remarked, “hope it will encourage them now to sign up.”


At home, both coalition and opposition leaders congratulated Begin. President Yitzhak Navon noted that while peace was a prize in itself, the Nobel award represented an appreciation of the ceaseless efforts Begin and the Israeli people have made to achieve peace. Navon also sent a congratulatory message to Sadat. Shimon Peres, chairman of the Labor Alignment, aid the prize chairman of the Labor Alignment, said the prize symbolized the common wish of both Israelis and Egyptians for peaceful coexistence. He said the Nobel Committee has indicated their hope that they were contributing to bringing peace nearer.

Former Premier Golda Meir observed that after all the bloodshed in the region, it was a pleasure to hear that Begin and Sadat have received the peace prize. Avraham Schechterman, chairman of the Herut executive committee, said that “only a true disciple of Jabotinsky could have brought our people so near peace.” Arye Eliav of the opposition Sheli faction said, “We would like Begin to do every thing to sign the treaty quickly and don’t put any monkey wrenches into the works at the last moment.”

One of the few bitter notes was sounded by Herut hardliner Geula Cohen, Who has opposed the peace talks to the premier does not mean that Begin is getting real peace, ” she said. “The same prize was received by Dr. Kissinger (Secretary of State Henry Kissinger) for the Vietnam agreement, indicating the kind of peace this prize predicts for us. I am apprehensive that this prize will cost us dearly and that we will pay heavily for if.”


The announcement of the joint award by the Norwegian Nobel Committee in Oslo Friday stressed that it not only recognized the work in the service of peace by Begin and Sadat but hoped, by the award, to stimulate practical solutions that could realize the hopes created by the Camp David accords. The announcement took note of “the positive initiative…taken by the United States’ President Jimmy Carter (who) has played a great role.”

The Nobel Committee recognized that “essential neogiations still remain before the idea of peace is anchored in political binding agreements which can secure a future without war to the war-exhausted people in the Middle East. By the award of the peace prize for 1978 to Menachem Begin and Anwar Al-Sadat, the Nobel Committee wishes not only to honor actions already performed in the service of peace, but also to encourage further efforts to work out practical solutions which can give reality to those hopes of a lasting peace, as they have been kindled by the framework agreements.”

The awards will be presented to Begin and Sadat in Oslo Dec. 10. Begin’s share of the $167.000prize will be about $82,000. He said his share will be devoted to scholarships for needy children and aid handicapped children.

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