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Begin Welcomes U.S. Criticism of Sadat; Sees It As General Awakening to Egypt’s Obstruction of Peace

August 2, 1978
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Premier Menachem Begin welcomed the United States criticism yesterday of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s refusal to meet with Israel as a harbinger of a general awakening to Egypt’s obstruction of the peace process. It is “about time the world began to understand who the truly intransigent party was,” Begin said yesterday.

Begin’s comment came when he was informed by a television reporter about the State Department criticism of Sadat. “As we anticipated from the outset, the truth is beginning to emerge in public opinion in the world,” the Premier said.

He noted that some foreign governments have been “led astray by misleading propaganda to believe that it was Egypt which wanted peace while Israel was blocking its attainment.” He said Sadat’s demand that Israel agree to complete withdrawal as a precondition to negotiations “proves that the stumbling block to peace lies in the unreasonable extremism that holds sway in Egypt.”

Begin stressed again that Israel has placed no preconditions on its willingness to continue negotiations. He said he welcomed Secretary of State Cyrus Vance’s forthcoming visit to the Middle East. The State Department said yesterday that while it was “very disappointed” with Sadat’s refusal to continue Egyptian-Israeli talks, Vance would go to the Mideast late this week for a “full exploration” of the developments there.


Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan told the Knesset Security and Foreign Affairs Committee today that Saudi Arabia has told Alfred Atherton, President Carter’s special envoy in the Mideast, that it believes the Sadat initiative is over. Based on this belief, Dayan said, the Saudis are now trying to reorganize a new united Arab front.

Dayan said that the Egyptians continue to insist on peace on their terms, which to them means “Judaea and Samaria with no Israeli soldiers.” But he said Sadat at least admits publicly that Israel has a security problem on its eastern border while King Hussein of Jordan has suggested a border that runs 10 miles from the seashore town of Netanya.


The Foreign Minister came under criticism from the Labor opposition for the way he handled the negotiations with Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Kaamel at Leeds Castle, England. Labor Party chairman Shimon Peres questioned the wisdom of directly asking the Egyptians about territorial compromise to which Sadat replied in the negative.

“I had to know, therefore I asked,” Dayan responded. Peres replied, “Yes, but there are different ways to ask. I asked the same questions, but not in a way that immediately caused opposition.” Peres maintained that if Israel had “driven toward an agreement on the declaration of principles, we could have reached one.” But Dayan disagreed. “Not so,” the Foreign Minister replied. “Even when we say that we are willing to discuss the permanent status of the West Bank in five years, the Egyptians insist on knowing now what will happen in five years.”

But Peres continued to argue that Israel was making unnecessary harsh statements. “Why can’t things be said more favorably?” he asked.

Criticism also came from Yehuda Ben Meir, a National Religious Party MK, who noted the government made a tactical mistake when it insisted six weeks ago that it would not be willing to discuss the “permanent status” of the occupied territories but instead used the term “future relations.” He said “the government comes now and talks of its readiness to discuss the question of the sovereignty of the territories, and I don’t understand what happened in the meantime.”

Ben Meir said if Sadat were willing to sign a declaration of principles on the basis of the approach proposed last month by Austrian Chancellor Bruno Kreisky and former West German Chancellor Willy Brandt, Israel should sign. But Ben Meir maintained that aside from the question of tactics the government has adopted a moderate stand as shown by its willingness to discuss territorial compromise. He said the Egyptians want the Americans to impose a settlement and he urged the Labor Alignment to join the government in opposing this effort.

(In New York, Theodore R. Mann, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, deplored Sadat’s refusal to continue peace negotiations with Israel. Mann said he hoped that the Leeds negotiations would continue despite the roadblock erected by the present Egyptian stance. He expressed confidence that Vance would do his utmost to bring Egypt back to the negotiating table.)

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