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Carter to Israel’s Leaders ‘let Us Have Shalom. Let Us Make Peace’

March 12, 1979
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

President Carter arrived at Ben Gurion Airport last night and told Israel’s top leaders and the throngs assembled there to greet him that the quest for peace in the Middle East is a “sacred task” that “demands faith” because “in the words of the Midrash: ‘Peace is important, for God’s name is Shalom. Let us have shalom. Let us make peace.

Carter arrived on a direct flight from Cairo where three days of intensive talks with President Anwar Sadat marked the first stage of his latest venture into personal diplomacy aimed at achieving a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. “I have good reason to hope that the goal –peace–can now be reached, “he said.” I look forward to completing the urgent business at hand on this brief, visit.”

President Yitzhak Navon, who welcomed Carter “in the name of the people of Israel,” expressed his country’s “sincere and ardent desire for peace” but stressed that Israel has mode,” enormous sacrifices for more than could be expected” and that a peace treaty when signed must “guarantee full, permanent peace and shall not include elements liable to endanger the peace and our security.”


Air Farce One, carrying Carter and his entourage, touched down at Ben Gurion Airport shortly before 8 p.m. local time. Banks of floodlights illuminating the tarmac created the illusion of daylight. The light rain that had fallen earlier in the evening ended and the temperature rose by several degrees allowing the waiting dignitaries to dispense with their overcoats. As hundreds of television cameras recorded the scene, Carter was escorted from his plane by the Chief of Protocol, Rehavim Amir, to a trumpet fanfare. Mrs. Rosalynn Carter followed.

The President and Mrs. Carter progressed slowlly along the red carpet where some 120 prominent Israelis and public figures waited–the Knesset Speaker and his deputies, Cabinet ministers, Supreme Court justices, the two Chief, Rabbis, the heads of the various Knesset committees, the senior staff of the Prime Minister’s Office and the Foreign Ministry, leaders of the opposition parties and others.

Carter shook hands firmly with Navon and his wife, Ophira, kissed Mrs. Aliza Begin on both cheeks and then twice embraced Premier Menachem Begin. He shook hands with Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S., Ephraim Evron, and with the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Samuel Lewis.

The President and Mrs. Carter, flanked by Begin and Navon, stood at attention as the army band played the national anthems of the United States and Israel. Then Carter inspected the guard of honor — Army units in khaki, Air Force in gray and the Navy in blue jumpers and white caps. The commander of the guard, a Druze, wearing a red paratrooper beret, signaled and the artillery near by boomed out a 21-gun salute.


As the last shell burst echoed over the airport the President and Mrs. Carter were escorted by Navon to the podium. Navon spoke first: “We do not know what tidings you are bringing with you from your visit to our neighbor, Egypt, whether the dove that emerged from the Ark carries an olive branch in her mouth to signal that the waters have subsided so that people can put their feet on the ground once more.”

He said the people of Israel greeted Carter “on this visit which is also a unique mission for a goal which is dear to us all — peace.” Navon observed that although there are differences in policies, there are two sentiments shared by all sections of the population–sincere and ardent desire for peace and the profound conviction that in order to achieve that peace, Israel has made enormous sacrifices, for more than could be expected. These concessions take the form of very tangible things–withdrawal of our forces from strategic territories three times the size of Israel, evacuation of vitally important airfields and oil resources, evacuation of flourishing villages. These concessions are made and are irrevocable.”

“Navon added, “In this situation it is easy to understand our desire that the peace treaty, when signed, shall guarantee full, permanent peace and shall not include elements liable to endanger the peace and our security.” He concluded. “During your visit, Mr. President, you will find our people carrying at once a deep concern and a great hope. It is our hope that your visit will remove that concern and justify the hope.”


Responding, Carter declared; “I come to you as a fellow worker in the cause of peace. I know how much that cause-means to the people of Israel. No people in all history have suffered more than the Jewish people. The State of Israel was born as a refuge from that violence….”

Carter noted that “as Prime Minister Menachem Begin has said many times, Israel surely wants peace. Of that there can be no doubt. And I feel absolutely certain, after my experience of the past three days, that the people of Egypt fully share that desire for peace.”

The President said that during his three days in Egypt he “spent many hours discussing with President Sadat what could be the final details of a treaty of peace. Prime Minister Begin and I will soon begin discussing those details with the same end in mind and the will to take this next crucial step toward a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. We have come a great distance together. Under the strong and courageous leadership of Prime Minister Begin, the government of Israel has been willing to make difficult decisions all along the way. I need not add that it will be a tragedy to turn away from the path of peace after coming so far.”

Carter added that he brought with him “the best wishes of the American people, the greetings of President Sadat and the hopes of the entire world.”


With the ceremonies ended, a convoy of some 85 limousines left the airport for Jerusalem where they were welcomed at the entrance to the city by Mayor Teddy Kollek, rabbis and city officials. Kollek presented Carter the traditional bread and wine. The motorcade then drove the full length of Jaffa Rood, which was covered with American and Israeli flags, before going to the King David Hotel. The Carters then dined with Premier and Mrs. Begin at the Prime Minister’s residence while the rest of the U.S. party dined at the hotel along with Israeli ministers and top officials.

No incidents marred the welcome at Ben Gurion Airport. But less than 24 hours before the President arrived, on Israeli patrol-intercepted a terrorist gang that had just infiltrated across the Jordan River and killed four of them in a skirmish south of the Adam Bridge.

The incident occurred at midnight Friday. Large quantities of arms and explosives were seized. Rope carried by the terrorists and documents found on their bodies indicated that their mission was to take hostages for the release of 16 terrorists held in Israeli jails, including kamikaze killer Kozo Okamoto of the Lod Airport massacre.

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