Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Tale of Two Presidents: Another View of President Sadat's Visit to Jerusalem, 1977

"An exciting and moving event, which was undoubtedly one of the highlights of my term as president."

This is how the fourth president of Israel, Ephraim Katzir, described Anwar el-Sadat's visit to Israel in his autobiography. Yesterday the Israel State Archives published a collection of documents about the visit, and here we show the events from the point of view of President Katzir.

Protocol dictated that Katzir, as head of state, was Sadat's official host, and he felt very keenly the responsibility involved. Katzir received the distinguished guest on his arrival at the airport, walked at his side on the red carpet and drove with him to Jerusalem. He thus had a unique opportunity to get to know the Egyptian president personally.

Katzir led the way for Sadat into the Knesset for his historic speech to Israel's parliament and hosted the farewell ceremony which took place at the President's Residence.

Knesset speaker and future prime minister Yitzhak Shamir, President Sadat and President Katzir

In his speech on this occasion, Katzir, a distinguished scientist, voiced his hope for cooperation between Israel and Egypt.

On his return to Egypt, Sadat sent Katzir a letter of thanks for the hospitality he had received in Israel and asked him to thank Prime Minister Begin personally for the invitation to come to Jerusalem, and for the productive talks. "The audacious step taken by us amounts to an historical turning point in the history of our region, whose security and stability are closely linked with the security, stability and welfare of the whole world," wrote Sadat.

Katzir received the letter while on an official visit to Mexico, and during a conversation with US ambassador Samuel Lewis--a transcript of which we published here yesterday--Begin telephoned Katzir about the letter. He told Lewis that Sadat liked Katzir very much and appreciated his scientific knowledge.

In several articles which he published after leaving office, Katzir described his impressions of Sadat and his hopes for scientific cooperation with Egypt, which unfortunately were not realized.

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