Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Providential Visit? Another Document on Sadat's Visit to Jerusalem in 1977

Today we added another document to the Archives' publication on President Sadat's visit to Jerusalem, about which we've already written several posts. The new document was received from Mr. Yehuda Avner, who was Menachem Begin's adviser on Diaspora Affairs and later ambassador to the UK. Begin's English, which he had learned while in hiding from listening to the BBC, was excellent, but he still liked British-born Avner to "Shakespearise" his texts.

The document is a draft of the communiqué issued by the Israeli government at the end of Sadat's visit on November 21, 1977. It was drawn up the previous evening by the Egyptian and Israeli delegations at a "working dinner" at the King David Hotel. From the handwritten note by Deputy Premier Yigal Yadin, you can see that it was suggested by Hassan Tuhami, the deputy prime minister of Egypt, and written down by Sadat himself. When Begin reported to the government on November 24, he said that the Egyptians wanted to describe Sadat's visit as "providential." The Israelis thought this was over the top, but Tuhami said that Sadat had told his people that his mission to Jerusalem was a holy one, which was divinely inspired. In his private talk with Begin, Sadat agreed to change the expression to "important," and later Avner made it significant."

You can also see that the expression "treaties ... with all the neighbouring Arab states" was added at the end of the communiqué. This was to emphasize that Sadat did not seek a separate peace for Egypt, but rather to put forward the Arab case in general. In the end, only Israeli-Egyptian peace was achieved. Attempts to bring in other Arab states did not succeed until much later.

You can read Mr. Avner's own reminiscences about the visit in his fascinating book about the Israeli prime ministers he served.

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