The Knesset held a special session marking the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty on March 26, 1979.
Address by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at Special Knesset Session Marking 25 Years since the Signing of the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty
President and Mrs. Katzav,
Former President Katzir,
President of the Supreme Court,
Members of Knesset, past and present,
Today we mark 25 years since the signing of the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt, the greatest of all Arab states.
Marking 25 years since the signing of this historic treaty is, first of all, a salute to two extraordinary personalities the Prime Minister of Israel, Menachem Begin, and the President of Egypt, Anwar Sadat. Thanks to their exceptional leadership and adherence to the vision of peace, they succeeded in bridging over the hostility and suspicion between the two countries.
Then, Israel again proved its intentions to live in peace with all its neighbors, in the spirit of the declarations that were made here, on the Knesset platform, by Menachem Begin, when he hosted President Sadat in November 1977, and I quote: We have one ambition in our hearts, one desire in our spirits, and we are all united in this ambition and desire to achieve peace, peace for our people, who have not known peace for even one day since we began to return to Zion, and peace for our neighbors, who we wish all the best. And we believe that if we make peace, genuine peace, we will be able to help one another in all areas of life, and a new era will develop in the Middle East, a period of flowering and growth, development and progression and productivity, as it was in ancient times. End quote.
The peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, which survived the abhorrent murder of President Sadat by radical Muslims, as well as the other political developments and tribulations this region has undergone in the past 25 years, proved by its vitality that it was not a private agreement between two outstanding figures, but rather a treaty which corresponds with and embodies the true strategic interests of our two nations.
For 10 years, the Arab world boycotted Egypt for making peace with Israel, but that did not deter the Egyptians, who continued on the path of peace. After 10 years, the Arab world accepted Egypt’s leadership again, providing the ultimate proof of the justness of the path of peace. After Egypt broke the cycle of hostility surrounding us, the Kingdom of Jordan, led by King Hussein, also signed a peace treaty with Israel, led by Prime Minister Yitchak Rabin, and it is our hope that other Arab states will follow.
25 years after the signing of the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, we still must make efforts to foster a culture of peace in the Middle East. This is why we attach importance to expanding the dialogue between our countries in order to promote the political process in the region, but also to bring about an improvement in the atmosphere and bilateral relations between Israel and Egypt.
Recently, we have been witness to the welcome process of warming, however slow, in these relations. An expression of this was the visit, two weeks ago, of Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom in Cairo and his successful meetings with President Mubarak and the Egyptian leadership, as well as in my contacts with President Mubarak and his envoys.
The economy of Israel and the economy of Egypt complement one another in many ways, and it is natural that, due to our geographic proximity, the ties of economic cooperation between us will deepen. We are working together to promote a number of projects with the potential to strengthen the peace, and transform it into reality. Agricultural cooperation has always been the most productive and extensive, and I hope it will be renewed in the near future, at its full scope. I believe in cooperative projects between our countries, and there are still many things we can do together in a wide range of areas.
Members of Knesset,
Even in the period preceding the peace agreements, we never hated the Egyptian people. The Torah explicitly commands that, despite the horrible things the Egyptians did to the people of Israel, and I quote: "You shall not reject an Egyptian, for you were a sojourner in his land". And Rashi even adds, and I quote: "Remember that they provided you with shelter in a time of plight."
25 years ago, on the White House lawn, Israel and Egypt signed a peace agreement (and I quote) – Convinced of the urgent necessity of the establishment of a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East in accordance with Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 desiring to bring to an end the state of war between them and to establish a peace in which every state in the area can live in security. End quote.
These words are still true and valid today today, there is also an urgent necessity to pursue peace in the Middle East, a peace which can bring all the nations of the region closer to security, peace, progress and economic prosperity.
Mr. Speaker, Members of Knesset,
The peace agreement with Egypt would not have been attained were it not for the courage of IDF soldiers during the years of conflict. Their success in repelling the surprise invasion during the Yom Kippur War and transforming it into victory with the crossing of the Canal showed the entire Arab world that the revival of the nation of the Jewish people in its homeland is an eternal fact, and brought Sadat to Israel and to the signing of the peace agreement.
I participated in three wars and many retaliatory actions against Egypt, and lost some of the best of my friends, and was even seriously wounded, and here in 1981, as Minister of Agriculture of the State of Israel, I met with President Sadat in his palace in Cairo. As we were both looking at a map, President Sadat asked me to go on a tour to help locate land for agriculture. Thus, I found myself flying in Egyptian skies, above the western desert and near the border with Sudan, in President Sadat’s plane. The mission: a search for agricultural land to be transformed into blooming fields with assistance from Israel’s agricultural specialists. The pilots who flew my plane introduced themselves as fighter pilots who participated in the large aerial strike against my Division on October 18, 1973. Sitting there between the two pilots, on the navigator’s chair, with a map on my lap, as I asked them to go lower and circle, over and over again, I told myself: this is peace if an Israeli commander, whose forces crossed the Suez Canal is flying in the company of Egyptian fighter pilots who bombed him and his friends, searching together for land to create food for Egypt’s population this is peace. This is how I saw the peace.
This is the peace which Israel seeks not only with Egypt and Jordan but with all the other Arab states, first and foremost our neighbors Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority.
Israel is ready to proceed again toward the desirable peace, with courage and determination, just as we did 25 years ago with the signing of the peace agreement with Egypt.