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(photo credit: .)
A new book exploring the correspondence between prime minister Menachem Begin
and Egyptian president Anwar Sadat during the peace negotiations between 1977
and 1980 was launched on Monday at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in
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The book launch took on special meaning, given the recent
events in Egypt and the increased threat to the 32-year-old peace
The book, Peace in the Making (Gefen Publishing House Ltd), was
edited by Harry Hurwitz and Yisrael Medad.
Medad and Hurwitz, a close
friend of Begin who passed away in 2008, collected the personal correspondence
between the two leaders as well as speeches, interviews and press conference
Hillel Hurwitz, Harry Hurwitz’s son, said his father was
inspired by a book that Begin showed him that collected the correspondence
between US president Franklin D. Roosevelt and British prime minister Winston
Churchill during World War II.
In the Begin-Sadat letters, Hurwitz said,
one can “sense the delicacy and care with which they entered into contact
between them and changed from leaders of two countries at war to two countries
at peace, a treaty that would impact on their children and children’s
Prof. Gerald Steinberg, from the political science department
at Bar-Ilan University, said that because Begin did not write his memoirs or
speak extensively to the media, history has been heavily influenced by US
president Jimmy Carter’s several memoirs about the Israeli-Egyptian peace
The new book allows readers to get an intimate view of the
personal correspondence between the two leaders, who were able to overcome their
differences despite the animosity that Carter claimed made it difficult to find
common ground. “Documents are what we need to overcome spin,” Steinberg
Elyakim Rubinstein, the Supreme Court justice who was a member of
the Israel delegation to Camp David I in 1978, on Monday shared personal
memories of attending the historic two-week summit in Maryland.
him [Begin] there and his agony, his agony with what to do with Sinai, what to
do with the Palestinians, but he felt that it was right to do what he did there,
even though he knew he would face some opposition here from his own [Likud]
Party,” Rubinstein said.
He recalled the ceremony before the Alexandria
negotiations as one of “the most amazingly unbelievable experiences” of his
“I’ve attended many important events, but the most moving moment,
because [the agreement] was not in the cards. Whoever tells you that Sadat came
because he knew he was getting Sinai, he’s wrong, he didn’t know,” Rubinstein
Rubinstein recounted a story about Begin inviting Sadat to come to
negotiations in Jerusalem, which represented an ideological challenge for Sadat.
The first time he refused to come, the second time he agreed to negotiate in
Jerusalem but refused to sleep there, instead traveling to a hotel in Tel Aviv.
Begin welcomed the compromise. “A gentleman doesn’t ask another gentleman where
he spends his nights,” he reportedly told his staff.
“Some people thought
Begin had regrets, but he didn’t,” Rubinstein said. “I mentioned to him once on
the phone that it was the fourth anniversary of the agreement, and he said to
me, I’ll never forget it, ‘We did a very important thing for our nation and our
country.’” Rubinstein also recalled speaking with a Likud cabinet minister who
vehemently opposed giving up Sinai, less than five years after the
“He said to me, ‘If it holds for 15 years, it’ll be worth the
price.’ Now we’re here 30 years later,” Rubinstein said. “I only hope the treaty
will continue despite the changes.”