'Peace with Egypt has proven itself time after time'

40 years since peace treaty with Egypt, President Rivlin addresses its advantages, denouncing 'unacceptable' remarks about Arab Israelis.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Rivlin at Truman Conference
Rivlin at Truman Conference
Kobi Gideon, GPO

President Reuven Rivlin spoke Monday at the Truman Conference marking 40 years since the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. The conference is organized by the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for The Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

“War, killing and loss of life were the ways we communicated with Egypt for many years. Fear, suspicion and constant readiness for the next round of conflict were the building blocks of our position towards Egypt. And for good reason,” said the president at the beginning of his remarks. “Egypt was the State of Israel’s greatest conventional military threat. Egypt led the entire Arab world in its aggressive anti-Israel stance, its non-recognition, its denial of our existence, its uncompromising opposition. We did not know any alternative. We did not dare to dream of another way.”

“The same Sadat who cunningly planned the cruel surprise attack on Yom Kippur of 1973,” he continued, “came to Jerusalem in 1977, four years after that horrific war, to declare his willingness to seek another way. Sadat’s initiative did not fall on deaf ears. All of Israel welcomed the brave Egyptian initiative and welcomed President Sadat with open arms. The Speaker of the Knesset at the time, Yitzhak Shamir, asked to listen to the historic speech ‘willingly’. My teacher and leader Menachem Begin, of blessed memory, Prime Minister, proud hawk and man of Greater Israel, welcomed Sadat saying ‘we have learned from history, Mr President, that war is avoidable but peace is inevitable’. Begin and Sadat’s leadership, that aimed for and achieved a historic peace agreement, made true the dream of Zionism from its inception, the dream of Ze’ev Jabotinsky from his article The Iron Wall: to obtain mutual recognition of Israel and its neighbors and to endow future generations with a stable and lasting peace. 40 years after, we stand in awe at the deep and significant change that this historic agreement brought. Peace between us and Egypt did not bring only the end of conflict between us and Israel’s biggest and strongest enemy.”

Remarking on the advantages of peace with Egypt, the president said, “Peace with Egypt allowed us all – Israelis, Egyptians and later Jordanians – to focus on initiatives for economic cooperation and cross-border energy, water and tourism projects. Since the signing, the Suez Canal has been operative, allowing the transit of goods across the world and between continents. Peace with Egypt has proved itself time after time when facing the most complex security situations, first and foremost in the conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza strip.”

The president noted, “it is true that peace with Egypt has not yet led to open borders and shared existence between the peoples. But we should not be deceived for a moment: ‘the difficulties of peace’, as Prime Minister Menachem Begin wrote, ‘are preferable to the agonies of war’.”

The president also added, “We must get to the point where we are truly able to say: no more war and bloodshed between Israelis and Arabs. Between Israel and all Arabs. This is the place to say this clearly: Recently, when political thinking is turning all reason on its head, we hear entirely unacceptable remarks about the Arab citizens of Israel. I refuse to believe that there are political parties that have surrendered the character of Israel as a Jewish and democratic, democratic and Jewish, state. Those who believe that the State of Israel must be Jewish and fully democratic must remember that the State of Israel has complete equality of rights for all its citizens. There are no first-class citizens, and there are no second-class voters. We are all equal in the voting booth. We are all represented at the Knesset. We love peace, but we must also pursue peace. We must pursue it until we achieve it.”