President Reuven Rivlin this morning (Wednesday) hosted at his residence in Jerusalem a special reception marking 40 years since the historic visit to Israel by the then-President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, Anwar Sadat. The ceremony also included addresses by the Ambassador of Egypt, Hazem Khairat; the Director General of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Yuval Rotem; and former Deputy President of the Israeli Supreme Court, Justice (Ret.) Eliyakim Rubenstien, who had served at the time as an aide to Moshe Dayan, and was part of the Israeli negotiations team. The event was attended by senior Israeli figures, Ambassadors and diplomats representing countries from around the world.
President Rivlin began by welcoming the Ambassador of Egypt, and all his guests from Israel and around the world and recalled, “On Saturday evening, on the 19th November 1977, the Israeli Army Band played the Egyptian national anthem for the very first time. The world’s media watched with open mouths, as enemies became friends.” He said, “No one will ever forget that amazing moment, the meeting of two leaders: Begin and Sadat. Both leaders carried the pride of their peoples. They both carried the history, the scars, the wars, and the fears. They both had the desire, the dream, to bring peace between the Arab nations and Israel. This was the significance and the historic importance of the visit of President Sadat of Egypt.”
He said there were, “Ten days that changed history. Ten days, that brought twenty-nine years of fighting to an end. On the Ninth of November President Sadat told the Egyptian Parliament, that for peace he would go to the end of the world, even to Jerusalem. The reporters rushed to give their editors this great headline, but so many did not believe it. They could not believe that they were really seeing history. Two days later, Prime Minister Begin turned to the Egyptian people. He said: “Let us say one to another, both peoples of Egypt and Israel: No more wars no more bloodshed, and no more threats” - words that will stay with us forever. Then on 15th November, an official invitation came from Jerusalem to Cairo, through the American Ambassadors. President Sadat visited Israel, for just two days. He spoke in the Knesset in Arabic. He held five meetings with Prime Minister Begin. Two days of sincerity, of determination. Two days which led to an historic peace agreement.”
The President stressed, “Forty years later, thirty-eight years since the peace agreement, Egypt, ‘Om El Donya’ ‘Mother of the World’, is an extremely important ally. Our connection is more important than words can say, and it can never be taken for granted.”
He went on to note the importance of the recent meeting between President of Egypt Abd al-Fatah al-Sisi and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. He said this was “An open meeting between the head of an Arab regional power, and the Prime Minister of Israel. A meeting that made it clear to the whole world, that the connection between Israel and Egypt is very real and genuine, and can continue to grow. We live together in a difficult region. We have found a way to live together in peace and friendship. This is a message to the whole region, and the whole world.”
Ambassador Khairat thanked the Israeli president for hosting the important event, and said, “Despite an increasingly volatile and complex region and international scene, as well as huge domestic economic challenges, Egypt, the cradle of civilization and humanity has a responsibility to achieve a permanent peace in our region which should be based on land for peace, confidence building measures, and security guarantees.
"Egypt remains loyal to these principles which are deeply rooted in the international conscience. In this context, President al-Sisi clearly outlined in his last address to the UNGA Egypt’s vision to settle this issue by emphasizing that it is time for a comprehensive and viable settlement to the longest crisis in the region. Another outstanding Egyptian leader addressing the Israeli public opinion directly from the podium of the United Nations, underlining the importance of the safety and security of Israelis and Palestinians alike, and calling upon both Israelis and Palestinians to support their political leadership to seize the current historic opportunity to make peace a reality, and that we have a true and real opportunity to open a new and bright chapter in the history of our region."
"Egypt’s experience validates that peace is possible and is indeed a realistic objective that we should all continue to pursue seriously. In doing so I put before you the following question, did we achieve Sadat’s dream of the comprehensive peace that puts an end to one of the longest disputes in modern history? If not, then how can we do so based on the parameters of peace outlined by Sadat?"
"In this framework and in conjunction with our efforts to revive the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, Egypt exerts tremendous efforts to achieve unity amongst Palestinians through a comprehensive reconciliation process based on good faith and trust, not only for political and security reasons, but also and more importantly to alleviate the humanitarian hardship facing civilians in Gaza, which reached inhuman living conditions for over one and a half million citizens – something that Egypt’s human conscience could not stand either. Moreover, such reconciliation gives hope to innocent civilians for a better life and paves the way for the resumption of negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis. Your support and that of the international community for our efforts in this regard is of paramount importance.”
He continued to say, “The achievement of a just and comprehensive peace will undoubtedly contribute to confronting and refuting the most serious and most dangerous phenomenon in the region, and even in the entire world, namely terrorism. We will never forget that it was the evil hands of terrorism that assassinated President Sadat. Egypt now is facing a fierce war against terrorism and I have no doubt that my country will manage to defeat it and come out of this battle even stronger. We all in the international community are on the same side of the battle and this entails that the free world should close ranks together in order to come up with a coordinated ad comprehensive strategy to counter this threat.”
The ambassador concluded, “Egypt is adamant to seizing the golden opportunity to reviving peace talks to achieve a credible and comprehensive peace agreement, especially in view of President Trump’s, and the new Administration’s commitment to move this process forward."