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Toasts at a State Dinner Honoring President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin on the Occasion of the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty

March 26, 1979

PRESIDENT CARTER. President Sadat, Prime Minister Begin, Egyptian friends, Israeli friends, American fiends:

This is one of those evenings that it's been hard for me to stay seated also, I've been so excited.

Most of the times in history when a peace treaty was signed, one nation has been a victor and the other nation has been vanquished. One nation has won; the other nation has lost. Today we've signed a peace treaty when both nations have won.

This is indeed a joyous occasion. We've prayed for peace, and we have worked for peace. And now we humbly give thanks to God that we can celebrate the beginnings of peace in the Middle East.

I've gotten to know these two men on my right in the last 18 months—sometimes too well. [Laughter] We have spent days and days together, hours and hours together, planning, arguing, debating, negotiating. And I have come to know them and to respect them, to form a friendship, a sense of brotherhood and even love with both of them. They are men of great courage, great sensitivity, great patriotism and statesmanship; men who never feared to face difficult questions and seek persistently for the answers. They've been men who have inspired me and who have been inspired by the people in their own great nations whom they represent.

The peace that was born today has a meaning that comes down to us through many years or generations, even centuries. In ancient days, God promised Abraham that from his seed would come many nations. And as you know, that promise has been fulfilled. Yet for much too long, the people of Israel and the people of Egypt-two of the nations of the children of Abraham, trusting in the same God, hoping for the same peace—knew only enmity between them. That time, thank God, is now at an end.

Now, after 30 years, four wars, countless deaths, terrible anguish, we can see a new era ahead, an era, we hope, in which violence no longer dominates the Middle East. And the just concerns of all of us can find a peaceful solution to the problems that we share and a peaceful expression of the hopes and dreams of people who look to us for leadership.

The path for peace has brought us a long way in a short time. It was only 16 months ago that President Sadat made his extraordinary and historic journey to Jerusalem. He was received there by Prime Minister Begin and was followed by Prime Minister Begin's equally historic trip to Ismailia.

Their vision and their courage stirred hopes in the hearts of people throughout the world.

The distance we've come since then is little short of miraculous. There were difficult moments, many difficult moments; times when the differences seemed impossible to overcome. But at each of those times, just a few simple realities summoned us to renewed effort: first of all, the knowledge that the people—the people of Egypt and the people of Israel—no matter what the leaders might have done, deeply and passionately desired peace; second, the awareness that the process which we had initiated was the only practical route to progress; third, the obligation that was felt to those who have suffered so much—to the young, to the old, and to future generations; and I think above all, the depth of our common faith in a just and a merciful God.

These things sustained us, and they've brought us here tonight.

I would like to note here a simple fact: that when others could not or would not move to end the seemingly endless tragedy of the Middle East, two men—President Anwar Sadat and Prime Minister Menahem Begin—dared to think the unthinkable, dared to do what others feared could not be done, dared to seize history in their hands and to turn history toward peace. And I am thankful to them both.

Theirs is the vision of the psalmist who said: "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!"

But this is an achievement not just of leaders but of peoples, strong and creative peoples, proud of past heritage and present achievements, and wise enough to know that future well-being can be assured only through cooperation and a very difficult element of mutual trust.

Tonight we commemorate not an end, but a beginning, for a treaty between Egypt and Israel is but the first step along a long and a rough and a narrow and a very difficult road.

We hope that the Palestinians and others will soon join us in our efforts to make this treaty the cornerstone of a comprehensive peace, a true and a lasting peace, a just peace for the entire Middle East. I welcome and invite those who have so far held back—for whatever motive they might honor—to join us in the future. The way is long and the way is hard, but peace is the way.

We share a vision of a time when all the people of the Middle East may turn their energies back to the works of life, when young people can marry and start families and have a hope of seeing and knowing their own children's children, when the old can end their lives quietly after witnessing many a gentle spring. We pray for that time, and we shall continue to work for that time.

This is a season of renewal, when the Earth brings forth life. The Koran tells us of a prophet and a king of Israel for whom God's power "made the violent wind blow tamely." The Old Testament tells us the words of that same king, the words of King Solomon, David's son: For every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.

For centuries the people of Israel were dispersed around the world, often despised and persecuted. For centuries the people of Egypt suffered under foreign domination. Only in the past generation have these two proud and ancient peoples again become independent nations.

But that generation, to use the words of King Solomon, has also been a time to die, to pluck up that which was planted, a time to kill, a time of breaking down, a time to mourn, a time of weeping, a time to lose, a time to hate, and a time for war. We pray that the season of weeping is past. And to continue the words of that same king, that now will come a time to heal, a time to plant, a time to build up, a time to laugh, a time to dance, a time to embrace, a time to love.

We pray to God that at last the children of Abraham have come to a time of peace.

And now, I would like to propose a toast: To the President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, Anwar al-Sadat, and to the Prime Minister of the State of Israel, Menahem Begin; to the great peoples they serve, the people of Egypt and the people of Israel, now joined together in hope; and to the cause we all serve: salaam, shalom, and to peace.

PRESIDENT SADAT. President Carter, Prime Minister Begin, dear friends:

Only a few hours ago we laid down a solid foundation for a lasting peace in the Middle East. We did so in a determined effort to heal the wounds of the past and usher in a new era of love and fraternity. At long last cousins will be able to revive the traditions of the glorious past when they lived side by side in peace and harmony.

Our great friend, President Carter, who was the architect of the entire process, spoke of the new reality which is dawning. We all share his hopes and aspirations. We want to see a steady progress on the road to peace. This will require a positive movement on all fronts.

Within a few weeks, we will be entering into negotiations with the goal of establishing a self-governing authority with full autonomy on the West Bank and Gaza. The success of these negotiations will depend largely on the ability of all parties to rise to the level of events and demonstrate their good faith. Above all, it depends upon an active American role. President Carter has promised me to spare 'no effort to ensure the coronation of our efforts.

I have full confidence in him. He has been a wonderful partner and a courageous statesman. He has shown an unparalleled understanding of the plight of the Palestinian people. He is sensitive to their legitimate call for the eradication of the injustice that was inflicted upon them in the unhappy past.

We all realize their need to be reassured that they will be able soon to take the first step on the road to self-determination and statehood. A dialog with their representatives will be very helpful. It would also be consistent with American tradition.

It is with this in mind that we proceed towards the completion of this sacred mission. None of us can bear the responsibility of defeating the expectations of millions across the borders. None of us can interfere with the course of history or turn the clock back.

We should seize this opportunity. We should seize this opportunity, this historic opportunity in this historic gathering, which is hosted by the American people, to pledge ourselves to the continuation of the process. We should vow to employ all the moral strength we muster, to ensure the ultimate success of our endeavor.

Dear friends, I ask you to rise in a tribute to President Carter, his spouse, the American people, and to the millions of people of good will everywhere, Mr. Begin and Mrs. Begin.

PRIME MINISTER BEGIN. President Carter, Mrs. Carter, President Sadat, Mrs. Sadat, ladies and gentlemen:

Amongst the many guests assembled here, there is a lady from Norway. Her name is Mrs. Lionaes. She was, until recently, the chairman of the committee of the Norwegian Parliament for the Nobel Peace Prize. I invited her to come today and to be with us, because when the award was granted by that committee to two men, she was under certain criticism from some circles. And I asked her, after the ceremony of signing, whether now she can say that she and her colleagues did not make a mistake. And she said, with very characteristic bravery, "I never had any doubts." [Laughter]

Now, my dear friend, Mrs. Lionaes, when you come back home, I have a request to you, respectfully, to get in touch with your former colleagues, the members of the Nobel Prize committee of the democratic parliament of your country. I suggest, ladies and gentlemen, that all of us—President Sadat and myself, members of the three Cabinets of the United States, of Egypt, and Israel, Members of Congress of both Houses, Members of the Knesset, writers, singers, all of us assembled here—do decide to nominate President Jimmy Carter as a candidate- [applause] —I didn't yet say a candidate for what— [laughter] —as a candidate to receive the Nobel Peace Prize of 1979. And please, no sharing of the award. [Laughter] All the prize is due to the President of the United States. And, Mr. President, if on the 10th of December, this year, you go to Oslo, and you invite President Sadat and me to be witnesses for that ceremony, I am positive that both of us will be in Oslo. It is due to you, my dear friend, Mr. President. You deserve it amply. And I am sure on the 10th of December you will be crowned with the great, international, famous award, the Nobel Peace Prize.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to pay tribute to a man who is the main adviser of the President of this great country, and his friend and my friend. And as I know all the goings and comings and all the legal formulations about every word or letter, or even comma, I can say to you tonight that a great service was rendered to the United States, to Egypt, to Israel, and to the cause of peace by a gentleman who did so much day and night with his inventive mind, with his great learning and knowledge, and who bears another title. He is also the husband of the perfect lady whom my wife and I love dearly and respect highly. I refer to the Secretary of State, Cyrus Vance.

And the last remark, ladies and gentlemen, will be absolutely personal. And I will apologize for making it, but I have to. In the afternoon, I spoke about survival and perseverance. Tonight, in your presence, I would like to thank for that ability to persevere one human being who is here, whom I met when she was 17 years old, my own wife.

And again, I will quote a prophet, Yirmeyahu. This time I will translate.

[At this point, the Prime Minister spoke in Hebrew.]

"And I will remember the grace of your youth, the love of your nuptials following me into the desert, into a land sown with mines."

Now we arrived to be here on this day. Let us thank God Almighty that he gave us, together, and our children and our grandchildren the strength to withstand all the tests, which sometimes were quite difficult, until I could, on behalf of our people, to do the greatest human act, sign a peace treaty. In the circle of friendship of President Carter, President Sadat, and myself, we stand together. And we vow to continue to be always together and work for peace.

And therefore, I raise my glass. I raise my glass to President Carter, President of the United States of America, the mighty democracy which saved the world twice from the danger of tyranny, militarism, and totalitarianism, and which is still the guarantee for human liberty; and to President Sadat, whom I met for the first time in Jerusalem. And since then—as it is true, it comes from my heart—I have a deep sentiment for him. And under any circumstances, I will guard it in the depths of my heart.

And let us raise a toast to friendship between America, Egypt, and Israel, forever. Thank you.

PRESIDENT SADAT. Ladies and gentlemen, until last night, whenever I meet with Premier Begin, we seldom come in conformity. [Laughter] The miracle was achieved today. And let me say this in all candor: I am in full conformity with Premier Begin, and let us hope that we shall continue. I support his proposal that our dear friend, President Carter, be elected as the man of peace of '79. Thank you.


I might point out to President Sadat and to Prime Minister Begin that if the next 9 months of negotiations are completely harmonious, constructive, cooperative, and in a spirit of friendship, and if we meet all the requirements of the Camp David agreements and the peace treaty we signed today, then I might consider accepting their nomination. Otherwise, they have made their toasts in vain.

I think we've proven today, and in the last 18 months or so, that there can be peace between our three nations and an inspiration for the whole world. I can feel a certain sense of satisfaction and gratitude, of harmony, friendship, inspiration, kind of an electrical current of common purpose in this group tonight. And I think it extends to Egypt and to Israel and, indeed, throughout the world.

Political achievement has been wonderful. But now I think it's time for us to shift our attention to another sense of harmony, to show that superb talent can indeed transcend national boundaries. Each of our nations, through the leaders, have suggested for tonight's program superb performers. President Sadat has requested Omar Khorshed to come to represent Egypt; a superb musician, a superb composer, and a superb actor. Prime Minister Begin, to represent Israel, has asked Itzhak Perlman, a very well-known and beloved performer, and Pinchas Zukerman, who will accompany him, two of the most talented men who have ever lived. And my wife and I have requested Leontyne Price to sing to represent the United States of America.

We will witness, without further introductions, a higher reality of human achievement, beauty, excellence, high ambition, reached by human beings.

Some of the performers had to overcome great handicaps, physical handicaps, racial handicaps. But they will all show tonight that what they are is the exemplification of humanity that can indeed be an inspiration to us all.

Now for a few minutes, I think we will enjoy some of the finest examples of achievement from our three countries.

I am indeed grateful that you've come tonight. It's a wonderful and historic evening. And I believe it will be an exciting and enjoyable evening as well. And you will certify that, I am sure, with your own applause after these performers give us the inspiration for which they are so greatly qualified.

Thank you again. Good evening.

Note: The President spoke at 10:30 p.m. in a tent which had been erected for the occasion on the South Grounds of the White House.

Jimmy Carter, Toasts at a State Dinner Honoring President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin on the Occasion of the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/249364

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