243. Transcript of a Telephone Conversation Between President Carter and Israeli Prime Minister Begin1

MB: I had a wonderful visit to Cairo!2 The people of Egypt opened their hearts to me. In the morning, tens of thousands lined the streets on both sides, and cheered and waved, and took me to their hearts. I am very moved. I left my car for a while, to the disturbance of the Egyptian secret service, and went into the crowd, which was crying, “We like you; we love you.” It was absolutely wonderful. Yesterday’s reception was at the Qubba Palace. The evening was a “thousand nights into one”. It was fantastic. The hospitality was marvelous.

President Sadat and I have some agreements—we will exchange Instruments of Ratification next week,3 after debate in the Egyptian Parliament on Thursday,4 likely concluding on Sunday; Monday5 or Tuesday we’ll exchange instruments at the American monitoring station in the Sinai in early morning. Butros Ghali with their document; Dayan will have our document. Will put up a tent with all three flags. If [Page 817]you will give instructions to your man in charge; we want to have a tent with three flags, and armies of the three nations form the honor guards.

Secondly, on May 26, President Sadat will receive, in person, El Arish. On the 27th I will arrive and we will make two announcements: We will open the direct corridor between Cairo and the Ben Gurion airport, and will then have a 40 minute flight of what would take 1½ hours. We will also declare the borders between Egypt and Israel open for all citizens.

We also reached agreement on the committees. We will have five Ministers from each country; we will have five Ministers and Egypt will have five Ministers. We will meet first in Beer Sheba, then El Arish—(after Egypt resumes sovereignty the second in El Arish.) The chairmanship will rotate; first the Israeli will be chairman, and then the Egyptian will be chairman—each on his own soil.

(MB) The same will apply to the military committee; Ezer will be chairman, and General Ali will be chairman.

President Sadat asked for the return of Santa Catarina on November 19 of this year. I said I will do my best and will recommend this to the Cabinet.

We reached agreement in 50 minutes what would take others 6 months.

We wanted to call you together, but didn’t want to wake you up. We decided that I would call from Jerusalem and President Sadat from Cairo, instead of calling at 5:00 in the morning.

JC: Thank you. Let me respond. I am not surprised the people opened their hearts to you because of the great courage you have shown and the great generosity of the Israeli people you exemplify.

We were thrilled to see the news reports about the compatibility which exists between you and President Sadat, his Ministers, and the Egyptian people.

I think one of the most significant things you did was to leave your car and let the people touch you.

We are very gratified at the generosity shown by both sides in expediting the exchange of territory and the agreement to meet again.

El Arish has a special place in President Sadat’s heart. He served there as a young man. Your sensitivity about this will pay rich dividends.

I am also pleased at the direct air corridor—and the opening of borders is a tremendous event. I will immediately instruct our people to prepare for the exchange of the ratified documents. Do you know when?

MB: Next Monday or next Tuesday.

[Page 818]JC: I’ll tell them to prepare for either day and you can let me know, through normal diplomatic channels, which day.

(JC) You are correct in identifying Santa Catarina as special to President Sadat’s heart. He has mentioned it before to me. This is a very fine step. He also discussed this long ago with Mr. Peres.

MB: On November 19th. Very symbolic. Will do our best to transfer on November 18.

I also want to tell you how proud each of us will be to be with you on December 9th in Oslo, for the Nobel Peace Prize.

JC: (Laughing) . . . Your remarks are both very generous and presumptuous. All the credit goes to you and President Sadat.

MB: (Mentions a cable) . . . As I said, it was history-making and you did it. President Sadat and I absolutely concur.

JC: Thank you. I would like to say for future reference, no matter what time of the day or night it is, do not hesitate to call me. I get up very early most mornings, and was up at 5:00 this morning.

MB: Thank you. I won’t abuse it; but will, if necessary, use it.

JC: I hope you all will explore every possibility of small gestures of generosity and cooperation above and beyond the treaty agreements.

MB: . . . President Sadat and I discussed the release of prisoners. This will take a few weeks. We will also take out the military headquarters from Gaza City. You gave him a letter,6 but he appreciated hearing it from me.

JC: I am very grateful, and want to express my congratulations and appreciation.

MB: Thank you. My wife and I send our best wishes equally to Rosalynn, Amy, and to your mother.

JC: My mother will never forget your embracing her first after the signing ceremony.

MB: All the time she was sending kisses to me in the air! The evening in the tent was beautiful.

JC: Hamilton Jordan may have expressed our feelings when he said, “Begin for President!”

MB: Hamilton. Hamilton is a wonderful man. He likes to make jokes. He is a wonderful man.

JC: Not all a joke.

(Ending pleasantries from both Heads of State)

  1. Source: Carter Library, Plains File, President’s Personal Foreign Affairs File, Box 2, Israel, 4/79–11/81. No classification marking. The time is handwritten. At the top of the document, Carter wrote, “OK. J.” Carter’s handwritten notes related to this conversation are in the Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Outside the System File, Box 66, Middle East: President Carter’s Trip to Jerusalem and Cairo: 2–4/79.
  2. Begin visited Cairo on April 2 for talks with Sadat.
  3. The Instruments of Ratification were exchanged between the Under Secretary of the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Saad Afra, and the Director General of the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, Eliahu Ben-Elissar, at the U.S.-Sinai early-warning monitoring station at Um-Khashiba on April 25. (Keesing’s Contemporary Archives, 1979, p. 29951)
  4. April 5.
  5. April 8.
  6. Not further identified.