Monday, April 7, 2014

Zalman Enav: Drawing the Lines in Sinai

Many of the people involved in the peace talks with Egypt in 1977-1979 were well-known figures in Israeli public life. But our latest project on the peace treaty introduced us to someone less renowned: Zalman Enav, a civilian volunteer who drew up the lines for the Israeli withdrawal in Sinai. His story shows how paradoxically, the Egyptian and Israeli generals, who had been fighting each other a short time before, understood one another better than the politicians quibbling over every legal point. It seems that the soldiers had a healthy respect for the other's military capacity, and wanted to do everything possible to prevent another round of fighting.

Mr. Enav is a Tel Aviv architect who planned many important building projects in Israel and abroad, especially in Africa and in Egypt (after the treaty). He joined the Palmach in 1946, and later advised the IDF on planning of army and air force bases. Zalman Enav built the homes of Arik Sharon at the Shikmim Farm and of Ezer Weizman in Caesariya and is still active today. We came across his name while looking for maps to illustrate the negotiations on withdrawal in Sinai, and later we read an account of his involvement in the peace process. In a telephone interview, Mr. Enav confirmed that account and added other fascinating details.

Zalman Enav's work on peace with Egypt began in the last stages of the Yom Kippur war, when he was serving at the advance command post of Arik Sharon. General Avraham Tamir, who was about to become the head of the IDF Planning Branch, took him from the front to Tel Aviv to start preparing for peace talks. At the talks with the Egyptians at the KM. 101 marker on the Cairo-Suez road Enav met General Taha Magdoub, the assistant of General Gamasy, the Egyptian chief of staff. He told Magdoub: "Bring me to Cairo and we'll soon finish the business" of preparing the maps. Magdoub replied: "It's too soon". They met again in Geneva to work on the Interim Agreement signed in September 1975. The Egyptians thought that Enav worked for the security services, as they could not understand what a volunteer was doing in such a post.

In January 1978, after Sadat's visit to Jerusalem, Enav did arrive in Cairo as a member of the Israeli delegation to the military talks with Egypt and met Magdoub again. The joint work of the military delegations continued over many months of ups and downs, crises and solutions and led to agreement on Israeli withdrawal in two stages and the division of Sinai into areas including demilitarized zones and limitation of forces.
The Israeli military delegation headed by Ezer Weizman, Chief of Staff Mordecai Gur
and Tamir meets the Egyptian delegation headed by General Gamasy in Cairo, January 1978
(Photograph: Yaa'cov Sa'ar, Government Press Office)
Enav was not at Camp David, but in October 1978 he was called to Washington "for a few days" to help prepare the final lines of the peace treaty on maps presented by the Americans. The talks dragged on for months due to disagreements caused by political pressure on the Egyptian and Israeli governments. Nevertheless, after a dramatic visit to the Middle East by US president Jimmy Carter, the treaty was signed 35 years ago last week.

Enav, who by now enjoyed the confidence of all parties, drew up the lines for all of them, watched by an Egyptian and an American officer. The maps were signed by Tamir and Magdoub in the State Department one day before the signing of the treaty on 26 March 1979. At the last minute, after Prime Minister Begin had agreed to advance the date of Israel's handing over the Alma oilfield as a gesture to Sadat, one of the maps had to be re-drawn and Enav had to work all night …In the ISA's digital publication on "Making Peace" in Hebrew you can see copies of the maps, including the most important one – Annex II, the international boundary between Egypt and Israel, which was fixed for the first time. In signing this map Egypt formally recognized the border and the state of Israel.

Zalman Enav at the White House, March 26, 1979
(Photograph: Zalman Enav)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

"Had they known me in Israel, they would not have offered me this important position" -Albert Einstein

"All of our science when measured against reality is primitive and childish and yet it is the most valuable thing we have." - Albert Einstein

In November 1952, Dr Chaim Weizmann, the first President of Israel, passed away. The nation promptly prepared itself: The Israel Embassy in Washington issued directives for the mourning period, and Israeli citizens and Jews abroad began submitting names of important people whom they felt would be suitable to inherit the honoured position.

The Foreign Ministry was asked to assist in finding candidates, and so Ambassador Abba Eban approached Albert Einstein to ask if he would accept the offer to serve as President of Israel.

In his letter to the professor, Eban wrote that he was acting at the instructions of Premier Ben Gurion, reflecting the true sentiments of the Jewish people. He added that acceptance would require relocation to Israel and acceptance of Israeli nationality, but in appreciation of the importance and scope of his work he would be offered all that was necessary with the freedom of action to ensure the continuation of his scientific activity. Israel, Eban said, was geographically a small country but was destined for greatness in continuing its spiritual and intellectual tradition both past and present.
David Ben Gurion and Albert Einstein (National Photo Collection)
Upon receiving the invitation, Einstein replied in handwriting in English and German.

"I feel deeply moved by the offer of our state Israel, though also sad and abashed that it is impossible for me to accept this offer. Since all my life I have been dealing with the world of physics, I have neither the natural ability nor the experience necessary to deal with human beings and to carry out official functions. For these reasons, I do not feel able to fulfill the requirements of this great task, even were my advanced age not limiting my strength to an increasing extent. This situation is indeedextremely sad for me because my relation to the Jewish people has become my strongest human attachment ever since I reached compleate awerness of our precarious position among the nations."

He concluded with expressions of sympathy upon the death of Dr. Weizmann who had made great efforts to reach independence, and hoped that a suitable person would be found who could bear the great responsibility demanded by the position.

Einstein gave his letters in person to Minister David Goitein of the Washington Embassy who then sent a special report to Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett. Describing his meeting with the professor he quoted Einstein: (In Hebrew)

"Honestly I am very moved that the government and people of Israel want to appoint me their President but throughout my life I never did anything for the Jewish people and so do not merit this honor."

Their interesting discussion ranged over many topics such as Russian – American relations, Judaism, and education in the USA. In this connection Einstein said that if he had a son he would want him educated in Israel rather than in America, and so would benefit from its freedom of thought, education and independence.

Three years after he turned down the Presidency, he was given another opportunity to represent Israel at its Seventh Independence Day celebrations, but died before he could deliver what was his last speech.

At a meeting in Jerusalem to mark the centenary of Einstein's birth, Isaiah Berlin said in reference to his support for Zionism and Israel: "The fact that Einstein who allowed no departure from human decency, believed in this movement and this state unconditionally until his last breath, this fact is one of the most compelling moral testimonies that any state in this century could proudly exhibit, this is deeply meaningful."

The Knesset decided that March 14--Einstein's birthday--would be National Science Day. The Ministry of Science and Technology last year introduced a new initiative, "Popular Science," designed to bring lectures in popular science to the general public. This year there will be extensive activities around this date, by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Space.
Einstein on his first visit to the USA, 1921
Albert Einstein and his wife as part of a Zionist mission to the USA. Chaim Weizmann is second on left.