Despite the heat and humidity, Prime Minister Menachem Begin meticulously tied his necktie as he dressed for his first meeting with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and U.S. President Jimmy Carter at the Camp David peace talks. I'm not surprised, thought Begin's aide, who watched his boss from the next room. After all, this man insisted on polishing his shoes before Soviet secret police arrested him in his home in 1941 for organizing Zionist activities in Poland and Lithuania.
Discipline and dignity were important ideals for Begin, and he needed both traits as he listened to Sadat outline Egypt's peace proposal. Although the Israeli leader's poker face revealed nothing, President Carter suspected that Begin was secretly relieved at the Egyptian's harsh position. I imagine he'll accuse the Egyptians of being unreasonable and use that to his advantage, Carter thought.
At the next meeting, a different Begin appeared. Instead of the courteous, well-dressed gentleman, here stood Menachem Begin the relentless combatant, the man who had endured nine months of torture and brainwashing in a Soviet prison, and who had worn down his interrogator. Begin scrutinized and refuted each clause of the proposal and concluded coldly, "This document is not a proper basis for negotiation." Sadat leapt to his feet to leave, but Carter blocked his exit. "We can't afford to fail," he said. "Let's negotiate until we achieve peace."
Begin, Sadat, and Carter remained secluded for 13 days and signed an agreement that produced Israel's first peace treaty with an Arab neighbor.