A former Zionist militant leader and conservative politician once derided as a "terrorist," a "hard-line fanatic" and an "intransigent zealot," Menachem Begin proved to be an unlikely figure to negotiate peace with Arab nations. At one point, others compared his beliefs with "the Nazi and Fascist parties," and accused him of inaugurating "a reign of terror in the Palestine Jewish community."
Begin "lived much of his life in the opposition...A Jewish underground leader before Israel gained independence in 1948, he openly fought the established Zionist leadership of the struggle against British rule...then for nearly three decades, he headed Israel's major opposition party, [the Likud]." Following a convincing victory in the Knesset in 1977, Begin became Prime Minister and "moved the country in a distinctly different ideological direction."
While Opposition Leader and Prime Minister, Begin moderated many of his more extreme stances and became open to peace through diplomacy. When Sadat visited Israel, Begin graciously welcomed him, saying, "I am waiting for you, Mr. President, and all the ministers are waiting for you."
"The Sadat initiative is closely tied to Begin’s personality. Sadat, who heard good reports on Israel’s new prime minister from Carter and Ceausesco, realized that Menachem Begin was a strong leader who would be able to convince his people of the justice of his decisions. He recognized that Begin had very clear views and that he was someone Sadat could trust and with whom he could reach an agreement. Only someone like Begin – realized Sadat – could make such a great concession in return for true peace. As someone who for so many years had been vilified as a 'war monger,' a 'fanatic,' who 'believed in a policy of power,' Menachem Begin certainly wanted history to remember him as a leader who had brought peace to his nation, broken the circle of violence in the Middle East and put an end to bereavement in Israel."