Egytian President Anwar Sadat concluded his historic journey to Israel today - a mission described by Israeli Prime Minister Menahem Begin as a "great moral achievement for our nations, for the Middle East, indeed for the whole wrld."
President Sadat, at a joint farewell press conference with Begin, agreed that a "new spirit" now exists as the result of the first visit by an Arab leader to Jewish state.
"Let us agree that whatever happens between us, we should solve it together through talks rather than going to war," the Egyptian president declared.
Begin, heartily endorsing Sadat's words, said the two leaders had pledged "no more war, no more bloodshed, no more attacks . . . "
Sadat said one of his main motives in coming to Israel had been to give the peace process a "new momentum and to get rid of the psychological barrier that, in my idea, is 70 per cent of the whole conflict."
His achievement was indeed a psychological rather than substantive triumph. As former Foreign Minister Abba Eban told the Egyptian president today, Sadat has "changed the entire psychological and emotional context" of the Arab-Israel relationship.
"Let us not pretend that our differences have been solved," Eban said. "But it does mean that they can be discussed in a totally different climate and atmosphere."
As for substance, Sadat himself said today that his 36-hour trip had been too short to have made and major progress, and that no new plans to reconvene the Geneva peace conference had come out of the private talks - as some optimists had predicted.
There was no indication that either side had changed its position. There was no substantive or even procedural breakthrough, and no bilateral agreements except to continue the dialogue that Sadat and Begin have now established.
Indeed, the final communique concluding the visit was an "agreed communique," rather than a joint communique, meaning that it was issued by the Israeli government instead of by both.
The communique said that the "government of Israel . . . proposes that this hopeful step be further pursued through a dialogue between the two countries concerned, thereby paving the way toward successful negotiations leading to the signing of a peace treaty in Geneva with all the neighboring Arab states."
There was speculation here that the communique's failure to mention the Palestinians may have led Sadat to feel that he could not lend his name to it.
Whatever their problems with the communique, Sadat's visit to Jerusalem was one of those rare events where form was clearly far more important than the substance.
The symbolic significance of an Arab and Israeli leader sitting side by side, finding after 29 years of war a shared humanity in a grandfather's love for his grandchildren, cannot be exaggerated.
Sadat's visit yesterday to Vad Yashem memorial to the six million Jews killed by Nazi Germany could no possibly have failed to have an impact or the Egyptian leader. The Arab leaders decision, in turn, to lay a wreath at the memorial to the Jewish state's war dead could not have failed to have had a profound impact on Israelis.
Chilling memories of the bloody past that Sadat and Begin have now agreed to put to rest must have crossed their minds today as four Israeli Kfir fighter planes roared low over Ben Gurion Airport - this time in farewell salute to the Egyptian leader.
The two men emphasized as they concluded their visit, however, that they will no longer try to solve their problems through war. As Sadat boarded his jet, one of the gifts he took with him as a portrait of a dove of peace painted by members of a kibbutz.
At least as important as the symbolism of this trip is the fact that Begin and Sadat appear to have established a rapport.
"I may say that we like each other Begin told reporters today. "He has a sense of humor, and I too have sometimes a sense of humor. I think a fitting personal tie has been established between us."
Personal relationships loom large in the politics of the Middle East, and even those Arabe leaders who most wehemently disapproved of Sadat's decision to visit Israel were certain to be curious to know what Begin was really like.
Both Sadat and Begin agreed, however, that the followup visit to Cairo that the Israel leader was to eagerly anticipating would have to be postponed to a later date.
It was speculated that Sadat wanted to take the temperature in the Arab world following his visit to Israel before planning Begins' trip to Egypt.
The question was also being asked tonight whether the Israelis gave Sadat enough to compensate him for his dramatic and risky gesture.
Sadat indirectly alluded to this in their joint press conference, declaring that he had already taken "my share of risk" in coming to Jerusalem, and stating that it was now Israel's turn to make some "hard and drastic decision."
Begin, however, took a different view.
"What we wanted to achieve during this visit was to make sure that we started serious, direct dialogue about the ways to establishing peace in the Middle East," the Israeli leader said. "I think we can say that we made progress on this issue and the key word is continuation. We agreed that we are going to continue our dialogue and that utlimately out of it will come peace."
When President Sadat met with the various Knesset factions and political parties this morning, it was former Prime Minister Golda Meir - his old adversary in the 1973 war - who stole the show.
Many Israelis were saying today that Golda made the speech that Begin should have made yesterday.
"When asked many years ago when do I think peace will come to this region, to our country, to our neighboring counties, I said: The date I do not know. But I know under what conditions it will come. When there will be a leader, a great leader of an Arab country he will come or perhaps he will wake up one morning and feel sorry for his own people, for his own sons that had fallen in battle. That day will be the beginning of peace between us and them.'"
"I congratulate you Mr. President, that you have this privilege of being the first great Arab leader of the greatest country of our neighbouring countries that, with courage and determination, has come to us and we have the message that for the sake of your sons as well as ours . . . let us have peace."
"We want to say that we were and are prepared for territorial compromises on all our borders - only on one condition," she said. "Borders that will not (require) somebody else to come to defend us. We never wanted it. Nobody ever came to defend us. The blood that was shed to our sorrow was our blood. We do not want to shed the blood of others . . . We do not want to be shot at and believe me, we do not want to shoot."
Golda also spoke of the misery of the Palestinians in their camps. "Of course we realize there are Palestinians," she said. "There is no connection between sympathy for their plight and our unreadiness for another state between ourselves and Jordan - a Palestinian state, small, not viable probably, maybe forced to expand."
Israel's objection, she said, was that "if we should agree to that, there are 10 miles between the sea and the borders of this state. You cannot expect us to feel secure within borders of that kind . . .
"Mr. President, we did not agree to everthing you said last night and you are not surprised. But you call for peace, and I believe in your sincere desire for peace as I hope and believe in the sincere desire on our part for peace.
"The beginning that you have made with such courage and such hope for peace, let us decide on one thing. It must go on. Face to face between us and between you so that even an old lady like I am will live to see the day . . . of peace between all our neighbors and us."
Later, in his press conference, Sadat said that he quite understood the "point of view of security for the Israelis." But he added, "in my view, and we shall discuss this thoroughly afterward, a few kilometres here or a few kilometres there will not provide security."
Both Begin and Sadat declared at the press conference that their land was sacred, both started a willingness to discuss the question of borders in Geneva.
The unprecedented visit ended, as it began, with full military honors at Ben Gurion Airport, and with applause from the spectators despite the fact, as both Begin and Sadat noted today, that their two countries are still in a state of war.
For many Israelis, their last view of Sadat tonight was on television as he arrived in Cairo to the cheers of thousands upon thousands of wildly enthusiastic Egyptians.
The Egyptian and Israeli peoples have both expressed their deep desires for peace. This cannot help but have an impact on their leaders.