Menachem Begin had a well-developed sense of history. Before he became prime minister, his character on the satirical show "Nikui Rosh" used to mutter, "It's now 3:05 and it's a historic moment. It's now 3:06 and it's a historic moment." As prime minister, he always spoke in the name of the Jewish people, and at every opportunity he would preach morality to non-Jews, reminding them of the Bible and the Holocaust.
But as a practical statesman, Begin knew how to distinguish between preoccupation with the past and concern for the future. In the peace talks he conducted with Egypt, he did not waste time on pointless arguments over the question of who had been the aggressor and who the victim during the decades of conflict. The peace agreement he signed with Anwar Sadat focused on the future, not the past: It determined borders, security arrangements and mechanisms for normalization.
Begin understood that in order to attend to the future, it was necessary to close the files of the past and to set priorities. He opted to obtain quiet on the Egyptian front in order to focus on what he considered more important: building settlements in the West Bank and ending the Mapai party's domination of society and the economy.