Anwar Sadat’s Historic Visit to Israel
Egyptian president Anwar al-Sadat and Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin shake hands at the Israeli Knesset in Jerusalem on November 21, 1977. (William Karel/Sygma via Getty Images)

Anwar Sadat’s Historic Visit to Israel

Al-Arabiya, Saudi Arabia, November 23

Forty-two years ago, on the evening of November 20, 1977, Egyptian president Anwar Al-Sadat stood at the Knesset podium to deliver a speech demonstrating his remarkable ability to eliminate Israeli resistance to peace and the restoration of Arab land occupied by Israel in the 1973 war. In my estimation, this unprecedented step could only have been reached by a self-confident fighter willing to make great sacrifices for his country and his nation. Sadat’s bold personality was exactly that. It was the same vision and conviction that pushed him, during the 1940s, to resist the British occupation of Egypt – making him lose his career as an army officer. With his historic visit, Sadat was able to achieve a huge political gain by breaking many barriers that prevented the Israelis from responding to calls for peace and withdrawal from the occupied Arab land in the Sinai Peninsula, Golan Heights and West Bank. He also helped Israelis overcome their mistrust of outsiders, specifically their inherent fear of, and hostility to, Arab nations. After all these years, I believe it’s our historical duty to recognize Sadat’s huge political accomplishments and to apologize for all those Arab leaders – in places like Iraq, Libya and Syria – who defamed him for his actions. These leaders waged a harsh campaign against Sadat and, in doing so, prevented other Arab nations from following in his footsteps and seizing the opportunity to liberate all the occupied territories through negotiations. Sadat’s speech ended the political stalemate imposed by the Israelis, with US support after the 1973 war, and shook the expansionist concepts that were implanted in the mind of Menachem Begin, founder of the extremist-minded Likud party, who claimed in 1967 that “Sinai is an organic part of the Land of Israel.” President Sadat was the veteran Arab fighter who successfully led the October military battle in 1973. But he was also unafraid to fight for peace by making risky political decisions that others criticized at the time. Now, through the perspective of history, we know he was right. It is time to give Sadat the respect this great leader deserves. – Ibrahim Al-Bahrawi (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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