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When Sadat went to Israel

When Sadat went to Israel
On Nov. 19, 1977, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat became the first Arab leader to visit Israel. (Getty Images)
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Updated 18 February 2021

When Sadat went to Israel

When Sadat went to Israel

As the first Arab leader to visit, the Egyptian president made a bid for peace that outraged the region

Summary

On Nov. 19, 1977, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat became the first Arab leader to visit Israel, in a bid to bring about a lasting peace between two countries locked in conflict since the foundation of Israel 30 years earlier.

Only four years earlier, Sadat had ordered Egyptian troops into the Sinai Peninsula, triggering an Arab-Israeli war. But on Nov. 20, he and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin spoke at a joint press conference in Jerusalem, announcing an end to hostilities between their nations and pledging to work toward peace in the Middle East.

The meeting was a stepping stone to the Camp David Accords in September 1978, which led to the signing of the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty in Washington in March 1979. In October 1978, Sadat and Begin were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

But as Arab News reported on Nov. 22, 1977, the peace initiative angered many Arabs, who saw it as a betrayal of the Palestinians. Egypt was ejected from the Arab League, and during a military parade in Cairo in October 1981, Sadat was assassinated by extremists opposed to the treaty.

JEDDAH: It was 1979 when I first heard of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, and unfortunately it was not a pleasant occasion. That was when he decided to make peace with an enemy state of the Arabs, and took the initiative solely to sit down with Israeli leaders and sign a peace treaty, later known as the Camp David Accords.

At the time, there was an Egyptian man working at a bakery in our neighborhood in Zarqa, Jordan. Of course for a 13-year-old boy, a peace treaty was meaningless as I had no idea what that meant and had no interest in politics. All I knew was that the people in our neighborhood started yelling and screaming in the streets: “Sadat is a traitor.”

Following the steps of my elders, I ran to the Egyptian baker and shouted in his face “Sadat is a traitor,” without even knowing what that word meant. But as I grew older I became more aware, especially because my country, Jordan, is directly involved in the Arab-Israeli struggle and the Palestinian cause, and because the repercussions of the Israeli occupation of Palestine were immensely devastating not only to Jordan but to the whole region.

Key Dates

  • 1

    After Sadat announces his intention to visit Israel, Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin addresses the Egyptian people from Jerusalem, pleading for "no more wars, no more bloodshed."

    Timeline Image Nov. 11, 1977

  • 2

    Sadat becomes the first Arab leader to visit Israel, addressing the Israeli parliament the next day. "Before us today," he says, "lies the ... chance for peace ... a chance that, if lost or wasted, the plotter against it will bear the curse of humanity and the curse of history."

    Timeline Image Nov. 19, 1977

  • 3

    At the invitation of US president Jimmy Carter, Sadat and Begin arrive at Camp David for 10 days of talks.

    Timeline Image Sept. 5, 1978

  • 4

    Begin and Sadat sign the framework for peace at the White House in Washington.

    Timeline Image Sept. 17, 1978

  • 5

    Sadat and Begin are jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

    Timeline Image Oct. 27, 1978

  • 6

    Sadat and Begin sign the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty in Washington.

    Timeline Image March 26, 1979

  • 7

    Anwar Sadat is assassinated in Cairo by Islamic extremists opposed to the peace treaty.

I read so many articles about Sadat’s legacy in order to understand what informed his ideology. He remains a controversial figure in the Middle East. Praised as a prophet and cursed as a traitor, neither his death in 1981 nor the passage of time have resolved the ongoing debate about the man and his legacy.

“Egypt and Israel, which battled four times in three decades, made a mutual unwritten pledge Monday to end their state of war in an unprecedented agreement aimed at achieving a negotiated peace settlement. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Prime Minister Menahem Begin made the declarations separately in the climax of a historic first visit to Israel by an Arab leader that spurred hope for an Arab-Israeli peace.”

From a wire story on Arab News’ front page, Nov. 22, 1977

Some of the controversy over Sadat arises from an even bolder move, when Egyptian troops broke through the Bar Lev Line — a chain of fortifications built by Israel along the eastern bank of the Suez Canal after it seized Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war — on Oct. 6, 1973.

The dramatic crossing electrified a country demoralized by its defeat in the 1967 war. Although Egyptian troops fared less well once the element of surprise had passed and the war raged on for several weeks, even temporary success against a country that had been Egypt's foe for 25 years allowed Sadat to consolidate his leadership domestically.

He was being seen as a brilliant strategist, since his limited war against the Israelis resulted in the Egyptians regaining control over the Suez Canal, in what the Egyptian military to this day considers its principal victory in the modern era.

Sadat’s emergence on the world stage, however, remained tied to his political success in Egypt. He dismantled many of the socialist features of the Egyptian state, and in so doing he impressed Western leaders with his sincerity, weakened his opponents and enriched his friends. Several times during US-mediated peace negotiations with Israel, Sadat slipped a secret copy of his “fall back” positions to the US president.

Sadat also applied his mastery of symbolism to international relations. His decision to go to Jerusalem was breath-taking in its effect, and his landing on Israeli soil on Nov. 19, 1977, irrevocably changed the nature of the Arab-Israeli conflict. In one gesture granting the Israelis the recognition they had been demanding for decades, Sadat at the same time won an American commitment to aid Egypt in recovering the lands it had lost in war.

Although he will always be remembered for his courageous leap toward peace, Sadat’s ultimate legacy remains uncertain. The negotiations he started did not result in the end of the Arab-Israeli conflict, nor did they create a prosperous Egypt.

Hani Hazaimeh

Sadat’s unilateral decision to go to Jerusalem and address the Israeli Parliament was surely the most dramatic of his life. It was an absolute defiance of two widely accepted principles of inter-Arab diplomacy. The first was that no direct negotiations with Israel should take place as long as the latter continued to occupy Arab lands. The second was that if any negotiations did take place, the Arabs should conduct them collectively rather than individually.

Sadat was the first Arab leader to break these rules, and by doing so he triggered anger not only among Arab leaders but also among the public, who took to the streets in masses, accusing him of betraying the Arab consensus. His decision was dramatic not only because it utterly transformed the Middle East, but also because it was a supreme act of faith.

He decided to play his primary card — recognition of Israel — out of a conviction that the US, and particularly President Jimmy Carter, would not allow his effort to be in vain. The gesture becomes even more impressive when one considers that the great trust that Sadat and Carter had in each other had developed after only a single set of meetings between them.




A page from the Arab News archive from Nov. 22, 1977.

Although he will always be remembered for his courageous leap toward peace, Sadat’s ultimate legacy remains uncertain. The negotiations he started did not result in the end of the Arab-Israeli conflict, nor did they create a prosperous Egypt.

But it is worth remembering that Sadat’s political skill brought enormous benefit to his country. Egypt now has peace on its eastern border, and faces no serious military threats from any direction. It has received tens of billions of dollars in US aid over the last two decades, which it has used to modernize its army and thoroughly improve its national infrastructure.

Even small Egyptian villages are now connected to the electric grid, and in the country, credit for that is seen to lie with Sadat rather than the US. Egypt also has emerged as the leading state in the Arab world and the region.

Faced with a crumbling and inward-looking economy oriented toward the Soviet Union, Sadat laid the groundwork for Egyptian prosperity, even if it has not yet arrived. He truly led his country, and it was his tragedy that, perhaps, he got too far ahead of the people he was leading.

  • Hani Hazaimeh, a senior editor at Arab News, first heard of Sadat as a teenager growing up in Jordan.


US contractor leaves Iraq base over rocket attacks

US contractor leaves Iraq base over rocket attacks
Updated 11 min 39 sec ago

US contractor leaves Iraq base over rocket attacks

US contractor leaves Iraq base over rocket attacks
  • At least three foreign subcontractors and one Iraqi subcontractor have been wounded
  • Baghdad sent its national security adviser to Balad base last week to try to reassure the American firm

SAMARRA: US contractor Lockheed Martin has withdrawn its staff from an Iraq base where it had been maintaining the Iraqi army’s F-16 fighter jets, military sources said, after a spate of rocket attacks.
At least five attacks have targeted the Balad air base, where other US companies including Sallyport are also present, since the start of the year.
At least three foreign subcontractors and one Iraqi subcontractor have been wounded.
The attacks are rarely claimed, and when they are it is by obscure groups that experts say are a facade for Iran-backed Iraqi factions.
“On Monday morning, 72 Lockheed Martin technicians left,” a high-ranking Iraqi military official told AFP, while a second confirmed the move.
“The technical team in charge of maintenance of the F-16s left the Balad base for Irbil,” the capital of Iraq’s Kurdistan region, the first source added, requesting anonymity.
Baghdad had sent its national security adviser Qassim Al-Araji to the Balad base last week to try to reassure the American firm, days after the latest salvo.
Tahsin Al-Khafaji, spokesman for Iraq’s Joint Operations Command, said Lockheed Martin would “continue to advise the Iraqi air force, even remotely,” citing contractual obligations.
The United States has provided Iraq with 34 F-16s, all stationed at Balad. It has also trained Iraqi pilots, while American contractors have been in charge of the fleet’s upkeep.
Irbil was long considered safer than the rest of Iraq, but the situation has changed recently and Washington has deployed a C-RAM rocket defense system as well as Patriot missiles there, as it has done in Baghdad to protect its troops and diplomats.
In mid-April, pro-Iran fighters sent an explosives-packed drone crashing into Irbil airport in the first reported use of such a weapon against a base housing US troops in Iraq.
The Pentagon has warned that attacks against the US-led coalition rose in the first three months of this year.
“In Iraq, Iran-aligned militias increased their attacks targeting coalition positions and assets this quarter, prompting a temporary departure of US contractors supporting Iraq’s F-16 program,” it said in a report to Congress released earlier this month.


Iraq’s president meets Saudi deputy defense minister in Baghdad

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Updated 23 min 26 sec ago

Iraq’s president meets Saudi deputy defense minister in Baghdad

Iraq’s president meets Saudi deputy defense minister in Baghdad

Iraq’s President Barham Salih receives Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman in the capital, Baghdad, Al Arabiya reported on Tuesday.

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France says a great deal still needs to be done to revive Iran nuclear deal

France says a great deal still needs to be done to revive Iran nuclear deal
Updated 40 min 14 sec ago

France says a great deal still needs to be done to revive Iran nuclear deal

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France’s foreign ministry says a great deal still needs to be done to revive Iran nuclear deal in very short timeframe.

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’It’s all a lie’: hesitancy hampers vaccine drive in war-scarred Syrian area

’It’s all a lie’: hesitancy hampers vaccine drive in war-scarred Syrian area
Updated 48 min 13 sec ago

’It’s all a lie’: hesitancy hampers vaccine drive in war-scarred Syrian area

’It’s all a lie’: hesitancy hampers vaccine drive in war-scarred Syrian area
  • Consignment of 54,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine arrived in Idlib at April’s end, the first batch for opposition-held Syrian territory
  • The challenge in Idlib goes beyond doubts about vaccines as some question whether the virus itself is a threat

IDLIB: In northwest Syria, where health care is rudimentary and those displaced by war are packed into squalid camps, the arrival of vaccines to fight COVID-19 should have been cause for relief.
Instead, a UN-backed vaccination campaign has met with suspicion and mistrust by an exhausted population, who feel betrayed by their government and abandoned by the international community after a decade of conflict that ruined their lives.
“It’s all a lie, even if the dose is for free I wouldn’t take it,” said Jassem Al-Ali, who fled his home in the south of Idlib province and now lives in Teh camp, one of many in a region controlled by opponents of the Damascus government.
Youssef Ramadan, another camp resident who lived under bombardment for years, echoed the doubts. “Will we be like sheep who trust the herder until they are slaughtered?” he asked.
A consignment of 54,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine arrived in Idlib at the end of April, the first batch for opposition-held Syrian territory, delivered through the global vaccine-sharing platform COVAX. Inoculations started on May 1.
“There is a large amount of hesitancy and what made it worse is everything in the media continuously about AstraZeneca and blood clots,” Yasser Naguib, a doctor who heads a local vaccine team working in opposition-held areas, told Reuters.
Similar concerns about the coronavirus vaccine have slowed the rollout in Europe and elsewhere amid worries about rare cases of blood clots associated with the AstraZeneca shot.
Most governments have said benefits far outweigh the risks, although some have restricted it to certain age groups. But the challenge in Idlib goes beyond doubts about vaccines. Some question whether the virus itself is a threat.
“If there really was coronavirus in Idlib you would hear about tens of thousands of people getting it,” said 25-year-old Somar Youssef, who fled his home in Idlib’s rural Maara region.
Naguib said it was challenging to convince people fasting during Ramadan to take a shot when they can’t take oral medication for any side effects, such as a fever. Eid Al-Fitr, marking the end of the Muslim month, starts this week.
“We are optimistic that after Eid it will be better,” he said, adding that a 55-strong team was working to raise awareness about virus risks and vaccine benefits.
At the same time as doses from COVAX landed in Idlib, 200,000 shots arrived in Damascus, part of the World Health Organization campaign to inoculate about 20 percent of Syria’s population, or 5 million people across the nation, this year.
Officials have not given any indication about take up in government-held areas, where Damascus also aims to use vaccines from Russia, the government’s military ally, and China.
In Idlib, Naguib said 6,070 people out of around 40,000 health care and humanitarian workers on a priority list had been vaccinated by May 9. But even some health care workers are wary.
A Reuters witness saw just seven out of 30 medical workers receiving vaccines on the first day of a campaign at one Idlib medical center. Initially, only three had volunteered.
“As a director of the kidney dialysis unit, I was the first one to get the vaccine and I wanted to encourage the rest, who were scared because of all the rumors about it,” said Taher Abdelbaki, a doctor at another clinic, the Ibn Sina medical center.
By the end of 2021, two more COVAX vaccine batches are expected to arrive in Idlib to inoculate about 850,000 people in a region of about 3.5 million people, a target that leaves the region’s vaccination teams with much work to do.
“We will not be their lab rats here in the north,” said Abdelsalam Youssef, a community leader in Teh camp.


Joshua set to fight Fury in Saudi Arabia in August, says promoter Eddie Hearn

The all-British fight between Anthony Joshua (L) and Tyson Fury for the undisputed world heavyweight title will take place in Saudi Arabia, according to promoter Eddie Hearn. (AFP/File Photos)
The all-British fight between Anthony Joshua (L) and Tyson Fury for the undisputed world heavyweight title will take place in Saudi Arabia, according to promoter Eddie Hearn. (AFP/File Photos)
Updated 46 min 38 sec ago

Joshua set to fight Fury in Saudi Arabia in August, says promoter Eddie Hearn

The all-British fight between Anthony Joshua (L) and Tyson Fury for the undisputed world heavyweight title will take place in Saudi Arabia, according to promoter Eddie Hearn. (AFP/File Photos)
  • Hearn, who represents Joshua, said the fight is likely to take place on Aug. 7 or Aug. 14

LONDON: The all-British fight between Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury for the undisputed world heavyweight title will take place in Saudi Arabia, promoter Eddie Hearn said on Tuesday.

Hearn, who represents Joshua, said the fight is likely to take place on Aug. 7 or Aug. 14. He said Aug. 14 is his preferred date because the Olympic Games in Tokyo will have finished, making the Joshua-Fury fight a bigger “global spectacle.”

“It’s a very bad secret that the fight is happening in Saudi Arabia,” Hearn told British broadcaster Sky Sports. “To be honest with you, I don’t mind giving you that information.”

Fury’s US promoter, Bob Arum, has previously said Saudi Arabia would be the location of the fight.

Hearn has yet to respond to AP requests to confirm the details of the fight.

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On a rainy night in Diriyah in 2019, Anthony Joshua regained his world heavyweight titles after a unanimous points decision from the judges over Andy Ruiz Jr in an epic night of boxing in Saudi Arabia. Read how it happened here.

It would be Joshua’s second fight in the kingdom. He reclaimed his WBA, IBF and WBO belts from Andy Ruiz there in December 2019.

Joshua’s only fight since saw him retain his titles by knocking out Kubrat Pulev in December.

Fury hasn’t fought since beating Deontay Wilder in February last year to capture the WBC title.

Fury and Joshua have called each other out over Twitter over the last 24 hours, both urging the other to finalize terms for the fight.

Hearn said the “deal is done” but there was frustration on both sides that the fight had not been officially announced.

“From our perspective and AJ’s perspective, we’re ready to go,” he said. “From Tyson Fury’s perspective, they’ve got a couple of lawyers across it from their point.

“We have to nail this,” Hearn added, “and I’m not going to stop until I nail it, and everyone has just got to move forward collectively. We’re ready to go from our side. We’re not far away from their side and it is inevitable.”