Anwar Sadat

Anwar Sadat

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Anwar Sadat was born in Egypt in 1918. He joined the Egyptian Army but in 1942 was arrested by the British authorities and charged with having contact with the German Army.

Sadat held republican views and joined the Free Officers Movement. In 1952 Sadat joined General Mohammed Neguib and Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser in the overthrow of King Farouk I.

In 1955 Sadat became editor of Al-Jumhuriya and later served as vice president of Egypt (1964-70). After the death of Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1970 Sadat became President of the United Arab Republic. He also served as Military Governor General during the October War.

Defence spending severely damaged the Egyptian economy and in 1977 Sadat decided to obtain a peace settlement with Israel. He announced the Sadat Initiative and offered to go to Jerusalem and plead the Arab cause before the Knesset. This offer was accepted and Sadat visited Israel to meet Menachem Begin (19th - 21st November).

Although criticised by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the governments of Syria, Libya and Algeria, Sadat had discussions with Begin at Leeds Castle and Camp David. In September 1978, with the support of Jimmy Carter, the president of the United States, Sadat and Begin signed a peace treaty between the two countries. As a result both men shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1978.

On 6th October 1981 Anwar Sadat was assassinated by a Muslim extremist.

27 Photos of the Events Surrounding the Anwar Sadat Assassination

Muhammad Anwar el-Sadat was the third President of Egypt, serving from October 15, 1970, until his assassination by fundamentalist army officers on October 6, 1981. In his eleven years as president, he re-instituted the multi-party system, launched the Infitah economic system which allowed private investment in Egypt, broke partnership with their benefactor, the USSR, created relationships with the United States, and began a peace process with Israel. Sadat&rsquos negotiations with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin won both men the Nobel Peace Prize, making Sadat the first Muslim Nobel laureate.

The Egyptian reaction to Sadat&rsquos treaty, the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty, which returned Saini to Egypt, was generally favorable among the citizens, but it was rejected by the Muslim Brotherhood, which felt Sadat had abandoned efforts to ensure a Palestinian state. The Arab world and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) opposed Sadat&rsquos efforts to make peace with Israel without consulting the Arab states first. The peace treaty was one of the primary factors that led to his assassination.

PLO leader Yasser Arafat said of the treaty, &ldquoLet them sign what they like. False peace will not last.&rdquo Egypt&rsquos position in the Arab League was suspended. The Egyptian Islamists felt betrayed by Sadat and publicly called for his removal and to replace him with an Islamic theocratic government.

The last few months of Sadat&rsquos presidency were plagued by internal uprisings. Sadat believed that the revolts were caused by the Soviet Union recruiting regional allies in Libya and Syria incite a coup. In February 1981, Sadat learned of a plan to depose him. He responded by arresting 1,500 of his political opposition, Jihad members, the Coptic Pope and other Coptic clergy, intellectuals, and activists. He banned all non-government press. The widespread arrests missed a Jihad cell in the military led by Lieutenant Khalid Islambouli, who would succeed in assassinating Sadat.

On October 6, 1981, Anwar Sadat was assassinated during the annual victory parade held in Cairo, celebrating Operation Badr, during which the Egyptian Army had crossed the Suez Canal and taken back a small part of the Saini Peninsula from Israel at the beginning of the Yom Kippur War. A fatwa, an authoritative legal interpretation that a qualified mufti gives on issues pertaining to Islamic law, approving the assassination had been obtained from Omar Abdel-Rahman, a cleric convicted in the US for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

Sadat was protected by four layers of security, eight bodyguards, and the parade should have been safe because of ammunition seizure rules. As the parade went on, one truck, containing the assassination squad, led by Lieutenant Khalid Islambouli, forced the driver to stop at gunpoint. The assassins dismounted and approached Sadat with three hand grenades. Sadat, thinking the men were going to salute, stood, at which point Islambouli threw the grenades. Additional assassins rose from the truck firing AK-47 assault rifles into the stands until they had run out of ammunition.

The attack lasted about two minutes. Sadat and ten others were killed or suffered fatal wounds, including the Cuban ambassador to Egypt, and a Coptic Orthodox Bishop. 28 were wounded, including Vice President Hosni Mubarak, Irish Defence Minister James Tully, and four US military liaison officers.

In conjunction with the assassination, an insurrection was organized in Asyut. Rebels took control of the city for a few days and 68 soldiers and policemen were killed in the fighting. Government control was not restored until paratroopers from Cairo arrived.

Islambouli and the others were tried, sentenced to death, and executed in April 1982.

Anwar Sadat with Jordanian hosts at the Dome of the Rock, December 1955. Martin Kramer Anwar Sadat in his boat on the Suez Canal. Getty President Sadat of Egypt meets Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel for talks of the normalization of relationships between their two countries. The meeting took place in Aswan in Upper Egypt. In 1978 both men were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Getty Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin during a press conference. September 1, 1979. Menachem Begin, Jimmy Carter, and Anwar Sadat at Camp David, Maryland discussing new peace agreement between Israel and Egypt. Getty Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin shaking hands as US President Jimmy Carter looks on during ceremonies for the signing of Mideast Peace Treaty on the White House lawn, March 1, 1979. Getty Anwar Sadat, 1981. Pinterest Anwar Sadat, whose peace pact with Israel earned him the Nobel Peace Prize while alienating fellow Arab leaders, was gunned down by members of his own army. BT President Anwar Sadat (right) and his then deputy, Hosni Mubarak, at the military parade where moments later Sadat was gunned down by four army officers. Credit- AFP PHOTO:AFP:GettyImages Sadat and fellow politicians at the Victory Parade in honor of Operation Badr and the retaking of the Sinai Peninsula. Youtube Military jets fly overhead during the parade, leaving colorful trails in their wake. Youtube Egyptian military vehicles on parade at the Victory Celebration. Youtube The truck containing the assassination squad, led by Lieutenant Khalid Islambouli, forced the driver to stop at gunpoint. Youtube

Anwar Sadat

Mohammad Anwar el-Sadat was born on December 25, 1918, in Mit Abu al-Kum, 40 miles north of Cairo, Egypt. After graduating from the Cairo Military Academy in 1938, Sadat was stationed at a distant outpost where he met Gamal Abd el-Nasser, beginning a long political association.

During World War II Sadat worked to expel British troops from Egypt. The British arrested and imprisoned him in 1942, but he later escaped. During a second prison stay, Sadat taught himself French and English.

After leaving jail, Sadat renewed contact with Nasser. In the 1950s he was a member of the Free Officers organization that overthrew the Egyptian monarchy in 1952. He became editor of the revolutionary paper al-Gumhuriya in 1953 and also authored several books on the revolution during the late 1950s. Sadat held various high offices, including speaker of the Egyptian Parliament, that led to his serving in the vice presidency (1964-66, 1969-70). He ascended to the Presidency in 1970 following the death of President Gamal Abd el-Nasser.

Sadat’s domestic policies included decentralization and diversification of the economy and relaxation of Egypt’s political structure long before these measures became fashionable in the developing countries. In foreign affairs, Anwar Sadat stood out for his courage and bold diplomacy. He did not hesitate to expel Soviet forces from Egypt in 1972, even as he planned a military campaign to regain control of the Sinai Peninsula from Israel. The Egyptian army achieved a tactical surprise in its attack on the Israeli-held Sinai Peninsula in October 1973, and, although Israel successfully counterattacked, Sadat emerged from the war with greatly enhanced prestige.

After the war, Sadat began to work toward peace in the Middle East. He made a dramatic visit to Israel in 1977, during which he traveled to Jerusalem to place his plan for a peace settlement before the Israeli Knesset. This initiated a series of diplomatic efforts that Sadat continued despite strong opposition from most of the Arab world and the Soviet Union. These efforts were bolstered by the intervention of U.S. President Jimmy Carter, whose active role helped achieve the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt. Together with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Sadat was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1978. Their continued political negotiations resulted in the signing on March 26, 1979, of a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, the first between Israel and any Arab state.

Sadat’s opening to the West and the peace treaty with Israel, while lauded by most of the international community, generated opposition and isolated Egypt from the Arab world. Sadat was tragically assassinated by extremists opposed to peace with Israel on October 6, 1981, while reviewing a military parade commemorating the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.

In one of Anwar Sadat's last interviews, a reporter asked, "President Sadat, if you had only three wishes, what would they be?" He answered, "One, peace in the Middle East. Two, peace in the Middle East. Three, peace in the Middle East."

Listen to Generations of Leadership in the Middle East- Twenty-five years after Anwar Sadat's speech to the Israeli Knesset, a look at the changing generations of leadership in the Middle East., on WBUR On Point, November 21, 2002

Sadat's address to the U.S. Congress - November 5, 1972

President Reagan's Remarks on the death of Anwar Sadat, October 6, 1981

Read adress delivered by Anwar el Sadat at the First Afro-Asian people's Solidarity Conference, December 26, 1957

Muhammad Anwar al-Sadat (1918-1981)

Muhammad Anwar al-Sadat, third President of post-independence Egypt (governing from 1970 to 1981), was born of peasant background in the Nile Delta village of Mit Abu al-Kum on December 25, 1918. The son an Egyptian army clerk and a Sudanese housewife, Sadat was educated in Cairo, where his family moved in 1925. As a result of the 1936 Anglo-Egyptian Treaty, access to the Military Academy was no longer restricted to the upper classes and by 1938, Sadat was a commissioned officer.

Al-Sadat became involved in underground political activities by 1941, joining others seeking to overthrow British rule, including Lieutenants Gamal Abdel-Nasser and Zakariah Mohieddin. Sadat also joined right-leaning clandestine groups like Young Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood. Throughout the 1940s he was in and out of jail for collaborating with German agents and conspiring in a number of assassination attempts. By the end of the decade, Sadat was out of prison, reinstated into the Army, and had gotten married to the well-connected, half-British Jihan Safwat Rouf. In 1950, Nasser asked Sadat to join the Free Officer’s Movement, having known of his involvement in anti-British organizations.

When Nasser and other Army officers led a military coup on July 23, 1952, against King Farouk, Sadat was chosen to announce the coup leaders’ initial proclamations on the radio. Sadat was also made a member of the Revolutionary Command Council, where he served as liaison to the Muslim Brotherhood and editor of the official newspaper, al-Jumhuriah. With Nasser soon strengthening his hand and pushing out the opposition, Sadat loyally supported the powerful leader. He was rewarded with a number of prominent positions: Minister of State in 1954, Speaker of the National Assembly of the United Arab Republic in 1958, and vice-president from 1964 to 1967 and later from 1969 to 1970. By 1969, the Vice Presidency was limited from seven chairs to one, with Sadat winning the single appointment over Ali Sabri, who Nasser saw as a growing political threat. When Nasser died in 1970, the Egyptian National Assembly elected Sadat President by a 90% margin.

Upon assuming power, Sadat shrewdly promised a continuation of Nasser’s policies. In 1972, he expelled 15,000 Soviet advisers and began a closer relationship with the US. Sadat continued ties with Syria and other traditional Nasserist allies, but also grew closer to Saudi Arabia.

The October 1973 war with Israel was a political success for Sadat. He used his political capital from the victory to initiate peace talks with Israel, culminating in the 1979 Camp David Peace Treaty, a year before he accepted the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize. Sadat also used his credentials from the 1973 war to begin his policy of liberalizing the economy and overturning Nasser’s socialist system.

Near the end of his term, Sadat cracked down on a growing opposition, arresting 1,600 people from a broad swath of the opposition and reversed a number of his earlier positions. Because of these changes in his views and policies, Muhammad Anwar al-Sadat was assassinated by a group called Jihad in 1981.

President of the National Assembly

After a brief term in office, Mohammed Naguib was overthrown by his second in command, Gamal Abdel Nasser, in late autumn of 1953.

President Gamal’s administration appointed Anwar Sadat the minister of state in 1954. Anwar Sadat also served as the editor-in-chief of Al Gomhuria – a daily newspaper set up by the state after the Egyptian Revolution of 1952. In the coming years, Sadat steadily rose through the rank of the governing party. He was the Secretary of the National Union in 1959. A year later, he became the President of the National Assembly, a position that he would occupy till 1968.

For a few months in 1964 and 1969, Anwar Sadat served as the Vice President of Egypt.

Anwar al Sadat

Anwar al-Sadat played a significant part in recent Middle East politics until his death in 1981. Sadat had to follow in the footsteps of Gamal Nasser – a man all but idolised by the Egyptian people. Sadat took Egypt through the Yom Kippur War of 1973 to the start of a diplomatic way to end the crisis within the Middle East – the so-called Sadat Initiative.

Anwar al-Sadat was born in 1918 – he was one of thirteen children. He was born in Mit Abul Kom – a town north of Cairo. Sadat was born into what was considered by the British to be a British colony. Great Britain owned the majority of the shares in the Suez Canal Company. From an early time in his life, Anwar al-Sadat developed anti-colonial beliefs and these were reinforced when the British executed an Egyptian called Zahran for participating in a riot that led to the death of a British army officer.

Anwar al-Sadat was one of the first students at a military school created by the British for the Egyptian people. Here he studied Maths and Science. He was also expected to study a famous battle and Sadat chose the Battle of Gettysburg. When he graduated, he was posted to a remote government base in Egypt. In many senses, this posting was the turning point in Anwar al-Sadat’s life. At this post, he met Gamal Abdel Nasser – thus starting a long association which led to Sadat taking over from Nasser when he died in 1970. Sadat was one of the young officers that Nasser grouped around him that were dedicated to overthrowing the corrupt government of King Farouk, and with it British rule in Egypt.

Sadat’s involvement with this group led to him being sent to prison on two occasions. He was exhausted at the end of his second term in prison and he left the military and returned to civilian life.

On July 23rd, 1952, the Free Officers Organisation staged a coup in Egypt that overthrew the monarchy. Sadat was immediately asked by Nasser to be his public relations minister and Nasser gave Sadat the task of overseeing the abdication of King Farouk.

Nasser dominated Egypt post-1952 and Sadat served as a trusted lieutenant. The one time that Nasser’s position seemed weak was in 1967 when the Egyptian air force was wiped out on the ground and the Israeli army swept through the Sinai Desert to the Suez Canal killing 3,000 Egyptian soldiers. However, Nasser’s support remained strong within Egypt and he remained the unchallenged leader of his country until his death in September 1970. Sadat succeeded him.

Anwar al-Sadat was relatively unknown even in Egypt. He had always had a back seat in Egyptian politics. Therefore, it was incumbent on him to prove himself a worthy successor to Nasser.

From 1970 to 1973, Sadat came across as a bellicose leader, threatening Israel with war. This war came in 1973 with the surprise attack launched by Egypt and Israel in October 1973 – the Yom Kippur War. The initial advances made by the Egyptian military were not built on and the war ended in stalemate. If Egypt had been successful against Israel, it is possible that the people of Egypt would have turned a ‘blind eye’ to the domestic situation that Egypt had got into. This military failure combined with a weak economy led to riots in Egypt and attacks on the rich by the many poor.

After the failure of Yom Kippur, Anwar al-Sadat became convinced that the only way ahead was via diplomatic and peaceful means. He believed that Egypt would greatly benefit from a “peace dividend”. In 1977, Sadat announced to the Egyptian Parliament, that he was prepared to go anywhere to negotiate a peace settlement with the Israelis even to Israel itself – this was the so-called “Sadat Initiative” . Anwar al-Sadat went to Jerusalem and started a process that was to culminate with the talks at Camp David hosted by America’s President Jimmy Carter. For this work, Sadat was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Anwar al-Sadat had gone along a potentially dangerous path. Many in Egypt were against his new found relationship not only with Israel and also with America. To counter this, Sadat did what he could to improve the lifestyle of the poor, especially in the overcrowded city of Cairo. He believed that such people were vulnerable to Muslim fundamentalism – but not if they saw the government doing what it could to help them improve their lifestyle. Sadat had a massive task undoing the poverty in Egypt that had existed there for many years. It could not be eradicated overnight. However, time was not on Sadat’s side. On October 6th 1981, Sadat was assassinated by Muslim fundamentalists.

Why Did Sadat Throw the Soviets Out of Egypt?

The decision by Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat to remove the Soviet military presence from his country during the summer of 1972 has often been viewed as the first step on the road to the October War the following year. By removing the Soviet presence, it has been argued, Sadat was also removing the major obstacle preventing him from engaging in another war with Israel.(1) Though Sadat insisted at the time that the expulsion of the Soviets was simply a result of the growing differences between Moscow and Cairo,(2) and while others have argued that their removal was a direct result of the Soviet-American detente,(3) it seemed clear that since Moscow was opposed to risking its new relationship with the United States by supporting Egypt in another war with Israel, Sadat had no choice but to ask for their departure.

In Washington, American officials were reportedly "shocked" to learn of Sadat's announcement. Henry Kissinger later recalled that Sadat's decision came as a "complete surprise to Washington," and he quickly met with the Soviet ambassador to dispel any notion that the United States had colluded with the Egyptians in reaching this end.(4) President Nixon, similarly, hurried a letter to Leonid Brezhnev, claiming the United States had "no advanced knowledge of the recent events in Egypt," and assured the Soviet Premier that the United States would "take no unilateral actions in the Middle East" as a result of the recent developments.(5)

Early scholarly treatment of Sadat's decision to remove the Soviet military presence has generally fallen in line with this official account. William B. Quandt, for example, argued that the expulsion of the Soviet advisors came at "curious" time in Washington since Nixon was preoccupied with an election campaign and would not risk his lead in the polls "by embarking on a controversial policy in the Middle East."(6) In his study of the Soviet-Egyptian relationship, Alvin Z. Rubinstein also concluded that "as far as can be determined Sadat consulted no one his decision was his own."(7)

More recently, scholars have placed the expulsion in the context of Soviet-American relations rather than in the deteriorating relationship between Egypt and Russia. In Raymond L. Garthoff's view, it was the agreements reached between the United States and the Soviet Union during the 1972 Moscow Summit, which effectively put the Arab-Israeli conflict on the backburner, that became the "last straw" for Sadat.(8) Henry Kissinger reached similar conclusions in his 1994 study Diplomacy, in which he argued that "the first sign that [detente] was having an impact came in 1972 [when] Egyptian President Anwar Sadat dismissed all his Soviet military advisors and asked Soviet technicians to leave the country."(9)

Without archival evidence, however, several questions surrounding Sadat's decision to expel the Soviet military presence from Egypt still remain: To what extent did the United States have prior knowledge of Sadat's intentions? Did the United States work with Sadat in seeking the removal of the Soviets? And was the expulsion of the Soviet military presence from Egypt really the first step to the October War, as some have argued, or was it simply the easiest way for Sadat to tell the United States that he was prepared to take Egypt in a new direction?

New material emerging from American archives and summarized in this article suggests that Sadat's decision to remove the Soviet advisors was hardly the surprise that American officials later claimed it to be. Documents now declassified from State Department and National Security Council files, as well as numerous hours of recorded conversations between President Nixon and his senior foreign policy advisors, show that as early as May 1971, over a year before the expulsion of the Soviet advisors, American officials were well aware of Sadat's intentions and worked aggressively to ensure the removal of the Soviet presence from Egypt. Throughout the summer of 1971, these sources show, the Nixon administration took numerous steps to help Sadat remove the Soviet military presence from his country. We now know, in fact, that Nixon's decision to suspend the supply of aircrafts to Israel at the end of June, and his decision to aggressively press for the reopening of the Suez Canal as part of an interim agreement between Egypt and Israel had just as much to do with getting the Soviets out of Egypt as it did with finding a long-term peace agreement between Egypt and Israel.

Just as important, though, these new sources demonstrate that the expulsion of the Soviet military presence had very little to do with preparing Egypt for another war with Israel. For Sadat, the decision to remove the Soviets was clearly a decision he had made from the earliest days of his presidency to not only become much closer to the West, but to avoid another war with Israel, which he knew Egypt would undoubtedly lose.

Muhammad Anwar el-Sadat

As the initiator of both war and peace, Muhammad Anwar el-Sadat is a controversial historical figure. What with instigating a coup with Germany against British forces in World War II, leading the Yom Kippur War against Israel, and supposedly betraying the Muslim Brotherhood by forming a peace treaty with Israel, Anwar Sadat may be known as a complicated hero to some, but as an unforgivable traitor to others.

Muhammad Anwar el-Sadat (image courtesy of

Born on December 25 th , 1918, Anwar Sadat spent his childhood in Mit Abul-Kum, Egypt, along with his parents and thirteen siblings ( Anwar Sadat 1). Through working with people in a collective manner, he found contentment and significance in being a part of something much more than his family or his community he saw value in the land of Egypt itself (Anwar Sadat 2). This aspect of his upbringing contributed to his passion for bringing Egypt back under local rule, as Britain still controlled the country during that time (

In his village, he entered the Koranic Teaching School before moving to a Coptic Christian school – all because of the influence of his grandmother, who had hopes for him to gain an education to be a sheikh in a mosque (Anwar Sadat 4). She was an impactful person in his early life, instilling a traditional ballad in his heart that expressed the great importance and heroism in resisting the British (Anwar Sadat 6). This ballad, which told of Zahran, a heroic figure that led a fight against the British before being hanged for his acts, became another significant catalyst for Sadat’s hatred of oppression and his intense striving for Egypt’s independence (Anwar Sadat 6).

Sadat in the Egyptian army (image courtesy of

Sadat attended other primary and secondary schools in Cairo when his father suddenly came back from the army and moved the family away from the village (Anwar Sadat 6). Then, after graduating in 1938 from the Cairo Military Academy, he entered the Egyptian army and was stationed in Sudan (Al Jazeera). While there, he eventually developed a friendship with Gamal Abdel Nasser, who later on became the president of Egypt before Sadat would succeed him ( Aljazeera). During World War II, they worked together to try to force Britain from Egypt by supporting and coming alongside the Germans (Encyclopædia Britannica). They did this by forming the Free Officers Movement (Al Jazeera). However, because of his goals and collusion with Germany, his working with the Movement came to a halt when he was arrested by the British in 1942 (Al Jazeera). While he escaped two years later, he was arrested again in 1946, as he was implicated in the murder of Amin ‘Uthman, a minister in support of the British ( When he was acquitted and released in 1948, he shortly thereafter rejoined the Free Officers Movement, which Nasser was running at that time (

Through this revolutionary group, Sadat and Nasser overthrew King Farouk I, the then monarch of Egypt, in 1952 (Al Jazeera). Afterwards, Sadat supported Nasser’s election as the second president of Egypt in 1956, and ended up becoming vice president from 1964 to 1966 and 1969 to 1970 (Encyclopædia Britannica

Nasser died in September 1970, leaving Sadat as the acting president before being officially elected the next month (Encyclopædia Britannica). Upon rising to permanent office, he began steering the government away from Nasser’s politics and style of leading (Encyclopædia Britannica). Notably, he began infitah, an open-door policy meant to significantly alter the economy by bringing in foreign investment and trade (Encyclopædia Britannica). Unfortunately, this led to the inflation and huge gaps between socioeconomic classes that eventually sparked the January 1977 food riots ( However, his presidency was widely known more by his significant decisions regarding relations in the Middle East.

Anwar Sadat in uniform (image courtesy of

Initiating the Yom Kippur War in 1973 was one of these significant decisions. This was in large part a retaliation against Israel after the 1967 Six Day War, in which, to the utter disappointment and mortification of Nasser and Sadat, Israel won soundly and took back even more territory – the whole Sinai Peninsula – as well as destroyed much of Egypt’s offensive military, including its air force (Al Jazeera). In order to gain back the land, Sadat paired up with the Syrian army to surprise-attack Israel on Yom Kippur, the Jewish holiday for the Day of Atonement (Encyclopædia Britannica). Though it was not a complete success, Sadat surfaced as a respected leader in the Arab community, and, curiously enough, peace talks started up again between the nations (

It was during these last several years of his presidency that Sadat engaged in intensive communications with Israel. Sadat was actually the first Arab leader to go to Jerusalem, not to mention the first to go there to form a peace treaty (Al Jazeera). In 1977, he met the Israeli Knesset, Israel’s parliament, to share his plans (Encyclopædia Britannica). In 1978, he and Israeli Prime Minister Menachim Begin flew to Camp David, Maryland, to negotiate an agreement along with United States President Jimmy Carter (Al Jazeera Encyclopædia Britannica). Out of this meeting came the Camp David Accords, which served as a preliminary peace agreement between the two nations ( This eventually led to another peace treaty signed in 1979 – the first of its kind between an Arab nation and Israel ( It put an end to the continuous state of war that they had been in since 1948 (Al Jazeera).

Sadat, Carter, and Begin laughing at the meeting for the Camp David Accords (image courtesy of

Due to his pursuit of peace with Israel, the long-time enemy of Egypt and surrounding countries, Sadat brought ill-favor upon himself from those who held similar thoughts as he once did as a young man. Though his striving for peace pleased many around the world – he and Begin even received the Nobel Peace Prize for their accomplishment – it enraged the Muslim Brotherhood, who believed that any concession with the disputed nation was a traitorous act ( As a result, Sadat was assassinated on October 6, 1981, by Muslim extremists (

Anwar Sadat the day of his assassination (image courtesy of

Although he remains a controversial and quite complex public figure, involving himself in morally debatable situations, I think that Anwar Sadat left behind a legacy of peace. During a summer term study abroad trip, my peers and I had the opportunity of going to Israel/Palestine to learn as much as we could about the complex conflicts and rich history behind the tense and sometimes violent relations in the Middle East. However, our group did not focus only on the conflicts we explored what reconciliation might look like, as well as what it would take to get there.

Though peace is still a current goal that is not within full grasp yet, our group was encouraged by knowing that peace treaties had begun, in great part because of Anwar Sadat. It is largely because of his initiative that this process of peace began in the Middle East. With his story to look back to, there is still hope for peace and reconciliation in Israel, Palestine, and the surrounding Arab nations.

Sadat, Carter, and Begin after signing the Accords (image courtesy of

Featured image courtesy of

Anwar Sadat. “From Mit Abul-Kum to the Aliens’ Jail.” Anwar El-Sadat: In Search of Identity, An Autobiography, Harper Row, 1978, pp. 2–40.

When Anwar Sadat came to Jerusalem 40 years ago

The Knesset on Tuesday marked the 40 year anniversary of the historic visit by former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat to Israel, which paved the way for the peace deal between the two former enemy countries.

On November 20, 1977, Sadat became the first — and so far only — Arab leader to visit Israel and address the Knesset with a call for peace.

Sadat’s visit heralded Israeli-Egyptian talks at Camp David a year later, and a full peace agreement in 1979, just six years after the painful Yom Kippur War.

After arriving at Ben Gurion Airport on November 19, Sadat met with Begin. The next day, he prayed at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, and visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, before heading to Israel’s parliament to give his speech (full text here).

“I sincerely tell you that before us today lies the appropriate chance for peace, if we are really serious in our endeavors for peace. It is a chance that time cannot afford once again. It is a chance that, if lost or wasted, the plotter against it will bear the curse of humanity and the curse of history,” Sadat told the Knesset in Arabic.

Photographs from the visit show Sadat deep in conversation with Israeli leaders, flower-adorned schoolchildren waiting in Jerusalem for a glimpse of the Egyptian president, and journalists from around the world frantically dispatching their reports.

History and Humiliation

As the battle for Baghdad begins and public opinion in the Middle East is further inflamed, the prevailing view in Washington remains that military victory will fix everything in the end. Two notions drive this view: that the defeat of Saddam Hussein will put the militant forces in the Middle East on the defensive and that the overwhelming exercise of American power will command respect, thus compliance, in the region, even if it doesn't win hearts. Neither is supported by historical trends.

It is reasonable to argue that forces of militancy in the Middle East went on the defensive after the 1991 Gulf War. At that time, those hoping for radical change in the region had pinned their hopes on the power of states such as Iraq. The sense of Arab vulnerability after the demise of the Soviet Union created a vacuum of power that Saddam Hussein sought to fill. But the defeat of Iraq in 1991 dashed the aspirations of those seeking radical change.

Today militancy in the Middle East is fueled not by the military prospects of Iraq or any other state but by a pervasive sense of humiliation and helplessness in the region. This collective feeling is driven by a sense that people remain helpless in affecting the most vital aspects of their lives, and it is exacerbated by pictures of Palestinian humiliation. There is much disgust with states and with international organizations.

Few in the Middle East believe Iraq has a serious chance in its war with the United States, and pictures of overwhelming American power exercised against an inferior Iraqi army have only reinforced the belief that Iraq is a helpless victim. Unfortunately, the inspirations for overcoming weakness are non-state militant groups, which serve as models that many hope to emulate. The defeat and occupation of Iraq are likely to exacerbate the sense of humiliation and to increase militancy in the region.

It is instructive to look back at similar moments in regional history, when states failed to deliver. The collective Arab defeat by Israel in the 1967 war left Arabs in despair after they had put their faith in the potential of Egypt's president, Gamal Abdel Nasser. It was non-state militant groups that revived hope for change. Within months independent Palestinian groups emerged and began operating within and outside the region. An episode in 1968 was especially telling. As Israeli forces raided a Palestinian stronghold in the town of Karameh in Jordan, they suffered more casualties than expected, and the operation was seen as a failure. News of the Palestinian success was quickly contrasted with the devastating failure of Arab states. Karameh, which coincidently means "dignity" in Arabic, became a metaphor for restoring regional honor. Within days, 5,000 recruits signed up to join the Palestinian groups in refugee camps.

The notion that the overwhelming exercise of power can achieve peace in areas of protracted conflict is not supported by the modern history of the Middle East. To be sure, power can prevent one's defeat and inflict significant pain on the enemy, but rarely can it ensure long-term compliance. In its confrontation with Lebanon, Israel's overwhelming military superiority over the weakest of neighbors has not translated into the power to compel the Lebanese to accept Israel's terms or eliminate militancy. The Palestinians, after 35 years of occupation, are less resigned to their fate than ever. In fact, studies of conflict and cooperation among different parties in the region show that conflict goes on despite the inequality of power as the weaker party's threshold of pain increases with every blow. The asymmetry of power is often balanced by an asymmetry of motivation.

Dignity has sometimes been a factor even in the calculations of states, despite significant imbalances of power. In explaining the reasoning for Egypt and Syria's launching a war against a superior Israel in 1973, former secretary of state Henry Kissinger put it this way: "Our definition of rationality did not take seriously into account the notion of starting an unwinnable war to restore self-respect." It is unlikely that Egypt's president, Anwar Sadat, would have been able to extend his hand to Israel four years later without having restored his people's dignity.

Besides the defeat of Iraq in 1991, one reason the militants in the region were put on the defensive was the emergence of a plan that raised hopes for a fair, negotiated settlement of the Arab-Israeli dispute. That some such plan will be even more necessary after the war with Iraq is clear. The prospects for it are not. It is improbable that Arab-Israeli peacemaking will become the Bush administration's top priority after the collapse of the regime in Baghdad. Defending thousands of troops in Iraq, maintaining Iraq's unity, addressing the North Korean challenge, focusing on the economy -- all these will surely be higher priorities. It is certainly possible, though not likely, that Arabs and Israelis will decide to move forward on their own for reasons unrelated to the United States. But it is not possible to imagine that the issue will go away, that the region will deem it less important than before, or that the exercise of overwhelming force will command compliance and reduce militancy -- even if the region is stunned into a temporary lull.

To honor the sacrifice of young American (and British) soldiers, and the many innocent victims in Iraq, we must begin at home by challenging faith in the overwhelming use of force as a primary instrument of foreign policy -- even as we hope for a quick and decisive end to the Iraq war.

The writer is Anwar Sadat professor of peace and development at the University of Maryland and senior fellow at the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution. He is author of The Stakes: America and the Middle East (Westview Press, 2003).