JERUSALEM (Nov. 19)
On the 20th anniversary of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s historic visit to Israel, his widow said she hoped to live to see peace throughout the Middle East.
“Both Arabs and Jews can come together and create a new civilization,” Jihan Sadat told Israel Radio.
“I wish really to see this peace,” she said, adding, “I am sure I will see it in my lifetime.”
Anwar Sadat’s trip to Jerusalem and address before the Knesset on Nov. 19, 1977, was the first visit to Israel by an Arab leader and paved the way for direct Israeli-Egyptian peace talks.
As a result of the Camp David accords signed between Israel and Egypt in 1978, Sadat signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979.
He was assassinated on Oct. 6, 1981, as he was reviewing a military parade.
Egypt was the first Arab state to make peace with the Jewish state. Jordan was the only other Arab state to do so, signing a treaty with Israel in 1994.
Despite the high hopes generated by Egypt’s treaty with Israel, in recent years the two countries’ relationship has been described as little more than a “cold peace.”
Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem was a major turning point for Israelis, who became convinced of his seriousness about seeking peace.
Ephraim Katzir, who as Israel’s president at the time of the visit met Sadat at the airport and drove with him to Jerusalem, recalled this week the masses of people who lined the roads to greet the Egyptian leader.
“They were lined up, shouting, `Shalom, peace, salaam,’” Katzir told Israel Radio.
“Sadat was very excited, and very moved. He kept trying to lean out the window to wave back, and his security guards would pull him back in right away.”
There is still some debate over what motivated Sadat to make the trip to Jerusalem.
Some argue that prior to his visit, during a secret meeting in Morocco between then-Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan and a senior Egyptian official in 1997, Dayan conveyed Israel’s intent to return the Sinai Peninsula, which Israel captured in the 1967 war.
Between 1979 and 1982, Israel returned the Sinai to Egypt under the terms of the peace treaty.
But Dan Pattir, who was a senior aide to Begin during the period, said Israel never gave any formal agreement to return the Sinai before Sadat’s visit.
“Begin said to me there was never any agreement. Perhaps Sadat had got the sense from the meeting in Morocco of an implicit willingness on Israel’s part to return the Sinai, but no pre-arranged agreement was made,” Pattir told Israel Radio.