What was Egypt’s peace proposal in 1971-1973?
After the War of Attrition was ended by a US-brokered cease-fire agreement, Egypt expressed its willingness “to enter into a peace agreement with Israel” in a February 20, 1971 letter to the UN Jarring Mission, by then almost moribund. But this seeming moderation masked an unchanging Egyptian irredentism and unwillingness to accept a real peace, as shown by the letter’s sweeping reservations and preconditions. In fact, Sadat, very new as Egypt’s leader, was primarily motivated by a need to placate Egyptian opinion. He later recalled:
- I believed that as military action was ruled out at the time, a diplomatic offensive had to be launched: the broad masses wanted to see action being taken at the time.
The crucial sentences about a “peace agreement with Israel” were neither published nor broadcast in Egypt. Moreover, Egypt refused to enter direct talks with the Jewish State. Israel attempted to at least transform the struggling Jarring mission into indirect talks by addressing all letters not to Jarring, but to the Egyptian government. Egypt refused to accept them.
Just after the letter to Jarring, Anwar Sadat, Egypt’s new president, addressed the Palestine National Council (PNC) meeting in Cairo. He promised support to the PLO “until victory” and declared that Egypt would not accept Resolution 242.
Five days after Sadat suggested he was ready to make peace with Israel, Mohammed Heikal, a Sadat confidant and editor of the semi-official Al-Ahram, wrote:
- Arab policy at this stage has but two objectives. The first, the elimination of the traces of the 1967 aggression through an Israeli withdrawal from all the territories it occupied that year. The second objective is the elimination of the traces of the 1948 aggression, by the means of the elimination of the State of Israel itself. This is, however, as yet an abstract, undefined objective, and some of us have erred in commencing the latter step before the former.
Sadat branded 1971 “the year of decision” (peace or war) for Israel, yet no war developed when Israel failed to sign a peace treaty. In 1972 and 1973, Sadat expanded his efforts by trying to involve the United States, threatening war unless the US made Israel sign a agreement that included full withdrawal. The threats were discounted until the Yom Kippur War in October 1973.