Why did President Anwar Sadat of Egypt visit Israel in 1977?
It is over thirty years ago on November 19, 1977 that the plane of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat landed near Tel Aviv at the Ben-Gurion Airport. This was the first move towards peace of any kind by an Arab leader towards Israel and so it marked as a historic event in the Middle East disturbances. This visit and his speech at the Knesset were remembered by Israel and his supporters as courageous and to this day, he is credited with changing the geopolitics of the entire Middle East. It opened a path of peace between Arab world and Israel and moved towards shaping a new agenda of how political relations would work in the region.
Eleven days before Sadat visited Israel, he stated in a speech given in Cairo that he was willing to go to “the ends of the earth” to find peace between the two nations. A series of complex negotiations continued after which Israel welcomed Sadat to visit their Jerusalem. In his acceptance speech at the Knesset, Sadat had the following words to say for the long awaited peace which was looked forward by both Arabs and Israelis.
“Let us put an end to wars, let us reshape life on the solid basis of equity and truth. And it is this call, which reflected the will of the Egyptian people, of the great majority of the Arab and Israeli peoples, and indeed of millions of men, women, and children around the world that you are today honoring. And these hundreds of millions will judge to what extent every responsible leader in the Middle East has responded to the hopes of mankind.”
There are said to be quite a few reasons why Sadat decided to make peace with Israel. Sadat realized that force did not prove successful in gaining back their lost lands in the wars of 1967 and 1973 and so a point of peace should be reached to establish safe borders for the country. One reason of Sadat reaching for truce is that he wanted to introduce Egypt to the rest of the world and in doing so; he established good connections with the U.S., boosted his popularity in the West and prevented his country from possible future disputes.
A comprehensive peace agreement was signed by Egypt and Israel two years after the visit, in 1979. Following the Camp David Accords and facilitated by United States president Jimmy Carter, Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin signed the treaty in Washington, DC. These agreements, which were results of meetings having President Jimmy Carter acting as an intermediary, are known as Camp David Accords. The accords asked Israel to withdraw its troops from the settlements of Sinai and grant some concessions on the Palestinians’ right to determination. In return, Egypt diplomatically agreed to recognize Israel as an independent state and allow Israeli ships across Suez Canal.
Sadat’s diplomatic visit gained him admiration not only from Israel but also from United States and his strategic move proved quite successful. For that, Sadat and Begin were awarded the Noble Peace Prize in 1978 for their successful peace negotiations.