Anwar Sadat

Anwar Sadat (Dec 25, 1918-Oct 6, 1981) was President of Egypt from Oct 15, 1970 until his assassination on Oct 6, 1981. He took over office from his close friend Gamal Nasser, and during his time in office he launched the Infitah along with reinstituting a multi-party system (Anwar el-Sadat).

Sadat was born into a poor family, and was cared for by his grandmother. As he grew older he idolized Gandhi's view of non-violence, and Hitler's quick rise to power also appealed to him (Anwar Sadat Biography). He graduated from Cairo's Royal Military Academy in 1938 and then proceeded to enter the army. During this period of time Egypt and Sudan were one country, and he worked secretly with Gamal Nasser (and several other army members) to form a British resistance group committed to freeing Egyptian grounds (Anwar Sadat). The resistance group, called the "Free Officers Movement," helped to overthrow the king during the Egyptian Revolution of 1952 and successfully freed Egypt from oppression. After rotating around the Egyptian government, Sadat was chosen to be Nasser's (then president) vice president in 1964 (Mohamed).

Sadat became president in 1970, and made short work of removing several of Nasser's policies. He also removed several of Egypt's leaders, which alienated his supporters who enjoyed Nasser's rule (Mohamed). On Oct 6, 1973, with Syrian help, Sadat started the Yom Kippur War (to recapture Sinai).

Relations with Israel under Sadat
While he was responsible for a great deal of tension between his own state and the newly created Jewish state to the east, Sadat was responsible for the period of most tranquil relations between Egypt and Israel. Breaking away from the norm, Sadat was first to recognize Israel as a legitimate state, and made the courageous move of visiting the former enemy. Sadat's legendary speech to the Israeli parliamentary body (the Knesset) spoke of peace, and and end to the long-lasting animosities of old (Sadat).

Interestingly, Sadat's moves toward peace began with a military action; the instigation of the Yom Kippur War. Egyptian forces were able to press 15 kilometers into Sinai, and this feat impressed the Arab world. The United Nations called the battle to a halt on Oct 24, 1973 by passing "Resolution 338," but this did not stop Egyptian morale from skyrocketing (Anwar Sadat Biography). With increased support from his countrymen, Sadat was then able to call for a potential halt to hostilites; had he attempted to make peace at a time during which his population held low morale, he might not have been able to shrug the feeling that he was, indeed, giving up (Sullivan).

On November 14th, 1977, in an impassioned interview with CBS-TV's esteemed journalist Walter Cronkite, Sadat expressed his readiness to visit Israel, if asked. The Israeli government responded with a formal invitation, which Sadat wasted no time in accepting (Times). In essence, Sadat's bold move redefined the entirety of the peace process that had been stalled in the Middle East for decades. The essential question was no longer "is peace possible?", but rather, "What sort of peace is possible?" by framing conversation in this manner, many more opportunities presented themselves. Sadat spoke of peace and prosperity for all in his address to the knesset, and Israeli leader Menachem Begin followed up by visitng Sadat's private residence in Egypt not long afterwards. Israeli Defense ministers met with Egyptian generals to go over military maps, and discuss possible treaties and other military negotiations (Times). All in all, the timbre of conversation between the Israeli and Egyptian governments had shifted towards a much more pleasant tone.

Perhaps the most important and most striking of all the incidinces of Sadat's presidency was the signing of the Camp David Accords. in 1979, Sadat became the first Egyptian leader to visit the United States, and did so to meet jointly with Menachem Begin and American President Jimmy Carter. Weeks of negotiation (during the course of which both Begin and Sadat repeatedly threatened to return home empty handed) led to a final treaty that included a plethora of benefits for the Egyptians (including the return of the Sinai peninsula), as well as a meager reward for Israeli participation (formal recognition of their legitimate existance). The Accords were publicly signed, and the major step towards a peaceful relation between an Arab state and Israel led to Sadat and Begin's joint reception of the Nobel Peace Prize (Pace).

Response to Sadat's Interaction with Israel
Internationally, Sadat's move toward a just and lasting peace with the purported enemy was met with harsh resistance. Sadat's image was marred in the eyes of those who now labelled him a traitor, one who felt no remorse for his Arab compatriots. Sadat's predecessor, Gamal Abdel Nasser, had worked to make Egypt the symbol of Pan-Arabism, an image that no longer fit the direction in which the nation was moving. The Arab League, a confederation of Arab states headquartered in Cairo, expelled Egypt as a member in 1979, and moved its headquarters to Tunis (Egypt would later be readmitted; the idea of an arab league that excluded the most militarily powerful Arab state was laughable) (Times).

Animosity towards Sadat was rampant among Palestinians, who were of the opinion that Sadat had betrayed them; indeed, Sadat publicly made the statement that he would no longer tolerate a loss of Egyptian life on behalf of the Palestinian people. While this statement seems inherently inflamatory, it is more likely that Sadat meant to communicate that, should he be able to attain peace for all by ignoring the then-ruling PLO entirely, he would not hesitate to do so (Sullivan).

Within his own nation, Sadat's push for peace was met with much more support. It was slowly being recognized that Egypt, with a largely impverished and starving popuation, could no longer afford to spend nearly 30% of its yearly budget on arms for war with Israel. There were, however, several groups of Islamic extremists (most aggresive being the "Islamic Jihad" group) who also felt that Sadat's friendship with the Jewish state, in addition to several recently pushed secularist policies, indicated a shift away from Muslim tradition that was unacceptable. It was perhaps this extremist sentiment that eventually led to Sadat's death (Pace).

The last years of Sadat's leadership were marred by troubles and allegations of corruption. Several groups were enraged that Sadat had made peace with Israel, and series of protests occured. Islamists were particularly angry with the treaty, mostly the Egyptian Islamic Jihad. There were reports that the EI-Jihad was accumlating weapons to launch a coup and capture power. In February 1981 Sadat ordered a roundup of over 1,500 people (including many EI-Jihad members). Missed in this mass roundup was Khalid Islambouli, who assassinated Sadat in October 1981.

Sadat was succeeded by his vice president Hosni Mubarak (Anwar Sadat Biography).

Interesting sidenotes:
  • Sadat's funeral was attended by a record number of world leaders, including three former U.S. presidents: Geral Ford, Richard Nixon, and Jimmy Carter (Anwar Sadat).
  • Sadat was married twice. He was married to Ehsan Madi at age 22, and divorced her several years later after the birth of their daughter. He then married Jehan Raouf. who was only 15 years old at the time.They had one son and three daughters

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Smith, Edwin. "Sadat Visits Israel." United Press International. 2009. Web. 2 Sept. 2009.

"Man of the Year: Anwar Sadat: Architect of a new Middle East." Time Magazine. Time Inc., 2 Jan.

1978. Web. 8 Sept. 2009. < magazine/article/0,9171,915853,00.html>.

Pace, Eric. "Anwar el-Sadat, the Daring Arab Pioneer of Peace with Israel." The New York Times on

the Web. The New York Times, 2008. Web. 7 Oct. 2009. < learning/general/onthisday/bday/1225. html>.

Sullivan, Terry. "Anwar Sadat Biography." Camp David Accords - Framework for Peace. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Sept. 2009.
< sullivan/CampDavid-Accords- homepage.html>.