Jehan Sadat: The Lessons of Camp David ... What Anwar Sadat can teach us about peace





[Ms. Sadat, a fellow at the Anwar Sadat Chair for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland, is the author of "A Woman of Egypt" (Simon and Schuster, 1987) and "My Hope for Peace" (Free Press, 2009).]

Thirty years ago today, Anwar Sadat, Menachem Begin and Jimmy Carter signed the Camp David Peace Accords. It was a culmination of a journey Anwar Sadat, my husband, began in October 1970 following the sudden death of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser. Within hours of Nasser's funeral, my husband asked the U.S. ambassador to tell President Richard Nixon that Egypt was ready for peace.

There was no response, since at the time Egypt was a defeated nation having lost the Sinai Desert to Israel in the 1967 war. But Egypt's victory in the October War of 1973 put Sadat in a position to restart his mission for peace.

On Nov. 9, 1977, in an address to the Egyptian Parliament, my husband announced his intention to make peace with Israel. The audience, which included Yasser Arafat, was stunned at first. Then, they began clapping. When Sadat arrived 10 days later in Jerusalem, then Prime Minister Golda Meir said: "Why are you late? We have been waiting for you."

For months after Sadat's historic trip, Egyptian and Israeli leaders attacked the issues: the return to the pre-1967 borders (in particular the return of Sinai); the construction of Israeli settlements on disputed territory; the status of Jerusalem; and the right of return for the Palestinian refugees. Sadat also advocated for the creation of a Palestinian state.

Today, these same contentious issues remain unresolved. In 1979, we hoped the Camp David Treaty was the beginning of a comprehensive peace in the Middle East. But that hope has yet to be realized.

There have been moments when it seemed otherwise. In 1993, when Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat reluctantly shook hands in the White House Rose Garden, it looked like Israeli-Palestinian peace was imminent. And the situation was again promising in 1996, when Jordan and Israel made peace. But on the whole, Sadat's noble dream has waned. Sometimes, it's almost faded entirely as fighting between the Palestinians and Israelis intensified, while Lebanon and Syria sit by, waiting to see what will happen next. In conditions like these, how could anyone hope for peace?

I do. I believe that now, with tensions the highest they have ever been, the urgent need for renewed efforts is staring us in the face. It's time to re-examine my husband's method of making peace...


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