Few moments in the history of the Middle East were as dramatic as President Anwar Sadat’s descending from his airplane and stepping, for the first time, on Israeli soil. In a breathtaking gesture of goodwill, he broke through the mistrust and animosity of three decades of war and made real the prospect of peace, Israel’s long-sought goal. Although full peace between Arabs an Israeli’s has not come as quickly as Sadat and his partner, Menachem Begin, and hoped, the example of Sadat’s courageous journey–and Israel’s warm welcome to its wartime foe–remains the standard by which all future peacemaking efforts will be judged.
In November 1997, The Washington Institute was proud to convene a special conference to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of President Sadat’s journey to Jerusalem. Numerous scholars, diplomats, journalists, government officials, and even the late president’s daughter, Camelia, gathered in Washington for two days of reminiscences, analysis, and discussion about Sadat the man, his strategy at home and abroad, and his legacy for Egypt and the wider Middle East. While a celebration of Sadat and his hopes for peace, the conference was, in retrospect, a bittersweet event; convened against the backdrop of Egypt’s refusal to attend the Doha economic conference and the deepening impasse in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, it underscored how much of Sadat’s visions–both for Egypt’s bilateral peace with Israel and for the wider search for comprehensive peace–remains unfulfilled. Indeed, many attendees were wistful that the Middle East today has so few leaders of stature of Sadat and Begin, farsighted statesmen able to see the future and build it one day at a time.
The presentations contained in this volume reflect the discussions during the 1997 conference held by The Washington Institute. The presentations attempt to present the legacy and impact of Anwar Sadat on Egypt and the rest of the Middle East and the future search for peace.