Anwar al-Sadat, creator of the ‘Sadat Initiative’, led Egypt after the death of Nasser. Sadat led Egypt from September 1970 to his assassination in 1981. He played a significant part in recent Middle East history by ordering Egypt to attack Israel in October 1973 in the Yom Kippur War and then seeking a resolution to the problems of the Middle East by peaceful and diplomatic means.
The so-called “Sadat Initiative” occurred during November 1977. Egypt was facing an economic crisis. For decades, Egypt had used her limited finances to invest in the military. Her ‘return’ for such an investment had not been good – land had been lost in the Sinai and in 1973, Israel had actually crossed the Suez Canal into Egypt and had, temporarily, appeared to threaten Cairo. A solution to the Middle East question would allow Egypt an opportunity to re-direct her finances to other pressing issues rather than just the military.
In November 1977, Anwar al-Sadat went to Jerusalem to speak to the Israeli parliament – the Knesset. He wanted to put forward directly to the Jewish people the issues that had to be confronted to solve the Middle East crisis from an Arab point of view. Many saw the visit as the first tacit recognition by an Arab nation that Israel existed as a sovereign state. The Palestine Liberation Organisation condemned Sadat – as did the governments of Syria, Libya and Algeria. However, the mould of mutual distrust between Egypt and Israel had been broken. This led to the meeting at Camp David in America between Anwar al-Sadat and Menachem Begin – hosted by the American president, Jimmy Carter.
While the Sadat Initiative may have moved the Middle East some way to peace, it was to cost Anwar al-Sadat his life. In 1981, he was assassinated in Egypt by Muslim fundamentalists who believed that he had betrayed the Arab people by negotiating with the Israelis.