Tuesday, November 27, 2012

"One of the Great Events of our Times": Sadat Comes to Jerusalem, November 1977

Most Israelis over 50 can remember what they were doing on November 19, 1977, 35 years ago this month. On that day, Anwar el-Sadat, the leader of Egypt, Israel's longtime enemy, arrived in Israel as an honored guest, after his sudden decision to come to Jerusalem and to address the Knesset. But for younger people these events must seem very far away. After the events of the last week, when Israel's relations with Egypt were again in the news and the peace agreement between the two countries was put to the test, it seems more relevant than ever to look at the beginnings of direct Israeli relations with Egypt and the negotiations that led to the historic accord between them.

A few years ago, when declassification of documents on the peace process started, the Israel State Archives decided to embark on a major project to collect and publish a selection of these documents. Today we published online the "first fruits" of this project, "No More War": The Peace Plan of the Israeli Government and President Sadat's Journey to Jerusalem, November 1977.
Begin and Dayan meet with Sadat and Mustapha Khalil, later Prime Minister of Egypt, in the King David Hotel
The publication includes 42 documents, dating back to the election of Menachem Begin as Prime Minister of Israel. We survey the peace policy put forward by his government, the unsuccessful attempts of the Carter administration to convene a Middle East peace conference in Geneva, secret contacts between Israel and Egypt, and Sadat's decision to break the deadlock by going to Jerusalem. Documents on the visit itself include notes by Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan, and the accounts from Begin and his team of the government meeting, which was specially declassified for this purpose. We haven't found any official minutes of the meetings with Sadat, though we're still looking.

We end with the plans for further meetings and a report by the Mossad on Dayan's secret meeting in Morocco with the Egyptian Deputy Prime Minister in December 1977. Although some of the most interesting documents are in Hebrew, such as the protocols (stenograms) of government meetings, many of them have English equivalents or translations. For example, you can see here Begin and Dayan's account of the Sadat visit to Samuel Lewis, the popular American ambassador.

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