The 40th anniversary of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s historic visit to the Knesset took place on November 21. There, Sadat had announced:
“I have come to you so that together we might build a durable peace based on justice, to avoid the shedding of one single drop of blood from an Arab or an Israeli.”
To commemorate the occasion, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered an address, saying:
“The greatest obstacle to the expansion of peace today is not found in the leaders of the countries around us. The obstacle is public opinion on the Arab street, public opinion that has been brainwashed for years by a distorted and misleading presentation of the State of Israel.”
Netanyahu had a point. Today, four decades later — in spite of the lasting peace treaty between Cairo and Jerusalem — much of the media in Egypt continues to demonize Israel. Even under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, with whom Netanyahu has been developing mutually beneficial security relations, prominent figures in the state-run press disseminate anti-Israel conspiracy theories.
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: It is widely assumed that Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat made peace despite their deep personal incompatibilities. But in fact, there were significant parallels in the lives of both men, and these may have facilitated their coming to an agreement. The similarities between them – their early careers in “underground” movements, their stints in prison, their struggles against the British and hatred of the Soviet Union, their years on the margins of power, and their clearly defined definitions of homeland – may have eased their final compromise.
It is now thirty-eight years since the signing of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, most famously evoked by the three-way handshake on the White House lawn that changed the Middle East. Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian president Anwar Sadat put war behind Israel and Egypt, and in so doing, ended the Israeli-Arab conflict. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues, and so too does the Israeli-Iranian struggle. But Israeli-Egyptian peace put an end to the destructive battlefield wars between Israel and Arab states of the kind that erupted in 1948, 1956, 1967, and 1973. Since the famous handshake among Begin, Sadat, and Jimmy Carter, there has been no battlefield war between Israel and a conventional Arab army. And Egypt and Israel now have been at peace longer than they were at war.