The Arab World at the Crossroads: The Opposition to Sadat Initiative
The visit of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to Jerusalem between November 19 and 21, 1977, marked a turning point in the history of the Arab- Israeli conflict. For half a century since the meeting between the Emir Faisal, son of Sherif Hussein of Mecca, and the Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann in June, 1918, no Arab leader had publicly met with any Zionist or Israeli official. Here, now, was the president of the largest Arab country visiting Israel without any preconditions, meeting with Israeli officials, delivering a speech to the Knesset and debating with its members. It would be true to say that this was a gesture that the Israelis had never envisaged in their wildest dreams. Irrespective of the consequences that have so far resulted from Sadat's visit to Israel or that may result in the future, it is clear that the Middle East in particular and the Arab world in general have entered a new era when developments cannot be easily foreseen.
Sabri Jiryis heads the Israel section of the PLO Research Center in Beirut. A graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, he is the author of The Arabs in Israel, Democratic Freedoms in Israel and Part I of the Arabic work Tarikh al-Sabyuniya (A History of Zionism).