Sadat’s Journey, 30 Years After

TOLEDO -- If “one man of courage makes a majority,” as Andrew Jackson said, then 30 years ago, in November 1977, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was such a man. His peace overture to Israel stunned the Middle East. He had, as he put it, gone “to the end of the earth” (the Knesset in Jerusalem), and in doing so transformed the region’s politics beyond recognition.

From that moment, the question for the Arabs was no longer how to destroy Israel, but how to reach an accomodation with it. In his dramatic leap into the future, Sadat taught Arab leaders the realities of a changing world.

For Sadat’s peace overture was born out of a sober strategic analysis of the regional balance of power. It was clear to him that Israel was a nuclear power that, in October 1973, had once again proven itself to be unbeatable in a conventional war – a war Sadat himself had never expected to win when he launched it.

Understanding Clausewitz’s dictum that war is a continuation of politics by other means, Sadat had sent the Egyptian Army across the Suez Canal in order to unleash a peace process. He was defeated militarily, but his decision to go to Jerusalem meant that he would succeed politically.