Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has hailed late Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat’s historic visit to Israel in 1977 which led to the establishment of diplomatic ties between both nations after decades of hostilities. Sadat, who had arrived at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, took “a bold step” by coming to the Israeli Parliament, Netanyahu said on Sunday prior to his weekly Cabinet meeting. “Today we mark 40 years to the historic visit of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in Jerusalem and Israel,” Efe news quoted Netanyahu as saying. He claimed that Sadat “was welcomed by the entire nation.” The Prime Minister said that Egypt, Israel and other countries were now on the same side in the fight against the terrorism of radical Islam and asserted this would contribute to the expansion of peace.
Many Arab countries viewed Sadat’s decision to unilaterally pursue a peace deal with Israel as a betrayal of the pan-Arab struggle and the Palestinian cause. After years of clashes with Israel in armed conflicts such as the Suez Crisis of 1956, the Six-Day War of 1967 and the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Sadat was the first leader of an Arab country to pay an official visit to Israel. The visit, which was the first rapprochement between the authorities of both countries, was the initial step for the progressive establishment of diplomatic relations, which culminated in March 1979 with the signing of a peace agreement for the return of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, occupied by Israel in 1967. During his visit, Sadat gave a speech before the Parliament, had several meetings with then-Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and went to pray inside al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem.
Sadat was assassinated in 1981 during a military parade in Cairo. This week, Israeli authorities are set to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the visit.