Anwar Sadat shaking Menachem Begin's hand in Israel's Knesset

On November 20th, 1977, just a day after arriving in Jerusalem, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat addressed a specially arranged meeting of the Knesset. The Egyptian President spent his morning reciting prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and paying his respects to the Holocaust Memorial at Yad Vashem. Right before entering the Knesset to deliver his address, Sadat placed a wreath at one of the many memorials for Israel’s fallen soldiers.  

Sadat’s speech delivered to the Knesset marked the beginning of the peace process between Egypt and Israel, which was signed between him and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Yitzhak Shamir, then serving as Speaker of the Knesset, opened the session by quoting from the book of Isian and then welcoming Sadat to the stage. 

“I extend a warm welcome to our distinguished guest, the President of the Egyptian Arab Republic, Mr. Mohammed Anwar Sadat. With joy and admiration, we accepted his offer to come to the Knesset and address us. We will listen to him eagerly and with hope in our hearts.”

Sadat’s speech began with the Arab-Muslim phrase “Bismillah”, which translates into “in the name of god”. The Egyptian leader then proceeded to express his willingness for peace and acceptance of Israel’s right to exist. “I come to you today on solid ground, to shape a new life, to establish peace. We all, on this land, the land of God; we all, Muslims, Christians, and Jews worship God and no one but God. God’s teachings and commandments are love, sincerity, purity, and peace.”

The major focus of the speech was “Peace with Justice'', which came to stress the importance of normalizing Israeli-Arab relations under specific conditions. Sadat noted all throughout his speech that a peace agreement should be based on the principles of Israel recognizing the Palestinian people and striving for peace throughout the region while returning occupied lands in the process. 

At the time, the thought of a prominent Arab leader speaking at the Knesset was mind-blowing. Sadat’s speech and a general desire for peace were greatly welcomed in Israel, however, the Egyptian public had mixed views on the political move. Sadat was later assassinated by an Egyptian man affiliated with the Muslim brotherhood for his brave leap of faith in true peace. Israel’s Prime Minister Menachem Begin responded with Israel’s desire “for true peace with all of our neighbors to be expressed in treaties of peace.”


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