Thesis: Anwar Sadat's Address to the Knesset 1977 and Begin's Reply

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¶ … Anwar Sadat's address to the Israeli Knesset on November 20, 1977 and Menachem Begin's reply. This historic occasion marked a decided attempt for the Egyptian Arabs and Israeli Jews to bury their differences and bring peace to the Middle East. These two speeches show there was a willingness to work together for harmony, but in the end, the peace overtures did not work, and while the two countries did come to an agreement on peaceful terms, this did not spread to the entire region, which seems to be the ultimate goal Sadat had at the time.

In these historic speeches, Anwar Sadat, President of Egypt, first addressed the Israeli Knesset in November 1977, in an attempt to bring the two nations together, and in turn bring peace to the entire Middle East. Sadat said to the assembly, "Ladies and gentlemen, there are moments in the lives of nations and peoples when it is incumbent upon those known for their wisdom and clarity of vision to survey the problem, with all its complexities and vain memories, in a bold drive towards new horizons" (Sadat). It seems he truly did want to bring the two sides together, to bury old differences, and to bring peace to the region, and his speech is a stirring call to all the parties to bury the hatchet and just get along with each other. The Knesset is the Israeli legislature, and so, Sadat, and then Begin, addressed the lawmakers of Israel in an effort to bring unity and stability to the region and to Israel.

Sadat notes there are great differences and barriers between the two groups, and yet, there are ways to blend those differences. He continues, "Yet, there remains another wall. This wall constitutes a psychological barrier between us, a barrier of suspicion, a barrier of rejection; a barrier of fear, or deception, a barrier of hallucination without any action, deed or decision" (Sadat). In both speeches, it seems there is a real desire for peace in the region, but it is quite clear that the two sides are very far apart; no matter how much they might desire peace. Begin states, "We do not wish to divide. We seek true peace with all our neighbours, to be expressed in peace treaties, the context of which shall be as I have already clarified" (Begin). However, both parties have stipulations and requirements that must be met, and these stipulations are the thing that keeps the two parties from truly reaching a peaceful accord.

Sadat's argument seems sincere and truly interested in creating a lasting peace, but he makes it quite clear that there are several non-negotiable items, including Israel returning all lands taken during previous wars, a place for Palestinians, and the return of Jerusalem to Palestine. These are things that must occur for him to agree to a peace treaty, and it is clear these are areas of strong contention between the two countries. He also seems sincere in his address, and he seems quite determined to bring peace to the region. His entire speech is about that, and about the two countries developing a strong, lasting relationship that can translate to peace throughout the entire region. He does not want more war, because he understands the high cost of war, and he shares that with the Knesset. Toward the end of his speech he says, "I have chosen to come to you with an open heart and an open mind. I have chosen to give this great impetus to all international efforts exerted for peace. I have chosen to present to you, in your own home, the realities, devoid of any scheme or whim" (Sadat). He is attempting to show his sincerity, and his dedication to reaching a peaceful solution to the Middle East's turmoil. His speech seems to come from the heart, and as he reassures his listeners, he seems to be compassionate and yet determined. It is clear he will not simply give in to any demands Israel might develop, but it is clear he is open to dialogue, too.

Begin, on the other hand, seems to come to the debate with more of a "chip on his shoulder," so to speak. He opens his speech by noting that Israel has had to fight for their place from the moment the first Jews set foot in the new land of Israel. He is much more confrontational that Sadat and his arguments are more volatile. For example, he says,

But it is my duty - my duty Mr. Speaker, and not only my privilege - to assert today in truth that our hand, extended in peace, was rejected. And, one day after our independence was renewed, in accordance with our eternal and indisputable right, we were attacked on three fronts, and we stood virtually without arms (Begin).

It is clear that the two men are coming from very different positions about peace, and that there are great gaps between the two countries when it comes to negotiating peace and that is made clear from the very start of both speeches. These are two very different men, with two very different goals, it seems, and it begins to illustrate why there are so many difficulties in bringing peace to the region. Begin's argument is definitely on the defensive, and he does not spell out an alternative to what Sadat asks for, specifically giving up territory and returning Jerusalem to both parties, among other demands. Begin is willing to negotiate, but he seems less open to it than Sadat, and his arguments are much more defensive and political than Sadat's were.

The two speeches are quite different in style and delivery, and this points to the very crux of the problem in the Middle East. Each side has their own ideas, politics, and beliefs, and they are very difficult to bend. Israel has had to fight for their country from the very first, and the Arabs feel Israel was thrust upon them and they did not want to make room for the Jews. Both sides have arguments, and both sides have so many arguments that it is difficult for them to see eye-to-eye, as the continued conflict in the area shows.

Ultimately, there was a basis for compromise in this debate, because Israel and Egypt did sign a peace agreement in 1979. This did not spread to the rest of the Arab world, however, and the peace agreement did not include giving up territory, creating a new Palestine, or restoring Jerusalem, all of which Sadat asked for, however, Egypt did get the Sinai Peninsula back as a result of the peace treaty. The treaty was extremely unpopular in Egypt, and eventually led to Sadat's assassination in 1981. The Arab League also expelled Egypt after the peace treaty, which indicates how deeply divided the Arab world is over Israel.

While there was some room for compromise in the peace process, it is clear Israel and the Arab world still need to compromise much more if there is ever to be real peace in the region. Israel continues to hang on to territory they took during war, and there continues to be disputes with the Palestinians, which has led to continued conflict and violence in the area. The area is still at war, and Israel is still enemies with most of the Arab nations in the Middle East, and so, compromise has not had an effect on the overall peace process, and it seems that is really what Anwar Sadat was seeking in 1977. He wanted peace between Egypt and Israel, and he got it, but that did not lead to a lasting peace in the area, and it seems that may never occur unless all the parties are more willing to compromise.

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"Anwar Sadat's Address to the Knesset 1977 and Begin's Reply."  Essaytown.com.  November 17, 2008.  Accessed May 19, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/anwar-sadat-address-knesset-1977-begin/37675.