Muhammad Anwar El-Sadat

Muhammad Anwar El-Sadat
(1918 - 1981)

Egyptian army officer and politician who was president of Egypt from 1970 until his death. He initiated serious peace negotiations with Israel, an achievement for which he shared the 1978 Nobel Prize for Peace with Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin. Under their leadership, Egypt and Israel made peace with each other in 1979.
Sadat graduated from the Cairo Military Academy in 1938. During World War II he plotted to expel the British from Egypt with the help of the Germans. The British arrested and imprisoned him in 1942, but he later escaped. In 1950 he joined Gamal Abdel Nasser's Free Officers organization; he participated in their armed coup against the Egyptian monarchy in 1952 and supported Nasser's election to the presidency in 1956. Sadat held various high offices that led to his serving in the vice presidency (1964-66, 1969-70). He became acting president upon Nasser's death on Sept. 28, 1970, and was elected president in a plebiscite on October 15. Sadat's domestic policies included decentralization and diversification of the economy and relaxation of Egypt's political structure.

It was in foreign affairs that Sadat made his most dramatic efforts. Feeling that the Soviet Union gave him inadequate support in Egypt's continuing confrontation with Israel, he expelled thousands of Soviet technicians and advisers from the country in 1972. The following year he launched, with Syria, a joint invasion of Israel that began the Arab-Israeli war of October 1973. The Egyptian army achieved a tactical surprise in its attack on the Israeli-held Sinai Peninsula, and, though Israel successfully counterattacked, Sadat came out of the war with greatly enhanced prestige as the first Arab leader to actually retake some territory from Israel.

After the war, Sadat began to work toward peace in the Middle East. He made a historic visit to Israel (Nov. 19-20, 1977), during which he traveled to Jerusalem to place his plan for a peace settlement before the Knesset (Israeli Parliament). This initiated a series of diplomatic efforts that Sadat continued despite strong opposition from most of the Arab world and the Soviet Union. The U.S. president Jimmy Carter mediated the negotiations between Sadat and Begin that resulted in the Camp David Accords (Sept. 17, 1978), a preliminary peace agreement between Egypt and Israel. Sadat and Begin were awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1978; and their continued political negotiations resulted in the signing on March 26, 1979, of a treaty of peace between Egypt and Israel, the first between the latter and any Arab nation.

While Sadat's popularity rose in the West, it fell dramatically in Egypt because of internal opposition to the treaty, a worsening economic crisis, and Sadat's suppression of the resulting public dissent. He was assassinated by Muslim extremists while reviewing a military parade commemorating the Arab-Israeli war of October 1973.

Studies of Sadat's life and achievements include David Hirst and Irene Beeson, Sadat (1981); Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, Sadat and His Statecraft, 2nd ed. (1983); Mohamed Heikal (Muhammad Haykal), Autumn of Fury: The Assassination of Sadat (1983); and Raphael Israeli, Man of Defiance: A Political Biography of Anwar Sadat (1985).

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