Newly released army archives reveal that Israel’s generals disagreed whether Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s 1977 visit to Yerushalayim four years after the Yom Kippur War was a trick or a genuine peace initiative.
According to minutes of top staff meetings held four days after Sadat’s visit, Chief of Staff Mordechai Gur said the Egyptian delegation was very dissatisfied with Prime Minister Begin’s speech during the visit. Gur said he had been directed to “prepare the emergency brigades for war.”
Head of the IDF Southern Command Herzl Shafir wondered, “My first question is whether we can know what Sadat really wanted to achieve.” He felt that Sadat’s speech hinted at a future war.
Maj. Gen. Avigdor Ben-Gal was optimistic, saying that while the Israeli leaders were inflexible, “The very act of the Egyptian president coming to the Land of Israel and speaking to the Knesset is a breakthrough of the most serious historic [kind]. It’s not a propaganda step but rather a sincere and genuine step when it comes to the Egyptian president’s complex political personality.”
Ben-Gal upbraided the Knesset for not making the most of a historic opportunity. Bottom of Form
Maj. Gen. Shlomo Gazit, head of Military Intelligence, concurred, saying that there was total support for Sadat’s initiative in Egypt.
Deputy Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan was also optimistic.
“Let’s do this and see what comes of it,” he said, adding that he thought Sadat’s visit might be a precedent for other Arab leaders.