. . . Shortly after his visit in November 1977, in an article in New Outlook, I noted that President Sadat had accomplished, in one brief journey, what years of threats, military action and blanket boycotts had monumentally failed to achieve.If there was a turning point during his visit, it was when he proclaimed “we really and truly welcome you to live among us …”. . . . The psychological effect ran deep.The euphoria of the Egyptian president’s visit . . . galvanized the Israeli public and sparked off new political currents within the country, most notably the grassroots Peace Now movement. . . . In the face of the sustained momentum, a begrudging Menachem Begin eventually was impelled to withdraw from every centimetre of Egyptian territory. . . .
. . . [I]f the Sadat initiative was his model, President Obama may – possibly – have accomplished something rather more profound and far-reaching by his visit than simply laying down the law, which anyway would almost certainly have been repudiated by the dominant forces in the recently assembled Israeli government.In his [Guardian] column, Ian Black observed that President Obama pulled off the trick of “appealing to ordinary Israelis over the heads of their leaders”. Thirty-five years earlier, in my New Outlook article, I had similarly noted that President Sadat appealed “at one and the same time to Premier Begin and his government and over their heads direct to the people of Israel”. The question now is just how far will that distant echo reverberate today?. . . Obama is now a key player and a sizeable portion of Israeli public opinion will be looking to the US president for continued direction. The impetus must not be lost. Like Sadat before him, it is imperative that Obama, together with his spirited secretary of state John Kerry, keeps his foot on the pedal and not disappoint the constituencies within Israel he has inspired, generated or revived. Irreversible progress needs to be made while he is still in office. . . .
It seems to me that Obama’s speech differed from Sadat’s speech in one very fundamental way. Sadat came to settle the conflict between Israel and Egypt. The conflict at the moment is between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples and not between Israel and the USA. What is needed is not a Sadat-like speech from Obama but a Sadat-like speech from Abbas.