(ISRAEL and the MIDDLE EAST to 1979 – continued)

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ISRAEL and the MIDDLE EAST to 1979 (6 of 7)

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Sadat and the Camp David Accords

Sadat had claimed victory at the end of the Yom Kipper War and had emerged from the war a hero in the eyes of his fellow Egyptians. With his apparent triumph, Sadat felt more secure politically, and he lightened up on repression. He granted amnesty to more political prisoners, lifted some censorship of the press and allowed political parties. War had again increased support for a fervent Islamism. Sadat made a show of his own religious devotion, putting himself closer to the feelings of Egypt's traditionally religious middle class.

Sadat was struggling with Egypt's economy and wished to be rid of the military costs associated with Arab wars against Israel. He wanted Israel to give back to Egypt the Sinai – while Israel found the Sinai useful to its defense. Peace also served Sadat's desire for increased foreign investments. Sadat sought better relations with the United States. And investments began to flow into Egypt.

In 1976, Sadat sought to improve his standing with the Muslim Brotherhood. He allowed the brotherhood to publish a monthly magazine, Al-Dawa. The brotherhood remained illegal but was the main body of Egyptian conservatism. It still favored Islamic laws over European influences. It was opposed to violence and had support of those with formal education and in the professions. Violence was the option of a group called Repentance and Flight from Sin, (Al Taqfir Wal Higrah), which made news in 1977 by going on a rampage against nightclubs. The group kidnapped and murdered a former government minister and scholar, Muhammad al-Dhahabi, and the Sadat regime moved against them.

Sadat was no friend of terrorists, and he continued his effort to improve relations and business ties with the West. In November, 1977, he visited Israel. Some Egyptians approved, and some did not. On May 26,1979, at Camp David, Sadat signed an accord with Israel – brokered by President Jimmy Carter. With this, Egypt gained the return of the Sinai from Israel.

Believing that Israel was an abomination in Islamic territory, the Muslim Brotherhood saw Sadat's agreement at Camp David as a sellout. Groups throughout the Arab world called for Sadat's overthrow or assassination. In Egypt, Sadat began making arrests. He ordered the closing of Al-Dawa, and he spoke of a "criminal use of religious power to misguide people." The Ayatollah Khomeini had recently risen to power in Iran, and Sadat told the press not to fear, that "we will have no Khomeini here."


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