It is barely three weeks since President Anwar Sadat of Egypt first announced that he was willing to go to Israel if it would help being about a Middle East settlement.
It is barely three weeks since President Anwar Sadat of Egypt first announced that he was willing to go to Israel if it would help being about a Middle East settlement. Since then, he has occupied the centre of the stage: praised on the one hand for his courage and attacked on the other for deserting his Arab colleagues.
SYNOPSIS: In 1970, Egypt's President, Gamal Abdel Nasser, was the idol and undisputed leader of the Arab world. His sudden death left the Egyptian people wondering: who could possibly succeed a man of such stature?
When Anwar Sadat was sworn in many people in Egypt thought of him as a stop-gap.
Mr. Sadat was 51 -- an almost exact contemporary of President Nasser, and an old friend and colleague. Both had belonged to the group of officers who had overthrown the Egyptian monarchy in 1952. He had held high office, but had none of the charisma of the late President.
He soon showed his mettle in dealing with a serious challenge in his first year. More than 70 people were gaoled for a conspiracy to overthrow the government.
President Sadat regularly received other Arab leaders in Cairo, including Colonel Gaddafi of the Libyan Jamahiriyah, and President Assad of Syria. These two were his allies in the October war of 1973 against Israel. They are now among his sternest critics, accusing him of seeking a separate peace.
He welcomed President Podgorny of the Soviet Union to the opening of the Aswan High Dam -- for the dam had been built with Soviet help. But he surprised the world a year later by dismissing about 20,000 Soviet military experts. He believed, and showed, that Egyptians could handle their Soviet weapons for themselves.
In recent years, President Sadat has moved closer to the United States. In April this year, he visited Washington. President Carter has welcomed President Sadat's latest peace moves.
His historic visit to Jerusalem began on November 19th. Next day, he went to pray at the Al Aqsa mosque there. Outside, Palestinians urged him not to forget them. Then, the same afternoon, the main event of his visit his address to the Israeli parliament, the Knesset.
President Sadat re-emphasised that Israel must withdraw from occupied territories, and the Palestinians must have a homeland. In talks with the Israeli Prime Minister, Mr. Menachem Begin, he made no concessions, and received none. He made it clear that he had not gone to negotiate; merely to establish an atmosphere of confidence for negotiations.
President Sadat returned home to an enthusiastic welcome in Egypt, but left a bitterly critical Arab world. Mr. Begin will be represented at the forthcoming conference in Cairo, and the United States is likely to attend. But there is no sign yet that anyone else will do so.