COLLEGE PARK – Comparing the tempestuous period before the 1970s Camp David Accords to the current unrest in the Middle East, Israeli President Ezer Weizman Tuesday called upon the leaders of Arab countries to join the long journey started by the late Anwar Sadat.
“I hope the currents of history are stronger than anything else and that they will overcome the crises and we will succeed in achieving arrangements that will ensure us and our children of a secure and true peace in the Middle East,” Weizman told an audience of 800 at the University of Maryland at College Park.
Weizman delivered the first annual Sadat Lecture for Peace, established in honor of the slain Egyptian president.
In 1979, Weizman recalled, Sadat, along with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former Israel Prime Minister Menahem Begin, forged the Camp David Accords. Weizman, then Israel’s minister of defense, was there as well.
Twelve days’ work produced an agreement. Weizman said some people criticized the signators because they had not “stood firm” in their respective hard-line interests. But he disagreed, then and in retrospect.
“The greatness of leaders is measured in their ability to shake free of slogans, of their standing orders, of opinions that have been left behind and to understand the historical currents,” Weizman said. “And that was the greatness of Anwar Sadat, Menahem Begin and Jimmy Carter, as witnessed at Camp David.”
Tuesday’s occasion also marked the installation of Shibley Telhami as the first Anwar Sadat professor in a $1.5 million- endowed chair in the university’s Department of Government and Politics.
The endowment was raised in part through the efforts of Jehan Sadat, Sadat’s widow, who donated honoraria from her appearances over the last decade.
Mrs. Sadat said creation of the chair was indeed a dream and truly memorialized her husband’s life. “The journey from the battlefield to the peace table is a long and hard one,” she said, “but one definitely worth the effort.”
The chair, part of the Center for International Development and Conflict Management, commemorates Sadat’s quest for peace in the Middle East. Sadat was assassinated in 1981 after signing a peace treaty with Israel.
Telhami, former director of the Near Eastern Studies Program and associate professor of political science at Cornell University, specializes in international negotiations and conflict resolution. During the Iraq-Kuwait crisis, he served as advisor to the United States delegation to the United Nations. He has also worked on issues surrounding the Arab-Israeli peace process and security issues of the Persian Gulf region.
“It is possible to affect public policy without being an advocate, to be passionate about peace without losing analytical rigor, to be moved by what is just, while conceding that no one has a monopoly on justice,” Telhami told the audience. “This I shall strive to do as the best way to be faithful to the title that I now carry.”