Sadat - AP/Archive - July 16, 2008
Anwar Sadat Photo by AP/Archive
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Agreat wind all at once blew/ The bold bells of peace all rang out/ Egypt's Sadat into Israel then flew/ Can we say it's no dream, without doubt?

These thrilling words were written on November 22, 1977, by the rough hands of none other than Moshe Dayan. The day after the the Egyptian president's visit to Jerusalem, Dayan entrusted the limerick to his close adviser Elyakim Rubinstein. The latter, who was to become a Supreme Court justice, tells in his 1992 book "Paths of Peace" (in Hebrew ), that although he has had many exciting experiences in his life, the moment the door of Anwar Sadat's plane opened at Ben-Gurion International Airport, "I will always remember with an unparalleled thrill."

Thirty-three years after Sadat captured the hearts of Israelis with his "No more war" speech in the Knesset, and his visit to Yad Vashem, they have closed again behind walls of hatred, fear and prejudice. In an article in the newly published book "Barriers to Peace in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict" (edited by Yaakov Bar Siman-Tov and published by the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies ), Dr. Neta Oren, Dr. Eran Haperin and Prof. Daniel Bar-Tal present research revealing that some 80 percent of Israeli Jews believe Arabs are dishonest, do not consider human life valuable and force Israel into war despite its desire for peace.

Ten years after the outbreak of the second intifada and the rise of Ehud Barak's claim that there is "no partner," only 44 percent of Israeli Jews believe that most Palestinians want peace (as opposed to 64 percent in 1999 ).

The fear of "concessions to the Arabs" is not the province of a handful of "loonies" whose passion for their ancestors' tombs has driven them around the bend. Israel has gone back to having a majority of people who view peace as a dangerous trap that the Arabs and their partners on the left are laying at the feet of weak politicians. Seventy-one percent believe that the Arabs' ultimate goal is to annihilate Israel. There is no Israeli leader, not even on the horizon, who has the power to force this large group to "give up territories to the Arabs."

Sadat used to say that "two thirds of the Arab-Israeli conflict is psychology." Indeed, one visit of the Arab leader in Israel's capital pushed aside 30 years of hatred, fear and suspicion. Four years after thousands of their sons were killed or injured in a cruel war with Egypt, Israelis wiped away a tear at the sight of the Egyptian president shaking the hand of their prime minister. Six months after the political upheaval that brought Likud to power, another upheaval took place in the way the Israeli public perceived the Arab enemy and the feelings of that enemy about Israel. The vast majority of Israelis, including most Likud members, supported the evacuation of settlements from the Yamit region, a return to the international border on the southern front and even recognition of the legitimate rights of the Palestinians.

In July 2009, Bahrain's crown prince wrote an article in the Washington Post called "Arabs Need to Talk to the Israelis." In it, Shaikh Salman ibn Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa criticized the Arab leadership for not being wise enough to show the Israelis the advantages of the Arab League peace initiative of March 2002. "An Israeli might be forgiven for thinking that every Muslim voice is raised in hatred," he wrote, ending with: "We must do more, now, to achieve peace."

The prince's call remained a voice crying in the Arab wilderness (he himself rejected this writer's proposal to be interviewed by Haaretz ). The Arab leadership insists on treating dialogue with Israeli society as part of "normalization" - the "fruits of peace" that the Israelis will get to taste only after they pledge to withdraw from all the territories. In his book, Elyakim Rubinstein revealed as baseless the claim that Sadat came to Jerusalem in November 1977 only after he received a promise that he would get back all of Sinai. Sadat understood that the war-weary Israelis would not make do with peace. They want to be made love to.

Indeed, what would happen if President Hosni Mubarak, Jordanian King Abdullah and Saudi King Abdullah, together with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, laid a wreath at Yad Vashem, and promised from the Knesset rostrum, "No more war"? That would be much easier for them than what Israel is being asked to do: evacuate tens of thousands of people from the settlements and divide Jerusalem.