Book Chapter: Diab, al-Sādāt’s Knesset Address, Ṣulḥ, and Diplomacy

Diab, Rasha. “From the Egyptian People’s Assembly to the Israeli Knesset: al-Sādāt’s Knesset Address, Ṣulḥ, and Diplomacy.” In Shades of Ṣulḥ. The Rhetorics of Arab-Islamic Reconciliation (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2016): 112-60.

 

Shades of Sulh

Extract

In late November 1977, Muḥammad Anwar al-Sādāt undertook a risky and highly visible trip across the Egyptian-Israeli border to visit with the Knesset . The epigraph above comes from his Knesset address (hereafter KA) and sums up its overall goal, which sought to enable deliberation commensurate with the gravity of a series of wars and to attain peace. al-Sādāt’s KA interrupted and transformed a prolonged diplomatic stalemate, resuscitated peace talks, and eventually led to the Camp David Treaty. The KA and texts it deliberates with and against are the focal point of this chapter.

This chapter offers a bidimensional reading of ṣulḥ discourse, underlining how al-Sādāt’s diplomatic deliberations resuscitated Egyptian-Israeli peace talks in 1977 by drawing on a long tradition of public, formal ṣulḥ in addition to the three main features of ṣulḥ, namely initiating peace through commitment; mobilizing witnesses; and creating a community, political structure included, of peace pursuers. As such, this chapter provides yet another case where the three main features of ṣulḥ are conspicuous. I contend that these features of ṣulḥ are crucial to understanding al-Sādāt’s 1977 peace initiative and that they are the backbone of the address. However, ṣulḥ continues to be invisible in scholarship on al-Sādāt’s initiative. It is important to note that in this case ṣulḥ expresses itself in relation to other discourses that also seek to create transformative encounters, namely diplomatic discourse, border crossing, war/peace epideictic rhetoric, and policy articulations at moments of crises. In this mix, ṣulḥ can be forgotten unless we deliberately tease out its manifestation in both the symbolic and procedural dimensions of peacemaking.

 

 

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