Badran: Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem and the Knesset was a dark day and broke the nation’s back

publisher: الغد Al Ghad

Publishing date: 2015-02-12


Amman – In today’s episode, former Prime Minister Mudar Badran reveals fascinating details about a series of historical meetings that took place in the late seventies of the last century between the late King Hussein, former Egyptian President Mohamed Anwar Sadat, and the late Syrian President Hafez al-Assad, of which Badran was a witness. He reviews the efforts of Jordanian mediation to reconcile viewpoints between Cairo and Damascus.

Badran confirms, in today’s episode of the series “A Politician Remembers” with “Al-Ghad,” that Sadat concealed his intention to make the famous visit to Jerusalem from King Hussein and Hafez al-Assad. However, Sadat’s emotions in two separate meetings early on revealed his intentions.

Badran recalls that during King Hussein’s visit to Cairo and his meeting with Sadat, where the latter was very tense, Hussein called Badran and Abdelhamid Sharaf outside the rooms in Abdeen Palace, and they sat in the garden. He told them that he felt Sadat’s emotions were behind something serious, and it was impossible that there were not serious matters behind it, and that he was planning and scheming for something.

Badran confirms that after leaving Cairo, they immediately headed to Damascus to meet Hafez al-Assad at 11 pm. There, Assad gave his approval for inviting Sadat to meet in Damascus.

Badran describes the meeting, as reported by Syrians, as a heated encounter between Assad and Sadat, marking the beginning of the severance of Egyptian-Syrian relations before Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem and his speech in the Israeli Knesset.

Today, Badran reveals for the first time a tense situation between him and the late Hussein over a telegram that Hussein wanted to send to Sadat. He also discloses his efforts to thwart that message, which came under U.S. pressure on Hussein.

Regarding the Camp David Agreement, Badran confirms that Hussein rejected it and was angry about Sadat’s actions. He stated that Sadat misled Hussein and told him that if he did not get what he wanted from Camp David, he would not sign the peace agreement with Israel.

Regarding the U.S. pressures exerted on Jordan during the Camp David negotiations, Badran confirms that King Hussein revealed to him a message from U.S. President Jimmy Carter, stating: “There is a danger for you in going to Camp David, but I want you to know that the danger will be greater if you do not go.” However, King Hussein did not weaken in the face of those American threats.

In yesterday’s episode, Badran spoke about some details of his first meeting with the then Iraqi Vice President Saddam Hussein during the Baghdad Summit. He also discussed King Hussein’s tolerance of some of Badran’s outbursts during his work, and he revealed the real reason behind the failure of the unity state project between Jordan and Syria.

The following is the text of the nineteenth episode.

  • Have you been with the late Hussein in visits to the Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, seeking to influence him and mediate to prevent Egypt from leaving the Arab ranks, especially after Sadat hinted at his anticipated visit to Jerusalem in the late seventies?
  • True; before that, during the peak of joint coordination with the Syrians, we went on one occasion for a visit to Cairo to try to ease tensions between the Egyptians and the Syrians.

We arrived and met with Sadat at Abdeen Palace. Signs of extreme agitation were evident on Sadat, and it was not normal at all. He harshly criticized the Syrians without mentioning Assad, but he was very angry with the Syrian Foreign Minister at that time, Abdulhaleem Khaddam.

The Egyptian Foreign Minister was late for the meeting, and when Ismail Fahmy entered, Sadat’s agitation increased. He continued his harsh criticism of the Syrians.

Abdelhamid Sharaf, may he rest in peace, was with us, and every time he tried to ease the atmosphere, Sadat interrupted him and returned to attacking Syria.

Indeed, due to Sadat’s intense emotions, I felt how the cover on the table was shaking at my feet, as a result of the shaking of Sadat’s feet on the ground.

As soon as Sadat stopped speaking for a moment, he surprised us by speaking again to make him stop for a while. I said to him, “You and Assad are heroes of the October War, and they did not say that Hussein was its hero. You are allies in the war, and we do not want to mediate between you two. All we can do is offer advice.”

I asked Sadat to hold a meeting in Egypt, chaired by Sadat and attended by Assad, to support reconciliation, with the presence of the late Hussein and the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.

Sadat rejected the idea, so I suggested holding the meeting at the level of foreign ministers. He said not in Egypt, and I said let’s hold it in Aqaba because we need Arab solidarity. Jordan cannot stand alone on the Israeli front without Arab solidarity supporting our position.

Sadat did not object, and I saw it as an opportunity to try to pressure him to meet Assad. I continued by saying, “But it’s better for both of you to face each other as heroes.” Sadat remained silent for a moment, then said if he invites me, I will go to Damascus.

  • Indeed, this meeting between the Syrians and Egyptians took place before Sadat took the initiative to engage in direct negotiations with Israel, a plan rejected by the Syrians?
  • After the meeting with Sadat, we prepared to leave Cairo after dinner and head to Oman. King Hussein called us, me and Sharaf, outside our rooms at Abdeen Palace to the garden, so that no one could eavesdrop on what he would say. He said he felt that Sadat’s agitation indicated a serious matter, and it was impossible that there were not grave intentions behind it after this evident agitation. He claimed that Sadat was planning something.

We boarded the plane, and Hussein requested that we immediately head to Damascus instead of Oman, saying that time had been delayed. I told him we would coordinate with our ambassador there.

Indeed, we headed to Damascus and met with Hafez al-Assad at 11 at night. We told him what happened in Cairo, and that Sadat accepted the invitation to visit Damascus. Assad agreed and indeed extended an invitation to him.

Then I asked Abdulhaleem Khaddam about the reason for Sadat’s anger with him. He said, “I informed him that the Ba’ath Party’s decision regarding Israel is clear, and there will be no peace with it,” which angered Sadat.

I am talking to you, and leaks indicated that Sadat was approaching the time of the Eid prayer at Al-Aqsa Mosque after his visit to Jerusalem in November 1977.

Indeed, the meeting took place, and it was a heated encounter between Assad and Sadat. The meeting marked the beginning of the severance of Syrian-Egyptian relations before Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem and his speech in the Israeli Knesset.

Before that ominous Eid, a day before, I went to Aqaba and brought my sons and my wife with me. In the morning of that day, I saw Sadat on television as he did it. The world felt suffocating to me, and I could not leave in front of the TV screen.

King Hussein, who was also staying in Aqaba during that Eid, asked me to come to him. He said he would send a telegram to Sadat. I looked at him with surprise and asked, “What do you want from it?” He replied that he wanted to praise Sadat’s courage.

I said, “Is there courage in betrayal?” Hussein insisted that he wanted to send it. I told him that the decision is not his alone and that there is a unified leadership between him and Assad. With this step, our relations with the Syrians will be damaged, and they are our partners on the front against Israel.

  • Indeed, the Syrian radio began its media war against Sadat and Egypt, describing him as a traitor. How can we be the opposite of that and say he is courageous? Immediately, Hussein told me to go to Hafez al-Assad and said, “But do not approach the telegram issue as if seeking permission.” I told him I understood the message, and I would execute the order. Immediately, I took a private plane to Damascus, landed in Oman, and met Adnan Abu Odeh. Both Abdelhameed Sharaf and Sharif Zeid bin Shaker were in London on holiday, and I asked Abu Odeh about his opinion. He was emotionally affected by Sadat’s step and provided an objective analysis of the situation. I informed him that I was leaving for Damascus, and indeed, I continued my journey. Syrian Prime Minister Abdul Rahman Khalifawi received me, and we went to Assad. We began discussing the Egyptian unilateral move, and I criticized what the Syrian radio was doing. I asked him to stop invoking the Ahmed Said model from before the 1967 war, and that media campaigns should respect the minds of our people, ceasing insults and invectives.
  • Here, Assad spoke, saying that he did not listen to the advice of his foreign minister, Abdulhaleem Khaddam, to arrest Sadat during his last visit to Syria to prevent him from taking that step.
  • At that moment, I learned that the Syrians were planning for it when they heard leaks about Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa. Assad immediately inquired about King Hussein, and I told him that he was very upset about what Sadat had done and wanted to send a telegram to him. Assad interrupted me, saying this is the reason for your visit, and you want to know my position on the telegram. I will tell you frankly: If you send a telegram to Sadat, I will consider it a stance from you in support of him, and based on that, we will sever relations between us.
  • The meeting ended around 11:30 at night, and Assad told me to stay in Damascus and leave for Oman the next day. I said I need to go to Aqaba. He assured me of my task with his intelligence, saying he is a pilot, and it’s difficult to navigate the plane, especially landing in Aqaba with its challenging mountains. The plane arrived in Oman, and indeed, the pilot did not comply with my request to go directly to Aqaba due to the significant risk involved.