Egypt Between 1977 and 1992

The developments of the Egyptian initiative after the visit of President Anwār al-Sādāt to Jerusalem (19-21 November 1977) soon proved sensational, so much so that within two years of intense diplomatic activity, and thanks also to the mediating intervention of the United States, peace was signed with Israel in Washington on March 26, 1979. The treaty, although it did not solve the problem of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, because it limited itself to outlining transitional hypotheses of autonomy for the Palestinians all to be defined, allowed the Egypt the recovery in stages of the Sinai, gradually evacuated by the Israelis.

However, while the Arab countries did not fall short of the rigid criticism for the choice of separate peace (suspension of the Egypt from the Arab League, transferred to Tunis, and from the Organization of the Islamic Conference), even on the internal level only restricted and linked circles economically, the West was enthusiastically following the presidential directives.

To the advantages of the return of sovereignty over Sinai and its oil wells (November 1979) should have been added the beginning of useful economic exchanges with Israel, the increase in tourism and especially a substantial increase in investments from highly industrialized countries. Instead, from the announced economic opening (infitāṭ) derived only poor results accompanied by an uncontrolled growth of speculative activities and the cost of living. Thus, despite the initial liberalizing concessions of the al-Sādāt management, to the opposition of the student and intellectual circles, of Islamic fundamentalism and the semi-legal left, that of some military circles, state bureaucracy and more serious entrepreneurship was added. In fact, due to the Israeli unwillingness to meet its counterpart in the negotiation on the fate of the Palestinians and the tendency of the United States to provide aid only in exchange for specific payments on the political-military level, the presidential action found itself increasingly embroiled in a obligatory path of gradually more extensive subsidence.

Hence the need for continuous changes in the government, the referendum to guarantee al-Sādāt indefinite re-election (May 23, 1980), the use of repeated repressive measures. Likewise it became inevitable for Egypt to distance oneself in a clear way from the neutralistic and non-alignment orientation of the time of Ǧamāl ῾Abd al-Nāṣir: in this regard, in addition to the exchange of ambassadors, we recall the multiplication of visits by Israeli personalities, the welcome to the Shah of Iran fleeing his country, the military agreement with Sudan and the United States (March 1981) with the concession of military bases and the corollary of a nuclear agreement, the signing in London (July 17) of the agreement for the allocation in the Sinai, in addition to the planned US contingents.

The signs of intolerance among the population spread, unhindered by the arrests and involving groups and strata to which al-Sādāt himself had granted freedom of action. The attack by soldiers connected with Islamic extremist associations, in which al-Sādāt died on 6 October, during the parade celebrating the ” October war ”, was therefore not unexpected, but demonstrated the isolation in to which he had gradually confined himself despite the undoubted genuineness of the inspiration that four years earlier had prompted him to go to Jerusalem.

He was succeeded by Muḥammad Ḥusnī Mubārak, vice president of the Republic since 1975, former commander of the aviation, who immediately prepared a more conciliatory policy by freeing numerous political prisoners and correcting confusion and speculation, even if always within the framework of the agreement with the USA. The commitments stipulated with Israel were confirmed and the evacuation of the Sinai was obtained (April 1982), but counterproductive gestures were avoided, such as a breezy visit by Mubārak to Jerusalem to discuss the modalities of Palestinian autonomy that remained pending, and the Taba locality that the Israelis refused to evict. This prudence allowed – when Tel Aviv unexpectedly began the invasion of Lebanon – to freeze relations, withdrawing the ambassador, and to adopt an attitude in keeping with the rest of the Arab world. However, also to intervene on the complex internal situation (arrest of ῾Iṣmat al-Sādāt, brother of the deceased president, for illicit enrichments, and the dismissal of some ministers involved in the scandal) a reshuffle was carried out in August 1982 which alongside Fu ‘ ād Muḥī al-Dīn, confirmed prime minister, saw the rise of gen. ῾Abd al-Ḥalīm Abū Ġazāla, Minister of Defense, who will be dismissed in 1989. confirmed prime minister, saw the rise of gen. ῾Abd al-Ḥalīm Abū Ġazāla, Minister of Defense, who will be dismissed in 1989. confirmed prime minister, saw the rise of gen. ῾Abd al-Ḥalīm Abū Ġazāla, Minister of Defense, who will be dismissed in 1989.

The recomposition process between Egypt and the Arab League, cautiously started, in any case continued: evident signs in this regard were the reconciliation visit of the leader of the PLO, Y. ῾Arāfāt, in Cairo on December 22, 1983 and readmission to the Organization of the Islamic Conference (April 2, 1984). But these events, due to the persistent economic turmoil (in June 1984 a foreign debt of 32.5 billion dollars weighed on the Egyptian system), did not succeed in avoiding the recurrence of the protests that the gen. Kamāl Ḥasan ῾Alī, for about a year at the head of the ministry, after the death of Muḥī al-Dīn from illness, and replaced on 4 September 1985 by the economist ῾Alī Luṭfī Maḥmūd Luṭfī, former finance minister under al-Sādāt. As soon as he was appointed, he had to face a series of episodes of discontent, violence and terrorism that put a strain on the internal order.

On 5 October, a policeman, Sulayman H̱āṭir, guarding the Sinai border, opened fire on a group of Israeli tourists, killing seven: he was arrested, sentenced and found dead in prison on 7 January 1986. The incident led to vehement anti-government demonstrations. On 10 October 1985, four American planes hijacked the Egyptian aircraft carrying the Palestinian terrorists who had seized the Achille Lauro ship and surrendered to the Egyptian authorities to Tunis at the Italian airport of Sigonella. A diplomatic incident between Cairo and Washington and other demonstrations against Israel and the United States ensued. On November 24, the hijacking of a Boeing 737 over Maltaof the Egyptair ended with the sending from Cairo of special units and with the killing of 60 people including 4 of the hijackers. From 25 February 1986 to 1 March, for economic reasons and against the risk of an extension of the draft, thousands of policemen from the capital and other cities mutinied, joined by the underclassmen of the slums: the revolt was crushed with 300 dead by the troops of the Minister of Defense, Ġazāla, who deserved the credit for having imposed a certain adjustment on the country.

Moreover, after the acute phase of the Lebanese crisis, the attempt to improve relations with Israel and to resolve the Taba dispute continued through two meetings between Mubārak and S. Peres in September 1986 in Alexandria and in February 1987 in Cairo: no to an effective overcoming of the differences, but it was decided to entrust the judgment on Taba to an international arbitration commission. This issued a favorable opinion on the Egyptian theses on November 29, 1988 and Israel prepared to withdraw by March 15, 1989, subject to compensation for the tourist works built.

Internally, formed on November 9, 1986, after the resignation of Luṭfī, a ministry headed by ῾Āṭif Ṣidqī, it was possible to hold elections for the renewal of the National Assembly on April 6, 1987. The consultation confirmed the majority in the National Democratic Party with 346 seats (30 fewer), saw a good affirmation of the Socialist Labor Party (supported by the Muslim Brotherhood) which, presenting itself for the first time, obtained 60 deputies, and recorded a decline in the New Wafd (from 58 to 35 deputies); 7 seats were won by independents. Another popular vote took place on 5 October with the re-election of Mubārak, with 88% of the votes, as President of the Republic for a second term of 6 years. The year ended with the signing (December 29, 1987) of a trade agreement with the USSR for the two-year period 1988-90. For Egypt 2012, please check

Starting from 1988, coinciding, on the one hand, with the non-violent revolt of the Palestinians of the occupied territories in progress since December 1987, and on the other with the establishment of the ceasefire between Iran and ‘Irāq (August 1988), the. he accentuated his dynamism to recover a driving position. Fixed points of this commitment can be considered the meetings for a consultation of the guidelines on the contrast between Israel and the Palestinians, which took place on October 23 in ῾Aqaba, between Mubārak, king Ḥusayn of Jordan and ῾Arāfāt and, the following day, in Baghdād between Mubārak, ῾Arāfāt and the Iraqi president Ṣaddām Ḥusayn. The continuation of this purpose was the proclamation in ῾Ammān on February 16, 1989 of the ” Arab Cooperation Council ” between Egypt and Jordan, ‘

On February 20, Soviet Foreign Minister Egypt Shevarnadze arrived in Cairo not only to meet Mubārak, with a grand resumption of Soviet-Egyptian collaboration, but to speak both with the Israeli Foreign Minister, M. Arens, and with ῾ Arāfāt: these contacts for a day transformed the Egyptian capital into a favorable environment for starting the most difficult confrontations and confirmed (together with the reopening with Libya: October 17 meeting in Marsa Maṭrūḥ between Mubārak and Gaddafi) the intention of Egypt to want to enter, despite the persistence of economic difficulties, in the international situation, marked by dialogue between the superpowers.

The relaunch of the hegemonic vocation was confirmed – despite the collapse of the Cooperation Council – even during the very serious crisis caused between August 1990 and February 1991 by the occupation of Kuwait by the Irāq and the subsequent war against Baghdād. from the United States together with a coalition of allied states under the aegis of the UN. The Egypt, deployed alongside the USA, participated in the war operations by sending a military contingent. The intervention led to an easing of the international financial pressure, through a drastic reduction of the external debt. Despite this, during the war the government had to face the problem of the forced return home from ῾Irāq, Kuwait and Jordan of about 600,000 workers. Furthermore, the intervention met with considerable popular resistance, which was severely repressed. These tensions had already manifested themselves in the elections for the renewal of the National Assembly (29 November 1990), which had registered a low participation in the vote also due to the boycott decided by various parties (New Wafd, Socialists, Muslim Brotherhood) and therefore had been won without difficulty by the ruling National Democratic Party. Despite the divergence of positions and behaviors that emerged during the Gulf War, in the meeting of March 30, 1991 of the Council of the Arab League, held again in the Egyptian capital (after the summit of the League, held in Casablanca on May 22, 1989, had warmly welcomed Mubārak), the Foreign Minister, ῾Iṣmat ῾Abd al-Maǧīd, candidate for the secretariat, relaunched,

In May 1991, Egypt announced the withdrawal of its forces from Saudi Arabia within three months. In the same month, the government extended the emergency laws for another three years. In the following months, and especially in the spring and early summer of 1992, there were numerous episodes of violence caused by Islamic fundamentalists, culminating in the attack on Coptic villages and the killing of the publicist Faraǧ Fudāḥ, critic of fundamentalism (June 1992).

Egypt 2012