Anwar Sadat’s ascent to the presidency of Egypt took place in 1970, after the death of Gamal Abdel Nasser. His time in office was plagued by economic ills, foreign policy defeats, an increasingly aggressive and perceptible Islamic revival, and indignation towards the lifestyle of the president. Nasser’s Arab Socialism accorded greater rights to the state for the purpose of industrializing the country, and the peasants were given a greater share of the land as well. Sadat abandoned an aggressively socialist economic policy in favor of a more capitalist-oriented model. The policy was called infitah, and was
meant to “secure material improvement for the majority of Egyptians” (Cleveland, p. 376). It’s failure to do so subjected the government to criticism. Much of the profits from liberalization went towards Sadat’s inner circle, who, like Sadat, spent lavishly. In contrast to Nasser’s austerity, Sadat and his wife Jehan lived like royals. Some suggested that their extravagance earned Sadat the name Faruq II. The presidency was increasingly pomp, and Sadat hid behind the largesse and ceremony of the office.
While promoting more riches in the hands of economic elites, Sadat cracked down on genuine secularists and leftists. To aid in the crackdown, he allowed for a revival of Islamic symbols and the Islamic political organizations, both of which made him unpopular with Arab nationalists. Lastly, Sadat negotiated the Camp David Accords during the presidency of Jimmy Carter and signed it in 1979. It was deeply unpopular with the Egyptian people when Sadat made peace with Israel, flying to Jerusalem to speak in front of the Knesset. He had betrayed Arab unity and the Palestinian cause, although he received an annex to justify the accords. The annex was in regards to a Palestinian state. Sadat did not want to be seen as making a separate peace.
In reality, Sadat abandoned his Arab ally Syria in the October War of 73′ in the single-minded quest for peace from a position of weakness. Soon after Camp David, the Israeli political establishment disregarded the annex, continuing their settlement policies in the West Bank. Egypt was expelled from the Arab League and Islamic groups used the peace to justify his death, receiving a fatwa. Sadat’s separate peace, pompous personality, and inability to turn around the economy played the largest role in his demise. Yet his allowance for the Islamists, which by 1980 was popular on Egyptian campuses across Cairo, opened him up to an Islamic challenge which, at the time, condoned violence, assassinating Anwar Sadat at a victory parade.
His funeral, attended heavily by foreign dignitaries, was mourned by few Egyptians. Few Egyptians were present at his funeral. To the public, Sadat was considered a traitor, who sold out the Arab world, making peace with Israel to secure friendship from the United States in the Arab Cold War.