In the January/February issue of QUEST/78, Editor Robert Shnayerson states in his letter to new readers: "Every article in QUEST is chosen on the premise that in some way it reflects the courage to take risks and try one's best even if the net result is failure."
Nowhere is such courage better reflected than in the bold Mideast peace initiative of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. The entire world has been excited about the possibility of peace for that troubled region ever since President Sadat's historic visit several months ago to Jerusalem — an event that was brought into the homes of hundreds of millions of people around the globe through the miracle of satellite communications and television.
Since President Sadat's visit to Israel, Prime Minister Begin has reciprocated with a visit to Egypt. Thus for the first time in almost 30 years of war, hostility, hatred and terror, the leaders of the Egyptian and Israeli states have been meeting face to face, discussing their mutual problems and seeking a settlement of issues that have kept Israel and the Arab nations in a state of unbearable tension for three decades and have sparked bloody armed conflict in 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973.
The negotiations, however, have not been easy, and recent setbacks have served to bring initially high public expectations down to a more realistic level. It may be months before we see what ultimately comes of the important beginning made by Sad at.
Should Sadat fail in his attempt to negotiate an overall Arab-Israeli peace, some have suggested that a bilateral agreement between Egypt and Israel, backed by the United States and possibly Saudi Arabia, Iran and Jordan, may eventually materialize — despite the opposition of the Soviets and some of the more radical states, such as Iraq, Algeria and Libya. It is almost certain that the United States, under such circumstances, would emerge as a great winner if such a result is produced — a winner in the sense that it will remain the dominant major power in the area and thus exercise influence, indirectly at least, over the vast oil resources which remain so vital to the United States and the rest of the Western world.
Among the knotty problems for the Egyptian and Israeli negotiators to wrestle with is the sensitive Palestine issue, which probably is the single most difficult obstacle to overcome. President Carter has again reminded the Israelis of the "legitimate rights" of the Palestinian people to participate in their destiny, but at this time it is impossible to predict what solution will be forthcoming.
On one hand, President Sadat publicly continues to call for an independent Palestinian state encompassing the Gaza Strip and the West Bank of Jordan. Insiders say he would be willing to consider a West Bank entity again linked to Jordan, its former landlord, thereby excluding the PLO and its head, Yasir Arafat.
On the other hand, Prime Minister Begin has proposed a qualified self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza rather than self-determination (the military security of the region remaining in Israeli hands). Perhaps the self-rule proposal would be a mere transitional measure which would leave open the possibility in the foreseeable future of self-determination for the Palestinian people in that area.
President Sadat surely deserves the "Man-of-the-Year" distinction conferred upon him by Time magazine several months ago. Perhaps it would have been even more fitting that Prime Minister Begin share that honor with him. In any event, QUEST/78, in its January/February issue, reminds us of the potential of every human being for new beginnings. In its section on "Beginnings," Editors Morris and Jones state: "In 1977, the year of QUEST'S beginning, we were struck by the number of other beginnings around us. Maybe it was a case of seeing the world through the lens of our own condition. But the phenomenon seemed bigger than that. All year, unusual numbers of friends and relatives struck out in new directions, starting new jobs and new relationships, exploring fresh fields in one or more areas of their lives. And a similar spirit prevails in the public realm. Of course public events always unreel in a kind of perpetual becoming. But the year seemed special in the kind and quality of the sprouts that appeared from its soil, harbingers of greater things to come."
Although those words were written many weeks before President Sadat's historic visit to Jerusalem and the Israeli people — many weeks before that visit brought Israel's dream of trade, open borders and recognition as a state a little closer to reality — certainly no beginning could surpass this combined effort of President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin to make their own personal dreams and their own vision a reality and a blessing for the people of their respective countries and for the world as a whole.