It was not only Yasser Arafat, leader of the Palestinians, who watched with “grief and fury” as Anwar Sadat went to Israel in 1977. Several of the region’s autocrats severed ties with Egypt’s president over what some called a “treasonous” act. When, two years later, Sadat signed a peace deal with the Jewish state, they erupted in outrage again. Egypt was suspended from the Arab League, which imposed a boycott on the country and left Cairo for Tunis. In 1981 Sadat was murdered by jihadists who cited the peace deal as one of their main grievances.
In many ways, the region looks the same as it did four decades ago. Autocracy is still in vogue; the Palestinians remain stateless. But relations between Israel and the rest of the Arab world are unrecognizable. When the United Arab Emirates (UAE) agreed to establish diplomatic ties with the Jewish state on August 13th, there was little grief or fury in the region’s capitals. Israel’s first formal relationship with a Gulf state, and its third with any Arab country (Egypt and Jordan being the others), was met with praise from many Arab leaders.