NEW YORK — The United States Senate unanimously passed a bill this week to posthumously honor Egyptian President Anwar Sadat with the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award bestowed by US Congress.
The bipartisan bill, entitled S.266 and co-sponsored by 71 senators, was introduced by Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah and Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland.
“President Anwar Sadat broke the tension between Israel and its neighbors in the region by delivering an address to the Israeli Knesset in 1977, and later, entering into a peace accord with Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin,” Hatch said. “This courageous decision changed the course of the Middle East even as it cost Sadat his life.”
“There is no more fitting way to honor his example than by showing the family of the late president Sadat that the United States remembers and cherishes his legacy as it celebrates his centennial this year,” he added.
According to those who drafted the bill, which had already been brought to Congress in January 2017, its goal is to “serve as a reminder of the world of Sadat’s bold and courageous approach of achieving peace with the State of Israel in 1979.”
Senator Ben Cardin added that awarding Sadat the Congressional Gold Medal “honors his legacy and underscores the enduring commitment of the United States to upholding the Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel.”
Bills regarding the Congressional Gold Medal must be co-sponsored by at least two-thirds of the House of Representatives and of the Senate before it can be brought to the floor for a vote. While S.266 passed the Senate, it still needs to pass the House, which is back from summer recess next month. No opposition to the initiative is expected.
Sadat was the first Arab leader to visit Israel and address the Knesset in 1977. He led the peace initiative between Egypt and Israel, which earned him acclaim as a visionary and champion of peace, but also much criticism. In 1981, he was assassinated.
The efforts to award him the congressional honor began over two years ago, led by two men: Ezra Friedlander, CEO of the public affairs consulting firm The Friedlander Group, and Shafik Gabr, founder of an eponymous foundation aiming to enhance critical understanding and cooperation among young emerging leaders in the Arab World and the West.
The Sadat Gold Medal Commission was then formed.
“As an Egyptian who understands the importance of a strong Egyptian-American relationship that serves both countries’ national security, I would like to thank Senators Hatch and Cardin for introducing and ensuring the passage of this truly historical legislation,” wrote Shafik Gabr, who serves as international chairman of the commission.
“[The late president] was not only a voice for peace, but also a person whose courage, conviction and dedication to achieve peace regardless of any obstacles was immense,” he wrote.
Gabr added that Sadat had “the wisdom to bring nations and peoples together, and he was a man of sincere belief of what peace can bring.”
“It is my hope that other leaders around the globe would understand the importance of peace and what it brings to their people, their region and the world,” he continued.
Next month will mark the 40th anniversary of the Camp David Accords negotiated by Sadat and Israeli prime minister at the time Menachem Begin, which directly led to the 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. This year also marks Sadat’s centennial.