By Brian Williams, Anchor and managing editor
I hope you'll forgive me, but it's been a busy day around here -- too busy to write a proper blog. I sat down for a conversation today with presidential candidate John Edwards; we'll have that for you on the broadcast as part of our "Making of a President" series, and we'll be posting the full interview on our website. We'll also have the latest on the shaky economy, as well the as next installment in our series of reports on African-American women. We've been getting some great feedback on that subject; thanks for all the emails. We'll also have the news out of Annapolis on the big Middle East peace conference President Bush hosted there today. I asked my colleague Andy Franklin for his thoughts about that, and he's written the piece below. Have a look, and please join us tonight for the Tuesday edition.
Long and Winding Road
2008 is just around the corner, and it promises to be a year to remember. The seemingly endless presidential campaign will produce actual nominees in 2008, and eventually, a new president. 2008 is also the year of the Beijing Olympics, as well as the 40th anniversary of one of the most eventful years in our history, 1968. We're sure to hear a lot about that in the months ahead. But 2008 will also mark another milestone -- the 60th anniversary of the birth of Israel, which was proclaimed as a state on May 14, 1948. That means that in a region as old as civilization itself, the state of Israel is a relative youngster. Two years younger, in fact, than President Bush himself, who was in Annapolis today presiding over a Middle East peace conference that was replete with the sort of high hopes and low expectations that we've come to associate with such gatherings. For the six decades that the Arab-Israeli conflict has festered, the only peace the region has known is the kind that comes when antagonists pause to reload their weapons.
Not that people haven't tried, as they are doing today in Annapolis. In fact, the most spectacular Middle East peace overture of them all came 30 years ago this month, when Egyptian President Anwar Sadat made his dramatic visit to Jerusalem -- a first for an Arab leader. It was a breakthrough famously facilitated by none other than Walter Cronkite -- who, knowing that Sadat was interested in visiting Israel and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin was interested in inviting him, managed to get back-to-back interviews with both on November 14, 1977. (Where was President Jimmy Carter when he heard the news of Begin's invitation? Attending a football game -- in Annapolis). Cronkite got Sadat and Begin to go public with their courtship, and six days later Sadat was standing before the Israeli parliament -- something unimaginable until that moment -- an Arab leader telling the Israeli people, "In all sincerity I tell you we welcome you among us with full security and safety." Israel and Egypt did eventually make peace, but Anwar Sadat paid with his life, assassinated by Islamic extremists four years later. (Just as Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was killed by an Israeli extremist in 1995, two years after shaking hands with Yasser Arafat).
A lasting peace may yet come to the Middle East, and the efforts of all those gathered today in Annapolis might even help hasten that day. But for almost sixty years now, that part of the world has found a way to break the hearts of those who hold such hopes -- not just once, but over and over again.