When Arab terrorists hatched a plot to overthrow the regime of President Anwar Sadat decades ago, Israel's Mossad likewise came to the defense of the Egyptian regime. Like today, a hardline leader had just taken office as Israel's prime minister. In an unlikely gesture, the newly elected Prime Minister Menachem Begin ordered the Mossad to turn over details of the plot to Egypt's intelligence chief.
Mossad officials were stunned by Begin's orders. Like Israel's current prime minister, Benyamin Netanyahu, many observers considered Begin an unrepentant hawk, someone who would not yield to advocates of what he believed would be a risky withdrawal from Arab lands in exchange for a tentative peace agreement with the Palestinians. Yet Begin wanted to send a signal to Egypt and the rest of the Arab world that even he was ready to negotiate.
The plot against Sadat had been orchestrated by Muammar Qaddafi of Libya. Acting on the Mossad report that Prime Minister Begin turned over to Sadat, Egypt's security officials were able to quickly seize Qaddafi's agents. Five days later, President Sadat launched an attack against Libya. The Egyptian government explained that the raid was "in retaliation for Libyan aggression," and it accused Qaddafi of trying to overthrow Sadat by engaging in a "large-scale terrorist plot" in alliance with members of an Islamic extremist group.
When the Egyptian retaliatory strike against Qaddafi was completed, Sadat vowed, "We are ready to repeat this lesson unless this maniac stops playing with fire." The warning against Qaddafi echoes Mubarak's recent denunciations of Nasrallah. In an editorial published in a state-controlled Egyptian newspaper, Nasrallah was branded a "monkey sheik," charging him with being "a bandit and veteran criminal who killed your countrymen," pledging that "we will not allow you to threaten the security and safety of Egypt." Similar to the threats against Qaddafi for his plot against Sadat, Nasrallah has also been put on notice: "If you threaten its sovereignty, you will burn!"