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Assassinated Are the Peacemakers?

Those urging Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to negotiate with his Russian counterpart may be doing so because they genuinely want to end the bloodshed. But, just as the war carries a high price, so would peace with Russia – not least for whomever negotiates it.

MOSCOW – “Blessed are the peacemakers,” Jesus of Nazareth tells his followers in the Sermon on the Mount, “for they shall be called sons of God.” Whether those who dare end brutal conflicts enjoy great rewards in heaven, as the sermon promises, is impossible to know. What is clear is that, here on Earth, peacemakers often pay a heavy price – often their lives – for their efforts.

The examples are both numerous and illustrious. In December 1921, Michael Collins, a leader in Ireland’s struggle for independence from the United Kingdom, signed the controversial Anglo-Irish Treaty, which created the Irish Free State with King George V as its head of state. A bloody civil war ensued, and Collins was assassinated, though pro-treaty forces ultimately prevailed.

In November 1977 – just four years after the Yom Kippur War – Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat became the first Arab leader to visit Israel, where he delivered a speech that defied all expectations. “I come to you today on solid ground,” he told Israeli lawmakers, “to shape a new life, to establish peace.” That visit paved the way for the 1978 Camp David Accords and, in turn, the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty. But anti-Israel sentiment remained potent, and in 1981, fundamentalist Egyptian army officers opened fire on Sadat at a military parade, killing him instantly – but not the peace that he had initiated.