Wolf Blitzer, 29, footnote to history, was only wishing yesterday that he was a little closer to the action.
Blitzer the Jerusalem Post one-man Washington bureau, is credited by Anwar Sadat in a published interview Thursday as triggering the train of thought which led Sadat to his precedent-shattering decision to go to Jerusalem this weekend.
Yesterday Blitzer said that his question to Sadat, the one Sadat said started him wondering "why not?," was really an after-thought. The young journalist, a Buffalo, N.Y., native, recalled yesterday that he hadn't even planned to ask a question." Blitzer said he was impressed that Sadat had departed from the tradition of Arab leaders and had allowed the Israeli press into his Washington press conference last April.
"I was seated toward the back, Blitzer recalled. "I remember thinking how much better looking he was in person. He kept saying he was interested in peace. He sounded sincere, so I got up, looked him straight in the eye and said, "If you are so interested in peace, why don't you start having direct, human contact, like an exchange of journalist, students.' I didn't say ping-pong diplomacy, but that's what I was thinking."
Sadat's response, as Blitzer remembered, was "I, myself, have no objection to this. But believe me, our people are not yet ready for this after 29 years of hatred and four wars."
Nevertheless, Sadat said in his interview with Mark Bruzonski, editor of the World Review, of the question stayed in his mind and his offer to visit Jerusalem "had been fermenting in my mind all along."
Blitzer has a little competition for the "footnote" title - from a couple of other journalists named Barbara Walters and Walter Cronkite who have been dropping hints that it might have been their interviews with Sadat that turned the Arab leader around.
But so far, only Blitzer had been anoited by Sadat.
Less than eight months after that Washington meeting the unprecedented is happening; the President of Egypt and the Prime Minister of Israel are meeting. On Thursday morning Ari Rath, one of two editors of the Jerusalem Post, the country's only English-language daily, telephoned Blitzer. In true editor fashion, Rath first asked what stories Blitzer was producing that day, and then told him about Sadat's interview.
"According to Rath, Sadat said "the question this journalist from the Jerusalem Post asked got me thinking." Then Rath said that the Post was doing its own little story but they couldn't find a picture of me," said Blitzer.
Before the Sadat clamor, Blitzer's biggest story was an almost fatal moment during West German Chancellor Willy Brandt's visit to Tel Aviv in 1973. Blitzer, after studying at the State University of New York at Buffalo and the Johns Hopkins School of Advance International Studies, joined the staff of Reuters. He had been the Jerusalem Post's Washington correspondent since November, 1973.
This weekend, while world attention will be focused on Jerusalem, Blitzer will be home in Bethesda with his wife, Lynn, an assistant buyer at the Hecht Company.
"I've been happy ever since Sadat said he was going. And I'm happy in my own little way to have done something," said Blitzer. "I think it's a lot more exciting than the Nixon trip to China or Khrushchev's visit here, though I don't remember that so vividly. But if anyone had said a few days ago that Sadat would go to Israel, I would have said they were crazy. I keep pinching myself. Like everyone else, I'll watch it on television. Ifeel like the Carter administration, left out."