Egyptian–Israeli Peace Treaty (1979)

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Treaty signed by Egypt and Israel on 26 March 1979.

The EgyptianIsraeli Peace Treaty derives from the Camp David Accords signed by Egypt, Israel, and the United States on 17 September 1978. The 1978 agreements included two documents, "A Framework for Peace in the Middle East" and "A Framework for the Conclusion of a Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel." The other Arab states and the Palestinians rejected the Camp David Accords and declined to pursue talks with Israel toward a comprehensive peace. Although they required many more rounds of negotiations, U.S. mediation, and a Middle East visit by U.S. president Jimmy Carter, Egypt and Israel successfully brought the framework for a bilateral peace to fruition.

The EgyptianIsraeli Peace Treaty signed by Egyptian president Anwar al-Sadat and Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin and witnessed by Carter is a relatively short document: nine articles, three annexes, and a series of side letters among and between the three signatories. In a classic land-for-peace swap, the treaty explicitly terminates the state of war between Egypt and Israel and establishes a full and formal peace, including an exchange of ambassadors; in return, the parties accept the international boundary between Egypt and the former Palestine Mandate as the permanent border between them, allowing for the phased return of the entire Sinai Peninsula, captured by Israel in the 1967 war, to Egypt. The treaty called for demilitarized zones and United Nations' forces to monitor the border and, clearly bearing in mind the catalysts which led to war in 1956 and 1967, both sides agreed that neither could unilaterally request the withdrawal of UN personnel. The treaty also affirmed Israel's right of free passage through the Suez Canal, the Strait of Tiran, and the Gulfs of Aqaba and Suez. The normalization of EgyptianIsraeli relations included full recognition; diplomatic, economic, and cultural relations; and the termination of economic boycotts and barriers to the free movement of goods and people.

Although the preamble to the treaty references UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and calls repeatedly for Israel's other Arab neighbors to join this peace process, the Arab world reacted angrily to Sadat's separate peace with Israel and refused to endorse or participate in it. The Arab League moved its headquarters from Cairo and most of its members broke ties with Egypt, ushering in nearly a decade of Egyptian isolation. Within Egypt, opposition elements protested the peace with Israel, and Islamic radicals, already at odds with Sadat over his economic and social programs, assassinated him on 6 October 1981. Israelis generally welcomed the treaty, although some on the right opposed establishing the precedent of Israeli territorial concessions and Israeli soldiers had to bodily remove protestors from homes in the Sinai town of Yamit.

Husni Mubarak succeeded Sadat and managed to reap the benefits of the treaty, especially massive U.S. foreign aid, without the stigma of having negotiated it. Under his stewardship, Egypt regained its leadership role in the Arab world while preserving the peace with Israel. Despite Israel's initial enthusiasm, Egyptian wariness has made it a cold peace, however, with low-level trade exchanges, few cross-border visitors, and correct but frosty relations at the top. The treaty has withstood numerous regional crises, but genuinely warm relations would seem to hinge on the resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

See also Begin, Menachem; Camp David Accords (1978); Carter, Jimmy; League of Arab States; Mubarak, Husni; Sadat, Anwar al-.


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Dayan, Moshe. Breakthrough: A Personal Account of the Egypt Israel Peace Negotiations. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1981.

Eisenberg, Laura Zittrain, and Caplan, Neil. Negotiating Arab-Israeli Peace: Patterns, Problems, and Possibilities. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998.

Kamel, Mohammed Ibrahim. The Camp David Accords: A Testimony. London: Kegan Paul, 1986.

Quandt, William B. Camp David: Peace Making and Politics. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1986.

Telhami, Shibley. Power and Leadership in International Bargaining: The Path to the Camp David Accords. New York: Columbia University Press, 1990.

laura z. eisenberg