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Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty

Begin, Carter and Sadat

Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat sign on the peace agreement between the two states.

Read about Menachem Begin

The Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt in 1978 led to a negotiated peace between those two nations, signed in Washington DC on March 26, 1979, the first between Israel and any of its Arab neighbors. Israel had a consistent policy since its founding in 1948 that called for direct, one-to-one negotiations as the method of resolving disputes with the Arab countries, but until Sadat brought Egypt to the table no Arab country had been willing to even talk to Israel.

President Sadat's assassination in 1981

Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat shared the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize for their historic agreements. However, the initiative was far from universally popular in other Arab countries or even Sadat's own country, Egypt. Other Arab nations, and especially the Palestinians, saw Egypt's agreement with Israel as a stab in the back, leaving them weaker and with less bargaining leverage against Israel. Without Egypt, the "united Arab front" had no credibility. Sadat became isolated in the Arab world and increasingly unpopular at home, conditions that finally led to his assassination in 1981.

The Israel-Egypt peace treaty was signed in Washington on March 26, 1979. It contains nine articles, a military annex, an annex dealing with the relation between the parties, agreed minutes interpreting the main articles of the treaty, among them Article 6, the withdrawal schedule, exchange of ambassadors, security arrangements and the agreement relating to the autonomy talks. The latter issue was contained in a letter addressed by President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin to President Carter.

In a separate Israel-US Memorandum of Agreement, dated the same day, the US spelled out its commitments to Israel in case the treaty is violated, the role of the UN and the future supply of military and economic aid to Israel.

Arrival of Egyptian president Anwar as Sadat at Ben-Gurion Airport

The terms of the treaty required both countries to stop all hostile activity and demilitarize the Sinai. Israel withdrew to the pre-1967 border, giving up military bases, settlements, roads and other infrastructure as well as the Sinai oil fields. Israel, which had repeatedly been the target of shipping blockades, military assaults, and terrorist attacks staged from the Sinai, made far greater economic and strategic sacrifices in giving up Sinai than Egypt did in "normalizing" relations with Israel.

A permanent international border was established between the two countries. Furthermore, a process of normalization began, including exchange of diplomatic representatives and mutual agreements in the areas of trade, economy, tourism and mail.

Since the signing of the treaty, Egypt has stood by its commitments, even after President Sadat was assassinated by Muslim extremists. The Israel-Egypt peace pact was denounced by all other Arab states and no further progress was made toward an end the Israel-Arab conflict until the Madrid Conference in 1991.

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