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Breakthrough Negotiations Egypt & Israel 1977-1978

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat is welcomed by Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in the Knesset 1977
Egyptian President Anwar Sadat is welcomed by Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in the Knesset

For Israel, a peace deal with Egypt – its main Arab opponent – was of great importance, since it would neutralize its southern front and deprive its remaining Arab opponents of any war option. Already on 4 September 1975, both countries signed an Israel-Egypt Interim Agreement, in which further military arrangements were made and in which they declared their intention to reach ‘a final and just peace settlement by means of negotiations [as] called for by Security Council Resolution 338‘. On 22 September 1975, this agreement was followed by a second round of disengagement in the Sinai Peninsula.

Sadat visits Israel (November 1977)

On 19 November 1977, Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat surprised friend and foe by travelling to Jerusalem for a two-day visit, where he held talks with members of the Israeli government and addressed the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. A month later, on 25-26 December 1977, Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin met in Ismailia (Egypt) to seal the Israeli-Egyptian diplomatic breakthrough. (See for more in depth information October War of 1973 in Arab-Israeli Negotiations)

Intensive negotiations between Egypt & Israel (1978)

Sadat’s visit to Israel was followed by intensive negotiations a year later (5-17 September 1978). Sadat, Begin, and American President Jimmy Carter met at the presidential retreat in Camp David, Maryland. The result was what came to be known as the Camp David Accords. These accords consisted of two documents. The first document urged Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and ‘the representatives of the Palestinian people’ to participate in negotiations on ‘the resolution of the Palestinian problem in all its aspects’. Concretely, the Palestinians were offered a restricted form of autonomy under a Palestinian National Authority (PNA) for the duration of five years, in which they could elect their representatives. After three years, negotiations would start over eventual autonomy. The document did not contain a word about self-determination for the Palestinians, nor an Israeli commitment to withdraw from the territories occupied in 1967.

Normalization of the relations between Egypt & Israel (1978-1979)

The second document was a detailed peace agreement between Israel and Egypt, providing for a total withdrawal by Israel from the Sinai Peninsula in return for a full normalization of the relations between the two countries. The Israel-Egypt peace treaty was eventually signed by Begin and Sadat in Washington on 26 March 1979.

Only the second document would be implemented. Negotiations over issues that were outlined in the first document with respect to the position of the Palestinians quickly stranded. In the following years, successive Israeli governments accelerated the construction in the already existing Jewish settlements in the occupied territories. East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights were de facto annexed by Israel in 1980 (the Jerusalem Law) en 1981 (the Golan Heights Law) respectively. The annexations were never recognized under international law.

Further Reading

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