1979: The Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty

Key Facts

  • The Treaty signifies the first implementation of the land-for-peace formula, with Egypt extending peace and security guarantees in exchange for Israel’s withdrawal from the entire Sinai Peninsula.
  • For more than 30 years, the two countries have upheld the peace agreement – with exceptional economic and security benefits for both countries.

After years of fighting and hostilities, in 1979, Egypt and Israel brokered a peace treaty overseen by US President Jimmy Carter at Camp David. Both Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin won Nobel Peace Prizes for their courageous process of reconciliation, which began with Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem in 1977, a watershed event that saw – for the first time – a neighbouring Arab leader conduct an official visit to Israel and publicly commit to work toward peaceful coexistence with the Jewish state. For his brave initiative in signing the treaty, Sadat was assassinated by Muslim extremists in 1981.

Israel and Egypt both made significant compromises in the peace agreement, which called for the establishment of “normal and friendly relations” between the two states. In 1982, Israel upheld its obligations under the treaty by withdrawing from the entire Sinai – an area 2.5 times the size of Israel (and 90% of the territory Israel won in the Six Day War).  In so doing, Israel evacuated approximately 3,000 Israelis who had settled in the Sinai, in some cases forcefully removing settlers from their homes.

For its part, Egypt agreed (as did Israel) to acknowledge its neighbour’s sovereignty and “right to live in peace within their secure and recognized boundaries.” Both parties committed to end aggression against one another and to prevent their territory from being used as a launch pad for such cross-border attacks. Egypt further agreed to ensure the Sinai remained demilitarized, with the exception of a small quantity of Egyptian forces.

The Sinai was not merely a sizeable defensive buffer between Egypt and Israel but contains sizeable oil deposits that would have enabled Israel to achieve energy independence. As part of a commitment to normalize economic relations, Egypt further agreed to maintain sales of oil to Israel. Despite pipeline attacks in Egypt, and recent threats by Egyptian political figures to restrict this arrangement (or even bring forward a referendum that would allow the Egyptian people to terminate the treaty), oil sales have continued to this day.

Since the treaty’s implementation, both peoples have seen immense benefits – not the least of which is the saving of untold numbers of Israeli and Egyptian lives. Moreover, the financial savings from a massive reduction in forces along the border has benefited both economies. Since 1979, the US-Egypt relationship has strengthened as a result of the treaty, and the United States now provides Egypt with $1.3 B in military aid every year. 1

Further Reading

Sources

1-    http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/5309.htm

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