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Camp David Accords’ flawed path to peace

Camp David Accords’ flawed path to peace
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Updated 15 May 2020

Camp David Accords’ flawed path to peace

Camp David Accords’ flawed path to peace

The accords between Egypt and Israel may have led to a Nobel prize, but the failure to fully realize them fueled extremism


On Sept. 17, 1978, after 10 days of intense negotiations at the Camp David US presidential retreat, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin signed two historic documents that ended three decades of conflict between their countries and appeared to offer the first real chance of peace in the Middle East.

As Arab News reported at the time, the talks went to the wire, with “suspense and uncertainty about the outcome” until the last moment. Thanks to the efforts of US President Jimmy Carter, however, Begin and Sadat finally agreed on the Camp David Accords — frameworks for peace in the Middle East and a treaty between Egypt and Israel.

A month later, Sadat and Begin were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and in March the following year they signed the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty. Many in the Arab world, however, saw it as a betrayal of the Palestinians. Egypt was suspended from the Arab League, and in 1981 Sadat was assassinated by extremists opposed to the treaty. While a fragile peace between the two countries remains, hopes that the accords would resolve the Palestinian problem have yet to be fulfilled.

CHICAGO: When Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat went to Jerusalem hoping to prevent future wars and resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict through negotiations, he did so believing a comprehensive peace would not only include Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, but most importantly Israel agreeing to withdraw from the occupied territories and allow for a Palestinian state.

During his lengthy speech to Israel’s Knesset (Parliament), Sadat said: “I have not come here for a separate agreement between Egypt and Israel … Even if peace between all the confrontation states and Israel were achieved, in the absence of a just solution to the Palestinian problem, never will there be that durable and just peace upon which the entire world insists today.”

Key Dates

  • 1

    US President Jimmy Carter writes to Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to express his commitment to finding “a lasting peace settlement in the Middle East.”

  • 2

    In a handwritten letter, Carter appeals to Sadat for help: “The time has now come to move forward, and your early public endorsement of our approach is extremely important – perhaps vital.”

  • 3

    After Sadat announces his intention to visit Israel, Israel’s new prime minister Menachem Begin addresses the Egyptian people from Jerusalem, pleading for “no more wars, no more bloodshed.”

    Timeline Image Nov. 11, 1977

  • 4

    Carter writes private letters to Sadat and Begin, proposing they meet.

  • 5

    Sadat and Begin arrive at Camp David for 10 days of talks.

  • 6

    At 9:37 p.m. Carter, Begin and Sadat board presidential helicopter Marine 1 and fly from Maryland to the White House. At 10:31p.m., Begin and Sadat sign the framework for peace.

    Timeline Image Sept. 17, 1978

  • 7

    Sadat and Begin are jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

  • 8

    Sadat and Begin sign the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty in Washington.

  • 9

    Anwar Sadat is assassinated in Cairo by Islamic extremists opposed to the peace treaty

Sadat never lived to see how right he was about how Israel’s refusal to withdraw from the occupied territories would fuel a surge in extremism, create more violence, disrupt his own nation and make regional peace impossible. Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s sole purpose was to remove the military threat posed by Egypt, divide the Arab “confrontation states” and block demands for Palestinian statehood.

Sadat was naive to trust Begin, one of the Middle East’s most vicious terrorists. Begin orchestrated some of the most heinous civilian atrocities during the 1947-1948 Arab-Israeli conflict, including the massacre of nearly 100 civilians in the small Palestinian village of Deir Yassin.

That massacre, with pregnant women butchered and bodies thrown into the village water well, shocked the Arab population of Palestine, prompting a refugee flight of fear. Before his Knesset speech, Sadat visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, which ironically is built on Deir Yassin’s remains.

He was being wooed by Israel and the US, and treated like a distinguished head of state, for making peace with Israel. He toured the US in 1978 and was feted at dinners in several major American cities, including Chicago, where I joined 500 other Arab Americans protesting his “surrender.”

“Mr. Carter’s experiment with solely moral coercion as an instrument of peace, while commendable, failed to produce any results because it failed to take into consideration all the variables in the complex Middle East ‘equation’.”

Arab News editorial, Sept. 18, 1978

The Camp David Accords won Sadat and Begin the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize but scorn in the Arab world. The Arab League reacted by removing Egypt as a member and moving its headquarters from Cairo to Tunis.

Israel’s strategy was clear to everyone but Sadat. He signed the accords after 12 days of intense negotiations in 1978 (Sept. 5-17). But just weeks before, Begin inaugurated the settlement of Ariel, which has become a symbol of Israel’s continuing war against Palestinian statehood and the center of settlement expansion.

Despite the disconcerting reality on the ground, Sadat went ahead and signed a formal peace treaty with Israel at the White House on March 26, 1979, officially ending the conflict between the two countries.

When you look at the five fundamentals of the accord, only two were actually achieved. Egypt did get the Sinai Peninsula back, under demilitarized conditions, and the two countries ended their state of war and established diplomatic relations.

But three conditions were never met: Meetings to resolve the Palestine question with Jordan’s involvement stalled; the introduction of Palestinian self-government in the West Bank and Gaza in five years (by 1983) failed; and an end to Israeli settlements never even began.

The accords were never allowed to stand in the way of plans to entrench Israel’s hold on the occupied territories. When US President Jimmy Carter lost re-election on Nov. 4, 1980, and Sadat was assassinated while reviewing a military parade on Oct. 6, 1981, Begin was given the green light to close the door on Sadat’s “dream.”Despite differences, US President Ronald Reagan followed up on Carter’s Middle East peace vision and proposed a “freeze” on settlements in August 1982, urging Israel to grant Palestinians “autonomy” as a step toward statehood.

A page from the Arab News archive from Sept. 18, 1978.

Begin’s reaction was swift. On Sept. 2, 1982, with Carter and Sadat out of the way, Begin led a Knesset move to consolidate Israel’s hold on the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Golan Heights, increasing the Jewish settler population. Israel, the Cabinet declared, will “reserve the right to apply sovereignty over the territories at the end of the five-year transition period” of Palestinian “autonomy” that was specifically envisioned in the Camp David Accords.

In 1978, the settler population was only 75,000. By 1990, it tripled to 228,000. Ironically, while the accords were supposed to create an environment of hope and optimism, the failure to advance them beyond the return of the Sinai created a fatalism that fueled extremism.

Although peace between Egypt and Israel remains, the failure to achieve peace with the Palestinians has kept the accords as little more than a formal version of an armistice agreement, and relations between the two countries are defined by military cooperation.

  • Ray Hanania was the publisher of an Arab American newspaper in the early 1970s, The Middle Eastern Voice, and an activist for Palestinian rights serving as President of the American Congress for Palestine.


Calls abroad grow for release of Putin critic Navalny

Calls abroad grow for release of Putin critic Navalny
Updated 8 min 26 sec ago

Calls abroad grow for release of Putin critic Navalny

Calls abroad grow for release of Putin critic Navalny
MOSCOW: Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was being held in a Moscow police cell on Monday after his dramatic airport arrest, as calls grew in the West for his immediate release.
President Vladimir Putin’s most vocal critic was still waiting to see his lawyer hours after being taken away at border control following a flight from Germany where he was recovering after a near-deadly poisoning attack.
He was picked up by police on arrival, prompting a wave of Western condemnation, with foreign governments and activists urging the Kremlin to release Navalny.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Monday it was “totally incomprehensible” that the Russian authorities arrested Navalny and called on Russia to “immediately” release him.
Navalny “took the conscious decision to return to Russia because he sees it as his personal and political home,” Maas said.
A close Navalny ally said early Monday that the opposition politician was being held in the town of Khimki just outside Moscow and that a member of his defense team could see Navalny during the morning.
“They are now allowing a lawyer in,” Leonid Volkov wrote on Twitter.
Navalny was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport less on arrival from Germany where he had been recovering from a nerve agent attack he says was carried out by the FSB domestic intelligence on Putin’s orders.
The United States, the European Union, several EU governments, Canada and a senior aide to US President-elect Joe Biden immediately called for his release, with some in the EU urging new sanctions against Moscow.
Rights groups joined the calls, with Amnesty International saying Navalny had become a prisoner of conscience.
European Council president Charles Michel said Navalny’s detention was “unacceptable,” while the French foreign ministry said the arrest caused “very strong concern.”
Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova hit back telling foreign leaders to “respect international law” and “deal with the problems in your own country.”

Navalny, 44, was met by uniformed police at passport control after his Berlin flight touched down in Moscow.
He embraced his wife Yulia who was traveling with him and was led away.
Russia’s FSIN prison service said on Sunday it had detained Navalny for “multiple violations” of a 2014 suspended sentence for fraud, adding that “he will be held in custody” until a court ruling.
Speaking to journalists at Sheremetyevo before his detention, Navalny said he did not fear being arrested.
“I know that the criminal cases against me are fabricated,” Navalny said, standing in the terminal in front of a picture of the Kremlin.
His plane landed at Sheremetyevo after a last-minute diversion from another Moscow airport, Vnukovo, where hundreds of supporters and media were waiting.
Several of his associates were taken into custody at the airport while the plane was in the air, including prominent Moscow activist Lyubov Sobol and other top aides.
OVD Info, which monitors detentions at political protests in Russia, said that around 70 people had been detained.
Sobol and others later said they were released and were facing administrative charges.
Navalny fell violently ill on a flight over Siberia in August and was flown to Berlin in an induced coma. Western experts concluded he was poisoned with Soviet-designed nerve toxin Novichok.
The Kremlin denies any involvement and Russian investigators say there are no grounds to launch a probe.
Navalny has been the symbol of Russia’s protest movement for a decade after rising to prominence as an anti-corruption blogger and leading anti-government street rallies.