This year, we celebrate four decades of the signing of the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. Even though the peace has been challenged at times, the relationships between the once enemy countries have remained intact for more than 40 years.
The treaty was signed on March 26, 1979, following the 1978 Camp David Accords. Signed in Washington DC, between then Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, and Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin. US President Jimmy Carter was one of the witnesses of the signing.
There are many historic values of the treaty. For starters, it is the first peace treaty between Israel and any other Arab country. Thanks to the treaty, Egypt has remained away from any arm conflict between Israel and other countries.
Israel and Egypt were battling since 1948, war that began with the independence and forming of Israel. One of the reasons why the treaty has remained is because Egyptian leaders always defended the document.
According to many analysts, the treaty is one of the foundations for stability of the region, despite conflicts between Arab countries.
The 40 year anniversary is happening in a time of great changes of the policy of the United States. President Donald Trump recently acknowledged Jerusalem as capital city of Israel, causing rage all around the Muslim world. In May 2018, USA moved their embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Trump also recognized Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights, which Israel took from Siria.
Since the treaty was signed, the two countries worked on normalization of relations between them. The normalization of relations went into effect in January 1980, and ambassadors were exchanged in February the same year. The boycott laws were repealed by Egypt’s parliament the same month, and the two countries began developing a trade. In March 1980, regular airline flights were inaugurated, and Egypt began supplying Israel with crude oil.
On May 1981, Egypt, Israel, and USA opened negotiations to set up a peacekeeping organization outside the framework of the UN. In August the same year, they signed the Protocol to the Treaty of Peace, with a sole goal of monitoring both parties. The result was demilitarization of Sinai.
The peace treaty also includes a stipulation, or the Agreed Activities Mechanism, that allows the countries to jointly alter the arrangements of Egyptian troops in the Sinai without having to officially review the treaty itself. In 2011, Israel allowed Egypt to deploy forces to central and eastern Sinai out of mutual security concerns.
While many Western leaders applauded the treaty, it was received with enormous controversy across the Arab world. There, it was condemned and considered a stab in the back. Palestinians were among the loudest critics of the treaty. Yasser Arafat, then leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization, stated “Let them sign what they like. False peace will not last”.
In the same time, Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and Israel prime minister Menachem Begin shared the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize for bringing peace between the two states.
Egypt was suspended from the Arab League from 19879 to 1989. The president Sadat was assassinated on October 6, 1981 by members of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad.
The treaty was under pressure a couple of times, but the critical point was during the Egyptian revolution of 2011. It led to fears in Israel regarding the future of the treaty. Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel, stated that he expected any new Egyptian government to keep the peace treaty. Once the Egyptian Army took power of the country on February 11, 2011, they announced that Egypt would continue to abide by all its international and regional treaties.
The benefits for Egypt are mostly economical. Thanks to the treaty, Egypt received more than $40 billion in military help and $30 billion in economic help from the United States of America in 1980 alone. Help was suspended from 2013 to 2015, but it was quickly back to normal.
For the United States of America, Egypt serves as the backbone of the peace in the region and stabilizing force.