What were the 1978 Camp David peace accords?
Egypt and Israel developed a state of war since the founding of Israel in 1948. A six-day war in 1967 saw Israel taking over Egypt’s Sinai area. After the consequences of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Egypt realized that their issues cannot be resolved with mere fighting and a diplomatic strategy should be adopted. And so, it was Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat who turned to diplomacy as his ultimate weapon, a move which was never taken up by any Arab state previously.
Camp David Accords have their roots in Sadat’s anomalous visit to Jerusalem which lasted from November 19-21, 1977. Sadat visited Jerusalem to address Israeli Knesset, marking it the first ever visit to Israel by any Arab head of the state. For this act, Sadat’s name was included in Times Magazine as the “Man of the Year for 1977.”
The consequence of Sadat’s visit led to the targeted peace negotiations between Israel and Egypt that went on intermittently for one year. Then came a deadlock in negotiations and to break it and move forward, President Carter invited Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to Camp David (Maryland) on September 5, 1978 for a summit meeting between the US, Egypt and Israel.
There were twelve days of covert meetings and negotiations at the Presidential retreat between the two representatives from Egypt and Israel, arbitrated by President Carter. The Egyptian-Israeli meeting which lasted from September 5 to September 17, 1978 came to a conclusion with both parties signing an agreement in the White House. The agreements had its base in the UN Resolutions 242 and 338, with the purpose of bringing peaceful solutions to the issues between Egypt and Israel, in addition to providing “a just, comprehensive, and durable settlement of the Middle East conflict” for any other neighboring Arab state seeking to come to terms with Israel.
The first deal in the agreements was for Israel to give over the control of Sinai to Egypt within three months. Following this, Israel agreed to vacate Sinai and dismantle its air bases in a period of three years. In return, Egypt agreed to maintain complete diplomatic terms with Israel and to allow Israel safe passage through the Gulf of Aqaba, the Strait of Tiran and the Suez Canal.
Second agreement in the Camp David Accords was regarding the question of Palestine, which included a framework laying down the method of negotiations involving the settlement of West Bank and Gaza as Palestinian territories.
The agreement between Egypt and Israel clearly established the relations that the two countries will share in future; withdrawal of forces from the Sinai, demilitarization in the peninsula and the framework of supervision as well. Matters regarding the future of Gaza, Judea and Samaria were however less clear in the agreement and later took the form of different interpretations for the US, Israel and Egypt.
President Carter became the witness of the Accords signed between Israel and Egypt. The peace negotiations between the two nations became the first of its kind between Israel and any Arab State and the representatives of the two nations, Sadat and Begin were awarded with a Nobel Peace Prize in 1978 for taking this initiative.