the "Camp David Accords"

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Camp David Accords

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Celebrating the signing of the Camp David Accords: Menachem Begin, Jimmy Carter, Anwar El Sadat

The Camp David Accords were signed by Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin on September 17, 1978, following thirteen days of secret negotiations at Camp David.[1] The two framework agreements were signed at the White House, and were witnessed by United States President Jimmy Carter. The second of these frameworks, A Framework for the Conclusion of a Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel, led directly to the 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty, and resulted in Sadat and Begin sharing the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize. Little progress was achieved on the first framework however, A Framework for Peace in the Middle East, which dealt with the Palestinian territories.

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[edit] Background

Upon assuming office on January 20, 1977, President Carter moved to rejuvenate the Middle East peace process that had stalled throughout the 1976 presidential campaign in the United States. Following the advice of a Brookings Institution report, Carter opted to replace the incremental, bilateral peace talks which had characterized Henry Kissinger's shuttle diplomacy following the 1973 Yom Kippur War
with a comprehensive, multilateral approach. The Yom Kippur war further
complicated efforts to achieve the objectives written in United Nations Security Council Resolution 242.[2]

Carter visited the heads-of-state on whom he would have to rely to make any peace agreement feasible.[2] By the end of his first year in office, he had already met with Anwar El Sadat of Egypt, King Hussein of Jordan, Hafez al-Assad of Syria, and Yitzhak Rabin of Israel. Despite the fact that he supported Sadat's peace initiative,[3] King Hussein refused to take part in the peace talks;[3]
Begin offered Jordan little to gain and Hussein also feared he would
isolate Jordan from the Arab world and provoke Syria and the PLO if he engaged in the peace talks as well.[3] Hafez al-Assad, who had no particular interest in negotiating peace with Israel,[4] also refused to come to America and only agreed to meet with Carter in Geneva.[2] Carter's and Secretary of State Cyrus Vance's
exploratory meetings gave him a basic plan for reinvigorating the peace
process based on the Geneva Conference and had presented three main
objectives for Arab-Israeli peace:[2] Arab recognition of Israel's right to exist in peace,[2] Israel's withdrawal from occupied territories gained in the Six Day War through negotiating efforts with neighboring Arab nations to ensure that Israel's security would not be threatened[2] and securing an undivided Jerusalem.[2]

The political situation in Israel underwent a dramatic upheaval with a devastating electoral loss of the long-ruling Alignment (the forerunner of the Israeli Labour Party) to Menachem Begin's Likud
in May 1977. While Begin officially favored the reconvening of the
conference, perhaps even more vocally than Rabin, and even accepted the
Palestinian presence, in actuality the Israelis and the Egyptians were
secretly formulating a framework for bilateral talks. Even earlier,
Begin had not been opposed to returning the Sinai, but a major future obstacle was his firm refusal to consider relinquishing control over the West Bank.[5]

The key to the arrangement between Begin and Sadat took place on
Sunday, August 6, 1978, as a result of a telephone call made that
morning to the Israeli prime minister's office by a United States
citizen who had an "Idea for Peace." The prime minister had not yet
arrived at his office and the caller spoke to Mr. Yechiel Kadishai, a
Begin staff head. Kadishai said that "no one was speaking to anyone and
we expect a war in October." He also told the caller that if any high
level talks were to occur the caller could be assured that they would be
using his approach. Begin arrived, was informed of the plan, and
contacted Sadat who agreed to the plan on that day. On the next day,
U.S. Secretary of State Vance traveled to the Middle East giving
Carter's handwritten Camp David invitations to Begin and Sadat. Both
"jumped to accept" according to Sam Lewis, delighted that it suggested
the invitation was the only way they were going to get any further.The
following day, Tuesday, August 8, the Camp David meeting was scheduled
to take place in exactly four weeks time; on September 5, 1978. The plan
was that Israel agreed on August 6 to return the land to Egypt. Sadat’s
then waning popularity would be greatly enhanced as a result such an
achievement. Israel's security was insured by the specific activities to
take place during the “transition period.” Those activities were
included in the "Idea for Peace" communicated to Begin's office on
August 6.

[edit] The Sadat peace initiative

President Anwar El Sadat
came to feel that the Geneva track peace process was more show than
substance, and was not progressing, partly due to disagreements with his
Arab (mainly Syria, Libya, and Iraq) and his communist allies. He also
lacked confidence in the Western powers to pressure Israel after a
meeting with the Western leaders. His frustration boiled over, and after
clandestine preparatory meetings between Egyptian and Israeli
officials, unknown even to the NATO countries, in November 1977 Anwar El
Sadat became the first Arab leader to visit Israel, thereby implicitly
recognizing Israel.

On November 9, 1977, Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat startled the
world by announcing his intention to go to Jerusalem. Ten days later he
arrived for the groundbreaking three-day visit, which launched the first
peace process between Israel and an Arab state. As would be the case
with later Israeli-Arab peace initiatives, Washington was taken by
surprise, the White House and State Department were particularly scared
that Sadat was merely reaching out to reacquire Sinai as quickly as
possible, putting aside the Palestinian problem. Considered as a man
with strong political who kept his eye on the main objective, Sadat had
no ideological base making him politically inconsistent.[6]
The Sadat visit came about after he delivered a speech in Egypt stating
that he would travel anywhere, "even Jerusalem," to discuss peace.[7]
That speech led the Begin government to declare that, if Israel thought
that Sadat would accept an invitation, Israel would invite him. In
Sadat's Knesset speech he talked about his views on peace, the status of Israel's occupied territories,
and the Palestinian refugee problem. This tactic went against the
intentions of both the West and the East, which were to revive the Geneva Conference.

The gesture stemmed from an eagerness to enlist the help of the NATO
countries in improving the ailing Egyptian economy, a belief that Egypt
should begin to focus more on its own interests than on the interests of
the Arab world, and a hope that an agreement with Israel would catalyze
similar agreements between Israel and her other Arab neighbors and help
solve the Palestinian problem. Prime Minister Begin's response to
Sadat's initiative, though not what Sadat or Carter had hoped,
demonstrated a willingness to engage the Egyptian leader. Like Sadat,
Begin also saw many reasons why bilateral talks would be in his
country's best interests. It would afford Israel the opportunity to
negotiate only with Egypt instead of with a larger Arab
delegation that might try to use its size to make unwelcome or
unacceptable demands. Israel felt Egypt could help protect Israel from
other Arabs and Eastern communists. In addition, the commencement of
direct negotiations between leaders – summit diplomacy – would
distinguish Egypt from her Arab neighbors. Carter's people apparently
had no inkling of the secret talks in Morocco between Dayan and Sadat's
representative, Hassan Tuhami, that paved the way for Sadat's
initiative. Indeed, in a sense Egypt and Israel were ganging up to push
Carter off his Geneva track. The basic message of Sadat's speech at the Knesset were the request for the implementation of Resolutions 242 and 338. Sadat's visit was the first step to negotiations such as the preliminary Cairo Conference in December 1977.

[edit] Washington reluctance to bilateral talks

A mechanism had yet to be created for Israel and Egypt to pursue the talks begun by Sadat and Begin in Jerusalem.[8]
The Egyptian president suggested to Begin that Israel place a secret
representative in the American embassy in Cairo. With American "cover,"
the true identity of the Israeli, who would liaise between the Egyptian
and Israeli leaders, would be known only to the American ambassador in
Cairo.[8]

Sadat's liaison initiative spoke volumes about his reasons for
wanting to make peace with Israel. He wanted an alliance with the
American superpower and he wanted to kill Carter's Geneva initiative.[9]
His trip to Jerusalem signaled a major reorientation of Cairo's place
in the global scheme of things, from the Soviet to the American camp.[10]
Carter's acceptance of the proposed liaison scheme would have signaled
American backing for Sadat's unprecedented peace initiative. But Carter
said no. However, Carter could not thwart the Israeli-Egyptian peace
push. Within days Israeli journalists were allowed into Cairo, breaking a
symbolic barrier, and from there the peace process quickly gained
momentum. An Israeli-Egyptian working summit was scheduled for December
25 in Ismailiya, near the Suez Canal.[11]

[edit] The talks

Begin and Brzezinski playing chess at Camp David

Accompanied by their capable negotiating teams and with their
respective interests in mind, both leaders converged on Camp David for
thirteen days of tense and dramatic negotiations from September 5 to 17,
1978. By all accounts, Carter's relentless drive to achieve peace and
his reluctance to allow the two men to leave without reaching an
agreement are what played the decisive role in the success of the talks.
Carter's advisers insisted on the establishment of a Egyptian-Israeli
agreement which would eventually lead to an eventual solution to the
Palestine issue. They believed in a short, loose and overt linkage
between the two country's amplified by the establishment of a coherent
basis for a settlement. However, Carter felt they were not "aiming high
enough" and was interested in the establishment of a written and signed
agreement. Numerous times both the Egyptian and Israeli leaders wanted
to scrap negotiations, only to be lured back into the process by
personal appeals from Carter. Considered as an excellent mediator whom
arbitrated concessions with confidence, he played a tireless commitment
to find formulas, definitions, and solutions to the many intricate
variables, regardless of perceived or real political limitations, and
was capable of soothing fears and anxieties, always with the goal of
keeping the negotiations going. He gradually understood the importance
historical events had upon determining personal ideology, but he would
not allow it to constrain his political options, and he did not want
them to limit the options of those with whom he was negotiating. Begin
and Sadat had such mutual antipathy toward one another that they only
seldom had direct contact; thus Carter had to conduct his own
microcosmic form of shuttle diplomacy by holding one-on-one meetings
with either Sadat or Begin in one cabin, then returning to the cabin of
the third party to relay the substance of his discussions. Begin and
Sadat were "literally not on speaking terms," and "claustrophobia was
setting in."

President Carter, National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Secretary of State Cyrus Vance at Camp David

A particularly difficult situation arose on the tenth stalemated day
of the talks. The issues of Israeli settlement withdrawal from the Sinai
and the status of the West Bank created what seemed to be an impasse.
In response, Carter had the choice of trying to salvage the agreement by
conceding the issue of the West Bank to Begin, while advocating Sadat's
less controversial position on the removal of all settlements from the
Sinai Peninsula. Or he could have refused to continue the talks,
reported the reasons for their failure, and allowed Begin to bear the
brunt of the blame. Carter chose to continue and for three more days
negotiated. During this course, Carter even took the two leaders to the
nearby Gettysburg National Military Park in the hopes of using the American Civil War as a simile to their own struggle.[citation needed]

Consequently, the thirteen days marking the Camp David Accords were
considered as a success. Partly due to Cater's admirable determination
in obtaining a Israeli-Egyptian agreement, a full two week pledge to a
singular international problem. Additionally, Carter was beneficiary to a
fully pledged American foreign team. Likewise, the Israeli delegation
had a stable of excellent talent in Ministers Dayan and Weizman and the
legal brain power of Meir Rosenne and Aharon Barak. Furthermore, the
absence of the media also contributed to the Accord's successes. Hence,
there were no possibilities provided to either leaders to reassure the
political body or be driven to conclusions by oppositions. An eventual
scrap of negotiations by either leaders would prove disastrous,
resulting in the blame for the summit's failure as well as a
disassociation with the White House. Ultimately, neither Begin nor Sadat
were willing to risk those eventualities. Both of them had invested
enormous amounts of political capital and time to reach an agreement.[12]

[edit] Terms of the agreements

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin acknowledge applause during a joint session of Congress in Washington, D.C., during which President Jimmy Carter announced the results of the Camp David Accords, 18 September 1978.

There were two 1978 Camp David agreements: A Framework for Peace in the Middle East and A Framework for the Conclusion of a Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel, the second leading towards the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty
signed in March 1979. The agreements and the peace treaty were both
accompanied by "side-letters" of understanding between Egypt and the
U.S. and Israel and the U.S.[13]

The first agreement had three parts. The first part or preamble was a framework for negotiations to establish an autonomous self-governing authority in the West Bank and the Gaza strip and to fully implement SC 242.
The Accords recognized the "legitimate rights of the Palestinian
people", a process was to be implemented guaranteeing the full autonomy
of the people within a period of five years. Begin insisted on the
adjective "full" to confirm that it was the maximum political right
attainable. This full autonomy was to be discussed with the
participation of Israel, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinians. The
withdrawal of Israeli troops from the West Bank and Gaza was agreed to
occur after an election of a self-governing authority to replace
Israel's military government. [1].
The Accords did not mention the Golan Heights, Syria, or Lebanon. This
was not the comprehensive peace that Kissinger, Ford, Carter, or Sadat
had in mind during the previous American presidential transition.[14]
It was less clear than the agreements concerning the Sinai, and was
later interpreted differently by Israel, Egypt, and the United States.
The fate of Jerusalem was deliberately excluded from this agreement.[15]

The second part dealt with Egyptian-Israeli relations, the real
content being in the second agreement. The third part "Associated
Principles" declared principles that should apply to relations between
Israel and all of its Arab neighbors.

The second agreement outlined a basis for the peace treaty six months later, in particular deciding the future of the Sinai peninsula.
Israel agreed to withdraw its armed forces from the Sinai, evacuate its
4,500 civilian inhabitants, and restore it to Egypt in return for
normal diplomatic relations with Egypt, guarantees of freedom of passage
through the Suez Canal and other nearby waterways (such as the Straits of Tiran),
and a restriction on the forces Egypt could place on the Sinai
peninsula, especially within 20–40 km from Israel. A process which would
take three years to complete. Israel also agreed to limit its forces a
smaller distance (3 km) from the Egyptian border, and to guarantee free
passage between Egypt and Jordan. With the withdrawal, Israel also
returned Egypt's Abu-Rudeis oil fields in western Sinai, which contained
long term, commercially productive wells.

The agreement also resulted in the United States committing to
several billion dollars worth of annual subsidies to the governments of
both Israel and Egypt, subsidies which continue to this day, and are
given as a mixture of grants and aid packages committed to purchasing
U.S. materiel. From 1979 (the year of the peace agreement) to 1997, Egypt received military aid of US$1.3 billion annually, which also helped modernize the Egyptian military.[16] (This is beyond economic, humanitarian, and other aid, which has totaled more than US$25 billion.) Eastern-supplied until 1979, Egypt now received American weaponry such as the M1A1 Abrams Tank, AH-64 Apache gunship and the F-16 fighter jet. In comparison, Israel has received $3 billion annually since 1985 in grants and military aid packages.[17]

[edit] Consequences

According to The Continuum Political Encyclopedia of the Middle East:

"The normalization of relations [between Israel and Egypt] went into
effect in January 1980. Ambassadors were exchanged in February. The
boycott laws were repealed by Egypt's National Assembly the same month,
and some trade began to develop, albeit less than Israel had hoped for.
In March 1980 regular airline flights were inaugurated. Egypt also began
supplying Israel with crude oil".[18]

According to Kenneth Stein in " Heroic Diplomacy: Sadat, Kissinger, Carter, Begin, and the Quest for Arab-Israeli Peace":

"The Accords were another interim agreement or step, but negotiations
that flowed from the Accords slowed for several reasons. These included
an inability to bring the Jordanians into the discussions; the
controversy over settlements; the inconclusive nature of the subsequent
autonomy talks; domestic opposition sustained by both Begin and Sadat
and, in Sadat’s case, ostracism and anger from the Arab world; the
emergence of a what became a cold peace between Egypt and Israel; and
changes in foreign policy priorities including discontinuity in
personnel committed to sustaining the negotiating process".[19]

The time that has elapsed since the Camp David Accords has left no
doubt as to their enormous ramifications on Middle Eastern politics.
Most notably, the perception of Egypt within the Arab world changed.
With the most powerful of the Arab militaries and a history of
leadership in the Arab world under Nasser,
Egypt had more leverage than any of the other Arab states to advance
Arab interests. Egypt was subsequently suspended from the Arab League from 1979 until 1989.

When the Camp Dvid accords were signed, Jordan president Hussein saw
it as a slap to the face. W Sadat volunteered Jordan s participation in
deciding how functional autonomy would work and, more specifically,
effectively said that Jordan would have a role in how the West Bank
would be administered. Like the Rabat Summit Resolution, the Camp David
Accords circumscribed Jordan's objective to reassert its control over
the West Bank. Focusing as it did on Egypt, the Carter administration
accepted Sadat’s claim that he could deliver Hussein. however, with a
number of Arab world opposition building against Sadat, Jordan could not
risk accepting the Accords, without the support from powerful Arab
neighbours, like Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Syria.[20]
Hussein consequently felt diplomatically snubbed. One of Carter's
regrets was allowing Sadat to claim that he could speak for Hussein if
Jordan refused to join the talks.91 But by then the damage was done with
the Jordanians.[21]

United States President Jimmy Carter greeting Egyptian President Anwar Sadat at the White House shortly after the Camp David Accords went into effect, 8 April 1980.

The Camp David Accords also prompted the disintegration of a united
Arab front in opposition to Israel. Egypt's realignment created a power
vacuum that Saddam Hussein of Iraq, at one time only a secondary power, hoped to fill. Because of the vague language concerning the implementation of Resolution 242, the Palestinian problem became the primary issue in the Arab-Israeli conflict
immediately following the Camp David Accords (and arguably, until
today). Many of the Arab nations blamed Egypt for not putting enough
pressure on Israel to deal with the Palestinian problem in a way that
would be satisfactory to them. Syria also informed Egypt that it would
not reconcile with the nation unless it abandoned the peace agreement
with Israel.[4]

Lastly, the biggest consequence of all may be in the psychology of
the participants of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The success of Begin,
Sadat, and Carter at Camp David demonstrated to other Arab states and
entities that negotiations with Israel were possible—that progress
results only from sustained efforts at communication and cooperation.
Despite the disappointing conclusion of the 1993 Oslo Accords between the PLO and Israel, and even though the 1994 Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace
has not fully normalized relations with Israel, both of these
significant developments had little chance of occurring without the
precedent set by Camp David.

[edit] Public support

At the time it was signed, the treaty was supported by the vast majority of Egyptians.[22]

Although most Israelis supported the Accords, the Israeli settler movement opposed them. Because Sadat would not agree to a treaty in which Israel had any presence in the Sinai Peninsula at all, Israel had to withdraw from the entire Sinai Peninsula.[23] Israeli settlers living in there tried to prevent the government from dismantling their settlements.[24]

In Israel, there is lasting support of the Camp David Peace Accords,
which have become a national consensus, supported by 85% of Israelis
according to a 2001 poll taken by the Jaffee Center for Strategic
Studies (Israel based).[25]
Nevertheless, a minority of Israelis believe the price Israel paid for
the peace agreement was too high for its present gains, i.e. having
relinquished the entire Sinai Peninsula, with its oil, tourism and land
resources (Israel has no other oil wells), and the trauma of evacuating
thousands of its Israeli inhabitants (many resisted, as in the town of Yamit
and had to be forcefully evacuated, a phenomenon encountered also in
the subsequent Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, known as the disengagement).[citation needed]

[edit] Criticism of the Accords

For Israel, perhaps the most evident tangible benefit of the
agreement with Egypt (other than the subsequent U.S. aid, which Egypt
also received) was a peaceful mutual border, enabling the Israel Defense Forces
to reduce their levels of alert on Israel's southwestern frontier.
Although both sides generally abided by the agreements since 1978, in
the following years a common belief emerged in Israel that the peace
with Egypt is a "cold peace." There are Israelis who feel that Egypt is
adhering only to letter and not the spirit of the agreement,
particularly with the clauses concerning normalization of relations
between the two countries.[citation needed] Others feel that the Peace agreement was between the Israeli people and Egypt's charismatic President Anwar El Sadat, rather than with the Egyptian people,
who were not given the opportunity to accept or reject the agreement
with a free vote or a representative majority. However, it was initially
supported by the vast majority.[22] While the treaty was approved by a parliament majority in Israel, which has a multi-candidate, Multi-party electoral system, Egypt has had a semi-presidential system with a single candidate government since 1953.

 

[edit] A "Cold" Peace

The peace between Egypt and Israel has lasted for thirty years, and
Egypt has become an important strategic partner of Israel. Binyamin
Ben-Eliezer, a former defence minister known for his close ties to
Egyptian officials has stated that "Egypt is not only our closest friend
in the region, the co-operation between us goes beyond the strategic."[26]

Nevertheless, the peace is often described as a "cold Peace"[26], with many in Egypt skeptical about its effectiveness.[27][28] The Arab-Israeli conflict has kept relations cool and anti-semitic incitement is prevalent in the Egyptian media.[29]
US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks suggest that the Egyptian
military continues to see Israel as its primary adversary. [30] The Egyptian army conducts yearly military exercises in the Sinai against their 'Enemy', Israel.[31]

According to an Egyptian Government 2006, poll of 1000 Egyptians (taken at the time of the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict) 92% of Egyptians view Israel as an enemy nation.[32][33]In
Israel, there is lasting support of the Camp David Peace Accords, which
have become a national consensus, supported by 85% of Israelis
according to a 2001 poll taken by the Jaffee Center for Strategic
Studies (Israel based).[34]

Although Israeli tourists flocked to Egypt, few Egyptians returned
the gesture: in the peak year, 1999, 415,000 Israelis visited Egypt. The
highest number of Egyptians visiting Israel was 28,000, in 1995.[citation needed]
(While the disparity is undoubtedly attributable in part to Egyptian
average income being lower, it is also worth noting that Israel's
population is 6 million while Egypt's is 71 million). Approximately 1.8 million Egyptians travel abroad every year,[35] while in 2006 2 million Israelis traveled abroad,[36]
indicating that a significantly higher percentage of Israeli travelers
visit Egypt than the percentage of Egyptian travelers who visit Israel.

Egypt has mediated several unofficial cease fire understandings
between Israel and the Palestinians. There have been many popular
protests in Egypt against peace with Israel (from all levels of society,
up to and including intellectuals, students and democratization movements such as Kifaya). These typically intensify following Israeli actions in its conflicts with the Palestinians and Lebanon, which Israel views as self-defence, but are seen in Egypt as harsh repression of Arabs.

[edit] Arab-Israeli peace diplomacy and treaties

[edit] See also