Mideast peace hopes 40 years ago

This file photo shows former Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat (L) as he shakes hands with former Israeli Premier Menachem Begin, as former US President Jimmy Carter looks on at Camp David in Maryland.

Paris: The Camp David Accords, thrashed out over days of talks hosted by then US president Jimmy Carter, were signed on September 17, 1978.


Series of wars

In 1973, Egypt and Syria launch a surprise attack on Israel to take back territory the Zionist state seized from them in 1967. Egypt makes a significant advance, even though it is eventually repelled.

Empowered, it agrees to attend a peace conference called in December in Geneva. Syrians and Palestinians do not attend, however, and the meeting adjourns.

First Arab leader in Israel

On November 9, 1977 Egypt’s president Anwar Sadat announces – to the general surprise of all – that he is prepared to visit Israel in a bid for peace.

“I am ready to go to the end of the world if this would prevent the wounding, let alone the killing, of a soldier or an officer,” he says.

Sadat arrives in occupied Jerusalem on November 19, making the first visit by an Arab head of state to Israel.

Agreement at Camp David

In August 1978, Carter invites Sadat and Begin to meet in the US. Their summit gets underway on September 5 at Camp David, the presidential weekend retreat 100km from Washington. For 13 days the three talk, surrounded by their diplomatic and military advisers, cut off from the rest of the world.

They sketch out and discuss 23 versions of an eventual peace accord, making countless revisions.

The negotiations continue into the night and at times the summit teeters on the edge of breakdown. Carter is in a constant back-and-forth between Sadat and Begin.

Eventually, it all comes together.

World stunned by embrace

Sadat and Begin sign the Camp David Accords on September 17, a determined Carter pushing negotiations until the very last minute. The two foes embrace, stunning the world.

There are two documents: the “Framework for Peace in the Middle East”, which outlines the basis of a peace settlement between Israel and its Arab neighbours, and “Framework for the Conclusion of a Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel”. Included are “side letters” confirming that Egypt and Israel remain in disagreement on the status of occupied Jerusalem and on the future of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

From Nobel to assassination

Arab countries slam the treaty as a “separate peace” and a betrayal, and break off relations with Egypt, suspending it from the Arab League.

Sadat, also criticised in his own country, is assassinated in October 1981.

In 1994, Jordan becomes the second Arab nation to normalise ties with Israel.

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