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Camp David Accords Summary

Instructor: Matthew Hill
The Camp David Accords were a series of negotiations that lasted for twelve days between US President Jimmy Carter, Egyptian President Muhammad Anwar al-Sadat, and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. The result was two-part agreement in September 1978.

Background to Camp David

The background to the Camp David Accords lies in the creation of Israel in 1948 and its immediate conflict with its Arab neighbors. Israel had successfully achieved an independent homeland, but the surrounding Arab nations wanted the same land for a Palestinian state. These opposing goals led to immediate conflict. In a series of wars that followed between Israel and various Arab nations - the Arab Israeli War (1948), the Six Day War (1967), and the Yom Kippur War (1973),Israel successfully pushed back these armies and expanded its territory, including occupation of the Sinai Peninsula on the Egyptian border. Israel felt vulnerable and wanted to maintain occupation of these lands to create a buffer zone between it and its neighbors. Egypt was affected the most since it lost the Sinai Peninsula and the two remained in a perpetual state of war since 1948. Shortly before Carter came into office, President Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had reached a tentative agreement known as the Sinai Agreement (1975), in which Israel and Egypt agreed to renounce the use of force and allow for a United Nations buffer zone. Unfortunately, this only had a marginal impact on the situation.

L-R, Anwar Sadat, Jimmy Carter, Menachem Begin at Camp David in September 1978
Sadat, Carter, Begin at Camp David

Meeting at Camp David

In November 1977, Begin invited al-Sadat for a historical visit to Israel. Begin reciprocated with a trip to Egypt. Carter, emboldened by this open door, sent Secretary of State, Cyrus Vance, to the Middle East to invite Begin and Sadat to the presidential retreat at Camp David in Maryland. He preferred a personal diplomacy style and felt it wise to shield them from media scrutiny to allow a freer atmosphere of discussion. Begin and Sadat agreed to come and for twelve straight days. From September 5 - September 17, 1978, the three heads of state and their negotiating teams discussed treaty terms. These were not easy discussions. The debates were often heated between Begin and Sadat while Carter played the role of mediator. The core issues centered around Egypt demanding the evacuation of Israel from the Sinai Peninsula and the creation of an independent Palestinian homeland. In turn, Israel insisted that Egypt remove its troops from its border and allow for unfettered access to the Suez Canal.

L-R, President Carter, National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance at Camp David
Carters Foreign Policy Team

Carter felt it wise to separate the Sinai issue from the Palestinian issue and the consequence was a two-part agreement. The first was 'A Framework for Peace in the Middle East Agreed at Camp David.' The agreement declared that Israel would evacuate the Sinai in exchange for diplomatic recognition and full access to the Suez Canal. In exchange, Egypt would limit its military activities on the Israeli border. The second agreement was the 'Framework for the Conclusion of a Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel.' This agreement proved more difficult to enforce, because it was more a pledge, rather than a guarantee, to discuss the future of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the creation of a Palestinian state. The Camp David Accords were signed in the East Room of the White House on September 17, 1978. In many ways, this was only the beginning of a political battle. Begin and Sadat now had to return to their home countries to win support for the treaty from their respective parliaments.

L-R, Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin Before Congress September 1978
Sadat and Begin Before Congress

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