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Peace Agreement with Egypt & Begin's plan for Palestinian  Autonomy in 1979

Dramatic events followed in 1977 and caused a tremendous stir throughout the world, now known as "Camp David I"

The generally unexpected rise to power in Israel of the Likud party headed by Menachem Begin in June 1977 was followed soon afterwards by his offer to President Sadat to surrender the whole of Sinai to Egypt in exchange for a treaty of peace. This offer, made in September 1977 at a meeting in Morocco between Beginís Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan and Sadat's deputy Prime Minister Hassan Tohemi, was followed in November by Sadat's epoch-making visit to Jerusalem.

Thereafter, following nine months of negotiations, most of it indirect (through the United States administration), an agreement in two parts was signed at Camp David in the U.S. (September 1978) by Begin, Sadat and U.S. President Jimmy Carter. The first part laid down formally Israel's agreement to surrender Sinai as part of treaty; the second part prescribed a procedure intended to lead to a resolution of the conflict over Palestine. This process was to be inaugurated by a transition period of five years of autonomy for the Arab of Judea, Samaria and Gaza. After three years negotiations would be opened between Israel, Jordan, Egypt and representatives of the Arab residents to determine the final status of these areas. Then, an agreement being achieved, negotiations could begin on peace between Israel and Jordan.

First Part: Surrender of Sinai by Israel to Egypt
Status: Completed

Six months after the signing of the Camp David Agreement a Peace Treaty was signed in Washington (26th March, 1979) between Israel and Egypt. This provided for the surrender of Sinai to Egypt in stages ending in April 1982. All visible evidence of the Israeli presence was to be removed. Three major airfields-one still under construction-were to be abandoned; the town of Yamit and the cluster of 14 villages in its periphery were to be evacuated. They were in fact destroyed -amid fierce opposition by the inhabitants to their expulsion-in April 1982. Other crucial clauses in the Peace Treaty provided for the establishment of diplomatic relations, a cessation of hostile propaganda, and the promotion of mutual trade and tourism.

The Camp David Agreement had laid down that the Peace Treaty should be concluded by December 1978. The three months' delay in its signature was occasioned by the insistence of the Egyptians that a clause in the original draft should be scrapped or amended. This clause laid down that this treaty would have precedence over other treaties. The Egyptians' aim was to remain free to fulfil their obligations under treaties they had signed in earlier years with the other Arab States. Those treaties obliged Egypt to go to war at the behest of those States. After a period of refusal the Israeli Government pressed by U.S. President Carter, agreed to the addition of "minutes", as an annex to the peace treaty, "interpreting" the original clause. The annex reads as follows: [Article VI (5)]

It is agreed by the Parties that there is no assertion that this Treaty prevails over other Treaties or Agreements or that other treaties or agreements prevail over this Treaty. The foregoing is not to be construed as contravening the provisions of Article VI (5) of the Treaty which reads as follows: "Subject to article 103 of the United Nations Charter in the event of a conflict between the obligations of the Parties under the present Treaty and any of their other obligations, the obligations under this Treaty will be binding and implemented." This sequence of events provided a vivid illustration of the Egyptians' view of their future relations with Israel: the peace treaty must not hamper their participation in a future Arab war against Israel. Indeed during the interim period Dr. Butrus Ghali, the Egyptian Minister of State, questioned on the kind of circumstances in which he envisaged Egypt fulfilling her obligations under her treaties with the other Arab States, declared "Egypt's entry into the war of 1948", that is, the minuscule infant Israel of the UN partition proposal.

Second Part:  Five years of autonomy for the Arab of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, negotiated final status
Status: Massive Non-Cooperation

This process was to be inaugurated by a transition period of five years of autonomy for the Arab of Judea, Samaria and Gaza. After three years negotiations would be opened between Israel, Jordan, Egypt and representatives of the Arab residents to determine the final status of these areas. 

As for the implementation of the agreement relating to Judea, Samaria, and Gaza it never got beyond the stage of preliminary talks between Israel and Egypt. At no point did Jordan or any of the Arab residents in the areas show any sign of co-operating in the autonomy plan. The preliminary talks themselves came to a standstill because of differences of interpretation of the Camp David terms. Put briefly, it may be said that each side proposed conditions in conflict with those terms.

Third Part: Egyptian Normalization with Israel
Status: Not Done

Moreover, with Egypt certain of Sinai regained, Cairo applied a most selective method for honouring its own obligations under the Peace Treaty. Practically none of the operational agreements arising out of the Treaty were fulfilled. The volume of trade was infinitesimal. Tourism was almost completely one-sided: Egyptians wishing to visit Israel were pointedly discouraged by unique bureaucratic difficulties. On the international stage Egypt from time to time supported resolutions whose thrust nullified the Camp David Agreement, projecting the traditional demands made on Israel for unconditional withdrawal from Judea, Samaria and Gaza, "self-determination" for the "Palestinian people"-and. the 'restoration' of Jerusalem.

A symbolic feature of the inability of the Egyptians to recognise the legitimacy of Israeli sovereignty at all is the fact that on maps of the region prepared after the signing of the Peace Treaty the name of Israel still did not appear.

Most significantly: the central feature of the 'Cold War' against Israel ever since 1948-hostile propaganda, some of it extremely anti-Semitic-never abated.

The ostensible reason for Egypt's behaviour was to bring to an end the hostility of the other Arab states which she appeared to have incurred by signing the Camp David Agreement and the Peace Treaty. In other words, Egypt having regained Sinai-certainly a tremendous, indeed historic achievement for the Arab nation -- might now be expected to empty the rest of the Peace Treaty of content. The final result is evidently to be Egypt's return, by and large, to the pre-1979 relationship with Israel (of a non-shooting war)-except that the Sinai would be in Egypt's hands.

Egypt's plan for Peace, the elimination of a 'Jewish' Israel

This prospect was, in a sense, already codified by Egypt on the eve of the final stage of Israel's withdrawal from Sinai. On 7th April 1982 Abdul Maguid, Egypt's Ambassador to the United Nations, who had been permitted (in spite of the alleged boycott of Egypt) to attend a conference of Arab States in Kuwait devoted his entire speech to the Palestinian problem. He there presented the Egyptian plan for its solution. It contained eleven points:
1.The right of the Palestinian people to end the Israeli occupation of its territories (the West Bank, Gaza and some or all of Modern day Israel, J.K.).

2.The right to return or compensation in the pursuance of UN General-Assembly Resolution 194. (The "right of return" of the "refugees" of 1948 to Haifa, Jaffa, et at. See Chapter 2 "Arab refugees". S.K.)

3.The right to exercise control over its wealth and resources.

4.The right to self-determination without external interference.

5.The right to establish its independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip on the basis of 1967 borders.

6.The respect of its [Arab] sovereign right in Jerusalem and rejection of any change-in its geographic, demographic or legal status.

7.The respect of its right to its territories and consequently the rejection of any Israeli policy or measures adopted by Israeli occupation authorities aiming at changing the geographic, demographic or legal status in the territories, partially or totally occupied in 1967.

8.The right to security and to live in secure borders on a mutual basis with the neighbouring countries.

9.The right to abolish all Israeli measures adopted in the occupied Palestinian territories contradicting the Geneva Accords.

10.The right to remove the Israel settlements built in violation of the international law and agreements governing the conditions of occupation.

11.The right to fully apply the Geneva Accords in the occupied Palestinian territories until the achievement of a comprehensive settlement and the Israeli withdrawal from these territories.

This was the most comprehensive of all the articulated Arab plans designed to ensure a dismantling of Jewish State. The policy it formulated accorded well with the "philosophical" negation of the very existence of a Jewish State which had long been pronounced by Egyptian intellectuals and policy makers. In their restrained language they seek peace with the Jews of Israel provided they relinquish Zionism. A leading exponent of this philosophy is Dr. Butrus Ghali who, in a symposium. in Cairo in 1975, posed a series of rhetorical questions: Will Israel agree to become part of the region? Or will the nature of the Zionist existence prevent Israel's assimilation in the Arab homeland? ...Will Israel become a Jewish nation possessing an Arab character among the united Arab nations? Or are these peace-bearing ideas without foundation in reality, so that the conflict will go on for tens of years and a fifth Arab-Israeli war break out, and then a sixth and a seventh? In a follow-up to this symposium Ghali was asked, in an interview to the Middle East Review (Autumn 1975): Assuming that Israel believes-or continues to believe-that its self-determination requires that it maintains its Jewish character, and assuming that a general notion of self-determination in international law would be that Israel, as well as any other state, can determine for itself the nature and development of its political orientation, do you think that the Arab view that you have disclosed to us, which I think is an important one, is one that will improve the possibility for peace in the Middle East? Or is it one that might have to change with your own developing attitude? To which Ghali replied categorically: Then we will have no integration of Israel into this region. Assuming that Israel takes this very stiff attitude, defending its sovereignty according to this very radical way of thinking, I think you can have no peace in this region. This position was further elucidated by a former Egyptian Prime Minister Mustafa Khalil, in a guest lecture he delivered at Tel Aviv University in December 1980. He commenced his talk by asserting that he wished to speak frankly and scientifically. He then pointed out that "We do not regard the Jews as a nation at all, but as a religion only. The Jewish religion is one of the three great religions, but when it comes to nationality, a Jew can be an Egyptian Jew or a French Jew or a German Jew."

In this spirit Mr. Khalil went on to predict that Israel would in fact "change." "We wish very much to live as good neighbours with you," he said "but we are taking into account that you will undergo great changes." He was frank also about the real roots of the conflict "There was a temporary conflict between us, beginning in 1948", he said. In other words, the conflict is not offshoot of the 1967 occupation but originates in the very establishment of the Jewish State. No special scientific expertise is required to perceive that Khalil's. remarks share a common origin with the Palestinian Covenant of the PLO. (See page 246).

Near-Freeze in relations between Egypt and Israel after returning Sinai, the "Cold Peace"

The near-freeze of relations between Israel and Egypt (popularly described as the "Cold Peace") was perceived by some to have thawed in early 1985 when considerable effervescence was generated by a move by President Mubarak designed, on the face of it, to renew negotiations with Israel.1 In the upshot it transpired that Mubarak was trying, in co-ordination with King Hussein of Jordan and Yasser Arafat, to draw Washington into negotiations with Jordan--whose representatives would be accompanied by selected Palestinian Arabs appointed or at least "approved" by Arafat. This implicit recognition of the PLO would followed-in Mubarak's plan-by American pressure on Israel to negotiate in the same format.

Precisely at the time of the Mubarak initiative an up-to-date report from Egypt made it plain that not only there been no abatement of anti-Israel propaganda in the Egyptian media but it had reached new heights of virulence. The Israeli academic personality probably most friendly to Egypt, indeed a frequent apologist for Egyptian attitudes, wrote bluntly:

"Today the most dangerous impediment to relations between the two peoples is not, in my view, the absence of implementation of normalisation, as detailed in paragraph three of the Peace Treaty, nor in the absence of an Egyptian Ambassador in Israel, but in the unbridled incitement against Israel in the Egyptian press. "

He goes on: "Many journalists regard it as their national duty to serve as watch-dogs who protect Egyptian duty from any positive contact with Israelis. They denounce any connection in the cultural sphere as a cultural attack by Israel on the Egyptian personality. and any economic activity as domination of the Egyptian economy. Negative news from Israel is inflated to monstrous proportions, while positive moves are not published at all. Even a newspaper like El Ahram2 permits itself to publish, for example, an article which tells readers that the Israeli soldiers in Lebanon operate ovens of "termination which they learnt to build from Nazis. "3

Mubarak's move came as the climax to a year of manoeuvring to bring about Arafat's agreement to a joint formula with Hussein. Manoeuvring-and Arafat's presumed "moderation"-were made feasible the collapse of the PLO 'empire' based in Lebanon-and the severe clipping of Arafat's wings- in consequence of the other cataclysmic event of the period: Operation Peace for Galilee, the war in Lebanon.

1. Hosni Mubarak had succeeded President Sadat who was assassinated-in Sept. 1981.

2. Egypt's leading daily

3. Professor Shimon Shamir, (the head, until 1984, of the Israeli Cultural Institute in Cairo) in Yediot Ahronot 29 March, 1985.

This page was produced by Joseph E. Katz
Middle Eastern Political and Religious History Analyst 
Brooklyn, New York 
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Source: "Battleground: Fact & Fantasy in Palestine" by Samuel Katz, 
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Copyright © 1973, 1977, 1978, 1985 by Samuel Katz.
All rights reserved.  Reprinted by Permission.
Portions Copyright © 2001 Joseph Katz