Sadat Carter Begin handshake

Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty – Benefit for Both Sides

The first peace agreement between Israel and an Arab state was the Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty, which was signed in Washington, D.C., on March 26, 1979. The  treaty, which followed the Camp David Peace Accords between Egypt and Israel in 1978, was signed by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, and witnessed by US President Jimmy Carter.

Sadat Carter Begin handshake

The peace treaty came 16 months after Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s historic visit to Israel and after intense negotiations. The main features of the treaty were mutual recognition, cessation of the state of war that had existed since the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, normalization of relations and the complete withdrawal by Israel of its armed forces and civilians from the Sinai Peninsula, which Israel had captured during the Six-Day War in 1967. Egypt agreed to leave the area demilitarized. The agreement also provided for the free passage of Israeli ships through the Suez Canal, and recognition of the Strait of Tiran and the Gulf of Aqaba as international waterways.

In signing the agreement, Egypt became the first Arab state to officially recognize Israel. Jordan, which also has since signed a peace agreement with Israel, is the only other Arab state to have done so.

The normalization of relations between Israel and Egypt went into effect in January 1980. Ambassadors were exchanged the following month. The boycott laws against Israel were repealed by Egypt’s parliament, and limited trade began to develop. In March 1980 regular airline flights were inaugurated between the two countries. Egypt also began supplying Israel with crude oil. In the near future, Israel will be selling natural gas from offshore sources to Egypt.

To monitor and preserve the peace between the two countries, a Multinational Force and Observers entity was established to ensure compliance by both sides with the terms of the treaty. This non-UN peacekeeping force is still in place in the Sinai and is manned by troops from a variety of countries.

Due to terrorist activities in the Sinai, Israel has in recent years allowed Egyptian security forces to deploy in the Sinai beyond the numbers called for in the 1979 peace treaty.

While the treaty was widely condemned across the Arab world, it led both Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to share the Nobel Peace Prize in 1978. However, as a result of the treaty, Egypt was suspended from the Arab League in 1979–1989, and Sadat was assassinated on October 6,1981, by members of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad.

Although the peace between Israel and Egypt is often described as a “cold peace”, due to the lack of normal, people-to-people relations and some strong opposition voices in Egypt, the treaty has served both nations well in terms of shared security information and also in the substantial financial and political support that both countries have received from the United States, which strongly supports cooperation between the two.