Thirty years of Israeli-Egyptian Peace
By Uri Savir
President of the Peres Center for Peace
I shall never forget the moment Anwar Sadat, the late President of Egypt, came down the stairs of an Egyptian airplane in Israel. As I stood there, at Ben-Gurion aiport, I could not believe my eyes. The moment was a dream coming true. President Sadat had just made the most courageous decision in the Middle East's modern history. In his one hour flight he crossed decades of hostility, hatred, war and, bloodshed in order to extend his hand to the late Prime Minister Menachem Begin and the Israeli people.
The dream became a reality.
Tough negotiations resulted in a peace treaty signed March 26, 1979 at the White House by US President Jimmy Carter, Egyptian President Sadat, and Israeli Prime Minister Begin and implemented the following years. The relationship between Egypt and Israel in the years since the agreement has not been warm. The two nations have not cooperated jointly on social or business ventures and tourism between Israel and Egypt has not been strong, except maybe in the Sinai desert. Nevertheless, the peace has had important strategic significance.
• Peace between Egypt and Israel created security cooperation against terrorism and a viable peace process between Israelis and Palestinians
• The Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty led to the peace process between Israel and Jordan
• With Israeli-Egyptian peace, Arab countries did not get involved during the Intifada and the war in Lebanon
• The peace treaty improved the Egyptian-American relationship resulting in increased American civilian and military aid to Egypt
• Similarly, the peace treaty also improved Israel's standing in the United States, increased US aid to Israel, and improved Israel's international standing
• The peace treaty also enticed other Arab countries, such as Syria and Saudi Arabia, to explore a peace strategy with Israel
• Egypt has been and is currently being an honest broker between Israel and the Palestinians. This was true during the second Oslo accords and, more recently, between Israel and Hamas regarding the cease-fire and prisoner exchange
• The Egyptian-Israeli relation is balancing Iran's fundamentalism and her extreme allies in our region
Today, after thirty years of peace with Egypt, we can definitely say that although it is not a warm peace, it is an important strategic asset for Israel. The new Israeli government should learn from this example that the "lands in exchange for peace" equation works. Peaceful and stable relations are sufficient in order to bring security, even if love is not thriving. There is an urgent need to implement the same relations with the Palestinians and with Syria. I truly hope Netanyahu will have the courage to follow Begin's way in this matter and create a new strategic path for the state of Israel.
Peace is a moral value; it is made between former enemies. In the end of the day it is the only guarantee for security and the peace with Egypt is the best example to teach us this important lesson.
March 26, 1979 - On the North Grounds of the White House, Presidents Carter and Sadat and Prime Minister Begin joined hands in celebration of the signing of the "Treaty of Peace Between the Arab Republic of Egypt and the State of Israel."