Israel-Egyptian peace agreement signed
March 26, 1979
In a ceremony at the White House, Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin sign a historic peace agreement, ending three decades of hostilities between Egypt and Israel and establishing diplomatic and commercial ties.
Less than two years earlier, in an unprecedented move for an Arab leader, Sadat traveled to Jerusalem, Israel, to seek a permanent peace settlement with Egypt’s Jewish neighbor after decades of conflict. Sadat’s visit, where he met with Begin and spoke before Israel’s parliament, was met with outrage in most of the Arab world. Despite criticism from Egypt’s regional allies, Sadat continued to pursue peace with Begin, and in September 1978 the two leaders met again in the United States, where they negotiated an agreement with U.S. President Jimmy Carter at Camp David, Maryland. The Camp David Accords, the first peace agreement between the state of Israel and one of its Arab neighbors, laid the groundwork for diplomatic and commercial relations. Seven months later, a formal peace treaty was signed.
The peace between Egypt and Israel has lasted since the treaty went into effect, and Egypt has become an important strategic partner of Israel. Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, a former Israeli defense minister known for his close ties to Egyptian officials, has stated that “Egypt is not only our closest friend in the region, the co-operation between us goes beyond the strategic.”
As part of the agreement, the U.S. began economic and military aid to Egypt, and political backing for its later governments. From the Camp David peace accords in 1978 until 2000, the United States has subsidized Egypt’s armed forces with over $38 billion worth of aid. Egypt receives about $1.3 billion annually.
Nevertheless, the peace is often described as a “cold peace”, with many in Egypt skeptical about its effectiveness. The Arab-Israeli conflict has kept relations cool. In 2008, the Egyptian army conducted simulated military exercises against an “enemy” Israel.
The Egyptian Revolution of 2011 led to fears in Israel about the future of the treaty, although the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that he expected any new Egyptian government to keep the peace treaty with Israel, as it has served both countries well. Addressing Israeli concerns, Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi pledged to continue the peace with Israel