Camp David Accords Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The historic Camp David Accords, negotiated by U.S. president Jimmy Carter, normalized diplomatic relations between the nations of Israel and Egypt. However, hopes that the accords would lead to a permanent peace in the Middle East were never realized.

Summary of Event

The Balfour Declaration in 1917, issued by the British government in the midst of World War I, paved the way for the Jewish people to return to Palestine, which they believed was given to them by God through Abraham. However, the land had been occupied for about thirteen centuries by Arabs, who also claim to be descendants of Abraham. The return of Jews led to the creation of the nation of Israel in 1948 and to conflicts with the Palestinian population as well as with neighboring Arab nations. The most powerful of those neighbors was Egypt. Camp David Peace Accords (1978) Peace negotiations;Camp David Accords Arab-Israeli relations[Arab Israeli relations] Israeli-Arab relations[Israeli Arab relations] [kw]Camp David Accords (Sept. 5-17, 1978) [kw]Accords, Camp David (Sept. 5-17, 1978) Camp David Peace Accords (1978) Peace negotiations;Camp David Accords Arab-Israeli relations[Arab Israeli relations] Israeli-Arab relations[Israeli Arab relations] [g]North America;Sept. 5-17, 1978: Camp David Accords[03350] [g]United States;Sept. 5-17, 1978: Camp David Accords[03350] [c]Diplomacy and international relations;Sept. 5-17, 1978: Camp David Accords[03350] Carter, Jimmy [p]Carter, Jimmy;Camp David Accords Begin, Menachem Sadat, Anwar el-

Israeli-Arab wars in 1948, 1956, 1967, and 1973 all failed to resolve the issues. Following the Six-Day War of 1967, Six-Day War (1967)[Six Day War] Israel occupied lands previously controlled by Arabs, including the West Bank, Golan Heights, and the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula, both taken from Egypt.

The United States took an active role in promoting peace in the Middle East when President Jimmy Carter (center) brought together Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin (left) and Egyptian president Anwar el-Sadat to sign the Camp David Accords in 1978.

(NARA)

In 1970, Anwar el-Sadat succeeded Gamal Abdel Nasser, Nasser, Gamal Abdel who had led hard-line Arab opposition to Israel, as president of Egypt. Facing the reality of Israeli military supremacy after the Yom Kippur War in 1973, Yom Kippur War (1973) Sadat began taking a softer position. In 1977, Menachem Begin replaced Yitzhak Rabin as prime minister of Israel. Begin had been a strong conservative, opposing any concession to the Arabs, but he realized the practical necessity of returning part of the occupied lands. Also in 1977, Jimmy Carter had become president of the United States. Carter’s major foreign policy goal was to negotiate peace in the Middle East.

In November, 1977, motivated by the desire to regain the Sinai Peninsula, President Sadat made a historic and unprecedented visit to Jerusalem. He spoke to the Israeli Knesset (parliament) and expressed his desire for peace in the Middle East. A reciprocal visit by Prime Minister Begin to Egypt failed to make progress toward that elusive goal.

In 1978, President Carter, at the suggestion of his wife, Rosalynn, invited Prime Minister Begin and President Sadat to the presidential retreat at Camp David in Maryland. Carter hoped that the seclusion would lead to agreements previously not possible. The three leaders met there for thirteen days, from September 5 to 17. The basis of the negotiations was to be United Nations Resolution 242, passed after the Six-Day War. The resolution called for Israeli withdrawal from occupied lands but also declared the right of all nations in the Middle East, including Israel, to live in peace with secure and recognized boundaries. Also considered was U.N. Resolution 338, passed in the midst of the Yom Kippur War, which called for the immediate end of hostilities and the implementation of all parts of Resolution 242.

The negotiations at Camp David began under somewhat strained circumstances, which included personality differences. Begin was formal in dress and manner and pessimistic about what could be accomplished. Sadat was more optimistic and more relaxed in manner. Both Carter and Sadat wore sports clothes.

Although all three men had their foreign policy advisers at hand, President Carter felt that more could be accomplished in private sessions with only the leaders present and with no press coverage. Apparently the only records made of these sessions were the private notes of the participants. However, it is evident that even this atmosphere did not overcome the differences. Several times the meetings threatened to collapse. Sadat insisted that Israel dismantle its settlements in Sinai, which Begin had made clear he would not do.

For several days, President Carter allowed his guests to discuss the issues without his intervention. When this produced no agreements, Carter composed a document offering compromise solutions to the major issues and then met separately with Begin and Sadat. After many separate meetings and rewritings of his document, he had one that brought the men closer to agreement. The breakthrough came on the final day of the meetings. Begin agreed to allow the Israeli Knesset to decide the fate of the settlements. The Knesset eventually agreed on a transitional process to return the Sinai to Egypt.

The Framework for Peace in the Middle East, signed on September 17, stipulated that all principles of U.N. Resolution 242 would apply. The framework had three major ingredients: A plan was to be established that would lead to Palestinian self-government in the West Bank of the Jordan River and in the Gaza Strip along the Mediterranean coast between Israel and Egypt; a framework was agreed upon to conclude peace between Israel and Egypt; and a similar framework would seek peace between Israel and its other Arab neighbors, particularly Syria.

The conclusion to the process that began at Camp David came on March 26, 1979, with the signing of the Treaty of Peace Between the Arab Republic of Egypt and the State of Israel, which is commonly known as the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty. Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty (1979)[Israel Egypt Peace Treaty] This historic document ended the state of war between the two nations. Israel agreed to withdraw from the Sinai, and Egypt agreed to establish diplomatic relations with Israel and to open the Suez Canal to Israeli ships.

Significance

No other single document in modern Middle Eastern history has had the historical impact of the Camp David Accords. However, establishing peace between Israel and its most powerful Arab neighbor did not prevent future Middle Eastern conflicts. For Anwar el-Sadat, the Camp David Accords were personally fatal. In 1981, he was assassinated in Egypt by Islamic fundamentalists opposed to peace with Israel. However, the new Egyptian president, former vice president Hosnī Mubārak, Mubārak, Hosnī did not forsake the peace process. Ironically, Yitzhak Rabin, Rabin, Yitzhak who again became Israeli prime minister in 1992, was assassinated in 1995 after sharing the Nobel Peace Prize Nobel Peace Prize;Yitzhak Rabin[Rabin] in 1994 with his foreign minister, Shimon Peres, Nobel Peace Prize;Shimon Peres[Peres] and Palestine Liberation Organization Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) chairman Yasir Arafat. Nobel Peace Prize;Yasir Arafat[Arafat]

Although the two nations still disagreed on many issues, Israel and Egypt maintained their state of peace. However, instead of following the third ingredient of the Camp David framework, other Arab nations, such as Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq, ostracized Egypt and expelled the nation from the Arab League. The PLO rejected the first part of the framework. Nevertheless, the Camp David Accords set the stage for future negotiations between Israel and the rest of the Arab world. In 1993, the Oslo Accords, Oslo Accords (1993) paving the way for Palestinian self-government, were signed by Israel and the PLO. This agreement included many points similar to those in the Camp David Accords.

President Jimmy Carter classified the Camp David Accords as the crowning achievement of his administration. He shed new light on his view of Middle East issues with the 2006 publication of his book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, in which he criticized Israel and Prime Minister Menachem Begin for not agreeing to more concessions, especially regarding Palestinian issues. Camp David Peace Accords (1978) Peace negotiations;Camp David Accords Arab-Israeli relations[Arab Israeli relations] Israeli-Arab relations[Israeli Arab relations]

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Carey, Roane, and Jonathan Shainin, eds. The Other Israel: Voices of Refusal and Dissent. New York: New Press, 2002. Collection of essays by thirty-seven Jewish writers who were out of the mainstream of Jewish politics. Describes the historical context of the Arab-Israeli controversy for an alternate viewpoint.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Carter, Jimmy. Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006. Carter seeks to clarify his role in the accords and to express his regret that he did not press Prime Minister Begin for more Israeli concessions.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Kamel, Mohamed Ibrahim. The Camp David Accords. London: KPI, 1986. Covers the author’s personal relationship to Egyptian president Sadat and covers the conflict from the Egyptian point of view. Includes appendixes on Palestinian issues as well as the accords.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Karsh, Ephraim, ed. From Rabin to Netanyahu: Israel’s Troubled Agenda. London: Frank Cass, 1997. Collection of essays by Jewish authors who trace the Jewish side of the controversy leading up to the accords, from the first administration of Yitzhak Rabin in 1974 to the administration of Benjamin Netanyahu in 1996.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Quandt, William B. Camp David: Peacemaking and Politics. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1986. Complete coverage of the peace process, including its effect on American foreign policy. Appendixes include crucial U.N. Resolutions 242 and 338, the full accords, and the resulting Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty. Chronology from January 6, 1977, to March 26, 1979.

Yom Kippur War

Carter Makes Human Rights a Central Theme of Foreign Policy

Sadat Becomes the First Arab Leader to Visit Israel

Sadat and Begin Receive the Nobel Peace Prize

Palestinians Are Massacred in West Beirut

Wye River Accords

Categories: History Content