Israel and the Arabs: A Race Against Time: The Egyptian-Israeli Negotiations over the Future of Palestine

President Jimmy Carter shaking hands with Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin at the signing of the Egyptian–Israeli Peace Treaty on the grounds of the White House, 1979

The peace treaty ratified by Egypt and Israel on March 29, 1979 is neither an end to a problem nor a fresh point of departure in the efforts to resolve it. Rather, it represents a stage in a protracted series of negotiations, misunderstandings, cajoleries, and tacit agreements extending back for years. All these will continue-but the situation has changed, for Egypt and Israel now have a document with which they can map out their future haggling.

The peace treaty provides an outline for the future negotiations, and a timetable for part of them. The procedures for the talks and the issues to be discussed are now both institutionalized by the treaty-but the outcome is not, nor are the specific details, which have been the most serious sources of contention between Israel and Egypt. Issues that were deliberately avoided in the peace treaty will have to be addressed during these negotiations. In spite of the many problems that still lie ahead, however, the successful achievement of this first accommodation between Egypt and Israel creates a momentum of negotiation that will be of considerable importance in the years to come.

Besides that momentum, another important influence on the talks that lie ahead is the role of the United States. Without American intervention there would be no glimmer of peace in the Middle East, and without continued American guidance and pressure there will be no hope for a satisfactory agreement on elections in the West Bank, or for any lasting peace in the region. American pressure has been crucial ever since Henry Kissinger wrung from Egypt and Israel the Sinai troop disengagement agreement of 1975. Now the United States will have a vital role to play in attempting to bring the Palestinians to the bargaining table and in defusing the threat of the Baghdad front of Arab rejectionist states.

The schedule and elements of the negotiations are simple. No later than one month after exchanging instruments of ratification, negotiations over the autonomy plan will start. Both Israel

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