Egypt and Israel inked a deal on 17 September 1978 - first between an Arab nation and the Jewish state - to find ways to bring peace to the Middle East. Four decades later, peace remains a distant dream in the region.
Leaders of Egypt and Israel signed an unprecedented agreement four decades ago at a summit brokered by the United States, paving way for the peace treaty between the Jewish state and an Arab nation.
Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Premier Menahem Begin signed two separate peace agreements on 17 September 1978 after twelve days of secret negotiations at Camp David in the US under the guidance of US President Jimmy Carter.
Here's are five key elements of the agreement.
1. What triggered the peace deal?
Cairo and Tel Aviv had had many military confrontations since the foundation of a Jewish State in 1948.
Tensions particularly rose after the Six-Day War in 1967 as Egypt and Syria faced Israel.
Israel occupied the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt, the Golan Heights of Syria, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Arab sector of East Jerusalem during the war, getting in control of territory four times its previous size.
The United Nations Security Council called Israel to withdraw its troops from all the regions it occupied, but Tel Aviv declined.
Israel said that they would scale back if the Arabs recognised the right of Israel to exist and guaranteed no more attacks were launched against Israel from the Arab soil..
Arab leaders didn’t accept to give recognition to the Jewish State.
In 1973, Egypt and Syria launched a military operation against Israel, hoping to wrest back control over the lost territory in the Six-Day War.
Egyptian troops went deep into the Sinai Peninsula before a ceasefire announced.
Both the Arabs and Israel declared victory in the war.
However, Egypt’s relative victory enhanced Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s prestige.
Though public opinion went in favor of Sadat following what he described as a military victory against Israel, he also struggled on the economy front. The war had put a serious dent in Egypt's economic growth. So Sadat extended an olive branch to its long-time enemy to seek peace.
"I am ready to go to the end of the world if this would prevent the wounding, let alone the killing, of a soldier or an officer," he said.
Then, he agreed to speak before a session of the Israeli parliament in 1977 after an invitation from Tel Aviv.
The unexpected move gave courage to US President Carter, who later sent his Secretary of State to the Middle East to invite Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin and Egypt’s Sadat to the presidential retreat at Camp David in Maryland.
Sadat and Begin accepted the invitation.
2. What were decided at the Camp David Summit?
With Carter playing the role of mediator, the two leaders engaged in a marathon dialogue between September 5 and September 17 to chart out the terms of the 1978 treaty.
Two separate agreements came out of the talks. The first one, entitled “A Framework for Peace in the Middle East,” called for “the establishment of a self-governing authority in the Israeli “Occupied Territories” of Gaza and the West Bank.”
It also demanded “the withdrawal of Israeli forces and civilians from West Bank lands acquired during the Six-Day War.”
It also wanted recognition of the “legitimate rights of the Palestinian people” and the beginning of processes to grant them full autonomy within the West Bank and Gaza within five years.
These lines have been seen as a step toward Palestinian statehood, and prompted Palestinian aspirations for a state within the borders before the Six-Day War, which includes Jerusalem.
The future of Jerusalem left out of the agreement as it was, is, a highly controversial issue.
The Camp David Accord also led to the second agreement called “A Framework for the Conclusion of a Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel.” The agreement was ratified by the two sides six months later.
The two leaders signed the first Arab-Israeli peace treaty on March 26, 1979 in Washington.
3. What was the strategic importance of the accords?
The first in its kind, the Camp David Accords followed an Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty a year later.
Soon after Egypt and Israel restored full diplomatic relations, which later translated into Israel's troop withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula.
In return, Egypt allowed Israeli ships to use the Suez Canal and Straits of Tiran.
Both Egypt and Israel were also provided annual aids.
Egypt gets $1.3 billion annually in military aid from the United States, while Israel receives $3 billion. After the process, Cairo moved away from its former ally, the Soviet Union.
4. What were the reactions to the accords?
Sadat and Begin won the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts at Camp David.
Feeling betrayed, the Arab League expelled Egypt for the next 10 years. All Arab nations cut diplomatic ties with Cairo.
And, the United Nations has never accepted the first agreement of the accords, saying that it was prepared in absence of Palestinians.
Sadat, who became the first Arab leader to visit Israel, harshly criticised in his own country, was assassinated during a military parade in October 1981.
5. Were the accords success?
For some Palestinians, Egypt prioritised its own interests rather than Palestinian cause at the negotiations.
Although the accords mentioned only “full autonomy” for Palestinians, they have become a hope for Palestinians to have their own state with Jerusalem its capital.
When looked at Palestinian side, they have normalised relations between Egypt and Israel, which carries on to occupy Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza, and some Syrian territory.