The Middle East Peace Talks
Peace talks in the Middle East began in earnest following the 1973 Arab-Israeli War (Yom Kippur War). The Arab states had been waging war against Israel since 1948 as they refused to accept the existence of the Jewish state and vowed to destroy it for they saw it as a new form of imperialism and Jewish settlers were displacing Palestinian Arabs who also claimed the land. On the four occasions of fighting the Israelis, the Arabs lost though they nearly succeeded in the last one.
Following the 1973 war, things began to change and it began in Egypt under the initiatives undertaken by its president Anwar Sadat who made a bold move by reaching out and traveling to Israel. His visit to 1977 Israel and address at the Knesset (Parliament) underscored the change he was initiating. He first told the assembled members how he and other Arabs felt with their “intrusion” to Palestine:
“In all sincerity I tell you we welcome you among us with full security and safety. This in itself is a tremendous turning point, one of the landmarks of a decisive historical change. We used to reject you. We had our reasons and our fears, yes. We refused to meet with you, anywhere, yes.”
Sadat stated that fear was what drove the Arab states to reject Israel’s existence and go to war against it for the very reasons stated before. This was more or less a “confession” he was making on behalf of his Arab colleagues who by then refused to acknowledge Israel or make peace with it. Sadat also mentioned in his address he had grown tired of the endless fighting that not only claimed lives but it was also part of Egypt’s changing foreign policy following his assumption of leadership. Sadat’s presidency saw the departure of the Soviet Union as its main supporter and Egypt was turning towards the United States and the west for economic and financial support and to gain the favor of the US, he had to make peace with its ally, Israel and he saw that the US wields considerable influence over its ally.
For his part, Prime Minister Menachem Begin, on that same day Sadat addressed the Knesset acknowledged the need for peace between Israelis and Arabs that Jews never robbed the Palestinians of their lands:
“The President (Chaim Herzog) mentioned the Balfour Declaration. No, sir, we took no foreign land. We returned to our Homeland. The bond between our People and this Land is eternal. It was created at the dawn of human history. It was never severed.”
Begin dispelled the false and baseless claims by the Arabs that they are imperialists and Begin implicitly underscored that most of the Arabs were “blind” or chose to be ignorant about the history of the land by not acknowledging that Jews have been there with them before being dispersed in the Diaspora and that the Old Testament can attest to that. Nevertheless, despite defending their right to be in Palestine, Begin did agree that there was a need to make peace and he was willing to forge ahead with it, beginning with Egypt.
A year later after their historic meeting, the two Middle East leaders met in the United States with President Jimmy Carter serving as mediator. Instead of forging peace in the stressful atmosphere of Washington, DC, all parties repaired to the presidential retreat at Camp David Maryland where the peaceful surroundings would make it conducive for them to negotiate in earnest. The early part of the meetings were tense as both sides were not keen on compromising and President Carter had to shift back and forth, speaking to both men. After days of standing off and Carter’s shuttling, they managed to find common ground and by September, Israel and Egypt signed a peace agreement which finally put an end to their animosity.
“Peace requires respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every state in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.”
Part of the peace agreement is for Israel to cede the Sinai back to Egypt. Strategically, Israel occupied these lands, as well as the Golan Heights of Syria to act as a buffer zone for its security and it is rather understandable when viewed from a security standpoint. Israel ceded the region when Egypt guaranteed its security and will no longer wage aggression against it. To this day, that agreement is still being honored and both nations have been at peace since then. As a further epilogue, peace agreements have already been made with most of the other Arab neighbors save for Syria. It can be inferred here that Israel is willing to make peace so as long as its security is guaranteed and will no longer be threatened by its hostile neighbors who in turn must be willing to recognize Israel’s existence and abandon its goal of destroying it. This is the key to lasting peace in the Middle East.
Begin, Menachnem. “Address to the Knesset.” Knesset. November 20, 1977. http://www.knesset.gov.il/process/docs/beginspeech_eng.htm (accessed July 27, 2010).
“Camp David Accords.” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. September 17, 1978. http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Peace%20Process/Guide%20to%20the%20Peace%20Process/Camp%20David%20Accords (accessed July 27, 2010).
Sadat, Anwar. “Address to Knesset.” November 20, 1977. http://www.ibiblio.org/sullivan/docs/Knesset-speech.html (accessed July 27, 2010).
 Anwar Sadat, Address to the Israeli Knesset [Transcript], November 20, 1977. http://www.ibiblio.org/sullivan/docs/Knesset-speech.html (Accessed July 20, 2010).
 Menachem Begin, Address to the Israeli Knesset [Transcript], November 20, 1977. http://www.ibiblio.org/sullivan/docs/Knesset-speech.html (Accessed July 20, 2010).
 Camp David Accords, September 17, 1978, http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Peace%20Process/Guide%20to%20the%20Peace%20Process/Camp%20David%20Accords. (Accessed July 27, 2010).