41 Years Ago Today...
Updated: Apr 20, 2020
On March 26, in 1979, Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin signed a peace agreement between the two nations. Though the Israeli-Palestinian conflict shadows Israel's tension-filled past with Egypt, three decades of hostility were turned to diplomatic and commercial relations with the stroke of a pen. I write this today to illustrate the similarities between the two conflicts and to help educate how Egypt and Israel were able to solve their deep feud - and what this resolution can teach Palestine and Israel. Despite the fact that Egypt is on a different continent, one must remember Egypt remains deeply Muslim, allied with other nearby Arab nations, and right up against Israel geopolitically (with Israel having taken Gaza just prior) so this is not all so different than with Palestine, Syria, etc.
Following the Six-Day war of 1967 (see other blog posts), Israel was left in control of territory 4x its previous size. This included both the Gaza Strip and the massive, 23,500 square mile Sinai peninsula. Anwar el-Sadat became president of Egypt in 1970, in an economically and politically troubled situation, lacking the ability to continue a military campaign toward Israel. It was unlikely that Egypt would have any favorable peace terms, so Sadat knew it was necessary to attack Israel once again in order to at least convince Israel that peace was in their own interests (something Palestine needs not to follow). Yes, Egypt wanted the Sinai Peninsula back, but more importantly, they valued peace, a peace beneficial to both parties. Ultimately, despite drastic action being taken as a necessity, Egypt made sacrifices for the long-term goal of regional prosperity.
In preparation, Sadat opened new diplomatic channels with Washington, as he knew the US, being dominant in global geopolitics, would be an essential mediator in future peace talks. As Egypt recognized, the US has incredible influence over the region, and in turn cannot take neglectful actions that promote tensions between Israel and arabs (such the embassy debacle in recent times), but to promote peace. Anyway, when the "Yom Kippur War" of October, 1973 broke out on Yom Kippur, which was highly strategical (so Israeli soldiers would be away from posts observing the holiday). This is key, as the exploitation of religion for military gain shows how hateful this relationship grew. US airlifts aided Israel but President Nixon delayed emergency military aid on purpose as a signal of sympathy for Egypt.
Of course, allowing any type of violence on purpose is misguided to say the least, but the US has not shown any since of equality in sympathy for Palestine and the mistreated residents (a total of $0 yearly in military aid). Despite Israeli victory, the two leaders signed the first peace agreement between Israel and ANY Arab neighbor. In 1977, Sadat visited Jerusalem to meet with Begin and the Israeli parliament - sparking outrage in the Arab community. In fact, Egypt was suspended from the Arab League, and in 1981, Muslim extremists assassinated Sadat in Cairo. Despite the pushback and before the assassination, in 1978, the two leaders met with President Carter at Camp David where a negotiated agreement was worked out.
Defying the odds, the agreement actually held, with Israel fulfilling the treaty in 1982 by returning the last segment of the Sinai Peninsula. So, despite intense hatred by close allies, Egypt's perseverance in creating peace eventually formulated into peace itself. Today, Palestine does have a right to a peaceful environment, and hopefully, some sort of self-governance, but they cannot do that if hatred of the Jewish people and state drives greed and a lack of willingness to cooperate. Peace can be achieved, but only if Palestine is willing to get out of its own way, follow in the footsteps of Egypt, and care more about the greater good of its inhabitants than how they are viewed by allies.