Assessing the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty, Thirty Years Later

….for the next year and a half avidly and hopefully followed developments until the Egyptian and Israeli governments finally stumbled their way to signing a treaty thirty years ago today.

But I have long since given up on the treaty. In a 2006 article, "Rethinking the Egypt-Israel 'Peace' Treaty," I deemed it a "failure" for having been based on multiple fallacies and wishful predictions that:

Sadat, Carter, and Begin with great but mistaken expectations.

Once signed, agreements signed by unelected Arab leaders would convince the masses to give up their ambitions to eliminate Israel.

These agreements would be permanent, with no backsliding, much less duplicity.

Other Arab states would inevitably follow suit.

War can be concluded through negotiations rather than by one side giving up.

Given my own dim view of the treaty, I watch with interest what other observers have to say about it this week, on the occasion of its anniversary. Here is a small sampling of what others are writing:

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs: "Even today, the peace treaty is considered a watershed event in the geopolitical situation in the Middle East, opening the gateway to peace between Israel and the Arab world, and ushering in a new agenda of diplomatic relations in the region."

The Israel Project: "Israel waited 30 years for an Arab leader to show the courage and vision to make peace. Sadat then went to Jerusalem and now Israel and Egypt have enjoyed 30 years of peace."

Zvi Mazel, a former Israeli ambassador to Egypt: "The cold peace and escalating incitement against Israel and the Jews are not conducive to optimism. And yet peace has endured for 30 years, surviving acute crises. Does this mean it will go on? Is the will for peace going to be stronger than the vociferous opposition in Egypt? We cannot and should not be blind to the unpredictability which is one of the characteristics of the region, yet there are grounds for cautious optimism."

Kenneth Stein, professor at Emory University and a long-time aid to Jimmy Carter: "The treaty demonstrated that Middle East leaders, and not just foreign powers, have the power to transform regional politics."

As these quotes suggest, the general take on the treaty is positive. That's unfortunate, for if one misunderstands the 1979 treaty, its repetition becomes the more likely. (March 26, 2009)


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