On 26 March 1979 Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat signed a peace treaty between their two nations. Afterwards they joined hands with US President Jimmy Carter in the famous triple handshake, symbolizing an event which changed the history of the Middle East. The ceremony on the White House lawn barely hinted at the dramas of the previous months. The negotiations overcame many obstacles before they reached their goal. Frequently it seemed that they would fail, and the area would return to the era of conflict and bloodshed its inhabitants knew so well.
Only nine months earlier, in the summer of 1978, the parties had reached deadlock. The Israeli government, plagued by internal dissension, had clashed with the US administration, which blamed Israel’s obstinacy for the lack of progress. The high hopes raised by President Sadat’s visit to Israel had dissipated. Months of talks, at times direct and at others with US mediation, failed to bring a breakthrough. Each side barricaded itself in its positions and condemned the other. In July 1978 an attempt was made to renew the talks, but Sadat, offended by Begin’s public rejection of his request for an Israeli goodwill gesture, again broke them off. President Carter invited Begin and Sadat to a summit conference in his mountain retreat at Camp David. There agreement was reached on a framework for peace, which eventually led to the ceremony in Washington.
To mark the 40th anniversary of the Camp David summit we present a special publication of 39 documents, 13 of them in English, including telegrams and letters, records of conversations and meetings, and records of government meetings, first published in 2013. For the first time we also present a collection of 46 scanned files on Camp David and the negotiations on the peace treaty, now released for publication by the military censorship. Part 1 opens with documents on the failed attempts to bridge the gap between the two sides in the summer of 1978. Part 2 deals with the doubts and dramas at Camp David until the final success. Among the documents are five records of the meetings with the US delegation recorded by the legal adviser Prof. Aharon Barak in his own hand, presented here after transcription with the kind assistance of Prof. Barak. We also present a selection of the internal consultations of the Israeli delegation. The rest were used for preparing the introductions.
Part 3 (in preparation) will show how, despite the Camp David accords and areas of agreement between Egypt and Israel, negotiations broke down again, due to opposition in the Arab world and among Begin’s previous supporters. Months of intensive talks and further personal intervention by President Carter were needed to bring about success. His dramatic last minute visit to Cairo and Jerusalem in March 1979 opened the way for the signing of the treaty.
Some documents from the ISA in English translation, together with some of the US documents on the peace process, can been seen on the website of the Center for Israel Education.