Jørgen Jensehaugen

NTNU, Department of History and Classical Studies

Jørgen Jensehaugen

The Camp David Accords 1978–1979 – Egyptian-Israeli Peace, Palestinian Exclusion

In 1978-1979 Egypt, who had previously waged war against Israel four times (1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973), negotiated a separate peace treaty with the Jewish state. In previous decades such a peace had been considered impossible as Egypt had been the central power in a pan-Arab stance against Israel in which there could be no peace until Palestine was liberated. In Camp David the Palestinians were not included and none of Palestine became Arab as a result. Egypt attempted to legitimize the peace by adding to the treaty “A Framework for Peace in the Middle East” (henceforth the Framework), which stated, inter alia, that “Egypt, Israel, Jordan and the representatives of the Palestinian people should participate in negotiations on the resolution of the Palestinian problem in all its aspects.” This did not appease the other Arab states and an inter-Arab rift emerged that shifted the regional make-up. This project will investigate the prelude to and the negotiations at Camp David in order to understand the shift from Egypt leading the Arab world against Israel, for the Palestinian cause, to signing a separate peace with Israel in which the Palestinians were not part. To date no empirical historical research has been done on Camp David as the US, UK and Israeli archives have only recently been opened.

Since the major themes of the Middle East conflict are borders, refugees and Jerusalem, the issues at stake are largely Palestinian. Yet, in terms of being an actor in negotiations the Palestinians were not involved until the Madrid process in the 1990s. Camp David is no exception; it represents the rule. The conflict, as the Framework makes clear, is mainly Palestinian-Israeli, yet the peace, as the treaty makes clear, is Egyptian-Israeli. Why were the Palestinians not included in the search for a solution? Why did Egypt negotiate a separate peace with Israel? Why was a shift made from a “comprehensive peace” to a “contained peace”?