The Camp David Agreement

The next morning, the 13th day, Bégin Carter sent a letter saying that the freezing of new settlements would only last until the conclusion of negotiations on the Israeli-Egyptian treaty, which should be only a few months. Carter declined the letter. But Begin withheld, and Carter ultimately decided, instead of jeopardizing the agreement, to sign the agreements with the unresolved solution issue. He finally dropped the problem. James A. Baker III, Secretary of State under President George H. W. Bush, said the agreements “established the principles of peace and recognition of United Nations resolutions that were very useful to us in the first Bush administration.” Camp David also set a precedent for other Middle East peace agreements, including the one between Israel and Jordan, Baker said, adding: “On the one hand, I remain optimistic that in my lifetime we will see a comprehensive peace,” built on Camp David and subsequent agreements. But the exhausted president and his assistants still had the final to play. Vance and Carter met with Bégin, Israeli Foreign Ministers Mosche Dayan and Barak, until midnight on the 12th day. Only Barak and Dayan took notes. Carter insisted that a letter be sent to Begin promising a freeze on the construction of new settlements in the West Bank during negotiations on the West Bank and Gaza.

Begin said something Carter agreed to. This was due to the zeal of NATO countries to improve Egypt`s troubled economy, the belief that Egypt should begin to focus more on its own interests than on those of the Arab world, and the hope that an agreement with Israel would catalyze similar agreements between Israel and its other Arab neighbours and help solve the Palestinian problem. Prime Minister Begin`s reaction to Sadat`s initiative, even if sadat or Carter had not hoped, showed a willingness to engage the Egyptian head of state. Like Sadat, Begin saw many reasons why bilateral discussions would be in his country`s best interest. It would give Israel the opportunity to negotiate only with Egypt, rather than with a larger Arab delegation that might try to use its size to make unwelcome or unacceptable demands. Israel believed that Egypt could help protect Israel from other Arabs and eastern communists. Moreover, the opening of direct negotiations between the heads of state and government – the diplomacy of the summit – would distinguish Egypt from its Arab neighbours.