Join Our Mailing List

Sponsor Us!

Jimmy Carter Administration:
Remarks on First Anniversary of the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty

(March 23, 1980)


Return to Jimmy Carter Administration: Table of Contents


Print Friendly and PDF

THE PRESIDENT. This is another fine day. Ambassador Ghorbal, Ambassador Evron, friends of my country and of Israel and of Egypt, it's a pleasure to have you back with us.

A year ago, many of you joined us here at the White House for a thrilling moment: the signing of a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. We stood in the bright spring sunshine, filled with a hope of a new beginning for a nation which I love here and for two nations in a region which had long been at war.

We knew the difficulties ahead, yet we were exhilarated by the prospects for peace. We watched the leaders of two great peoples who had long been enemies embrace each other and embark on a new and a promising relationship—two men of courage, President Anwar Sadat and Prime Minister Menahem Begin. They astonished the world. They had silenced for awhile the voices of cynicism and hatred and despair. They had done the impossible. They had achieved peace.

That day culminated a year and a half of patient and often very difficult negotiations following President Sadat's historic visit to Jerusalem. I remember the moment at Camp David—it was a Sunday afternoon—when we suddenly knew that peace was possible. And I remember the moment in Cairo, following my visit to Jerusalem, when we were able to proclaim to the world that a treaty between these two great nations was at last within our reach, and then the ceremony here, bringing to an end 30 years of war.

Prime Minister Begin spoke to all of us that day: "Peace unto you," he said. "Shalom, salaam forever." Many things have happened since that day almost exactly a year ago, things which once seemed even beyond dreaming. The borders have been opened. Ambassadors have been exchanged between the two countries, based on full diplomatic recognition. Ordinary citizens have become sightseers in a neighboring land from which they had long been completely excluded. It's no longer harder to travel between Tel Aviv and Cairo than it is between Tel Aviv or Cairo and New York. Israelis and Egyptians in all walks of life have clasped each other's hands on the streets of Jerusalem and in Cairo, Alexandria and Tel Aviv, in friendship.

Israel has returned a large part of the Sinai to Egypt, and Egypt has accelerated the normalization process even faster than we had envisioned a year ago. The doubters had history on their side, for these things had never happened before. Yet the practical dreamers also had history on their side as well, for now it has been proven that we need not repeat old patterns of hatred and death, of suffering and distrust.

Benjamin Franklin, who negotiated the treaty with England following the American Revolution, said that he had never seen a peace made, however advantageous, that was not censured as inadequate. No treaty can possibly embody every aim of any particular party to a treaty. What a treaty can do, through negotiation and compromise, is to protect the vital interests of each of the parties involved. That's what was done here 12 months ago.

We all know that our work is incomplete until the peace can be extended to include all who have been involved in the conflict of the past in the Middle East. We must prove to all people in the Middle East that this peace between Egypt and Israel is not a threat to others, but a precious opportunity.

When I stood before the Knesset at a moment when it seemed that the peace treaty prospects had reached an impasse, Prime Minister Begin reminded us that this must be a peace not of months and years, but forever. We've come to the first year. We must now look at the world as it is and find ways to continue living in peace with one another.

This treaty between Egypt and Israel is only one step on the way to a comprehensive peace throughout this troubled region. At Camp David, President Sadat, Prime Minister Begin, and I agreed on a second step, which is now underway: negotiations to provide full autonomy to the inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza. That concept offers a first real hope for keeping our common pledge—a pledge made by all three of us—to resolve the Palestinian problem in all its aspects while fully protecting the security and the future of Israel.

The autonomy talks will lead to a transitional arrangement. Further negotiations will be required after 3 years or so to determine the final status of the West Bank and Gaza. Egypt, Israel, and the United States are now committed to the success of this course that we set for ourselves at Camp David, a course based on these accords and on United Nations Resolutions 242 and 338. As we all three pledged at Camp David, through these current negotiations Israel can gain increased security, and the Palestinians can participate in the determination of their own future and achieve a solution which recognizes their legitimate rights.

For the past 10 months our negotiators have done the patient work of defining these difficult issues. As we meet today, Ambassador Sol Linowitz is in Israel, and he will soon be going to Egypt to help move the talks forward. And next month I will be meeting here with President Sadat and with Prime Minister Begin. It's time for us to review the progress that we've made so far and to discuss the way to move forward even faster. These two summit meetings are not meant to replace the negotiators who have worked so hard and have come so far, but to help them to expedite their vital work. I look forward to seeing these two men once again. They are my friends.

In the 13 days at Camp David and the meetings I've had with them before and since, I've come to know them well. Both the men have deep religious convictions. Both are men whose personal sense of the history of their own nations has shaped their lives since early childhood. It should never be forgotten that after a generation of unsuccessful efforts engaging the talents of a legion of fine statesmen, it took courage and vision to create this first major step toward peace. It will also require courage and vision—perhaps even more—and a commitment to fulfill not only the letter but the spirit of the Camp David accords and to realize our dreams of a permanent peace.

The period between now and the completion of the talks will certainly not be easy as we work to resolve some of the most complex and emotional issues in the entire world. Both Egypt and Israel will now be facing difficult decisions in making an effort to answer difficult questions, and they will need patience and understanding—theirs and also ours. Yet in the resolution of these questions lies a great promise for achieving the comprehensive peace which is coveted by Egypt, Israel, the United States, and all people of good will everywhere.

The United States will continue to work patiently and constructively with both Egypt and Israel as a full partner in the negotiations. These negotiations presently ongoing are the road to peace. They can succeed. They must succeed.

Let me make one thing clear. Domestic politics cannot be allowed to create timidity or to propose obstacles or delay or to subvert the spirit of Camp David, nor to imply a lack of commitment to reach our common goal. This is time when we must continue that political vision that made possible the treaty which we celebrate today. As Prime Minister Begin said here last year, "Now is the time for all of us to show civil courage in order to proclaim to our peoples and to others: No more war, no more bloodshed, no more bereavement."

At Camp David, we invited others to adhere to the framework of peace and to join in the negotiations. The negotiations must be based on a commonly accepted foundation. As these talks move forward, let me reaffirm two points. We will not negotiate with the Palestinian Liberation Organization, nor will we recognize the PLO unless it accepts Resolutions 242 and 338 and recognizes Israel's right to exist. And we oppose the creation of an independent Palestinian state.

The United States, as all of you know, has a warm and a unique relationship of friendship with Israel that is morally right. It is compatible with our deepest religious convictions, and it is right in terms of America's own strategic interests. We are committed to Israel's security, prosperity, and future as a land that has so much to offer to the world. A strong Israel and a strong Egypt serve our own security interests.

We are committed to Israel's right to live in peace with all its neighbors, within secure and recognized borders, free from terrorism. We are committed to a Jerusalem that will forever remain undivided, with free access to all faiths to the holy places. Nothing will deflect us from these fundamental principles and commitments which I've just outlined.

As you all know, also, the United States has broadened and has deepened its valuable friendship with Egypt, the largest and the most powerful and the most influential Arab nation on Earth. President Sadat, with his heroism; has brought about profound changes not only in the rest of the world but in Egypt's own internal life. And he has made Egypt a leader among nations in the pursuit of peace. We support Egypt's security and its well-being, and we will work with Egypt to ensure a more prosperous and a peaceful life for the Egyptian people.

As President Sadat said at this house a year ago: "Let there be no more wars or bloodshed between Arabs and Israelis. Let there be no more suffering or denial of rights. Let there be no more despair or loss of faith. Let no mother lament the loss of her child. Let no young man waste his life on a conflict from which no one benefits. Let us work together until the day comes when they beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks."

Isaiah, in Chapter 42 in the Bible, says of a great servant of God, "A bruised reed he will not break; a dimly burning wick he will not quench . . . I have given you, as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations to open the eyes that are blind."

Today, as the earth is reborn in springtime after a long winter, we lift high that dimly burning wick of peace before the nations of the world. In its light all can see that, amid the disappointment and the dangers, mankind can still prevail against its own evils, against its own past, against all the efforts that would separate us one from another and make us enemies. We must not be mean nor stingy nor lacking in courage. We must not betray the trust of those whose faith is in us.

Down through the centuries the children of Abraham have spoken daily of their longing for peace in their greetings. President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin are children of Abraham, and they are men of peace. I ask your prayers that full peace may yet be ours. I pray that the dimly burning wick which we have lit may yet ignite a blazing flame of peace that will light the world.

I and President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin join in with you in our fervent prayer: Peace, shalom, salaam.

AMBASSADOR GHORBAL. Mr. President, Mrs. Carter:

It's a lovely occasion to be with you, Mr. President, to rejoice at the first anniversary of the signing of the peace treaty.

Let me, first of all, convey to you, Mr. President, President Sadat's warm greetings on this very happy occasion. He sends you his appreciation and that of the people of Egypt for making the day which we celebrate very elegant. He is looking forward to being with you in Washington shortly.

I am sure we all recall fondly what took place on 26 March, 1979, when you gathered us on the North Lawn to mark an important page in the history of the Middle East and indeed of the world. A year has passed since three leaders—you, Mr. President, President Sadat, and Prime Minister Begin—in that tri-handshake, opened a new era of hope and peace.

Israeli ships have since crossed the canal as Israeli forces started to withdraw from our land. Oil fields were released back to Egypt as El Al planes landed in Cairo with Israeli tourists, receiving a hearty welcome from our people. Ambassadors of Egypt and Israel presented their credentials to the heads of state of Israel and Egypt, in fulfillment of the peace treaty that you helped to bring about.

Yes, Mr. President, today is a joyful day, for who could have believed that in such a short span of time all this could have happened, and we live it daily.

Commitments by the parties have been diligently met and by each deadline prescribed. Deep in my heart, Mr. President, I feel that this will continue to be the yardstick for the road ahead of us, and further deadlines will equally be met to bring further happiness, not only to ourselves but foremost to those waiting impatiently to see their rights honored, the Palestinian people.

President Sadat broke the barrier of distrust and carried, in his visit to Jerusalem, the olive branch of peace. The people of Israel, as many of us witnessed on the TV screen, received that messenger of peace and hope in unprecedented welcome. But, Mr. President, it was you, it was you who stepped in with no hesitation, indeed with full dedication and courage, to bring the parties together at Camp David, to sit with each side, to work with both, to join with your hand in the drafting of what we finally celebrated on that Sunday evening at the White House, the Camp David accords. Again, I recall how you not only crossed Pennsylvania Avenue to Blair House to lunch with the three delegations, on a most pleasant and southern note, to take stock of progress at hand, to hear of the difficulties that lingered, but more so, you have crossed, at short notice, the Atlantic, to both Egypt and Israel, when deadlock risked the attainment of what we all were yearning for. Again, with your perseverance and your dedication, you clinched it all and brought everyone to that historic celebration on the North Lawn to build the first edifice of peace in the Middle East.

Today, a stalemate looms on the talks to bring about full autonomy for the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza. You step in and invite President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin for talks to implement what you three already agreed upon. With a heavy agenda of issues at home and problems abroad, you still devote your time and energy to break a deadlock.

Mr. President, in this hour of happiness we cannot, all of us, but remember foremost the Palestinian people, who, for a very long period, have equally been yearning to reach their national fulfillment. Full autonomy that allows them to live their lives and direct their affairs in freedom and yet in peace with their neighbors is the only way to go about it.

President Sadat, in his address of the signing ceremony of the peace treaty, you may recall said, and I quote, "We must be certain that the provisions of the Camp David framework and the establishment of a self-governing authority with a full autonomy be carried out. There must be a genuine transfer of authority to the Palestinians in their land. Without that, the problem will remain unsolved."

With your permission, Mr. President, I wish to pay tribute to Secretary of State Vance. His sense of justice, his patience and warmth, his devotion to you and to peace has been of immeasurable assistance to us all.

With such a record of success in Camp David in the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, I am sure everyone shares with me the conviction that you, Mr. President, will succeed again in the coming round. In this, you can, as usual, count on our
unwavering support.
I thank you.

AMBASSADOR EVRON. Mr. President, Mrs. Carter, Ambassador Ghorbal, distinguished guests:

I am happy, Mr. President, to bring to you today the warm greetings of Prime Minister Begin and the people of Israel.

A year ago here in the White House, we cemented the realization of a dream. Throughout the ages, from Biblical days to the modern era of sovereignty and independence, the Jewish people have yearned for peace. Yet our history is tattered with tales of suffering, struggle, exile, and martyrdom. Our ancient land has been blessed all too rarely by the fruits of peace.

We are at the outset of a road to a new age in our region. Our success in making this promising beginning is due not only to the faith and courage of our two peoples and their leaders, Prime Minister Begin and President Sadat. What is often and rightly called the treaty of Washington owes so much to the perseverance and dedication of President Carter. His was the task of not allowing the two sides to drift apart, of bridging gaps, of helping create the formula where no common denominator existed, and of overcoming differences that at times seemed irreconcilable.

And I want also to join at this moment in the tribute paid by my colleague, Ambassador Ghorbal, to Secretary Vance. We all respect and have the highest regard for him, and we have the deepest appreciation of his personal contribution to the peace between us and Egypt.

Thus, it is a treaty containing benefits and obligations for all of us, for besides the vision of President Sadat and the initiative of Prime Minister Begin and the great risks and heavy sacrifices that he accepted on Israel's behalf, the United States undertook specific and important commitments to ensure that peace can and will, in fact, take hold. Notwithstanding the dangers and burdens involved, the Government and the people of Israel are determined to continue the implementation of the peace treaty and to carry out its obligations as defined in the Camp David accords.

That delicately balanced but realistic formula, devised with so much thought and patience, remains the sole framework within which we can jointly achieve the goals we set for ourselves: peace with Egypt, autonomy for the Palestinian Arab inhabitants of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza, and eventually, a peace edifice encompassing all the countries of our region.

We, in Israel, are confident that our two partners in this historic venture will be equally true to the definition of Camp David, for that is the only avenue by which we can keep the peace process moving ahead and ensure tranquillity and stability to the Middle East. Our neighbors should realize that hatred, threats, and war serve nothing, but that negotiations leading to coexistence and friendly relations with Israel are beneficial to all sides.

Looking at the world around us today, we find that we live in that era when too often narrow, self-serving interests outweigh the values that determine the greatness of nations. Let us—Americans, Egyptians, Israelis reaffirm our resolve that we shall not be deflected by anyone, be they old allies or known adversaries, from the path of peace that we have chosen to follow.

We have made much progress during the year that has passed. Much more remains to be done. Some of it will not be easy, and there will be no helping hand other than that of the great American democracy. It is in this spirit of renewed hope and dedication that we look forward to the forthcoming meetings of you, Mr. President, with President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin.

Mr. President, by hosting this impressive and yet so human gathering to mark the anniversary of the first peace treaty, you are, at once, renewing the commitment of all of us to it and showing the world that good can triumph over evil. Thank you, President and Mrs. Carter, for your gracious hospitality, and thank you all, colleagues and friends, for helping to make this anniversary a memorable occasion.
Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT. Let me say just a word. I'm very sorry that we don't have room for everyone to sit down; we had a larger crowd than we had anticipated. But we would like to greet all of you personally, so I've asked the two Ambassadors to join me, just outside in front of the Blue Room. And we'd like to shake your hand as you go into the other room for the reception, for some refreshments. And if you would let us welcome you personally in that way, we would appreciate it.

We also need, as I said in the close of my statements, your prayers. We have many difficult unresolved issues among us. All three of us are determined not to fail, but we need the same kind of spirit and the same kind of support that you added to us a year ago, and then a year and a half ago, when we faced defeat, but came through with victory. And I think we'll have peace in the Middle East if you'll help us in every way.
Thank you.


Sources: Public Papers of the President

Back to Top