Israel’s Peacemaking under Security Challenges: Implications of a Retrospective Outlook


By: Gilead Sher, Adelaide Duckett 

 

Israeli Involvement in Peace Processes Israel’s first conflict began as a state-in-the-making in 1947 and intensified with its establishment as a state in the War of Independence in 1948, involving all of its neighboring states of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon, which were supported by Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and others. The war came to an end with the 1949 armistice agreements. These established the armistice lines including the Green Line, and an end to the war, but not a formal peace as no state yet recognized the State of Israel. Conflict continued throughout the 1950s between Arab troops and Fidayeens and Israeli forces but did not escalate into full-scale war. In 1956, the Suez crisis resulted in an Israeli invasion of the Sinai Peninsula, allowing Israel to reopen the Straits of Tiran. Israel subsequently retreated from the Sinai Peninsula, only to recapture it a decade later in the Six-Day War of June 1967. Attacked by five Arab states, which were supported by eight additional ones, Israel swiftly conquered the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, and the Golan Heights from Syria. As a result of the war, Israel expanded its territory significantly, but the admirable victory of the 19-year-old country fighting for its life has not been translated, as of yet, into serving the core values of a Jewish-democratic state.

In an attempt to regain their lost territories, Egypt and Syria in October 1973 launched a surprise attack on Yom Kippur, the most sacred holiday in Judaism. The fighting lasted less than three weeks and ended with an Israeli victory and no major territorial changes.

The end of the Yom Kippur War marked the start of the first major peace process in Israel’s history. After a summit conference in Geneva aimed at resolving the conflict collapsed with Syria’s refusal of attendance, the U.S. began acting as mediator, concluding an Israeli-Syrian Agreement on Disengagement in May 1974 and establishing a channel of communication between Israel and Egypt. Two years of indirect negotiations, punctuated by a change in Israeli leadership in the election of Yitzhak Rabin as Prime Minister, resulted in an interim agreement reached in September 1975. The agreement secured Israeli use of the Suez Canal, an Israeli withdrawal in the Sinai Peninsula, and the establishment of a demilitarized buffer zone between the new borders. This agreement laid the foundation for a full framework for peace reached in 1978. Following the unprecedented November 1977 visit to Israel by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, U.S. President Jimmy Carter offered to facilitate negotiations between the two nations at Camp David. Intense negotiations resulted in two documents: the Framework for Peace in the Middle East and the Framework for the Conclusion of a Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel. The Framework for Peace in the Middle East set forth a plan for reaching a final status settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, which led the foundations to the subsequent September 1993 Oslo Agreement3 a decade and half later. The second document, however, facilitated the conclusion of a formal peace treaty between the two nations the following year. The agreement formalized borders and returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egyptian control, marking a milestone in Egypt’s recognition of the State of Israel. American contribution of aid to Egypt also served to help facilitate the peace agreement. Egypt suffered consequences including severing of relations with Syria and outrage across the Arab world, especially in the Palestinian population. The agreement also inspired internal dissent in Egypt culminating in the assassination of Sadat in October 1981. 

 

For the full article, sa published on ournal of South Asian and Middle East Studies (JSAMES), Vol. 43, No. 3. Villanova University - Click Here