The signing of the bilateral Egyptian-Israeli Peace Accords in March 1979, understandably extolled by the Israelis, is regarded by the Arabs and the Islamic world in general, as a spectacular act of betrayal.
Promising not only to regain the Sinai, but to achieve “full autonomy and self determination” for the Palestinians, the Accord abandoned the legitimate cause of the Palestinian people. Although the Camp David Accord said that the question of sovereignty of the West Bank and Gaza would be negotiated after five years, Menechem Begin announced before the American Congress: “I believe with all my heart that the Jewish people have the right to sovereignty over Judea and Samaria (West Bank)”. The following day he told Jewish American leaders in New York: “I hereby declare that Israeli Defense Force will stay in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip to defend our people and make sure Jewish blood is not spilled again. I hereby declare they will stay beyond five years”.
As for the phrase ” legitimate rights of the Palestinians”, which was used in the agreement as an acknowledgement as Palestinians interests, Begin declared that it “has no meaning”.
The Arabs, unfortunately, have yet to learn the lessons of Israeli duplicity.
The practical result of the Camp David Accords was to neutralize Egypt, the Jewish State’s most powerful Arab neighbor. It also freed Israel to pursue aggressive policies such as the annexation of Jerusalem in 1980, the bombing of Iraq’s nuclear facility in 1981 and the invasion of Lebanon in 1982.
At the same time, Begin enormously expanded Jewish settlements in the territories illegally occupied in 1967, which was his main priority. When he came into power in 1977, there were about fifty thousand Jews living in Arab East Jerusalem and about 7 000 in 90 settlements in the occupied territories. When he left office six years later these numbers had more than doubled. This would not have been possible had Anwar Sadat not capitulated to America and Israel.
Camp David 1 was a triumph for Israel and Begin’s settlement policy, and it was accordingly widely hailed by the Israeli media and in the US Congress. Israel was given over 3 billion dollars in aid annually and Egypt promised 2.1 billion dollars. Despite all the hype, the fact was that Israel showed no more willingness for peace after Camp David than before. For the Palestinians, it was an unmitigated disaster. The repercussions that prevail to this day.
Egypt was ignominiously suspended from the Arab Leagues and isolated. To overcome it’s isolation, Sadat assumed increasing powers at home. Contemptuous of opposition both secular and religious, he banned strikes and demonstrations and became increasingly intolerant and autocratic. His sweeping crack down on dissidents in September 1981 resulted in some 2000 arrests. The next month he was assassinated, ironically during the military parade on the anniversary of the October 1973 Arab Israeli War.
Sadat’s assassination largely un-mourned was clearly the result of a wider movement against the entire system that Sadat represented. Yasser Arafat and other Arab Leaders are extremely conscious of this. Under intense pressure by Israel’s Ehud Barak and US president Bill Clinton to sign Camp David 11, he refused reportedly stating that he would be signing his own death certificate.
What Arafat was offered was land that excluded Jerusalem, The Dead Sea, the Jordan Valley and Settlements in its computation. It also ignored International Law and the rights conferred on the Palestinians, and effectively pushed the legal frameworks aside. UN resolution 242 demands for Israel to withdraw to the 1967 borders means a Palestinian state would be found on only 22% of the historic Palestine. Is this the road to peace?
The current intifada is a result of Israel’s illegal military occupation confiscation and expropriation of Palestine land in violation of International Law. The ever growing Settlements, the systems of highways and bypass roads linking the illegal Settlements to Israel proper, industrial parks, the web of closed military areas, army bases and internal weak points all occupy large tracks of land. Passages from one area to another are also controlled by Israel.
The West Bank and Gaza Strip has been transformed into 64 clusters of townships, just as our Bantustan’s were, that imprisoned over 3.5 million Palestinians, a people held hostage for the sake of 450 000 illegal settlers. The fate of over 5 million refugees who had been dispossessed and forced to flee were not even mentioned at Camp David. The Israeli’s did not accept to discuss the return of refugees, choosing instead to obliterate any right these millions had to return to their homeland.
The only way to real peace is to have a unitary, non-racial, democratic state of Palestine for all its people. Jews, Muslims and Christians.
(Mr. Firoz Osman is Secretary of the Media Review Network, which is an advocacy group based in Pretoria, South Africa.)