40 Years Ago: When Jimmy Carter Tried to Stop Peace from Coming to Israel

On March 26, 1979, the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt was signed in Washington, D.C. But the peace treaty almost never happened because U.S. President Jimmy Carter tried to scuttle the talks at their origin— when Anwar Sadat said he would visit Jerusalem. But Sadat went anyway and arrived at the Israeli Capital 40-Years-Ago today, November 19, 1977.

Carter was pushing a “Geneva Peace Process” which included all of the Arab Nations, but Sadat felt that the process was all “show” and couldn’t see a way to form a united negotiating bloc with his Arab (mainly Syria, Libya, and Iraq) allies.

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So Sadat took the initiative and on November 9, 1977, he delivered a speech in Egypt that stunned the world. He stated that he would travel anywhere, “even Jerusalem,” to discuss peace.

That speech led Begin government to declare that, if Israel thought that Sadat would accept an invitation, Israel would invite him. Actually, it Walter Cronkite negotiated the entire thing.

Prime Minister Begin’s response to Sadat’s initiative, demonstrated a willingness to engage the Egyptian leader. Like Sadat, Begin also saw many reasons why bilateral talks would be in his country’s best interests. It would afford Israel the opportunity to negotiate only with Egypt instead of with a larger Arab delegation that might try to use its size to make unwelcome or unacceptable demands.

Thus the two began bilateral talks…


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