May 9, 2016: Understanding the Middle East: Israel’s Peace Treaties With Egypt and Jordan
By Carol Rushton
Israel signed a peace treaty with Egypt in 1979 at the White House, known as the Camp David Accords.
Israel also signed a peace treaty with Jordan in 1994, again at the White House.
In the Camp David Accords, Israel was forced to return the Sinai to Egypt, land they had gained in 1967 Six Day war. Angry Jewish Knesset members shouted and threw things when Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin presented the agreement to Israel’s parliament.
While Israel eventually accepted the peace treaty, Arabs and Muslims never did. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was assassinated two short years later by Muslim Brotherhood terrorists for daring to make peace with the Jewish state.
In the peace treaty with Jordan, Israel had to give up smaller portions of land to Jordan, as well as giving Jordan each year 50 million cubic meters of water. Israel also agreed to give Jordan ownership of 75% of the water from the Yarmouk River. Since water is a very precious resource in the Middle East, the relinquishing of so much of Israel’s water resources to Jordan is amazing.
The world, including 99.99% of Americans, believes that these peace treaties have brought peace between Israel and the Arab/Muslim countries of Egypt and Jordan.
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Before I went to Israel to live in 1991, I believed like the rest of the world that the Camp David Accords had brought peace between Israel and Egypt. Was I surprised to find out the exact opposite was true.
I remember reading an article in The Jerusalem Post newspaper shortly afterward I arrived about Egypt and Israel. The article quoted one of Egypt’s military officials. “Israel is very bad. She does not want peace.”
I was truly shocked. I couldn’t understand why an Egyptian official would have that view of Israel after many years of peace between the two countries. Of course, Israel wants peace! Everyone in the world knows that! After all, Israel and Egypt have a peace treaty. How can anyone say Israel doesn’t want peace, especially Egyptians?
Israelis describe the relationship between Israel and Egypt as a “cold peace” or “it’s not war, but it’s not peace.” I saw that for myself during the almost eight years I lived in Israel.
During the 1990s and early 2000s, thousands of excited Israelis visited Egypt. Some of them developed business ties with Egyptians, others went to visit the Great Pyramid, the Sphinx, and other great ancient sites in the Land of the Pharaohs. Because Arab nations who do not have a peace treaty with Israel will not admit anyone with either an Israeli passport or an Israeli stamp in their passport, Israelis jumped at the chance to see famous scenes that others took for granted.
But although planes would land almost daily in Egypt with hundreds of Israelis, those same planes would not return with Egyptians eager to see Israel. Egyptians refused to visit Israel. They had no interest in going to Israel to establish business ties with Jews or for any other reason. Whenever the prime minister of Israel or any other Israeli officials wanted to meet with the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak or other Egyptian officials, the meetings had to take place on Egyptian soil. Egyptian officials steadfastly refused to go to Israel.
Relations with Israel were nonexistent after the Muslim Brotherhood took over Egypt but have improved since Abdel Fattah El Sisi became president in 2014. Breitbart.com reported on August 6, 2015, that President Sisi has reached out to Jews living in Egypt and was quoted as saying that he talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “a lot,” which the article pointed out has not happened since the days of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in the 1980s (Breitbart.com, August 6, 2015, “Egypt Becoming More Accepting of Jews, Israel Under New Leadership,” http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2015/08/06/egypt-becoming-more-accepting-of-jews-israel-under-new-leadership/). Sisi and Netanyahu have not yet held any official public meetings although reports have surfaced of secret meetings between the two leaders.
The situation with Jordan is similar. After the peace treaty was signed between Israel and Jordan, Israelis took advantage of their new “peace partner” and visited sites like Petra, which they had not been able to see before. But few if any Jordanians visited Israel. Whenever Israel’s prime minister or Israeli officials wanted to meet with their Jordanian counterparts, the meetings always had to take place in Jordan. King Hussein of Jordan did visit Tel Aviv a few times after the peace treaty, but he would never visit Jerusalem. King Abdullah, Hussein’s son and successor, visited Israel once when Ehud Barak was Israel’s prime minister in 1999-2001. Since that time, King Abdullah has returned to insisting that meetings with Israeli officials occur in Jordan.
You would expect that Egypt and Jordan would be the exceptions to the other Arab/Muslim countries that refuse to acknowledge Israel on their maps. But long after the ink was dry on the respective treaties, Egypt and Jordan continued to show Israel as an Arab country with Arabic names for cities and towns from Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea, including Al Quds as Jerusalem.
Both Egypt and Jordan support Judea and Samaria becoming a PLO state with East Jerusalem as its capital. Both countries have supported terrorism in the past. Egypt has been cracking down on terror groups since Sisi has taken over, especially near Egypt’s border with the Gaza Strip, a change from Sisi’s support of Hamas during the terror group’s brief war with Israel in 2014.
Jordan under King Hussein gave sanctuary to Yasser Arafat and the PLO until Hussein kicked Arafat out of the country for trying to overthrow him and take over Jordan in the 1970s. King Hussein also harbored Hamas terrorists and actually allowed Hamas to have offices in Jordan until Jordan expelled the group in 1999. King Abdullah met with Hamas officials in 2012 but stopped short of allowing Hamas to re-establish offices in Jordan.
During the recent outbreaks of Arab terror against Jews in Israel, Egypt’s Sisi has been silent. King Abdullah of Jordan has been highly critical of Israel and very vocal in his support of full Muslim control of the Temple Mount (Times of Israel, September 20, 2015, “Jordan’s King to Arab MKs: Temple Mount for Muslims Only,” http://www.timesofisrael.com/jordans-king-to-arab-mks-temple-mount-for-muslims-only/; Israel National News, September 28, 2015, “At UN, Jordan’s King Abdullah Threatens Israel Over Temple Mount,” http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/201165#.Vi5p4ysqgQ0).
The following events actually happened to my father, Noah Hutchings, and me on trips to the Middle East. While these incidents occurred before Israel’s peace treaty with Jordan, they illustrate the difficulty of achieving real peace between Israel and her neighbors.
I remember the first time I visited Jordan. A member of our tour group had become ill and had to be left behind in an Israeli hospital. Her relatives had to continue with the tour group into Jordan. When they asked the management in our Jordanian hotel about contacting the Israeli hospital to talk to their sick relative, the management refused to help them. They did not recognize Israel. Since this was before cell phones became ubiquitous, these people were stuck.
On that first trip, the Jordanian government held our tour group hostage. The tour company was forced to pay a large sum of money before we were allowed to leave. We waited and waited at the hotel before finally being allowed to leave. The airport security screening was less than pleasant. We were all especially nervous, considering what had gone on before. Some in our tour group had to open their suitcases and explain what the items were that they had bought in Israel. I had bought a cutting board in Israel with “Shabbat Shalom” (Sabbath peace) on it that included a knife. I’d probably still be in a Jordanian jail if the Jordanian authorities had discovered it.
My father, Noah Hutchings, took many tour groups to the Middle East. On one trip to Jordan, my dad said they had been processed through airport security and were sitting in the plane, waiting to take off. All of a sudden, the order came for everyone to disembark from the plane. The Jordanian authorities went through all the tour group’s bags and suitcases, seizing everything that had been bought in Israel. The items were put in a pile and torched next to the runway. The tour group was then free to leave.
The hostility and hatred that Israel’s Arab and Islamic neighbors have for Jews have taken centuries to develop. It will take more than a peace treaty on a piece of paper to change that.