With turmoil in the Middle East – specifically, threats from Iran and its proxies in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Gaza – the 43-year anniversary of the 1979 Camp David peace treaty between Israel and Egypt this week is something significant to look back on and celebrate.
Who would have ever imagined that in 1979…or even in 2019?
But with Egypt first breaking the ice, joined by Jordan in 1994, and then the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan following suit in 2020, the milestone of Camp David is ever-present.
Prior to the treaty’s signing, it was unfathomable that Israel would one day open regular flights to Sinai, as it plans to do next month. Nor could one imagine an Israeli prime minister flying to Sinai for a historic meeting with an Egyptian president. And yet this week, Israel’s Naftali Bennett met with the head of Egypt, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. That meeting – also attended by Emirati Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed (MBZ) – was less about celebrating the peace agreement and more about their resolve against a common enemy.
The peace treaty with Egypt was momentous on numerous levels. Israel was able to breathe a little easier having the largest – and one of the strongest Arab countries, with which it just happens to share a border – as a friendly neighbor. Anwar Sadat, who served as Egypt’s president from 1970 until his assassination in 1981, understood that Israel was not going anywhere. After losing several bloody wars. He recognized another war was not the answer and decided it was in Egypt’s best interest to make peace.
Then-U.S. President Jimmy Carter was largely responsible for brokering the Camp David peace treaty. It was one of his single most significant achievements during his one-term presidency, both domestically and, certainly, internationally. As a self-avowed Christian, Carter surely celebrated on that day as he recalled Jesus’ words, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Indeed, Sadat and then-Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin shared a Nobel Peace Prize in 1978 for the historic peace agreement.
Hopes of regional peace were dashed, however, when Egypt was expelled from the Arab League. Two and a half years later, Sadat would be murdered by Islamic terrorists during an annual victory parade held in Cairo – a victim of his bold statesmanship. The irony of Carter’s single greatest foreign policy success was overshadowed by his greatest foreign policy failure: The Shah’s abandonment of Iran, the Islamic Revolution and rise of the Islamic Republic of Iran, followed by the 444-day hostage crisis, foreshadowed the evil to come.
More than four decades later, six Arab countries have not only made peace with Israel but are cooperating with Israel openly. Indeed, peace is much more to their advantage than war, and an active open alliance with Israel is for their benefit. That much was clear in Sinai this week, not as a celebration of Camp David per se, but very much part of its legacy.
Bennett, Sisi and MBZ together this week discussed their common enemy and the threat they are jointly facing. Indeed, it was the Islamists inspired by the Iranian Revolution who assassinated Sadat in October 1981. Today, a more deeply-entrenched and hardline extremist Iran threatens Israel and the rest of the Arab world. Iran’s reach is truly stunning; from Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq, with Yemen as a southern front, along with an outpost in Gaza. Israel is not the only target. This week, Iranian missiles were launched at Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.
As much as Sadat broke the ice by making peace, ultimately paying with his life, now more than ever the moderate Sunni Arab world recognizes Iran as being a clear threat and present danger. That is why Israeli, Egyptian and Emirati leaders were together in Egypt this week. The Saudis and others were not present in person, but there’s no question they were represented.
Missile attacks like the ones that took place in Saudi Arabia this week are not new. Israel has been dealing with this threat in Syria and Lebanon for years, and of course, is monitoring (and interrupting) the Iranian drive to get nuclear weapons.
What is new, and likely one of the triggers for the surprise meeting in Sinai, is the U.S. and other world powers seemingly rushing to reach a new deal with Iran, ostensibly to squelch their nuclear ambitions. The 2015 Iran nuclear agreement (JCPOA) didn’t stop the Iranian ambition or ability. It paid the Iranian regime billions and paved its path to achieving a nuclear weapon. The Biden administration seems to want to reach a new agreement at all costs, preferring to see the world how they want it to be, rather than how it is.
Reports about the new agreement are that it will be a bad remake of the poor 2015 original. The delisting of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist group is rumored to be part of the new agreement terms. The idea is so absurd – and dangerous – that President Biden could truly look at himself in the mirror and say, “Come on, man.”
Israel and the moderate Sunni Arab states know better. They look at the world how it is, not how they want it to be. Three successive U.S. presidents have now pushed Israel and former Arab adversaries together. One of the presidents brokered an unprecedented total of four peace treaties. Two presidents disenfranchised the Arabs so much that their only course of action and self-interest was to ally with Israel against a common enemy.
Carter didn’t pull the trigger that killed Sadat. But by empowering Iran, he provided the ammunition. As Biden and other world leaders run to revive the disastrous 2015 nuclear agreement – further emboldening a terrorist state – it’s as if they’re reloading Iran's ammunition. They can’t kill Sadat again physically, but the Iranians have many targets in their crosshairs. And someone is likely to pay the price.
Israel, Egypt, the UAE, Bahrain and even Saudi Arabia know this. That’s why the meeting took place in Sinai this week. Not just a celebration of Camp David. One can rest assured that while the foundation of Camp David created new alliances, the Iranian nuclear threat has created the resolve to form an alliance against it.
Blessed are the peacemakers. Amen.
But sometimes the enemy posing an existential threat does need to be defeated.
Jonathan Feldstein was born and educated in the U.S. and immigrated to Israel in 2004. He is married and the father of six. Throughout his life and career, he has become a respected bridge between Jews and Christians and serves as president of the Genesis 123 Foundation. He writes regularly on major Christian websites about Israel and shares experiences of living as an Orthodox Jew in Israel. He is host of the popular Inspiration from Zion podcast. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.