By Harry Kelly (Rosh, Kehilla and CCR Tafkid on Va'ad Tnuah)
The 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty, signed by Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat, made Egypt the first Arab nation to officially recognise the existence of the State of Israel. The key elements of the treaty involved Israel withdrawing from the Sinai desert, and a cessation of hostilities between the two nations.
At the time, the treaty was seen by many Arab states as a stab in the back and betrayal, with Egypt being suspended from the Arab League. However, it led to Begin and Sadat being jointly awarded the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to bring peace to the region. As a result of his decision to sign the treaty, Sadat was assassinated in 1981.
The treaty has stood in place to this day, with friendly relations existing between Israel and Egypt for many years. Around the time of the Arab spring in 2011 there was concern and talk of the treaty falling apart, with some members of the Egyptian Opposition and Muslim Brotherhood suggesting the treaty could be revoked. These concerns never materialised, and the treaty remains in place to this day.
The strength of the treaty led Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, a former Israeli Defence Minister, to describe Egypt as Israel’s closest ally in the region.