West Bank Negotiations

July 20, 1979

Report Outline
Post-Treaty Focus on West Bank
Cultural Roots of the Conflict
Barriers to a Palestine Solution
Special Focus

Post-Treaty Focus on West Bank

Begin-Sadat Talks on Palestinian Autonomy

The Arab-Israeli conflict has been transformed by two historic events this year: an Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty and a revolution in Iran. The treaty focused attention on the next item on the agenda for Middle East negotiations: autonomy for the Palestinians in territories occupied by Israel. The Iranian revolution, which replaced the monarchy of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi with an “Islamic Republic,” brought to the surface cultural forces of immense power. The interaction of such intangible cultural forces with concrete details of boundaries, administration and security measures in the occupied territories is both explosive and difficult to comprehend. And yet much depends on understanding, and peacefully resolving, the clash of civilizations represented in the 2,305 square miles of the West Bank and Gaza — an area less than half the size of Connecticut.

Egypt and Israel began negotiations on Palestinian autonomy May 25 in Beersheba, two months after the March 26 signing of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty in Washington. The treaty fulfilled one of the two agreements reached by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin at a secluded summit meeting sponsored by President Carter at Camp David, Md., last Sept. 5–17. The treaty provided for a phased Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Sinai and establishment of normal diplomatic, economic and cultural relations between the two countries. The other agreement, “A Framework for Peace in the Middle East,” outlined a process for determining the future of the West Bank and Gaza.

Between the Camp David agreement and the signing of the Egyptian-Israeli treaty, negotiations were several times threatened with complete breakdown. Finally, in a dramatic gamble, President Carter went to Cairo and Jerusalem, March 8–13, and persuaded Begin and Sadat to accept a compromise.

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