Carter and the Camp David Accords U.S. Department of Seal
Department of State
[Image of Predisent Carter at Camp David]

The premiere foreign policy achievement of the Carter administration was the signing of the Camp David Peace Accords. The peace process in the Middle East that began with Henry Kissinger accelerated after President Anwar el-Sadat of Egypt undertook the unprecedented step of traveling to Jerusalem in November 1977. There, he extended an olive branch to the Israeli Government in the form of a peace proposal: the return of occupied lands in exchange for a guarantee of security. Picking up on the initiative after it had become moribund, President Jimmy Carter invited Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menacem Begin to the presidential retreat in the Catoctin Mountains of Maryland for a series of meetings in September 1978. Carter, supported by Department of State experts, played a key role during the intensive rounds of bargaining, eventually compelling both sides to compromise short of their maximum demands by offering massive amounts of foreign aid. Two agreements in principle arose from the Camp David meetings. The first included a statement on eventual self-government for the West Bank and Gaza Strip areas as well as the inclusion of Jordanian and Palestinian representatives in future talks. The second agreement consisted of diplomatic recognition of Israel by Egypt in exchange for the return of territories occupied since 1967. As negotiations toward a formal treaty ensued, Carter continued his personal involvement in the process. On March 26, 1979, Sadat, Carter, and Begin signed the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty, which formalized the specific details of the arrangements agreed to at Camp David. However, the Camp David Accords and the subsequent treaty did not include a comprehensive settlement of the problems in the Middle East. A substantive peace framework among Israel, its other Arab neighbors, and the Palestinian Liberation Organization would not emerge until the 1990s.