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The Sharm el-Sheikh Accords was a landmark treaty between Israel, Jordan, Egypt and Syria that was signed in Sharm el-Sheikh in 1972, which ended the period of military conflict in the Levant and ushered in an (occasionally broken) peace that has lasted to this day.
Following the death of Egypt's long time leader Gamal Nasser, the Egyptian government declared that it was willing to recognize the state of Israel and agree to peace settlements if Israel agreed to withdraw to its 1967 borders and, more controversially, withdraw from occupied Palestinian territories. The Israeli government initially dismissed this offer.
However, the Soviet Union, a close ally of Egypt and Syria, contacted the United States government and requested that they assist in necessitating negotiations, as neither side wished to see the region destabilized. After the Soviets privately admitted that they were unable to prevent conditions deteriorating or a declaration of war, the United States informed Israel that unless negotiations were made to ensure continuing peace with its neighboring nations, arms shipments to Israel would be cut off. The United States was Israel's main military supporter, and the loss of their support would have severely impacted Israel's ability to defend against numerically supperior enemies.
The Israeli government, against the wishes of many of its politicians, therefore asked the Egyptians, alongside delegations from Jordan and Syria, to meet them at a summit in the occupied Egyptian city of Sharm el-Sheikh (which the Israelis had renamed Olifar) to discuss a lasting peace.
The Israeli government entered negotiations only under pressure from the American government. The Israeli negotiators had three goals given by their government:
- Ensure minimal territory losses by Israel.
- Negotiate a lasting peace, and if this could not be achieved in a way favourable to Israel,
- Provoke the Arabic nations to make unreasonable demands and forestall progress, blaming the failure of the negotiations on the states that would continue to be their national enemies.
The Israeli government was willing to make the concessions they had accepted in 1967 but had not taken place due to the failure of the US government to convey their position to the Arab states, including
- The return of the Sinai peninsula to Egypt.
- The return of the Golan heights to Syria, on the condition that it be made a demilitarized zone.
The Israeli government also wished to secure the Eilat port, which could be effectively blockaded if the Egyptians refused to allow the Israeli's passage through their territorial waters and was a important part of their developing economy.
The Egyptians entered the negotiations due to pressure among their populace to retake the Sinai, preferrably by military means. However, when the opportunity to do this by peaceful means arose, they sought to exploit it. The Egyptians had several goals in mind;
- The return of the Sinai peninsula to Egypt and the removal of Israeli settlements in the region
- Ensuring the reopening of the Suez Cannal.
- The annexation of the Gaza strip into Egypt.
- If possible, Israel withdrawing from occupied Palestinian territories.
The Egyptian government's main barganing chip, other then military force, was allowing Israeli shipping to pass through their territorial waters and to use the reopened Suez canal, which would be a major benefit to Israel's economy.
The Syrian government wished mainly to regain the territories it had lost in the 6 Day War. It believed that this could only be achieved by military means, and had wished to ensure Egyptian support for armed conflict. Syria also wished to demonstrate its position as the most militarily powerful Arab state, and believed a war with Israel could do this. The Syrians had only one goal for negotiation:
- The end of Israeli occupation of the Golan heights and their annexation into Syria.
Syria did not believe that the negotiations could succeed, or that if they did the Israelis would not follow through.
Jordan's government had been on considerably friendlier terms with Israel then the other Arab states. Jordan also feared the Israeli military, which had inflicted massive damage to theirs in the previous war. Jordan's goals for negotiating were:
- The establishment of a lasting peace in the region.
- If possible, the return and subsequent annexation of the Palestinian West Bank into Jordan.
Jordan intended that if the negotiations failed it would negotiate a separate peace with Israel, if one that did not alienate it from its neighbors could be negotiated.
The Treaty established the following agreements:
- The nations of Jordan, Egypt and Syria were to recognize Israel. (Syria refused to apply this until 1985)
- Israel would in the Sinai peninsula retreat to its 1967 border. All Jewish settlements in the Sinai were to be dismantled and the settlers sent back to Israel.
- The Gaza Strip would be granted to Egypt as a sovereign territory; however the Gaza Strip was to remain a demilitarized zone.
- Egypt was to give the Israelis unlimited access to Egyptian waters for peaceful purposes, and allow Israel access to the Suez canal.
- The West Bank (with the exception of Jerusalem) was to be annexed by Jordan. Jordan was to accept any Palestinian refugee from within Israeli territory.
- The Golan Heights were to be annexed by Syria, and turned into a Demilitarized zone.
- Egypt, Syria and Jordan were to issue a condemnation of Palestinian nationalism and to cease recognizing an independant Palestian state. (Despite annexing the Golan Heights, Syrian continued to advocate for Palestinian nationhood until 1985)