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September 18,1978 – After months of diplomatic wrangling and some 13 days of intense one-on-one negotiations, a Middle-East Peace accord was finally hammered out between Egypt’s Anwar Sadat, Israel’s Menachem Begin and President Jimmy Carter. On the occasion of arriving at a negotiated peace settlement, Jimmy Carter went before a joint session of Congress to give an assessment of events (here’s an excerpt below):
President Carter: “It’s been more than 2,000 years since there was peace between Egypt and a free Jewish nation. If our present expectations are realized, this year we shall see such peace again.
The first thing I would like to do is to give tribute to the two men who made this impossible dream now become a real possibility, the two great leaders with whom I have met for the last 2 weeks at Camp David: first, President Anwar Sadat of Egypt, and the other, of course, is Prime Minister Menahem Begin of the nation of Israel.
I know that all of you would agree that these are two men of great personal courage, representing nations of peoples who are deeply grateful to them for the achievement which they have realized. And I am personally grateful to them for what they have done.
At Camp David, we sought a peace that is not only of vital importance to their own two nations but to all the people of the Middle East, to all the people of the United States, and, indeed, to all the world as well.
The world prayed for the success of our efforts, and I am glad to announce to you that these prayers have been answered.
I’ve come to discuss with you tonight what these two leaders have accomplished and what this means to all of us.
The United States has had no choice but to be deeply concerned about the Middle East and to try to use our influence and our efforts to advance the cause of peace. For the last 30 years, through four wars, the people of this troubled region have paid a terrible price in suffering and division and hatred and bloodshed. No two nations have suffered more [Page 465]than Egypt and Israel. But the dangers and the costs of conflicts in this region for our own Nation have been great as well. We have longstanding friendships among the nations there and the peoples of the region, and we have profound moral commitments which are deeply rooted in our values as a people.
The strategic location of these countries and the resources that they possess mean that events in the Middle East directly affect people everywhere. We and our friends could not be indifferent if a hostile power were to establish domination there. In few areas of the world is there a greater risk that a local conflict could spread among other nations adjacent to them and then, perhaps, erupt into a tragic confrontation between us super powers ourselves.
Our people have come to understand that unfamiliar names like Sinai, Aqaba, Sharm el Sheikh, Ras en Naqb, Gaza, the West Bank of Jordan, can have a direct and immediate bearing on our own well-being as a nation and our hope for a peaceful world. That is why we in the United States cannot afford to be idle bystanders and why we have been full partners in the search for peace and why it is so vital to our Nation that these meetings at Camp David have been a success.
Whether or not the negotiations would be successful in the long run or not was a source of speculation and argument continuing to this day – but what was important was that a ball had gotten rolling, and any negotiations or agreements from then on out had the Camp David Accords as a template. Successful in the long run or not, at least it was a start.
Here’s Jimmy Carter’s Report to Congress from September 18, 1978.