How Egypt has fared under Camp David

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Eight years after they were signed, the Camp David accords have proved a mixed blessing for Egypt. The historic agreements brought peace between Egypt and Israel. But they have not led to the comprehensive Middle East peace that their framers envisioned.

That's the assessment of one participant in the 1978 Camp David negotiations, William Quandt, a former Carter administration official and Middle East specialist.

In the first accord, Israel agreed to cede control over the Sinai Peninsula, captured in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

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Under the second, a negotiating framework was created for settling the future of the Israeli-occupied West Bank of the Jordan River and the Gaza Strip, also seized by Israel during the 1967 Arab-Israeli conflict. Six months after the signing of the Camp David accords, Egypt became the first Arab state formally to recognize Israel.

Egypt's rapprochement with Israel drew sharp criticism from other Arab countries, leaving Cairo, until recently, diplomatically isolated in the Arab world.

``The treaties created a sense of psychological loss that Egypt could no longer be seen as a major leader in the third world or even in the Islamic world,'' says Mr. Quandt, now a Brookings Institution scholar.

Even so, Quandt, a former National Security Council official, says Egypt has probably been a ``net gainer'' from the accords.

The return of the Sinai left Egypt militarily secure, ensuring its continued control over the Suez Canal and the offshore oil reserves in the Gulf of Suez.

In addition, the agreement transformed relations between Cairo and Washington, opening the door to billions of dollars in US foreign economic and military aid. ``The American commitment to Egypt really blossomed after the treaty was signed,'' Quandt says.

By enhancing Egypt's security and thus allowing for a measure of political liberalization in Egypt, the accords may also have made an indirect contribution to political stability there.

By prodding Egypt and Israel toward a separate peace, Quandt says, the Carter administration hoped to set the stage for a comprehensive Middle East peace settlement involving Jordan and Palestinian representatives. But progress quickly bogged down in technical disagreements between the two countries, and Washington's role as honest broker in the process was undercut by the Iran hostage crisis and the 1980 presidential elections.

``Most of us felt we had fallen short of our hopes by a considerable amount,'' says Quandt. ``But we all felt it was better to have a separate peace than no peace. Faced with the choice of no breakthrough at all, it was better to pocket what we could.''

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