ISRAEL AMONG THE NATIONS: Middle East & North Africa

ISRAEL AMONG THE NATIONS: Middle East & North Africa

    Israel today has peace treaties with two of its neighbors: Egypt and Jordan.


  • Egypt


    Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty in 1979, marking the end of 30 years of relentless hostility and five costly wars. The treaty was preceded by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's visit to Jerusalem (1977), at the invitation of Israel's Prime Minister Menachem Begin, as well as the signing of the Camp David Accords (1978), which constituted a basis for peace between Egypt and Israel and between Israel and its other neighbors. The accords also addressed the need to solve the Palestinian issue, following a five-year interim phase of autonomy for the Palestinian Arab residents of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and the Gaza Strip. President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their achievement.

    The peace implemented between Israel and Egypt consists of several major elements, including the termination of the state of war as well as acts or threats of belligerency, hostility or violence; the establishment of diplomatic, economic, and cultural ties; the removal of barriers to trade and freedom of movement; and withdrawal by Israel from the Sinai peninsula, with agreed security arrangements and limited force zones. Israel completed its withdrawal from Sinai (1982) according to the terms of the treaty, giving up strategic military bases and other assets in exchange for peace.

    Although Egypt was ostracized by other Arab states following the signing of the treaty, all have since reestablished relations with Egypt and reopened their embassies in Cairo. The headquarters of the Arab League, which had been transferred to Tunis, were reinstated in Cairo in the early 1980s.

    Having to overcome 30 years of distrust and hostility, normalization of relations between Israel and Egypt is a long and arduous process. Yet, embassies and consulates were established by both countries, and meetings between government ministers and high-ranking officials take place regularly.

    Following the renewed outbreak of Palestinian terrorism (September 2000), relations cooled considerably and Egypt recalled its ambassador, who was returned at the beginning of 2005. Nevertheless, trade and cooperation continued, and the joint military committee meets regularly. In light of Israel's disengagement from the Gaza Strip, to which Egypt contributed, relations have improved.

    Former PM Ehud Olmert with then Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak 
    Former PM Ehud Olmert with then Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (Photo: GPO / Moshe Milner)

  • Jordan


    The peace treaty between Jordan and Israel, signed at the Akaba-Eilat border crossing (October 1994), was preceded by a meeting of King Hussein and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in Washington three months earlier, when the two leaders proclaimed an end to the state of war between their countries.

    Although de facto at war with each other for 46 years, Israel and Jordan had maintained secret contacts and concluded mutually beneficial agreements throughout that period.

    The 1991 Madrid Conference led to public bilateral talks, culminating in a formal treaty (1994) in which both countries have undertaken to refrain from acts of belligerency, to ensure that no threats of violence to the other will originate within their territory, to endeavor to prevent terrorism and act together to achieve security and cooperation in the Middle East by replacing military preparedness with confidence-building measures. Other provisions include agreed allocations from existing water resources, freedom of passage for nationals of both countries, efforts to alleviate the refugee problem and cooperation in the development of the Jordan Rift Valley.

    The international boundary delineated in the treaty has replaced the 1949 cease-fire lines and is delimited with reference to the British Mandate boundary (1922-48). With the ratification of the peace treaty, full diplomatic relations were established and, since then, the relationship between Israel and Jordan has been moving forward steadily.

    The basis for implementation of the Israel-Jordan peace treaty was established with the signing and ratification of 12 bilateral agreements in economic, scientific, and cultural spheres. These treaties are to serve as the foundation of peaceful relations between Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The most significant expression of the peaceful relations is the establishment of Qualifying Industrial Zones (QIZs), which enables Jordan, via cooperation with Israel, to export to the US quota-free and tariff-free commodities worth more than one billion dollars. Israel is also cooperating with Jordan in two agricultural projects and in public health.

    King Abdullah II, who succeeded his father, King Hussein, in March 1999, visited Israel in April 2000.

    Following the renewed outbreak of Palestinian terrorism (September 2000) in the territories, relations with Jordan cooled and Jordan recalled its ambassador. There has been a gradual development of relations and Jordan returned its ambassador in 2005.

    In June 2003, King Abdullah II hosted a summit in Aqaba with President Bush and with Prime Ministers Sharon and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. In April 2004, King Abdullah II visited then Prime Minister Sharon at his residence in the Negev.

    Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Jordan's King Abdullah II  
    Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Jordan's King Abdullah II (Photo: GPO/ Amos Ben Gershom)

  • Gulf States


    As a result of the Oslo peace process in the Middle East, the Gulf States showed interest in relations with Israel for the first time since 1948. Initial contacts were followed with a series of reciprocal visits by high-level officials. In May 1996, Israel opened trade representation offices in Oman and Qatar to develop economic, scientific, and commercial relations, with emphasis on water resources utilization, tourism, agriculture, chemicals, and advanced technologies.

    Since the renewed outbreak of Palestinian terrorism in 2000, relations with the Gulf States have cooled. Israel's trade representation office in Oman has been closed.

  • Maghreb Countries


    In 1994, three North African Arab states - Morocco, Mauritania, and Tunisia - joined other Arab countries and chose to take the path of peace and reconciliation by forming diplomatic ties with Israel.

    Initiated in different ways at various levels, relations between Morocco and Israel were formalized when Israel opened a liaison office (November 1994) in the Moroccan capital, Rabat. Four months later, Morocco opened its office in Israel, thus formally establishing bilateral diplomatic relations.

    The Islamic Republic of Mauritania and Israel concluded an agreement at the Barcelona Conference (November 1995), in the presence of the Spanish foreign minister, to establish interest sections in the Spanish embassies in Tel Aviv and Nouakchott, respectively. Mauritania opened its diplomatic mission in Tel Aviv (May 1996) and indicated its wish to fully normalize relations with Israel. In October 1999, Mauritania became the third Arab country (after Egypt and Jordan) to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel.

    Following a timetable worked out by Israel, Tunisia, and the United States (January 1996), Israel opened an interest office in Tunisia (April 1996), and Tunisia reciprocated six weeks later (May 1996).

    Diplomatic relations with the moderate Maghreb countries are important because of the role these countries play in the Arab world, and also because of Israel's large population of North African emigres who retain an emotional attachment to the countries where their families lived for many centuries. This affinity is an asset which may lead to more profound relationships and make a practical contribution to the peace process.

    After the renewal of Palestinian terrorism in 2000, Morocco and Tunisia broke off diplomatic ties with Israel. Nevertheless, some commercial relations and tourism continue, as well as contacts in other fields.