Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan Reflects on Diplomacy with Egypt
Moshe Dayan bids Egyptian President Anwar Sadat farewell at the end of a visit to Israel in September 1979. (credit: Ya’acov Sa’ar, Israeli Government Press Office, CC BY-SA 3.0)

May 29, 1979

In a Knesset address, Minister of Foreign Affairs Moshe Dayan recounts the events that transpired among Israel, the United States and Egypt the past two years, including the Camp David Accords. Throughout his narrative, Dayan emphasizes Israel’s commitment to the peace process with Egypt and a strong diplomatic relationship with the United States. He praises Egyptian President Anwar Sadat for leading Egypt to this important moment. Expressing optimism, his speech presents a message of hope for maintaining the normalization process with Egypt, despite the strain caused by Israel’s tensions with Lebanon.

The actual peace treaty between Israel and Egypt — the follow-up to the Camp David Accords — had been signed just two months before Dayan’s address, on March 26, 1979. The peace treaty laid out a three-year plan for Israel to fully evacuate its citizens and military operations from the Sinai Peninsula. In return for receiving the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt agreed to normalized diplomatic relations and formally recognized Israel.

Considering the historically tenuous relationship between the Egypt and Israel, the three-year timeframe was precarious. Dayan’s assurances to the world that Israel would maintain its commitment were vital, especially in light of mounting tension with Lebanon, on Israel’s northern border. At the time, Lebanon was host to the PLO and was the source of constant attacks on Israel’s north. Just one month before Dayan’s speech, PLO terrorists coming from Lebanon massacred a policeman and three members of one family in the Israeli beach town of Nahariya. In spite of this attack, Israel did not allow regional affairs to affect its commitment to peace and diplomacy with Egypt and the United States. Israel withdrew its forces from Sinai in April 1982, six months after Sadat’s assassination.