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ON THIS DAY

26 March 1979: Israel and Egypt shake hands on peace deal. Israel and Egypt have ended 30 years of war with an historic peace treaty brokered by the United States. The ceremony on the White House lawn in Washington was broadcast live on television. The two leaders sealed the deal with a firm handshake, watched by a smiling President Jimmy Carter. Both President Anwar al-Sadat of Egypt, and the Israeli Prime Minister, Menachem Begin, described the ceremony as an “historic turning point”. Mr Sadat praised President Carter as “the man who performed the miracle”. “Without exaggeration,” he said, “what he did constitutes one of the greatest achievements of our time”. Mr Carter, however, was more cautious, saying the treaty was “a first step on a long and difficult road.” “We must not minimalise the obstacles that lie ahead,” he said. Deep divisions between the two sides remain, and even in their speeches following the ceremony the two presidents revealed how far there is still to go. Mr Begin spoke emotionally of how the city of Jerusalem could never be divided; while Mr Sadat was unreservedly frank about the question of Palestinian autonomy. News of the signing ceremony was greeted with angry demonstrations throughout the Arab world. Crowds stormed the Egyptian Embassy in Kuwait, and there was a strike in the West Bank. The PLO leader, Yasser Arafat, told a rally in West Beirut: “Let them sign what they like. False peace will not last.” He accused President Sadat of betraying the Egyptian people, and said they would eventually eliminate him. The normally moderate King Hussein of Jordan has now joined President Assad of Syria and President Hassen al Bakr of Iraq in calling a summit conference of opponents of the treaty. Egypt is thought likely to be expelled from the Arab League as a symbolic gesture of anger at the decision to go it alone in negotiating peace with Israel. Even in the West, the response to the treaty has been lukewarm. A statement from the nine European Community nations praised the efforts of President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin to make peace. But, in a comment bound to anger the Israelis, it added that a settlement could only happen if the Palestinian people were given a homeland. (Source: BBC)

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