EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: It is widely assumed that Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat made peace despite their deep personal incompatibilities. But in fact, there were significant parallels in the lives of both men, and these may have facilitated their coming to an agreement. The similarities between them – their early careers in “underground” movements, their stints in prison, their struggles against the British and hatred of the Soviet Union, their years on the margins of power, and their clearly defined definitions of homeland – may have eased their final compromise.
It is now thirty-eight years since the signing of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, most famously evoked by the three-way handshake on the White House lawn that changed the Middle East. Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian president Anwar Sadat put war behind Israel and Egypt, and in so doing, ended the Israeli-Arab conflict. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues, and so too does the Israeli-Iranian struggle. But Israeli-Egyptian peace put an end to the destructive battlefield wars between Israel and Arab states of the kind that erupted in 1948, 1956, 1967, and 1973. Since the famous handshake among Begin, Sadat, and Jimmy Carter, there has been no battlefield war between Israel and a conventional Arab army. And Egypt and Israel now have been at peace longer than they were at war.