June 27th, 2012
08:59 AM ET

When a handshake is not just a handshake

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II shook hands Wednesday with former IRA commander Martin McGuinness in a historic gesture marking an advance in the peace process around British rule of Northern Ireland.

The handshake comes 14 years after the end of a conflict that claimed about 3,500 lives and illustrates one example of when a handshake is more than just a handshake.

A few other handy examples in the history books:

• In 1972, on his trip to China, U.S. President Richard Nixon shook hands with Mao Zedong, in a first step toward better relations between the two countries.

• Thirteen years later, in Geneva, Switzerland, U.S. President Ronald Reagan did the same with another Communist leader: Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev. The two leaders were seeking common ground on arms reduction and other issues.

• Then, there was a historic moment in 1990. South African President F. W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela shook hands in an iconic moment on the path to end apartheid.

• And finally: Israel's Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat famously shook hands at the White House in 1993. The two were later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts in Mideast peace negotiations.

What do you think? What are other instances throughout history when a handshake was more than a handshake? Share your comments below.

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Topics: Diplomacy

soundoff (154 Responses)
  1. C. Spencer

    April 26, 1945 – Commanders of the American 69th Infantry Regiment and the Soviet Russian 58th Guards Rifle Division were photographed shaking hands one day after the two forces met up on the Elbe River in Germany. It signified the first official meeting of the two forces during the Second World War, and was declared around the world as a reaffirmation of the Allies dedication to end the conflict. Four days later, Adolf Hitler committed suicide.

    June 27, 2012 at 8:39 pm | Reply
  2. hatruth

    The '93 Oslo accords were a mistake. The "palestinians" weren't serious about making peace with Israel, as a result is the current situation. When the "palestinians" and not just their leaders are serious about peace and recognize the existence of the Jewish State of Israel, then there will be peace and then something like Oslo makes sense.

    June 27, 2012 at 10:05 pm | Reply
    • Rod C. Venger

      The Nobel committee should ask for their money back. A "Peace Prize" should require a peace. Half of Palestine still officially believes that Israel is illegitimate and should be eradicated.

      June 28, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Reply
  3. Jack

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    June 28, 2012 at 12:21 am | Reply
  4. stevenrmorrison

    Hitler greeted Chamberlain at the Hotel Dreesen with a handshake, and a few weeks later again in Munich... seems that was not quite to be taken on face-value

    June 28, 2012 at 2:11 am | Reply
  5. beachesandbeyond

    Don't forget this handshake.


    June 28, 2012 at 9:10 am | Reply
  6. ML

    Notice they all had their left hands behind their back, fingers crossed?

    June 28, 2012 at 9:17 am | Reply
  7. Rod C. Venger

    Does the Obama-Holder reach-around count?

    June 28, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Reply
  8. lindy226

    And what did Israel get for it? More terror more death...Hamas has shot over 150 rocket into Israel in the last 3 days!

    June 28, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Reply
  9. Mike

    Granted it was a lot of empty handshakes, but I'd have to say the men involved with The Louisiana Purchase should be in consideration.

    June 28, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Reply
  10. hans

    That time that the Joker shook Batman's hand with a buzzer in it. Classic. =)

    June 28, 2012 at 6:03 pm | Reply
  11. TJ

    What about the infamous handshake between Jim Schwartz and Jim Harbaugh?

    June 28, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Reply
  12. jane

    Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin as brought together by President Jimmy Carter at the Camp David Accords in 1978

    June 28, 2012 at 7:14 pm | Reply
    • TAK

      I was thinking Begin and Sadat also. At least that accomplished something. Rabin/Arafat... not so much.

      June 28, 2012 at 9:46 pm | Reply
  13. Medhat

    The most important one and most watched in history, President Anwar El Sadat Hand shakes to all Israel's Leader Ship in the most courageous trip in history in 1977 to Jerusalem.

    June 29, 2012 at 1:46 am | Reply
  14. Lee Miano

    In Kenya when the President Mwai Kibaki shook hands with the Prime Minister Raila Odinga,to end the post election violence in 2008,which claimed over 1000 lives

    June 29, 2012 at 3:19 am | Reply
  15. Lou

    Summer of 1975 – Location: Warner Bros. Studios
    A photograph captures two men in business attire standing outside of the studio shaking hands, one of them on fire. It was used for Pink Floyd's album Wish You Were Here. This, by far, is the most iconic handahake ever.

    June 29, 2012 at 8:32 am | Reply
  16. Yesduhh

    I live in the US and just accepted a job contract with the state of Berlin, in Germany. But my contract is not sealed until I show up there and only then is it 'sealed' with a handshake. In Germany, it seems, a handshake is still a formality that carries some respect.

    July 2, 2012 at 9:52 am | Reply
  17. 100 % ETHIO

    When singer Michael Jackson wear gloves and had a handshake with President Ronald Regan, Mr.Regan said, "Jackson is ....".

    Mr.Regan was the famous President. He reconciled and united then the Two Germans.
    He is my favour President, just by reading his biography.

    July 3, 2012 at 8:08 am | Reply
    • 100 % ETHIO

      I do not really read anything.

      July 3, 2012 at 10:17 am | Reply
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