Israel and Egypt did not make good neighbors. In the three decades following modern Israel’s founding in 1948, the two countries waged four major wars against one another, plus a so-called War of Attrition in which they traded artillery fire along the Suez Canal.
Glimmers of hope began to appear, however, around the time Jimmy Carter took office in 1977. From day one of his presidency, Carter showed great interest in the conflict, spending much time and political capital cajoling Egypt’s and Israel’s leaders toward what he believed would be a mutually beneficial deal.
By the summer of 1978, with peace tantalizingly close, negotiations stalled. To break the impasse, Carter invited Egypt’s President Anwar el-Sadat and Israel’s Prime Minister Menachem Begin to a summit at Camp David, sequestering them for nearly two weeks as the terms of a peace agreement were painstakingly hammered out.
Since then, Israel and Egypt have not once come to blows, even as tensions between them remain high.
Israel and Egypt Head to the Negotiating Table
As president, the Georgia-born Carter initially tried to incorporate all the warring Middle Eastern parties in negotiations, including Jordan, Syria and the Palestinians. He likewise wanted to bring in the Soviet Union.
“For Carter a comprehensive peace agreement was not just the right thing to do, but he believed it would improve U.S.-Soviet relations and strengthen the U.S. position in the Arab world,” says Craig Daigle, an associate professor of history at the City College of New York, who is currently writing a book entitled Camp David and the Remaking of the Middle East.
It soon became clear, however, that Egypt and Israel preferred dealing solely with each other, and Carter adjusted his expectations accordingly. “One of Carter’s achievements is that he was smart enough…and agile enough to support what Sadat and Begin were doing in essentially a bilateral process,” Daniel C. Kurtzer, a professor of Middle East policy studies at Princeton University and a former U.S. ambassador to both Egypt and Israel, tells HISTORY.
In what’s been called a “psychological breakthrough,” Sadat became the first Arab leader to visit Israel in November 1977, touring Jerusalem and addressing Israel’s parliament. “You want to live with us in this part of the world,” Sadat declared. “In all sincerity, I tell you, we welcome you among us, with full security and safety.”
Begin reciprocated by flying to Ismailia, Egypt, where peace talks got underway. Their historic enmity notwithstanding, the two countries actually faced similar national security challenges. “[They] had a shared interest in fighting the rise of Islamic radicalism,” Daigle points out, plus “they both wanted to prevent Soviet intervention in the region, and they both sought U.S. weapons and financial assistance.”
Both Sadat and Begin also felt themselves surrounded by enemies. In Begin’s case, not one of the surrounding Arab countries even recognized Israel’s existence. Sadat, on the other hand, was coping with attempts by Libyan dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi to topple him from power. Moreover, Daigle explains, Sadat “feared that the Ethiopian Revolution would spill into neighboring Sudan, which could bring a hostile government to power there and threaten the supply of Nile River water, the lifeblood of the Egyptian economy.”
The Idea for a Summit Forms
Despite high hopes triggered by Sadat’s visit, a negotiating breakthrough proved elusive. “The Israeli approach was very legalistic and focused on details,” Kurtzer says, “while the Egyptian approach was focused on the big picture.”
Complicating matters was a devastating terrorist attack along Israel’s Coastal Highway, followed by a bloody Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon, a stronghold for Palestinian militants.
As frustrations mounted, Carter, who stayed involved in negotiations every step of the way, looked to stop the talks from collapsing. Taking the advice of his wife, Rosalynn, he eventually settled on inviting Sadat and Begin to Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland, believing the bucolic setting might soften the acrimony on all sides.
This strategy was hardly risk free. Carter’s popularity was suffering from rising inflation, unemployment and energy prices, and his advisers worried that a failure at Camp David would make him look weak. Even his vice president, Walter Mondale, warned against it, telling him, “If you fail we’re done. We will sap our stature as national leaders.”
The Camp David Accords
Undeterred, Carter pushed ahead, scheduling the Camp David summit for September 5, 1978. From the very beginning, Sadat and Begin clashed, wasting no opportunity to dredge up past grievances and showcasing their very different personalities. “After just a couple of days,” Kurtzer says, “Sadat and Begin basically didn’t want to talk to each other anymore.”
Begin, whose conservative Likud Party historically opposed trading land for peace, was reportedly reluctant to even use the word “Palestinian,” and he insisted on calling the West Bank by its biblical names: Judea and Samaria. With tempers flaring, the summit nearly collapsed on several occasions.
Carter realized that the two leaders would never come to terms on their own and that he needed to take on a more active role. In addition to drawing up a U.S. peace proposal, which would undergo many draft revisions, he threatened to withdraw U.S. aid and friendship, which both countries desperately needed.
At one point, Carter took Sadat and Begin to the site of the Battle of Gettysburg, an implicit warning about what could happen should negotiations fail. Mostly, though, he began meeting with the Israeli and Egyptian teams separately. Taking his own copious notes, he would rush back and forth between the two camps, often negotiating far into the night.
Carter also employed a strategy of leaving the two leaders out of it as much as possible, preferring instead to deal with certain advisers and only coming to Begin and Sadat for final approval.
For 13 days, far longer than he had expected the summit to last, Carter put aside his other presidential duties to work on Middle Eastern peace. His efforts came to fruition on September 17, when he, Sadat and Begin signed two framework agreements at the White House.
One called for Israel to withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula, which it had conquered from Egypt in the 1967 Six-Day War, in exchange for the establishment of full diplomatic relations, whereas the other, more vaguely worded document, called for a “self-governing” Palestinian authority in the West Bank and Gaza, along with recognition of “the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.”
A Full Peace Proves Elusive
Though met with great fanfare—Sadat and Begin shared the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize, and Carter would get his own Nobel Prize years later—the Camp David Accords did not bring an immediate end to hostilities. Perhaps not surprisingly, subsequent negotiations between Israel and Egypt proved difficult, prompting Carter to visit both countries in March 1979 to tackle remaining differences. (It would, for example, take years of international arbitration to resolve a boundary dispute.)
Finally, on March 26, 1979, Egypt and Israel signed an official peace treaty. “Let history record that deep and ancient antagonism can be settled without bloodshed and without staggering waste of precious lives,” Carter said at the time.
The treaty has held ever since and includes provisions that the United States provide both countries with billions of dollars in military and economic aid. In his book, Thirteen Days in September: The Dramatic Story of the Struggle for Peace, author Lawrence Wright credits Carter’s “unswerving commitment” to resolving the conflict. “Egypt and Israel simply could not make peace without the presence of a trusted third party,” Wright states.
As Wright notes, though, unresolved issues abound, particularly regarding the Palestinians, who did not participate in the Camp David summit. “While Carter had good intentions in wanting to help the Palestinians, his policies and support for the Camp David agreements actually set them back quite a bit,” Daigle says, pointing out that, among other things, he never backed the creation of an independent Palestinian state.
In 1980, Carter was crushed in his bid for re-election. Begin, meanwhile, refused to dismantle Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza—as he had reluctantly done in the Sinai—and, in fact, promoted their construction, thereby complicating future dealings with the Palestinians. For his part, Sadat was ostracized by much of the Arab world for reaching out to Israel and was assassinated in 1981 by Islamic militants.
Although the peace these three leaders forged at Camp David was “partial and incomplete,” Wright writes, it “nonetheless stands as one of the great diplomatic triumphs of the 20th century.”
At a ceremony on the White House South Lawn presided over by President Jimmy Carter that took place on this day in 1979, Egypt and Israel, having fought four wars since 1948, signed a formal peace treaty.
Egyptian President Anwar Sadat (1918-1981) and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin (1913-1992) signed the agreement. The accord came 16 months after Sadat had traveled to Jerusalem — an unprecedented move by an Arab leader that angered much of the Muslim world — to meet with Begin and address the Israeli Parliament. In September 1978, the two leaders met again under Carter’s auspices in the United States, where they negotiated a framework deal known as the Camp David Accords.
The 1979 treaty called for normalization of relations between the two states and the full withdrawal by Israel of its armed forces and civilians from the Sinai Peninsula, which Israel had captured during the Six-Day War in 1967. Egypt agreed to turn the Sinai into a demilitarized zone. It also provided for the unhindered passage of Israeli ships through the Suez Canal and recognition of the Straits of Tiran and the Gulf of Aqaba as international waterways.
For their accomplishment, Sadat and Begin were jointly awarded the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize — even as the Cairo-based Arab League suspended Egypt from membership. The League lifted its ban in 1989. On Oct. 6, 1981, Islamist military officers assassinated Sadat as he watched a victory parade in Cairo commemorating the anniversary of Egypt’s crossing of the Suez Canal during the 1973 war with Israel.
The peace process continued without Sadat, leading in 1982 to the establishment of full diplomatic relations between the two former adversaries. That step made Egypt the sole Arab state to officially recognize Israel until 1994, when Jordan followed suit.
Netanyahu’s Trumpy Reelection Bid Divides America’s Jewish Community
Today, Egypt maintains an embassy in Tel Aviv and a consulate in Eilat, near where the two countries’ borders meet at the shoreline of the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea. Israel has an embassy in Cairo and a consulate in Alexandria. They have two official crossings across their shared border. One at Taba, near the northern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba, and the other between El Ouga and Nitzana. The El Ouga-Nitzana crossing only accommodates commercial traffic.
While the two nations have maintained uninterrupted diplomatic relations since signing the peace treaty, the Egyptian government has twice recalled its ambassador to Israel, once between 1982 and 1988 and again between 2001 and 2005, during the Palestinian’s Second Intifada.
Relations between Egypt and Israel have improved since 2017 when Donald Trump became president and Mohammed bin Salman became crown prince of Saudi Arabia. The United States, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia would all like the Palestinian National Authority and Israel to sign a final peace accord. So far, however, this prospect has been met with intransigence and hostility on both sides.
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How peace became American pie in the sky
"God, it's hard!" Bill Clinton said, sounding as if someone had just asked him to multiply 242 by 338 in his head. Well, nobody suggested it would be easy.
But Clinton had set great store by what cynics describe as his "legacy project" - earning a place in history as the man who finally brought peace to the Middle East. By summoning the Israelis and Palestinians to Camp David, he deliberately invited comparisons with the meeting 22 years ago when his Democratic predecessor, Jimmy Carter, brokered peace between Israel and Egypt.
Yesterday's outcome may well enhance history's assessment of Carter (who was thrown out of office after a single term) but it can only diminish the stature of Clinton. Clinton's two big Middle East initiatives this year - the Geneva summit with the late President Assad of Syria last spring, and now Camp David - have both flopped. He will, no doubt, claim the credit for trying and pin the blame on intractable differences between the protagonists. But in both cases there is a common factor behind the failures: American arrogance.
All the issues were well-known, the arguments well-rehearsed, long before the meetings. It has been obvious for years that Jerusalem is a major sticking point. So why did Clinton call the summit? Was it because he had something up his sleeve that he believed would turn Camp David into the brilliant success that he craved? Er not exactly.
In a similar vein to Geneva last spring, Clinton seems to have assumed that congenial surroundings, and the presence of the world's most powerful man, would somehow work magic. Once at the summit, Assad and Arafat would turn to jelly, abandoning principles which they clearly regarded as important (even if Clinton didn't).
Having done little to secure their confidence as an honest broker, having failed to come up with a workable plan to bridge the gaps, Clinton simply presented them with a thinly disguised version of Israeli proposals.
Jimmy Carter says Trump peace plan violates international law
Jimmy Carter said on Thursday that President Donald Trump's Middle East plan would violate international law and urged the United Nations to stop Israel from annexing Palestinian land.
"The new US plan undercuts prospects for a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians," the former US president said in a statement on the so-called "Deal of the Century".
"If implemented, the plan will doom the only viable solution to this long-running conflict, the two-state solution," said Carter, who brokered the landmark 1978 Camp David Accords that brought peace between Israel and Egypt.
He urged UN member-states "to adhere to UN Security Council resolutions and to reject any unilateral Israeli implementation of the proposal by grabbing more Palestinian land".
His office said in a statement that Trump's plan, unveiled Tuesday, "breaches international law regarding self-determination, the acquisition of land by force, and annexation of occupied territories".
"By calling Israel 'the nation-state of the Jewish people,' the plan also encourages the denial of equal rights to the Palestinian citizens of Israel," it said.
Trump presented his long-awaited plan Tuesday alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his close ally, who shortly afterward signalled he would seek to annex a large part of the West Bank.
Trump's plan recognises Israeli sovereignty over most of its West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley, as well as an undivided Jerusalem.
The plan also backs a Palestinian state with a capital on the outskirts of Jerusalem but says the Palestinian leadership must recognise Israel as a Jewish homeland and agree to a demilitarised state.
The 95-year-old Carter, the longest-living president in US history, has frequently spoken out since losing re-election in 1980 and has won the Nobel Peace Prize for his humanitarian work.
In his recent years, he has frequently faced criticism from pro-Israel supporters for his views on the conflict, especially his use of the word "apartheid" to describe the Jewish state's potential future without a peace deal.
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TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. My guest Lawrence Wright has written extensively about the effects of religious belief, including extreme religious beliefs, on people's lives. He won a Pulitzer Prize for his book about the history of al-Qaida called "The Looming Tower." His book "Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood And The Prison Of Belief" was nominated a National Book Award.
His new book is the story of the peace accord between Israel and Egypt that was brokered by President Jimmy Carter in 1978 - or as Wright puts it, how three men - Carter, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat - representing three religions, met for 13 days at the presidential retreat at Camp David in the autumn of 1978 in order to solve a dispute that religion itself had largely caused an account of how these three flawed men strengthened, but also, encumbered by their faiths, managed to forge a partial and incomplete peace, an achievement that nonetheless stands as one of the great diplomatic triumphs of the 20th century. Wright's book is called "Thirteen Days In September: Carter, Begin, And Sadat At Camp David." Lawrence Wright, welcome back to FRESH AIR, and congratulations on this new book.
LAWRENCE WRIGHT: Thank you so much, Terry.
GROSS: Do you see this book in a way as a prequel to understanding, not only what's happening between Israel and the Palestinians, but the rise of militant Islam?
WRIGHT: Yeah. You know, Islam took a turn after the 1967 war when Israel so decisively defeated three Arab armies in six days. And it was an extraordinary moment in the history of Israel of course, and even many fundamentalist Christians felt like prophecy was being fulfilled.
But for Islam - especially for the nations that surrounded Israel and had been so soundly beaten - it was a moment of great introspection where people began to feel that God was not on their side. And why would that be? We weren't being strong enough Muslims. So the rise of fundamentalism inside Islam took a giant leap and that movement has obviously continued up until this day.
GROSS: The peace between Egypt and Israel has lasted nearly 35 years so far. So not everyone is old enough to remember when they were actually at war. So before we talk about the process of making peace, I'm going to ask you to describe the wars between Egypt and Israel and what they were about, why peace was so necessary.
WRIGHT: Well, Israel was founded in 1948, you know. It was supposed to be two states, Israel and Palestine. And in May of 1948, as soon as the state of Israel declared itself, five Arab armies attacked. And they weren't actually entirely attacking Israel. It was a land-grab for Palestine. They just dismembered that state. And so Jordan got the West Bank, Egypt got Gaza and Israel took the rest of it. And that was the end of Palestine.
GROSS: And how does the 1956 Suez Crisis figure into the wars between Israel and Egypt?
WRIGHT: Well, this was a turning point in the Arab attitude towards Israel. France and England jointly owned and controlled the Suez Canal, which President Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt nationalized. And they decided to repossess it militarily, but they needed a pretext. So they asked Israel to take over the Sinai so that they - these great powers could come in and force both sides away and then retake over the canal once more. And Israel agreed to do that, and it was so egregious that President Eisenhower forced everybody to relinquish any control over the Sinai and the Suez Canal. It was a turning point for England and France. They had been great powers up until that point. But then they sort of receded into the chorus, and that was when the era of the superpowers was really being born.
GROSS: One of the things that had to be resolved in the Camp David peace talks was what to do about Sinai, which Israel had taken from Egypt. How did Israel occupy Sinai?
WRIGHT: In 1967, President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt had made some very threatening gestures. He blocked off the streets of Tehran, which closed Israeli shipping from southern Israel. And he had ordered the U.N. troops, the peacekeepers, out of Sinai. And Israel believed that it was about to be attacked. And there was great panic in the country.
I mean, the Holocaust was not that far in the past. And this feeling that they were going to be annihilated was so great, there were trenches dug for mass graves in city parks. And, you know, the whole nation was just quivering with anxiety, and then suddenly, Israel struck. And within an hour, they had completely destroyed the Egyptian Air Force. So the war was essentially over. But it took six days to wind up complete battle victories over three Arab nations. It was an incredibly decisive war. And in that war, Israel took over Sinai. It occupied the West Bank and Old Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. Those are the areas that were called the occupied territories.
GROSS: Why was peace between Egypt and Israel such a priority for President Jimmy Carter that he basically put his presidency on the line?
WRIGHT: It's an odd story, you know. He was a one-term governor from Georgia. He had very little experience in the Middle East. The only Jew that he had known growing up was his uncle, Louis Braunstein, an insurance salesman in Chattanooga. The first time he met an Arab was at the Daytona 500 when he was governor of Georgia. So he had, you know - he was inexperienced. He did go to the Holy Land with Rosalynn, his wife, in 1973 when he was secretly considering running for president. And he was very affected by that experience, and he came home. He had decided that he would do whatever he could to bring peace to the Holy Land.
GROSS: You write that President Carter believed that God had put them in office in part to bring peace to the Holy Land. Did you get that from the president's diary?
WRIGHT: Well, and he told me that as well. He's not shy about saying that he felt that he'd been placed in that position in order to make a difference, and he was, you know - had this extraordinary Christian faith. And he felt that he was mandated to use it. And he wasn't daunted by the fact that everybody else thought it was completely impossible.
GROSS: In profiling Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, you say that they both had been imprisoned they both had blood on their hands.
Let's start with Menachem Begin. You say he helped write the terrorist playbook. He was with the Irgun. Why don't you briefly describe what the Irgun was?
WRIGHT: The Irgun was a terrorist organization in Israel that had grown out of a militant - paramilitary group called Betar that Begin had been a part of in Poland. It was fighting against the British when he arrived in Palestine at the end of World War II, and the British had a mandate to run Palestine until the issues of statehood could be resolved. It was a goal of Irgun to drive the British out. And in the process, one of the most egregious crimes was the bombing of the King David Hotel. Nearly 100 people were killed in that bombing. It happened that part of the hotel was an office for the British mandate authority. And Begin had hoped to not have any casualties, but he said that he had sent a warning. Although, the head of the mandate at the time said they never received such a thing.
After the British were driven out, the Irgun turned its attention to the Palestinians, and they wanted to clear out Palestinian villages to make room for the Israelis. One of the villages was a little place called Deir Yassin, which was near Jerusalem. And it was on a main road coming into the city, and in Begin's opinion - and to be honest, in David Ben-Gurion's opinion as well - the village had to be eliminated.
So Begin's account is that he sent in a sound truck at 4 in the morning to tell the villagers to flee. But the truck unfortunately fell into a ditch, and nobody heard the warning. But when the assault began, there was resistance from the villagers. And so the Irgun men, along with the members from another terrorist organization called Stern Gang, went house-to-house throwing grenades and massacring whole families. Surviving women and children were paraded through Jerusalem on a flatbed truck, and some 20 men who had survived were taken to a quarry and executed. And in the Palestinian community, the word went out right away. Panic ensued and the great flight of Palestinians, more than 700,000 of them, took place right after that.
GROSS: So Manachem Begin plays this major role in what the Palestinians call the Nakba, the - what does that translate to?
WRIGHT: The Catastrophe. You know, it was a turning point in the history of that region. And of course, you know, you look back at the way those refugees, you know, spilled out they thought that they would be able to come back when the dust settled, but they were not permitted to be. And most of the Arab countries where they took refuge never allowed them to become citizens. So they were never digested into other societies. And, you know, if you spend time in the Middle East, you see, you know, so much evidence of the refugees. Like Gaza, for instance, is essentially one large refugee camp, now 1.7 million people.
GROSS: Let's get to the Egyptian president, Anwar Sadat. He served prison time, and you say he had blood on his hands. What was the blood on his hands?
WRIGHT: He was a member of an assassination group. It was started by Muhammad Ibrahim Kamel, who later became his foreign minister. But their goal was to kill British soldiers - similar to Irgun, on a more modest scale. But when Sadat took it over, he thought he had larger ambitions for it. He wanted to kill the prime minister of Egypt and attempted to do that on several occasions and failed. But he did succeed in killing one of the government ministers.
His goal was to break the collaboration. Any Egyptian politician that was working with the British - and of course, that would be everybody in the Egyptian government - he wanted to assassinate them to make a show that you cannot work with the British. And so his goal was to break apart the alliance between the Egyptian government and the British occupiers.
GROSS: So what did they each watch? What did Begin and Sadat hope to get or hope to avoid happen in the peace talks? Let's start with Sadat.
WRIGHT: Well, Sadat had - you know, he started a war in 1973 in order to regain the canal on the Sinai. And it was such a shock to Israel that, you know, the Egyptians had crossed the canal successfully and came within hailing distance of Tel Aviv. And although the Israelis recovered and actually occupied even more territory in Egypt, they were badly shaken by that event.
And Sadat wanted Sinai back. But he felt that he couldn't make a separate peace with Israel, that the Arabs would turn against him if he did. So he wanted to have a comprehensive peace that would include the Palestinian situation, return the occupied territories and allow the Palestinians to return to their previous homes. Nothing could be further from Begin's mind. Begin's whole career had been about expanding Israel's territory and guaranteeing its safety. Not only was he not intending to surrender any territory, he wanted to institutionalize the demilitarization of the Sinai in order to make sure that there was 150 miles of sand between Israel and the main Egyptian force. That was their safety belt in his opinion. And as for the West Bank, he wasn't going to entertain any idea at all about surrendering any of that territory.
GROSS: And what about President Carter? Did he enter this with a plan in mind?
WRIGHT: You know, he had thoughts about it. And, you know, there had been meetings in the past. They had a general idea about what a reasonable resolution would look like, an accord. But his idea when he went to Camp David - a completely naive and mistaken one - was that if he could just get these two honorable men alone, away from the press of their domestic politics and let them get to know each other, that they would like each other, and they would come to trust one another. He couldn't have been - (laughter) he couldn't have been more wrong about that because after the second day, he had to separate them physically. They were screaming at each other. And Rosalynn Carter told me she could hear them yelling at each other in the other room all day long. It was not a well-thought-out plan on Carter's part.
GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Lawrence Wright, who is a Pulitzer Prize winner. He wrote the book "The Looming Tower" about the history of al-Qaida. He wrote an excellent book about the history of Scientology. He's written a lot about this combination of religion and culture and religion in politics. His new book is about the Camp David Accords and the history of Middle East war and Middle East peace between Israel and Egypt. The new book is called "Thirteen Days In September: Carter, Begin, And Sadat At Camp David." Let's take a short break, then we'll talk some more. This is FRESH AIR.
GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Lawrence Wright and his new book is called "Thirteen Days In September: Carter, Begin And Sadat At Camp David." And it's not only about the Middle East peace talks that brought peace between Egypt and Israel, it's about the larger conflicts in the Middle East. Well, you write about how close Carter was with Sadat and that Carter almost considered him a brother. And he did not have that kind of relationship with Begin.
WRIGHT: No. When Carter came into the White House, he started interviewing leaders of the Middle East looking for someone who he could work with, and he just did not - he was not impressed at all as they came one after another into the White House to meet the president. Until finally Anwar Sadat arrived, and it was kismet of some sort, I mean, Carter talked about how he loved him. You know, it's not the normal language of diplomacy, but his staffers all said that there was clearly something going on there. That there was a genuine feeling between the two of them, and I think that encouraged Sadat to think that they could make the relationship of the United States resemble the friendship of Sadat and Carter. And I think that also concerned Menachem Begin that Egypt would come to replace Israel as America's chief ally in the Middle East.
GROSS: Carter used that as a bargaining chip with him?
WRIGHT: He certainly did. There was this level of threat that was operating later in the end of the first week and the beginning of the second. Both sides began to feel that they had too much at stake here at Camp David, and they wanted to get out of there. But they couldn't find a way to get out of Camp David without undermining the relationship of their country with the United States. So Carter in a way had them trapped, but of course he had himself trapped there as well.
GROSS: Carter actually used his relationship to Sadat to keep Sadat at Camp David. There was a moment when Sadat was like, he was walking out he was so frustrated he was leaving. And Carter basically used their relationship and said you leave and, you know, Egypt is not going to be as close an ally with the United States. Our relationship is going to be over. Look at what you're good to be giving up, why would you do that?
WRIGHT: Right. Implicitly he was threatening war because he was saying that, you know, if there's another war, we're going be on Israel's side and Egypt will be alone and friendless in the world. And it was very sobering moment. Carter told me that, you know, he had never been angrier in his entire life. And it was clear that he made a real impression on Sadat. Sadat had already ordered the helicopter he had packed his clothes he was out of there. He was worried that he was going to be asked to give up too much at Camp David and he wouldn't be able to justify it when he got home.
GROSS: And Begin was on the verge of walking out, too, at at least one point. What were his reasons for almost being out the door?
WRIGHT: Well, Begin was the only one - when he arrived at Camp David, he was the only one who he thought could walk away without signing anything. He'd be fine, up until the point that Carter enlisted the relationship of the U.S. with Israel as a part of the deal. And that - that really disturbed Begin. He drew up a -finally, late in the game he realized that, you know, Egypt had presented a plan and Carter had presented the American plan, but there had been no Israeli plan. So he drew up an Israeli plan and it was just no, no, no. And his advisers - Moshe Dayan and Ezer Weizman and Aharon Barak - all pleaded with him not to present it. But he didn't really have a position. He didn't want to agree to any of the terms that Carter was putting forward. But finally, he began to realize he was going to have to agree to something in order to preserve the relationship with the United States. Carter told him that if he left Camp David, he was going to make sure he, Carter, that the American people knew who was to blame. And he was going to go to Congress and lay it on them. He even told one of his.
GROSS: Who was to blame for the collapse of the peace talks?
WRIGHT: That Begin was to blame personally for it. And one of his speechwriters was told to draw up a speech. And what Carter was going to ask the Israeli people to overthrow their government, you know, through a vote. But imagine just - you can't believe how that would be received in Israel or, you know, even in the Congress of the United States. But things had gotten so personal at that point. And Carter believed so strongly that peace was worth it, but he was about to blow everything to smithereens. If either one of these men walked out, they were going to pay a price, and he wanted to make sure they knew it.
GROSS: Lawrence Wright will be back in the second half of the show. His new book is called "Thirteen Days In September: Carter, Begin and Sadat At Camp David." I'm Terry Gross and this is FRESH AIR.
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross, back with Lawrence Wright. He won a Pulitzer Prize for his book about the history of al-Qaida called "The Looming Tower" and was nominated for a National Book Award for his book "Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, And The Prison Of Belief."
His new book, "Thirteen Days In September," is about how President Jimmy Carter negotiated a peace agreement between Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. One of the biggest issues on the table was Sinai, which Israel had occupied and built settlements in after defeating Egypt in the 1967 war. The occupation led to further fighting between Israel and Egypt.
What was the leverage that Carter used to convince the Israeli prime minister, Menachem Begin, to give back Sinai to Egypt, which Begin was very reluctant to do?
WRIGHT: Well, Begin had made a pledge that he was going to retire and die in one of those settlements. And.
GROSS: One of the settlements in Sinai?
WRIGHT: In Sinai. And he also, you know - at the time, Israelis - you know, many people in Israel were worried about surrendering Sinai because it was their safety zone. It protected them from the Egyptian Army. What finally happened in Sinai, Begin's own delegation was far more in favor of making a peace settlement at Camp David than Begin himself was. And the language he used with Carter was that, I would never personally recommend that the settlements be abandoned.
Carter eventually thought about those words and then later asked Begin, is there a way in which you could, you know, offer this to a vote in the Knesset, in the Israeli parliament? And Begin agreed that that was not impossible. So finally it was agreed that this would be taken to a vote in the Knesset, and Begin would not stand against it. And that way, he did not have to personally recommend it, and he also didn't break his pledge. So, you know, he was a man who considered his honor to be sacrosanct. And so this was a way of getting around a pledge that he had made publicly.
GROSS: And he didn't have to bear complete responsibility.
GROSS: . For, you know, giving up Sinai. What did Egypt give up in this deal?
WRIGHT: Well, what Egypt's problem was when they came into Camp David was negotiating with Israel alone. This was going to - if they could not get a comprehensive agreement that included the Palestinians, everybody in the delegation knew that Egypt would be alone in the Arab world, that the Arabs would turn their back on them.
And so what Sadat wanted was language that specifically linked the peace between Israel and Egypt with an agreement with the Palestinians. And that link was, you know, weakened. And eventually, he signed an agreement that was broken into two parts. One was the accord with Israel, in which Israel agreed to return the Sinai to Egypt and that the peninsula would be demilitarized. And the other part was the framework for the peace with the Palestinians, which was a notional idea that Israel would, within five years, resolve a peace with the Palestinians along the lines of - that are laid out in those accords.
GROSS: And why did Carter do it that way, to break it into two parts like that - one, peace between Egypt and Israel, and the other, that in five years there'd be, you know, movement toward autonomy.
WRIGHT: There you go. Right.
GROSS: . Was that the word that was used? - autonomy for the Palestinians?
WRIGHT: There was no other way for him to get the agreement with Israel, and, you know, he thought that if - he didn't want to break it into two parts. He didn't want - he wanted a comprehensive peace as Sadat said he wanted as well. But it became very clear that it was not going to happen like that. And he had to get something out of Camp David. So he made arrangements for the, you know, first part of the accord with Egypt. And then he linked it as strongly as he could with this accord in which Israel pledged to resolve its differences with the Palestinians within a period of five years and laid out a roadmap to how that would be done.
Every attempt since Camp David to resolve the dispute between the Israelis and the Palestinians has essentially followed that roadmap - tried to implement it, but has never been done to this day.
GROSS: If you just joining us, my guest is journalist Lawrence Wright. His new book is called "Thirteen Days In September: Carter, Begin, And Sadat At Camp David." And it's about the Camp David peace negotiations in which President Carter oversaw a peace agreement between Israel and Egypt. Let's take a short break here, then we'll talk some more. This is FRESH AIR.
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR, and if you're just joining us, my guest is Lawrence Wright. He wrote a history of al-Qaida which won a Pulitzer Prize. It was called "The Looming Tower." He wrote a history of Scientology. Now he's written a new book about the Camp David peace accords and the history of the Middle East that provides a context for them. These are the accords that President Carter oversaw in which a peace between Israel and Egypt was negotiated. The book is called "Thirteen Days In September: Carter, Begin, And Sadat At Camp David."
One of the points that was, you know, argued over in discussing the Palestinians and Israel's occupation of the West Bank was U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, which of course is still an incredible sticking point in Middle East peace. So please describe what that is.
WRIGHT: After the 1967 war, there was this Resolution 242, which Israel signed, in which Israel agreed to withdraw from territories occupied by war. Even during the time that they were framing this resolution, the language was very carefully thought-over. And so it doesn't say - originally, they say all the territories. And then the word all was subtracted, and then the word the was subtracted, so it became territories, which - so Israel would withdraw from territories occupied by war, which permitted the Israelis to say, well, it doesn't say all the territories. And Begin argued that it didn't apply at all, that it was only in the case of a belligerent war, you know - in the case of a belligerent war, it didn't apply. And.
GROSS: So in other words, since Israel was defending itself and then ended up winning, it was able to take the land. It's not like it started a war to conquer land.
GROSS: That was the argument that Begin was using, right?
WRIGHT: That was - even though 242 is specifically about the land that Israel occupied after the 1967 war. So this is an example of what people call, in diplomacy, creative ambiguity. It allowed Israel to sign that document, but it created an area of confusion that came back to haunt the diplomats who were at Camp David when they tried to resolve what that 242 actually meant.
And Begin was taking a very hard line. And he didn't want to surrender any of the land, but Sinai was in a somewhat different view in his mind because he didn't really think of Sinai as the promised land. That, you know - far as West Bank - that was Judea and Samaria - in his opinion, that is the heart of ancient Israel, and he was not going to let any of that go.
GROSS: So how did Carter come up with something resembling a resolution that enabled Begin to sign the second document, the one applying to the West Bank?
WRIGHT: You know, there was a - he had a 23 drafts of the American proposal. And he kept putting in language from U.N. Resolution 242, referring to it in the text. And Begin always bridled at this. And finally, one night, Carter came up with the idea that he would reference 242 without actually quoting it in the text and then put the entire resolution in the appendix to the accord. And even though it's a part of the accord, just removing that language from the opening text of the accord put Begin at ease, and he was willing to sign it.
GROSS: So what Carter did is refer to people who were referring to Resolution 242. So he'd say, as they said. And they were quoting what Resolution 242 was, but he's not quoting it in the plan itself.
WRIGHT: It is a part of the plan, but it's in the appendix.
WRIGHT: So it's still a part of the treaty. And it's sort of a face-saving device. Begin was, you know - he was so interested in every detail of the language. And at the very beginning of Camp David, Rosalynn Carter had gone to some interfaith leaders and come up with a prayer that she hoped that people would - people of all countries would pray for success. And she said to Prime Minister Begin, I hope that is OK with you, and he said, well, I'd like to see the text. So.
WRIGHT: . He took Rosalynn's prayer and made some amendments to it. And so from the very beginning, there was a sense that every single word was going to be examined and scrutinized and the - Aharon Barak, who was the supreme court justice from Israel who was one of the major negotiators at Camp David, he seemed to have a genius for figuring out ways to ameliorate the language and still say what needs to be said in a way that Begin would accept. And Carter came to rely upon him.
Even - there was one instance where there was the term, legitimate right to the Palestinian people. Now, this was something that caused Begin to flare up because, you know, he said, what are legitimate rights? Is there such a thing as illegitimate rights? You know, this is, you know, a tautology. And, well, we could just say - we could just say the right to the Palestinian people. And he still was very anxious about conceding that the Palestinian people had rights. And finally, Judge Barak suggested inserting the word also, so that the accord say, and also the legitimate rights of the Palestinians. It doesn't mean anything except that it opened the door that there were other considerations which, you know, where in the back of Begin's mind, but not made public in this document.
GROSS: President Carter seemed to think that the part of the Camp David peace agreement pertaining to the Palestinians would specify that Israel would no longer build new settlements in the West Bank. Prime Minister Begin did not seem to think that. So what went wrong at the last minute with - that left Carter feeling betrayed by Begin?
WRIGHT: This is a dispute that continues to this day. It was late at night on the final night - Saturday night. Everybody was tired. In the Israeli delegation, there was Begin and Moshe Dayan and Aharon Barak. And it was Carter and his secretary of state, Cyrus Vance. And Carter believed that Begin agreed to stop settlement-building for a period of five years until the Palestinian portion of the accords had been concluded. And he asked Begin to produce a letter to that effect and would produce that tomorrow, and tomorrow was going to be the day that they went to the White House to sign the accords. So then everybody went to bed.
The next day, Aharon Barak brought Carter the letter. And it didn't say at all what Carter had asked for. He said that he would consider it, and it would be for a period of three months. Carter told Barak, go back and rewrite the letter. And so the next night, they went to the White House and signed the accords. And it did not have the letter from Begin that he expected in hand. And in fact, he never did get it.
Begin said he never agreed to withholding settlement-building for such a long period of time. He had only agreed to consider it. Barak had notes of the meeting, which he says prove Begin's point. Although, the notes seem to suggest that there's a lot of confusion at that point. Both Carter and Vance have very clear memories that Begin did make this pledge. But in any case, it never happened.
Shortly after Begin returned to Israel, settlement-building resumed and of course has never really stopped for any substantial period of time. It would be interesting to imagine if Begin had suggested that he would withhold settlement-building up until the point that the accord with the Palestinians was finalized how that might have shaped politics in the Middle East up to this moment.
GROSS: The Camp David Accords are so interesting to read about, and there's so much we're not going to have time to talk about. So I refer our listeners to your book to get a much more complete picture than we could possibly give during the course of one program on FRESH AIR. And I ask our listeners' forgiveness for all the stuff that we're leaving out. But there's still more I want to talk with you about. And we will do that after a break. My guest is Lawrence Wright, and his new book is called "Thirteen Days In September: Carter, Begin, And Sadat At Camp David." Let's take a short break, then we'll talk some more. This is FRESH AIR.
GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Lawrence Wright. And he won a Pulitzer Prize for his book about the history of al-Qaida called "The Looming Tower." He wrote an excellent history of Scientology, which is called "Going Clear." And now he has a book about the Camp David Accords, the peace plan that was signed between Egypt and Israel brokered by President Carter. The new book is called "Thirteen Days In September: Carter, Begin, And Sadat At Camp David."
We always talk about the unintended consequences of war. But in this case, there's unintended consequences of the peace between Egypt and Israel. You quote in your book Mohammed Kamel, who was part of the Egyptian delegation.
GROSS: . To the peace talks. And this is something he told to Cyrus Vance. I'd like you to read the quote.
WRIGHT: This is at the end of the conference and Mohammed Ibrahim Kamel resigned - he's a foreign minister - in protest at Camp David. And he told Vance (reading) you have drafted your project in accordance with was whatever was accepted or rejected by Begin, he said bitterly. You will live to regret this agreement which will weaken Sadat and may even topple him. It will affect your position in the moderate Arab states, who are your friends, while all the Arab peoples will resent you. As for Egypt, it will be isolated in the area. All that will happen is that it will allow Begin a free hand in the West Bank and Gaza with a view to their annexation. Far from providing a solution to the Arab-Israeli dispute, the agreement will only add fuel to the fire.
GROSS: And a lot of his predictions came true.
WRIGHT: Yes, and unfortunately, you know, many people in the Israeli - many people in the Egyptian delegation refused to attend the signing ceremony, not only because they didn't agree with it, they were afraid for their lives. They worried that when they went back to Egypt, they'd be hounded and threatened. And of course, in the case of Sadat, that was true. When he signed those accords, he essentially signed his death warrant.
GROSS: It's interesting how after the peace talks, how authoritarian Sadat became or how more authoritarian he became in Egypt during his reelection campaign. People were banned from discussing the peace talks. He imprisoned a lot of his opposition. He imprisoned about 3,000 people for political reasons.
And I'm wondering what President Carter thought about that. He thought of Sadat at being, like, one of his closest allies, as being, like, a dear friend. They - you know, Carter and Sadat succeeded together in finally, you know, working out peace between Israel and Egypt. And then Sadat becomes more authoritarian. Did Carter have any comment about that, do you know?
WRIGHT: Not to me. I think, you know, with Sadat, Carter always felt he could work with Sadat. And it's always easier to work with an autocrat because he doesn't have to ask for anybody's advice or counsel. Carter had so much trouble working with Begin. But when Begin submitted the vote to the Knesset, Carter went, and he was subjected - he watched Begin being subjected to the really vitriolic behavior of the Knesset, which is so characteristic in - of Israeli politics. And he came to appreciate the difficulty that Begin had in acting as a leader of the Israeli people. That was a difficulty Sadat simply didn't have. He abrogated to himself all of the power.
GROSS: So Sadat ends up being assassinated. Is that directly connected to the peace talks?
WRIGHT: Yes. There is no question that, you know, making peace with Israel was the first of the charges against him. There were other things, you know. He was much more in favor of women's rights. He was married to a very powerful woman, and he was opposed to the hijab, the Islamic covering that many pious Muslim women wear today.
But, you know, when I lived in Cairo, which was back in the day when Nasser died and Sadat became president, the hijab was not that common. None of my students - none of my female students wore hijab. But it was beginning to become a sign of the Islamization of the country, and Sadat decried it. And it's ironic because he, himself, he represented himself as the most pious man. The first man of Islam is what he called himself. And he freed the Muslim Brothers that Nasser had imprisoned and had no idea the currents that were stirring in his country towards radicalism. Much of it had been burst into flames because the 1967 war and then the peace treaty with Israel.
GROSS: And I didn't know this, but there was a plot to bomb his funeral.
GROSS: . Which might have even killed President Carter and former prime minister, by that point, Menachem Begin, because they attended the funeral. And the plot - one of the masterminds of this plot was Ayman al-Zawahiri who became the number two and then the number one in al-Qaida.
WRIGHT: Right. Yeah, Zawahiri was implicated in the plot to kill Sadat. But before he was arrested, he was meeting with other members of this Islamist underground that he was a part of. And their idea was that they were going to bomb the parade of dignitaries that were coming to Cairo for the funeral. And the Egyptian police broke up the plot, and they captured Zawahiri as he was on his way to the airport and put him in prison for a couple of years. But, yeah, had that succeeded, you know, all three men would've been killed.
GROSS: So the peace between Israel and Egypt has lasted so far, nearly 35 years. So much has changed in the Middle East, especially since the Arab Spring. The Muslim Brotherhood controlled the government for a while. Now it's like a military dictatorship.
GROSS: Do you think that the peace is endangered?
WRIGHT: No, not that part of it. Egypt and Israel have rarely been closer. They are, you know - the views towards the Islamists and the Muslim Brotherhood are identical. Even Egypt has cooperated in shutting off Hamas in Gaza. I think there's a coalition of - there's a consensus of opinion right now between the leadership of Egypt and the Israelis that hasn't been present for a long time. And it wouldn't be possible without this peace treaty.
GROSS: Well, Lawrence Wright, I want to thank you very much for talking with us. And it's really good to talk with you again.
WRIGHT: Well, thank you, Terry. It's always a pleasure.
GROSS: Lawrence Wright is the author of the new book "Thirteen Days In September: Carter, Begin, And Sadat At Camp David."
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Inside the Israel-Egypt peace deal, 35 years on
Israeli security fears over Palestinian terror, a full withdrawal from the West Bank, dangerous complacency and an American administration seen as blind: The challenges facing US efforts to broker peace between Israel and a hostile neighbor are the same today as they were when Jimmy Carter brought Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat together 35 years ago.
Newly released documents and secret memos in Israel's state archives shed new light on the 1979 peace efforts, 35 years to the day since the historic agreement was signed.
The documents offer a rare glimpse into the discreet process, and show those politicians had the same fears, made the same threats and used the same clichés as in the current round of negotiations with the Palestinians.
A major part of the documents deal with the Palestinian issue. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, as a leader of an Arab nation, faced great pressure from other Arab countries to find a solution for the Palestinians territories. The issue led to a crisis in talks, until a formula was found allowing the parties to skip over this huge mine, leaving it for next generations to sort out.
'We need to make peace with Arabs, not US'
On July 2nd 1978 then-foreign minister Moshe Dayan was set to meet then-US vice president Walter Mondale to continue discussions over the progress of negotiations between Israel and Egypt. Relations between Israel and the US were strained at the time, as despite initial assessments, no progress had been made after Sadat made his historic visit to Israel. The US, for its part, was pressuring Israel to retreat from Sinai, while Sadat demanded a retreat from the West Bank as well.
Dayan told Mondale that the American pressure complicated negotiations. "It is not for me to criticize the president, but it doesn't mean I am not worried or insulted by what is said in the White House. We need to make peace with the Arabs, not the US".
The West Bank issue, Dayan claimed, was being used as leverage against Israel. "I feel that Sadat senses that unless he manages to bring in Jordanian King Hussein in order to achieve a treaty that will include the West Bank, he will not sign anything and will continue to extort us, taking you with him in the process, so no matter what we do we will always be on the wrong side".
Vice President Mondale replied: "The US believes that the process in the West Bank should involve Jordan."
Dayan criticized the dominating American style, which he claimed attempted to dictate to Israel how to operate. "You are formulating the answer and telling us where to sign. We are looking for a way to continue the negotiations, but the main question is whether Sadat agrees to sign the agreement regarding Gaza, Judea and Samaria as well, or wait until Jordan joins the talks."
US 'objects' to independent Palestine
Towards the end of the meeting, Mondale invited Dayan to a summit in London, where Egypt was expected to present its take on a peace deal. The discussion that took place then seems as if it was taken directly from the current US-brokered talks same anxieties, same claims and same clichés: "I am hearing from you the same things I am hearing from the other side," said Dayan to Mondale, "'hand in Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip and only than we will start negotiating with you.'"
At a cabinet meeting to which Mondale was invited, Commerce and Tourism Minister Yigal Horowitz said: "I know what war is. In the last one I lost a niece and a nephew, and both my sons took part in the fighting. So I must tell you Mr. Mondale, that even though we may disappoint the US and the rest of the world, we must never return to '67 borders and risk having the enemy 20 to 30 km from Tel Aviv. The Yom Kippur War would look like child's play compared to what we could expect if we did that."
"Our stance is that peace is an Israeli interest," replied Mondale. "It was your leader who said that battlefield victories are transient. We have never demanded a full retreat to the '67 borders, obviously we need to negotiate and reach a compromise that Israel would accept. Also, we have never negotiated with the PLO and will not do so until they acknowledge Israel's right to exist and accept (UN resolution) 242. Frankly, we rather object to the idea of an independent Palestinian state."
'Don't push us into a corner'
Then-agriculture minister Ariel Sharon launched an attack against the American administration: "It is odd to be a part of the only country in the world that needs to justify its existence and its right to security," Sharon told Mondale.
"Palestinian terror didn't being after the Israeli-Arab War in '48, we had hundreds of casualties in the 1920s and 30s as well," Sharon said.
These days, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon criticizes the American handling of the crisis in Ukraine. Back then, Sharon claimed Cambodia and Lebanon served as proof that one cannot trust American guarantees.
"If you ask me, Vice President Mondale, it is not possible for Israel to retreat from the West Bank – not now and not in the future" Sharon reportedly told the American leader.
"But we can make an effort not to interfere with the locals' lives. I am afraid of a situation where Israel will be backed into a corner again, which unfortunately will not lead to peace, but to another war, which we will win, but lose lives while the US will lose its grip in the Middle East."
On the 4th of July 1978, the Israeli ambassador to the US Simcha Dinitz gave Foreign Minister Dayan a secret memo updating him about Mondale's impression in wake of the visit to Israel. In the report, Mondale was reported to have said that he believes there should be an Israeli military presence in the West Bank and Gaza for an unlimited period of time, because he accepts Israel's explanation that no one can guarantee Israel's security, but Israel itself. The only thing that damaged the visit, Dinitz reported, was Ariel Sharon's suspicious behavior towards him, as if he was sent by the US to overthrow the prime minister.
'We intend to co-exist'
On July 17th 1978, then American secretary of state, Cyrus Vance met Dayan at Leeds Castle in the UK to talk about the future of the West Bank.
"We don't want to control the Arabs, but rather to stay in the area and purchase lands, Israel will never retreat from Gaza and the West Bank, even with the proper security, in the best case there will be no sovereignty and the issue will be discussed again after five years," said Dayan.
Vance estimated that Egypt would be prepared to make an agreement regarding the Gaza Strip and the West, even without Jordan on its side. However, they needed to know in advance what would happen at the end of the five year period Dayan stipulated.
"The only formula a solution is that both Israel and Egypt agree to keep all options open, including the issue of sovereignty," Dayan said.
"Five years period is a long time to decide how we want to co-exist, how to solve the issue of Jerusalem and the refugees. If they demand a guaranteed retreat – there is no way to move forward. We intend to live there together".
'You are a military man, Mr. Dayan'
Israel, US and Egypt representatives gathered in late in the afternoon of July 17 at Leeds Castle, where Egypt had expressed hope that Israel would change its stance on Gaza and the West Bank.
Dayan asked whether the Egyptians were willing for slight compromises in the form of changes in the 67' borders. According to then-Egyptian foreign minister Ibrahim Kamel, if the right security measures could be taken, changing the border wouldn't be necessary.
"You are a military man, Mr. Dayan, so you understand that in this case, territories don't assist security. We believe that this issue, if stirred, would be a source of instability, but if we agree on security without settling on territories – with safe borders, we can resolve our problem.
What about the holy places? Dayan asked: "We agreed that holy places needed a special regime, but let's agree to discuss the Jerusalem problem separately, unless you don't want to address it at all?"
The Egyptian foreign minister replied: "The retreat needs to include East Jerusalem, but with access retained, and no division. Mr. Dayan we accept you have your holy places, but so do us Muslims and Christians as well, why should you have a monopoly over that? This should be a melting pot, and not a division of east and west, like Berlin."
Dayan claimed that Israel did not believe Jerusalem should be divided, because a division of the city will hurt Arab residents from Bethlehem and Ramallah who will be forced to cross security barriers to get to the city.
"The majority of the people think there shouldn't be any barriers and that each religion should supervise its holy places," Dayan said, stressing that though the Al-Aqsa mosque is located where the Holy Temple was once located, the Israeli government forbade Jews to enter and pray there, despite extremist demand to destroy Al-Aqsa and rebuild the Holy Temple.
'We have been playing chess by ourselves'
Both the Arabs and the US, Dayan claimed, were rejecting any possibility of a significant territorial compromise. The changes they were offering were simply semantics, he claimed. As for the refugees, the Egyptians think "they have a right to return to their old communities whether in Israel or in Gaza, or receive an adequate compensation," Dayan said.
Prime Minister Menachem Begin shared Dayan's frustration from the US position, and spoke of it with his colleagues. "The British said in 1922 that there is a historical connection between the Jews and Palestine, and indeed there is. But we appear as ardent while Sadat talks about a 'Holy Lands' of some 12 million square km! While we are discussing Judea, Samaria and Gaza equaling some 4000 square feet, this is pure arrogance and Arab façade. Neighbors, Yes!, Peace, Yes! But giving away the one piece of land our children lives depend on is outrageous!" Begin said.
The prime minister could not overcome his frustration: "According to the commentaries we need to return to the borders of June 4, 1967, with light changes, and abandon the civilian population to Palestinian and Jordanian soldiers without any demilitarization of the West Bank. Everything we said was baseless we have been playing chess with ourselves," Begin lamented.
Begin rejected the claims that Egypt was promised a full retreat from Sinai in advance as a precondition for talks, and promised that Israeli communities in the peninsula would remain, even in the case of an agreement.
"Sadat did not get a single grain of sand from Sinai, and will not get if there won't be a peace agreement between us, a peace accord based predominantly on the security arraignment we suggested, in other words, there will be demilitarization, and our settlements will remain. No only in the north (Sinai) but also in Sharm El Sheikh (in the south), and they will be protected by Hebraic forces. What we offered the Egyptian was limited sovereignty."
Sadat, Begin claimed, rejected this offer flat out: "He told the defense minister that if he would mention Israeli settlements one more time he will fight him till the end of time."
For the prestige of the US president
The negotiations between Egypt and Israel reached a crisis. Egypt announced that the Israeli military delegation would be returned from Cairo, Sadat – it was learned from talks with a senior official in the US security council – is angered and disappointed not only by Israel, but also by the US. Washington could not anticipate his next steps. The fear was that Sadat "is preparing for a radical turn, more than a temporary freeze in talks," Israeli delegate to Washington Hanan Bar-On reported.
The US feared the talks would fall apart, and pressured both sides to compromise. After a bout of shuttle diplomacy, the US managed to bring both sides back to the table. They understood that a solution to the conflict hinges on two people, and two people alone: Sadat and Begin.
To reach the deal, the senior most echelons would need to meet and make critical decisions. On August 3rd 1978 then US-president Jimmy Carter sent an invitation to both leaders. Despite the stalemate, he wrote, the foundations needed to reach a deal was in place.
On August 9th, the prime minister and his cabinet met with representatives from the US administration, there they received an update according to which Sadat received the invitation with excitement. "The secretary (of state) feels Sadat wants to reach a peace agreement and is willing to go to Camp David for serious talks in goodfaith, he said he is willing to turn a new page."
Compromise: Camp David
For his part, Begin told the US ambassador to Israel he was willing to negotiate in the hopes of reaching a final accord. "This is a chance to convince Sadat that he cannot continue again and again to stop the talks, rather we should conduct them with patience until a deal is reached," Begin told the ambassador.
"If we are offered to negotiate about guidelines we would gladly discuss them. If we reach an agreement over them then the summit will be an absolute success, in which we are interested also for the sake of the prestige of the US president."
Sadat – no angel
On August 3rd, a moment before the sides were set to travel to Camp David, Israeli ambassador to the US Simcha Dinitz met with vice president Mondale, who claimed that "only Sadat can decide for Egypt." The rest of the Egyptian who were sent to the talks, he claimed, were either lacking in authority or in the positive outlook needed to reach an agreement."
Nonetheless, Dinitz noted that "when I was critical of a number of Sadat's positions and moves, Mondale told me that they are not disillusioned, they believe that Sadat is slippery and scheming, far from being an angle," nonetheless, the Americans truly belied he was intent on reaching peace.
Regarding the West Bank, "(the vice president) does not believe that Sadat wants or has the mandate to negotiate details regarding an agreement about the West Bank. What will eventually stand is that set of agreed principles which will allow him to save face and go to the Arab world and claim he laid the foundations for negotiations over the West Bank and Gaza."
A few days later Foreign Minister Dayan met with Sharon to talk about the West Bank and Gaza. For Sharon, the default position was Palestinian autonomy. Sharon expressed reluctance at territorial concessions fearing Jordanian forces would enter the area. In stead he opted for more political concessions for the local population. "If to concede, the direction should be self-determination (for the Palestinians). Reducing the population's dependency on us is preferential to Jordanian expansion into the territory," Sharon said of the West Bank.
The Palestinians, Dayan claimed, want a full-fledged state. The central issue then was refugees, not politics. "There is a problem with refugees outside of the territory, this is a cardinal question," Dayan responded to Sharon.
"They want state status. (Then) there are no refugees, (and needs to be) only Palestinians sitting in a forts, and not striving to obliterate us, but to be like the rest of nations."
And what of Jordan, Sharon asks? "Jordan is Palestinian today, and then all the Yasser Arafats sitting in the refugee camps will receive Jordanian citizenship," Dayan warned. "Jordan gave a million Palestinians a Jordanian citizenship, regarding the West Bank no one wants to say. They don't want to be citizens of Arafat."
'God and history make things change'
A moment before taking off for talks, the government convened for a last minute discussion with then-Mossad chief Yitzhak Hofi. Ambassador Dinitz presented the American's preparations for the summit, and the expectation that Israel would secede the West Bank and Gaza, to allow Sadat leeway in talks. "They want an articulation that will allow Sadat to show the Arab world that there is a commitment to withdraw from the West Bank."
To which Begin responded: "We cannot give them any such commitment under any circumstance, everything we have built with a heavy price and many sacrifices will collapse if we give such a commitment."
Instead, Begin offered a formula according to which Israel will make a statement that the issue of sovereignty will be resolved within a five year period. At first, military rule will be put in place, and then in the next stage it will be canceled "and then root of authority will be the agreement."
In any case, Begin was adamant in both his opposition to uprooting settlement and his intention to leave a military presence in the area, as well continuing to buy up lands in both Gaza and the West Bank.
Dayan suggested holding an extended discussion on the issue at Camp David, where, according to him, there will be time to think and delve into the relevant material, far away from the media's attention and reach. "But we will be exposed before the Americans," Mossad chief Hofi warned.
Concluding the issue, Dayan offers Begin that at the beginning of the summit he will present the developments in Iran (on the eve of revolution) and in Lebanon (in the midst of a civil war), as proof that peace deals do not guarantee security for Israel and thus Israel must protect itself.
"Sadat and Carter say the important thing in terms of Israel's security is peace, they view it as a means for security, more than any outpost or settlement. God and history make things change. See what is happening in Iran. If a certain situation preferable to us prevails, there is no assurance it will remain so forever. They should not lecture us about everything being roses again and again. Go tell that to the shah in Iran when he flees to Switzerland with all the money."
Jimmy Carter's Legacy of Failure
It seems that everywhere one looks lately, former President Jimmy Carter is hawking his new book, "Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid." The inflammatory title has not won Carter any new fans from the pro-Israel side of the equation. But for those who buy into the history of the Middle East conflict that's been promulgated through years of anti-Israel propaganda, Carter's use of the term "apartheid" is a confirmation of all they hold dear.
The attempt to associate Israel with apartheid era South Africa has indeed been a popular and effective tactic in the arsenal of anti-Israel talking points. It matters little that the charge is untrue. One simply has to insert the word "apartheid" into the discussion and the damage is done.
Carter himself admits toward the end of his book that his use of the term "apartheid" was not meant literally and that the situation in Israel "is unlike that in South Africa -- not racism, but the acquisition of land." In response to criticism of his choice of words, Carter told the Los Angeles Times that he was trying to call attention to what he sees as the "economic form" of apartheid afflicting the Palestinian territories. During an interview with Judy Woodruff of "The News Hour" on PBS, Carter reiterated that he only used "apartheid" in his title to "provoke discussion." When an author concedes that his chosen title is inaccurate, it calls into question the entire premise of his book.
There are those who have called Carter's entire book into question, including friend and colleague Dr. Kenneth W. Stein. A well-known Middle East scholar, and until recently a fellow of Emory University'sCarter Center, Stein resigned his position because of strenuous objections to the content of Carter's book. In an e-mail message regarding his resignation, Stein described the book as "replete with factual errors, copied materials not cited, superficialities, glaring omissions, and simply invented segments."
The copied materials involve two maps from former U.S. Middle East envoy Dennis Ross' book "The Missing Peace." In an appearance on Fox News, Ross confirmed that the maps originated with his book, and he objected not only to the lack of attribution but also to Carter's inaccurate presentation of the historical facts involved.
Similarly, attorney Alan Dershowitz, in a scathing review, writes that "Mr. Carter's book is so filled with simple mistakes of fact and deliberate omissions that were it a brief filed in a court of law, it would be struck and its author sanctioned for misleading the court."
Top-ranking Democrats have also disavowed Carter's work. Both Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean and Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosiissued statements on Carter's book, distancing themselves and the Democratic Party from his divisive rhetoric. Meanwhile, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., an African American, condemned Carter's inappropriate use of the term "apartheid" in his title, labeling it "offensive."
Intimations of Anti-Semitism
Carter's contention in the book, and one that he recently discussed with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, is that a "minority of Israelis have refused to swap land for peace." This is laughable, considering the repeated examples of Israeli governments doing just that. Successive administrations, whether under Ehud Barak, Benjamin Netanyahu, Ariel Sharon or now Ehud Olmert (who's practically falling all over himself to give away Israeli land), have offered or given up territory, only to be met with increased aggression. Recent examples include the ongoing violence in Gaza following Israel's disengagement plan and the war in Lebanon six long years after Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon.
One has to wonder if Carter's single-minded obsession with Israel as the root of the problems in the world -- not to mention the stubbornly one-sided view of the Middle East conflict to which he has a history of subscribing -- has any anti-Semitic underpinnings. Such is the suspicion among many of Carter's harshest critics. In fact, during a recent appearance by Carter on C-SPAN's "Book TV," a caller accused him of being an "anti-Semite" and a "bigot," to which Carter reacted with denial.
But this was hardly the first time that intimations of anti-Semitism have tainted Carter's career. In an article titled "Jimmy Carter's Jewish Problem," Jason Maoz, senior editor at Jewish Press, reveals that "during a March 1980 meeting with his senior political advisers, Carter, discussing his fading reelection prospects and his sinking approval rating in the Jewish community, snapped, 'If I get back in, I'm going to [expletive] the Jews.'" Maoz also references the 1976 presidential campaign during which Carter, fearing that his opponent Senator Henry ("Scoop") Jackson had the Jewish vote in the Democratic primaries locked up, "instructed his staff not to issue any more statements on the Middle East. 'Jackson has all the Jews anyway we get the Christians.'"
Strengthening Israel's Enemies
Carter's history of involvement with the Middle East conflict is no less troublesome. It was Carter who brokered the first in a series of largely ineffective and in the long run incredibly damaging Arab-Israeli peace treaties. Far from pushing peace, such agreements have only strengthened the disdain toward Israel from its Arab neighbors and led to further violence.
Carter's claim to fame in the peace process arena was the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty signed at Camp David by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. While the alleged peace between Egypt and Israel has held up to this day, increased hostility in Egypt toward Israel and Jews has been the true legacy. At some point, one has to come to the logical conclusion that a peace treaty that inspires hatred is not worth the paper it's printed on.
Instead, Carter received a Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for his efforts in the Middle East, among other locales. Such efforts continue with Carter's apparent fondness for Hamas, the terrorist group turned government, which, he insists, will become a "non-violent organization" despite all indications to the contrary. Before that, it was his cozy relationship with Palestinian dictator Yasser Arafat.
Indeed, it seems there are very few dictators in the world to whose defense Carter has not rallied -- Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, former Yugoslav strongman Marshal Josef Tito, former Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu, former Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, former Pakistani General Zia ul-Haq, former North Korean dictator Kim Il Sung and now his son Kim Jong Il, to name a few.
Carter's eagerness to appease the former Soviet Union and his opposition to his successor President Ronald Reagan's uncompromising approach (which has been widely credited with helping bring down the "evil empire") also speak to his lack of understanding when it comes to the nature of totalitarian regimes. Then there's Carter's propensity for certifying obviously compromised elections in places such as Venezuela and Haiti.
Carter's failed approach to foreign policy has indeed put America in a perilous position in the world. If we look at some of the major challenges facing the United States today, we can thank Jimmy Carter for getting us off on the wrong foot. Whether it's the Middle East, Iran or North Korea, Carter's track record as president is nothing to brag about and his career as ex-president has been even worse.
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Former Vice President Walter Mondale passed away last night at his home in Minneapolis.
He was a lifelong public servant who transformed the role of vice president and championed civil rights under President Jimmy Carter, before losing his own run for the presidency to Ronald Reagan.
William Brangham has this look at Mondale's life and legacy.
Thank you very much. Thank you.
He stood as the standard-bearer for liberal values against a conservative Republican icon.
We didn't win, but we made history, and that fight has just begun.
Walter Mondale lost that fight in 1984 to incumbent Ronald Reagan in a landslide of historic proportions. He'd risen to the top of the Democratic Party during what he called the high tide of liberalism, only to watch as the tide went out.
Mondale reflected on his life in politics on the "NewsHour."
We had our chance. We adopted all kinds of legislation. Politics is cyclical. People wanted to slow down a little bit and review and consolidate. That was the Reagan era. And I think they were having their high tide then.
Walter Frederick "Fritz" Mondale was born in Ceylon, Minnesota, in 1928. He started early in politics, as a 20-year-old working on the Senate campaign of fellow Minnesotan Hubert Humphrey.
After college, Mondale spent two years in the Army, before heading to law school. And by the age of 32, he was named attorney general of Minnesota. He stepped on to the national stage when then-Senator Humphrey won the vice presidency in 1964, and Mondale was tapped to fill Humphrey's Senate seat, and then elected to a full term two years later.
Once in Washington, he championed the Fair Housing and Civil Rights Acts.
While it was partisan, we had our debates and all that, there was kind of an underlying sense of civility.
Then, in 1976, Jimmy Carter made the now seasoned senator his running mate on the Democratic presidential ticket. The outsider Carter relied on Mondale as his guide to Washington's political workings.
And Mondale expanded the traditional role of vice president from figurehead to partner. The two men looked back on the relationship in a 2015 tribute.
I wanted to be a trouble shooter, and I wanted to do &mdash take on chores around the country and around the world.
As a Georgia peanut farmer, I needed a lot of help.
And I felt the vice president would be the best one to give me the help I needed.
And I never had served in Washington before.
Mondale traveled the world, promoting the Carter administration's foreign policy, including trips to help broker a peace deal between Israel and Egypt.
Never have the prospects for peace been so favorable. Never have the dangers of failure been so great.
He also strongly disagreed with President Carter at times: He argued vehemently against the president's 1979 "Crisis of Confidence" speech and against a grain embargo on the Soviet Union.
Mondale talked about his trailblazing term with the "NewsHour"'s Judy Woodruff in 2010.
The model we established of executivizing the vice president, putting the vice president in there with the president, working with him all day long, as I did, has been the model since then.
As oil prices skyrocketed and the Iran hostage crisis dragged on, the Carter administration foundered.
In 1980, Ronald Reagan took the White House from Mr. Carter after just one term.
Mondale returned to private life, but he geared up for his own presidential run. After a fierce primary battle with Senator Gary Hart and civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, Mondale won the Democratic nomination in 1984.
Then, facing Reagan, who was now a popular incumbent, Mondale made a bold move, naming Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate, the first female vice presidential candidate on a major party ticket.
I have had many people tell me it's the best national convention we have ever had. People were thrilled. The crowds were building up outside the hall.
My name is Geraldine Ferraro.
America is the land where dreams can come true for all of us.
At the Democratic Convention, Mondale also sought to persuade the country that the Reagan era prosperity was a bubble and that a reckoning would come.
Mr. Reagan will raise taxes, and so will I. He won't tell you. I just did.
But the message failed to resonate during an economic boom, and the former vice president struggled to escape the policy failures of President Carter.
I'd rather be the underdog in a campaign about decency than to be ahead in a campaign only about self-interest.
As the Cold War dragged on, Mondale called for a nuclear freeze, which President Reagan then used to paint him as weak on national defense.
On the debate stage, though, Mondale's prospects brightened briefly, when Mr. Reagan stumbled through answers, raising questions about his age and mental fitness. But the president came back in the second debate with his now-famous retort.
I will not make age an issue in this campaign. I'm not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience.
Even Mondale joined in the laughter, but later said that was the moment he knew he'd lost the election.
Indeed, on Election Day, it was a crushing rout. Mondale lost every state but his home state of Minnesota and the District of Columbia.
Although I would have rather won&hellip
&hellip tonight, we rejoice in our democracy, we rejoice in the freedom of a wonderful people, and we accept their verdict.
Mondale returned again to private life, before President Bill Clinton named him as ambassador to Japan in 1993.
Later, he served as an envoy to Indonesia. And, in 2002, he returned for a final campaign, when Minnesota Democratic Senator Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash. Mondale ran in Wellstone's stead, 22 years after he'd last held elected office, but he lost.
I love Minnesotans. And then what is obviously the end of my last campaign, I want to say to Minnesotans, you always treated me decently. You always listened to me.
Mondale endured personal tragedies in those final years as well. His daughter, Eleanor, died of brain cancer in 2011. And his wife, Joan Mondale, his partner of almost 60 years, passed away in 2014.
Former President Jimmy Carter is suffering from cancer
The Carter Center’s statement on the ex-president’s illness:
“Recent liver surgery revealed that I have cancer that now is in other parts of my body. I will be rearranging my schedule as necessary so I can undergo treatment by physicians at Emory Healthcare. A more complete public statement will be made when facts are known, possibly next week.”
Former President Jimmy Carter said Wednesday that recent surgery to remove a small mass on his liver revealed he had cancer in other parts of his body.
The 90-year-old Georgia native said in a three-sentence statement released by the Carter Center that he will rearrange his schedule so he can undergo treatment by physicians at Emory Healthcare. The statement did not say where the cancer originated or how widespread it is.
His spokeswoman declined to elaborate, aside from saying an update would possibly be released next week. His grandson former state Sen. Jason Carter thanked well-wishers for their thoughts and prayers on Twitter. Several of Carter’s relatives and friends declined to comment.
Carter recently finished a nationwide tour for his latest book, called “A Full Life: Reflections at 90,” in which he noted a history of pancreatic cancer in his family. His father, brother and two sisters all died from the disease, he wrote, and his mother had it as well.
On Aug. 3, days after the tour ended, the Carter Center said the former president had “elective” surgery to remove the mass from his liver.
Carter, a peanut farmer who became Georgia’s governor, defeated Republican Gerald Ford in 1976 to become the nation’s 39th president. He established a national energy policy and brokered a landmark peace deal between Israel and Egypt. But the end of his one term in the White House was marred by an energy crisis and an Iranian hostage standoff.
He lost the 1980 election to Republican Ronald Reagan and returned to Georgia. In the 35 years since, he has won the Nobel Peace Prize and logged millions of miles and visited dozens of countries on missions to monitor the globe to promote voting rights, settle conflicts, advocate for human rights and fight deadly diseases such as malaria. Rosalynn, his wife of 69 years, often accompanied him on his journeys.
More recently, Carter played a mostly behind-the-scenes role in Jason Carter’s failed bid to unseat Republican Gov. Nathan Deal. The elder Carter provided his grandson with policy advice and fundraising heft. Near the end of the campaign, the former president headlined rallies and stumped door to door.
Residents of Plains, the southwest Georgia town where Carter lives and teaches regular Sunday school lessons, were struggling with the news.
“It’s shocking us. It’s just a shock to us,” said Jennifer Jackson, who works at Plains Peanuts in the town’s small commercial strip. “He means so much to the town. And we want him to recover quickly and soon.”
Jill Stuckey, a close friend to Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, said residents have been “praying ever since we found out about the small mass on his liver.”
“He’s done everything right. He exercises, he eats right, that’s how he’s gotten to be 90 and (still) going to different continents,” said Stuckey, who helps manage the crowds of visitors at Maranatha Baptist Church when the former president gives lessons.
There’s a history of cancer in Carter’s family, she added, “but if anyone can beat it, it’s Jimmy Carter.”
Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, the deputy chief medical officer for the Atlanta-based American Cancer Society, said the physicians treating Carter will typically first determine what kind of cancer he has and where it originated. They next will determine how to treat it.
“It’s more of a challenge in somebody who is 90 years old. But they can have surgery, they can have radiation, and they can have chemotherapy,” said Lichtenfeld. “It really depends on the physical capacity of the individual, not how many years they have on the calendar.”
Past and present politicians sent Twitter messages and press releases offering him their prayers. U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and David Perdue, as well as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, were among the well-wishers.
“We need his wisdom, his words, and his leadership now more than ever before. We need him to continue to speak out on the great issues of our time,” U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Atlanta, said in a statement. “I will keep him, his wife and his family in my prayers. He has my most hopeful wishes for a complete recovery.”
President Barack Obama offered this hope: “Jimmy, you’re as resilient as they come, and along with the rest of America, we are rooting for you.”
Carter acknowledged in a recent interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he may be a rare president who left a bigger legacy outside the White House than when he held office.
“I had so much authority as president. I was able to bring peace to Israel for the first time in history. I was able to implement normal relations with China. I was able to keep our country at peace, one of the rare times in recent history where we stayed at peace,” he said.
“But at the Carter Center, the humanitarian aspect of my life has been far superior,” he added. “In those days, I dealt with presidents and kings and prime ministers and ministers of state. Now we deal with individual families in the most remote and poverty stricken areas in the world.”
Carter’s friends and neighbors rallied around him Wednesday. Lee Kinnamon, a high school history teacher in Americus and chief conductor of a local rail line that Carter championed, said he expected the former president to use his illness as a “teachable moment” to help others.
“It’s a moment for him to demonstrate to the world his personal courage and faith and his commitment to his family. It’s going to be another opportunity for him to model virtue to the world,” Kinnamon said. “That’s what he’s been doing for us all along, and this will be another opportunity he’ll seize.”
Critical Thinking Questions
What common goals did American Indians, gay and lesbian citizens, and women share in their quests for equal rights? How did their agendas differ? What were the differences and similarities in the tactics they used to achieve their aims?
In what ways were the policies of Richard Nixon different from those of his Democratic predecessors John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson? How were Jimmy Carter’s policies different from those of Nixon?
To what degree did foreign policy issues affect politics and the economy in the United States in the late 1960s and 1970s?
What events caused voters to lose faith in the political system and the nation’s leaders in the late 1960s and 1970s?
In what ways did the goals of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s manifest themselves in the identity politics of the 1970s?