Readers who are familiar with the Stockholm Syndrome will recall that it refers to a hostage-taking 1973 incident in that Swedish capital city. Over time, the hostages began to look to their captors as friends and protectors rather than the murderous kidnappers that they truly were.
We are seeing something similar in what I call the Camp David Syndrome. President Obama has just announced the latest effort toward crafting a Middle East Peace Settlement. That grand-sounding title is Beltway-speak for “let’s lean on Israel to gain some street cred with the Euros.” He’s chosen Hillary Clinton as his negotiator.
In 1978, Jimmy Carter brought Egypt’s Anwar Sadat and Israel’s Menachem Begin together to his mountain top presidential retreat in Maryland’s beautiful Catoctin Mountains. There, over days of intense negotiation, Carter brokered what became known in diplomatic lore as the Camp David Accords. Under those agreements, Israel agreed to withdraw her forces from the Sinai Peninsula that she had seized in the lightning Six-Day War of 1967, and re-captured during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. That war had been launched by Egypt’s Sadat—showing the characteristic respect for other faiths that Muslims habitually show-- the Jewish High Holy Days of that year.
Carter hailed his achievement as something just shy of the Second Coming. It wasn’t. Carter was led up to that mountain by mounting problems on the plain below. Americans were becoming increasingly disenchanted with Jimmy’s fecklessness on the domestic front. High interest rates made home ownership impossible for young couples, long gas lines frayed nerves, and rising unemployment made everyone edgy. But Carter felt that success on the international scene could bring him and his embattled party some goodwill from American voters.
It didn’t. Barely six weeks after the media hullabaloo over the Camp David Accords, voters trooped to the polls and spanked Carter’s party. Between 1978 and 1980, voters gave Republicans 46 seats in the House of Representatives, five more seats than the GOP had lost in the watershed post-Watergate election of 1974.
Still, the myth persists that a Middle East peace agreement will translate into electoral success at home. Carter proved to be a one-trick pony. He received a sharp kick from voters in 1980. They put the pony permanently out to pasture.