What Carter achieved at Camp David is not replicable today. That’s because the Israelis in 1978 did not want to occupy Sinai. They agreed that it was an unnecessary that it did not materially contribute to their security. (Israel’s Prime Minister Golda Meir used to joke that the Almighty had led the Children of Abraham out of bondage in Egypt, called them to wander for forty years, and told them to settle on the only piece of real estate in the Middle East that has no oil!)
So Carter’s fabled diplomacy was not really necessary to persuade the Israelis to disgorge territory that had never been Israeli and that they did not really want. And President Anwar Sadat had a firm grip over Egypt, which one Egyptian diplomat described as the only real nation in the Arab world. “The rest are just tribes with flags,” that Arab diplomat memorably said. Besides, Sadat needed money. And the U.S. was ready to purchase a peace.
Despite the fact that Jimmy Carter got a shellacking at the polls in 1978 and 1980, Presidents persist in pursuing the brass ring, or an elusive Nobel Prize, for brokering a Mideast Peace Settlement.
Bill Clinton tried it in 2000. He was playing out an exhausted presidency, grasping for straws. He summoned Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and the “reformed” terrorist leader, Yassir Arafat to the U.S. He tried to arrange another Camp David breakthrough. Barak made extraordinary concessions, even dangerous ones. No dice. Arafat fomented a second “intifada” against Israel. Clinton’s party lost the next Presidential Election.
Then, there was the 2007 Annapolis Conference on Mideast Peace. President George W. Bush chose that week after Thanksgiving to bring a wide range of Arab and Israeli negotiators to the U.S. Naval Academy’s historic Yard. Some of the Arab delegates refused to enter the same doorway as the Israelis had entered. Some peace talks. The best we can say for this effort is that it could have been worse. It might have lasted two days instead of just one. And Bush’s party lost the next Presidential Election.
What was considered historic about the Annapolis Conference is that for the first time all parties agreed to a “two-state solution.” Did the Arab delegates who attended, the ones who refused to enter the same doorway as the Israelis, agree that Israel would be one of those two states? Don’t ask.
What we have yet to hear is why the U.S. should want a Palestinian state to be formed in the Mideast. When the Israelis evacuated from Gaza and the local residents held elections, they promptly voted in Hamas, the terrorist organization. Hamas supporters stormed the residence of the late Yassir Arafat and stole his Nobel “Peace” Prize. Now, there’s poetic justice.
On the West Bank, Arafat’s loyal lieutenant, Abu Abbas, maintains a precarious perch. The U.S. is giving $900 million in aid to his so-called Authority for allegedly humanitarian purposes. This is where bombers use ambulances to run rockets to and from Palestinian hospitals and where children dance in mock explosive belts before PTA meetings in schools named for suicide bombers. This is what we want more of? For Peace’s sake? For Pete’s sake!
I was amazed to see President Obama come on TV so soon to call for a Mideast breakthrough. I didn’t think he was in that much trouble on the domestic front already.