Thursday, September 11, 2014

The 13 Days of September 1978

New book is out on the Camp David Conference.

From a review:

The agreement Carter brokered between Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin was the crowning achievement of his otherwise disappointing presidency. Sadat and Begin later were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. But Wright's book is no paean to the leaders.
Instead, he casts a critical and honest eye upon the three men.

Much of "Thirteen Days" details the fractured personal and public histories that brought Carter, Begin and Sadat to power and eventually to Camp David. And it portrays the negotiations themselves as a tense series of meetings between powerful men who whined, pouted and screamed to get their way...

...Sadat had helped set a peace process in motion with a surprise visit to Jerusalem in 1977. By agreeing to Carter's Camp David gambit, he hoped that Egypt might displace Israel as the Americans' key ally in the region. Begin was convinced the talks would fail — he was the only one of the three leaders to arrive at the summit without any proposals...

...As a condition for recognizing Israel, Sadat demanded that Begin return the Sinai Peninsula. Begin said such a deal would mean giving away a buffer zone of deserts and mountains in exchange for a mere written promise. Given Begin's own experiences with loss and betrayal, it was a difficult bargain to make.  "There was only one thing standing in the way, and that was Begin's entire history," Wright says.

and there is this:

On the surface, Begin and Sadat had little in common. But earlier in their careers both had been prisoners of the British colonial authorities. Both had fought — often viciously — for the independence of their countries. Wright doesn't spare showing us the blood they had on their hands.

As a young Egyptian nationalist during World War II, Sadat joined a "murder society" that assassinated isolated British soldiers and later targeted Egyptian leaders who collaborated with British colonial authorities.

Begin was a Zionist from a young age. In 1929, he joined a paramilitary Jewish youth group in Poland. He lost most of his family in the Holocaust. In Palestine, he became among the fiercest of the rebels fighting the British for the creation of a Jewish state. He used tactics that would later come to be branded "terrorism."

"The transformation of terrorism as a primarily local phenomenon into a global one came about in large part because of the success of his tactics," Wright writes of Begin. "He proved that, under the right circumstances, terror works."

Of course, Sadat saw Hitler as an idol; Begin didn't.

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