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At the conclusion of the Camp David Summit, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin delivers a speech on September 17, 1978, expressing his gratitude to President Jimmy Carter, who helped negotiate the first peace treaty between Israel and an Arab nation.
Camp David Accords
President Jimmy Carter, seated with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, announced…
Camp David Accords
Jody Powell, a Carter administration press secretary, was heard talking about how the Camp David Accords were reached.…
CBS News Inquiry, The Warren Report, Part 4
A CBS News Inquiry: The Warren Report is a four-part series from June of 1967 examining controversies over the findings of the Warren Commission, which was…
Camp David Accords 20th Anniversary
The 20th anniversary of the Camp David Peace Accords was marked by a forum at the University of Maryland. Former…
Navy Adm. Michael Giorgione gives you a rare look ‘Inside Camp David’
If you want to take a very rare journey into the history and workings of one of the most secretive and powerful places on Earth, Retired Navy Admiral Michael Giorgione, a former commanding officer of Camp David brings you right in the front gate.
Giorgione brings forth an amazing inside look of the American presidential retreat Camp David in his book, “Inside Camp David.”
“Inside Camp David” by Rear Admiral Michael Giorgione CEC, USN (Ret.) (Photo courtesy of Rear Adm. Michael Giorgione)
Giorgione gives readers an eye into the private lives of the 13 presidents and their families who have frequented Camp David over its 75-year history through his own experience, along with the experiences of 18 of the 24 Navy Officers who served as commanding officers there. The result provides a picture of what life was like inside Camp David and illuminates the central character of the presidency and America.
Camp David is the country retreat for the President of the United States. It is located in forested hills about 62 miles — a two and a half hour drive — north-northwest of Washington, D.C., in Catoctin Mountain Park near Thurmont, Md.
President Barack Obama walks with staff to Laurel Cabin before the start of a G8 Summit working session at Camp David, Md., May 19, 2012. Walking with the President, from left, are: Chief of Staff Jack Lew Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Mike Froman, Deputy National Security Advisor for International and Economic Affairs and National Security Advisor Tom Donilon. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Giorgione gives us a glimpse into the earliest days of what was to become Camp David. He quotes President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who first viewed the site of the future presidential retreat and declared, “This is my Shangri-La.” He took a personal interest in every detail of the camp’s development. Every President has left his personal mark since. Invisible to the naked eye is the lock-down security comparable to that of the White House, while providing “the relaxed, woodsy feeling of a summer camp” that some presidents have called “too quiet.”
A chess game between Prime Minister Menachem Begin and U.S. National security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski in Camp David during the peace negotiations between Israel and Egypt in 1978. (Israel Government Press Office/Released)
The site was established in 1935 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), and originally named “Shangri-La” by President Roosevelt, but was renamed Camp David in 1953 by President Eisenhower in honor of his grandson. Known formally as Naval Support Facility Thurmont, it is staffed entirely by Navy and Marine Corps officers, NCOs, and enlisted personnel.
Giorgione, a captain during his assignment at Camp David, commanded a staff solely of U.S. Navy and Marine Corps men and women. While members of his staff were carefully selected for this most prestigious assignment, most had no prior experience to conduct the plethora of tasks they were called upon to perform at Camp David. His superior leadership inspired top performance, flexibility, adaptability, and, most importantly, teamwork to meet the many unforeseen emergencies and challenges.
President Kennedy, son John F. Kennedy, Jr., and daughter Caroline Bouvier Kennedy at Camp David, Maryland on March 31, 1963. (Robert Knudsen, White House / John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum)
Giorgione gives us a comprehensive history into the earliest days of what was to become Camp David. He took a personal interest in every detail of the Camp’s development and every U.S. President has left his personal mark since.
The “personal stamp” of what Camp David has meant to each President is evident in Giorgione’s words. It was Franklin Roosevelt’s Shangri-La. To Lyndon Johnson, it “was just another place to work.” John Kennedy found a place to have special fun with his family. Richard Nixon “shaped Camp David to meet his needs, and the camp reflected his moods.” Gerald Ford used the site to nurture his First Lady, Betty, after major surgery. For Jimmy Carter, it was the site of his greatest achievement, the Camp David Accords. For Ronald Reagan, the site was “where he could be a husband and person on his own terms.”
President Lyndon B. Johnson held many conferences at Camp David. Here, he enjoys a light moment while in conversation with Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and Secretary of State Dean Rusk in March 1965. (Johnson Library/Released)
The camp served as a family retreat for Bush 41. Bill Clinton “found ways to make it fit his personality” and warmed to the camp where he became especially close with the Marines and Sailors stationed there. George W. Bush shared the family love and “spent long hours during the holidays on the phone speaking to the troops overseas.” Barack Obama “came the closest to making it ‘the people’s camp.'”
President Harry Truman was the only president to rarely use Camp David because “his wife called it dull.”
President Bush plays doubles tennis with Chris Evert, David Bates, and Tut Bartzen at Camp David, Aug. 4, 1990.
(George Bush Presidential Library/Released)
Though the camp offers the President and his family an opportunity for solitude and tranquility, it has served as a host to foreign leaders and affairs of state. Far removed from the public and the press, Camp David has hosted and will continue to host some of the world’s most important discussions and decisions among world leaders – from fighting World War II to the Middle East agreement signed in the 1978 Camp David Accords.
There is nothing dull about Camp David, and Giorgione captures the magnitude of this part-office, part-retreat for the world’s most powerful leaders.
Menachem Begin (born 1913 in brest, died 1992 in Tel Aviv), (1977-1983), eminent politician, Prime Minister of Israel (1977–1983) and Anwar Al-sadat (1918–1981), President of Egypt (1970-1981), honoured for the peace negotiations in Camp David.
Menachem Begin, at the age of 18 (while living in the newly independent Poland) joined the paramilitary Zionist youth organisation Betar and soon became one of its leading activists. In 1940, he was arrested by NKVD and sent to Siberia. He managed to leave the Soviet Union with the General Anders’ Army and arrived in Palestine. Soon afterwards, he became the leader of Irgun, a secret organisation which fought against Arabs and staged terrorist attacks directed at the British authorities in Palestine.
When the State of Israel was established in 1948, Begin rejected the principle of the division of Palestine put forward by his political rival, David Ben-Gurion, the leader of Mapai (Labour) party. Irgun was transformed into a political party (Herut) which, under Begin’s leadership, had gained popularity, especially among the poorer social classes.
In 1970, Begin left the national unity government and became the leader of Likud, an alliance of all right-wing parties. In 1977, after the Mapai party lost the elections, Begin became the Prime Minister. In Jerusalem, a historic meeting with Anwar Sadat, the President of Egypt, was held which led – with the participation of the American President, Jimmy Carter – to the signing of Camp David Accords in September 1978 and the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty on 26 March 1979, followed by the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Sinai Peninsula. On the other hand, in July 1980, the Begin government authorised the annexation of Eastern Jerusalem, and in December 1981, of the Golan Heights captured from the Syrians.
After a couple of heart attacks and the death of his wife Alisa, Begin resigned from office on 29 August 1983 and withdrew from public life. He lived alone until his death.
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U.S. President Bill Clinton announced his invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat on 5 July 2000, to come to Camp David, Maryland, in order to continue their negotiations on the Middle East peace process. There was a hopeful precedent in the 1978 Camp David Accords where President Jimmy Carter was able to broker a peace agreement between Egypt, represented by President Anwar Sadat, and Israel represented by Prime Minister Menachem Begin. The Oslo Accords of 1993 between the later assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat had provided that agreement should be reached on all outstanding issues between the Palestinians and Israeli sides – the so-called final status settlement – within five years of the implementation of Palestinian autonomy. However, the interim process put in place under Oslo had fulfilled neither Israeli nor Palestinian expectations.
On 11 July, the Camp David 2000 Summit convened, although the Palestinians considered the summit premature.  They even saw it as a trap.  The summit ended on 25 July, without an agreement being reached. At its conclusion, a Trilateral Statement was issued defining the agreed principles to guide future negotiations. 
The negotiations were based on an all-or-nothing approach, such that "nothing was considered agreed and binding until everything was agreed." The proposals were, for the most part, verbal. As no agreement was reached and there is no official written record of the proposals, some ambiguity remains over details of the positions of the parties on specific issues. 
The talks ultimately failed to reach agreement on the final status issues:
The Palestinian negotiators indicated they wanted full Palestinian sovereignty over the entire West Bank and the Gaza Strip, although they would consider a one-to-one land swap with Israel. Their historic position was that Palestinians had already made a territorial compromise with Israel by accepting Israel's right to 78% of "historic Palestine", and accepting their state on the remaining 22% of such land. This consensus was expressed by Faisal Husseini when he remarked:'There can be no compromise on the compromise'.  They maintained that Resolution 242 calls for full Israeli withdrawal from these territories, which were captured in the Six-Day War, as part of a final peace settlement. In the 1993 Oslo Accords the Palestinian negotiators accepted the Green Line borders (1949 armistice lines) for the West Bank but the Israelis rejected this proposal and disputed the Palestinian interpretation of Resolution 242. Israel wanted to annex the numerous settlement blocks on the Palestinian side of the Green Line, and were concerned that a complete return to the 1967 borders was dangerous to Israel's security. The Palestinian and Israeli definition of the West Bank differs by approximately 5% land area as the Israeli definition does not include East Jerusalem (71 km 2 ), the territorial waters of the Dead Sea (195 km 2 ) and the area known as No Man's Land (50 km 2 near Latrun). 
Based on the Israeli definition of the West Bank, Barak offered to form a Palestinian state initially on 73% of the West Bank (that is, 27% less than the Green Line borders) and 100% of the Gaza Strip. In 10–25 years, the Palestinian state would expand to a maximum of 92% of the West Bank (91 percent of the West Bank and 1 percent from a land swap).   From the Palestinian perspective this equated to an offer of a Palestinian state on a maximum of 86% of the West Bank. 
According to the Jewish Virtual Library, Israel would have withdrawn from 63 settlements.  According to Robert Wright, Israel would only keep the settlements with large populations. Wright states that all others would be dismantled, with the exception of Kiryat Arba (adjacent to the holy city of Hebron), which would be an Israeli enclave inside the Palestinian state, and would be linked to Israel by a bypass road. The West Bank would be split in the middle by an Israeli-controlled road from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea, with free passage for Palestinians, although Israel reserved the right to close the road to passage in case of emergency. In return, Israel would allow the Palestinians to use a highway in the Negev to connect the West Bank with Gaza. Wright states that in the Israeli proposal, the West Bank and Gaza Strip would be linked by an elevated highway and an elevated railroad running through the Negev, ensuring safe and free passage for Palestinians. These would be under the sovereignty of Israel, and Israel reserved the right to close them to passage in case of emergency. 
Israel would retain around 9% in the West Bank in exchange for 1% of land within the Green Line. The land that would be conceded included symbolic and cultural territories such as the Al-Aqsa Mosque, whereas the Israeli land conceded was unspecified. Additional to territorial concessions, Palestinian airspace would be controlled by Israel under Barak's offer.   The Palestinians rejected the Halutza Sand region (78 km 2 ) alongside the Gaza Strip as part of the land swap on the basis that it was of inferior quality to that which they would have to give up in the West Bank. 
Additional grounds of rejection was that the Israeli proposal planned to annex areas which would lead to a cantonization of the West Bank into three blocs, which the Palestinian delegation likened to South African Bantustans, a loaded word that was disputed by the Israeli and American negotiators.  Settlement blocs, bypassed roads and annexed lands would create barriers between Nablus and Jenin with Ramallah. The Ramallah bloc would in turn be divided from Bethlehem and Hebron. A separate and smaller bloc would contain Jericho. Further, the border between West Bank and Jordan would additionally be under Israeli control. The Palestinian Authority would receive pockets of East Jerusalem which would be surrounded entirely by annexed lands in the West Bank. 
A particularly virulent territorial dispute revolved around the final status of Jerusalem. Leaders were ill-prepared for the central role the Jerusalem issue in general and the Temple Mount dispute in particular would play in the negotiations.  Barak instructed his delegates to treat the dispute as "the central issue that will decide the destiny of the negotiations" whereas Arafat admonished his delegation to "not budge on this one thing: the Haram (the Temple Mount) is more precious to me than everything else."  At the opening of Camp David, Barak warned the Americans he could not accept giving the Palestinians more than a purely symbolic sovereignty over any part of East Jerusalem. 
The Palestinians demanded complete sovereignty over East Jerusalem and its holy sites, in particular, the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, which are located on the Temple Mount (Haram al-Sharif), a site holy in both Islam and Judaism, and the dismantling of all Israeli neighborhoods built over the Green Line. The Palestinian position, according to Mahmoud Abbas, at that time Arafat's chief negotiator, was that: "All of East Jerusalem should be returned to Palestinian sovereignty. The Jewish Quarter and Western Wall should be placed under Israeli authority, not Israeli sovereignty. An open city and cooperation on municipal services." 
Israel proposed that the Palestinians be granted "custodianship," though not sovereignty, on the Temple Mount (Haram al-Sharif), with Israel retaining control over the Western Wall, a remnant of the ancient wall that surrounded the Temple Mount, the most sacred site in Judaism outside of the Temple Mount itself. Israeli negotiators also proposed that the Palestinians be granted administration of, but not sovereignty over, the Muslim and Christian Quarters of the Old City, with the Jewish and Armenian Quarters remaining in Israeli hands.    Palestinians would be granted administrative control over all Islamic and Christian holy sites, and would be allowed to raise the Palestinian flag over them. A passage linking northern Jerusalem to Islamic and Christian holy sites would be annexed by the Palestinian state. The Israeli team proposed annexing to Israeli Jerusalem settlements within the West Bank beyond the Green Line, such as Ma'ale Adumim, Givat Ze'ev, and Gush Etzion. Israel proposed that the Palestinians merge certain outer Arab villages and small cities that had been annexed to Jerusalem just after 1967 (such as Abu Dis, al-Eizariya, 'Anata, A-Ram, and eastern Sawahre) to create the city of Al-Quds, which would serve as the capital of Palestine.  The historically important Arab neighborhoods such as Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan and at-Tur would remain under Israeli sovereignty, while Palestinians would only have civilian autonomy. The Palestinians would exercise civil and administrative autonomy in the outer Arab neighborhoods. Israeli neighborhoods within East Jerusalem would remain under Israeli sovereignty.   The holy places in the Old City would enjoy independent religious administration.  In total, Israel demanded that Palestine's territory in East Jerusalem be reduced to eight sections including six small enclaves according to Palestine's delegation to the summit. 
Palestinians objected to the lack of sovereignty and to the right of Israel to keep Jewish neighborhoods that it built over the Green Line in East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians claimed block the contiguity of the Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem.
Refugees and the right of return
Due to the first Arab-Israeli war, a significant number of Palestinian Arabs fled or were expelled from their homes inside what is now Israel. These refugees numbered approximately 711,000 to 725,000 at the time. Today, they and their descendants number about four million, comprising about half the Palestinian people. Since that time, the Palestinians have demanded full implementation of the right of return, meaning that each refugee would be granted the option of returning to his or her home, with property restored, and receive compensation. Israelis asserted that allowing a right of return to Israel proper, rather than to the newly created Palestinian state, would mean an influx of Palestinians that would fundamentally alter the demographics of Israel, jeopardizing Israel's Jewish character and its existence as a whole.
At Camp David, the Palestinians maintained their traditional demand that the right of return be implemented. They demanded that Israel recognize the right of all refugees who so wished to settle in Israel, but to address Israel's demographic concerns, they promised that the right of return would be implemented via a mechanism agreed upon by both sides, which would try to channel a majority of refugees away from the option of returning to Israel.  According to U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, some of the Palestinian negotiators were willing to privately discuss a limit on the number of refugees who would be allowed to return to Israel.  Palestinians who chose to return to Israel would do so gradually, with Israel absorbing 150,000 refugees every year.
The Israeli negotiators denied that Israel was responsible for the refugee problem, and were concerned that any right of return would pose a threat to Israel's Jewish character. In the Israeli proposal, a maximum of 100,000 refugees would be allowed to return to Israel on the basis of humanitarian considerations or family reunification. All other people classified as Palestinian refugees would be settled in their present place of inhabitance, the Palestinian state, or third-party countries. Israel would help fund their resettlement and absorption. An international fund of $30 billion would be set up, which Israel would help contribute to, along with other countries, that would register claims for compensation of property lost by Palestinian refugees and make payments within the limits of its resources. 
The Israeli negotiators proposed that Israel be allowed to set up radar stations inside the Palestinian state, and be allowed to use its airspace. Israel also wanted the right to deploy troops on Palestinian territory in the event of an emergency, and the stationing of an international force in the Jordan Valley. Palestinian authorities would maintain control of border crossings under temporary Israeli observation. Israel would maintain a permanent security presence along 15% of the Palestinian-Jordanian border.  Israel also demanded that the Palestinian state be demilitarized with the exception of its paramilitary security forces, that it would not make alliances without Israeli approval or allow the introduction of foreign forces west of the Jordan River, and that it dismantle terrorist groups.  One of Israel's strongest demands was that Arafat declare the conflict over, and make no further demands. Israel also wanted water resources in the West Bank to be shared by both sides and remain under Israeli management.
In mid-October, Clinton and the parties held a summit in Sharm El Sheikh, resulting in a "Sharm memorandum" with understandings aimed at ending the violence and renewing security cooperation. From 18 to 23 December they held negotiations, followed by Clinton's presentation of his "parameters", in a last attempt to achieve peace in the Middle East before his second term ended in January 2001.  Although the official statements stated that both parties had accepted the Clinton Parameters with reservations,  these reservations in fact meant that the parties had rejected the parameters on certain essential points. On 2 January 2001, the Palestinians put forward their acceptance with some fundamental objections. Barak accepted the parameters with a 20-page letter of reservations.  A Sharm el-Sheikh summit planned for 28 December did not take place.
Clinton's initiative led to the Taba negotiations in January 2001, where the two sides published a statement saying they had never been closer to agreement (though such issues as Jerusalem, the status of Gaza, and the Palestinian demand for compensation for refugees and their descendants remained unresolved), but Barak, facing elections, re-suspended the talks.  Ehud Barak was to be defeated by Ariel Sharon in 2001.
Accusations of Palestinian responsibility
Most of the Israeli and American criticism for the failure of the 2000 Camp David Summit was leveled at Arafat.   Ehud Barak portrays Arafat's behavior at Camp David as a "performance geared to exact as many Israeli concessions as possible without ever seriously intending to reach a peace settlement or sign an "end to the conflict. 
Clinton blamed Arafat after the failure of the talks, stating, "I regret that in 2000 Arafat missed the opportunity to bring that nation into being and pray for the day when the dreams of the Palestinian people for a state and a better life will be realized in a just and lasting peace." The failure to come to an agreement was widely attributed to Yasser Arafat, as he walked away from the table without making a concrete counter-offer and because Arafat did little to quell the series of Palestinian riots that began shortly after the summit.    Arafat was also accused of scuttling the talks by Nabil Amr, a former minister in the Palestinian Authority.  In My Life, Clinton wrote that Arafat once complimented Clinton by telling him, "You are a great man." Clinton responded, "I am not a great man. I am a failure, and you made me one." 
Dennis Ross, the US Middle East envoy and a key negotiator at the summit, summarized his perspectives in his book The Missing Peace. During a lecture in Australia, Ross suggested that the reason for the failure was Arafat's unwillingness to sign a final deal with Israel that would close the door on any of the Palestinians' maximum demands, particularly the right of return. Ross claimed that what Arafat really wanted was "a one-state solution. Not independent, adjacent Israeli and Palestinian states, but a single Arab state encompassing all of Historic Palestine".  Ross also quoted Saudi Prince Bandar as saying while negotiations were taking place: "If Arafat does not accept what is available now, it won't be a tragedy it will be a crime." 
In his book, The Oslo Syndrome, Harvard Medical School professor of psychiatry and historian  Kenneth Levin summarized the failure of the 2000 Camp David Summit in this manner: "despite the dimensions of the Israeli offer and intense pressure from President Clinton, Arafat demurred. He apparently was indeed unwilling, no matter what the Israeli concessions, to sign an agreement that declared itself final and forswore any further Palestinian claims."  Levin argues that both the Israelis and the Americans were naive in expecting that Arafat would agree to give up the idea of a literal "right of return" for all Palestinians into Israel proper no matter how many 1948 refugees or how much monetary compensation Israel offered to allow.
Alan Dershowitz, an Israel advocate and a law professor at Harvard University, said that the failure of the negotiations was due to "the refusal of the Palestinians and Arafat to give up the right of return. That was the sticking point. It wasn't Jerusalem. It wasn't borders. It was the right of return." He claimed that President Clinton told this to him "directly and personally." 
Accusations of Israeli and American responsibility
In 2001 Robert Malley, present at the summit, noted three "myths" that had arisen regarding the failure of the negotiations. Those were "Camp David was an ideal test of Mr. Arafat's intentions", "Israel's offer met most if not all of the Palestinians' legitimate aspirations", and "The Palestinians made no concession of their own" and wrote that "If peace is to be achieved, the parties cannot afford to tolerate the growing acceptance of these myths as reality." 
The Israeli group Gush Shalom stated that "the offer is a pretense of generosity for the benefit of the media", and included detailed maps of what the offer specifically entailed.  [ unreliable source? ] Among Gush Shalom's concerns with Barak's offer were Barak's demand to annex large settlement blocs (9% of the West Bank), lack of trust in the commitment and/or ability of the Israeli government to evacuate the thousands of non-bloc Israeli settlers in the 15-year timeline, and limited sovereignty for Palestinians in Jerusalem.
Clayton Swisher wrote a rebuttal to Clinton and Ross's accounts about the causes for the breakdown of the Camp David Summit in his 2004 book, The Truth About Camp David.  Swisher, the Director of Programs at the Middle East Institute, concluded that the Israelis and the Americans were at least as guilty as the Palestinians for the collapse. M.J. Rosenberg praised the book: "Clayton Swisher's 'The Truth About Camp David,' based on interviews with [US negotiators] Martin Indyk, Dennis Ross and [Aaron] Miller himself provides a comprehensive and acute account – the best we're likely to see – on the [one-sided diplomacy] Miller describes." 
Shlomo Ben-Ami, then Israel's Minister of Foreign Relations who participated in the talks, stated that the Palestinians wanted the immediate withdrawal of the Israelis from the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, and only subsequently the Palestinian authority would dismantle the Palestinian organizations. The Israeli response was "we can't accept the demand for a return to the borders of June 1967 as a pre-condition for the negotiation."  In 2006, Shlomo Ben-Ami stated on Democracy Now! that "Camp David was not the missed opportunity for the Palestinians, and if I were a Palestinian I would have rejected Camp David, as well. This is something I put in the book. But Taba is the problem. The Clinton parameters are the problem" referring to his 2001 book Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy. 
Norman Finkelstein published an article in the winter 2007 issue of Journal of Palestine Studies, excerpting from his longer essay called Subordinating Palestinian Rights to Israeli "Needs". The abstract for the article states: "In particular, it examines the assumptions informing Ross’s account of what happened during the negotiations and why, and the distortions that spring from these assumptions. Judged from the perspective of Palestinians' and Israelis' respective rights under international law, all the concessions at Camp David came from the Palestinian side, none from the Israeli side." 
Berkeley political science professor Ron Hassner has argued that it was the failure of participants at the negotiations to include religious leaders in the process or even consult with religious experts prior to the negotiations, that led to the collapse of the negotiations over the subject of Jerusalem. "Both parties seem to have assumed that the religious dimensions of the dispute could be ignored. As a result, neither party had prepared seriously for the possibility that the Temple Mount issue would come to stand at the heart of the negotiations."  Political Scientist Menahem Klein, who advised the Israeli government during the negotiations, confirmed that "The professional back channels did not sufficiently treat Jerusalem as a religious city. It was easier to conduct discussions about preservation of historical structures in the old city than to discuss the link between the political sanctity and the religious sanctity at the historical and religious heart of the city." 
The Palestinian public was supportive of Arafat's role in the negotiations. After the summit, Arafat's approval rating increased seven percentage points from 39 to 46%.  Overall, 68% of the Palestinian public thought Arafat's positions on a final agreement at Camp David were just right and 14% thought Arafat compromised too much while only 6% thought Arafat had not compromised enough. 
Barak did not fare as well in public opinion polls. Only 25% of the Israeli public thought his positions on Camp David were just right as opposed to 58% of the public that thought Barak compromised too much.  A majority of Israelis were opposed to Barak's position on every issue discussed at Camp David except for security. 
President William J. Clinton
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak
Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat
Presidents Anwar Sadat, Jimmy Carter and Prime Minister Begin at Camp David, 9 January 1978. GPO.
Gerald M. Steinberg, Bar Ilan University and Ziv Rubinovitz, Sonoma State University are the authors of Menachem Begin and the Israel-Egypt Peace Process: Between Ideology and Political Realism (Indiana University Press, 2019), based on newly released Israeli documentation of the negotiations that led to the 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty. The documents, they claim, cast a new light on the actions of Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, a man framed by US President Jimmy Carter as a ‘reluctant peacemaker’.
The Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement of 1979 remains a unique accomplishment, not only in the otherwise bleak landscape of the Middle East, but throughout the world. Forty years after the leaders of Israel and Egypt, with the support of the US, signed the treaty, its terms continues to serve as the basis for stability and cooperation between the two nations. Prime Minister Menachem Begin and President Anwar Sadat achieved what many thought was impossible. Building on limited disengagement agreements following the 1973 Yom Kippur war, they overcame mutual suspicions and internal opposition.
In order to learn and build on the lessons from this successful example of international conflict resolution, it is important to examine and understand the details, and to distinguish between the record, as reflected in the available documentation, and the less substantiated and second-hand accounts.
In particular, the recent release of official Israeli documents, including transcripts of meetings during the Camp David summit of September 1978, as well as official diplomatic cables, and the internal assessments made throughout the process provide important new insights. Through these documents we can gain a much sharper understanding of, and insight into, the perspectives and considerations of Begin, who, in contrast to other central actors – Americans, other Israelis, and, to a lesser extent, Egyptians – did not publish a memoir or provide extensive interviews.
On many of the key issues, the Israeli documents reinforce the existing analysis. The background of the very costly 1973 Yom Kippur war, which ended with a ‘mutually hurting stalemate,’ triggered the search for a solution which would meet the core interests of Egypt and Israel, and prevent another and probably more destructive round of warfare. The two limited disengagement agreements in 1974 and 1975 were also important confidence-building measures, and were followed by various signals from Sadat to Israeli leaders regarding additional steps.
The Israeli elections that took place in May 1977, and the political ‘earthquake’ in which the Likud took power, headed by Begin, was a major turning point. As the documents illustrate, from his first day in office, Begin gave the highest priority to the possibility of reaching a peace agreement with Egypt. He immediately familiarised himself with the issues, and understood that Sadat sought to recover the Sinai Peninsula, and Egyptian pride, both lost in the 1967 Six-Day War, but without risking another war. His decision to appoint Moshe Dayan as foreign minister, despite Dayan’s membership in opposing political parties, was also closely linked to this objective.
Indeed, Begin’s words and actions throughout the process highlight the emphasis he placed on reaching an agreement, in sharp contrast to the distorted images in some of the existing analyses, particularly from US President Jimmy Carter, that portray the Israeli prime minister as a ‘reluctant peacemaker’, a ‘right-wing ideologue’ or, after the Camp David accords, as having ‘buyers’ remorse’, as Ambassador Sam Lewis suggested. A number of these distortions are repeated by Carter’s Middle East advisor, William Quandt in his recent article in the Cairo Review of Global Affairs , (‘Reflections on Camp David at 40’, December 2018).
Similarly, the previous accounts generally ignored the complexities of Israeli politics and, like many American officials, mistakenly viewed Begin as if he held a position equivalent to the US president, rather than as the leader of a fragile coalition often under attack from his core constituents. The Israeli documentation allows for a more robust analysis, based on two-dimensional negotiation models – the external realm and the internal one. For some of Begin’s long-time supporters in Herut, his willingness to remove the settlements in the Sinai and agree to even a minimal form of autonomy in the West Bank was treasonous, and a number of ministers resigned in protest. This criticism was shared by hawkish members of the Labour opposition, increasing the political pressure on Begin, who, it should be recalled, had taken office only one year earlier. Pressures from Carter and Sadat for more concessions, particularly on the Palestinian issue, were domestically untenable.
In tracing the evolution of Begin’s efforts to reconcile the opposing pulls of ideology and political realism, his stint as a member of the National Unity Government created just prior to the June 1967 war provides important milestones. After the ceasefire, the cabinet, led by Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, endorsed the land-for-peace formula for Egypt and Syria, and Begin – based on his understanding of political realism and the Israeli national interest – joined in approving this framework. He repeated this position on numerous occasions, emphasising the importance of a full treaty, as distinct from partial agreements such as non-belligerency, which, he argued, would not bring Israel the full legitimacy that was required. In 1970, Begin resigned from the cabinet and returned to lead the opposition, citing the government’s acceptance of the Rogers Plan, which ended the War of Attrition and included UN Security Resolution 242 as the basis for further negotiations.
Seven years later, as Prime Minister, Begin embraced the opportunity to implement his policies, starting with briefings on the details of Sadat’s visit to Romania. After Begin went to Washington to meet President Carter to discuss peace options (the meeting summaries reflect major disagreements), Begin traveled to Romania, and, in parallel, sent Mossad head Yitzhak Hofi to Morocco (later, joined by Dayan) for secret meetings with one of Sadat’s closest aides, Hassan Tuhami.
In the midst of these activities, the US was working on a parallel track based on the Geneva conference concept, expanding on the stillborn framework that Henry Kissinger tried in December 1973. In many of the analyses of the peace process that were published previously, and particularly in the American versions, the catalysing impact of the push towards Geneva on Begin and Sadat is omitted. In particular, Carter’s effort to involve the Soviet Union alienated both leaders, who made common cause in going around Carter. Sadat had recently evicted the Soviet military from Egypt, and Begin’s experience as a prisoner in the Gulag left a lifelong hostility – both viewed Moscow’s potential role as entirely anathema. The two leaders were also concerned that the American effort to solve the entire Middle East conflict, which included bringing in Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Syrian President Hafez Assad, as outlined in a plan published by the Brookings Institution, would fail and also prevent realisation of a bilateral peace agreement.
Based on these shared interests, Sadat made a number of public statements referring to a potential visit to Israel, and Begin used back channels, including through US embassies in Tel Aviv and Cairo, to send positive replies. These events set the stage for Sadat’s dramatic Saturday night arrival in Tel Aviv in November 1977, which set the formal public process in motion. For Israelis, the appearance of the Egyptian leader sent a powerful signal of acceptance, and created the expectation that a peace agreement was possible.
After the euphoria of the initial visit, however, the negotiation of the detailed terms turned out, not surprisingly, to be slow and difficult. Two sets of issues were simultaneously on the table. First came the terms of the Egyptian-Israeli peace, such as borders, the fate of the settlements in Sinai, and security arrangements. To help resolve the complexities and provide security as well as financial guarantees, it was necessary to bring Carter and the Americans back into the negotiations, as seen at the pivotal Camp David Summit in September 1978.
The summit ended in success, with agreement on many of the core issues, but regarding the process, much of what has been written needs revising in the wake of the Israeli documents. While Carter and the Americans emphasised psychological dimensions, describing Begin as a stubborn and legalistic quibbler, and Sadat as temperamental and prone to sweeping generalities, and separated them after the third day, these were largely irrelevant. Instead, the concentrated negotiations that took place during this two-week period focused largely on interests and trade-offs. The Egyptians agreed to the Israeli demands for demilitarisation, a monitoring framework for the Sinai, and a full peace treaty, including the exchange of ambassadors, as well as transport lines, and cultural, touristic, and academic exchanges.
In return, Begin acceded to the removal of the Israeli presence – military as well as civilian – from the Sinai, becoming the first leader in the history of Israel and Zionism to take down settlements. His closest friends and allies were livid, calling him a traitor, which was very painful, and required Begin to use significant political resources in order to stem the revolt.
But as a realist, the Israeli leader recognised the core Israeli interest in a peace treaty with Egypt, and to reach this goal, he would have to pay the cost. He understood that there was no alternative – Sadat was not going to accept anything less than a full Israeli withdrawal in exchange for a full peace agreement. This was the Egyptian position from the first talks between Dayan and Tuhami in Morocco, and Begin had enough time to prepare, once Sadat accepted Begin’s core security and diplomatic requirements.
The second and more complex dimension involved the Palestinians and the future of the West Bank. During the second week of Camp David, and much of the ensuing six months until the signing of the treaty, talks focused on these issues. Sadat, and to a greater degree Carter, demanded that the Egyptian-Israel treaty be linked to an agreement on the West Bank. Carter continued to press for the ‘Palestinian homeland’ that laid at the core of the Brookings Institute plan, and sought to force Begin to expand his limited autonomy plan so that it would lead to this result.
This is where Begin’s ideological commitment was not flexible, and he repeatedly told Carter, as well as his Israeli constituents, that no foreign sovereignty in any part of Eretz Israel would be acceptable. For the sake of peace, he accepted the need for Palestinian self-rule on domestic issues, while leaving Israel responsible for security and foreign policy. During and after Camp David, Sadat acquiesced to the limits that Begin presented regarding the West Bank, but Carter maintained and even increased the pressure. The challenge for Begin was to avoid a total rift with the president of the US, despite threats to blame Israel for the failure of the peace effort. In their intense meeting on the last night of the Camp David talks, Carter insisted that Begin agree to a long freeze on settlement construction on the West Bank – a demand that the US had made repeatedly and which Begin repeatedly rejected. According to Carter, this time, Begin agreed and promised to provide a letter in the morning to verify a five-year moratorium. When Begin’s letter referred to three months (until the expected signing of the peace treaty with Egypt), Carter was livid and accused Begin of backtracking. However, the Israeli notes from this meeting (there is no American summary) as well as later a Senate testimony from Secretary of State Vance corroborate Begin’s version.
It took six months after Camp David to turn the accords into a treaty, in part due to Carter’s ongoing effort to force Begin to change his policies over the West Bank, but the terms were finally agreed and signed on 26 March 1979. This was a stellar achievement for which all three leaders deserve credit, and counter to pessimistic predictions of many Israelis, the agreement has withstood numerous crises.
Lessons to be learned
Moving forward, not only in the Middle East but also in attempting to apply the lessons to other protracted international conflict, an accurate examination of the negotiation record is essential. Success requires leaders who see peace as a national priority and are willing to take prudent risks in order to achieve this objective. Such leaders and the interests that they share cannot be produced artificially or through outside pressure, and in their absence, efforts to reach agreements have no chance. In Sadat, Begin had a partner who recognised this, and vice versa, and on this basis, they explored the possibilities for agreement.
Once these starting conditions are in place, third parties and mediators can provide vital support, but they must avoid piling on additional demands beyond what the core actors and their political support systems are able to accept. It is important to assess the domestic political constraints of each of the parties, and work within those constraints in order to facilitate an agreement. This rare instance of successful international negotiations demonstrated the importance of staying within the boundaries of political realism. Thus, while the US imagined the benefits of a comprehensive agreement involving the Palestine Liberation Organisation and the Syria regime, Begin and Sadat recognised the obstacles that that would create with respect to the bilateral process. Begin’s position on the Palestinians was anchored in immovable ideology, and not due to a ‘recalcitrant personality’ or other psychological factors.
Finally, with the addition of the perspectives provided by the Israeli documents, and, in particular, Begin’s careful management of the Israeli negotiating position, it is possible to better understand the factors that led to the successful outcome. For those who hope to follow Begin and Sadat, or for third parties that seek to bring other leaders of countries involved in violent conflicts to the negotiating table, it is necessary to examine the interests, benefits and potential risks from the perspectives of all the actors. After 40 years, the Israeli dimension of these complex events can now be analysed in detail.
Review: Lawrence Wright’s new book vividly recalls 1978 Camp David summit
There’s an air of tragedy hovering over Lawrence Wright’s excellent new book on the 1978 peace negotiations at Camp David, presided over by then-President Jimmy Carter.
During those fateful autumn days, the world watched as three world leaders — Christian, Jewish and Muslim — shook hands at the White House after reaching an agreement to end three decades of war. Every reader of Wright’s book, however, will know what’s coming in the book’s epilogue — the promise of peace in the Middle East was fleeting and ultimately proved false.
Wright is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of many books, including a widely praised history of the Church of Scientology. “Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin, and Sadat at Camp David” is his exceedingly balanced, highly readable and appropriately sober look at the peace talks that unfolded at the wooded military base in Maryland.
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.
For nearly two weeks, the three leaders and their many advisers lived in the forced intimacy of the Camp David cabins. For most of the time they were there, the leaders and their entourages sat around and sulked. It didn’t take long for several delegates to ask to be freed from “this cursed prison.”
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.”
Next to Begin and Sadat, Carter’s political career was sedate and provincial. A peanut farmer and former naval officer, he rose to power as a moderate on racial issues in a Southern state emerging from the violence and confrontation of segregation. Carter was also a pious man with a lifelong fascination with the Holy Land. With the U.S. in a deep economic and cultural funk, he staked his political future on the summit.
He brought the leaders to a mountain camp first made an official presidential getaway by Franklin Roosevelt. Carter said, “I don’t believe anyone could stay in this place, close to nature, peaceful and isolated from the world, and still carry a grudge.” As Wright points out, Carter would soon come to see the “naïveté" of that statement.
Carter wanted a comprehensive peace that would resolve the fate of the stateless, occupied Palestinian Arabs. But that dream was doomed even before the summit, since the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the state of Israel refused to recognize each other’s existence.
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.
Carter hoped the opposing camps would warm to each other in an informal setting complete with bicycles and jogging paths. But as Wright points out, many in the two delegations had faced off against each other in one or more of the four wars the Israelis and Arabs had fought over the previous three decades.
For the Arabs, the support of Western powers for Israel had left them convinced that “Israel had been created not as a homeland for persecuted Jews but as a base for Western imperialists to maintain their stranglehold on the Middle East.” All those wars had left Israel as the region’s most powerful country, but also one surrounded by enemies.
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.
Wright describes Carter’s efforts to break the deadlock, including an excursion with both sets of delegates to the battlefield at nearby Gettysburg, as a reminder of “the fateful consequences of a failure at Camp David.” Eventually, Carter made the decision to push for a limited agreement between Israel and Egypt, leaving the fate of Jerusalem and the Palestinians unsettled.
Sadat’s own foreign minister warned that such an agreement would be “ruinous” to Egypt and would “add fuel to the fire” by leaving Israel with free rein in the West Bank. Israel’s position was strengthened even more by a diplomatic misunderstanding on the final, exhausting night of the summit.
When the treaty was finally signed, Egypt had effectively severed its links to the Palestinian cause, Wright says. Without “a powerful Arab champion, Palestine became a mascot for Islamists and radical factions.”
But the final outcome was not entirely a disaster. As Wright points out, there has not been a single violation of the agreement in the 35 years since. Even as endless battles rage nearby, Egypt and Israel remain at peace with each other.
Follow me on Twitter: @tobarwriter
Thirteen Days in September
Carter, Begin, and Sadat at Camp David
Alfred A. Knopf: 368 pp., $27.95
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Hector Tobar worked at the Los Angeles Times for two decades: as a city reporter, national and foreign correspondent, columnist and with the books and culture department. He left in September 2014. Tobar was The Times’ bureau chief in Mexico City and Buenos Aires and was part of the reporting team that won a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the 1992 L.A. riots. He has also worked as features editor at the LA Weekly and as editor of the bilingual San Francisco magazine El Tecolote. Tobar has an MFA in creative writing from UC Irvine and studied at UC Santa Cruz and at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico in Mexico City. The Los Angeles-born writer is the author of five books, which have been translated into 15 languages. His novel “The Barbarian Nurseries” was named a New York Times Notable Book in 2011 and also won the California Book Award Gold Medal for Fiction his latest work is “The Last Great Road Bum.” He’s married, the father of three children and the son of Guatemalan immigrants.
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U.S.-brokered peace deals across the years
One role American presidents and their secretaries of state and envoys often have played with great success is helping bring peace to fractured parts of the world.
Three sitting presidents, five current or former secretaries of state, a former president and a former vice president are among the 21 Americans who have won Nobel Peace Prizes for their efforts.
Here is a look at celebrated deals they brokered:
Sudan’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement (2005)
Secretary of State Colin Powell (left) joins leaders of Sudan’s government and rebels in signing the 2005 accord. (© Thomas Mukoya/Reuters)
The pact between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement ended Africa’s longest civil war and laid the groundwork for the 2011 referendum that gave South Sudan its independence. The United States played an important role in the negotiations, with Secretary of State Colin Powell among the principal signatories.
Good Friday Agreement (1998)
Former U.S. Senator George Mitchell receives a round of applause at a 1998 ceremony in Boston honoring him and Northern Ireland leaders for the Good Friday Agreement that ended three decades of sectarian strife in Ulster. (© Elise Amendola/AP Images)
Longstanding enmity between Northern Ireland’s Protestant majority and Catholic minority erupted into strife in 1968. The conflict, which lasted three decades, was regarded as one of the world’s most intractable ethnic disputes. But the Good Friday Agreement signed in 1998 brought durable peace to the divided province of Ulster. U.S. Special Envoy and former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell crafted the ground rules in 1996 that brought the disputants to the table and shuttled between Washington and Belfast to close the deal.
The Dayton Accords (1995)
President Bill Clinton (standing, second from left) and European leaders applaud as Balkan leaders Presidents Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia, Franjo Tudjman of Croatia and Alija Izetbegovic of Bosnia and Herzegovina sign the 1995 accords that ended the Bosnian War. (© Jerome Delay/AP Images)
The Dayton Accords signed by Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1995 ended the war in Bosnia that claimed over 200,000 lives. American diplomat Richard Holbrooke was the chief negotiator for the agreement hammered out at a peace conference in Dayton, Ohio, led by Secretary of State Warren Christopher and leaders of Europe and Russia.
Camp David Accords (1978)
Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, President Jimmy Carter and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin meeting at Camp David, Maryland, on September 6, 1978. Sadat and Begin did not meet again during the 13-day summit Carter went back and forth between them with new positions. (White House/AP Images)
The historic peace treaty that Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin signed at the White House on March 26, 1979, ended the 30-year state of war between the Middle East neighbors. The treaty brought to fruition the Camp David Accords agreed upon in September 1978. President Jimmy Carter brought Sadat and Begin to the presidential retreat in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountains and served as the go-between for the 13-day summit. Sadat and Begin were awarded the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize.
A Nobel Peace Prize for Arbitrating Conflicts (1912)
Elihu Root first served as secretary of war at the 20th century’s turn, but then won renown as secretary of state for concluding treaties and convincing other nations to arbitrate disputes. (© Buyenlarge/Getty Images)
Two years before the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, Bosnia ignited World War I, former Secretary of State and Senator Elihu Root won a Nobel Peace Prize for his determined efforts to convince states to resolve disputes by arbitration instead of arms. Root negotiated arbitration treaties with 24 nations, helped France and Germany settle differences in Morocco, and resolved Alaska boundary and Atlantic fisheries disputes with Canada.
Treaty of Portsmouth (1905)
President Theodore Roosevelt (center) in a postcard celebrating the 1905 Portsmouth Peace Treaty that ended the Russo-Japanese War (© Buyenlarge/Getty Images)
President Theodore Roosevelt won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1906 for his role in bringing the Russo-Japanese war of 1904–1905 to an end. The two countries battled on land and sea over control of parts of Manchuria, Korea and Sakhalin Island. The disputants met at a naval station in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, at Roosevelt’s invitation to help bridge their differences.
What to know about presidential retreat Camp David where Trump travels Friday
-- President Donald Trump is headed back to the rustic presidential retreat Camp David for the weekend, this time joined by his Cabinet members. They'll likely discuss preparations for Hurricane Irma and the growing threat from North Korea.
Trump’s return to Camp David marks his fourth trip to the retreat, which has been the site of many historic discussions and private meetings between presidents and foreign dignitaries.
Trump's first visit was Father’s Day weekend in June with First Lady Melania Trump, their 11-year old son Barron and the first lady’s parents. The president spent a day there on Aug. 18 with his national security team, along with Defense Secretary James Mattis and Vice President Mike Pence, hashing out the administration's South Asia, or Afghanistan, strategy. The weekend of August 26-27, Trump monitored Hurricane Harvey from Camp David as the storm hit Texas.
Camp David, located in the Catoctin Mountain Park in Frederick County, Maryland, has played a prominent role in many presidential administrations, for both diplomatic meetings and personal vacations. The retreat is also an active military installation. Camp David is only a 30-minute helicopter ride from the White House. It is inaccessible to the public.
History of the camp
The camp was originally called Hi-Catoctin by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) prior to the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps transforming it into a military installation.
WPA built the recreational area between 1936-1939 and federal employees used it for family camps. President Franklin Roosevelt first visited the camp in April 1942, after which it was chosen as the country location for presidential retreats. He renamed it “Shangri-la,” based on the fictional Himalayan paradise in James Milton’s 1933 novel “Lost Horizon.”
President Dwight Eisenhower renamed the site Camp David during his first visit in honor of his grandson, David.
Eisenhower also named the main president’s lounge “Aspen” in honor of the first lady, Mamie Eisenhower, who grew up in Colorado. The retreat boasts bedrooms, a small office, fireplaces, an outdoor flagstone patio, a heated swimming pool and a single golf hole with multiple tees.
How former presidents used the camp
Roosevelt started the tradition of hosting foreign leaders at the camp by inviting Sir Winston Churchill in 1943 at the height of World War II to review plans for the Allied invasion of Normandy. Roosevelt was photographed fishing with Churchill at a creek near the camp, and Churchill remarked that “no fish were caught” but Roosevelt “seemed to enjoy it very much, and was in great spirits”, according to Churchill’s “War Memoirs.”
Eisenhower visited the retreat frequently and added a bomb shelter, the golf course and several golf tees, as the Eisenhower archives note. Eisenhower was the first president to travel to Camp David from Washington, D.C., by helicopter, which greatly reduced the commute. He held meetings with his Cabinet and National Security Council at the retreat while recovering from a heart attack in 1955.
In 1959, in the midst of the Cold War, Eisenhower hosted the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. Khrushchev was suspicious of the site, calling it initially where “stray dogs went to die.” They had two days of meetings about the Cold War, after which the two leaders released a joint statement agreeing to reopen talks. However, shortly after the Soviets shot down an American spy plane, Eisenhower’s Soviet Union trip was scrapped.
Foreign affairs brought Eisenhower back to Camp David again in 1961 when he met then-President John F. Kennedy to review the failed Bay of Pigs military invasion of Cuba.
In 1978, then-president Jimmy Carter hosted Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin at Camp David. Their 13 days of meetings led to a peace agreement known as the Camp David Accords, a major step in curbing years of conflict between Egypt and Israel, according to the State Department’s Office of the Historian. Sadat and Begin were both awarded the Nobel Peace Prize as a result of the agreement.
In the midst of the energy crisis in 1979, Carter traveled to Camp David for a series of secret meetings over the course of ten days, according to the Carter Center. After leaving the camp, Carter delivered his famed “malaise speech” in which he discussed problems facing the country, including a “crisis of confidence.”
“I invited to Camp David people from almost every segment of our society -- business and labor, teachers and preachers, Governors, mayors, and private citizens,” Carter said in the address.
Former president Ronald Reagan hosted prominent foreign leaders including Mexican President Jose Lopez Portillo, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone at Camp David, according to Reagan’s presidential library archives. Reagan reportedly loved the camp, and particularly enjoyed riding horses with his family at the retreat.
In her memoir, "My Turn," former first lady Nancy Reagan described how Camp David “gave her a tremendous feeling of release” and helped her and the president “get their thoughts in order.”