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May 18, 1986|Marvin Seid

CAMP DAVID, PEACEMAKING AND POLITICS by William B. Quandt (The Brookings Institution, $31.95 hardback, $12.95 paperback). William B. Quandt was the senior Middle East specialist on President Carter's National Security Council, and as such a close observer and participant in the Camp David peace process and the events preceding it. Drawing on earlier memoirs of the participants in that effort and adding his own perceptive insights and fresh details, Quandt has written the most comprehensive account yet of how the breakthrough to peace occurred and how it fell short of Carter's highest expectations.

Carter early in his presidency indicated his commitment to the goal of a just and comprehensive settlement of the Middle East conflict. He did not always show a certain hand as he set about meeting the chief players and mastering the nuances of Middle Eastern politics and diplomacy, and his vision of what he hoped to accomplish proved to be more imaginative than practical. But in time he learned. Perhaps most to the point, Carter and and his secretary of state, Cyrus Vance, had the willingness and stamina to involve themselves deeply in the peacemaking effort and a dedication to seeing it succeed.

The big winner at Camp David, Quandt writes, was Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, a master of timing and diplomatic ambiguity, and the ablest if by no means the most far-sighted among the negotiators. Seven years after the Egypt-Israel peace treaty was signed at the White House, the two countries coexist in a state of cold peace. The larger settlement that the United States and Egypt hoped would follow remains as elusive and distant as ever.

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