Carter seemed unsure of what to do in light of Sadat’s aggressive opening move.
He began Day Three with a six-person meeting, which included Carter and his top two aides (Vance and Brzezinski) and Begin and his two top aides (Dayan and Weizman).
He tried to improve rapport by agreeing with Begin’s assessment that Sadat’s proposal was “very tough.”
He then made a relatively bold move: he asked the Israelis to make a concession, warning that without one the negotiations would end soon.
That went over like a lead balloon.
Carter became argumentative and confrontational, telling Begin to stop “assing around” and put their cards on the table.
Why he thought that this tactic would work with a hardened warrior like Begin is hard to fathom. Perhaps, when nothing else is working, a mediator tries a little muscle. Why do I have trouble seeing Carter playing the role of intimidator?
Carter and Begin then continued the three-person format with Sadat.
Carter then repeated his request that Begin make a concession in response to Sadat’s trip to Jerusalem: lead balloon number two.
That set off a heated exchange that lasted three hours, interrupted briefly with anecdotes about kissing Barbara Walters and which country was responsible for the hashish trade in the Sinai.
As is typical of heated exchanges, Begin and Sadat stopped listening to each other.
Carter then did something smart: he outlined the issues.
When a mediator outlines the issues of a dispute, he brings order to the chaos of the swirl of facts and emotions being expressed.
The issues were:
3. An independent Palestinian state
4. Palestinian autonomy
5. Israeli military presence in the West Bank and Gaza
6. The West Bank
8. What peace means
10. The Sinai airfields
Meet my little hydra!
One can only wonder why this was not done before these negotiations began.
After he performed this exercise and brought the problems into sharper focus, he was depressed.
After a break, Carter reconvened the three-person meeting at 5:00 p.m.
At that juncture, he faced the classic dilemma that every mediator confronts: should I start with the most challenging issue, the easiest issue, or the bundle?
Carter decided on the toughest issue: the Sinai.
The problem here is that if one starts with the easiest issue, resolving it can create positive momentum; if one starts with the toughest issue, the easy issues should fall into place; and doing either frames the negotiations for piecemeal resolution, which is not always effective because it does not allow for trade-offs between and among issues (i.e., I will concede issue one, if you will concede issues two and three).
Was Carter’s approach effective?
No. Begin and Sadat became positional, and Sadat threatened to walk.
Weizman’s observations about the negotiating styles of Begin and Sadat were instructive: “Both desired peace. But whereas Sadat wanted to take it by storm … Begin preferred to creep forward inch by inch. He took the dream of peace and ground it down into the fine, dry powder of details, legal clauses, and quotes from international law.”
As Begin and Sadat got up to leave, apparently scuttling the negotiations, Carter blocked their path and begged for one more day.