Day 7 was an exercise in the discovery of interests.
It may amaze some that it took six days to get to what the parties were really after, but let me assure you that is not unusual in complex disputes.
Many times the parties do not want to disclose their interests, fearing that will make them vulnerable; at others, they do not disclose their interests because they do not know what they are.
At the end of Day 6, speaking out of turn, Dayan undermined Begin’s hardline stance with Carter present and suggested a softening of Israel’s position on dealing with the Palestinians.
On one hand, Begin proposed “full autonomy” for Palestinians; and, on the other, he proposed that the Israeli government approve all of their laws, install a military governor, and maintain a veto over decisions made by the Palestinian governing council.
Dayan openly scoffed at that idea, telling Carter, “We are not after political control. If it seems that way to you, we will look at it again.”
It amazes me that at this level of international negotiations, the Israelis are disagreeing on their bargaining positions in front of Carter.
Had I been lead negotiator, I would have been apoplectic at this breaking of the ranks.
Lesson: When you are negotiating as a team, the group should speak through one voice.
Carter will later exploit this.
Carter now caucuses with Sadat, however, and mentions Dayan’s idea.
Sadat now takes the hardline and demands that all Israelis leave the Sinai.
Carter is quick to point out that Sadat would find nothing wrong with Jews living in Cairo, so it was not logical to insist that they all leave the Sinai.
Sadat cops out by stating, “Some things in the Middle East are not logical.”
Lesson: On important issues, emotions tend to rule; logic rarely persuades.
In the midst of this discussion, someone delivers a revised US proposal to Carter and Sadat, incorporating the latest revisions requested by the Israelis.
Despite his prior comments, Sadat requested few additional revisions to this proposal.
In some ways, this is a good example of the contrast between Sadat and Begin: Begin being the micro-parser and Sadat wielding a broad brush.
Primarily, Sadat wanted Israel to allow Jordanian and Egyptian troops to occupy the West Bank and Gaza so it did not appear that Israel had exclusive military control over those areas.
Sadat also shared his opinions about Begin:
- He does not want or intend to sign anything while he is here.
- Camp David will expose him.
- He wants land.
- Camp David is a trap for him.
Carter later told Rosalynn that he thought Sadat was correct on all four points.
Points 2 and 4 seem to overlap but whatever.
It is interesting to compare how they went about the drafting process and how we draft agreements in the current age of electronic communication, with our Word docs, red-lining, multi-colored comments in the margins, PDF files, spreadsheets, power point, instant communication through email, Google, Bing, and Wikipedia.
The Israelis marked up the original draft the old fashioned way (I don’t know this for sure, but I would bet that this was before the days of Sharpies; ballpoint pens could have been used, or some may recall ink cartridges, and even more advanced students may recall peacock blue ink).
Then, Israeli team members delivered their proposed revisions by foot or bicycle.
We used to call them “runners.”
Are we better off?
The US followed suit, and the US and the Israelis moved pages back and forth like this while the Egyptians stared wide-eyed and worried.
Anxiety and its cousin, conflict, grew within the Egyptian team, in part because of Sadat’s autocratic leadership style.
The Egyptian team felt as though Sadat was deaf to their comments and too soft on the deal.
When his team prepared to offer their critique to him, he shifted gears, raged about Begin, and said he was terminating the negotiations and leaving the next morning.
Sadat then did a very smart thing: he took a nap.
While Sadat was resting, some of his team members ran into Mediator Jimmy out for a bike ride.
A back channel discussion over a bicycle: Carter utters platitudes, and the Egyptians state that their primary interest is for Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories.
Egypt’s position on this issue amazes me.
The best agreements accept the fact that the status quo is the status quo for a reason.
Israelis were living in the settlements and had been for years.
Moving them out would be a logistical nightmare, if not a political one as well.
After a confusing and conflictual impromptu discussion with members of the Egyptian team, Carter decided to leave abruptly and ride his Schwinn into the sunset.
Where’s Tonto when you need him?
More important to Egypt than withdrawal from occupied territories was bonding with the US.
“The grand Egyptian design for Camp David was to create a deeper alliance with the Americans, no matter what the outcome of the talks with Israel.”
Isn’t that interesting: an ulterior motive?
Sadat’s threat to withdraw was inconsistent with that goal.
Weizman, like Sadat, understood the value of a nap and took advantage of a break in the action that afternoon only to be awakened by Carter pressuring him for concessions.
Carter also sent for Dayan.
Dayan met with Carter after dinner that night and brought along his lawyer (always a good idea).
Dayan’s lawyer, Aharon Barak, gave Carter a good lesson in interests, explaining that Begin saw making concessions in the Sinai as a slippery slope.
In the words of Sherlock Holmes, “Elementary, my dear Watson.”
To Carter, this was an epiphany.
Barak also let Carter know that Begin had vowed publicly to retire to one of the Sinai settlements; acting inconsistently with that vow would violate Begin’s core values.
Dayan and Barak also let Carter know that Begin’s refusal to agree to part of a proposal did not kill it.
Begin could approve it and let the Knesset or the cabinet confirm, or he could disapprove and punt it to the Israeli government.
Passing hot potatoes has been with us since the discovery of potatoes.
Carter went to bed optimistic.