Denial – A Movie Review Part II

Denial – A Movie Review Part II

by

Howard Adelman

When Clinton ended her speech at the Catholic dinner yesterday evening, she recalled her history of empathy for and work with women and children. There is no indication that Trump has any real self-understanding of his serial and compulsive lying. His lying and abusive behaviour are also connected with his absence of empathy for the people taken in by those lies. There is no indication that he ever feels guilty about what he says. He doesn’t need to be provoked to tell a lie and when challenged about the lie, he digs deeper and reinforces the lie instead of backing off. And, as demonstrated in the David Irving trail, he knowingly, willingly and intentionally lies.

Given the state of affairs in the United States where an outright pathological liar can win the primaries and become the Republican candidate, a Sadat stance of hope replacing cynicism is just not on. Further, The barrister and solicitors in Denial both demonstrated that when dealing with pathological liars the best response is to ignore them and not even shake their hand when it is proffered. There is no obligation to be civil to a pathological liar, and when Tom Wilkinson said his strategy was to ignore Irving altogether and engage with him only to get under his skin so he can inflict more and more wounds on himself. Most of all, the movie, Denial, demonstrated the interdependence of justice and truth pursued, not because of principle, but o win, and to do so decisively in a pragmatic way. Since the liar is pathological, it is useless to engage him but it is perfectly legitimate to bait him and trick him into even more damaging utterances.

In 18 days, the election will be over. Hillary Clinton will win by a significant margin. It has been a very long and stressful period so we can look forward to a sigh of relief. But we should want more. We should want to celebrate. By Tuesday evening, we Jews will end the seemingly interminable series of holidays tumbling one after another that began with Rosh Hashana.to inaugurate the new year. Ten days later, we own up to our shortcomings on Yom Kippur and apologize to God and to our fellow humans whom we have hurt deliberately or unintentionally. Now we are in the middle of Succoth, a harvest feast that began five days after the Yom Kippur fast day. On Sunday night, we have another holiday, Shemini Atzeret, a time to tarry just before the finale, the period we are in before the lection in the U.S. either upholds the constitution or sets the stage for its dismemberment on 8th November. On Monday evening, Jews begin to celebrate Simchat Torah honouring the “constitution of the Jews, their bible.

In the American civic religion, it is why the peaceful transition of power and acceptance of the election results are integral to America and any democracy. All must pledge adherence to the rule of law and the transfer of power in accord with the votes of the people. But what happens if the individual who is elected. These are important moments in the lifecycle of a nation and when Donald Trump insists he will hold us all in suspense at whether he accepts the results, unless, of course, he wins.

This shabat we will read chapter 33 of the Torah where God promises to reveal what goodness is and “be gracious – not to anyone – but only “to whom I will be gracious” and to be compassionate to whom I will be compassionate. (verse 19) Donald Trump has indicated no sign that one ought to be gracious or empathetic whit him, since there is little evidence he has empathy and even less that civility and grace are inherent. This is a fundamental lesson also conveyed in the movie.

In the final analysis, both in the American election and in the movie, Denial, truth is fundamental to history as it unfolds and to history as it is recorded. But truth is never delivered as a matter of principle but as a pragmatic prerequisite for sustaining the life of a nation. If someone insists the elction is rigged, if someone insists that the Holocaust is a myth perpetuated by Jews to extract money from the German government, then they attack the foundations of a civil society and not just a political order. Lipstadt was right not to debate facts. And the movie first begins with David Irving propagating his lies and then the scene where Rachel Weisz as Deborah Lipstadt takes the position of a Holocaust denier as a teaching device for her students and outlines the four telltale signs of a Holocaust denier, questioning the systematic murder of Jews and the existence of a crematorium, questioning the number of Jews killed, depicting the Holocaust as a myth and explaining the myth as motivated by Jewish greed. Then the two sides clash when David Irving crashes a public lecture by Deborah Lipstadt, challenges her to debate him and waves a thousand dollars in the air offering it as a reward to anyone who can provide even a sliver of evidence connecting Hitler to the Holocaust as we recall Lipstadt’s lesson than there is no direct record of the Holocaust itself.

We live in an age of conspiracy theories and challenges to solid science. Climate change is a myth. The Jews planted the bombs in 2011 in the Trade centre and warned all Jews to no show up for work that day, Muslims danced in the streets of New Jersey when the planes crashed into the Trade Centre, vaccines cause autism. This situation is not helped by false equivalences, when CNN puts up two apologists for lies as surrogates of Donald Trump against two reputable Democrats who try to tell the truth and be analytical. We live in an increasingly postmodern world where truth as the foundation of society has been converted into absolute relativism where every thought is but a subjective opinion, an internet world where crazies and nut cases find each other, especially when led by a billionaire nutbar. When the birther issue conspiracy played itself out, the seeds are already being planted to delegitimize his successor.

As Deborah Lipstadt has written, there are truth, opinions and lies. The deliberate purveyors of lies, like Donald Trump and David Irving, the best way to proceed is NOT to debate him but to bait him and appeal to his ego so he blows himself up. Civility and courtesy demand respect. But there are limits. Pathological liars who have power deserve only disdain. They deserve the contempt Richard Rampton expressed when he refused to shake David Irving’s proferred hand at the end of the trial. But ina addition to outright lies which I have cited, falshoos are spreac by quoting out of context. On Kristallnacht, Hitler evidently did issue an order to stop the madness of burning Jewish synagogues, shops and homes, not, however, because he though such actions were wrong, but because he had been informed that the fires were getting out of control and burning down city blocks.

There is an interesting scene that drifts off into left field in the film when two of the subordinates on the legal team get into a discussion as the male says, to the effect, “Isn’t it enough? Why do we have to keep talking about the Holocaust? Why can’t we get on with just living? This is a belief even more pernicious than the outright liar. Because it undermines like a leaking water pipe from below. His girlfriend rebukes him, too politely, by insisting that if you want to preserve truth, you must fight lies. And you must remember. But the total focus on outright liars and not on the perniciousness

That is the central truth of the Torah which tells the story of many flawed Jews, including Moses. Thank goodness for Deborah Lipstadt who, in spite of her individualism, kept her bonds with that unassailable conviction at the same time as she went along, initially very reluctantly, with the legal team’s pragmatism. Denial is a great film where it was even harder to watch Tom Wilkinson walk around Auschwitz as a memorial site than to see a concentration camp recreated on film as an active killing machine. There is enormous truth in silence and reverence. Denial is also subtle and nuanced and avoids sinking into stereotypes or efforts at reinforcement by showing pictures and videos of the Holocaust. This is a trail picture and Andrew Scott who plays the famous British solicitor, Anthony Julius who was Diana’s divorce lawyer who has a reputation as having a self-serving ego but proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is totally devoted to destroying the credibility of David Irving who is left as the figure standing alone on a branch that he has almost sawn through and Listadt has been saved from disaster by the excellent teamwork of a of a large number of experts and lawyers, researchers and supporters.

There is another scene in the film that bothered me other than the felt need to include the scene of the pernicious young lawyer who wants everyone to get beyond the Holocaust and leave it behind. It is a scene of Deborah Libstadt with the elite of British wealth as she tries to raise money for her defence to spread the economic support widely instead of relying on one or a few large donors. The spokesperson of the group has the effrontery to suggest that the British Jews can live with David Irving so why does she not just settle the case and go back to America. Anthony Julius is just an egocentric self-serving solicitor who is only interested in fame. British Jewish elites are portrayed as sellouts of truth whreas British gentiles emerge as the great defenders.

I wrote most of this and then read a number of reviews. I was surprised to learn that everyone was not blown away by the movie. A few critics were even critical. I want to examine that review to try to explicate the characteristics of a review that is bad, not because the target is bad but because the reviewer is bad. One wrote that patches of the film are so ludicrously hammy, it (the movie) plays like one of those unbearably corny fake films teased at the beginning of Tropic Thunder.” But the scenes are not cited to allow you to falsify the judgment and you feel that the writer is driven more by an effort to be clever and a struggle to comprehend the film and even expose some of its weaknesses.
But the stupidest sentences support the notion that Hare agrees with the Jewish elite that Julius was only defending Lipstadt for his own glory and that, “Hare makes the parallels to the media treatment of Donald Trump during the lection ring loud and clear.” But only to a viewer who is totally deaf. There is a connection clearly between Donald Trump and David Irving, but other than seeing the claque of journalists at the entrance of the trial, no attention is paid at all to how the media covered the trial.

The review I found most appalling was written by Owen Gleiberman, chief film critic for Variety. (11.09.16) He claimed that this courtroom drama was “too muddled to bring its issues to life” and was, “about nothing so much as the perverse, confounding eccentricities of the British legal system” Balderdash! It was not an intellectual riveting thriller. But how could it be when any reasonable well-read viewer already knew the outcome. The challenge was to develop the dramatic line that did not depend on leading up to the conclusion. And it does not.

Rather than being a clockwork system where the verdict can be deduced from the process, this drama builds by concentrating on how the team members interact and the tensions between and among them. The film is NOT a puzzle so the reviewer missed the whole point. It is a film about how people with different interests, different points of view, and different priorities learn to work together to accomplish a valiant task beyond the rach of any one of them. David Irving is the foil in the background, the then celebrated and rich British writer who made his money on Holocaust denial. He is there as a menace standing alone unless addressing his adoring followers and the press. The story is about empathy and human interaction and the need for compromise, including breaking a promise to a survivor to ensure her voice was heard. There is a huge difference between a group of people who bond together to ensure that truth beats a lie and those who bond together on to worship and idolize a lie. It is not that the film is awkward and slipshod is awkward but the review because the reviewer never “got” the film.

The reviewer writes, “He(Julius) refuses to put any Holocaust survivors on the stand, because he says that they’ll be “humiliated” — and the first sign that the movie is heading off the tracks is that Hare’s script barely clarifies what that means. Is Julius worried about the well-being of the witnesses? (He needn’t be.) Or is he worried that their testimony won’t play? (Why wouldn’t it?) But the script clearly articulates why and how they will be humiliated by Irving as a master grandstander who can provoke and prod and build on miniscule failures of memory. He needed to be worried about the well-being of the witnesses, and rightly so. He was worried that their testimony would not play if Irving got “under their skin.” Testimony will not play unless it is both solid and unanswerable. But Irving is very capable of offering supposed answers and discomfiting witnesses.

Just because Lipstadt doesn’t testify does not mean that she is a “passive agent in her own story” because she is not telling her own story, for the core story is about the interplay of a team and how a team works, about the compromises that must be made to ensure that justice and the pursuit of truth work together. But some film viewers are blind as well as deaf. For a film about self-denial to attack denial is not just a clever trick of a playwright but central to the working of politics as Abe Lincoln argued.

Back Door Channels: The Price of Peace – Part III: The Camp David Peace Agreement.08.05.03

Back Door Channels: The Price of Peace 08.05.13
Part III: The Camp David Peace Agreement

by

Howard Adelman

The Camp David Accords were not even signed when disputes arose over the interpretation. As well there were regrets over the terms. Jimmy Carter understood why Begin would not agree to a permanent freeze on settlements, but he regretted not pushing Begin to agree to a one year freeze. Further, he believed that Israel had agreed to a freeze on settlements for the duration of the autonomy negotiations and publicly said so. Begin insisted that he had agreed to only three months. Before the official signing of the Accords on the morning of 17 September he delivered a letter confirming that he had agreed to only a three month freeze. Carter believed that Begin had just misunderstood. But Carter claimed that the error was critical; because of the dispute and the impression of the Israelis changing the terms, Hussein refused to come on board with Egypt and join the peace agreement.

As it turned out, Begin was right and Carter was wrong. When the dispute arose, Begin called Aharon Barak and, since Barak had taken notes, asked what those notes said. Barak opened his notes and told Begin, “three months.” Further, Barak called Carter and told him what his notes said. Yet for twenty five years after, Carter kept insisting that the agreement was for the duration of the negotiations and that Begin had misunderstood, but Carter had nothing on paper to prove it. The argument over what was agreed upon set a bad tone and left a long shadow. Jimmy Carter: “Well, there I disagree with him. Because I was present and my strong belief in my written notes that say that Begin agreed to freeze the settlements during the autonomy talks. And the schedule for the autonomy talks was very clearly expressed. And Cy Vance agreed with me. But it was just a few days after that that Begin then announced, in my opinion, contrary to what he had said, ‘only three months’.”

However, President Sadat, who had no love for Begin, in spite of their severe differences, and had agreed between them to delete the clause to which they had previously concurred on supporting an undivided Jerusalem as both too sensitive at this stage and too premature, told the US Congress, “so what’s wrong about three months? I don’t think Begin would have gone back on his word.”

But the critical defining evidence came from Bill Quandt who was sitting outside the room when Cy Vance came out and said to Bill that we have a three month commitment from Begin. Quandt wrote it down in his notes and told Carter. The issue is not simply that the same stubbornness that made Jimmy Carter so effective in pulling off a deal was the same trait that made him blind to his own faults and culpability. It took him twenty-five years to acknowledge that he, not Begin, had misunderstood. However, he remained convinced then and became more convinced over the years that settlements were the single obstacle to resolving the issue in the Mideast and convinced many others of this myth about the peace process. The settlements are and have been a problem. But they are not the most important problem and certainly not the single obstacle preventing peace. The refugee issue has always been more important. And Jerusalem has been the most important obstacle. It is not just me saying that. Carter’s own ambassador to Egypt, Hermann Eilts, confronted Carter on this directly, not that it had any noticeable effect.

Carter had mediator’s remorse and had developed a vested interest in a particular solution and not just the process. He correctly accused Begin of having a “strong case of buyer’s remorse after Camp David” without recognizing his own. Most significantly, Begin’s feelings about the deal affected the leeway he gave Moshe Dayan and undercut his relationship with Ezer Weizman — if that relationship had not already been destroyed by the way Begin conducted the negotiations at Camp David. As Leon Charney, the main figure in the back channel discussions, interpreted the situation, Ezer Weizman, the crown prince of the Likud Party, resigned because he was very angry at Begin for being so sorry about the agreement that he felt pressured to sign. Weizman was also under the fallacious belief that he could take over the party.

So the Camp David Accords came at great cost. Sadat’s team refused to back him. Begin refused to back himself and cut the legs from under both Dayan and Weizman. Carter backed himself fully even if it meant he misinterpreted the agreement and contributed to the distrust and then blamed others for why King Hussein did not join the parade even though King Hussein explicitly told Harold Saunders that he supported the deal, wanted to make peace but could not do so publicly because he was not in a position to deliver without costing him his throne; the timing was just not propitious for him. Meanwhile, the Saudis reassured Carter that they supported the deal while they publicly condemned Sadat for unilaterally making such enormous concessions.

In retrospect, the shock was that a Camp David Accord was signed at all given what we now know and given Jimmy Carter’s serious flaws as a mediator. His strengths had to make up for those flaws because he helped pull off the even more difficult task of translating those Accords into a full peace agreement without the benefit of Ezer Weizman, with serious divisions among the Egyptians, with a castrated Moshe Dayan and an even more determined and stubborn Menachem Begin. None of this was conveyed, or perhaps could have been conveyed in the movie.

What could have been told was how Begin conceded to first allowing the Knesset to decide whether to endorse the agreement and then to return all of the Sinai and dismantle the settlements, thereby removing the final obstacle to the peace agreement. This left both the legacy of an historic breakthrough that deservedly won both Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat the Nobel Peace Prize and also the reinforced mistaken belief of Jimmy Carter and many others that if the settlements could be withdrawn, peace would follow.

It just ain’t true. Carter and others have continued to blame Israel as the main and, if not for the Arab terrorists, the sole obstacle to peace. This was the theme of his noon hour speech on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Camp David Accords. “Its key early provisions of the Road Map to Peace (which is in line with the Camp David Peace Agreement), however – a good number of them – have been rejected by the Israeli Cabinet. There were 14 caveats that have been promulgated by the present Israeli Cabinet that subvert some of the major portions of the “Road Map to Peace.” For Carter, peace depends on two and only two things: “One is that Israel refrains from retaining in the occupied Palestinian territories or the West Bank and Gaza the multiple settlements that have to be defended militarily and connected with a web of relatively uncrossable highways.” Second, “\he Palestinian national authority and all Arab nations must acknowledge the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Israel and its right to live in peace and must exert their combined effort to control and to prevent any further acts of terrorism or violence by any Palestinian group against the people in Israel.” One has to wonder how such a naïve man could have accomplished what he did even while acknowledging he did very little else with his presidency.

This blog is no place to review the extrapolations of his own mediating style to general principles set forth in Carter’s book, Talking Peace, or my strong disagreements with them. Some mediators are Machiavellian and not dedicated to truth as Carter has always been – even when he sometimes does not recognize what the truth is – but that does not invalidate that one style may be appropriate to some negotiations and a second to another. Secondly, Carter argued that the mediator has to be regarded as fair. Carter has never been fair. Understandably, he liked Sadat and disliked Begin. He agreed with Sadat and disagreed with Begin. Nevertheless, in spite of his obvious biases, the peace treaty that Israel and Egypt signed on 26 March 26 1979 reflected the Camp David Accords of 17 September 1978. This suggests that fairness in a mediator may not be a prerequisite to some peace negotiations.

Further, Jimmy Carter’s unfairness has only increased since then. In his book with the outlandish title, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, the term ‘apartheid’ – by his own account and lack of evidence – is preposterously unfair to Israel. Carter never even tries to establish that Israel’s motives have been racist. The book is a polemic with no effort to even be objective and truthful. He claims that Israel did not offer a deal to the Palestinians at Taba that met their latest demands, in spite of President Bill Clinton’s testimony that this was precisely what happened. At the twenty-fifth anniversary forum, Elyakim Rubinstein, who was at Camp David with Clinton as well as at Camp David with Carter, confronted Carter on this Big Lie, of course, without naming it as such because Rubinstein is after all a diplomat and I am a philosopher dedicated to clarity and distinctness.

Carter was not balanced or fair. Carter did not tell the truth to both sides – not because he was dishonest, but because he often did not recognize the truth. Carter insists that the mediator must understand the issues as well, but Carter did not and never has. Finally, Carter insisted that the final key to a successful negotiation is that both sides must see themselves as winners. That is also not correct both historically in this case and as a general principle. Both sides, historically, thought they lost a great deal. And that fear on the part of the Israelis reared its ugly head when, in September 2011, the new Egyptian Prime Minister, Essam Sharaf, suggested that the Camp David Peace Agreement could be (and should be?) revised.
Further, psychological research has established repeatedly that one need not believe one came out on top in a successful negotiation but one must believe that the other party lost as much if not more than you did. Carter was a success as a negotiator in this case in spite of himself. As Bill Quandt worded it: “This conflict needs more than a facilitator. It needs somebody on the outside who can be a catalyst, who can be a prod, who can be a friend, who can be a guarantor, and a real nag. Carter was all of that even though he was not just, was not honest with himself, nor objective, nor truly knowledgeable or even recognized how much both sides gave up and lost. Nevertheless, the agreement by and large remains an outstanding success.

One sign of that success was in one area where it failed. The Camp David Peace Agreement required that the United Nations provide a peacekeeping force. A Soviet threatened veto prevented that possibility. If this contingency took place, the United States promised to use its best efforts to create a multinational force. After Israel and Egypt agreed to a protocol change in the agreement, on August 1981 America set up an alternative Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) to be operational at the end of April 1982, the scheduled date for the Israeli withdrawal.

Bill Quandt not only spoke truth to power, not only understood mediation much better than Carter, but also, in contrast to both Jimmy Carter and Zbigniew Brzezinski, did not mouth platitudes such as building on the road map. Quandt advised, “Don’t try to revive the road map…The problem with the road map was both sides were very tentatively committed to it, and the Americans weren’t very serious about it either…Secondly, it did not have a clear destination…the parties are looking by now at the details…They’re looking at actually what would happen in Jerusalem. What would happen on refugees, what would happen on borders, what would happen on security? How can these things be worked out? The generalities are not where the problems lie so much today.” Today was 2003. But those words are as applicable ten years later. Bill Clinton had the deal. That has the details. Refine it, shine it up and try to get both parties to sign on.

Easier said than done!

Back Door Channels: The Price of Peace-Part II: The Camp David Accords.07.05.13

Back Door Channels: The Price of Peace 07.05.13
Part II: The Camp David Accords

by

Howard Adelman

When I was in the Jerusalem Theatre at the historic moment of Sadat`s visit to Jerusalem when Sadat, Begin and Peres made speeches, I was overwhelmed with how articulate, witty, warm and forthcoming Sadat had been. Peres was also his usual serious political self clearly open to peace and welcoming to Sadat. Begin was the grouch. It was as if Sadat had not said anything and had not taken the bold step of coming to Jerusalem. Begin told Sadat about the Jews as victims of the Holocaust, as if Sadat was a school child. The second note Begin struck was on the Jewish historic right to Palestine and Jerusalem. Begin could have been giving a speech to Irgun followers in 1946. The session was filmed at the time, but there are no clips from the Jerusalem theatre included in the documentary, Back Door Channels: The Price of Peace.

I tried to indicate in my last blog what an amazing military and political leader Sadat had been. My own sense is that the film failed to convey the enormity of his role. As a military leader, he rivals Churchill for he had to remake a demoralized and dysfunctional military organization, depoliticize it and give it a sense of purpose and pride. He succeeded. In this blog I want to focus on Jimmy Carter. For he does deserve great credit for both initiating the Camp David talks and for personally mediating between two very opposite personalities, one of whom Carter detested. How did he do it? What does the documentary contribute to help us understand how the Camp David Accords were concluded? What happened in the thirteen days of negotiations at Camp David that allowed President Anwar el-Sadat of Egypt and Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel to sign an accord on 17 September 1978 at the White House to agree to end the state of war between Egypt and Israel? How do you pull off a peace accord when one of the leaders, Menachem Begin, is contemptuous of both Sadat and Carter and where Sadat despises and Carter comes to hate Begin?

One form of credit must be given to all three leaders – all three were very courteous gentlemen, even when they were separated by bitter differences. More specifically, Jimmy Carter was a true southern gentleman. He may often not hear what is really being said and somehow manage to convert what his said into his own predilections, but he was always the ultimate in consideration in ensuring that others had and were enabled to voice their views no matter how he weighed those views.

One might have expected that back door channels would be irrelevant now that direct talks between the leaders of the two states had been initiated. In fact, Leon Charney, an American lawyer who became an agent for Ezer Weizman’s book, not only played a small role in feeding information to Weizman that Sadat was sincere in wanting to make a peace deal based on return of the Sinai to Egypt, but during the Camp David discussions he served as the conduit between Ezer Weizman and Robert Lipshutz who had been close to Jimmy Carter for many years, had served as the treasurer in Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaign and then served as counsel to President Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1979. That back channel was critical in overcoming personality blockages as well as figuring out how to get around roadblocks, such as the insistence that all land be returned to Egypt in exchange for peace and that provision be made for a settlement on the Palestinian issue.

As background, hinted at but not detailed in the documentary, Wolf Blitzer when he was a reporter for The Jerusalem Post contacted Robert Lifshutz and told him that there was a predominant narrative about Lipshutz circulating in Israel that Lipshutz was anti-Israel and even anti-Jewish even though Lipshutz was Jewish. Blitzer introduced Lipshutz to Leon Cheney who was close to Ezer Weizman. The film is particularly strong on the back channel developed from Carter to Lipshutz to Cheney to Weizman and from Lipshutz to Stuart Eizenstat who played the most important role in the senior White House staff in communicating to the Jewish community leadership in American and through them back to Begin. The back channels helped break down problems and determine what was possible and what was impossible. Strengthened by the information he received, especially on Begin’s views, Carter was able to come up with proposals that Ezer Weizman could sell Begin on directly. However, by focusing almost exclusively on the role of the back channel, the whole sense of perspective is lost.

Further, although this was a back channel that worked superbly, the same back channel was unsuccessful when it was used to deal with the American hostages held by Iran. Leon Charney got word from Austrian Prime Minister, Kreisky, that, because Kreisky had a close relationship with Yasser Arafat, that channel could be useful in negotiating the release of the hostages. After all, Khomeini had given the American embassy in Tehran for the Palestinians. Charney contacted Lipshutz, who was by then no longer White House Counsel, who told Jimmy Carter. Carter arranged to have Charney and Lipshutz fly to Vienna to see what could be done. Charney flew to Israel to get the Israelis on board and Charney fed back to the White House that, “Provided you keep us well informed, we want to cooperate and help you get the hostages out.”

That back channel opening failed because the Carter White House thought that utilization of that back channel would have amounted de facto recognition of the PLO. In my estimation, this was an error by the White House and could possibly have allowed Carter to win a second term. Cy Vance had convinced Carter that the risk was not worth it when the whole point of back channels is that you can take such risks because Carter could deny everything. The film, in this case, missed an opportunity to show the importance three critical elements: 1. personal long term trust; 2. intimate contact; and 3. sidetracking spoilers to make back channel diplomacy effective. The second was only present in small part and the third aspect was lacking.

There is another source that somehow was not used in the film. On the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Camp David Accords, a year after Jimmy Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, on 17 September 2003, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars held a forum chaired by Lee Hamilton from the Woodrow Wilson Center on the topic that, though it did not include Lipshtiz, did include many of the participants including, President Jimmy Cater, Vice-President, Walter Mondale, William Quandt, the member of the U.S. National Security Council who was the best informed of the Americans on Middle East issues, Elyakim Rubinstein who had been the assistant director of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Zbigniew Brzezinski U.S. National Security Adviser to the President, Aharon Barak then Israeli Attorney General and subsequently Chief Justice on the Supreme Court of Israel, Harold Saunders U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs, Hamilton Jordan U.S. Chief of Staff to the President, Jody Powell U.S. Press Secretary to the President, Samuel Lewis U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Hermann Eilts U.S. Ambassador to Egypt, Osama el-Baz Foreign Policy Adviser to the President of Egypt and, representing the back channel, Leon Charney, who, as was his custom, rarely spoke. Rosalyn Carter was also present for it was she who planted the idea in Jimmy’s head of inviting Begin and Sadat to meet at Camp David and was both present and active in the whole process. Osama el-Baz, Sadat’s adviser could not be there because he was at the time actively involved on behalf of President Mubarak in dealing with the Palestinian resort to violence, but he appeared on a video hook-up.

In that forum, Carter recalled the meetings after the historic visit of Sadat to Jerusalem between Sadat and Begin at Ismailia and between representatives of the two sides at Leeds in Great Britain that ended not only in failure but in acrimony, hostility and bitterness between the two leaders, though the wide-ranging discussions did allow the Americans to grasp the opportunities for compromise and define the pitfalls so important in allowing the Americans to write the first draft of the Camp David Agreement that was forged immediately after Leeds and produced at a strategic moment at Camp David. The film omits this context.

Sadat had his ambitious agenda. Carter had a modest one of simply setting an agenda for a fuller peace process and conference. Begin was amenable to Carter’s modest goal. As the film shows, the attempt to get Sadat and Begin to talk directly was a complete failure. The two ended their first discussions in a shouting match. Carter began a process of shuttle diplomacy within the confines of Camp David. When faced with failure on the 11th day, Ezer had pressed for another try and Aharon Barak became the key to writing a compromise to which both Begin and Sadat could agree on the settlement issue.

Barak was clear that Camp David would “never, never be possible without the involvement, the care, and the dedication of President Carter.” But Barak also threw a few sly and gentle digs at Carter, complimenting him for his mastery of detail, but also referring to his arguments with Carter over detailed wording when Carter was neither a legal specialist not an expert on the Middle East. This is not in the film. Second, though alluded to in the film, an important difference is that the Egyptians were split but led by a forcible personality who believed primarily in attitude and commitment. The Israelis believed in detailed preparation and, in that regard, Carter personally, in contrast to the American delegation, was ill-equipped. The Israelis had a peace plan and a solution for the Palestinians based on autonomy that was in accord with the Egyptian position. The Israelis came with draft agreements and fallback positions. They also had a detailed knowledge of the position of the Egyptians. Carter came with a genial smile and very deep convictions.

Critical to these negotiations, and absent in many, was trust in the integrity of the negotiators and honesty on each side quite aside from differences in interests and principles. Since the film emphasizes the back channels rather than the direct discussions and the roles those played in advancing the direct channels, these factors are underplayed in the film. But the back channels could not have been successful without first having that trust. If the back channels were only used to get around the enormous distrust between Begin and Sadat, they would have proven insufficient. What Carter, Sadat and a good part of the Israeli negotiating team brought was persistence combined with the creative imaginations of both Sadat’s and Aharon Barak.

What happened is that the real negotiations took place between Barak and el-Baz and then both the front channels and back channels used to sell the deal to Begin. When I was involved with the negotiations on the refugee issue when Canada gavelled the talks, I was told by our Canadian ambassador who led the talks that I would never succeed as a diplomat because I had been taught through my philosophical training to use clear and distinct ideas. A diplomat had to master the art of creative ambiguity. Barak and el-Baz were masters at that craft. Carter was trained as an engineer and was not facile with equivocation. Barak and el-Baz formulated ambiguous wording at a level of abstraction just sufficient to obscure their differences, but not so abstract as to be meaningless. But Carter was patient, indefatigable, dedicated and had a strong sense of mission that, whenever the negotiations flagged, managed to give them a new spurt of energy. Barak and el-Baz not only negotiated, they engaged in dialogue, told stories, explained background. Back channels are of little help in the hard slugging of negotiations themselves or providing the necessary dialogue that allows negotiations to be fruitful.

Carter deserves enormous praise. But he was often misguided – such as in his initial stress on the Geneva route. The U.S Ambassador to Egypt, Hermann Eilts, erred in this regard in giving credit to Jimmy Carter`s letter to Sadat urging a bold step as a key to the Jerusalem visit when historical documents seem to sustain a story line that Sadat went to Jerusalem in spite of American policies on the peace process. Eilts claimed correctly that when Jimmy Carter became president, he shifted from a stress on a step-by-step approach that had characterized the previous administration to a comprehensive approach. Eits believed even twenty-five years later that this shift had an enormous impact. I, and I believe most historians, would argue that the impact was negative for any comprehensive approach at that time was doomed to failure. The Geneva effort was a dead end.

It may be true that Carter gave up the comprehensive approach only when Assad of Syria did not agree to take part even when Carter supported Assad`s call for a united Arab delegation. Carter`s letter to Sadat encouraging a bold step was not even a catalyst in Sadat`s initiative. Sadat had already been on that route. Jimmy Carter`s accession to Assad`s push for a united Arab delegation only accelerated Sadat`s efforts. As the American ambassador to Syria said, President Sadat did not want to mortgage Egypt’s foreign policy to the lowest common denominator. Sadat decided to move ahead separately. Carter`s answer to this interpretation is revealing because he claimed that America was bound by United Nations resolution that called for an international conference to be headed by the United States and the Soviet Union. Carter simply evaded the question and narrated the details of his many efforts to get Assad aboard before, in fact, conceding, that Assad was inflexible. Carter conceded that his administration `by default` placed our eggs in the Sadat-Begin basket.

Even given that the timing was propitious for an agreement, and even given the extra assistance provided by the back channel, Carter does deserves enormous credit for his commitment and voracious persistence backed up, as Samuel Lewis has remarked, by an unusually united Defence, State, and Intelligence departmental coherence that matched the Israeli briefs in its detail. As Sam Lewis has said, “without that daily concentration of the president driving a process to a conclusion as quickly as possible, you’re not likely to get there, because something is going to blow it out of the water.” Persistence was needed. Timeliness was a prerequisite. So was detailed preparation and coherence. The Americans provided all four. Further, even if both Begin and Sadat were strong leaders, Begin was hard to negotiate with for the best of diplomats.

Because of the focus on the back channel in the film which only dealt with a few issues that were blocked where behind the scenes maneuvering could help, look at the long road the negotiators had to travel in thirteen days. Menachem Begin, who had dedicated his life to a deep belief in the greater Israel, at a minimum, an Israel between the Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea, had to agree to subscribe to UN Resolution 242 requiring Israel to withdraw from occupied territories. Begin had to subscribe to the principle that territories could not be acquired by force, and, in the case of Egypt, the withdrawal from all of the Sinai captured in the Six Day War. He had to agree to withdraw security forces to defined enclaves. The Israelis had to give up their advanced defence positions, including three airfields. Begin had to set the precedent of giving up 14 settlements, including the large infrastructure that had been developed at Sharm el Sheikh and Yamit (the latter with over 3000 settlers). Sadat had to agree to the part of its territory being returned to be demilitarized – a problem later for securing the Sinai from Palestinian terrorists and militant Bedouin as well as leading to the creation of the tunnel economy into Gaza. Sadat had to swallow the humiliation of having a foreign peace force on Egyptian territory and to limit how close his own troops and military, including artillery and tanks, could come to the Israeli border.
Of course, the greatest effort in creative ambiguity was over the surrender of the settlements as Begin had vowed never to return a Jewish settlement. Aharon Barak`s skills were really tested. This was the issue in which the back channel efforts were so effective in allowing Begin, a man of great principle, to keep his vow, by allowing the Knesset and not himself to agree to surrender the fourteen settlements. Without this final concession, the Camp David talks would have ended in failure. Begin got his way in agreeing to full autonomy for the Palestinian Arabs as a people but not a nation but without full self-governing authority over their own land which, for him, only the Palestinian Jews were entitled to have. Unfortunately, the film does not have and cannot take the time to convey the enormity of this leap for a leader of Begin`s ilk.

This was the biggest issue on which Sadat had to compromise. Neither the Americans nor the Israelis recognized his sincere belief in trying to advance this issue for they thought, given their realist assumptions, that he was negotiating simply to provide cover for himself. But he was a firm, both for his own political survival as for the success of the peace talks, in his belief that progress on the Palestinian front had to be in tandem with peace on the Egyptian-Israeli front. Both the Americans and the Israelis let him hang naked and exposed on this issue because the Palestinians were not part of the compromise. With his own contribution, the Israelis and the Americans had boxed Sadat into a suicidal cul-de-sac where he was forced to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinians who were not present and for whom he could never be a legitimate negotiator, but unless he negotiated on their behalf, there never could be an Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement. That compromise alone would turn Sadat into an enemy for those who believed that no Muslim was entitled to cede Muslim territory to Jews.

Further, the peace negotiations had to overcome other obstacles that belonged to neither Sadat nor Begin. Jimmy Carter had then and continued to have a commitment to the principle that all settlement activity by the Israelis was illegal. This was the case even in his interpretations of the discussions twenty-five years later. Elyakim Rubinstein, who was a mandarin and not a party ideologue, had to remind Carter diplomatically that this was his belief and not that of every American administration as he mistakenly insisted. Further, in agreeing to Camp David, Israelis were agreeing to a new base line but for Palestinians who were not part of the agreement, Camp David was an extreme of surrender and not a starting point. Israelis were signing a deal on the issue of Palestinians without a Palestinian quid pro quo.

Finally, contrary to the advice of the Americans, both the Israelis and Egyptians insisted on a deadline for converting the Accords into a full agreement. As we shall see in our discussion of the path from the Camp David Accords to the Camp David Agreement, that deadline initially allowed for wasted time and later became an obstacle itself to an agreement. The film was unable to provide any sense of the dilemmas deadlines pose between their ostensible purpose in preventing endless discussion and their contribution to making discussions endless.

NEXT: The Camp David Peace Agreement

Back Door Channels: The Price of Peace.Part I: Sadat’s Visit to Jerusalem.06.05.13

Back Door Channels: The Price of Peace                                                            06.05.13

Part I: Sadat’s Visit to Jerusalem

by

Howard Adelman

The title of today’s blog is taken from the documentary directed by Harry Hunkele called Back Door Channels: The Price of Peace which I saw at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival but was too busy to write about it during that busy film week. The film is available on Netflix or on a DVD. It is not a new film; an early version was shown at the 2009 Monte-Carlo Television Festival, premiered at the Abu Dabai Film Festival in October 2010 and was screened at Cannes in 2011. The title also belongs to the book of one of the important individuals involved as a back channel conduit featured prominently in the film, Leon H. Charney, and from whom the director clearly borrowed a great deal in dealing with the Camp David segment.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been long and appears intractable. In these types of conflicts, military forces and diplomats alone rarely achieve peace. Complex approaches are used involving a multitude of agents in addition to diplomats and soldiers – academics, human rights activists, conflict resolution experts, businessmen. These are referred to as Track II initiatives. They bring parties together and can focus on joint projects and building trust even when the parties are technically at war. They also offer a parallel path for contacts. Track I and Track II efforts can be clandestine or open. The use of clandestine contacts, dubbed back door channels through trusted private individuals or politicians, has been a part of virtually every peace negotiation in history. This film purports to focus on those back door channels. Having been involved in several Track II efforts, some clandestine, I was very interested in seeing the film.

The documentary is about the efforts and personalities who brought together first Anwar Al-Sadat’s historic visit to Jerusalem, then the Camp David Accords and finally the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt that followed. The film, as the subtitle indicates, is also about the consequences of such peace efforts to the principals involved. The film contends that all three principals, Anwar Al-Sadat, Menachem Begin and Jimmy Carter at Camp David, paid a huge price for making peace before the finale focuses on allusions to the present with clips of Obama presumably from his speech in Cairo.

Let me deal with the conceit, indeed, distortion, that all three leaders paid a great price to make peace. Unquestionably, Sadat did. He was assassinated for signing the Camp David Peace Agreement. In fact, the film slides over the fact that his Prime Minister resigned over the issue and most of his advisors refused to attend the signing ceremony. This is important for it was relevant to whether Israel could be confident that a peace agreement would hold. It did hold, but it turned out to be a cold peace that today is under threat of unravelling.

The suggestion is made that Begin also paid a high price. His colleagues, who had accompanied him through his long years in the underground and in the wilderness of the opposition, accused him of betrayal according to Hunkele. Further, as he stalled on the second half of the peace agreement dealing with the Palestinians, Ezer Weisman resigned from his cabinet – though the film does not deal with these events. The filmmaker believes that Begin then invaded Lebanon in 1982 to prove to everyone he was not a softie or an appeaser, and, following that calamitous decision, in 1983 withdrew into isolation as a seriously diminished individual, ended as a recluse and thus became a victim of signing the Accords.

I do not even find this argument plausible, but perhaps some case could be made for it.  The film never even tries to make the case. This is not true for the explanation of Jimmy Carter losing the bid for re-election. In the Q&A that followed the showing, Harry Hunkele was asked why, if Jimmy Carter played such an important role in making peace, he developed so much ill will in the Jewish community in America. Hunkele presumed the questioner was referring to Carter`s statement about Israel being an apartheid state, and said that he believed that this was a result of Carter becoming frustrated with Israeli intransigence on the Palestinian peace front.

It is hard to believe that this is what he actually said. It only indicated to me that a director can make a very effective and powerful film, especially out of such historically important material, and still be relatively ignorant about the subject matter he is covering. Carter did not just make one statement about apartheid. He wrote a book called Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, a polemic against Israel, Israeli politicians and Israeli Jewish and gentile supporters in America based on distortions, misinformation and exaggerations that help sabotage rather than advance peace. And it is not just an aside. Carter’s obsession with Israel and his hatred of Begin have never abated.

What about then? It is certainly true that Carter`s support in the American Jewish community fell from 72% in his first election bid to 45% in his bid for re-election. But to connect that fall in support to Carter`s facilitating the Camp David Accords and subsequently the Camp David Peace Agreement is more than a stretch. Look at the facts. 

Carter no sooner took office than he alienated the Jewish community by calling for a Palestinian homeland. Such a vision might be considered prophetic, not simply because I held that view at the time, but it ran strongly against both community beliefs and the back door efforts underway in the seventies to make a deal with Jordan. Second, in the Spring of 1978, Carter sold Saudi Arabia America’s top fighter, the F-15; recall that Mark Siegel, who helped initiate the Holocaust Museum in Washington and forge Carter’s generous policy towards Soviet Jews, resigned from Carter’s White House staff over the issue. Third, Zbignew Brzezinski, who was Carter`s Security Advisor and plays a prominent role in the film, worked with Carter to get Sadat and Begin to attend a Geneva Conference with the goal of producing a comprehensive and all-encompassing peace agreement, an initiative that both Sadat and Begin regarded as foolish and incapable of producing results. Fourth, after Sadat made his historic visit to Jerusalem in November 1977 `behind Jimmy`s back`, Carter had to reverse gears and remake his strategic approach. Carter deserves credit that he did change his approach and took the lead in inviting Begin and Sadat to Camp David against the advice of his closest associates.

Carter also deserves credit for the effective and determined role he played in Camp David, quite aside from all his mistakes. He also has to be given enormous credit, again in spite of his many fumbles, for helping translate that peace accord into a full-fledged peace agreement. At that time, his support within the Jewish community was strong. But the Jewish community, like the American community in general, turned against Carter on all kinds of grounds – his handling of the Panama Canal issue for one. But most of all it was over the failure to rescue the American hostages in Iran that stood in such blatant contrast to the successful Israeli efforts at Entebbe a few years before and his failed negotiations to bring the hostages home.

The Iran Hostage Crisis was sufficient to ensure his defeat. But there were other reasons which guaranteed a landslide victory for Reagan. The Soviets marched into Afghanistan on his watch just after he signed an arms control treaty with Leonid Brezhnev. The American military was perceived as having been gutted so that America could no longer project strength abroad to intimidate adventurism. The American economy was in a shambles suffering from both high inflation and stagnation – stagflation. I spent five days with President Carter in Atlanta over African issues in the 1990s at the CarterCenter. I came to Atlanta with little knowledge of him and a general appreciation for what he accomplished at Camp David.

I left totally disillusioned and convinced that the impression of his fellow leaders in NATO of him as incompetent – obsessed with a combination of high moral principles and meticulous mastery of details that were often irrelevant – had been correct. In my five days with him, he displayed a quite stubborn determination to get his way whatever the objections raised to his proposals for dealing with a particular African problem. In spite of his mastery of facts, he never let an inconvenient fact falsify a conviction he held. His understatement, impish smile and sparkling eyes disguised his powerful will. He was always simplistic even though he had a great capacity to know all kinds of minute details on a subject. He projected a combination of 100% dogmatic assurance who liked to be surrounded by sycophants while underneath being very insecure and uncertain, a state of mind which he covered with dogmatic adhesiveness. The Jewish community – like every other community – had a great many reasons to vote against him. Camp David was unlikely one of them. Rather than paying a price for Camp David, Camp David is perhaps the only action that saves Carter from total ignominy.

Part of the problem of the film is that it covers three phases of the peace process instead of concentrating on the last two where Carter was most effective after the parties themselves arranged the Jerusalem visit in spite of Carter’s deeply flawed and distracting if not destructive Geneva efforts. The back door channels to achieve the first stage could have been easily covered without getting into distractions. Given that the first five minutes of the film are taken up with a silly cartoonish and potted history of the conflict from the split between Abraham’s two sons thousands of years ago to the 1970s that mixed historical film footage with computer-generated imagery was enough to drive you out of the theatre. The film could have started with the October 1973 war and its legacy.

We are approaching the 35th anniversary of 17 September 1978 when President Jimmy Carter brought President Anwar el-Sadat of Egypt and Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel together to the White House to sign the Camp David Accords, the document outlining how they would subsequently agree to end the state of war between the two countries and also attack the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The film could also have begun much more organically with the historic victory of Menachem Begin over Shimon Peres that thrust all us peaceniks into deep doldrums and a sense that we would never get peace. How then did the first major breakthrough come with Egypt? What role did clandestine contacts play? Such a focus, if one obtained access to the right persons, could not help but be a powerful film.

In the first phase of the process to set up the historic visit of Sadat to Jerusalem, I happened to be living in Jerusalem; I was a Lady Davis Visiting Professor at Hebrew University for 1977-1978. Though I managed to wangle my way into the Jerusalem Theatre to hear Anwar Sadat, Menachem Begin and Shimon Peres, I knew nothing at the time of the convoluted back door efforts that had been used to bring about that historic visit. But even before those back door processes through Romania and Morocco could be explored, setting the context of the implausibility of pulling off such a venture is critical.

My own knowledge of the backdrop came from Aziz Sidqi who was Prime Minster of Egypt from 1972 until after the Yom Kippur War. We spent four days together in Amman at a conference and the two of us spent a day off hiking through the hills of Jordan. He was a bright economist with a PhD from Harvard, but with a very jaundiced view of politics. When we went on that hike, he had taken time off from his business as a candy importer. He had been driven from office by orchestrated protests by a cabinet colleague against price controls he had lifted as part of a comprehensive effort to free up the rigidities of the Egyptian economy. In 1973, on the eve of the Yom Kippur War, he was in London with his wife who was due to be operated on the next day. Sadat summoned him back to London. Two hours before the war started, he, as Prime minister, was informed. Prior to that, Sadat had told only the Defence Minister and the Minister of Intelligence.  

Sadat was determined to change the ground rules, get back the Sinai and go to war since it seemed that the Israelis, particularly Golda Maier, was not receptive and could not hear his back door overtures. Win or lose, the Sinai campaign would change everything. Against the overwhelming advice of his associates, in spite of the détente in place between the US and the USSR since 1972, and in secrecy with few knowing, he decided to go to war in October. His intelligence service projected that the war would cost the lives of 30,000 Egyptian soldiers. He himself expected 10,000 dead. He wanted change and took the risk. The initial attack cost just over 200 Egyptian soldiers lives.

And change came, even though Israel finally recovered from the not-so-surprise attack if the Israeli government leaders had heeded the signals. In the end, Sadat suffered a profound military defeat. However, it was a diplomatic and political victory. Israel’s post-1967 sense of invulnerability was crushed. Egyptians hailed the defeat as a great military accomplishment just because they so successfully broke through the Bar-Lev line and did not suffer nearly the number of casualties predicted. His domestic and worldwide prestige was enormous. He had earned a great deal of political capital. He had also developed a deep personal emotional motivation to pursue peace which the film does deal with – the loss of his son-in-law in the October War. He now had to find parties on the other side that could hear his message.

In spite of America’s deafness to his back door approaches to Washington that rivalled the auditory blockages in Jerusalem, Sadat had also decided to realign with America rather than the USSR, move strongly towards a more open economy, rebuild his army with superior western arms (and correspondingly fewer troops) and redefine foreign policy in terms of placing a priority on Egyptian rather than Arab interests. The 1973 war would be Egypt’s last war with Israel. Military preparations would accord with that objective and shift the threat perception once a peace agreement could be concluded, at great savings to the Egyptian economy. The first and second disengagement agreements of 1974 and 1975 between Egypt and Israel, the joint Egyptian-Israeli patrols in the Sinai, the attendance of Egyptian and Israeli academics at conferences together and the joint experience of Israeli and Egyptian officers taking the same advanced military courses in Britain and America bore enormous fruit in creating pockets of background trust. (See the account of Ahmed Fakhr of his relationship developed over a year in London with General Ari Brown of the IDF who had been an aide to Defense Minister Moshe Dayan.)

These initiatives had allowed Sadat to seed his rapprochement plan at lower levels. These were different aspects of Track II (though not back door) diplomacy underway. Some reference to these initiatives would have made clearer why and when clandestine moves on either Track I or Track II are necessary and helpful since that is the subject of the film. The opportunity was lost. It was important to state that Sadat was not just interested in peace with Israel but in a total realignment of the region and, in particular, Egypt’s new efforts to enable Egypt to foster peace in the whole region, west and south as well as east, and to secure Egypt’s most vital interest, the waters of the Nile. Given what subsequently took place in Sudan and then Libya, Sadat was very prescient. 

Further, in addition to the economic domestic agenda, Sadat had a political domestic agenda for which these moves were prerequisites. Sadat directed the military to stay out of politics on all levels and moved ballot boxes out of military bases as a key step towards democratization, a multiparty system and a freer civil society.

It is against this background, most of which was accessible to Mossad, that Sadat renewed his primary back door peace initiative by planning to go to Jerusalem. Now that much of the Israeli archives are open from that period and can be accessed on the internet, the secret documents are available for all to see. As suggested by pictorial images and interviews with a veteran journalist in the film, on 4 September 1977, two and one-half months before Sadat’s historic visit to Jerusalem on 20 November, Ceausescu met secretly with Begin in Romania where Begin was told with certain conviction that Sadat wanted a high level meeting between Egyptian and Israeli representatives. Whatever the awful character of Ceausescu as a dictator, Romania was the only country behind the iron curtain that had not broken diplomatic relations with Israel after the Six Day War. Further, Ceausescu was a reliable intermediary with a formidable ability to recall conversations in great detail. In the same meeting – this was 1977 – Ceausescu told Begin that Arafat was willing to recognize Israel in exchange for recognition of the PLO and a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. 

Israel immediately stepped up another back door channel through Morocco’s King Hassan II and confirmed what they had been told by Ceausescu. This is also in the film. A disguised Moshe Dayan flew to Morocco and his entourage was housed in the king’s official guest house next to his private villa with a secret back door specifically designed for back door diplomacy. I thought the director missed a chance to introduce a cartoon version of all this literal back door diplomacy, including a caricature of Dayan in disguise. Dayan met with Prime Minister Hassan Tohami. Mossad made meticulous notes of the meeting. This was an initiative without American involvement because the Americans were stubbornly pursuing a wrong track. The message was clear. The Arab countries wanted to curb Palestinian radicalism because it was infectious and posed a danger to their regimes. Peace was necessary and the opening to that route was now available through Egypt. 

The highway for Sadat to travel to Jerusalem had been built. In spite of the snipers placed in locations around the airport lest a Trojan Horse arrive, something I did not know until I saw the film, Sadat came and won the hearts and minds of the majority of Israelis. The doorway to peace had been opened.

Next: Back Door Channels: The Price of Peace – Part II: The Camp David Accords