President Jimmy Carter shaking hands with Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin at the signing of the Egyptian–Israeli Peace Treaty on the grounds of the White House, 1979

Peacemaking: The Arab-Israeli Conflict

Despite the hectic diplomatic activity of the last few months, peace in the Middle East seems as elusive today as ever. Sadat's dramatic visit to Jerusalem less than a year ago appears now as a semi-legendary event that must have happened eons ago, hardly related to the real texture of Israeli-Arab relations. Both sides have reverted to accusations and counter-accusations, questions and counter-questions, and appear to be bogged down in a procedural quagmire, with a harassed United States serving as a go-between, desperately trying to keep the flicker of hope from being extinguished.

In such a situation, each side naturally blames the other for the apparent failure, with world public opinion neatly divided according to its previous sympathies toward either of the contending parties. Dissension in the Arab world may be brought forward as explaining the constraints under which President Sadat finds it extremely difficult to maintain some of the flexibility and imagination connected with his visit to Jerusalem. Similarly, the victory of the ideologically more dogmatic Likud in the Israeli elections of 1977 over the more moderate and pragmatic Labor government can be cited as the main reason for the stalemate.

Yet it seems that the major stumbling block for peace in the Middle East at this moment is much more a question of approach than of substance: here the key issue is the methodology adopted by the United States in its quest to further an effective settlement in the Middle East. Because I think this approach is futile and counterproductive, some account of previous American approaches to the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict is necessary. For the major problem in my mind is not what is the final peace settlement in the Middle East going to look like, but how is it going to be achieved. Here I feel all sides are at present on the wrong track.


The strategies employed by the United States in trying to achieve a settlement in the Middle East were completely overhauled on

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