Jimmy Carter Library

Camp David - The Unfinished Business

When the last issue of Foreign Affairs went to press in late August, few readers can have believed that by early fall Egypt and Israel would be negotiating a peace treaty. The only sure way of predicting the future is to have the power to shape it, and here the actors in the field have a great advantage over even the most learned commentators. The army of pundits and experts that marches in the procession of international affairs is becoming very much like the chorus in Greek tragedy, whose vocation was to express musical consternation at events that it was powerless to control.

Even after Camp David these are precarious times for the commentators. There is no full certainty yet of a new and stable Middle Eastern order, and Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin should make the most of their Nobel laurels while the euphoria persists. Autumn foliage has a bright but fleeting glow. The hard truth is that on the most crucial and complex issue - that of the Palestinians and the West Bank - the Camp David signatories did little more than postpone their confrontation by the kind of semantic dexterity that is quick to wear out.

Yet no amount of prudent reserve can diminish what they have already achieved. Like all negotiated compromises the Camp David agreements have their detractors. But the noisy anguish of the militants on both sides merely enhances the impression that a victory has been won for temperance and equilibrium. Nearly two centuries have passed since Benjamin Franklin said: "I have never known a peace made, even the most advantageous, that was not censured as inadequate, and the makers thereof condemned as injudicious or corrupt."

The Camp David signatories have not escaped this fate. Sadat is censured only by the Arab radicals for whom any peace with Israel, "even the most advantageous," would be total heresy. Begin, on the other hand, comes under converging fire. Some denounce him for having disposed of Sinai -

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