Six decades of outsider-mediated efforts to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian settlement have become neatly cataloged in the annals of diplomatic history by place-names: Rhodes, Lausanne, Geneva, Madrid, Oslo, and Camp David. All have left behind disputed histories of what happened, and none more so than the tortuous off-and-on negotiations from July 2000 to the end of January 2001 usually dubbed Camp David II. (The negotiations leading to the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty have become Camp David I.) The prevailing view in the United States and Israel is that Yasir Arafat backed away from Prime Minister Ehud Barak's generous offer, demonstrating that under his leadership Palestinians would never accept peace with Israel. Swisher, relying on interviews with U.S., Israeli, and Palestinian officials closely involved, has constructed a different story. He presents a poorly organized U.S. negotiating team with a less-than-clear modus operandi and at least a subconscious tilt toward Israel. He depicts Barak as arrogant and devious. The supposedly generous offer has been misrepresented, he argues. So, too, the presumed categorical Palestinian rejection. Challenging the pieties and political correctness of American discourse, Swisher makes a convincing case. This may not be the definitive "truth about Camp David," but it warrants careful attention from all who would learn from the history of negotiations to secure peace in the Holy Land.
Get the best of Foreign Affairs' book reviews delivered to you.