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Jimmy Carter is underrated as a president. He was the first to make an issue of human rights around the world. He was honest, well-intentioned and caring of the needy. He brought his vision of a just world to the Camp David peace talks, where he cajoled two strong-willed, suspicious leaders to overcome their personal antipathies and those of their people to reach a peace accord that has lasted, with some cracks, for many years.
Lawrence Wright provides a detailed, day-by-day account of the tense moments and the personal conflicts that nevertheless resulted in the peace accord. His account seems balanced and insightful. Minor players like the countries' foreign ministers and the wives are well-drawn--Roslyn Carter especially is a sympathetic figure, her husband's best friend and confidant, an instigator of the talks who struggles to keep her poker face through the temper tantrums, the deadlocks and the ultimate triumphs of the talks.
Overall, this was an important story, well told. And it is a lesson in negotiations, with a keen understanding of the posturing, the changing strategies, the consultations, the use of supporting players and the creative techniques that finally lead to peace.
The narration was strong. Mark Bramhall did a good job differentiating the players and their accents without ever slipping into caricature.
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I quite enjoyed this look behind the scenes of the negotiations that led to the Egypt/Israel peace treaty. Wright has a reputation as a fastidious researcher and chronicler of modern middle eastern geopolitics and he doesn't disappoint here. As they say, the devil is in the details and this couldn't be more true not only of the level of detail provided here but also in the fitful negotiations which resulted in the Camp David accord. Wright interweaves his moment by moment account of the thirteen days of negotiations with backgrounder material on the history of the Arab/Israeli conflict as well as the personalities of Sadat, Begin, Carter, Dayan, Weizmann and others and how the interplay of these played a crucial role in not only achieving the accords but just as interesting for the reader, almost derailing them. Of particular note here is the illuminating role (the much maligned, but recently seen in the literary world in a kinder historical light) Jimmy Carter played not only in facilitating the talks but on numerous occasions, saving them when all appeared lost. The end result is is a gripping (I won't say thrilling; that really isn't Wright's style), almost claustrophobic insiders view of the talks as well as a treatise on the art of negotiation, facilitation, and peace making. Anyone despairing of middle eastern politics today would do well to read this book to understand how seemingly intractable differences can be overcome/set aside in the broader pursuit of peace and the role that peacemakers must play in order to achieve it.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful