Reaching Agreement

In June of 1967, Israel soundly defeated united armies of Arab nations and occupied territories held by the nations who attacked them. The occupied territories became a continuing source of conflict in the Middle East.

In 1978, the leaders of Israel (Menachem Begin) and Egypt (Anwar Sadat) accepted an invitation from President Jimmy to join him in peace talks at Camp David. It was a high level discussion which was rare in diplomacy in that there were no prearranged areas of agreement. Added to the challenge were the personalities of the participants. Begin was very formal while Sadat was more casual.

After three days of meeting together, President Carter felt that continued meetings in the same room would be a failure. He was concerned that the two leaders would make comments which would make agreement impossible. Carter decided to separate the two leaders and he would become a shuttle facilitator.

President Carter put together a single document which had the most promising possibilities for a peace accord. He met with the leaders separately to get their comments and redraft the document. He was able to soften the areas of disagreement so that the discussions remained focused on what really mattered and not on personalities.

The Camp David Peace Accords were a breakthrough in resolving what was considered intractable differences in the Middle East. The two national leaders who could barely tolerate each other were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. President Carter won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 following a career of peace-making efforts shaped by what he learned at Camp David.

Not all discussions are amicable. While the animosity between Begin and Sadat was largely shaped by centuries of cultural distrust, all of us will need to deal with discussions where the participants are far apart in their perspectives. The Camp David discussions offer some guidance for how we might manage these discussions.

  • Never let the discussions become personal.
  • Utilize a shuttle facilitator to keep the focus on what’s important.
  • Keep the discussion focused on areas of possible agreement by working off of a single “possibilities for agreement” document.
  • Maintain the discussions private without any public commentary throughout the discussions.

Just imagine the courage it took for a US President to undertake such high level discussions personally? Just imagine the forcefulness and the creative ability necessary to bring about agreement when differences are so long lasting. Just imagine how difficult such agreements can become in our current media culture.

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“Unless both sides win, no agreement can be permanent.”  – President Jimmy Carter

How To Use

Useful guides for incorporating messages into discussion.