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Updated: 13 Nov 2020

Camp David Third Party Intervener


This case study shows how a third party intervener can assist two dead locked parties in a negotiation and find a resolution.

There are occasions when negotiating parties cannot see the forest for the trees. They are unable to see past their own goals and interests which prevent them from arriving at a successful negotiated multiparty agreement. These are the instances when a third party intervener can help both parties find a solution to the dilemma that is plaguing their talks that have likely stalled.

The Egyptian and Israeli conflict of the mid 1970’s posed that kind of dilemma. There were also peripheral parties that also posed problems for the negotiators. Syria had grave concerns about the Palestinian issue while Israel had no particular desire to sit down and negotiate with the Palestinian Liberation Organization. Egypt had concerns about the growing influence of the Soviet Union in the Middle East Region. This tangle of opposing interests posed quite a challenge to the negotiators to overcome.

However, extending the olive peace branch in hand, Anwar Sadat made his memorable and historic trip to Jerusalem to hold talks with the Israeli Prime Minister, Menachem Begin. President Sadat said he represented all of the Arab concerns in this matter and stated that he wanted all the Israeli occupied areas to be returned before normal peaceful relations could be established with Israel.

Begin believed that a separate peace with Egypt would offer Israel some stability and a possible military advantage. However the issues were extensive and extremely complicated. It began to appear there was no resolution possible in bringing some stability to the region. However, despite the ongoing talks, the United States and in particular, President Carter and his Secretary of State, Cyrus Vance, saw a possible opportunity to offer their services to act as third party intervener and mediate a resolution.

In the interim, most of Sadat’s Arab allies had abandoned the peace talks leaving Israel and Egypt to pursue their own talks. However, animosity began to build between Sadat and Begin and the whole situation began to look hopeless. President Carter and Cyrus Vance took the initiative and invited both Sadat and Begin to come to Washington separately where they met with both parties to discuss their respective issues, concerns and objectives in the Middle East.

As negotiations went back and forth, it became apparent resolution would not be found on an issue by issue path. The U.S. negotiators, acting as third party interveners, began the process of presenting a resolution package that is often described as ‘single negotiating text’, a device often used in multiparty negotiations. Each text is revised and gradually makes both parties more comfortable with each improvement made, thus allowing the contending parties to slowly find an agreeable alternative multiparty solution.

Finding neutral ground was crucial to this process, so the meetings between Begin and Sadat took place at Camp David in the United States. Eventually, both parties found an effective means to resolve their seemingly insolvable dispute when both Sadat and Begin signed the Camp David Accord. This historic agreement resulted in that poignant moment when both leaders and President Carter shook hands for the entire world to see.

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