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Has Mediation Failed With Syria?


When US president Jimmy Carter brought Egypt's president Anwar Sadat and Israel's Prime Minister Menachem Begin together at camp David in October Protected content , it seemed that Carter, the would be mediator had taken on an impossible task. The conflict over the Sinai Peninsula appeared entirely intractable, since Egypt demanded an immediate return of the entire Sinai; Israel, in turn having occupied the Sinai since the Protected content East war, refused to return a centimeter of this land. Carter's initial efforts to meditate a settlement, proposing a compromise in which each nation would retain half of the Sinai proved completely unacceptable to both sides.

President Carter and his staff persisted, eventually discovering that the seemingly irreconcilable positions of Israel and Egypt reflected underlying interests that were not incompatible at all. Israel's underlying interest was security; She wanted to be certain that its borders would be safe against land or air attack from Egypt. Egypt, in turn, was primarily interested in sovereignty-regaining rule over a piece of land that had been part of Egypt as far back as biblical times.

After thirteen days of hard work, and twenty three draft agreements developed by Assistant Secretary of State Harold Saunders, Carter's persistence as a mediator paid off. Israel agreed to return the Sinai in exchange for assurances of a demilitarized zone and new Israeli air bases. This agreement was put into effect in April Protected content , and continues to the present day.

I refuse to believe that mediation has been defeated in the Syria crisis. What is certain is that Syria has interests she wants to pursue, and so does the United States. Massaging these interests on the table of compromise would be key to avert any military action which always leaves women and children, as well as men in harms way.

Finally, getting involved in a military adventure is very easy-way too easy. But getting un-involved is quite another matter and always has the risk of humiliation and defeat.

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