chapter  7
10 Pages

Making (almost) the most of a special relationship: US mediation in Camp David II

We have seen, in the statistical analysis in Chapter 4, the general pattern by which biased mediators are associated with peace institutional arrangements, such as power-sharing agreements. One particularly interesting finding is the relationship between government-biased mediators and agreements which include territorial concessions. Biased mediators seem to be associated with agreements that are particularly costly for their side: stipulations concerning the sharing of territory. Why do governments agree to regulate the territorial dimension first and foremost when there is a mediator biased toward their side? The focus in this chapter is on peace agreement stipulations centered on territorial power-sharing. The regulation of territorial power is at the core of the civil war conflict resolution process in state-formation conflicts. Since the basis of internal armed conflicts is fighting over who should control what territory, regulating the territorial aspect is also crucial for bringing armed conflicts to a peaceful end. The institutional arrangements that involve sharing territorial power are therefore essential peace institutions. But how do such peace institutions come about? How can mediators broker peace deals that stipulate alterations of the physical formation of the state or autonomy over a particular region? In this chapter, the connection between biased mediators and territorial regulations in peace agreements is examined. In particular, the relationship between biased mediation and the readiness to give up territorial control is explored in more depth through a case study of the peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine in 2000 and 2001 – the Camp David II negotiations – as well as the Clinton proposals and the subsequent Taba negotiations. This case is selected because it is helps to tease out the mechanisms causing the correlation between governmental territorial concessions and the presence of biased mediators. Under the auspices of US mediation, the Israeli government seemed ready to make substantial and unprecedented territorial concessions. Puzzlingly, although giving up territory can be seen to be very costly, a mediator biased toward the government was involved in the mediation effort where this was on the table. What was the linkage between the third-party mediator (US), who held a special relationship with one side (Israel), and the readiness of that side to make concessions? Camp David II was a “defining event in the history of the Palestinian-Israeli relations and perhaps in that of the Middle East as a whole. It was the first

attempt ever to reach a comprehensive solution to the hundred year conflict” (Shamir and Maddy-Weitzman 2005: 7). This is a crucial case for exploring the relationship between biased mediation and peace institutions. What is particularly interesting with this case is that we can use it to study the causal mechanisms between a government-biased mediator and peace institutions. In particular, we can examine the chain of events that made the government side ready to agree to give up their control of territory. The US was able to convince the Israeli side to make considerable concessions. Thus, under the auspices of American mediation, a power with an explicit and special relationship with Israel, the government agreed to make substantial changes in its position regarding the territorial dimension of the conflict. The debate on Camp David II has been intense and politically loaded. In fact, the analysis of who takes responsibility for the failure of the talks has important political ramifications (Pressman 2003). The events have been analyzed, leading to radically different conclusions, from the perspectives of the mediators (Ross 2004), the Israeli side (Sher 2006) and the Palestinian side (Hanieh 2001). The analysis here is not concerned with who was responsibile for the collapse of the talks (Slater 2001), nor is it trying to assess the quality or techniques of the mediation process, and it does not take a stand on the “fairness” of the proposals and the process. Instead, the focus here is specific and particular: the focus is on the relationship between a biased mediator and the content of the agreements; that is, the readiness of the parties to agree to peace institutions.