As Hamas and other groups in Gaza continue to launch rockets into Israel, and the Israeli Defense Forces bomb Gaza in turn, it's hard to remember that there have been moments of reconciliation, and promises of peace, between Arabs and Israelis.
American leaders have often taken the lead in these negotiations. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter and Secretary of State Zbigniew Brzezinski helped negotiate the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt. Israel agreed to return the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt in exchange for peace and security. Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat signed the Camp David Accords on March 26, 1979.
Prime Minister Begin proclaimed, "Now it is time for all of us to show civil courage, in order to proclaim to our people and to others: no more war, no more bloodshed, no more bereavement, peace unto you. Shalom, salam, forever." President Sadat spoke similar words: "Let there be no war or bloodshed between Arabs and Israelis. Let there be no more suffering or denial of rights. Let there be no more despair or loss of faith. Let no mother lament the loss of her child."
President Bill Clinton took the lead in negotiating the Oslo Accords between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. President Clinton realized the significance of the occasion. As the leaders gathered to sign the second Oslo agreement, Clinton said: "Today we make a great stride for the fulfillment of a vision toward the day when two peoples divided by generations, by conflict, are bound now by peace. Finally, the time is approaching when there will be safety in Israel's house, when the Palestinian people will write their own destiny, when the clash of arms will be banished from God's Holy Land."
William Quandt served as a staff member on the National Security Council under Presidents Nixon and Carter, and helped negotiate the Camp David Accords. He is now a professor of politics at the University of Virginia.
Robert Malley served as President Clinton's special assistant for Arab-Israeli affairs, and worked in President Clinton's National Security Council during the Oslo Accords. Today, Robert is a program director at the International Crisis Group. William and Robert discuss their experiences with the Arab-Israeli peace process, and what might be necessary for peace negotiations in the Middle East today.
Itamar Rabinovich was the Israeli Ambassador to the United States from 1993 to 1996.