Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin, and Sadat at Camp David
By Lawrence Wright
368 pp. Knopf, 2014
The Carter Presidential Library is only a few minutes from downtown Atlanta, yet feels a world away from the bustling metropolitan area. The museum is situated on thirty acres of manicured lawns, colorful flowerbeds and tree-lined walkways. There is a fountain, a duck pond, winding paths, and benches tucked under trees. I visited the museum in the summer of 2015, shortly after I finished reading Lawrence Wright’s Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin, and Sadat at Camp David.
As you wander through the museum, you pass a series of exhibits on everything from the Panama Canal Treaty to the Carter White House’s diplomatic relationship with China. (If you can't make it to Atlanta, you can still take a virtual tour inside the Carter Presidential Museum.) And then, just past a sparkly silver dress of First Lady Rosalynn Carter’s, the blue carpet shifts to a hardwood floor, the passage narrows, and the ambient colors become bright and woodsy. The greens and browns dramatically contrast with a large blue Star of David that takes up much of the left wall. Across from it is the large outline of a rustic cabin. You have entered Camp David.
Photos line the walls of the twisty narrow exhibit, showing the president and first lady with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, their wives, and various aids and advisors—shaking hands, relaxing on a deck in wooden lawn chairs, playing chess, deep in though late at night, walking along wooded paths, and with feet up on coffee tables. They called it “cabin-to-cabin diplomacy.” Despite many obstacles, stand-stills, and disagreements, and several threats of failure, Jimmy Carter’s long-dreamed peace talks between Egypt and Israel succeeded. Although they obviously did not solve all the region’s problems, the tenuous peace signed on 17 September 1978 still holds. It was the first agreement between Israel and an Arab state, and it resulted in Nobel Peace Prizes for Sadat and Begin (but not for Carter).