How did Camp David gets its name?

How did Camp David gets its name?

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Located some 60 miles north of Washington, D.C., in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountain Park, Camp David has served as a retreat for U.S. presidents since the early 1940s. Formally called Naval Support Facility Thurmont, the compound originally was referred to as Shangri-La by Franklin Roosevelt, the first chief executive to visit. In the 1950s, President Dwight Eisenhower renamed the retreat Camp David, after his grandson.

Before it became a presidential getaway, the site was a camp for federal employees and their families, starting in the late 1930s. In 1942, during World War II, worries that it was no longer safe for Roosevelt to cruise on the presidential yacht, USS Potomac, led to the secluded camp being turned into a refuge for the commander in chief. The site’s mountain setting also was deemed good for Roosevelt’s health, as it provided some respite from the oppressive summer heat in the nation’s capital. When Eisenhower took office in 1953, he planned to shutter Camp David, believing it an unnecessary “luxury.” However, after visiting the site at the urging of a member of his administration, the president liked it so much he kept it open. He did decide to change the name, though, explaining in a letter to a friend: “’Shangri-La was just a little fancy for a Kansas farm boy.”

Over the decades, American presidents have used Camp David to relax with their families and friends, convene with advisors and host foreign heads of state. The first foreign leader to visit was British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, in 1943 at Roosevelt’s invitation. In 1978 President Jimmy Carter held talks there with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. The resulting Camp David Accords led to a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel the following year.

Today the Camp David compound, which is closed to the public, includes a main house, cabins and such amenities as a swimming pool, putting green, riding trails and skeet-shooting range. Eisenhower was the first Oval Office occupant to commute there by helicopter; the ride takes about half an hour from the White House.

Camp David Accords

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Camp David Accords, agreements between Israel and Egypt signed on September 17, 1978, that led in the following year to a peace treaty between those two countries, the first such treaty between Israel and any of its Arab neighbours. Brokered by U.S. Pres. Jimmy Carter between Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian Pres. Anwar Sadat and officially titled the “Framework for Peace in the Middle East,” the agreements became known as the Camp David Accords because the negotiations took place at the U.S. presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland. Sadat and Begin were awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1978 for their contributions to the agreements.

How did Camp David gets its name? - HISTORY

THURMONT, Md. — Dwayne Snurr, a janitor and lifelong resident of this rural, working-class town 60 miles from the White House, was eating chicken wings in a cafe off Main Street last week when he began chewing over a locally important subject: President Trump's taste in vacations.

"I guess he's got that place down in Florida," Snurr said, referring to Mar-a-Lago, Trump's Palm Beach resort. "When you have a place like that, I have to assume you prefer the beach and nice weather."

Trump's Florida compound and his other gold-laden properties have been top of mind lately in Thurmont, where just a few miles up a winding mountain road presidents have vacationed and cajoled world leaders at Camp David — deep in the woods, in cozy cabins, a total anathema to Trump.

"Camp David is very rustic, it's nice, you'd like it," Trump said in an interview with a European journalist just before taking office. "You know how long you'd like it? For about 30 minutes."

White House officials have not said whether Trump plans to use Camp David or, if not, whether he would close the Navy-run facility, which has about an $8 million annual budget. Although local officials hope he will visit, they have been given no signals he will, raising concern about the financial and symbolic costs of the president's getaway tastes.

Just a month into Trump's presidency, the Secret Service is struggling to protect Mar-a-Lago and his other properties, which don't have built-in security like Camp David. For Thurmont residents, Camp David has been a source of pride, putting the town on the world map, attracting foreign journalists and diplomatic staff with expense accounts.

And historians worry that Trump's preference for more high-profile retreats will mark a decline in Camp David as a symbol of simple American values and deliberative diplomacy. This month, Trump hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Mar-a-Lago, where the two leaders were photographed responding to a North Korean missile test in an ornate dining area at the club.

Rice University historian Douglas Brinkley said, "When you have a president who owns exclusive resorts, it's hard to believe Camp David will be used."

The risk is that, over time, "Camp David will no longer be this great getaway for presidents or a diplomatic hub for important matters," Brinkley said. "It's in a holding pattern right now."

Camp David was originally a New Deal project, a getaway for federal workers and their families. President Franklin D. Roosevelt turned it into a presidential retreat in 1942, choosing the spot for its seclusion and security, although the president's doctor said the mountain air would also help his sinuses.

Roosevelt named the camp Shangri-La after a mythical paradise in the novel Lost Horizon. He hosted Winston Churchill there in 1943. The British leader spent some quality time watching Roosevelt tend to his stamp collection and later described the retreat as "in principle a log cabin, with all modern improvements," according to The President Is at Camp David, W. Dale Nelson's history of the retreat.

Camp David got its lasting name from President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who renamed it after his father and grandson. Eisenhower had great affinity for the retreat. He convalesced there after a heart attack. For a few days in 1959, he hosted Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev for talks. Khrushchev asked to see the bowling alley. They also watched movies.

Like Eisenhower, some presidents came to love Camp David, both as a respite from Washington and a place to entertain allies and sway adversaries. President Ronald Reagan went there more than 150 times, riding his horse and playing host to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. President Harry S. Truman hated it, telling his friends that it was boring.

For President Jimmy Carter, Camp David's seclusion and privacy was a major factor in the peace deal he struck there in 1978 between Egypt and Israel. Without the news media around, there were few leaks and no television cameras to posture in front of. Also, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat wasn't an outdoorsy guy.

"He did not like being left out there in the woods," said William Quandt, a member of Carter's National Security Council and a key figure in what became known as the Camp David Accords. "The claustrophobic feeling there really helped the negotiations. They had to get a deal."

President George H.W. Bush hosted Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev for a round of summit talks, played tennis and zipped around in golf carts. President Bill Clinton hosted a failed summit between Israeli and Palestinian leaders in 2000. President George W. Bush decamped there 149 times, according to statistics kept by CBS News reporter Mark Knoller. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Bush was photographed there with his national security team wearing a fleece naval jacket while looking over maps of Afghanistan.

As history goes, President Barack Obama's use of Camp David could mark a turning point. Although he hosted a Group of Eight summit there, Obama visited the retreat just 39 times. If future presidents skew like Obama or Trump — younger and urbane, or older and rich — Camp David could be used less and less.

"It's so rustic and remote that people used to staying at the Four Seasons really don't find comfort there," Brinkley said. "Obama had Hawaii and Chicago. He liked golf resorts. Trump has Mar-a-Lago. It simply becomes just a property of the U.S. government."

Quandt, the Carter administration official, said the country doesn't need a place such as Camp David to strike major diplomatic deals. Obama reached major accords with Iraq and Cuba without sequestering those country's leaders in the woods.

"There's nothing really magical there about the place, per se," he said. "It's about, do you have the wherewithal? It's not necessarily about where it happens."

But Quandt said it would be concerning if Trump's ostentatious properties become the backdrop for major diplomatic deals or a global symbol of American leisure. "Camp David is more modest and more in line with what ordinary Americans identify with," he said. "A lot of us can imagine going to a place like Camp David, a vacation in the mountains. A lot us cannot imagine going to Mar-a-Lago."

But maybe those "ordinary Americans" can.

Thurmont is Trump Country — conservative, staunchly Republican, American-made. Trump banners still hang on the sides of barns. Local restaurants sell Trump memorabilia. On the way to Camp David, there is a house with a Confederate battle flag flying out front.

So far, Trump can do no wrong in the eyes of voters here — including taking a pass on vacationing near them, giving up the chance to glimpse life in a town, even from a helicopter, where residents voted for him to make America great again.

"It doesn't mean anything if he doesn't come," said Michael Hobbs, co-owner of Hobbs Hardware on East Main Street, a store that's been around since 1942. "It's an outdoor lifestyle there. People relate to different things. That's okay."

Hobbs also stipulated that if he had a couple billion dollars, "I wouldn't be up in the woods, either."

In some ways, not taking offense mirrors some of the cognitive dissonance that unfolded during Trump's campaign, when he appealed to voters in towns like Thurmont with a populist, workingman message, even if it was delivered by a candidate given to decorating his residences in gold.

"I don't think there's some kind of disconnect if he doesn't come here," Thurmont Mayor John Kinnaird said. "I don't take that as some kind of brushoff."

Asking about Trump's election rival Hillary Clinton, in almost any fashion, draws a somewhat critical response or laughter from many around town before a quick patriotic course correction in rhetoric.

"I think people would resent it if she came up," said longtime Frederick County (Maryland) Sheriff Chuck Jenkins, who trounced a Democrat who challenged him three years ago. "But to be honest, we treat anyone who goes there with respect. It doesn't matter."

Even as Trump made the third trip of his presidency to Mar-a-Lago over the holiday weekend, residents and town officials refuse to concede that Trump will pass them by.

Soon enough, they say, he will want to take a quick helicopter ride to escape the White House and walk in the woods with Melania.

He will have a financial reason to show up - the mounting security bills at his other getaways.

They even compare him (quietly) to President John F. Kennedy, noting that the young president and his wife, Jacqueline, initially preferred Camelot's other locales before coming to savor the nearby tranquility of the cabins in the woods.

"He's going to figure out it's a great getaway," Jenkins said. "It's a mountaintop retreat - walking paths, in a wooded area, totally peaceful. It's unbelievable. If I was in the White House, that would be my White House."


Carter Initiative

Carter's and Secretary of State Cyrus Vance's exploratory meetings gave a basic plan for reinvigorating the peace process based on a Geneva Peace Conference and had presented three main objectives for Arab–Israeli peace: Arab recognition of Israel's right to exist in peace, Israel's withdrawal from occupied territories gained in the Six-Day War through negotiating efforts with neighboring Arab nations to ensure that Israel's security would not be threatened and securing an undivided Jerusalem. [3]

The Camp David Accords were the result of 14 months of diplomatic efforts by Egypt, Israel, and the United States that began after Jimmy Carter became President. [4] The efforts initially focused on a comprehensive resolution of disputes between Israel and the Arab countries, gradually evolving into a search for a bilateral agreement between Israel and Egypt. [5]

Upon assuming office on 20 January 1977, President Carter moved to rejuvenate the Middle East peace process that had stalled throughout the 1976 presidential campaign in the United States. Following the advice of a Brookings Institution report, Carter opted to replace the incremental, bilateral peace talks which had characterized Henry Kissinger's shuttle diplomacy following the 1973 Yom Kippur War with a comprehensive, multilateral approach. The Yom Kippur War further complicated efforts to achieve the objectives written in United Nations Security Council Resolution 242.

Israel's Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and his successor, Menachem Begin, were both skeptical of an international conference. [4] While Begin, who took office in May 1977, officially favored the reconvening of the conference, perhaps even more vocally than Rabin, and even accepted the Palestinian presence, in actuality the Israelis and the Egyptians were secretly formulating a framework for bilateral talks. Even earlier, Begin had not been opposed to returning the Sinai, but a major future obstacle was his firm refusal to consider relinquishing control over the West Bank. [6]

Participating parties

Carter visited the heads of state on whom he would have to rely to make any peace agreement feasible. By the end of his first year in office, he had already met with Anwar El Sadat of Egypt, King Hussein of Jordan, Hafez al-Assad of Syria, and Yitzhak Rabin of Israel. Despite the fact that he supported Sadat's peace initiative, King Hussein refused to take part in the peace talks Begin offered Jordan little to gain and Hussein also feared he would isolate Jordan from the Arab world and provoke Syria and the PLO if he engaged in the peace talks as well. [7] Hafez al-Assad, who had no interest in negotiating peace with Israel, [8] also refused to come to the United States and only agreed to meet with Carter in Geneva.

Sadat Initiative

Sadat first spoke about the possibility of peace with Israel in February 1971 and Egypt was the initiator of many moves in the 1970s. [1] On 9 November 1977, he startled the world by announcing his intention to go to Jerusalem and speak before the Knesset. Shortly afterward, the Israeli government cordially invited him to address the Knesset in a message passed to Sadat via the US ambassador to Egypt. Ten days after his speech, Sadat arrived for the groundbreaking three-day visit, which launched the first peace process between Israel and an Arab state. As would be the case with later Israeli–Arab peace initiatives, Washington was taken by surprise the White House and State Department were particularly concerned that Sadat was merely reaching out to reacquire Sinai as quickly as possible, putting aside the Palestinian problem. Considered as a man with strong political convictions who kept his eye on the main objective, Sadat had no ideological base, which made him politically inconsistent. [9] The Sadat visit came about after he delivered a speech in Egypt stating that he would travel anywhere, "even Jerusalem," to discuss peace. [10] That speech led the Begin government to declare that, if Israel thought that Sadat would accept an invitation, Israel would invite him. In Sadat's Knesset speech he talked about his views on peace, the status of Israel's occupied territories, and the Palestinian refugee problem. This tactic went against the intentions of both the West and the East, which were to revive the Geneva Conference.

The gesture stemmed from an eagerness to enlist the help of the NATO countries in improving the ailing Egyptian economy, a belief that Egypt should begin to focus more on its own interests than on the interests of the Arab world, and a hope that an agreement with Israel would catalyze similar agreements between Israel and her other Arab neighbors and help solve the Palestinian problem. Prime Minister Begin's response to Sadat's initiative, though not what Sadat or Carter had hoped, demonstrated a willingness to engage the Egyptian leader. Like Sadat, Begin also saw many reasons why bilateral talks would be in his country's best interests. It would afford Israel the opportunity to negotiate only with Egypt instead of with a larger Arab delegation that might try to use its size to make unwelcome or unacceptable demands. Israel felt Egypt could help protect Israel from other Arabs and Eastern communists. In addition, the commencement of direct negotiations between leaders – summit diplomacy – would distinguish Egypt from her Arab neighbors. Carter's people apparently had no inkling of the secret talks in Morocco between Dayan and Sadat's representative, Hassan Tuhami, that paved the way for Sadat's initiative. Indeed, in a sense Egypt and Israel were ganging up to push Carter off his Geneva track. The basic message of Sadat's speech at the Knesset were the request for the implementation of Resolutions 242 and 338. Sadat's visit was the first step to negotiations such as the preliminary Cairo Conference in December 1977. [ citation needed ]

A mechanism had yet to be created for Israel and Egypt to pursue the talks begun by Sadat and Begin in Jerusalem. [11] The Egyptian president suggested to Begin that Israel place a secret representative in the American embassy in Cairo. With American "cover," the true identity of the Israeli, who would liaise between the Egyptian and Israeli leaders, would be known only to the American ambassador in Cairo. [11]

Carter's acceptance of the proposed liaison scheme would have signaled American backing for Sadat's unprecedented peace initiative. But Carter said no. However, Carter could not thwart the Israeli-Egyptian peace push. Within days Israeli journalists were allowed into Cairo, breaking a symbolic barrier, and from there the peace process quickly gained momentum. An Israeli-Egyptian working summit was scheduled for 25 December in Ismailiya, near the Suez Canal. [12]

Accompanied by their capable negotiating teams and with their respective interests in mind, both leaders converged on Camp David for 13 days of tense and dramatic negotiations from 5 to 17 September 1978.

Carter's advisers insisted on the establishment of an Egyptian-Israeli agreement which would lead to an eventual solution to the Palestine issue. They believed in a short, loose, and overt linkage between the two countries amplified by the establishment of a coherent basis for a settlement. However, Carter felt they were not "aiming high enough" and was interested in the establishment of a written "land for peace" agreement with Israel returning the Sinai Peninsula and West Bank. [13] Numerous times both the Egyptian and Israeli leaders wanted to scrap negotiations, only to be lured back into the process by personal appeals from Carter.

Begin and Sadat had such mutual antipathy toward one another that they only seldom had direct contact thus Carter had to conduct his own microcosmic form of shuttle diplomacy by holding one-on-one meetings with either Sadat or Begin in one cabin, then returning to the cabin of the third party to relay the substance of his discussions. Begin and Sadat were "literally not on speaking terms," and "claustrophobia was setting in." [ This quote needs a citation ]

A particularly difficult situation arose on the tenth stalemated day of the talks. The issues of Israeli settlement withdrawal from the Sinai and the status of the West Bank created what seemed to be an impasse. In response, Carter had the choice of trying to salvage the agreement by conceding the issue of the West Bank to Begin, while advocating Sadat's less controversial position on the removal of all settlements from the Sinai Peninsula. Or he could have refused to continue the talks, reported the reasons for their failure, and allowed Begin to bear the brunt of the blame.

Carter chose to continue and for three more days negotiated. During this time, Carter even took the two leaders to the nearby Gettysburg National Military Park in the hopes of using the American Civil War as a simile to their own struggle. [14]

Consequently, the 13 days marking the Camp David Accords were considered a success. Partly due to Carter's determination in obtaining an Israeli–Egyptian agreement, a full two-week pledge to a singular international problem. Additionally, Carter was beneficiary to a fully pledged American foreign team. Likewise, the Israeli delegation had a stable of excellent talent in Ministers Dayan and Weizman and legal experts Dr. Meir Rosenne and Aharon Barak. Furthermore, the absence of the media contributed to the Accord's successes: there were no possibilities provided to either leader to reassure his political body or be driven to conclusions by members of his opposition. An eventual scrap of negotiations by either leader would have proven disastrous, resulting in taking the blame for the summit's failure as well as a disassociation from the White House. Ultimately, neither Begin nor Sadat was willing to risk those eventualities. Both of them had invested enormous amounts of political capital and time to reach an agreement. [15]

The Controversy Behind Trump's Reluctance to Visit Camp David, the Historic Presidential Retreat

Camp David has served as a fortress of solace for the First Family and as a home to groundbreaking international accords for over seven generations. Since his election, President Trump has been just twice.

For Ronald Reagan, the Camp David presidential retreat was a refuge, a secluded enclave that offered the first family &ldquoa sense of liberation&rdquo far from the Washington spotlight. Franklin Delano Roosevelt called it his Shangri-La. But for Donald Trump&mdashwell, it&rsquos no Bedminster, New Jersey.

In yet another break with the traditions of his immediate predecessors, Trump waited five months before heading to the rustic presidential retreat in Maryland for a quick getaway. And as the summer weekends wore on, the verdant, storied site was&mdashother than a trip for a meeting in late August &mdashgenerally devoid of first family members, as the Trumps opted for time at their own luxe properties.

Presidents get to live their private lives the way they want to live their private lives. You can&rsquot put a requirement on a president to use Camp David.

To close observers of the president, whose tastes were forged in the ritzy world of Manhattan real estate, that&rsquos hardly a surprise. &ldquoIt&rsquos a military base, not a five-star hotel,&rdquo says Ari Fleischer, who, as White House press secretary to President George W. Bush, spent significant time at Camp David. (The camp&rsquos official name is Naval Support Facility Thurmont.)

&ldquoIt&rsquos a phenomenal, beautiful piece of greenery. It&rsquos spacious, it&rsquos open, it&rsquos rural, but there are no marble cabinets or granite countertops. By government standards, it&rsquos luxurious by five-star-hotel standards, that&rsquos not what it is. So I suppose President Trump&rsquos tastes run more toward, obviously, Trump hotels, Trump properties, their more modern luxuries.&rdquo

Trump has reportedly snarked that the White House is a &ldquodump&rdquo (a report he denies, calling it &ldquofake news&rdquo). And prior to his June trip he was even more open about his skepticism of Camp David. &ldquoIt&rsquos nice. You&rsquod like it,&rdquo he told a reporter before he was sworn in. &ldquoYou know how long you&rsquod like it? For about 30 minutes.&rdquo

The verdict after his initial excursion was that &ldquoCamp David is a very special place,&rdquo and that it was &ldquoan honor to have spent the weekend there.&rdquo But Trump spent many of his subsequent summer weekends&mdashand what he termed his August &ldquoworking vacation&rdquo&mdashat his Bedminster golf club instead.

&ldquoPresidents get to live their private lives the way they want to live their private lives. You can&rsquot put a requirement on a president to use Camp David,&rdquo says Anita McBride, who, as first lady Laura Bush&rsquos chief of staff, visited the compound several times. But, McBride continues, speaking more broadly of the retreat, &ldquothis really is an opportunity. It&rsquos sort of a gift to the presidency to have this available for recreation and work, and it has also been the backdrop of important moments in our history.&rdquo

Camp David was where a framework for a peace accord between Israel and Egypt was brokered in 1978, and where George W. Bush had meetings with his war council in the days and months after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Roosevelt, who was the first inhabitant of the White House to use the site as a presidential retreat, spent time with British prime minister Winston Churchill there in the throes of World War II, and Dwight D. Eisenhower met with Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev at Camp David in the following decade.

The biggest piece of advice Michelle Obama received from former first ladies, she said early in her husband&rsquos first term, was to make good use of Camp David.

&ldquoThe most unexpected and uniform advice that I got was &lsquoGo to Camp David early and often&rsquo&mdashuniversally, across the spectrum,&rdquo she told Time. &ldquoI think every single first lady believed that it was an important resource, an important opportunity, an important thing for the health of the family. And some found it later in their terms than others, because you get so busy.&rdquo

Roosevelt&rsquos Shangri-La, which was later renamed Camp David for Eisenhower&rsquos grandson, always maintains a military presence, even in the president&rsquos absence. &ldquoWhen guests are not present, it&rsquos all about maintenance and upkeep, the way you do with your house when you have guests come in for the weekend,&rdquo says Michael Giorgione, who served as commander of Camp David under presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Giorgione is the author of the upcoming book Inside Camp David: The Private World of the Presidential Retreat. The maintenance, he says, is &ldquodone by the sailors of the camp, and the marines are involved principally for security.&rdquo

Located in Maryland&rsquos Catoctin Mountain Park, the camp, which costs a reported $8 million annually to maintain, is a sprawling compound dotted with cabins for the first family and visitors. There is a chapel and a pool, a bowling alley and a skeet-shooting range, and the staff stationed at Camp David is responsible for ensuring that all those facilities are prepared for even unexpected presidential appearances.

When presidents go long stretches without making the journey to Camp David, Giorgione says, that can take a toll on morale. &ldquoThere was a five-month stretch between visits,&rdquo he recalls of one period during his tenure on site. &ldquoThat&rsquos a lot of time for the crew to be ready but not execute their mission.&rdquo

But, he stresses, &ldquoI had morale issues when no one visited and morale issues when they visited all the time. It doesn&rsquot depend on the president, it depends on the rhythm&hellip I&rsquom not telling the president how to use his Camp David, but&hellipone to two times a month is a nice rhythm for everyone.&rdquo

The White House didn&rsquot respond to questions about why the Trumps haven&rsquot visited more often yet, whether they have plans to return, or if the staff would be permitted to use the retreat when the Trumps are not in attendance, as other presidents have allowed.

The Trump lifestyle is luxurious. It looks exciting and kind of inaccessible, but they themselves, as people, don&rsquot look inaccessible.

Trump is not the only president to skimp on Camp David visits Harry Truman and Gerald Ford rarely visited, according to the National Park Service. But for the presidents who did, their stays provided an opportunity to demonstrate to the world their vigor in the great outdoors&mdashwitness the many photos of Ronald Reagan on horseback, or W. jogging among the pine trees, or Obama skeet-shooting. Trips to Camp David, whether the purpose was business or family time, have always had the positive side effect of showing off a vitality and earthiness that Americans have come to associate with their presidents.

Trump, however, has never much enjoyed exercise, apart from golf (often facilitated by a golf cart), and he has his doubts about the benefits of physical activity. &lsquo&lsquoAll my friends who work out all the time, they&rsquore going for knee replacements, hip replacements&mdashthey&rsquore a disaster,&rsquo&rsquo he told the New York Times in 2015.

There is a driving range and a single golf hole at Camp David, should Trump decide to spend more time there. But for now his preference is clearly for the lush links at Trump National in Bedminster, where membership costs hundreds of thousands of dollars and nearby estates go for many millions.

It&rsquos a world away from places like Stark County, Ohio&mdashone of the working class&ndashheavy areas that helped propel Trump to the presidency. But Republican operatives insist that his supporters don&rsquot find the president&rsquos displays of wealth troubling at all, even if scenes of hunting and fishing at Camp David might be more relatable. Those voters already knew him as a businessman who could afford his expensive tastes&mdashand that, in part, is what attracted them to him.

The Trump lifestyle &ldquois luxurious. It looks exciting and kind of inaccessible, but they themselves, as people, don&rsquot look inaccessible,&rdquo says a Republican official whose group is involved in the midterm elections. &ldquoThose kinds of places and vacations might be out of reach for ordinary Americans, but they don&rsquot fault Trump for his wealth.&rdquo

Although he knows firsthand the joys of Camp David, Fleischer doesn&rsquot ultimately blame the president for choosing somewhere other than Maryland to decompress. &ldquoWhat&rsquos important is that presidents be able to unwind, get away from the pressures of the job,&rdquo says the former press secretary, who also knows firsthand the stresses of the White House. &ldquoThey should do so however they choose.&rdquo

This story was originally published in the October 2017 issue of Town & Country.

Historic Camp Misty Mount

Sun Rays Piercing Through Mist and Trees at Camp Misty Mount

NPS Photo - Thomas Zygmunt

Historic photo of Girl Scouts raising American flag at Camp Misty Mount

The prosperity of the Roaring Twenties was over. The stock market crash of 1929 crippled Wall Street Fifth Avenue and Rodeo Drive were empty, save for the breadlines. Drought and high winds turned the once fertile Great Plains into a barren wasteland. One out of four is unemployed. What is needed most is hope, growth and recreation. Yes, recreation. This is the story of how a small plot of land helped put a nation back to work, gave it hope and a place to recreate itself. This is the story of Camp Misty Mount and how it helped in saving the nation.

In spring 1930, it was unusually hot and dry and crops suffered. Beginning on May 4 th , and for the following four days, a fire ravaged several thousand acres near Fishing Creek and northward. An extended drought continued into August and September, decimating entire crops. A plan was needed. With the Great Depression weighing heavily on society, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had just such a plan with his New Deal programs. Across the country, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Works Progress Administration (WPA) provided training, skill development and employment for hundreds of thousands of people and were responsible for many social and infrastructure improvement projects. Catoctin Mountain Recreational Demonstration Area was just such a project and Camp Misty Mount was the first cabin camp built to develop a park from land that was deemed no longer productive for agriculture.

Chestnut Cabins At Camp Misty Mount

Local materials were used in the construction of the cabins and lodges. American chestnut, known for its beauty and durability was plentiful at the time due to the blight still affecting the species today. So many trees had already fallen as a result of the American Chestnut blight that additional cutting of live trees was largely unnecessary. American chestnut has a very slow decay rate which not only made the wood collected for the cabins and lodges still useable but is also responsible for the longevity of the camp structures. Local stone was used for foundations, walls, steps, chimneys and fireplaces.

Camp Misty Mount was completed by the WPA in Spring of 1937 at a cost of $5,843. Covering 30 acres within the Catoctin Recreational Demonstration Area, it was the first of three group camps completed to help people from the cities of Baltimore, Maryland and Washington D.C. experience a mountain environment. On June 25, 1937, an open house was held by project officials to show off the camp to visitors. Sixty-four campers from The Maryland League for Crippled Children in Baltimore arrived on July 1 st and were the first campers to experience Camp Misty Mount.

Girl Scouts at Camp Misty Mount with Superintendent Frank Mentzer in 1968.

In 1938, after the Maryland League for Crippled Children moved to Camp Greentop, the Salvation Army leased Camp Misty Mount that summer and for the following four seasons. So, how did Camp Misty Mount get its name? It is said that Mrs. Lt. Col. Harold Stout, the first camp director for the Salvation Army and whose cabin faced the mountains, noted how every morning when she awoke and went to the window, heavy mist covered the mountain top. From that point forward, she referred to it as Camp Misty Mount and the name stuck.

December 7, 1941. The bombing of Pearl Harbor brings World War II to the United States and the Catoctin RDA. Camp Misty Mount was winterized in 1942 for use by the United States military while conducting year-round training. Marines bunked at Camp Misty Mount between 1942 and 1945 while serving as protection for the presidential retreat at another location in the park.

In later years, Camp Misty Mount was used for recreation and outdoor education by Washington County Public Schools from 1961 until 1978, and by the Boy and Girl Scouts.

Much of the rich history of the Catoctin Recreation Demonstration Area remains to this day. Camp Misty Mount, recognized as an historic district, has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1989. It is preserved for you to enjoy and use today although climate change is threatening future use. Individuals and groups may experience history first hand by staying overnight in a cabin built with hope to restore a nation. The old growth forest may be gone but with careful stewardship and dedication, the second growth forest will continue to thrive.

How did Camp David gets its name? - HISTORY

Frederick County, near the center of Catoctin Mountain Park, whose main entrance is about 3 miles west of Thurmont.

Since the time of Franklin D. Roosevelt, when it was known as "Shangri-la," this isolated camp in the hills of western Maryland has served as an official Presidential retreat and has often been the site of conferences and decisions of national and international significance. Heavily guarded, it may not be visited by the public.

In March 1942 President Roosevelt directed the National Park Service to investigate locations reasonably close to the Washington area for use as a Presidential retreat. One of his reasons for desiring to establish it was the wartime necessity to remain close to the Capital at all times and to limit visits to his home at Hyde Park, N.Y. Also, for security reasons, naval officials had recommended that he discontinue weekend use of the Presidential yacht, the U.S.S. Potomac. Because of his aversion to air conditioning and the oppressive summer heat and humidity of Washington, his medical advisers recommended that he seek respite in a nearby region of high altitude.

Dwight D. Eisenhower's oil painting of one of the cottages at Camp David. (Oil, undated, by Dwight D. Eisenhower, David H. Marx, Shrewsbury, N.J.)

After studying several locations, the National Park Service selected three tentative sites: one in Shenandoah National Park, in Virginia, and the other two in the Catoctin Recreational Demonstration Area, in Maryland. The President chose one of the latter two sites, known as Camp Number Three or Camp Hi-Catoctin. By using the existing buildings there, the retreat could be completed in the shortest possible time and at minimum cost. The camp also occupied a perfect location, atop Catoctin Mountain at an altitude of about 1,700 feet above sea level experienced a consistently lower temperature than Washington and was only about 70 miles, or a 2-hour drive, from the White House. The camp was one of three units the Federal Government had constructed between 1936 and 1939 as part of an experiment to establish public recreation facilities out of industrially depleted and worn-out lands. Although portions of the area had been opened to the public in 1937, the events leading up to World War II had ended the project prematurely.

In April 1942 Roosevelt visited the camp and chose as its nucleus and his personal residence an existing cabin, a one-room frame structure with a huge stone fireplace, an open porch, and an outside kitchen. Rebuilt by local laborers and the crew of the U.S.S. Potomac, which was transferred to the retreat in June, the completed structure, or lodge, contained a living-dining room, probably the original room an enlarged, screened-in porch a bedroom wing to the south and a kitchen wing to the north. The exterior was constructed of local stone and hardwood the interior, mainly of commercially obtained materials. A special feature of the lodge was a hinged wall that could be used as an emergency exit ramp for the crippled President. Furnishings consisted of various items from the White House attic and Navy storage. Above the main entrance of the lodge, which looked out over a small, trout-stocked pond, workmen hung the Presidential seal.

Laborers also assembled a communications building out of three existing cabins combined two others to form a guest lodge altered another structure for use as servants' sleeping quarters and constructed a log gatehouse to guard the access road. Landscaping included selective removal of trees and shrubbery to accommodate the eastward view additional planting in the vicinity of the main lodge some clearing to aid in construction and the obliteration of old service roads. Labor in the swimming pool area involved landscaping, road improvement, and the erection of a frame platform and tent for use as a dressing room. Utility work included the installation of water, power, and telephone lines and an underground intercommunication system.

On July 5 the President inspected the retreat, which he had named "Shangri-la" in April. The secluded mountaintop setting of James Hilton's novel Lost Horizon, it had also been the code name for the secret starting point of James Doolittle's raid over Tokyo on April 18. Among the names Roosevelt applied to individual buildings were "The Bear's Den" (the main lodge), "The Soap Dish" (the laundry), "The Baker Street Urchins" (Secret Service building), and "Little Luzon" (Philippine stewards' cabin). Before his death in April 1945, he visited "Shangri-la" 22 more times. The most distinguished guests he entertained there were Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Great Britain on two occasions and the British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden.

Roosevelt's successor, Harry S Truman, used the retreat only a few times. President Eisenhower, however, was a frequent visitor and renamed it Camp David in honor of his grandson. He also redesignated the main lodge as "Aspen." The Eisenhowers not only repaired, repainted, and refurnished most of the cabins, but they also added a large flagstone terrace and picnic and outdoor cooking facility in the area of the main lodge. The President also installed a golf green and several tees. Because they owned a farm near Gettysburg, Pa., only 20 miles to the north, the Eisenhowers found the retreat to be convenient, especially while they were erecting a residence at the farm. Their most famous guest, in 1959, was Premier Nikita Khrushchev of the Soviet Union.

Presidents Kennedy and Johnson rarely utilized Camp David, though in 1965 the latter conferred there with Lester Pearson, Prime Minister of Canada. It was President Nixon's favorite retreat when he was in Washington, not only for relaxing and meeting with foreign dignitaries, but also for working. President Ford seldom visited the retreat.

Extensive modernization of the facilities at the camp has occurred since Roosevelt's time, including installation of a helicopter pad, new figure-eight swimming pool, bowling alley, and skeet shooting range. There are now 11 residence cabins, including the main lodge, which is presently called "Laurel." The President utilizes a three-room cottage, named "Birch," as an office.

In 1954 the Federal Government created Catoctin Mountain Park, which surrounds Camp David, out of almost 6,000 acres of the old Catoctin Recreational Demonstration Area. The remainder of the area was transferred to the State of Maryland, which now operates it as Cunningham Falls State Park. Catoctin Mountain Park is primarily a wilderness and public recreational area that provides nature and hiking trails and picnicking and camping facilities.

Camp David's infrequent visitor

Camp David has been an alluring retreat for presidents since Franklin Roosevelt, its lush hills and secluded trails miles from the Beltway bubble and the prying eyes of the press.

But as President Barack Obama enters his third summer at the White House, he hasn’t embraced the rustic getaway the same way as many of his predecessors.

The president, a BlackBerry guy who prefers being on the grid to being on a nature trail, has made a habit of skipping weekend trips to Camp David. His day-and-a-half-long visit to the retreat June 10-12 was his first trip there since October, and he hasn’t invited any world leaders or lawmakers to the wooded hideaway in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountains.

During his presidency, Obama has made 17 visits to Camp David, spanning all or part of 39 days, according to Mark Knoller, the veteran CBS White House correspondent who keeps detailed records of presidential travels. At this point in George W. Bush’s presidency, by comparison, he had made 62 visits spanning 189 days in total, Knoller said.

Last October, Obama invited his Cabinet secretaries and their families to Camp David. A year earlier, Oprah Winfrey joined the Obamas there for a quiet weekend. But for the most part, his sporadic retreats are family affairs.

“It is a place where the daily appointment schedule doesn’t exist unless you want it to,” said Lawrence Knutson, a former Associated Press reporter and author of “Escaping the Gilded Cage: An Illustrated History of Presidential Vacations and Retreats.”

Those close to Obama say the president — who owns a home in Chicago — is more of an “urban guy,” who prefers hitting the basketball court and the golf course on weekends to blow off steam. On a sunny Sunday afternoon, upon returning from Camp David on his most recent trip, Obama headed straight for the links. And while Camp David includes a movie theater, bowling alley, swimming pool and endless biking and hiking trails, Obama prefers to stick close to the White House when he’s not on vacation.

A senior White House official called Camp David a “tremendous resource” and said the president “enjoys” his time there but that he’s “a city guy and loves the heartbeat of a city.” That sentiment echoes a New York Times Magazine story last year that said Michelle Obama has told dinner guests her husband “does not care for it all that much.”

Still, Obama seems to realize he hasn’t logged many hours at the retreat. After a Democratic drubbing in the 2010 midterm elections that Obama described as a “shellacking,” he promised to hold regular meetings with lawmakers, “including at Camp David.”

“Harry Reid mentioned that he’s been in Congress 28 years [and that] he’s never been to Camp David,” Obama told reporters. “And so I told him, ‘Well, we’re going to have to get them all up there sometime soon.’”

Seven months later, the trip hasn’t happened. Reid’s communications director, Jon Summers, said the Senate majority leader is “still looking forward to taking up the president on his offer to visit Camp David.”

Obama isn’t the first president who hasn’t completely taken to the hideaway. Harry Truman “didn’t like it all that much because he found it too isolating,” Knutson said.

Bill Clinton didn’t frequent the spot until his second term — after his daughter, Chelsea, went away to college, said Joe Lockhart, who served as the former president’s White House press secretary.

Bush was a Camp David regular, “an outdoors guy” who liked its “informal environment,” said Tony Fratto, Bush’s White House deputy press secretary.

Bush routinely invited world leaders such as French President Nicolas Sarkozy and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair the Bushes and the Blairs took in a showing of “Meet the Parents” there. Bush also spent his Christmases at Camp David.

“He really appreciated the ability to spend time with members of his administration in a more relaxed setting in an effort to get to know them better,” Fratto said.

Fratto said when Bush couldn’t be at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, Camp David — where the president would bike — was “the next best thing.”

“When you’re at the White House, it’s really hard to psychologically escape,” he said. “Camp David provided a secluded place where he could work in his jeans and cowboy boots.”

Two Weeks at Camp David

Sixty-two miles northwest of the White House, not far from the bloodied soil of the Antietam and Gettysburg battlefields, lies a rocky hilltop shaded by oaks, poplars, hickory and ash. This 125-acre site in the Catoctin Mountains of northern Maryland, federal property since 1936, became a presidential retreat in 1942 under Franklin D. Roosevelt. He called it Shangri-La. The first foreign leader to visit was Winston Churchill, who in 1943 not only met with FDR and planned the Normandy invasion but also went fishing with him and, according to local lore, dropped in at a café in the nearby village of Thurmont, Maryland, for a beer and a jukebox tune. Truman made the cabins usable year-round by adding heat. Eisenhower renamed the place for his grandson, David, and installed a three-hole golf course. Kennedy put in a bridle trail and stable. Nixon added several guest lodges.

Then, 25 years ago this month, Camp David became the setting for an unprecedented episode of American diplomacy—and entered the lexicon as a near synonym for high-level peacemaking—when Jimmy Carter, Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian president Anwar El-Sadat gathered there for a tense and grueling 13 days. Of course, the United States had previously been the host of international peace conferences. In 1905, Theodore Roosevelt had mediated a settlement of the Russo-Japanese War, closeting diplomats from both sides in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, until they reached an agreement. But the Camp David summit was the first time a president met personally with foreign leaders on U.S. soil for the purpose of brokering peace between rival nations.

I was a young reporter in Washington at the time of the summit, covering diplomacy for the Associated Press. Recently, as the summit's anniversary approached, I surveyed the history and interviewed many of the surviving principals. What I learned left me with an enhanced appreciation of the difficulty of crafting peace in the Middle East generally and of the feat that Carter, Begin and Sadat finally achieved.

In the summer of 1978, the prospects for an Arab-Israeli settlement looked bleak. Sadat had journeyed to Jerusalem in November 1977 and pronounced his willingness to make peace. But the apparent breakthrough had proved chimerical. Sadat and Begin had failed utterly to reach agreement on the two major issues between them: the disposition of the Sinai Peninsula, which Israel had taken from Egypt in the Six-Day War of 1967 and Sadat wanted back, and the future of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, both occupied by Israel since 1967. Sadat believed that Gaza and the West Bank belonged to the Palestinians. Begin always referred to those lands by their Biblical names, Judea and Samaria, and insisted that God had given them to the Jews.

In July 1978, Carter met with his national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, to assess the problem. Brzezinski and Carter feared that a stalemate could degenerate into renewed warfare and believed that presidential mediation could overcome the history of bad personal chemistry between Begin and Sadat. "Who specifically popped up with the idea [of a Camp David summit] I am not prepared to argue," Brzezinski told me recently. "It was one of those conversations where there was a kind of spontaneous interaction."

Sadat, then 59, was the son of a minor Egyptian civil servant and a Sudanese mother. He had been a fervent Egyptian nationalist, and as a youth he had expressed admiration for Hitler and Gandhi alike, seeing both as leaders trying to rescue their people from British oppression. Sadat, trained as a military officer, had spent time in Cairo prisons for conspiring with German intelligence agents against the British during World War II. He once acknowledged being involved in an act of terrorism, the assassination of an Egyptian politician who had favored continuing ties with Britain.

Sadat was also personally fastidious, and loved tailored clothing and expensive shoes. His writings are sprinkled with references to suits he had bought or coats that poverty had forced him to sell. At the age of 31, he placed an ad in a Cairo publication offering his services as an actor: "I go in for comic acting and I am ready to play any role in the theater or cinema." The ad failed he rejoined the army in 1950. When his friend Col. Gamel Abdel Nasser launched a coup d'état in 1952, Sadat almost missed it. He was at the movies.

Sadat became one of Nasser's propagandists, then vice president. He rose to power after Nasser's unexpected death at age 52 in 1970. Once in command, Sadat displayed a tendency for taking risks. In 1973, he initiated war with Israel and regained the east side of the Suez Canal. In 1972, he expelled Soviet advisers from Egypt, signaling his desire to align himself with the West. And in 1977, he went to Jerusalem.

That gambit made Sadat an international news media darling, and he gave more than 100 interviews about his desire for peace. Only cynics noted that the move was not entirely altruistic. Earlier that year, riots shook Cairo after Sadat's government removed commodity subsidies, which caused consumer prices to jump. The army quelled the riots, but there were concerns that the military might turn against Sadat because Egypt's forces were in sharp decline following the withdrawal of Soviet support. Sadat needed a new patron, a new source of economic and military aid. To become an American client, he needed to offer peace to Israel.

Whatever his motives, Sadat had great charm. Brzezinski recalls him as "warm, gracious, even ingratiating." Carter said in a recent telephone interview that of all the foreign leaders he dealt with, Sadat was his favorite.

Begin's credentials as a peacemaker were as improbable as Sadat's. He was born in 1913 in the Polish city of Brest-Litovsk, then part of the Russian Empire. In later years he would say that his first memory was of a Polish soldier beating a Jew. Thin and frail, Begin studied law in Warsaw. But he never practiced. He was a disciple of Revisionist Zionism, a movement that advocated establishing a Jewish state immediately and not leaving the decision up to Britain, which, in 1922, had been given a mandate by the League of Nations to oversee Palestine. The Zionist faction favored establishing the state either by settling an overwhelming number of Jews in Palestine or taking it by force.

In World War II, Begin reached Palestine as a soldier in a Polish Army detachment. His parents, a brother and other relatives all perished in the Holocaust. Begin was haunted by their memories. "The sighs of the condemned press in from afar and interrupt one's slumber," he once wrote, adding: "In these inescapable moments, every Jew in the country feels unwell because he is well."

Begin became the leader of a Jewish guerrilla group called Irgun Zvai Leumi. In 1944, he ordered the bombing of Jerusalem's KingDavidHotel, headquarters of the British military in Palestine. The explosion killed 91 people, among them 42 Arabs, 28 Britons and 17 Jews. He rejected allegations that the attack was terrorism the hotel was a military target, he maintained, and the Irgun had phoned a warning to the British eight minutes before the bomb went off. Begin expressed regret only for the death of the 17 Jews.

The incident made Begin something of a pariah to Israel's founders. David Ben-Gurion, then the chairman of the Jewish Agency, a precursor of Israel's government, called the Irgun "dissidents and terrorists." After Israel achieved independence and Ben-Gurion became prime minister in 1949, he refused to refer to Begin by name, even after Begin had entered the Knesset, or Israeli parliament, as the leader of a small, right-wing party that same year.

Through seven failed campaigns for prime minister, Begin stuck to his Revisionist Zionism, which advocated a much larger homeland than that recognized by the United Nations in 1947 when it delineated Israel's borders. Begin's slogan after the 1967 war was "not one inch"—the amount of West Bank land he thought Israel should return to the Arabs.

Begin's political fortunes rose after a financial scandal involved leaders of the Labor Party in May 1977. He was by then leader of a right-wing coalition called Likud, which had won a national election, making him prime minister in June. Begin believed the majority of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza should be satisfied with limited autonomy under Israeli control. "He felt that Israel, with its sophisticated democratic philosophy, could . . . have a benign relationship [with the Palestinians]," Harold Saunders, assistant secretary of state for the Middle East at the time of Camp David, recalled to me.

"I don't think he ever met a Palestinian," Samuel Lewis, the U.S. ambassador to Israel from 1977 to 1985, said in an interview. "If he ever met one, he certainly never had much of a conversation with him."

Carter, 53 at the time of Camp David, had a strong interest in the Middle East, rooted in his Baptist faith. Carter read a chapter from the Bible every evening (in Spanish), steeping himself in the region's history of conflict. Preparing for the summit, he referred in his notes to the possibility of the first peace between Egypt and the Jews in 2,600 years.

Within four months of taking office, the new president had held summit meetings with the leaders of Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia. He had sounded them out about their opinions and sharpened his own. He thought that Israel, in exchange for peace, would have to give back the territory it had acquired in 1967, except for minor border modifications to enhance security. He spoke of a homeland, though not necessarily a state, for the Palestinians.

Carter hoped that Camp David's informal, sylvan setting would encourage the leaders and their delegations to mix, to see one another in human terms, to begin to trust each other, to compromise. Accordingly, Carter ordered that the attendees remain sequestered: the only news from the summit would come from daily briefings by Carter's press secretary, Jody Powell. "If you got into a situation in which both sides were playing to their constituencies back home, that would substantially diminish the chances of success," Powell recalled. "You'd get a dynamic where reporters are looking for the sexiest quote they can get, and one of the best ways to do that is to bait one side with a paraphrase or quote from someone on the other side. Before you know it, the public debate is escalating and people get themselves boxed in."

Though the White House spoke publicly of modest goals prior to the summit, privately Carter was more optimistic. William Quandt, then the National Security Council staff expert on the Middle East, recalls a meeting just before the summit began. "[Carter] said, 'What's going to happen is we'll be here about two or three days, and once Sadat and Begin realize their historic opportunity and once we isolate them from their domestic politics and the press and create the atmosphere for them to rise to this historic occasion, they're going to sit down and work out the principles on which peace will be done, and we'll announce it to the world.' " To Quandt, that sounded naive. "I remember thinking to myself, Oh, my God, this is group therapy, not negotiations." Quandt might have been still more concerned about the prospects had he heard what the other two leaders were saying on the eve of the summit.

Sadat saw Camp David as the stage on which he would perform the feat of loosening the ties that bound the United States to Israel. "Sadat was convinced that it would all soon be over," Boutros Boutros-Ghali, then a diplomatic official in the Sadat government and later United Nations secretary general, would write in his 1997 memoir. "He would present his position. Israel would reject it. American public opinion would support Egypt. Carter would see that Egypt's position was good and Israel's was bad. The United States would then pressure Israel into acceptance of what Sadat had offered. It was simple."

Begin also saw the meeting as simple, but hardly in the way the Egyptian leader did. "We have a tough nut to crack," he told his delegation. "His name is Anwar Sadat."

From the outset, the summit did not unfold as Carter had hoped. The setting that seemed to him so restful and serene struck the desert dwellers of Egypt and Israel as dark and forbidding. "Camp David . . . has a somewhat claustrophobic feeling," Israeli defense minister Ezer Weizman later wrote. "The tall trees make the light gloomy, and one has to lift one's eyes to find a patch of blue sky." Nor did the informality help. Boutros-Ghali would recall his discomfort at seeing for the first time a head of state without a necktie.

The strain was most apparent in the main dining room. The Israeli delegation sat together in one section of the hall, the Egyptians in another section. The Americans tried to bridge the gap, but as Weizman wrote, "the atmosphere remained oppressive and tense." Only years later did Boutros-Ghali disclose that the Egyptians were under orders from Foreign Minister Muhammad Ibrahim Kamel not to socialize with the Israelis.

The negotiations began no more auspiciously. Carter met first with Begin and suggested that Sadat would not sign an agreement unless Israel recognized the principle that territory cannot be acquired by force. Begin replied that such a principle would not pertain to the war Israel had fought in 1967. In other words, he recognized no obligation to give back any of the territory Israel acquired in that conflict. Carter was disappointed. "Begin's boilerplate positions had not been discernibly modified," he wrote.

When Begin told his delegation that Carter's views were close to Sadat's, the Israelis were apprehensive. "It won't be long before we're on our way home," Weizman thought.

Carter met with Sadat the next morning. The Egyptian president presented a proposal that Begin could never accept. It called on Israel not only to withdraw from lands captured in 1967 but also to pay for past use of the territory. Then Sadat did an odd thing. He handed Carter three pages of concessions he was prepared to make, backing away from the formal proposal he had just laid down. He asked Carter to keep the concessions private until he felt it was time to use them. Then he went back to his lodge and watched Alex Haley's "Roots" on TV.

Sadat's ploy "wasn't all that stupid," Brzezinski recalled. "It was an effort to get Carter committed, to make Carter, in a sense, his lawyer."

Carter finally brought Begin and Sadat together on the afternoon of the summit's second day. Begin listened frostily to Sadat's opening position. When he got back to the Israeli delegation, he described his reaction to it with a Yiddish term: "What chutzpah!"

The next day, Begin rejected Sadat's proposal point by point. He dismissed the requirement that Israel withdraw from virtually all of the West Bank and Gaza, adding that Sadat must allow Israel to retain the 13 settlements it had established on Egyptian territory in the Sinai. Sadat pounded the table. "Security, yes! Land, no!" he shouted.

"There was no compatibility between the two," Carter wrote later. "Almost every discussion of any subject deteriorated into an unproductive argument."

The press was bivouacked in an American Legion Hall in Thurmont. Powell put the best spin on things. "I am not in a position to characterize [the talks] or go into [their] substance," he told reporters. "It is my impression that the personal relationships among all three principals are good."

In reality, the summit was on the verge of breaking down. Aharon Barak, then a legal expert with the Israeli delegation, asked Quandt to get a message to Carter requesting that he not bring Sadat and Begin together again. Barak said Begin was hardening his position and thinking of ways to leave Camp David without being blamed for the summit's failure.

Lewis recalls a conversation he had with Carter as they walked in the woods after a particularly frustrating meeting. "Sam, I don't think Begin wants peace," Lewis remembers the president saying. "I don't think Begin wants peace at all."

Lewis, a career diplomat, believed that nations generally do want peace. The conflict, he told the president, was over the conditions for achieving it, the risks and compromises that leaders were prepared to accept. In that respect, Lewis said, Israel was no different from other nations.

"Well, no," Carter said. "I don't think they really want peace."

Carter had to improvise. With Plan A—the brief meeting that would produce warm personal feelings between Sadat and Begin—in shambles, he fell back on Plan B. He would take Barak's advice and keep Begin and Sadat separated. He would hold what diplomats call "proximity talks," in which leaders are in the same location but do not talk directly. The Americans would shuttle proposals between them. One proposal—outlining concessions by both sides—had been developed weeks before by Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, Saunders, Quandt and Ambassador Alfred "Roy" Atherton, Jr., a roving envoy for the Middle East. Now the American staff reworked the proposal.

On the sixth day of the summit, a Sunday, Carter showed the revised American plan to the Israelis. The meeting did not go well. A mention of the national rights of the Palestinians was "out of the question," Begin said. So was a proposal that Israel dismantle its Sinai settlements. "We do not dismantle settlements," Begin declared. As to the proposed wording that acquiring territory by war was inadmissible, Begin said, "We will not accept that."

"You will have to accept it," Carter said.

"Mr. President, no threats, please."

Carter persisted, making more changes in the U.S. proposal—there would eventually be 23 drafts—and showing the new version to Sadat the next day. Sadat was severely disappointed. He went back to his lodge and told his advisers that thanks to Begin's intransigence, he would withdraw from the talks and leave Camp David the next day.

Meanwhile, down in Thurmont, Powell was finding it more and more difficult to steer reporters away from stories that the summit was about to end in failure. Barry Schweid of the Associated Press reported that the talks were stalemated, despite "gigantic" efforts by Carter to get concessions from Begin. "It is correct that the president has been making gigantic efforts generally," Powell said when reporters sought his comment. "Beyond that, if I were an editor, I would be leery of making that a front-page story." But the story flashed around the world. And it was accurate.

Faced once again with disaster, Carter made two decisions that would prove critical. He "decoupled" proposals covering the Sinai from ones covering the West Bank and Gaza. Previously, those problem areas had been viewed as linked. The move essentially separated Israeli-Egyptian disputes from Israeli-Palestinian disputes. For the Israelis, it raised the prospect that they could get peace and recognition from Egypt without jeopardizing their plans for the West Bank. Carter also began to rely heavily on the pragmatic Barak as an interlocutor. Barak, now chief justice of Israel's Supreme Court, enjoyed Begin's confidence. Carter convened a committee composed of himself, Barak and Osama al-Baz, Egypt's under secretary for foreign affairs. For almost the entire ninth day of the summit, the three men laboriously pored over drafts of the proposed agreement.

Slowly, they made progress. Carter agreed to drop language about the "inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war" from the main text of the agreement while Barak persuaded Begin to permit similar language, based on United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, in the preamble. Still, the talks threatened to break down, primarily because Begin insisted that Israel keep its Sinai settlements. "My right eye will fall out, my right hand will fall off before I ever agree to the dismantling of a single Jewish settlement," Begin told Brzezinski during a morning walk. Nor would he agree to a freeze on settlements in the West Bank.

Nerves were frayed. At 4:14 on the morning of the tenth day, Carter called Brzezinski and said he was worried about Sadat's security. He was afraid that word of the concessions Sadat had made would leak out and prompt Palestinian terrorists to assassinate him. Carter ordered the security around Sadat's lodge strengthened.

Sadat was showing signs of emotional distress. In a meeting with his staff later that day, he erupted at their criticism of the deal Carter was maneuvering toward. "What can I do? My foreign minister thinks I'm an idiot!" he shouted. He ordered them to leave the room. Later, he apologized to Kamel for losing his temper. "It's the fault of this accursed prison we find ourselves in," he said.

On the 11th day, with Begin still holding firm on the Sinai settlements, Sadat asked Vance to arrange transportation home for the Egyptian delegation. Alarmed, Carter went to Sadat's lodge, spoke with him for 29 minutes and persuaded him to stay. After that, Sadat turned curiously passive, according to his aides. "I shall sign anything proposed by President Carter without reading it," he said at one point.

But even Carter was losing hope. He instructed Quandt to begin drafting a speech to be delivered to the American people, explaining why the summit had failed. Quandt did so, laying most of the blame at Begin's feet.

How much of that Begin knew is a matter of conjecture he never wrote his memoirs. But with peace between Israel and Egypt in sight, some in his delegation had been working to persuade him to yield ground on the Sinai. An aide arranged for Begin to phone Ariel Sharon, who is currently prime minister but then served as minister of agriculture and represented the pro-settlements forces in Likud. Sharon told Begin he would not object to dismantling the Sinai settlements if it meant a peace with Egypt.

Finally, on the 12th day, Begin budged. He told Carter he would let the Knesset vote on whether to dismantle the Sinai settlements. With that, the Camp David accords hove into view. To be sure, they were not a full-fledged treaty, which is legally binding, but rather statements of principles that would govern future negotiations. Still, Egypt would get back the Sinai. Israel would get a peace treaty and diplomatic recognition. For the West Bank and Gaza, there would be a plan for autonomy negotiations, followed, in five years, by a decision about their final status.

"Breakthrough," Carter recalls thinking.

But the exhausted president and his aides still had the endgame to play. Vance and Carter met with Begin, Israel's foreign minister Moshe Dayan and Barak until after midnight of the 12th day. Only Barak and Dayan took notes. Carter pressed Begin for a letter promising a freeze on building new settlements in the West Bank during the period of negotiations over the West Bank and Gaza. Begin said something that Carter took as agreement.

Quandt, who was sitting in an anteroom, remembers Vance coming out as the meeting broke up. "What have you got?" Quandt asked.

"I think we've got an agreement, but I'm not quite sure on the settlements," Vance replied.

The next morning, day 13, Begin sent Carter a letter saying the freeze on new settlements would last only until negotiations over the Egyptian-Israeli treaty were concluded, expected to be only a few months. Carter rejected the letter. But Begin held fast, and eventually Carter, rather than jeopardize the agreement, decided to sign the accords with the settlement issue unresolved. He eventually dropped the issue.

At about 5:30 that afternoon, Carter performed his last act of mediation, persuading Begin not to visit Sadat to congratulate him on the conclusion of the talks. Carter sensed that their animosity was so strong that even a brief encounter might undo everything. After Begin agreed, Vance turned to Carter. "That's it," he told the president. "I think you have it." Carter sat in a chair, looking tired, smiling wistfully.No one cheered. Everyone in the room knew that the success the president had achieved was imperfect, with compromise language papering over many disagreements.

The parties left Camp David, and the three leaders formally signed the documents that evening in a televised ceremony in the White House. Even so, only part of the peace envisioned at Camp David came to fruition in the months that followed. Egypt and Israel eventually agreed to a peace treaty, although it took many more months of negotiations than the three leaders had anticipated. Israel withdrew from the Sinai on schedule. Three months after Camp David, it was announced that Begin and Sadat would share the Nobel Peace Prize.

In return for getting Egypt's land back, Sadat got obloquy in the Arab world. His foreign minister, Kamel, had resigned in protest just before the summit ended and refused to attend the signing ceremony. Sadat "became embroiled in a series of concessions," Kamel wrote years later. "This ended in his total capitulation and he finally appended his signature to what Israel, in its wildest dreams, never imagined possible." Three years later, in October 1981, dissident Egyptian Army officers assassinated Sadat in Cairo as he reviewed a military parade.

Carter remembers Sadat as a hero. "The heroes of peace have been assassinated by those who hate peace," he told me, referring also to the late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel, who was assassinated in 1995. "There are those on both sides who would rather sabotage the peace process and punish those who are successful at it."

Begin emerged from Camp David perceived as the winner, having given up nothing of vital importance. "He was the strongest negotiator," in Quandt's estimation, "because he was prepared to walk away and say, 'No deal.' " But Begin found that triumph could turn to ashes. In 1982, he authorized the invasion of Lebanon, chiefly to eliminate the P.L.O. Opprobrium was heaped on Israel for permitting the massacre of Palestinians by Lebanese Christians in a camp outside Beirut. Begin's wife, Aliza, died later that year, and Begin resigned the prime ministership. He spent the rest of his life in seclusion, dying in 1992 at age 78.

Camp David earned Carter wide praise at home but did not save him from electoral defeat two years later. Looking back, Powell says, it's clear that trying to achieve peace in the Middle East does an American president no good in the domestic political sense. "We got a smaller percentage of the Jewish vote in 1980 than we had in 1976," he recalls. "The reason is that if you're going to get an agreement, you're going to have to push the Israelis some too. If you do that, you're going to get a backlash in this country."

Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002, partly for the Camp David accords but also for promoting peace and human rights after his presidency. He said CampDavidmight have led to a comprehensive settlement if his successor in the White House had picked up where he left off. "But President Reagan took very little interest," Carter said. "Then Israel began to expand its settlements. You can't perpetuate an agreement unless it has the support of the incumbent leaders."

Richard V. Allen, national security adviser in the first year of the Reagan administration, agrees that Reagan's priorities in the Middle East differed from those of Carter. "President Reagan thought Camp David was a significant achievement," Allen says. "But he wanted to conclude an agreement on a strategic alliance with Israel, partly to resist Soviet incursions into the Middle East and partly to make a clear statement that Israel would be defended and would not be as heavily pressured as it would have been if Carter had been reelected."

In any case, the autonomy talks for the West Bank and Gaza produced little progress, whether because Washington stopped exerting diplomatic pressure, as Carter believes, or because the agreement had failed to resolve crucial issues. The United States tried to enlist the participation of Palestinians living on the West Bank, but they held out largely because the P.L.O. refused to support a process that did not recognize the group's claim to represent the Palestinians. For its part, Israel refused to accept any proposals that might compromise its settlement program or its ability to claim sovereignty over the territories.

Over the years, some of the Americans who participated in the Camp David talks have changed their opinion that it was Begin who got the best of the bargaining. Instead, they say Israel missed an opportunity to settle disputes that would only grow far more complicated. As Carter sees it, Camp David gave Israel a chance to settle the West Bank issue when there were only 5,000 or 10,000 Israeli settlers there, compared with some 200,000 today when there was no intifada, suicide bombings or Hamas. If Begin had been more flexible and accepted ideas that Israel accepts today, such as the inevitability of a Palestinian state, reaching a comprehensive peace agreement "no doubt would have been easier in the late 1970s," Carter told me.

Still, many experts agree that the accords represent a high point in U.S. diplomacy. They "stand with the reconstruction of postwar Europe and Japan as an American diplomatic success," says Martin Indyk, the ambassador to Israel in the Clinton administration. "They were the big breakthrough in the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. From that point on, it has only been a matter of time before the other parts of that conflict are settled."

James A. Baker III, secretary of state under President George H. W. Bush, says the accords "established the principles of land for peace and recognition of United Nations resolutions, which were very helpful to us in the first Bush administration." Camp David also set a precedent for other Middle East peace agreements, including that between Israel and Jordan, Baker says, adding, "I, for one, remain optimistic that in my lifetime we will see a comprehensive peace" built on Camp David and subsequent agreements.

One fact is certain. As Carter points out, "In the years before Camp David, there were four major wars between Israel and its neighbors, generally led by Egypt." In the 25 years since Camp David, there has been none.

What Really Happened at the Camp David II Summit?

These two refrains are heard constantly from the pro-Palestinian camp in parliaments and college campuses around the world.

The problem with this line of questioning is that it ignores the fact that Israel has tried to make peace and has tried to offer the Palestinians as much as it can. The Camp David II summit of 2000 is a case in point.

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Camp David II

The last major attempt to resolve the issues between Israel and the Palestinians took place in July 2000. US President Bill Clinton invited Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat to meet at Camp David, the president’s retreat in western Maryland.

Years before, in 1979, Camp David had been the place where US President Jimmy Carter hosted Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian president Anwar Sadat for talks that eventually led to the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty. It was hoped that Camp David’s relaxed setting would facilitate a similar breakthrough for the Israelis and Palestinians. Hence the name, Camp David II.

The Oslo Accords, signed in 1993 between Arafat and the late Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, called for a final status agreement between the two sides within five years of the Palestinians being given their own autonomy.

The Palestinians were not happy about coming to Camp David II, fearing they would be pressured into making concessions. But Arafat accepted the invitation and on July 11, the Israeli and Palestinian delegations arrived in Camp David.

The approach for this summit was “all or nothing.” The two sides were to strive to reach an agreement regarding territory and status of settlements, Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, refugees and the Palestinian call for the right of return, and security arrangements. There were to be no partial or intermediate agreements.

From left to right, Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak, US president Bill Clinton and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat at the Camp David II summit in 2000.

The Positions

Territory: The Palestinians were demanding the entire West Bank and Gaza Strip but were willing to accept land swaps from within Israel for any part of these territories which Israel would hold on to. Prime Minister Barak offered the Palestinians 73% of the West Bank and 100% of the Gaza Strip with a plan for them to eventually control 91% of the West Bank, with an elevated highway and railroad to connect the two territories.

The Palestinians would also receive the equivalent of one percent of the West Bank by taking control of the Halutza Sand region next to the Gaza Strip. The plan would have required Israel to forcibly evacuate people from their homes in 63 settlements, while allowing Israel to annex the settlements of Gush Etzion and Maale Adumim where a few hundred thousand Israelis reside.

Jerusalem: Israel proposed giving the Palestinians “custodianship” over the Temple Mount and “administration” over the Muslim and Christian Quarters of the Old City and all Islamic and Christian holy sites. They would be allowed to raise the Palestinian flag in all these locations.

Israel felt that it could not relinquish its sovereignty over these areas due to security concerns. The Israeli neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem would remain under Israeli sovereignty and the Palestinians would be given civilian autonomy in their areas. The Palestinians would create the city of Al-Quds to be the capital of Palestine. This city would include small cities and villages on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

Refugees: The Palestinian demand for a “right of return” for over 700,000 refugees from the Israeli War of Independence in 1948 and their descendants numbering in the millions, was not one which Israel could agree to. The influx of millions of Palestinians would amount to the end of the democratic Jewish state of Israel.

Instead, Israel proposed that a maximum of 100,000 refugees be allowed to enter Israel for family reunification and other humanitarian considerations. All remaining Palestinian “refugees” would be settled in the new Palestinian state or in third-party countries. An international fund worth $30 billion which Israel would contribute to, would register claims of property lost by Palestinian refugees and provide appropriate compensation.

Security: The number one concern for Israeli negotiators related to security. Israel demanded that the Palestinian state be demilitarized and that it commit to dismantling all terrorist groups.

Israel proposed that an international force be stationed in the Jordan Valley, with Palestine controlling the border crossing albeit under Israeli observation, and that Israel maintain a permanent security presence along 15% of the border between Jordan and Palestine. Israel also asked that be allowed to set up radar stations inside the Palestinian state and that it be able to deploy troops in the Palestinian state in a case of emergency.

A final peace: Israel’s number one demand was that for it to make all these concessions, Arafat must declare an end to the conflict and make no further demands of Israel in the future.

White House aides who were present at Camp David II were surprised at how far Barak was willing to go and felt that his offer met most of what the Palestinians were asking for.

But Arafat rejected the Israeli offer.

Instead of an agreement, the parties issued a declaration which said that “the two sides agreed that the aim of their negotiations is to put an end to decades of conflict and achieve a just and lasting peace” and that “the two sides commit themselves to continue their efforts to conclude an agreement on all permanent status issues as soon as possible.”

Clinton’s Post-Camp David II Proposals

US president Bill Clinton

President Clinton did not give up on the mission to secure an actual agreement and following months of back and forth, presented a new proposal to both sides in December 2000 in which he pushed Israel to make even more concessions.

Territory: The Clinton proposal offered the Palestinians 94%-96% of the West Bank plus land swaps of up to 3% in Israel to give the Palestinians close to 100% of the land mass they sought.

Security: To provide Israel with its security needs, the Israeli army would withdraw from the Palestinian areas gradually over the course of three years while an international force would be gradually introduced into the region. Israel would maintain a small presence on the Jordan Valley for an additional three years, but under the authority of the international force.

Israel would be allowed to have an “early-warning” station in the West Bank but with the presence of a Palestinian liaison, and in the event of an “imminent and demonstrable threat to Israel’s security,” an arrangement would be made for IDF deployment to the West Bank on an emergency basis. And finally, the state of Palestine would be “non-militarized” but would have a strong security force.

Jerusalem: Clinton proposed that Arab neighborhoods be in Palestine, that Jewish neighborhoods be Israeli, that the Palestinians would have sovereignty over the Temple Mount and that the Israelis would maintain sovereignty over the Western Wall and the “holy space” which the Western Wall is part of. No excavations around the wall or under the Temple Mount would take place without mutual consent.

Refugees: Clinton proposed that to address the refugee issue, the new state of Palestine would be the homeland for refugees displaced in the 1948 war and afterward. In addition, an international effort would be made to compensate refugees and assist them in finding houses in the new state of Palestine, in their new current host countries, in other willing nations, or in Israel.

A final peace: Clinton agreed with the Israeli demand that the agreement had to clearly mark the end of the conflict and put an end to all violence.

The Israeli government voted to accept the proposal on December 27, 2000. Arafat never gave Clinton an official “no,” but he also never said “yes,” amounting to a rejection of the proposal — an unceremonious ending for Camp David II and Clinton’s peacemaking efforts.

According to notes taken by White House officials during the Camp David II meetings trying to convince the Palestinian leader to accept the agreement, Arafat was quoted as saying:

The Palestinian leader who will give up Jerusalem has not yet been born. I will not betray my people or the trust they have placed in me. Don’t look to me to legitimize the occupation. No one can continue indefinitely to impose domination by military force – look at South Africa. Our people will not accept less than their rights as stated by international resolutions and international legality.

Some said that the Palestinians felt that the land swaps being offered them were inferior lands to that which they were giving up in the West Bank, that they needed to have complete sovereignty over the entirety of eastern Jerusalem, including the Western Wall, and recognition of a full right of return for Palestinian refugees.

The Second Intifada Begins

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat

Not only did the Palestinians reject the Israeli offer, but soon after, the Second Intifada, a violent Palestinian uprising began. More than 1,000 innocent Israeli civilians were killed in a Palestinian campaign of suicide bombings and shootings.

President Clinton blamed Arafat for the failure of the two sides to reach an agreement:

I regret that in 2000 Arafat missed the opportunity to bring that nation into being.

Dennis Ross, the chief US negotiator, concluded that Arafat was never truly open to a two-state solution. Rather, Arafat and the Palestinians had clung to their desire for

a one-state solution. Not independent, adjacent Israeli and Palestinian states, but a single Arab state encompassing all of Historic Palestine.

Palestinian officials confirmed that the Second Intifada was premeditated all along. Speaking at the Ein Al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, PA Communications Minister, Imad Al-Faluji said,

Whoever thinks that the Intifada broke out because of the despised Sharon’s visit to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, is wrong, even if this visit was the straw that broke the back of the Palestinian people. This Intifada was planned in advance, ever since President Arafat’s return from the Camp David negotiations, where he turned the table upside down on President Clinton. [Arafat] remained steadfast and challenged [Clinton]. He rejected the American terms and he did it in the heart of the US.

Sadly and tragically for both Israelis and Palestinians, the Palestinian leadership continued its obstructionist ways by not replying to an even more generous offer made by Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert in 2008, and by stonewalling negotiations even when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu enacted a 10-month freeze on settlement activity, then a key precondition for talks by both the Palestinians and the Obama administration.

So, asking why Israel doesn’t bring the conflict to an end and give the Palestinians what they want isn’t the right question. Here’s the better question:

Why do the Palestinians continue to avoid making peace with Israel?

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