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The president and the peacemaker: Jimmy Carter and the domestic politics of Arab-Israeli diplomacy, 1977-1980

Strieff, Daniel (2013) The president and the peacemaker: Jimmy Carter and the domestic politics of Arab-Israeli diplomacy, 1977-1980. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis offers a study of the impact of American domestic politics on President Jimmy Carter’s role as diplomat-in-chief during the Camp David peace process. It argues that Carter’s personal involvement in fostering an Egyptian-Israeli dialogue, the Camp David Accords and Palestinian autonomy talks created a circular pattern of influence between domestic politics and foreign affairs. Carter’s role as president-mediator engaged political actors, focused public attention and raised the domestic stakes. As his term progressed, he subordinated diplomatic objectives to political needs, which in fact had grown more urgent by controversy in Arab-Israeli negotiations. As chief diplomat, Carter became intimately identified with American policy, which was completely imbued with his own political character. That activated a number of reinforcing domestic factors, some general to American foreign policy and others specific to the Arab-Israeli arena, which served to constrain what he could achieve. By examining newly released archival material, and engaging with news reportage and opinion polling, this thesis demonstrates how advice reaching the president from multiple sources – his domestic, foreign and media advisors – served to augment the other. This thesis does not purport to offer a complete history of the Camp David peace process, Egyptian-Israeli negotiations or Carter’s presidency. Instead, it examines the possibilities and the hazards of presidential diplomacy. It argues that the domestic aspects of the dispute narrowed Carter’s options, limited public debate and influenced decisions at pivotal moments. These forces circumscribed what was politically possible, and interacted with strategic and diplomatic considerations to affect policy. Broadly, this thesis offers fresh perspectives on the nature and limits of presidential power, the role of the news media in American life, U.S. public opinion and foreign policy, and public engagement with the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2013 Daniel Strieff
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JZ International relations
Sets: Departments > International History
Supervisor: Schulze, Kirsten and Casey, Steven

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