by Lawrence Wright, Playwright
Watch an excerpt of Lawrence Wright's address to the company of Camp David at first rehearsal.
Three men, representing three religions, met for thirteen days at the presidential retreat of Camp David in the autumn of 1978 in order to solve a dispute that religion itself had largely caused. Beliefs built on ancient texts and legends conspired to create one of the most obdurate conflicts of modern times, one that has drowned the Middle East in a prehistoric blood feud, flooded the region with refugees, spawned terrorist movements that have created mayhem and heartbreak all over the world, and even brought the superpowers of the time to the brink of nuclear war. This play is an account of how these three flawed men, strengthened but also encumbered by their faiths, managed to forge a partial and incomplete peace, an achievement that nonetheless stands as one of the great diplomatic triumphs of the twentieth century and one that has yet to be repeated.
When the leaders of Egypt and Israel met at Camp David, their two countries had engaged in four wars in the previous thirty years – five, if one counts the so-called War of Attrition that occupied the two countries between 1969 and 1970. All of these wars were a part of a larger struggle for Israel’s existence; and although conflicts continue between Israel and its other neighbors, the peace that was fashioned at Camp David removed the only Arab adversary that posed a genuine military threat to the future of Israel.
They were not perfect men. Jimmy Carter was a failing president, Menachem Begin a former terrorist, and Anwar Sadat an assassin. They are joined in this drama by a fourth figure, Rosalynn Carter, whose task was to make peace among the peacemakers.
War seldom achieves what was expected or hoped for by its participants; even victory often breeds a future defeat. The Middle East from distant times till now is a cautionary story of the failure of war to impose a lasting and just peace. There is never a perfect time or ideal people to bring an end to bloody conflicts; and unlike the talent for war, the ability to make peace has always been rare. I hope that this play will provide some insight into how that difficult process is accomplished, even by violent men, who are prejudiced by their backgrounds, hampered by domestic politics, and blinded by their beliefs. Camp David tells us of the compromises that peace demands, and of the courage and sacrifice required of leaders whose greatest challenge is to overcome their own limitations.