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Still, whatever the future difficulties, the Camp David accord brought peace between Israel and Egypt closer than at any time before, and that was a remarkable victory for Jimmy Carter, who had staked an inordinate amount of personal prestige on his ability to achieve a diplomatic coup that had seemed, in his own words before the Camp David talks began, a "remote" possibility. The extraordinary summit, confining two strong-willed opponents within a mountain retreat for a full fortnight, had been Carter's own idea. And by his mixture of idealism, tenacity and mastery of detail, he had won his gamble.
Among America's allies, too, Carter had acquired new stature. In Britain, where Arabists dominate the Foreign Office, a senior official commented: "Camp David was a formidable achievement by any standards, and establishes President Carter's credibility as a world statesman of the first rank." While not willing to promote Carter to such heights, Germany's Chancellor Helmut Schmidt did praise him for "decisive progress toward peace," and the nine foreign ministers of the European Community jointly offered "homage to President Carter for the great courage which he demonstrated in organizing the Camp David meeting and bringing it to a happy conclusion."
Carter's first political celebration of his victory last week was an address to a joint session of Congress. With a proper sense of the dramatic, Begin and Sadat first entered the House of Representatives with Rosalynn Carter. A moment later, when the President marched through the giant mahogany doors, both floor and galleries exploded in shouts, whistles and stamping. Delivering the kind of homespun, occasionally halting speech that often fails to arouse his audiences, Carter was cheered when he hailed the Camp David accord as "a chance for one of the bright moments in history." And he moved many of his listeners when he turned to the two Middle Eastern leaders and said to them: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be the children of God."
Afterward, members of Congress crowded around to congratulate him. "This gave the President a great boost," said Senate Majority Leader Robert Byrd. "He demonstrated great tenacity and courage." Added Senate Minority Leader Howard Baker: "This will nullify the bumbler image." Exulted Democratic Senator George McGovern: "This is the most dramatic moment in all the years I've been in Washington. I think history turned a corner tonight and the Middle East will never be the same."