How and to what extent do domestic political considerations influence U.S. foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East? This article addresses that question by drawing on declassified records that enable scholars to reevaluate the Carter administration's search for an Arab-Israeli settlement. Politics at home greatly affected U.S. policy. Moreover, the way such factors affected Carter's Middle East diplomacy was largely a function of the type of domestic political strategy the president chose to rely on. Had Carter and his advisers been more skilled as political operatives, the outcome of the peace negotiations might have been fundamentally different, especially on the issue of Israeli settlements policy. Thus, this article highlights the crucial importance of playing the “two-level game” for effective statecraft, a concept that has not been given adequate attention in the scholarly literature on the subject.

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