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Roger D. Fisher (1922-2012)

The Getting to Yes co-author was crucial to Camp David accords

Adam Chandler
August 28, 2012

Despite my best efforts to prove otherwise, Professor Roger Fisher–who died at 90 on Saturday in New Hampshire–was not a Jew. Otherwise, the famous book he co-authored, Getting to Yes, might have been called Getting to Maybe or perhaps Getting to Nu?.

At The Scroll we forgive him this because Fisher, as a professional crisis defuser, played an instrumental role in the Camp David accords between Israel and Egypt, which we all hope will continue to endure.

In 1979, Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance went to Professor Fisher’s house on Martha’s Vineyard before the meeting at Camp David that would lead to a peace agreement between Egypt and Israel. Professor Fisher suggested to Mr. Vance the “single negotiating text” method that was used to bring the parties together, said Bruce M. Patton, who wrote “Getting to Yes” with Professor Fisher and worked on many diplomatic projects with him. The strategy involved having President Jimmy Carter alone be responsible for writing solutions and letting the other leaders shape the treaty through a back-and-forth critiquing process.

In addition to this triumph, Fisher helped to end South African apartheid, worked on the Iran hostage crisis, was called from the bullpen to help with the civil war in El Salvador, and helped bring the summit between Reagan and Gorbachev to fruition. As his son explains:

“Most of the time he was not invited. He would invite himself,” Elliott Fisher said. “Our sense growing up was that he would read the newspaper and think, ‘Oh, shoot, there is something to fix.’ ”

Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.

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