Thursday, August 2

MCC Palestine Update #23

MCC Palestine Update #23

2 August 2001

On July 26, we (we in this case being Alain and Sonia Epp Weaver, MCC Palestine country representatives) returned to Jerusalem after two months in the US on home leave. While difficult to believe, the situation in the occupied territories has worsened over the past two months. The siege which cuts off town from town, village from village, is tighter than ever. The economic situation is becoming increasingly desparate. Illegal Israeli settlements continue to be built. Few of our friends and partners have much hope for justice and peace breaking in during the near term.

MCC's partners continue to do marvels under exceedingly difficult conditions. The Center for Agricultural Services completed an agricultural road in Sammu' which will help 40 farmers reach their fields. The Union of Agricultural Work Committees distributed 800 boxes of MCC canned turkey meat to farmers engaged in land reclamation as part of a food for work program. The Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees completed a road connecting Deir Ibziya with Sufa and Bala'en, after construction on the road between Deir Ibziya and Ein Qinya was halted by the Israeli military.

One year has passed since the failed Camp David II summit. While Israel and the US placed the blame squarely on the Palestinians, the reality of the summit was much different. Robert Malley, former adviser to President Clinton on Arab-Israeli affairs, has published a piece with Hussein Agha in the New York Review of Books which places much of the blame for the summit's failure on former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Meanwhile, Gush Shalom has made available maps of the Israeli proposal, maps which clearly demonstrate why no Palestinian could have accepted what was on the table at Camp David. The maps can be accessed at:

Below you will find three pieces. The first, by Akiva Eldar, outlines the official PLO version of why Camp David failed. The second, by veteran Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery, is a stinging
description of Ehud Barak as a "peace criminal." Finally, we include a joint Palestinian-Israeli declaration calling for an end to bloodshed and the occupation.

1. What went wrong at Camp David - the official PLO version
Akiva Eldar
Haaretz, 24 July 2001

Members of the panel of experts working alongside the Palestinian negotiating team, who have American passports in their possession that open Israel Defense Forces roadblocks, have embarked in recent weeks on a round of appearances throughout Israel. They lecture at living room meetings in homes in Herzliya and meet with forums of confused intellectuals in Jerusalem.

The questions repeat themselves: There is always someone who will ask why Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat reacted with such violence to the very generous proposals of former prime minister Ehud Barak? Had they really been prepared to accept Barak's proposal for an exchange of territories? And how could a pointed question about the right of return fail to be asked?

The young Palestinians, among them a legal adviser from New York and a doctoral student in law from Oxford, pull out an answer -in excellent English - to every question.

When Barak embarked on a spate of attacks against Arafat under the heading "I exposed his true face," the members of the Palestinian panel decided that this time they would not neglect Israeli public opinion. Under the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) logo, they collected the typical questions asked by Israeli listeners and next to them detailed the Palestinian positions and their version of Camp David and the events that snowballed from it.

Their version, especially concerning the map that Barak proposed there, is quite close to the one that Robert Malley, former U.S. president Bill Clinton's special assistant for Arab-Israeli affairs, is now publishing in the world press (to Clinton's displeasure).

1. Why did the Palestinians reject the Camp David Peace Proposal?

For a true and lasting peace between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples, there must be two viable and independent states living as equal neighbors. Israel's Camp David proposal, which was never set forth in writing, denied the Palestinian state viability and independence by dividing Palestinian territory into four separate cantons entirely surrounded, and therefore controlled, by Israel.The Camp David proposal also denied Palestinians control over their own borders, airspace and water resources while legitimizing and expanding illegal Israeli colonies in
Palestinian territory. Israel's Camp David proposal presented a 're-packaging' of military occupation, not an end to military occupation.

2. Didn't Israel's proposal give the Palestinians almost all of the territories occupied by Israel in 1967?

No. Israel sought to annex almost 9 percent of the Occupied Palestinian Territories and in exchange offered only 1 percent of Israel's own territory. In addition, Israel sought control over an additional 10 percent of the Occupied Palestinian Territories in the form of a "long-term lease." However, the issue is not one of percentages - the issue is one of viability and independence.In a prison for example, 95 percent of the prison compound is ostensibly for the prisoners - cells, cafeterias, gym and medical facilities -but the remaining 5 percent is all that is needed for the prison guards to maintain control over the prisoner population. Similarly, the Camp David proposal, while admittedly making Palestinian prison cells larger, failed to end Israeli control over the Palestinian population.

3. Did the Palestinians accept the idea of a land swap?

The Palestinians were (and are) prepared to consider any idea that is consistent with a fair peace based on international law and equality of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. The Palestinians did consider the idea of a land swap but proposed that such land swap must be based on a one-to-one ratio, with land of equal value and in areas adjacent to the border with Palestine and in the same vicinity as the lands to be annexed by Israel. However, Israel's Camp David proposal of a nine-to-one land swap (in Israel's favor) was viewed as so unfair as to seriously undermine belief in Israel's commitment to a fair territorial compromise.

4. How did Israel's proposal envision the territory of a Palestinian state?

Israel's proposal divided Palestine into four separate cantons surrounded by Israel: the Northern West Bank, the Central West Bank, the Southern West Bank and Gaza. Going from any one area to another would require crossing Israeli sovereign territory and consequently subject movement of Palestinians within their own country to Israeli control. Not only would such restrictions apply to the movement of people, but also to the movement of goods, in effect subjecting the Palestinian economy to Israeli control. Lastly, the Camp David proposal would have left Israel in control over all Palestinian borders, thereby allowing Israel to control not only internal movement of people and goods but international movement as well. Such a Palestinian state would have had less sovereignty and viability than the Bantustans created by the South African apartheid government.

5. How did Israel's proposal address Palestinian East Jerusalem?

The Camp David Proposal required Palestinians to give up any claim to the occupied portion of Jerusalem. The proposal would have forced recognition of Israel's annexation of all of Arab East Jerusalem. Talks after Camp David suggested that Israel was prepared to allow Palestinians sovereignty over isolated Palestinian neighborhoods in the heart of East Jerusalem, however such neighborhoods would remain surrounded by illegal Israeli colonies and would remain separated not only from each other but also from the rest of the Palestinian state. In effect, such a proposal would create Palestinian ghettos in the heart of Jerusalem.

6. Why didn't the Palestinians ever present a comprehensive permanent settlement proposal of their own in response to Barak's proposals?

The comprehensive settlement to the conflict is embodied in United Nations Resolutions 242 and 338, as was accepted by both sides at the Madrid Summit in 1991 and later in the Oslo Accords of 1993. The purpose of the negotiations is to implement these UN [Security Council] resolutions (which call for an Israeli withdrawal from land occupied by force by Israel in 1967) and reach agreement on final status issues. On a number of occasions since Camp David - especially at the Taba talks - the Palestinian negotiating team presented its concept for the resolution of the key permanent status issues. It is important to keep in mind, however, that Israel and the Palestinians are differently situated. Israel seeks broad concessions from the Palestinians. Israel has not offered a single concession involving its own territory and rights. The Palestinians, on the other hand, seek to establish a viable, sovereign state on their own territory, to provide for the withdrawal of Israeli military forces and colonies (which are universally recognized as illegal), and to secure the right of Palestinian refugees to return to the homes they were forced to flee in 1948. Although Palestinian negotiators have been willing to accommodate legitimate Israeli needs within that context, particularly with respect to security and refugees, it is up to Israel to define these needs and to suggest the narrowest possible means of addressing them.

7. Why did the peace process fall apart just as it was making real progress toward a permanent agreement?

Palestinians entered the peace process on the understanding that (1) it would deliver concrete improvements to their lives during the interim period, (2) that the interim period would be relatively short in duration - i.e., five years, and (3) that a permanent agreement would implement United Nations [Security Council] Resolutions 242 and 338. But the peace process delivered none of these things. Instead, Palestinians suffered more burdensome restrictions on their movement and a serious decline in their economic situation. Israeli colonies expanded at an unprecedented pace and the West Bank and Gaza Strip became more fragmented with the construction of settler "by-pass" roads and the proliferation of Israeli military checkpoints. Deadlines were repeatedly missed in the implementation of agreements. In sum, Palestinians simply did not experience any "progress" in terms of their daily lives.

However, what decisively undermined Palestinian support for the peace process was the way Israel presented its proposal. Prior to entering into the first negotiations on permanent status issues, Prime Minister Barak publicly and repeatedly threatened Palestinians that his "offer" would be Israel's best and final offer and if not accepted, Israel would seriously consider "unilateral separation" (a euphemism for imposing a settlement rather than negotiating one). Palestinians felt that they had been betrayed by Israel who had committed itself at the beginning of the Oslo process to ending its occupation of Palestinian lands in accordance with Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.

8. Doesn't the violence which erupted following Camp David prove that Palestinians do not really want to live in peace with Israel?

Palestinians recognized Israel's right to exist in 1988 and reiterated this recognition on several occasions including Madrid in 1991 and the Oslo Accords in September, 1993. Nevertheless, Israel has yet to explicitly and formally recognize Palestine's right to exist. The Palestinian people waited patiently since the Madrid Conference in 1991 for their freedom and independence despite Israel's incessant policy of creating facts on the ground by building colonies in occupied territory (Israeli housing units in Occupied Palestinian Territory - not including East Jerusalem - increased by 52 percent since the signing of the Oslo Accords and the settler population, including those in East Jerusalem, more than doubled). The Palestinians do indeed wish to live at peace with Israel but peace with Israel must be a fair peace not an unfair peace imposed by a stronger party over a weaker party.

9. Doesn't the failure of Camp David prove that the Palestinians are just not prepared to compromise?

The Palestinians have indeed compromised. In the Oslo Accords, the Palestinians recognized Israeli sovereignty over 78 percent of historic Palestine (23 percent more than Israel was granted pursuant to the 1947 UN Partition Plan) on the assumption that the Palestinians would be able to exercise sovereignty over the remaining 22 percent. The overwhelming majority of Palestinians accepted this compromise but this extremely generous compromise was ignored at Camp David and the Palestinians were asked to "compromise the compromise" and make further concessions in favor of Israel. Though the Palestinians can continue to make compromises, no people can be expected to compromise fundamental rights or the viability of their state.

10. Have the Palestinians abandoned the two-state solution and do they now insist on all of historic Palestine?

The current situation has undoubtedly hardened positions on both sides, with extremists in both Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories claiming all of historic Palestine.
Nevertheless, there is no evidence that the Palestinian Authority or the majority of Palestinians have abandoned the two-state solution. The two-state solution, however, is most seriously threatened by the on-going construction of Israeli colonies and bypass roads aimed at incorporating the Occupied Palestinian Territories into Israel. Without a halt to such construction, a two-state solution may simply be impossible to implement already prompting a number of Palestinian academics and intellectuals to argue that Israel will never allow the Palestinians to have a viable state and Palestinians should instead focus their efforts on obtaining equal rights as Israeli citizens.

11. Isn't it unreasonable for the Palestinians to demand the unlimited right of return to Israel of all Palestinian refugees?

The refugees were never seriously discussed at Camp David because Prime Minister Barak declared that Israel bore no responsibility for the refugee problem or its solution. Obviously, there can be no comprehensive solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict without resolving one of its key components: the plight of the Palestinian refugees.

There is a clearly recognized right under international law that non-combatants who flee during a conflict have the right to return after the conflict is over. But an Israeli recognition of the Palestinian right of return does not mean that all refugees will exercise that right. What is needed in addition to such recognition is the concept of choice. Many refugees may opt for (i) resettlement in third countries, (ii) resettlement in a newly independent Palestine (though they originate from that part of Palestine which became Israel) or (iii) normalization of their legal status in the host country where they currently reside. In addition, the right of return may be implemented in phases so as to address Israel's demographic concerns.

2. The Peace Criminal
Uri Avnery
Gush Shalom, 21 July 2001

Everybody knows who is a war criminal. For example, somebody who kills prisoners-of-war or massacres a civilian population (or allows others to do this) is one.

The time has come to define who is a peace criminal: somebody who kills peace and thereby makes war inevitable. Golda Meir, for example, in the early 70s, killed the chances for peace with Egypt and caused the Yom Kippur war, in which 2000 Israelis and countless others died.

Ehud Barak is such a peace criminal. He brought about the failure of the Camp David summit and its consequence, primarily the present intifada, in which hundred have already died. This
might well lead to a general war, in which thousands will perish.

If there were an International Court for Peace Crimes, Ehud Barak would be indicted on two counts:

Count 1: The accused pressured Arafat and Clinton into agreeing to the summit and brought about its failure by presenting to it an ultimatum of unacceptable proposals.

Count 2: The accused spread the lie that he had offered Arafat “everything he asked for” and that Arafat rejected it. By spreading this lie, the accused destroyed the Israeli peace camp which
believed him, brought the extreme right to power, prepared the ground for a “national unity” based on the lie and almost obliterated any real opposition.

At the Barak trial, evidence will be produced to show that he proposed at Camp David the formal annexation of 10% of the West Bank area (“settlement blocs”) and informal annexation of
another 10% (Jordan valley etc.), with the rest of the territory cut up into enclaves and cut off from the neighboring countries (Egypt and Jordan); that he pretended to “give up” East Jerusalem but without giving the Palestinians full sovereignty there, and especially not over the compound of the mosques (“Temple Mount”); that he did not agree to any compromise on the refugees; and that he demanded that the Palestinians declare this to be “the end of the conflict”.

Until now, Barak’s blind admirers have fervently denied these facts. But this week a witness appeared who could decide the outcome of the trial. He is a neutral and objective eye-witness,
whose integrity cannot be doubted by any judge: Robert Malley, personal assistant to President Clinton on the Middle East, who took part in all the Camp David deliberations. He will testify
to the following facts, among others:

0 Before the summit, Barak reneged on his promise to transfer to the Palestinian Authority the village of Abu Dis and two other villages near Jerusalem, in spite of the fact that Clinton
personally conveyed this promise to Arafat. Also, Barak refused to honor Israel’s obligations under the previous agreements: the third withdrawal from most of the West Bank areas, the release of Palestinian prisoners etc. Because of this, Clinton was furious with Barak on several occasions.

0 Before the summit, Barak continued to enlarge the settlements and build by-pass roads at a furious pace, thus destroying any vestige of Palestinian trust in his intentions.

0 Before and during the summit, the Palestinians not only gave up 78% of Mandatory Palestine, but also agreed to the annexation to Israel of “settlement blocs” and the Jewish neighborhoods built in occupied East Jerusalem. They also agreed to the principle that the Right of Return should be implemented without prejudicing the demographic and security interests of Israel. No other Arab government has ever agreed to similar concessions.

In exchange for the settlement blocs, Barak offered the Palestinians areas amounting to one ninth of the territory to be annexed, a ratio of 1 to 9, without specifying where

0 During the course of the summit, Barak did not submit any proposal in writing nor specify the details of his oral proposals, and, most importantly, did not disclose either to Arafat or even to Clinton his ideas for a final settlement. In return, Arafat, too, did not submit any proposals, so that in practice there was no negotiation at all.

0 Clinton agreed with Arafat that Barak is “politically inept, frustrating and devoid of personal contact warmth”, but believed, in spite of this, that Barak wanted peace. Arafat believed that Barak did not want peace; he only wanted to convince the world that the Palestinians don’t want peace. As a matter of fact, since the summit and until now, Barak’s main boast has been that he “unmasked Arafat”.

0 Clinton has broken his word to Arafat. Before the summit, he promised that if it fails, he would not blame the Palestinians. Only on this condition did Arafat agree to come to the
conference, which took place without proper preparation. After the failure, Clinton put the sole blame on Arafat, in order to help Barak in his eelection campaign.

When Barak’s admirers were compelled to admit that the story about “the generous Camp David offers” is a legend, they fell back to another line: “True, at Camp David no reasonable offers were made, but later, at the Taba meeting in January 2001, much more generous offers were made. These met all Palestinian demands, but were nevertheless rejected by them. At Taba the Israeli negotiators also submitted a map that reduced further the areas that Barak wanted to annex.”

Here are some of the answers:

0 If Barak really wanted to make much more “generous” offers, why did he not make them at Camp David, even when he realized that the summit was about to break down?

0 The failure of the summit caused the outbreak of the intifada, as we (and, it now appears, the Americans, too) prophesied. From that moment on, the political reality on the Palestinian side changed completely, hundreds were killed, and it became much more difficult for Arafat to convince his public opinion to halt the uprising without getting an important political achievement in advance.

0 The Taba proposals were never put to paper, and until this very moment it is not clear what was proposed, who proposed what and on whose authority. Barak, of course, repudiated everything the next day.

0 In the meantime, the election campaign had started in Israel and all the polls showed that Barak was about to be defeated by a landslide. How could Arafat make sweeping concessions to a man who, almost certainly, would lose power within two months? Especially since Barak did not reveal the proposals to his own public?

0 Arafat did not reject the Taba proposals, but declares even now that they must serve as a basis for any future negotiations, while Barak himself proclaims that the Taba proposals are null
and void.

At the end of the trial, the question will remain: Did the accused, Barak, sincerely intend to reach a peace agreement, and only a mixture of arrogance, ignorance and political stupidity
prevented him from achieving this (as Clinton believes, according to Malley), or did he, from the beginning, not have any such intention, but only intended to convince the world that he wanted peace while Arafat wants to throw Israel into the sea?

It’s up to the judges to decide that.

3. Joint Israeli-Palestinian Declaration:

"We, the undersigned Israelis and Palestinians, are meeting in the most difficult of circumstances for both our peoples. We come together to call for an end to bloodshed, an end to occupation, an urgent return to negotiations and the realization of peace between our peoples. We refuse to comply with the ongoing deterioration in our situation, with the growing list of victims, the suffering and the real possibility that we may all be drowned in a sea of mutual

"We hereby raise our voices and implore all people of goodwill to return to sanity, to re-discover compassion, humanity, and critical judgment and to reject the unbearable ease of the descent into
fear, hatred, and calls for revenge.

"In spite of everything we still believe in the humanity of the other side, that we have a partner for peace and that a negotiated solution to the conflict between our peoples is possible.
Mistakes have been made on all sides, the trading of accusations and pointing of fingers is not a policy and is no substitute for serious engagement.

"The impression that exists in both communities that 'time is on our side' is illusory. The passage of time benefits only those who do not believe in peace. The longer we wait, the more innocent
blood will be spilt, the greater will be the suffering and hope will be further eroded. We must move urgently to re-build our partnership, to end the de-humanization of the other, and to revive the option of a just peace that holds out promise for our respective futures.

"The way forward lies in international legitimacy and the implementation of UNSCR 242 and 338 leading to a 2-State solution based on the 1967 borders, Israel and Palestine living side by side, with their respective capitals in Jerusalem. Solutions can be found to all outstanding issues that should be fair and just to both sides and should not undermine the sovereignty of the
Palestinian and Israeli states as determined by their respective citizens, and embodying the aspirations to statehood of both peoples, Jewish and Palestinian. This solution should build on
the progress made between November 1999 and January 2001.

"The immediate need is for the full and accurate implementation of the Recommendations of the Mitchell Committee, including: the cessation of violence, a total freeze on settlement activity, the
implementation of outstanding agreements and a return to negotiations. This process needs to be monitored by an objective third party.

"We see it as our duty to work together and each of us in their own communities, to put a halt to the deterioration in our relations, to rebuild trust, belief and the hope for peace."

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