The Day Barak’s Bubble Burst
Were a student to present Professor Shlomo Ben Ami with
the paper that was
published in his name in the HaAretz supplement (14.9.01), the
professor would have handed it back with the comments: "Grade: 50%.
Large holes in the argument. Many internal contradictions. No connection
between the facts and the conclusions. No support for the main argument.
The article, presented as an interview, must be read several times
before the weaknesses become apparent. As it extends over 8 long pages,
it can be assumed that most readers were satisfied glossing over the
headlines and the highlighted quotations, phrased like campaign slogans.
Thus Ben Ami further augments the damage that he and Barak wreaked when
their short and catastrophic political term of office crashed to its
From between the lines, scattered unintentionally, emerges a true
picture. He says of himself and of Barak: "We were not really members of
the ‘in-group’ of the left. Neither of us were members of the peace
industry. Neither of us is a true peace industrialist." His words,
ironically intended, can be translated more simply: neither of them knew
anything about the Palestinians, the traumas, the historical narrative,
the fears and ambitions of the designated partner. Ben Ami and Barak
shared the staggering audacity to approach this historical peace-making
task equipped exclusively with ignorance and arrogance – military
bravado in Barak’s case, and intellectual vanity in Ben Ami’s.
The ignorance worked against them as they did not understand the
internal code of the Palestinians but were entirely imprisoned in that
of ours. Hence they simply did not understand the other side. All its
positions were incomprehensible and all its actions unanticipated. Those
who understand the Palestinian issue, who have spent long years studying
the subject and thousand of hours of personal dialogue, with some degree
of empathy, with Palestinians were not surprised by any of the moves
made. (Allow me to remind you that I myself predicted and published in
advance most of the steps taken by the Palestinians.)
History and the coming elections
Ben Ami’s main conclusion is: "For Arafat, Oslo was a huge diversion
which allowed him to conceal the political pressure and the terrorism he
was activating to undermine the very idea of two countries for two
nations." I would be willing to allocate a substantial prize to anyone
who can find any proof for this assertion in the 8 pages of the Ben Ami
illustrious professor is presenting his personal opinion as a
conclusion based on factual evidence. He demonizes the leader of the
other nation in a vulgar manner in order to justify his own monumental
failure and shift the burden of blame for this disaster.
It is true that Arafat and Barak are very different, as different from
each other as David Ben Gurion was from Avrum Burg. As the American
saying goes: "a statesman thinks of the next generations, a politician
thinks of the next elections." Arafat is a historical leader who led his
people from the brink of total annihilation to the verge of independent
statehood (although not yet visible). Barak, as Ben Ami describes him,
was persistently preoccupied with the coming elections. The third man in
the game, Clinton, could not be re-elected but he was very much
concerned about Barak’s re-election and the electoral race of his wife
in the world’s largest Jewish city.
Arafat gave up nothing
Two very crucial facts, which cast a dark shadow on Barak and Ben Ami,
are conspicuously missing from Ben Ami’s story: (a) Israel refused to
fulfill its obligation according to a signed agreement to complete the
third phase of the withdrawal, which was supposed to encompass the
entire West Bank with the exception of specific military locations, and
(b) throughout the negotiation, Barak expanded the settlements and the
by-pass roads at a frantic pace. To this the Palestinians response was:
"While you are arguing with us about how to sdivide the pizza, you are
Ben Ami’s main contention is that at every stage of the negotiation,
from Stockholm in the spring of 2000 to Taba at the beginning of 2001,
Arafat did not agree to one single compromise. The Israeli side gave and
gave, "kvetsch after kvetsch" in the Yiddish of Ben Ami (who was born in
Tangier, Morocco), and Arafat never presented a single proposal of his
own. In Ben Ami’s words: "Arafat did not participate in the game."
This description is not substantiated by the facts that Ben Ami himself
presents. The facts show (a) that Arafat had a clear position throughout
the negotiation process and (b) that Arafat made far-reaching
compromises beyond this position.
From the start, the Israeli and American approach was based on an
erroneous assumption, which was the result of not listening to (or
underestimating) the other side. They thought of compromise in terms of
trade: the buyer offers 10 dollars, the seller demands 20 and they
compromise on 15. The buyer (Israel) offered 11, then 12, then 13. The
seller (the Palestinians) insisted on 20 and, reluctantly, came down to
19.50. According to Ben Ami, this is tantamount to proof that he wants
to destroy Israel.
The Palestinian interpretation is very different. They made their
historical compromise at Oslo, when they formally relinquished 78% of
their homeland that was captured by the Israelis in 1948, and accepted
the remaining 22%. Israel now comes (assisted by the Americans) to
demand a compromise on these 22%. For the Palestinians, this is out of
Ben Ami claims that: "they refused to give us any clue regarding the
end of their demands…. a black hole of one demand followed by another
demand, with no clear view of the finish line." But the real problem was
the hearing difficulty of the professor himself. If only the arrogant
duo Barak-Ben Ami had listened to what "this character" (in Barak’s
words) repeated over and over, they would have known there was a very
clear finish line. It had been on the table all the time: the
establishment of a Palestinian State in all the occupied territories
beyond the green line and the achievement of a true peace between Israel
and Palestine. We heard this position hundreds of times over the years.
There is no shred of evidence to refute its sincerity. It is stable and
solid, as opposed to the infinite series of sophistries produced by Ben
Ami and Beilin that were designed as "new offers".
As an aside, if there were any truth to the stock Israeli assertion
that the Palestinians employ the "slice method" (take what is offered
and ask for more, until Israel is destroyed) then Arafat surely would
have grabbed Barak’s "generous offer" in both hands and left the demand
for more to his heirs. The fact that Arafat turned down the offers
proves his sincerity. He regarded the agreement as "the end of the
conflict" and therefore required the minimum necessary for the
Palestinians to establish an independent State. It was precisely this
insistence by the Palestinians, that so infuriated Ben Ami, which
demonstrates their willingness to recognize Israel and end the conflict.
Even according to Ben Ami, Arafat did in fact make some far-reaching
compromises from the Palestinian perspective. Among these:
- He agreed to changes in the green line and to the annexation of 2% -
3.5% to Israel.
- He agreed theoretically to settlement blocs, which are an anathema
to the Palestinians.
- He agreed to the annexation to Israel of Jewish neighborhoods in
East Jerusalem, which for Palestinians are, in every respect,
settlements set up in land taken by Israel in 1967.
- He agreed to hand over to Israel the Western Wall and the Jewish
quarter in the Old City.
- He agreed to relinquish the historical claim of the refugees to
return to their homes and accepted, in principle, that Israel will only
allow the return of an agreed-upon limited number.
Anyone who knows even a little about the Palestinian subject knows that
these are enormous compromises. How can this be reconciled with the
conclusion that they want to destroy Israel?
Camp David: Deranged Behavior
And now for the facts, (I am not comparing Ben Ami’s description with
those of the Palestinians, but relying solely on Ben Ami’s own
When Barak set forth early in 2001, he offered the Palestinians 65% of
the territories (which represent 14.5% of mandatory Eretz Israel).
In the spring of 2000, when the negotiations began in Stockholm, the
Israelis demanded 12% of the territories (with no land swap) in addition
to "security holdings" in the Jordan Valley (effectively an annexation
of an additional 10%) and Israeli control over the Jordan river border
area (effectively cutting off the West Bank from Jordan). Barak objected
to any discussion of Jerusalem and refused to even mention Jerusalem as
a topic of discussion. The refined Abu-Ala said to Ben Ami: "Shlomo,
take the maps back."
The next stage was Camp David in July 2000. From Robert Malley,
Clinton’s aide, we know that Arafat was coerced against his will to
attend. He believed (correctly) that he was walking into a trap. Barak
and Clinton were like the two arms of a nutcracker who intended to crack
him open (as I wrote at the time). Arafat’s sole purpose was to emerge
unscathed and whole. Barak, whose government had already begun to fall
apart, intended to force Arafat into an agreement that would help him
get reelected. Clinton wanted to reward his long-suffering wife with
Jewish votes for her election to the senate.
The Israelis placed the map of 12% annexation on the table. Orally they
hinted that they would be willing to accept 8 – 10%, in addition to
their claim of "temporary" control over the Jordan Valley. The
Palestinians had already learned the value of oral promises from the
"third withdrawal" that has, to this date, not been carried out.
Gradually Jerusalem surfaced as a central topic. Barak’s offer was very
different from the impression created in Israel. He was willing to grant
the Palestinians control only on the "outer rim" (Abu-Dis, which he had
previously promised to hand over but never did, El-Azariah, Beit-Hanina
etc.). But he intended to keep the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem
proper (Sheikh-Jarah, Abu-Joz, Ras-El-Amud, Silwan etc.) under Israeli
sovereignty, handing over only "functional autonomy" to the
Palestinians. He was ready to grant the Palestinians "permanent
guardianship" of the Temple Mount but insisted that Israel retain
sovereignty over it. No Arab or Muslim leader in the world could have
accepted such a "generous" offer.
The accounts of percentages (of annexation) do not tell the true story.
More important than the number of dunams, was their location. The
Israeli map effectively chopped up the West Bank into three unconnected
enclaves, each one surrounded by settlements and soldiers. The fragile
territorial continuity shown in the map does not change this reality.
When the Palestinians rejected this offer, Barak sank into a deep
depression – according to Ben Ami. For two days he did not even speak to
any of his aides. During a formal dinner he sat stiff "like a pillar of
salt". He avoided Arafat throughout the conference. Anyone who knows
Arafat the man, knows that personal contact is very important to him.
This may not have changed the substance of the talks but it could have
prevented avoidable crises. Barak’s refusal to talk to him directly and
to acknowledge him at official dinners, certainly confirmed his worst
suspicions. Ben Ami attributes this deranged behavior of Barak to
"Cartesian logic" (pure logic, named after the French philosopher Rene
Descartes). Arafat, being only a simple Arab, could not aspire to such
an elevated quality. "They (the Palestinians) lacked the greatness that
was in Ehud", enthused the professor.
Ben Ami’s descriptions are replete with psychological reflections about
Arafat as he appears in the imagination of this professor of modern
Spanish history. Anyone who knows Arafat knows there is no similarity
between "this character" and the real man. Ben Ami simply has no clue.
It appears that the students of Descartes could not cross the cultural
gap and simply could not understand the language of the Arab leader.
This phenomenon is known also in relations between Americans and
Japanese, for one example. When Arafat politely indicated refusal, in a
language that would be clear to any Arab, they understood that he had
accepted and were shocked to discover the following day that the answer
Ben Ami’s ignorance reaches a climax when he says "at that moment (the
moment does not matter) I understood that they (the Palestinians) were
not Sadat". Sadat? The Egyptian leader demanded and received every last
inch of his territories, with all the settlements in it dismantled,
including the town of Yamit. He would never have agreed to the kind of
compromises made by Arafat.
Taba: the last alibi
After Camp David exploded over what seemed to the Palestinians to be
the humiliating offers of Barak and his total disregard for the
far-reaching compromises they had made and brought to the table, the
Intifada broke out. This completely changed the rules of the game.
Nevertheless Clinton presented his own plan. He had less than one full
month in office and no way to ensure that the Israelis would keep their
side of his offer.
What did he offer? Annexation to Israel of 2% - 3% of the West Bank in
exchange for Israeli territory equal to 1% of the West Bank.
Alternatively, annexation of 6% to Israel in exchange for 3%. Division
of Jerusalem: all that is Jewish – to Israel, all that is Arab – to
Palestine. The Temple Mount to Palestine, the Western Wall and the Holy
of Holies (in other words, part of the Temple Mount) to Israel. A
minimal number of refugees to return to Israel, "in accordance with the
Israeli Law". Military control in the Jordan Valley for three years,
military presence for an additional three years.
Both sides submitted several pages of reservations. With great verbal
agility, Ben Ami claims that the Palestinians effectively rejected the
offer and the Israelis actually accepted it. Nothing of the kind! Barak
persisted in his entirely unacceptable demands that the West Bank be cut
off from Jordan and that Israel have a degree of sovereign control over
the Temple Mount. The Palestinians, of course, rejected the idea of
"Holy of Holies" and submitted their own demands.
Then there was Taba. This is Ben Ami’s last alibi. The myth of "Barak’s
generous offers" was exposed following the disclosures of the American
Robert Malley and others. A new myth was born: although no "generous
offers" were made at Camp David, at Taba the Palestinians were offered
everything, and they refused. This proves that…. etc.
At Taba there was, indeed, significant progress. It was agreed in
principle that the number of refugees allowed to return to Israel would
be limited by an agreement. This was a very significant Palestinian and
Israeli compromise. What remained was the argument over the numbers: the
Palestinians opened the negotiations at 150 thousand per year for ten
years. According to Ben Ami,Yossi Beilin offered 40 thousand (per year?
In total?). The Israeli delegation presented a new map with an
annexation of 5.5% to Israel. The settlement blocs were reduced in size
and the topic of a swap of territories was raised. Locations were not
For the first time, Ben Ami confessed, the Palestinians presented a
counter-map, which relinquished 2.34% and left the large settlements and
the bypass roads to them in Israel, but without the Palestinian villages
The Palestinians already knew at this stage that there was no support
for the Israeli offer as elections were to take place in Israel in a few
days and, according to all the polls, Barak was about to suffer a
colossal defeat. But they did not reject the Israeli offers, as Ben Ami
claims. On the contrary, since then they insist that every negotiation
begin at the point that Taba ended.
Ben Ami does not take the trouble to remind his readers how the
negotiations at Taba ended: Barak instructed that they end and that all
offers be retracted. This fact does not prevent Barak saying, ever
since, that he turned over every stone and offered everything while the
wicked Arafat responded with war.
The road to Hell and good intentions
The road to Hell is sometimes paved with good intentions. There is no
doubt that Ben Ami had good intentions but he led us to the current
To cover up his awful failure, he created the legend that there is no
one to speak to, that the Palestinians intend to destroy Israel, that
"for them the negotiation ends only when Israel collapses." This is said
while Israel uses brutal oppressive force in the occupied territories,
kills Palestinian activists and refuses to freeze the settlements.
Ben Ami’s term as Minister of Police gave us the October 2000
catastrophe (when police killed 11 Arab citizens), which ruined,
possibly for generations to come, the good relations between Jews and
Arabs in Israel. His short term as Foreign Minister ended in disaster
that destroyed large sections of the Israeli peace camp and guaranteed
the election of Sharon.
Such results might lead another man to regretful contemplation and to a
measure of humility. Not Ben Ami who in his own eyes is a political
The editor gave the interview with him the title "The Day the Peace
Died". It should have been called "The Day We Killed the Peace".
To discus this article:
Der Tag, an dem der Frieden
Kommentar von Uri Avnery:
The Day Barak’s Bubble Burst
Die Höhen des nationalen Pathos:
David und die Widrigkeiten der Realität
Ahmed Kurajji, Mitglied der palästinensischen
Scheitern von Camp David
Wir Palästinenser werden uns unser historisches und international
anerkanntes Recht auf ein Ende der israelischen Besatzung und unseren
eigenen Staat nicht nehmen lassen. Und wir wehren uns gegen den Vorwurf,
wir trügen die Schuld am Kollaps des Friedensprozesses. Zu den größten
Lügen gehört die Legende von Camp David...
Jedem Durchbruch folgte stets ein Abbruch:
Was bleibt von
Taba nach der Wahl?
UN-Generalsekretär Kofi Annan bewertete die jüngsten
Verhandlungsergebnisse als sehr positiv. Er sagte am Freitag in New
York, dass nach seiner Erkenntnis ein Friedensabkommen in naher Zukunft
Liberaler ägyptischer Intellektueller:
Rolle der arabischen Regierungen in Camp David
In einem am 9. September 2002 veröffentlichten Artikel der
arabischsprachigen Tageszeitung Al-Hayat kritisiert der ägyptische Autor
Amin Al Mahdi die arabischen Regierungen für die Instrumentalisierung
der Palästinafrage und untersucht ihre Rolle bei der Ablehnung des
Friedensvertrags von Bill Clinton in Camp David.
Nach sieben Jahren und neun Tagen:
Hoffnung auf Klarheit und deutliche Worte
Trotz aller Freude über ein angebliches Scheitern der Gespräche auf
Seiten der national-religiösen Bewegung, wird - zumindest vorerst - noch
Inszenierung eines Scheiterns
ARAFAT UND BARAK
IN DER SACKGASSE VON CAMP DAVID
AM 13. September 2000 sollte nach dem
Osloer Abkommen von 1995 ein Friedensvertrag zwischen Israel und den
Palästinensern unterzeichnet werden. Dass daraus nichts wird, ist beim
Dreiergipfel in Camp David vollends offenbar geworden. Seitdem ahnt
US-Präsident Clinton, dass es in seiner Amtszeit wohl keinen
Friedensvertrag geben wird. Aber auch Clinton selbst hat zum Scheitern
des Gipfels beigetragen, indem er in wichtigen Fragen für Israel Partei
ISRAEL UND PALÄSTINA:
DER Oslo-Friedensprozess zwischen Israel und den
Palästinensern ist am Ende. Damit sind zwar nicht alle Elemente eines
Kompromisses hinfällig, die in den Oslo-Abkommen verabredet wurden. Doch
die intransingente Haltung Israels hat die Autorität Arafats und der
Autonomieregierung beharrlich untergraben.
EIN UNENDLICHES ZERWÜRFNIS
Taba contra Camp David
Camp David II, inoffiziell
Die Konferenz von
Taba brachte im Januar 2001 eine Annäherung der Positionen die weit über
das in Camp David II hinausreichte. Grundlage für die endgültige
Festlegung der Grenzen
„Ein Jahr, nachdem wir einem großen Erfolg sehr
Erinnerungen an die
Konferenz von Taba
Enthält einige Landkarten
Ein Jahr Intifadah
und sieben Monate nach Taba
Von ALAIN GRESH
DIE Frage der palästinensischen Flüchtlinge ist von
zentraler Bedeutung in den israelisch-palästinensischen Beziehungen.
Eine umfassende und gerechte Lösung dieses Problems wird entscheidend
sein für die Herstellung eines dauerhaften und moralisch vertretbaren
Friedens. [. . .]
Fortschritte auf dem Weg zum Frieden:
Die Rechte spricht von Verrat und Ausverkauf
Die französische Zeitung "Le Monde" enthüllt
Einzelheiten aus dem sich abzeichnenden Abkommen über den Finalstatus.
Politische Stellen bestätigten inzwischen die Meldung in "Le Monde"
bezüglich der Ideen, die bei den Verhandlungen über die Lösungen zu den
Fragen Jerusalem und Siedlungen vorgebracht wurden.
Immer mehr Hoffnung aus Camp David:
Irushalajim - Birath haSchalom!
Geteilte Realitäten in der 'Heiligen Stadt':
Freier Zugang und unüberwindbare Grenzen
Das Oberrabbinat Jerusalem und die Frage zum
Irushalajim und die Tage des Moshiach
Nahost-Gipfel in Camp David:
Barak wird auf jeden Fall teilnehmen
Ein israelischer Vorschlag zur Flüchtlingsfrage
Taba, 23. Januar 2001
Inoffizielle Antwort auf das Papier zur
palästinensischen Flüchtlingsfrage vom 22. Januar 2001 (Konferenz
Die Bedeutung einer Lösung des
Materialien zum Friedensprozess:
[Text in English]
Führende israelische und palästinensische
Intellektuelle und politische Aktivisten sind zusammengekommen, um der
Öffentlichkeit eine gemeinsame Erklärung zu den Hauptstreitpunkten des
Konfliktes vorzustellen. Der vollständige Text der Erklärung lautet wie
The Tragedy of Errors
Mr. Malley, as Special Assistant to President Clinton for
Arab-Israeli Affairs, was a member of the US peace team and participated
in the Camp David summit. Mr. Agha has been involved in Palestinian
affairs for more than thirty years and during this period has had an
active part in Israeli- Palestinian relations.
Dr. Ron Pundak,
to Taba: What Went Wrong?”
Three approaches can be distinguished
regarding the question of what went wrong with the peace process, which
began in Oslo. The first approach maintains that peace between Israelis
Frieden und Krieg
Von IGNACIO RAMONET
Es war fast geschafft. Im Juni dieses Jahres schien
der Frieden im Nahen Osten zwischen Palästinensern und Israelis zum
Greifen nahe. In den wichtigsten Streitfragen
Teilung ist sinnlos - oder
Die Geisterbahn von Oslo nach Jerusalem
Warum ist das Abkommen von Oslo
gescheitert? Warum sind auch die im Moment diskutierten Vorschläge zum
Scheitern verurteilt? Und scheitern werden sie, zweifellos.
"Genug ist genug":
Arafat sieht weiterhin
Hoffnung auf ein Abkommen
Arafat in der israelischen
Gestern verbreiteten alle palästinensischen
Zeitungen Jasir Arafats Aufruf zur sofortigen Beendigung der
mörderischen Anschläge gegen die israelische Gesellschaft.
Ein durchaus vielversprechender Anfang:
Seit dem Scheitern der (Friedens-)Gespräche
von Camp David im Jahr 2000 ist Barak ja rastlos unterwegs - mit einer
Kampagne, die die Welt davon überzeugen soll: für das Scheitern der
Gespräche war niemand anderes verantwortlich als Jassir Arafat...
wie es von den Verhandlungspartnern genannt wurde, stellt eine
Zusammenfassung der Verhandlungen in Taba dar.
haGalil onLine 08-10-2001