View of the Future: Die or Separate
and the Palestinians just cant live together, says
Camp Davids peacemaker
by Lally Weymouth
his first interview since he was defeated last February,
former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak sat down and discussed
Camp David, Yasir Arafat and the bleak legacy of his peacemaking
efforts with Newsweeks Lally Weymouth. Excerpts:
Is there any chance for Israel to arrive at a negotiated
agreement with the Palestinians while Arafat is still in
BARAK: My feeling is that we wont have a peace
agreement with Arafat. Hes not a Palestinian Sadat
or a Palestinian King Hussein. Arafat turned to violence
after Camp David. Camp David was a moment of truth ... It
was an end to what Arafat had done for years - namely, talk
in English about his readiness to make peace and in Arabic
about eliminating Israel in stages. He decided that only
by turning to violence could he once again create world
sympathy. Arafat believed that pictures of young Palestinians
facing Israeli tanks would compensate for his failure. His
indifference to Palestinian casualties and loss of life
... is a kind of a Palestinian tragedy. If they were a democratic
society they would replace him.
are reports that the Israeli cabinet Is considering authorising
the Army to enter Palestinian territories to eliminate the
Palestinian Authority and get rid of Arafat. Do you favour
It should be a last resort, an option we are willing to
contemplate only if all other options have not worked and
we have gathered international support. It could easily
boomerang and prompt international intervention in ways
that might hurt Israels interest. If there is a major
clash and the world does not understand why Israel is acting,
we might end up with an imposed solution which would be
against our interest
you approve of Prime Minister Ariel Sharons policy
Sharon is doing the right thing by combining an active campaign
against terrorists, with restraint against wider operations
that could harm the civilian population.
back, do you think you made too many concessions at Camp
I am confident that we did the right thing for the future
of Israel. When I took power, there was only one path that
I found reasonable - either to unmask Arafat or to take
calculated risks if we found him a Palestinian Sadat, ready
to put an end to the conflict.
you saying you went to Camp David to expose Arafat?
No. Arafat is a highly sophisticated and cunning rival.
He is not easy to penetrate, and its not easy to understand
his real intentions. Oslo was based on a set of assumptions
that if he was recalled from Tunisia to Gaza and the West
Bank, if a kind of political authority was established for
him and he was exposed to meeting the daily needs of his
own people, if he was treated as a future leader of a state,
this would transform him from a leader of a terrorist organization
into a responsible leader of a future state. So it was not
a conspiracy or a trick to push Arafat into a trap. You
cannot know the other sides intentions without being
willing to take certain risks.
did you think the chances were?
At the beginning I thought it was maybe 50-50. Maybe it
was just his way to delay
the moment of truth and reach it with the maximum political
capital. But during and after Camp David, it became clear
that we didnt have the kind of leader we hoped for,
that could make the decisions, a Sadat-like leader. Then
it became important to expose him. That was the pre-condition
for the Israeli unity which Sharon enjoys.
exactly did you offer at Camp David?
It was not these details that led to its failure. Formally,
they were not our suggestions but ideas raised by the American
president. Ninety to ninety one per cent [of the West Bank]
would be transferred to the Palestinians in exchange for
a one per cent territorial swap.
was Jerusalem going to be divided?
The [Clinton] administrations idea was that we would
take the Jewish neighborhood, and Arafat would take most
of the Arab neighborhoods. Certain neighborhoods would be
under a special regime or a kind, of joint management.
about the Temple Mount?
The president suggested an arrangement under which they
would have a custodian sovereignty while we had overall
sovereignty. The real objective of Camp David was to know
if we had a serious partner who was ready to accept such
far-reaching ideas as a basis for an agreement.
were ready to give up the Jordan Valley, which Rabin said
was strategically crucial.
In exchange for an end to the Israeli-Arab conflict, we
were ready to contemplate far-reaching risks. But Arafat
refused. He said, "I cannot take these ideas as a basis
for negotiation. And I demand the right of return and full
sovereignty over the Temple Mount". This is a euphemism
for the elimination of Israel, and no Israeli government
will accept it. There is a thin line between a calculated
risk and yielding to terror. I never intended to cross this
criticise you for not having built a personal rapport with
Arafat before and at Camp David.
Its ridiculous. Can you remember what kind of rapport
existed between Begin and Sadat? They hardly talked to each
other, but they were leaders.
say you made a mistake to start negotiating with Syria and
that by the time you turned to Arafat it was too late.
No, it was clear [Syrian President Hafez] Assad was ageing,
and after he died we would enter along period of uncertainty.
you pulled out of Lebanon and did not get an agreement with
Syria. Was that a mistake?
No, it was not a mistake. It takes two to make an agreement.
Toward the end Assad was gradually becoming more and more
focused on the succession process.
you believe the separation from the Palestinians is the
only way out?
I believe, in the long term, the strategic need of Israel
is disengagement from the Palestinians.
says separation is impossible.
I think hes wrong and its imperative.
how will it work? Will you have a poor Palestinian state
living side by side with a wealthy Israel?
Every attempt to leave us with one political unit, west
of the Jordan River will end up with either a bi-national
state or an apartheid system-but clearly not a jewish democratic
state. The only answer is to establish a border for Israel
in which we will have a solid Jewish majority for generations
to come. It might take three or four years to delineate
the lines around settlement blocks. At the beginning, I
would not dismantle settlements. But in due time, I would
take isolated settlements into the settlement blocks or
into Israel proper.I would announce formally that we leave
the door open for the Palestinians to resume negotiations
based on Camp David without any precondition, except for
the absence of violence.
Once Oslos assumptions collapsed, it cast a disturbing
shadow in retrospect on what has happened since 1996. Maybe
Arafat cheated all of us. I put an end to the process of
giving him more and more land just to find out in the end
that we gave him everything [and got nothing in return].
you going to come back to politics soon?
Its not on the table right now.
did you meet such rejection in the last election, considering
you had taken incredible risks for peace?
It was clear to me, especially in the last few months, that
by pursuing this policy I was taking a big political risk.
Sharon was telling people, "Rely on me. I will solve
it easily.." I knew if he won, he would end up doing
basically what I had done. It was clear to me that by sticking
to these policies I risked a kind of personal and political
defeat But I have done it all my life.
It worth it?
I did the right thing for my country, and I never look backward.
When the time comes for the Palestinians to have a Sadat-like
leader, we will end up with a favourable agreement and then
with permanent peace along the same lines shaped by us at
you think that time will come?
It will take years.
Minister Sharon cannot proceed from where Ehud Barak left
off. He can only succeed by following a complete change
alone cannot solve the Palestinian problem, which must be
regarded as a regional problem. All the Arab countries that
waged successive wars on Israel and emboldened Arafat in
his latest stance must contribute to a lasting settlement.
the new Bush administration has accepted this reality.
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