Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Generous Offers and Opportunities to Miss Opportunities

The map from Ross's The Missing Peace (Source: Jpundit)

It has become widely accepted among pro-Palestinian advocates that former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's "generous offer" to Yasir Arafat at the July 2000 Camp David summit was, in fact, an insidious attempt to further cement Israeli control over the Palestinians. According to this narrative, which calls itself a corrective to Zionist propaganda, and, which, has even been accepted by many Israeli leftists, the Palestinians were entirely justified in rejecting Barak's overtures, as the offer was not generous at all. Jimmy Carter has given new credence to this myth in his book.

The lies told by the Palestinian leadership and their witting as well as unwitting propagandists in the West are all the more astounding as they contradict the recollections of U.S. President Clinton as well as several key American negotiators. Dennis Ross has tried for years to talk sense into the myth-makers, but apparently it is easier to continue believing that everything Israel does is actually aimed at cementing the oppression of the Palestinians. In an op-ed published in the New York Times earlier today, Ross accuses Carter of
misrepresent[ing] the Middle East proposals advanced by President Bill Clinton in 2000, and in so doing undermin[ing], in a small but important way, efforts to bring peace to the region.
Apparently, Carter in his book contrasted two maps which he labeled the “Palestinian Interpretation of Clinton’s Proposal 2000” and the “Israeli Interpretation of Clinton’s Proposal 2000.” However, as Ross explains,

The problem is that the “Palestinian interpretation” is actually taken from an Israeli map presented during the Camp David summit meeting in July 2000, while the “Israeli interpretation” is an approximation of what President Clinton subsequently proposed in December of that year. Without knowing this, the reader is left to conclude that the Clinton proposals must have been so ambiguous and unfair that Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, was justified in rejecting them. But that is simply untrue.

The Arafat apologists insist to this day that the Palestinian leader made the right choice, dismissing the quip attributed to Abba Eban that "the Palestinians have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity" as a vicious lie. But considering what the Palestinians could have obtained in 2000 if they had accepted Barak's offer instead of launching the second intifadah, Eban's statement is still right on the money. As Dennis Ross writes,

Put simply, the Clinton parameters would have produced an independent Palestinian state with 100 percent of Gaza, roughly 97 percent of the West Bank and an elevated train or highway to connect them. Jerusalem’s status would have been guided by the principle that what is currently Jewish will be Israeli and what is currently Arab will be Palestinian, meaning that Jewish Jerusalem — East and West — would be united, while Arab East Jerusalem would become the capital of the Palestinian state.

The Palestinian state would have been “nonmilitarized,” with internal security forces but no army and an international military presence led by the United States to prevent terrorist infiltration and smuggling. Palestinian refugees would have had the right of return to their state, but not to Israel, and a fund of $30 billion would have been created to compensate those refugees who chose not to exercise their right of return to the Palestinian state.

One of the most common arguments advanced by those critical of the "generous offer myth" is that the Clinton plan would not have produced a contiguous Palestinian state. Never mind that the main reason cited by Arafat for his rejection of the proposal was the problem of the refugees (he, of course, insisted that Palestinian refugees and their descendants be allowed to move to pre-1967 Israel). And never mind that few of these critics have ever produced evidence in the form of maps demonstrating that the Clinton plan would result in the West Bank's division into "Bantustans." It's also strange that few of these propagandists have considered the fact that a Palestinian state will not be contiguous anyway, since Gaza and the West Bank are separated by a broad swathe of Israel.

But logic doesn't disturb such useful morons as Miriam Ward, a member of Pax Christi, who declared in a 2002 piece that
In the 1993 Oslo Agreement, by recognizing Israel’s right to exist, Palestinians already gave up 78 percent of their land and accepted the formula “land for peace” within the context of U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, which calls for the withdrawal of Israel from the occupied territories. This meant Palestinians were willing to settle for 22 percent of originally mandated Palestine. To put it bluntly: You take $100 from me and later offer to repay $22. I cut my losses and give up $78. Still later you want more of my remaining $22.
By her reasoning, anything the Palestinians concede should be regarded as a favor to Israel, since the land really belongs to the Arabs. Indeed, this is the consensus among the large majority of the post-colonial academic elite in America, and their growing disciples in the world. Using the rhetoric of "indigenous rights," they present Jews as entirely alien to the Land of Israel and to the Middle East.


Rebecca said...

You're right - and it's so hard to argue against this perspective. Perhaps one could say (in answer to the "22%" argument) that if the Arabs had accepted the UN partition plan, they would have ended up with much more of Palestine. Although for some people that would still not be fair, since the Arabs should have had the entire country.

I had an argument on this issue with a student at the end of the semester - she argued that it was a mistake to create Israel altogether. I could never get from her the answer to the question of what should happen now. She also seemed aghast at the idea that Israeli Jews would violently oppose the dissolution of Israel and the creation of a binational state in all of Palestine. (And this was after she had spent the entire semester in my modern Jewish history class! Boy, sometimes it seems like we don't manage to teach our students anything).

Noah Kaye said...

I'm glad you picked this up. Dennis Ross is such an important voice on the state of the Arab-Israeli peace process, and his criticism of Carter on this score is damning.

Anonymous said...

i find it strange that the israelis can negotiate land that is not even theirs.international law is clear on this matter.but israel never care about that.
the jews conquered the holyland in ancient time, so did the greeks,romans,etc,etc etc. does this means they have are right to modern day israel.
barack offered arafat 64% of the 22% of original palestine. and jeruselem and the illegal settlement would always be israeli. baracks offer really wasn't a offer at all, more like crumbs.