Articles included: By Hussein Agha, Robert Malley. “Camp David: The Tragedy of Errors.” (http://www.nybooks.

com/articles/14380) Benny Morris. “Camp David and After: An Exchange (1. An Interview with Ehud Barak)” ( Agha and Malley. “Camp David and After: An Exchange (2. A Reply to Ehud Barak)” ( Camp David: The Tragedy of Errors By Hussein Agha, Robert Malley 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. In accounts of what happened at the July 2000 Camp David summit and the following months of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, we often hear about Ehud Barak's unprecedented offer and Yasser Arafat's uncompromising no. Israel is said to have made a historic, generous proposal, which the Palestinians, once again seizing the opportunity to miss an opportunity, turned down. In short, the failure to reach a final agreement is attributed, without notable dissent, to Yasser Arafat. As orthodoxies go, this is a dangerous one. For it has larger ripple effects. Broader conclusions take hold. That there is no peace partner is one. That there is no possible end to the conflict with Arafat is another. For a process of such complexity, the diagnosis is remarkably shallow. It ignores history, the dynamics of the negotiations, and the relationships among the three parties. In so doing, it fails to capture why what so many viewed as a generous Israeli offer, the Palestinians viewed as neither generous, nor Israeli, nor, indeed, as an offer. Worse, it acts as a harmful constraint on American policy by offering up a single, convenient culprit—Arafat—rather than a more nuanced and realistic analysis. 1. Each side came to Camp David with very different perspectives, which led, in turn, to highly divergent approaches to the talks. Ehud Barak was guided by three principles. First was a deep antipathy toward the concept of gradual steps that lay at the heart of the 1993 Oslo agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization. In his view, the withdrawals of Israeli

forces from parts of Gaza and the West Bank during the preceding seven years had forced Israel to pay a heavy price without getting anything tangible in return and without knowing the scope of the Palestinians' final demands. A second axiom for Barak was that the Palestinian leadership would make a historic compromise—if at all—only after it had explored and found unappealing all other possibilities. An analysis of Israeli politics led to Barak's third principle. Barak's team was convinced that the Israeli public would ratify an agreement with the Palestinians, even one that entailed far-reaching concessions, so long as it was final and brought quiet and normalcy to the country. But Barak and his associates also felt that the best way to bring the agreement before the Israeli public was to minimize any political friction along the way. Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin had paid a tremendous political (and physical) price by alienating the Israeli right wing and failing to bring its members along during the Oslo process. Barak was determined not to repeat that mistake. Paradoxically, a government that believed it enjoyed considerable latitude concerning the terms of the ultimate deal felt remarkably constrained on the steps it could take to get there. Bearing these principles in mind helps us to make sense of the Israeli government's actions during this period. To begin, Barak discarded a number of interim steps, even those to which Israel was formally committed by various agreements—including a third partial redeployment of troops from the West Bank, the transfer to Palestinian control of three villages abutting Jerusalem, and the release of Palestinians imprisoned for acts committed before the Oslo agreement. He did not want to estrange the right prematurely or be (or appear to be) a "sucker" by handing over assets, only to be rebuffed on the permanent status deal. In Barak's binary cost-benefit analysis, such steps did not add up: on the one hand, if Israelis and Palestinians reached a final agreement, all these minor steps (and then some) would be taken; on the other hand, if the parties failed to reach a final agreement, those steps would have been wasted. What is more, concessions to the Palestinians would cost Barak precious political capital he was determined to husband until the final, climactic moment. The better route, he thought, was to present all concessions and all rewards in one comprehensive package that the Israeli public would be asked to accept in a national referendum. Oslo was being turned on its head. It had been a wager on success—a blank check signed by two sides willing to take difficult preliminary steps in the expectation that they would reach an agreement. Barak's approach was a hedge against failure—a reluctance to make preliminary concessions out of fear that they might not. Much the same can be said about Israel's expansion of the West Bank settlements, which proceeded at a rapid pace. Barak saw no reason to needlessly alienate the settler constituency. Moreover, insofar as new housing units were being established on land that Israel ultimately would annex under a permanent deal—at least any permanent deal Barak would sign—he saw no harm to the Palestinians in permitting such construction. In other words, Barak's single-minded focus on the big picture only

magnified in his eyes the significance—and cost—of the small steps. Precisely because he was willing to move a great distance in a final agreement (on territory or on Jerusalem, for example), he was unwilling to move an inch in the preamble (prisoners, settlements, troop redeployment, Jerusalem villages). Barak's principles also shed light on his all-or-nothing approach. In Barak's mind, Arafat had to be made to understand that there was no "third way," no "reversion to the interim approach," but rather a corridor leading either to an agreement or to confrontation. Seeking to enlist the support of the US and European nations for this plan, he asked them to threaten Arafat with the consequences of his obstinacy: the blame would be laid on the Palestinians and relations with them would be downgraded. Likewise, and throughout Camp David, Barak repeatedly urged the US to avoid mention of any fallback options or of the possibility of continued negotiations in the event the summit failed. The Prime Minister's insistence on holding a summit and the timing of the Camp David talks followed naturally. Barak was prepared to have his negotiators engage in preliminary discussions, which in fact took place for several months prior to Camp David. But for him, these were not the channels in which real progress could be made. Only by insisting on a single, high-level summit could all the necessary ingredients of success be present: the drama of a stark, all-or-nothing proposal; the prospect that Arafat might lose US support; the exposure of the ineffectiveness of Palestinian salamitactics (pocketing Israeli concessions that become the starting point at the next round); and, ultimately, the capacity to unveil to the Israeli people all the achievements and concessions of the deal in one fell swoop. 2. In Gaza and the West Bank, Barak's election was greeted with mixed emotions. Benjamin Netanyahu, his immediate predecessor, had failed to implement several of Israel's signed obliga-tions and, for that reason alone, his defeat was welcome. But during his campaign, Barak had given no indication that he was prepared for major compromises with the Palestinians. Labor back in power also meant Tel Aviv back in Washington's good graces; Netanyahu's tenure, by contrast, had seen a gradual cooling of America's relations with Israel and a concomitant warming of its relations with the Palestinian Authority. Palestinians were looking for early reassuring signs from Barak; his first moves were anything but. His broad government coalition (an assortment of peace advocates and hard-liners), his tough positions on issues like Jerusalem, and his reluctance to confront the settlers all contributed to an early atmosphere of distrust. Delays in addressing core Palestinian concerns—such as implementing the 1998 Wye Agreement (which Barak chose to renegotiate) or beginning permanent status talks (which Barak postponed by waiting to name a lead negotiator)—were particularly irksome given the impatient mood that prevailed in the territories. Seen from Gaza and the West Bank, Oslo's legacy read like a litany of promises deferred or unfulfilled. Six years after the agreement, there

were more Israeli settlements, less freedom of movement, and worse economic conditions. Powerful Palestinian constituencies—the intellectuals, security establishment, media, business community, "state" bureaucrats, political activists— whose support was vital for any peace effort were disillusioned with the results of the peace process, doubtful of Israel's willingness to implement signed agreements, and, now, disenchanted with Barak's rhetoric and actions. Perhaps most disturbing was Barak's early decision to concentrate on reaching a deal with Syria rather than with the Palestinians, a decision that Arafat experienced as a triple blow. The Palestinians saw it as an instrument of pressure, designed to isolate them; as a delaying tactic that would waste precious months; and as a public humiliation, intended to put them in their place. Over the years, Syria had done nothing to address Israeli concerns. There was no recognition, no bilateral contacts, not even a suspension of assistance to groups intent on fighting Israel. During that time, the PLO had recognized Israel, countless face-to-face negotiations had taken place, and Israeli and Palestinian security services had worked hand in hand. In spite of all this, Hafez alAssad—not Arafat—was the first leader to be courted by the new Israeli government. In March 2000, after the failed Geneva summit between Clinton and President Assad made clear that the Syrian track had run its course, Barak chose to proceed full steam ahead with the Palestinians, setting a deadline of only a few months to reach a permanent agreement. But by then, the frame of mind on the other side was anything but receptive. It was Barak's timetable, imposed after his Syrian gambit had failed, and designed with his own strategy in mind. Arafat was not about to oblige.

Indeed, behind almost all of Barak's moves, Arafat believed he could discern the objective of either forcing him to swallow an unconscionable deal or mobilizing the world to isolate and weaken the Palestinians if they refused to yield. Barak's stated view that the alternative to an agreement would be a situation far grimmer than the status quo created an atmosphere of pressure that only confirmed Arafat's suspicions—and the greater the pressure, the more stubborn the belief among Palestinians that Barak was trying to dupe them. Moreover, the steps Barak undertook to husband his resources while negotiating a historical final deal were interpreted by the Palestinians as efforts to weaken them while imposing an unfair one. Particularly troubling from this perspective was Barak's attitude toward the interim commitments, based on the Oslo, Wye, and later agreements. Those who claim that Arafat lacked interest in a permanent deal miss the point. Like Barak, the Palestinian leader felt that permanent status negotiations were long overdue; unlike Barak, he did not think that this justified doing away with the interim obligations. For Arafat, interim and permanent issues are inextricably linked—"part and parcel of each other," he told the President—precisely because they must be kept scrupulously separate. Unfulfilled interim obligations did more than cast doubt on Israel's intent to

deliver; in Arafat's eyes, they directly affected the balance of power that was to prevail once permanent status negotiations commenced. To take the simplest example: if Is-rael still held on to land that was supposed to be turned over during the interim phase, then the Palestinians would have to negotiate over that land as well during permanent status negotiations. And while Barak claimed that unfulfilled interim obligations would be quickly forgotten in the event that the summit succeeded, Arafat feared that they might just as quickly be ignored in the event that it failed. In other words, Barak's seemed a take-it-or-leave-it proposition in which leaving it meant forsaking not only the permanent status proposal, but also a further withdrawal of Israeli forces, the Jerusalem villages, the prisoner releases, and other interim commitments. Worse, it meant being confronted with the new settlement units in areas that Barak self-confidently assumed would be annexed to Israel under a permanent status deal. In many ways, Barak's actions led to a classic case of misaddressed messages: the intended recipients of his tough statements—the domestic constituency he was seeking to carry with him—barely listened, while their unintended recipients—the Palestinians he would sway with his final offer—listened only too well. Never convinced that Barak was ready to go far at all, the Palestinians were not about to believe that he was holding on to his assets in order to go far enough. For them, his goals were to pressure the Palestinians, lower their expectations, and worsen their alternatives. In short, everything Barak saw as evidence that he was serious, the Palestinians considered to be evidence that he was not. For these reasons, Camp David seemed to Arafat to encapsulate his worst nightmares. It was high-wire summitry, designed to increase the pressure on the Palestinians to reach a quick agreement while heightening the political and symbolic costs if they did not. And it clearly was a Clinton/ Barak idea both in concept and timing, and for that reason alone highly suspect. That the US issued the invitations despite Israel's refusal to carry out its earlier commitments and despite Arafat's plea for additional time to prepare only reinforced in his mind the sense of a US-Israeli conspiracy. On June 15, during his final meeting with Clinton before Camp David, Arafat set forth his case: Barak had not implemented prior agreements, there had been no progress in the negotiations, and the prime minister was holding all the cards. The only conceivable outcome of going to a summit, he told Secretary Albright, was to have everything explode in the President's face. If there is no summit, at least there will still be hope. The summit is our last card, Arafat said—do you really want to burn it? In the end, Arafat went to Camp David, for not to do so would have been to incur America's anger; but he went intent more on surviving than on benefiting from it. 3. Given both the mistrust and tactical clumsiness that characterized the two sides, the United States faced a formidable challenge. At the time, though, administration officials

believed there was a historic opportunity for an agreement. Barak was eager for a deal, wanted it achieved during Clinton's term in office, and had surrounded himself with some of Israel's most peace-minded politicians. For his part, Arafat had the opportunity to preside over the first Palestinian state, and he enjoyed a special bond with Clinton, the first US president to have met and dealt with him. As for Clinton, he was prepared to devote as much of his presidency as it took to make the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations succeed. A decision not to seize the opportunity would have produced as many regrets as the decision to seize it produced recriminations. Neither the President nor his advisers were blind to the growing distrust between the two sides or to Barak's tactical missteps. They had been troubled by his decision to favor negotiations with the "other woman," the Syrian president, who distracted him from his legitimate, albeit less appealing, Palestinian bride-to-be. Barak's inability to create a working relationship with Arafat was bemoaned in the administration; his entreaties to the Americans to "expose" and "unmask" Arafat to the world were largely ignored. When Barak reneged on his commitment to transfer the three Jerusalem villages to the Palestinians—a commitment the Prime Minister had specifically authorized Clinton to convey, in the President's name, to Arafat—Clinton was furious. As he put it, this was the first time that he had been made out to be a "false prophet" to a foreign leader. And, in an extraordinary moment at Camp David, when Barak retracted some of his positions, the President confronted him, expressing all his accumulated frustrations. "I can't go see Arafat with a retrenchment! You can sell it; there is no way I can. This is not real. This is not serious. I went to Shepherdstown [for the Israeli-Syrian negotiations] and was told nothing by you for four days. I went to Geneva [for the summit with Assad] and felt like a wooden Indian doing your bidding. I will not let it happen here!" In the end, though, and on almost all these questionable tactical judgments, the US either gave up or gave in, reluctantly acquiescing in the way Barak did things out of respect for the things he was trying to do. For there was a higher good, which was Barak's determination to reach peace agreements with Syria and the Palestinians. As early as July 1999, during their first meeting, Barak had outlined to Clinton his vision of a comprehensive peace. He provided details regarding his strategy, a timetable, even the (astronomical) US funding that would be required for Israel's security, Palestinian and Syrian economic assistance, and refugee resettlement. These were not the words of a man with a ploy but of a man with a mission. The relationship between Clinton and Barak escapes easy classification. The President, a political pro, was full of empathy, warmth, and personal charm; the Prime Minister, a self-proclaimed political novice, was mainly at ease with cool, logical argument. Where the President's tactics were fluid, infinitely adaptable to the reactions of others, Barak's every move seemed to have been conceived and then frozen in his own mind. At Camp David, Clinton offered Barak some advice: "You are smarter and more experienced than I am in war. But I am older in politics. And I have learned from my mistakes."

Yet in their political relations, the two men were genuine intimates. For all his complicated personality traits, Barak was deemed a privileged partner because of his determination to reach a final deal and the risks he was prepared to take to get there. When these were stacked against Arafat's perceived inflexibility and emphasis on interim commitments, the administration found it hard not to accommodate Barak's requests. As the President told Arafat three weeks before Camp David began, he largely agreed with the chairman's depiction of Barak—politically maladroit, frustrating, lacking in personal touch. But he differed with Arafat on a crucial point: he was convinced that Barak genuinely wanted a historic deal.

The President's decision to hold the Camp David summit despite Arafat's protestations illuminates much about US policy during this period. In June, Barak—who for some time had been urging that a summit be rapidly convened—told the President and Secretary Albright that Palestinian negotiators had not moved an inch and that his negotiators had reached the end of their compromises; anything more would have to await a summit. He also warned that without a summit, his government (at least in its current form) would be gone within a few weeks. At the same time, Arafat posed several conditions for agreeing to go to a summit. First, he sought additional preparatory talks to ensure that Camp David would not fail. Second, he requested that the third Israeli territorial withdrawal be implemented before Camp David—a demand that, when rebuffed by the US, turned into a request that the US "guarantee" the withdrawal even if Camp David did not yield an agreement (what he called a "safety net"). A third Palestinian request—volunteered by Clinton, rather than being demanded by Arafat—was that the US remain neutral in the event the summit failed and not blame the Palestinians. The administration by and large shared Arafat's views. The Palestinians' most legitimate concern, in American eyes, was that without additional preparatory work the risk of failure was too great. In June, speaking of a possible summit, Clinton told Barak, "I want to do this, but not under circumstances that will kill Oslo." Clinton also agreed with Arafat on the need for action on the interim issues. He extracted a commitment from Barak that the third Israeli withdrawal would take place with or without a final deal, and, in June, he privately told the Chairman he would support a "substantial" withdrawal were Camp David to fail. Describing all the reasons for Arafat's misgivings, he urged Barak to put himself "in Arafat's shoes" and to open the summit with a series of goodwill gestures toward the Palestinians. Finally, Clinton assured Arafat on the eve of the summit that he would not be blamed if the summit did not succeed. "There will be," he pledged, "no finger-pointing." Yet, having concurred with the Palestinians' contentions on the merits, the US immediately proceeded to disregard them. Ultimately, there was neither additional preparation before the summit, nor a third redeployment of Israeli troops, nor any action on interim issues. And Arafat got blamed in no uncertain terms.

Why this discrepancy between promise and performance? Most importantly, because Barak's reasoning—and his timetable—had an irresistible logic to them. If nothing was going to happen at pre-summit negotiations—and nothing was—if his government was on the brink of collapse, and if he would put on Camp David's table concessions he had not made before, how could the President say no? What would be gained by waiting? Certainly not the prospect offered by Arafat—another interminable negotiation over a modest territorial withdrawal. And most probably, as many analysts predicted, an imminent confrontation, if Arafat proceeded with his plan to unilaterally announce a state on September 13, 2000, or if the frustration among the Palestinians—of which the world had had a glimpse during the May 2000 upheaval—were to reach boiling point once again. As for the interim issues, US officials believed that whatever Palestinian anger resulted from Israeli lapses would evaporate in the face of an appealing final deal. As a corollary, from the President on down, US officials chose to use their leverage with the Israelis to obtain movement on the issues that had to be dealt with in a permanent agreement rather than expend it on interim ones. The President's decision to ignore his commitment to Arafat and blame the Palestinians after the summit points to another factor, which is how the two sides were perceived during the negotiations. As seen from Washington, Camp David exemplified Barak's political courage and Arafat's political passivity, risk-taking on the one hand, riskaversion on the other. The first thing on the President's mind after Camp David was thus to help the Prime Minister, whose concessions had jeopardized his political standing at home. Hence the finger-pointing. And the last thing on Clinton's mind was to insist on a further Israeli withdrawal. Hence the absence of a safety net. This brings us to the heart of the matter—the substance of the negotiations themselves, and the reality behind the prevailing perception that a generous Israeli offer met an unyielding Palestinian response. 4. Was there a generous Israeli offer and, if so, was it peremptorily rejected by Arafat? If there is one issue that Israelis agree on, it is that Barak broke every conceivable taboo and went as far as any Israeli prime minister had gone or could go. Coming into office on a pledge to retain Jerusalem as Israel's "eternal and undivided capital," he ended up appearing to agree to Palestinian sovereignty—first over some, then over all, of the Arab sectors of East Jerusalem. Originally adamant in rejecting the argument that Israel should swap some of the occupied West Bank territory for land within its 1967 borders, he finally came around to that view. After initially speaking of a Palestinian state covering roughly 80 percent of the West Bank, he gradually moved up to the low 90s before acquiescing to the mid-90s range. Even so, it is hard to state with confidence how far Barak was actually prepared to go. His strategy was predicated on the belief that Israel ought not to reveal its final

positions—not even to the United States—unless and until the endgame was in sight. Had any member of the US peace team been asked to describe Barak's true positions before or even during Camp David—indeed, were any asked that question today—they would be hard-pressed to answer. Barak's worst fear was that he would put forward Israeli concessions and pay the price domestically, only to see the Palestinians using the concessions as a new point of departure. And his trust in the Americans went only so far, fearing that they might reveal to the Palestinians what he was determined to conceal. As a consequence, each Israeli position was presented as unmovable, a red line that approached "the bone" of Israeli interests; this served as a means of both forcing the Palestinians to make concessions and preserving Israel's bargaining positions in the event they did not. On the eve of Camp David, Israeli negotiators described their purported red lines to their American counterparts: the annexation of more than 10 percent of the West Bank, sovereignty over parts of the strip along the Jordan River, and rejection of any territorial swaps. At the opening of Camp David, Barak warned the Americans that he could not accept Palestinian sovereignty over any part of East Jerusalem other than a purely symbolic "foothold." Earlier, he had claimed that if Arafat asked for 95 percent of the West Bank, there would be no deal. Yet, at the same time, he gave clear hints that Israel was willing to show more flexibility if Arafat was prepared to "contemplate" the endgame. Bottom lines and false bottoms: the tension, and the ambiguity, were always there. Gradual shifts in Barak's positions also can be explained by the fact that each proposal seemed to be based less on a firm estimate of what Israel had to hold on to and more on a changing appraisal of what it could obtain. Barak apparently took the view that, faced with a sufficiently attractive proposal and an appropriately unattractive alternative, the Palestinians would have no choice but to say yes. In effect, each successive Palestinian "no" led to the next best Israeli assessment of what, in their right minds, the Palestinians couldn't turn down.

The final and largely unnoticed consequence of Barak's approach is that, strictly speaking, there never was an Israeli offer. Determined to preserve Israel's position in the event of failure, and resolved not to let the Palestinians take advantage of one-sided compromises, the Israelis always stopped one, if not several, steps short of a proposal. The ideas put forward at Camp David were never stated in writing, but orally conveyed. They generally were presented as US concepts, not Israeli ones; indeed, despite having demanded the opportunity to negotiate face to face with Arafat, Barak refused to hold any substantive meeting with him at Camp David out of fear that the Palestinian leader would seek to put Israeli concessions on the record. Nor were the proposals detailed. If written down, the American ideas at Camp David would have covered no more than a few pages. Barak and the Americans insisted that Arafat accept them as general "bases for negotiations" before launching into more rigorous negotiations.

According to those "bases," Palestine would have sovereignty over 91 percent of the West Bank; Israel would annex 9 percent of the West Bank and, in exchange, Palestine would have sovereignty over parts of pre-1967 Israel equivalent to 1 percent of the West Bank, but with no indication of where either would be. On the highly sensitive issue of refugees, the proposal spoke only of a "satisfactory solution." Even on Jerusalem, where the most detail was provided, many blanks remained to be filled in. Arafat was told that Palestine would have sovereignty over the Muslim and Christian quarters of the Old City, but only a loosely defined "permanent custodianship" over the Haram al-Sharif, the third holiest site in Islam. The status of the rest of the city would fluctuate between Palestinian sovereignty and functional autonomy. Finally, Barak was careful not to accept anything. His statements about positions he could support were conditional, couched as a willingness to negotiate on the basis of the US proposals so long as Arafat did the same. 5. Much as they tried, the Palestinian leaders have proved utterly unable to make their case. In Israel and the US, they are consistently depicted as uncompromising and incapable of responding to Barak's supreme effort. Yet, in their own eyes, they were the ones who made the principal concessions. For all the talk about peace and reconciliation, most Palestinians were more resigned to the two-state solution than they were willing to embrace it; they were prepared to accept Israel's existence, but not its moral legitimacy. The war for the whole of Palestine was over because it had been lost. Oslo, as they saw it, was not about negotiating peace terms but terms of surrender. Bearing this perspective in mind explains the Palestinians' view that Oslo itself is the historic compromise—an agreement to concede 78 percent of mandatory Palestine to Israel. And it explains why they were so sensitive to the Israelis' use of language. The notion that Israel was "offering" land, being "generous," or "making concessions" seemed to them doubly wrong—in a single stroke both affirming Israel's right and denying the Palestinians'. For the Palestinians, land was not given but given back. Even during the period following the Oslo agreement, the Palestinians considered that they were the ones who had come up with creative ideas to address Israeli concerns. While denouncing Israeli settlements as illegal, they accepted the principle that Israel would annex some of the West Bank settlements in exchange for an equivalent amount of Israeli land being transferred to the Palestinians. While insisting on the Palestinian refugees' right to return to homes lost in 1948, they were prepared to tie this right to a mechanism of implementation providing alternative choices for the refugees while limiting the numbers returning to Israel proper. Despite their insistence on Israel's withdrawal from all lands occupied in 1967, they were open to a division of East Jerusalem granting Israel sovereignty over its Jewish areas (the Jewish Quarter, the Wailing Wall, and the Jewish neighborhoods) in clear contravention of this principle.

These compromises notwithstanding, the Palestinians never managed to rid themselves of their intransigent image. Indeed, the Palestinians' principal failing is that from the beginning of the Camp David summit onward they were unable either to say yes to the American ideas or to present a cogent and specific counterproposal of their own. In failing to do either, the Palestinians denied the US the leverage it felt it needed to test Barak's stated willingness to go the extra mile and thereby provoked the President's anger. When Abu Ala'a, a leading Palestinian negotiator, refused to work on a map to negotiate a possible solution, arguing that Israel first had to concede that any territorial agreement must be based on the line of June 4, 1967, the President burst out, "Don't simply say to the Israelis that their map is no good. Give me something better!" When Abu Ala'a again balked, the President stormed out: "This is a fraud. It is not a summit. I won't have the United States covering for negotiations in bad faith. Let's quit!" Toward the end of the summit, an irate Clinton would tell Arafat: "If the Israelis can make compromises and you can't, I should go home. You have been here fourteen days and said no to everything. These things have consequences; failure will mean the end of the peace process.... Let's let hell break loose and live with the consequences."

How is one to explain the Palestinians' behavior? As has been mentioned earlier, Arafat was persuaded that the Israelis were setting a trap. His primary objective thus became to cut his losses rather than maximize his gains. That did not mean that he ruled out reaching a final deal; but that goal seemed far less attainable than others. Beyond that, much has to do with the political climate that prevailed within Palestinian society. Unlike the situation during and after Oslo, there was no coalition of powerful Palestinian constituencies committed to the success of Camp David. Groups whose support was necessary to sell any agreement had become disbelievers, convinced that Israel would neither sign a fair agreement nor implement what it signed. Palestinian negotiators, with one eye on the summit and another back home, went to Camp David almost apologetically, determined to demonstrate that this time they would not be duped. More prone to caution than to creativity, they viewed any US or Israeli idea with suspicion. They could not accept the ambiguous formulations that had served to bridge differences between the parties in the past and that later, in their view, had been interpreted to Israel's advantage; this time around, only clear and unequivocal understandings would do. Nowhere was this more evident than in the case of what is known as the Haram alSharif to Palestinians and the Temple Mount to Jews. The Americans spent countless hours seeking imaginative formulations to finesse the issue of which party would enjoy sovereignty over this sacred place—a coalition of nations, the United Nations Security Council, even God himself was proposed. In the end, the Palestinians would have nothing of it: the agreement had to give them sovereignty, or there would be no agreement at all. Domestic hostility toward the summit also exacerbated tensions among the dozen or so Palestinian negotiators, which, never far from the surface, had grown as the stakes

rose, with the possibility of a final deal and the coming struggle for succession. The negotiators looked over their shoulders, fearful of adopting positions that would undermine them back home. Appearing to act disparately and without a central purpose, each Palestinian negotiator gave preeminence to a particular issue, making virtually impossible the kinds of trade-offs that, inevitably, a compromise would entail. Ultimately, most chose to go through the motions rather than go for a deal. Ironically, Barak the democrat had far more individual leeway than Arafat the supposed autocrat. Lacking internal cohesion, Palestinian negotiators were unable to treat Camp David as a decisive, let alone a historic, gathering. The Palestinians saw acceptance of the US ideas, even as "bases for further negotiations," as presenting dangers of its own. The Camp David proposals were viewed as inadequate: they were silent on the question of refugees, the land exchange was unbalanced, and both the Haram and much of Arab East Jerusalem were to remain under Israeli sovereignty. To accept these proposals in the hope that Barak would then move further risked diluting the Palestinian position in a fundamental way: by shifting the terms of debate from the international legitimacy of United Nations resolutions on Israeli withdrawal and on refugee return to the imprecise ideas suggested by the US. Without the guarantee of a deal, this was tantamount to gambling with what the Palestinians considered their most valuable currency, international legality. The Palestinians' reluctance to do anything that might undercut the role of UN resolutions that applied to them was reinforced by Israel's decision to scrupulously implement those that applied to Lebanon and unilaterally withdraw from that country in the months preceding Camp David. Full withdrawal, which had been obtained by Egypt and basically offered to Syria, was now being granted to Lebanon. If Hezbollah, an armed militia that still considered itself at war with Israel, had achieved such an outcome, surely a national movement that had been negotiating peacefully with Israel for years should expect no less. The Palestinians' overall behavior, when coupled with Barak's conviction that Arafat merely wanted to extract Israeli concessions, led to disastrous results. The mutual and by then deeply entrenched suspicion meant that Barak would conceal his final proposals, the "endgame," until Arafat had moved, and that Arafat would not move until he could see the endgame. Barak's strategy was predicated on the idea that his firmness would lead to some Palestinian flexibility, which in turn would justify Israel's making further concessions. Instead, Barak's piecemeal negotiation style, combined with Arafat's unwillingness to budge, produced a paradoxical result. By presenting early positions as bottom lines, the Israelis provoked the Palestinians' mistrust; by subsequently shifting them, they whetted the Palestinians' appetite. By the end of the process, it was hard to tell which bottom lines were for real, and which were not. 6. The United States had several different roles in the negotiations, complex and often contradictory: as principal broker of the putative peace deal; as guardian of the peace

process; as Israel's strategic ally; and as its cultural and political partner. The ideas it put forward throughout the process bore the imprint of each. As the broker of the agreement, the President was expected to present a final deal that Arafat could not refuse. Indeed, that notion was the premise of Barak's attraction to a summit. But the United States' ability to play the part was hamstrung by two of its other roles. First, America's political and cultural affinity with Israel translated into an acute sensitivity to Israeli domestic concerns and an exaggerated appreciation of Israel's substantive moves. American officials initially were taken aback when Barak indicated he could accept a division of the Old City or Palestinian sovereignty over many of Jerusalem's Arab neighborhoods—a reaction that reflected less an assessment of what a "fair solution" ought to be than a sense of what the Israeli public could stomach. The US team often pondered whether Barak could sell a given proposal to his people, including some he himself had made. The question rarely, if ever, was asked about Arafat. A second constraint on the US derived from its strategic relationship with Israel. One consequence of this was the "no-surprise rule," an American commitment, if not to clear, at least to share in advance, each of its ideas with Israel. Because Barak's strategy precluded early exposure of his bottom lines to anyone (the President included), he would invoke the "no-surprise rule" to argue against US substantive proposals he felt went too far. The US ended up (often unwittingly) presenting Israeli negotiating positions and couching them as rock-bottom red lines beyond which Israel could not go. Faced with Arafat's rejection, Clinton would obtain Barak's acquiescence in a somewhat improved proposal, and present it to the Palestinians as, once again, the best any Israeli could be expected to do. With the US playing an endgame strategy ("this is it!") in what was in fact the middle of the game ("well, perhaps not"), the result was to depreciate the assets Barak most counted on for the real finale: the Palestinians' confidence in Clinton, US credibility, and America's ability to exercise effective pressure. Nor was the US tendency to justify its ideas by referring to Israeli domestic concerns the most effective way to persuade the Palestinians to make concessions. In short, the "nosurprise rule" held a few surprises of its own. In a curious, boomerang-like effect, it helped convince the Palestinians that any US idea, no matter how forthcoming, was an Israeli one, and therefore both immediately suspect and eminently negotiable. Seven years of fostering the peace process, often against difficult odds, further eroded the United States' effectiveness at this critical stage. The deeper Washington's investment in the process, the greater the stake in its success, and the quicker the tendency to indulge either side's whims and destructive behavior for the sake of salvaging it. US threats and deadlines too often were ignored as Israelis and Palestinians appeared confident that the Americans were too busy running after the parties to think seriously of walking away.

Yet for all that, the United States had an important role in shaping the content of the proposals. One of the more debilitating effects of the visible alignment between Israel and the United States was that it obscured the real differences between them. Time and again, and usually without the Palestinians being aware of it, the President sought to convince the Prime Minister to accept what until then he had refused—among them the principle of land swaps, Palestinian sovereignty over at least part of Arab East Jerusalem and, after Camp David, over the Haram al-Sharif, as well as a significantly reduced area of Israeli annexation. This led Barak to comment to the President that, on matters of substance, the US was much closer to the Palestinians' position than to Israel's. This was only one reflection of a far wider pattern of divergence between Israeli and American positions—yet one that has systematically been ignored by Palestinians and other Arabs alike. This inability to grasp the complex relationship between Washington and Tel Aviv cost Arafat dearly. By failing to put forward clear proposals, the Palestinians deprived the Americans of the instrument they felt they needed to further press the Israelis, and it led them to question both the seriousness of the Palestinians and their genuine desire for a deal. As the President repeatedly told Arafat during Camp David, he was not expecting him to agree to US or Israeli proposals, but he was counting on him to say something he could take back to Barak to get him to move some more. "I need something to tell him," he implored. "So far, I have nothing." Ultimately, the path of negotiation imagined by the Americans—get a position that was close to Israel's genuine bottom line; present it to the Palestinians; get a counterproposal from them; bring it back to the Israelis—took more than one wrong turn. It started without a real bottom line, continued without a counterproposal, and ended without a deal. 7. Beneath the superficial snapshot—Barak's offer, Arafat's rejection—lies a picture that is both complex and confusing. Designed to preserve his assets for the "moment of truth," Barak's tactics helped to ensure that the parties never got there. His decision to view everything through the prism of an all-or-nothing negotiation over a comprehensive deal led him to see every step as a test of wills, any confidence-building measure as a weakness-displaying one. Obsessed with Barak's tactics, Arafat spent far less time worrying about the substance of a deal than he did fretting about a possible ploy. Fixated on potential traps, he could not see potential opportunities. He never quite realized how far the prime minister was prepared to go, how much the US was prepared to push, how strong a hand he had been dealt. Having spent a decade building a relationship with Washington, he proved incapable of using it when he needed it most. As for the United States, it never fully took control of the situation. Pulled in various and inconsistent directions, it never quite figured out which way to go, too often allowing itself to be used rather than using its authority.

Many of those inclined to blame Arafat alone for the collapse of the negotiations point to his inability to accept the ideas for a settlement put forward by Clinton on December 23, five months after the Camp David talks ended. During these months additional talks had taken place between Israelis and Palestinians, and furious violence had broken out between the two sides. The President's proposal showed that the distance traveled since Camp David was indeed considerable, and almost all in the Palestinians' direction. Under the settlement outlined by the President, Palestine would have sovereignty over 94 to 96 percent of the West Bank and it would as well have land belonging to pre-1967 Israel equivalent to another 1 to 3 percent of West Bank territory. Palestinian refugees would have the right to return to their homeland in historic Palestine, a right that would guarantee their unrestricted ability to live in Palestine while subjecting their absorption into Israel to Israel's sovereign decision. In Jerusalem, all that is Arab would be Palestinian, all that is Jewish would be Israeli. Palestine would exercise sovereignty over the Haram and Israel over the Western Wall, through which it would preserve a connection to the location of the ancient Jewish Temple. Unlike at Camp David, and as shown both by the time it took him to react and by the ambiguity of his reactions, Arafat thought hard before providing his response. But in the end, many of the features that troubled him in July came back to haunt him in December. As at Camp David, Clinton was not presenting the terms of a final deal, but rather "parameters" within which accelerated, final negotiations were to take place. As at Camp David, Arafat felt under pressure, with both Clinton and Barak announcing that the ideas would be off the table—would "depart with the President"—unless they were accepted by both sides. With only thirty days left in Clinton's presidency and hardly more in Barak's premiership, the likelihood of reaching a deal was remote at best; if no deal could be made, the Palestinians feared they would be left with principles that were detailed enough to supersede international resolutions yet too fuzzy to constitute an agreement. Besides, and given the history of the negotiations, they were unable to escape the conclusion that these were warmed-over Israeli positions and that a better proposal may still have been forthcoming. In this instance, in fact, the United States had resisted lastminute Israeli attempts to water down the proposals on two key items—Palestinian sovereignty over the Haram and the extent of the territory of the Palestinian state. All told, Arafat preferred to continue negotiating under the comforting umbrella of international resolutions rather than within the confines of America's uncertain proposals. In January, a final effort between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in the Egyptian town of Taba (without the Americans) produced more progress and some hope. But it was, by then, at least to some of the negotiators, too late. On January 20, Clinton had packed his bags and was on his way out. In Israel, meanwhile, Sharon was on his way in.

Had there been, in hindsight, a generous Israeli offer? Ask a member of the American team, and an honest answer might be that there was a moving target of ideas,

fluctuating impressions of the deal the US could sell to the two sides, a work in progress that reacted (and therefore was vulnerable) to the pressures and persuasion of both. Ask Barak, and he might volunteer that there was no Israeli offer and, besides, Arafat rejected it. Ask Arafat, and the response you might hear is that there was no offer; besides, it was unacceptable; that said, it had better remain on the table. Offer or no offer, the negotiations that took place between July 2000 and February 2001 make up an indelible chapter in the history of the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. This may be hard to discern today, amid the continuing violence and accumulated mistrust. But taboos were shattered, the unspoken got spoken, and, during that period, Israelis and Palestinians reached an unprecedented level of understanding of what it will take to end their struggle. When the two sides resume their path toward a permanent agreement— and eventually, they will—they will come to it with the memory of those remarkable eight months, the experience of how far they had come and how far they had yet to go, and with the sobering wisdom of an opportunity that was missed by all, less by design than by mistake, more through miscalculation than through mischief.

Camp David and After: An Exchange (1. An Interview with Ehud Barak) By Benny Morris In response to Camp David: The Tragedy of Errors (August 9, 2001) 1. An Interview with Ehud Barak The following interview with Ehud Barak took place in Tel Aviv during late March and early April. I have supplied explanatory references in brackets with Mr. Barak's approval. The call from Bill Clinton came hours after the publication in The New York Times of Deborah Sontag's "revisionist" article ("Quest for Middle East Peace: How and Why It Failed," July 26, 2001) on the Israeli–Palestinian peace process. Ehud Barak, Israel's former prime minister, on vacation, was swimming in a cove in Sardinia. Clinton said (according to Barak): What the hell is this? Why is she turning the mistakes we [i.e., the US and Israel] made into the essence? The true story of Camp David was that for the first time in the history of the conflict the American president put on the table a proposal, based on UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, very close to the Palestinian demands, and Arafat refused even to accept it as a basis for negotiations, walked out of the room, and deliberately turned to terrorism. That's the real story—all the rest is gossip.

Clinton was speaking of the two-week-long July 2000 Camp David conference that he had organized and mediated and its failure, and the eruption at the end of September of the Palestinian intifada, or campaign of anti-Israeli violence, which has continued ever since and which currently plagues the Middle East, with no end in sight. Midway in the conference, apparently on July 18, Clinton had "slowly"—to avoid misunderstanding— read out to Arafat a document, endorsed in advance by Barak, outlining the main points of a future settlement. The proposals included the establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state on some 92 percent of the West Bank and 100 percent of the Gaza Strip, with some territorial compensation for the Palestinians from pre-1967 Israeli territory; the dismantling of most of the settlements and the concentration of the bulk of the settlers inside the 8 percent of the West Bank to be annexed by Israel; the establishment of the Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, in which some Arab neighborhoods would become sovereign Palestinian territory and others would enjoy "functional autonomy"; Palestinian sovereignty over half the Old City of Jerusalem (the Muslim and Christian quarters) and "custodianship," though not sovereignty, over the Temple Mount; a return of refugees to the prospective Palestinian state though with no "right of return" to Israel proper; and the organization by the international community of a massive aid program to facilitate the refugees' rehabilitation. Arafat said "No." Clinton, enraged, banged on the table and said: "You are leading your people and the region to a catastrophe." A formal Palestinian rejection of the proposals reached the Americans the next day. The summit sputtered on for a few days more but to all intents and purposes it was over.

Barak today portrays Arafat's behavior at Camp David as a "performance" geared to exacting from the Israelis as many concessions as possible without ever seriously intending to reach a peace settlement or sign an "end to the conflict." "He did not negotiate in good faith, indeed, he did not negotiate at all. He just kept saying 'no' to every offer, never making any counterproposals of his own," he says. Barak continuously shifts between charging Arafat with "lacking the character or will" to make a historic compromise (as did the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1977–1979, when he made peace with Israel) and accusing him of secretly planning Israel's demise while he strings along a succession of Israeli and Western leaders and, on the way, hoodwinks "naive journalists"—in Barak's phrase—like Sontag and officials such as former US National Security Council expert Robert Malley (who, with Hussein Agha, published another "revisionist" article on Camp David, "Camp David: The Tragedy of Errors"[*]). According to Barak: What they [Arafat and his colleagues] want is a Palestinian state in all of Palestine. What we see as self-evident, [the need for] two states for two peoples, they reject. Israel is too strong at the moment to defeat, so they formally recognize it. But their game plan is to establish a Palestinian state while always leaving an opening for further "legitimate" demands down the road. For now, they are willing to agree to a temporary truce à la Hudnat Hudaybiyah [a temporary truce that the Prophet Muhammad concluded with the

leaders of Mecca during 628–629, which he subsequently unilaterally violated]. They will exploit the tolerance and democracy of Israel first to turn it into "a state for all its citizens," as demanded by the extreme nationalist wing of Israel's Arabs and extremist left-wing Jewish Israelis. Then they will push for a binational state and then, demography and attrition will lead to a state with a Muslim majority and a Jewish minority. This would not necessarily involve kicking out all the Jews. But it would mean the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state. This, I believe, is their vision. They may not talk about it often, openly, but this is their vision. Arafat sees himself as a reborn Saladin—the Kurdish Muslim general who defeated the Crusaders in the twelfth century—and Israel as just another, ephemeral Crusader state. Barak believes that Arafat sees the Palestinian refugees of 1948 and their descendants, numbering close to four million, as the main demographic-political tool for subverting the Jewish state. Arafat, says Barak, believes that Israel "has no right to exist, and he seeks its demise." Barak buttresses this by arguing that Arafat "does not recognize the existence of a Jewish people or nation, only a Jewish religion, because it is mentioned in the Koran and because he remembers seeing, as a kid, Jews praying at the Wailing Wall." This, Barak believes, underlay Arafat's insistence at Camp David (and since) that the Palestinians have sole sovereignty over the Temple Mount compound (Haram alSharif—the noble sanctuary) in the southeastern corner of Jerusalem's Old City. Arafat denies that any Jewish temple has ever stood there—and this is a microcosm of his denial of the Jews' historical connection and claim to the Land of Israel/Palestine. Hence, in December 2000, Arafat refused to accept even the vague formulation proposed by Clinton positing Israeli sovereignty over the earth beneath the Temple Mount's surface area. Barak recalls Clinton telling him that during the Camp David talks he had attended Sunday services and the minister had preached a sermon mentioning Solomon, the king who built the First Temple. Later that evening, he had met Arafat and spoke of the sermon. Arafat had said: "There is nothing there [i.e., no trace of a temple on the Temple Mount]." Clinton responded that "not only the Jews but I, too, believe that under the surface there are remains of Solomon's temple." (At this point one of Clinton's [Jewish] aides whispered to the President that he should tell Arafat that this is his personal opinion, not an official American position.) Repeatedly during our prolonged interview, conducted in his office in a Tel Aviv skyscraper, Barak shook his head—in bewilderment and sadness—at what he regards as Palestinian, and especially Arafat's, mendacity: They are products of a culture in which to tell a lie...creates no dissonance. They don't suffer from the problem of telling lies that exists in Judeo-Christian culture. Truth is seen as an irrelevant category. There is only that which serves your purpose and that which doesn't. They see themselves as emissaries of a national movement for whom everything is permissible. There is no such thing as "the truth."

Speaking of Arab society, Barak recalls: "The deputy director of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation once told me that there are societies in which lie detector tests don't work, societies in which lies do not create cognitive dissonance [on which the tests are based]." Barak gives an example: back in October 2000, shortly after the start of the current Intifada, he met with then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Arafat in the residence of the US ambassador in Paris. Albright was trying to broker a cease-fire. Arafat had agreed to call a number of his police commanders in the West Bank and Gaza, including Tawfik Tirawi, to implement a truce. Barak said: I interjected: "But these are not the people organizing the violence. If you are serious [in seeking a cease-fire], then call Marwan Bargouti and Hussein al-Sheikh" [the West Bank heads of the Fatah, Arafat's own political party, who were orchestrating the violence. Bargouti has since been arrested by Israeli troops and is currently awaiting trial for launching dozens of terrorist attacks]. Arafat looked at me, with an expression of blank innocence, as if I had mentioned the names of two polar bears, and said: "Who? Who?" So I repeated the names, this time with a pronounced, clear Arabic inflection—"Mar-wan Bar-gou-ti" and "Hsein a Sheikh"—and Arafat again said, "Who? Who?" At this, some of his aides couldn't stop themselves and burst out laughing. And Arafat, forced to drop the pretense, agreed to call them later. [Of course, nothing happened and the shooting continued.] But Barak is far from dismissive of Arafat, who appears to many Israelis to be a sick, slightly doddering buffoon and, at the same time, sly and murderous. Barak sees him as "a great actor, very sharp, very elusive, slippery." He cautions that Arafat "uses his broken English" to excellent effect.

Barak was elected prime minister, following three years of Benjamin Netanyahu's premiership, in May 1999 and took office in July. He immediately embarked on his multipronged peace effort—vis-à-vis Syria, Lebanon, and the Palestinians—feeling that Israel and the Middle East were headed for "an iceberg and a certain crash and that it was the leaders' moral and political responsibility to try to avoid a catastrophe." He understood that the year and a half left of Clinton's presidency afforded a small window of opportunity inside a larger, but also limited, regional window of opportunity. That window was opened by the collapse of the Soviet Empire, which had since the 1950s supported the Arabs against Israel, and the defeat of Iraq in Kuwait in 1991, and would close when and if Iran and/or Iraq obtained nuclear weapons and when and if Islamic fundamentalist movements took over states bordering Israel. Barak said he wanted to complete what Rabin had begun with the Oslo agreement, which inaugurated mutual Israeli–Palestinian recognition and partial Israeli withdrawals from the West Bank and Gaza Strip back in 1993. A formal peace agreement, he felt, would not necessarily "end the conflict, that will take education over generations, but there is a tremendous value to an [official] framework of peace that places pacific handcuffs on these societies." Formal peace treaties, backed by the international

community, will have "a dynamic of their own, reducing the possibility of an existential conflict. But without such movement toward formal peace, we are headed for the iceberg." He seems to mean something far worse than the current low-level Israeli– Palestinian conflagration. Barak says that, before July 2000, IDF intelligence gave the Camp David talks less than a 50 percent chance of success. The intelligence chiefs were doubtful that Arafat "would take the decisions necessary to reach a peace agreement." His own feeling at the time was that he "hoped Arafat would rise to the occasion and display something of greatness, like Sadat and Hussein, at the moment of truth. They did not wait for a consensus [among their people], they decided to lead. I told Clinton on the first day [of the summit] that I didn't know whether Arafat had come to make a deal or just to extract as many political concessions as possible before he, Clinton, left office."

Barak dismisses the charges leveled by the Camp David "revisionists" as Palestinian propaganda. The visit to the Temple Mount by then Likud leader Ariel Sharon in September 2000 was not what caused the intifada, he says. Sharon's visit, which was coordinated with [Palestinian Authority West Bank security chief] Jibril Rajoub, was directed against me, not the Palestinians, to show that the Likud cared more about Jerusalem than I did. We know, from hard intelligence, that Arafat [after Camp David] intended to unleash a violent confrontation, terrorism. [Sharon's visit and the riots that followed] fell into his hands like an excellent excuse, a pretext. As agreed, Sharon had made no statement and had refrained from entering the Islamic shrines in the compound in the course of the visit. But rioting broke out nonetheless. The intifada, says Barak, "was preplanned, pre-prepared. I don't mean that Arafat knew that on a certain day in September [it would be unleashed].... It wasn't accurate, like computer engineering. But it was definitely on the level of planning, of a grand plan." Nor does Barak believe that the IDF's precipitate withdrawal from the Security Zone in Southern Lebanon, in May 2000, set off the intifada. "When I took office [in July 1999] I promised to pull out within a year. And that is what I did." Without doubt, the Palestinians drew inspiration and heart from the Hezbollah's successful guerrilla campaign during 1985–2000, which in the end drove out the IDF, as well as from the spectacle of the sometime slapdash, chaotic pullout at the end of May; they said as much during the first months of the intifada. "But had we not withdrawn when we did, the situation would have been much worse," Barak argues: We would have faced a simultaneous struggle on two fronts, in Palestine and in southern Lebanon, and the Hezbollah would have enjoyed international legitimacy in their struggle against a foreign occupier.

The lack of international legitimacy, Barak stresses, following the Israeli pullback to the international frontier, is what has curtailed the Hezbollah's attacks against Israel during the past weeks. "Had we still been in Leb-anon we would have had to mobilize 100,000, not 30,000, reserve soldiers [in April, during 'Operation Defensive Wall']," he adds. But he is aware that the sporadic Hezbollah attacks might yet escalate into a full-scale Israeli– Lebanese–Syrian confrontation, something the pullback had been designed— and so touted—to avoid. As to the charge raised by the Palestinians, and, in their wake, by Deborah Sontag, and Malley and Agha, that the Palestinians had been dragooned into coming to Camp David "unprepared" and prematurely, Barak is dismissive to the point of contempt. He observes that the Palestinians had had eight years, since 1993, to prepare their positions and fall-back positions, demands and red lines, and a full year since he had been elected to office and made clear his intention to go for a final settlement. By 2002, he said, they were eager to establish a state, which is what I and Clinton proposed and offered. And before the summit, there were months of discussions and contacts, in Stockholm, Israel, the Gaza Strip. Would they really have been more "prepared" had the summit been deferred to August, as Arafat later said he had wanted? One senses that Barak feels on less firm ground when he responds to the "revisionist" charge that it was the continued Israeli settlement in the Occupied Territories, during the year before Camp David and under his premiership, that had so stirred Palestinian passions as to make the intifada inevitable: Look, during my premiership we established no new settlements and, in fact, dismantled many illegal, unauthorized ones. Immediately after I took office I promised Arafat: No new settlements—but I also told him that we would continue to honor the previous government's commitments, and contracts in the pipeline, concerning the expansion of existing settlements. The courts would force us to honor existing contracts, I said. But I also offered a substantive argument. I want to reach peace during the next sixteen months. What was now being built would either remain within territory that you, the Palestinians, agree should remain ours—and therefore it shouldn't matter to you—or would be in territory that would soon come under Palestinian sovereignty, and therefore would add to the housing available for returning refugees. So you can't lose. But Barak concedes that while this sounded logical, there was a psychological dimension here that could not be neutralized by argument: the Palestinians simply saw, on a daily basis, that more and more of "their" land was being plundered and becoming "Israeli." And he agrees that he allowed the expansion of existing settlements in part to mollify the Israeli right, which he needed quiescent as he pushed forward toward peace and, ultimately, a withdrawal from the territories.

Regarding the core of the Israeli-American proposals, the "revisionists" have charged that Israel offered the Palestinians not a continuous state but a collection of "bantustans" or "cantons." "This is one of the most embarrassing lies to have emerged from Camp David," says Barak. I ask myself why is he [Arafat] lying. To put it simply, any proposal that offers 92 percent of the West Bank cannot, almost by definition, break up the territory into noncontiguous cantons. The West Bank and the Gaza Strip are separate, but that cannot be helped [in a peace agreement, they would be joined by a bridge]. But in the West Bank, Barak says, the Palestinians were promised a continuous piece of sovereign territory except for a razor-thin Israeli wedge running from Jerusalem through from Maale Adumim to the Jordan River. Here, Palestinian territorial continuity would have been assured by a tunnel or bridge: The Palestinians said that I [and Clinton] presented our proposals as a diktat, take it or leave it. This is a lie. Everything proposed was open to continued negotiations. They could have raised counter-proposals. But they never did. Barak explains Arafat's "lie" about "bantustans" as stemming from his fear that "when reasonable Palestinian citizens would come to know the real content of Clinton's proposal and map, showing what 92 percent of the West Bank means, they would have said: 'Mr. Chairman, why didn't you take it?'" In one other important way the "revisionist" articles are misleading: they focused on Camp David (July 2000) while almost completely ignoring the follow-up (and more generous) Clinton proposals (endorsed by Israel) of December 2000 and the Palestinian– Israeli talks at Taba in January 2001. The "revisionists," Barak implies, completely ignored the shift—under the prodding of the intifada—in the Israeli (and American) positions between July and the end of 2000. By December and January, Israel had agreed to Washington's proposal that it withdraw from about 95 percent of the West Bank with substantial territorial compensation for the Palestinians from Israel proper, and that the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem would become sovereign Palestinian territory. The Israelis also agreed to an international force at least temporarily controlling the Jordan River line between the West Bank and the Kingdom of Jordan instead of the IDF. (But on the refugee issue, which Barak sees as "existential," Israel had continued to stand firm: "We cannot allow even one refugee back on the basis of the 'right of return,'" says Barak. "And we cannot accept historical responsibility for the creation of the problem.") Had the Palestinians, even at that late date, agreed, there would have been a peace settlement. But Arafat dragged his feet for a fortnight and then responded to the Clinton proposals with a "Yes, but..." that, with its hundreds of objections, reservations, and qualifications, was tantamount to a resounding "No." Palestinian officials maintain to this day that Arafat said "Yes" to the Clinton proposals of December 23. But Dennis Ross, Clinton's special envoy to the Middle East, in a recent interview (on Fox News, April 21,

2002), who was present at the Arafat–Clinton White House meeting on January 2, says that Arafat rejected "every single one of the ideas" presented by Clinton, even Israeli sovereignty over the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem's Old City. And the "Palestinians would have [had] in the West Bank an area that was contiguous. Those who say there were cantons, [that is] completely untrue." At Taba, the Palestinians seemed to soften a little—for the first time they even produced a map seemingly conceding 2 percent of the West Bank. But on the refugees they, too, stuck to their guns, insisting on Israeli acceptance of "the right of return" and on Jerusalem, that they have sole sovereignty over the Temple Mount.

Several "revisionists" also took Barak to task for his "Syria first" strategy: soon after assuming office, he tried to make peace with Syria and only later, after Damascus turned him down, did he turn to the Palestinians. This had severely taxed the Palestinians' goodwill and patience; they felt they were being sidelined. Barak concedes the point, but explains: I always supported Syria first. Because they have a [large] conventional army and nonconventional weaponry, chemical and biological, and missiles to deliver them. This represents, under certain conditions, an existential threat. And after Syria comes Lebanon [meaning that peace with Syria would immediately engender a peace treaty with Lebanon]. Moreover, the Syrian problem, with all its difficulties, is simpler to solve than the Palestinian problem. And reaching peace with Syria would greatly limit the Palestinians' ability to widen the conflict. On the other hand, solving the Palestinian problem will not diminish Syria's ability to existentially threaten Israel. Barak says that this was also Rabin's thinking. But he points out that when he took office, he immediately informed Arafat that he intended to pursue an agreement with Syria and that this would in no way be at the Palestinians' expense. "I arrived on the scene immediately after [Netanyahu's emissary Ronald] Lauder's intensive [secret] talks, which looked very interesting. It was a Syrian initiative that looked very close to a breakthrough. It would have been very irresponsible not to investigate this because of some traditional, ritual order." The Netanyahu-Lauder initiative, which posited an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights to a line a few kilometers east of the Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee, came to naught because two of Netanyahu's senior ministers, Sharon and Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai, objected to the proposed concessions. Barak offered then President Hafiz Assad more, in effect a return to the de facto border of "4 June 1967" along the Jordan River and almost to the shoreline at the northeastern end of the Sea of Galilee. Assad, by then feeble and close to death, rejected the terms, conveying his rejection to President Clinton at the famous meeting in Geneva on March 26, 2000. Barak explains, Assad wanted Israel to capitulate in advance to all his demands. Only then would he agree to enter into substantive negotiations. I couldn't agree to this. We must continue

to live [in the Middle East] afterward [and, had we made the required concessions, would have been seen as weak, inviting depredation]. But Barak believes that Assad's effort, involving a major policy switch, to reach a peace settlement with Israel was genuine and sincere. Barak appears uncomfortable with the "revisionist" charge that his body language toward Arafat had been unfriendly and that he had, almost consistently during Camp David, avoided meeting the Palestinian leader, and that these had contributed to the summit's failure. Barak: I am the Israeli leader who met most with Arafat. He visited Rabin's home only after [the assassinated leader] was buried on Mount Herzl [in Jerusalem]. He [Arafat] visited me in my home in Kochav Yair where my wife made food for him. [Arafat's aide] Abu Mazen and [my wife] Nava swapped memories about Safad, her mother was from Safad, and both their parents were traders. I also met Arafat in friends' homes, in Gaza, in Ramallah. Barak says that they met "almost every day" in Camp David at mealtimes and had one "two-hour meeting" in Arafat's cottage. He admits that the time had been wasted on small talk—but, in the end, he argues, this is all part of the "gossip," not the real reason for the failure. "Did Nixon meet Ho Chi Minh or Giap [before reaching the Vietnam peace deal]? Or did De Gaulle ever speak to [Algerian leader] Ben Bella? The right time for a meeting between us was when things were ready for a decision by the leaders...." Barak implies that the negotiations had never matured or even come close to the point where the final decision-making meeting by the leaders was apt and necessary. Barak believes that since the start of the intifada Israel has had no choice—"and it doesn't matter who is prime minister" (perhaps a jab at his former rival and colleague in the Labor Party, the dovish-sounding Shimon Peres, currently Israel's foreign minister)—but to combat terrorism with military force. The policy of "targeted killings" of terrorist organizers, bomb-makers, and potential attackers began during his premiership and he still believes it is necessary and effective, "though great care must be taken to limit collateral damage. Say you live in Chevy Chase and you know of someone who is preparing a bomb in Georgetown and intends to launch a suicide bomber against a coffee shop outside your front door. Wouldn't you do something? Wouldn't it be justified to arrest this man and, if you can't, to kill him?" he asks.

Barak supported Sharon's massive incursion in April—"Operation Defensive Wall"—into the Palestinian cities—Nablus, Jenin, Bethlehem, Ramallah, Qalqilya, and Tulkarm—but suggests that he would have done it differently: More forcefully and with greater speed, and simultaneously against all the cities, not, as was done, in staggered fashion. And I would argue with the confinement of Arafat to his

Ramallah offices. The present situation, with Arafat eyeball to eyeball with [Israeli] tank gun muzzles but with an in-surance policy [i.e., Israel's promise to President Bush not to harm him], is every guerrilla leader's wet dream. But, in general, no responsible government, following the wave of suicide bombings culminating in the Passover massacre [in which twenty-eight Israelis were murdered and about 100 injured in a Netanya hotel while sitting at the seder] could have acted otherwise. But he believes that the counter-terrorist military effort must be accompanied by a constant reiteration of readiness to renew peace negotiations on the basis of the Camp David formula. He seems to be hinting here that Sharon, while also interested in political dialogue, rejects the Camp David proposals as a basis. Indeed, Sharon said in April that his government will not dismantle any settlements, and will not discuss such a dismantling of settlements, before the scheduled November 2003 general elections. Barak fears that in the absence of political dialogue based on the Camp David–Clinton proposals, the vacuum created will be filled by proposals, from Europe or Saudi Arabia, that are less agreeable to Israel. Barak seems to hold out no chance of success for Israeli–Palestinian negotiations, should they somehow resume, so long as Arafat and like-minded leaders are at the helm on the Arab side. He seems to think in terms of generations and hesitantly predicts that only "eighty years" after 1948 will the Palestinians be historically ready for a compromise. By then, most of the generation that experienced the catastrophe of 1948 at first hand will have died; there will be "very few 'salmons' around who still want to return to their birthplaces to die." (Barak speaks of a "salmon syndrome" among the Palestinians—and says that Israel, to a degree, was willing to accommodate it, through the family reunion scheme, allowing elderly refugees to return to be with their families before they die.) He points to the model of the Soviet Union, which collapsed roughly after eighty years, after the generation that had lived through the revolution had died. He seems to be saying that revolutionary movements' zealotry and dogmatism die down after the passage of three generations and, in the case of the Palestinians, the disappearance of the generation of the nakba, or catastrophe, of 1948 will facilitate compromise. I asked, "If this is true, then your peace effort vis-à-vis the Palestinians was historically premature and foredoomed?" Barak: "No, as a responsible leader I had to give it a try." In the absence of real negotiations, Barak believes that Israel should begin to unilaterally prepare for a pullout from "some 75 percent" of the West Bank and, he implies, all or almost all of the Gaza Strip, back to defensible borders, while allowing a Palestinian state to emerge there. Meanwhile Israel should begin constructing a solid, impermeable fence around the evacuated parts of the West Bank and new housing and settlements inside Israel proper and in the areas of the West Bank that Israel intends to permanently annex (such as the Etzion Block area, south of Bethlehem) to absorb the settlers who will be moving out of the territories. He says that when the Palestinians will

be ready for peace, the fate of the remaining 25 percent of the West Bank can be negotiated.

Barak is extremely troubled by the problem posed by Israel's Arab minority, representing some 20 percent of Israel's total population of some 6.5 million. Their leadership over the past few years has come to identify with Arafat and the PA, and an increasing number of Israeli Arabs, who now commonly refer to themselves as "Palestinian Arabs," oppose Israel's existence and support the Palestinian armed struggle. A growing though still very small number have engaged in terrorism, including one of the past months' suicide bombers. Barak agrees that, in the absence of a peace settlement with the Palestinians, Israel's Arabs constitute an irredentist "time bomb," though he declines to use the phrase. At the start of the intifada Israel's Arabs rioted around the country, blocking major highways with stones and Molotov cocktails. In response, thirteen were killed by Israeli policemen, deepening the chasm between the country's Jewish majority and Arab minority. The relations between the two have not recovered and the rhetoric of the Israeli Arab leadership has grown steadily more militant. One Israeli Arab Knesset member, Azmi Bishara, is currently on trial for sedition. If the conflict with the Palestinians continues, says Barak, "Israel's Arabs will serve as [the Palestinians'] spearpoint" in the struggle: This may necessitate changes in the rules of the democratic game order to assure Israel's Jewish character. He raises the possibility that in a future deal, some areas with large Arab concentrations, such as the "Little Triangle" and Umm al-Fahm, bordering on the West Bank, could be transferred to the emergent Palestinian Arab state, along with their inhabitants: But this could only be done by agreement—and I don't recommend that government spokesmen speak of it [openly]. But such an exchange makes demographic sense and is not inconceivable.

Barak is employed as a senior adviser to an American company, Electronic Data Systems, and is considering a partnership in a private equity company, where he will be responsible for "security-related" ventures. I asked him, "Do you see yourself returning to politics?" Barak answered, Look, the public [decisively] voted against me a year ago. I feel like a reserve soldier who knows he might be called upon to come back but expects that he won't be unless it is absolutely necessary. But it's not inconceivable. After all, Rabin returned to the premiership fifteen years after the end of his first term in office.

At one point in the interview, Barak pointed to the settlement campaign in heavily populated Palestinian areas, inaugurated by Menachem Begin's Likud-led government in 1977, as the point at which Israel took a major historical wrong turn. But at other times Barak pointed to 1967 as the crucial mistake, when Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza (and Sinai and the Golan Heights) and, instead of agreeing to immediate withdrawal from all the territories, save East Jerusalem, in exchange for peace, began to settle them. Barak recalled seeing David Ben-Gurion, Israel's founder and first prime minister (1948–1953 and 1955– 1963), on television in June 1967 arguing for the immediate withdrawal from all the territories occupied in the Six- Day War in exchange for peace, save for East Jerusalem. Many of us—me included—thought that he was suffering from [mental] weakness or perhaps a subconscious jealousy of his successor [Levi Eshkol, who had presided over the unprecedented victory and conquests]. Today one understands that he simply saw more clearly and farther than the leadership at that time. How does Barak see the Middle East in a hundred years' time? Would it contain a Jewish state? Unlike Arafat, Barak believes it will, "and it will be strong and prosperous. I really think this. Our connection to the Land of Israelis is not like the Crusaders'.... Israel fits into the zeitgeist of our era. It is true that there are demographic threats to its existence. That is why a separation from the Palestinians is a compelling imperative. Without such a separation [into two states] there is no future for the Zionist dream."

Camp David and After: An Exchange (2. A Reply to Ehud Barak) By Hussein Agha, Robert Malley In response to Camp David and After: An Exchange (1. An Interview with Ehud Barak) (June 13, 2002) 2. A Reply to Ehud Barak Both sides in the Israeli–Palestinian war have several targets in mind, and public opinion is not the least of them. The Camp David summit ended almost two years ago; the Taba negotiations were abandoned in January 2001; Ariel Sharon has made no secret of his rejection of the Oslo process, not to mention the positions taken by Israel at Camp David or in Taba; and the confrontation between the two sides has had disastrous consequences. Yet in the midst of it all, the various interpretations of what happened at Camp David and its aftermath continue to draw exceptional attention both in Israel and in the United States.

Ehud Barak's interview with Benny Morris makes it clear why that is the case: Barak's assessment that the talks failed because Yasser Arafat cannot make peace with Israel and that his answer to Israel's unprecedented offer was to resort to terrorist violence has become central to the argument that Israel is in a fight for its survival against those who deny its very right to exist. So much of what is said and done today derives from and is justified by that crude appraisal. First, Arafat and the rest of the Palestinian leaders must be supplanted before a meaningful peace process can resume, since they are the ones who rejected the offer. Second, the Palestinians' use of violence has nothing to do with ending the occupation since they walked away from the possibility of reaching that goal at the negotiating table not long ago. And, finally, Israel must crush the Palestinians—"badly beat them" in the words of the current prime minister—if an agreement is ever to be reached. The one-sided account that was set in motion in the wake of Camp David has had devastating effects—on Israeli public opinion as well as on US foreign policy. That was clear enough a year ago; it has become far clearer since. Rectifying it does not mean, to quote Barak, engaging in "Palestinian propaganda." Rather, it means taking a close look at what actually occurred. 1. Barak's central thesis is that the current Palestinian leadership wants "a Palestinian state in all of Palestine. What we see as self-evident, two states for two peoples, they reject." Arafat, he concludes, seeks Israel's "demise." Barak has made that claim repeatedly, both here and elsewhere, and indeed it forms the crux of his argument. His claim therefore should be taken up, issue by issue. On the question of the boundaries of the future state, the Palestinian position, formally adopted as early as 1988 and frequently reiterated by Palestinian negotiators throughout the talks, was for a Palestinian state based on the June 4, 1967, borders, living alongside Israel. At Camp David (at which one of the present writers was a member of the US administration's team), Arafat's negotiators accepted the notion of Israeli annexation of West Bank territory to accommodate settlements, though they insisted on a one-for-one swap of land "of equal size and value." The Palestinians argued that the annexed territory should neither affect the contiguity of their own land nor lead to the incorporation of Palestinians into Israel. The ideas put forward by President Clinton at Camp David fell well short of those demands. In order to accommodate Israeli settlements, he proposed a deal by which Israel would annex 9 percent of the West Bank in exchange for turning over to the Palestinians parts of pre-1967 Israel equivalent to 1 percent of the West Bank. This proposal would have entailed the incorporation of tens of thousands of additional Palestinians into Israeli territory near the annexed settlements; and it would have meant that territory annexed by Israel would encroach deep inside the Palestinian state. In his December 23, 2000, proposals—called "parameters" by all parties—Clinton suggested an Israeli annexation of between 4 and 6 percent of the West Bank in exchange for a

land swap of between 1 and 3 percent. The following month in Taba, the Palestinians put their own map on the table which showed roughly 3.1 percent of the West Bank under Israeli sovereignty, with an equivalent land swap in areas abutting the West Bank and Gaza.[*] On Jerusalem, the Palestinians accepted at Camp David the principle of Israeli sovereignty over the Wailing Wall, the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, and Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem—neighborhoods that were not part of Israel before the 1967 Six-Day War—though the Palestinians clung to the view that all of Arab East Jerusalem should be Palestinian. In contrast to the issues of territory and Jerusalem, there is no Palestinian position on how the refugee question should be dealt with as a practical matter. Rather, the Palestinians presented a set of principles. First, they insisted on the need to recognize the refugees' right of return, lest the agreement lose all legitimacy with the vast refugee constituency—roughly half the entire Palestinian population. Second, they acknowledged that Israel's demographic interests had to be recognized and taken into account. Barak draws from this the conclusion that the refugees are the "main demographic-political tool for subverting the Jewish state." The Palestinian leadership's insistence on a right of return demonstrates, in his account, that their conception of a two-state solution is one state for the Palestinians in Palestine and another in Israel. But the facts suggest that the Palestinians are trying (to date, unsuccessfully) to reconcile these two competing imperatives—the demographic imperative and the right of return. Indeed, in one of his last pre– Camp David meetings with Clinton, Arafat asked him to "give [him] a reasonable deal [on the refugee question] and then see how to present it as not betraying the right of return." Some of the Palestinian negotiators proposed annual caps on the number of returnees (though at numbers far higher than their Israeli counterparts could accept); others wanted to create incentives for refugees to settle elsewhere and disincentives for them to return to the 1948 land. But all acknowledged that there could not be an unlimited, "massive" return of Palestinian refugees to Israel. The suggestion made by some that the Camp David summit broke down over the Palestinians' demand for a right of return simply is untrue: the issue was barely discussed between the two sides and President Clinton's ideas mentioned it only in passing. (In an Op-Ed piece in The New York Times this February Arafat called for "creative solutions to the right of return while respecting Israel's demographic concerns.") The Palestinians did insist that Israel recognize that it bore responsibility for creating the problem of the refugees. But it is ironic that Barak would choose to convey his categorical rejection of any such Israeli historical responsibility to Benny Morris, an Israeli historian called "revisionist" in large part for his account of the origins of the displacement of the Palestinians and for his conclusion that, while there were many reasons why the refugees left, Israeli military attacks and expulsions were the major ones.

The Palestinians can be criticized for not having presented detailed proposals at Camp David; but, as has been shown, it would be inaccurate to say they had no positions. It also is true that Barak broke a number of Israeli taboos and moved considerably from prior positions while the Palestinians believed they had made their historic concessions at Oslo, when they agreed to cede 78 percent of mandatory Palestine to Israel; they did not intend the negotiations to further whittle down what they already regarded as a compromise position. But neither the constancy of the Palestinians' view nor the unprecedented and evolving nature of the Israelis' ought to have any bearing on the question of whether the Palestinian leadership recognized Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state. It is the substance of the Palestinian positions that should count.

Those Palestinian positions may well have been beyond what the Israeli people can accept, particularly on the refugee question. But that is no more the question than it is whether the Israeli position was beyond what the Palestinian people can accept. And it is not the question that Barak purports to address in his interview. The question is whether, as Barak claims, the Palestinian position was tantamount to a denial of Israel's right to exist and to seeking its destruction. The facts do not validate that claim. True, the Palestinians rejected the version of the two-state solution that was put to them. But it could also be said that Israel rejected the unprecedented two-state solution put to them by the Palestinians from Camp David onward, including the following provisions: a state of Israel incorporating some land captured in 1967 and including a very large majority of its settlers; the largest Jewish Jerusalem in the city's history; preservation of Israel's demographic balance between Jews and Arabs; security guaranteed by a USled international presence. Barak's remarks about other Arab leaders are, in this regard, misplaced. Arafat did not reach out to the people of Israel in the way President Sadat did. But unlike Sadat, he agreed to cede parts of the territory that was lost in 1967—both in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem. The reference to President Assad—whose peace efforts are characterized as "genuine and sincere"—is particularly odd since Assad turned down precisely what Arafat was requesting: borders based on the lines of June 4, 1967, with one-for-one swaps. Barak claims that "Israel is too strong at the moment to defeat, so [the Palestinians] formally recognize it. But their game plan is to establish a Palestinian state while always leaving an opening for further 'legitimate' demands down the road." But here Barak contradicts himself. For if that were the case, the logical course of action for Arafat would have been to accept Clinton's proposals at Camp David, and even more so on December 23. He would then have had over 90 percent of the land and much of East Jerusalem, while awaiting, as Barak would have it, the opportunity to violate the agreement and stake out a claim for more. Whatever else one may think of Arafat's behavior throughout the talks, it clearly offers little to substantiate Barak's theory.

2. In his account of why the negotiations failed, Barak focuses only on the Palestinians' deficiencies, and dismisses as trivial sideshows several major political decisions that are crucial to the understanding of that failure. When he took office he chose to renegotiate the agreement on withdrawal of Israeli forces from the West Bank signed by Benjamin Netanyahu rather than implement it. He continued and even intensified construction of settlements. He delayed talks on the Palestinian track while he concentrated on Syria. He did not release Palestinian prisoners detained for acts committed prior to the signing of the Oslo agreement. He failed to carry out his commitments to implement the third territorial redeployment of Israeli troops and the transfer of the three Jerusalem villages. Barak is equally dismissive of the importance of his holding a substantive meeting with Arafat at Camp David—though here one cannot help but be struck by the contradiction between Barak's justification for that decision (namely that "the right time for a meeting between us was when things were ready for a decision by the leaders") and his conviction that a leaders' summit was necessary. If he felt things were not ready for a decision by the leaders meeting together, why insist on convening a leaders' summit in the first place? More broadly, from a Palestinian perspective, the issues concerning the timing of the talks were dealt with in ways that were both damaging and exasperating. The Palestinian leaders had called for negotiations on a comprehensive settlement between the two sides as early as the fall of 1999. They had asked for an initial round of secret talks between Israelis and Palestinians who were not officials in order to better prepare the ground. They had argued against holding the Camp David summit at the time proposed, claiming it was premature and would not lead to an agreement in view of the gaps between the two sides. They later asked for a series of summit meetings following Camp David so as to continue the talks. Each of their requests was denied. In the fall of 1999, Barak was not ready for talks with the Palestinians and chose to focus on Syria. He had no interest in discussions between nonofficials. When, by the summer of 2000, he finally was ready (the negotiations with Syria having failed), he insisted on going to Camp David without delay. And at Camp David he reacted angrily to any suggestion of holding further summit meetings. Barak, today, dismisses those Palestinian requests as mere pretexts and excuses. But it is not clear why they should be taken any less seriously than the ones he made, and on which he prevailed. All these external political events surrounding the negotiations, in fact, had critical implications for the negotiations themselves. The US administration felt so at the time, seeking on countless occasions before, during, and after the Camp David meetings to convince Barak to change his approach, precisely because the administration feared his tactics would harm the prospects for a deal. As has since become evident, the mood among critical Palestinian constituencies had turned decidedly sour—a result of continued settlement construction, repeated territorial closings that barred Palestinians

from working in Israel, and their humiliation and harassment at checkpoints. Confidence in the possibility of a fair negotiated settlement was badly shaken. Israeli actions that strengthened those trends further narrowed the Palestinian leaders' room to maneuver and accentuated the sense of paralysis among them. Barak's failure to recognize this is peculiar coming from a leader who was so sensitive to the role of Israeli public opinion. As so many examples from both the Syrian and Palestinian tracks illustrate, he was convinced that poor management of domestic public opinion could scuttle the chances for a deal. In his approach to the Israeli–Syrian negotiations, he went so far as to counsel Clinton against moving too quickly toward agreement during the Sheperdstown summit between the US, Israel, and Syria in January 2000, arguing that prolonged talks were required to show the Israeli public that he had put up a tough fight. In December, he had invoked the harsh statement of the Syrian foreign minister on the White House lawn as a reason why he could not show flexibility in their subsequent discussions at Blair House, arguing that the Israeli public would feel he had displayed weakness. He repeatedly insisted on (but rarely obtained) Syrian confidence-building measures in advance of the negotiations to help him sell his proposals back home.

When dealing with the Palestinians, likewise, Barak evidently felt the pressures of Israeli public opinion. He adamantly refused to discuss the issue of Jerusalem prior to the Camp David summit, claiming that to do so would have "torpedoed" the prospects for success. Settlement activity, to which both the Palestinians and the US objected, nonetheless proceeded at an extraordinary pace—faster than during Netanyahu's tenure, with over 22,000 more settlers. This was done, as Barak concedes in his interview, in order to "mollify the Israeli right which he needed quiescent as he pushed forward toward peace." In short, Barak understood all too well how political developments surrounding the negotiations could affect Israeli public opinion and, therefore, his own ability to make agreements. Yet he showed no such comprehension when it came to the possible effects of his policies on Arafat's own flexibility and capacity to make compromises. That Arafat was unable either to obtain a settlement freeze or to get Israel to carry out its prior commitments Barak views as inconsequential. In reality, the cards Barak was saving to increase his room to maneuver during the negotiations were precisely those the Palestinians needed to expand their own room to maneuver. Ultimately, the Palestinian team that went to Camp David was suspected by many Palestinians and other Arabs of selling out—incapable of standing up to Israeli or American pressure. Barak's apparent insensitivity to how his statements might affect the other side is revealed in his interview with Benny Morris. He characterizes Palestinian refugees as "salmons" whose yearning to return to their land somehow is supposed to fade away in roughly eighty years in a manner that the Jewish people's never did, even after two thousand years. When he denounces the idea that Israel be a "state for all its citizens"

he does not seem to realize he risks alienating its many Arab citizens. Most troubling of all is his description of Arabs as people who "don't suffer from the problem of telling lies that exists in Judeo-Christian culture. Truth is seen as an irrelevant category." It is hard to know what to make of this disparaging judgment of an entire people. In the history of this particular conflict, neither Palestinians nor Israelis have a monopoly on unkept commitments or promises. 3. By now, some of those who said that the Palestinians' rejection of the American proposals at Camp David was definitive proof of their inability to make peace have shifted their argument. Instead, they concentrate on President Clinton's proposals of December 23, 2000, along with the Israeli– Palestinian talks that took place at Taba, in January 2001, which Barak takes the so-called "revisionists" to task for ignoring. First, the facts. There is little doubt, as we described in our earlier article for The New York Review of Books, that the ideas put forward by President Clinton in December 2000 were a significant step in the direction of the Palestinians' position. It is also beyond dis- pute that while the Israeli cabinet accepted Clinton's "parameters," Arafat took his time, waiting ten days before offering his response—a costly delay considering the fact that only thirty days remained in Clinton's presidency. When he finally met with Clinton, on January 2, 2001, Arafat explained that he accepted the President's ideas with reservations and that Clinton could tell Barak that "[I] accepted your parameters and have some views I must express. At the same time, we know Israelis have views we must respect." His attitude, basically, was that the parameters contained interesting elements that should guide but not bind the negotiators. It is clearly an overstatement to claim that Arafat rejected "every one" of the President's ideas, and it certainly is not the message Clinton delivered to Barak. On a more specific point, Arafat did not reject Israeli sovereignty over the Wailing Wall but over the much larger Western Wall (of which it is a part), which encroaches on the Muslim Quarter of the Old City. A few days later, Barak presented his own reservations about Clinton's proposals in a private communication. Again, however, it is the conclusion Barak draws from this episode that is questionable. The Palestinians undoubtedly were not satisfied with Clinton's parameters, which they wanted to renegotiate. They were not responding with the same sense of urgency as the Americans or as Barak, who was facing elections and knew the fate of the peace process could decide them. But unlike what had happened at Camp David, there was no Palestinian rejection. On the contrary, the two sides, which had engaged in secret meetings during the autumn, agreed to continue talks at Taba. Indeed, the intensive talks that subsequently took place there ended not for lack of an agreement but for lack of time in view of the impending Israeli elections. In January Prime Minister Barak campaigned seeking a mandate to continue those talks. He went so far as to authorize his delegation at Taba to issue a joint statement with the Palestinians asserting that

the two sides declare that they have never been closer to reaching an agreement and it is thus our shared belief that the remaining gaps could be bridged with the resumption of negotiations following the Israeli elections. If we assume that Barak meant what the Taba statement said, that statement simply cannot be reconciled with his current assertion that the Palestinians are out to achieve the destruction of Israel. That statement also contradicts the constantly made claim that Arafat simply rejected a historic chance to negotiate a settlement. 4. The failure at Camp David and the start of the second Palestinian intifada are directly linked in accounts by Barak and others to argue that Arafat's response to the unprecedented offers was to scuttle negotiations and seek to achieve his goals through terror. Clearly, the Palestinian Authority did not do what it could to stop the uprising, which some of its leaders felt might well serve its interests. It is equally true that Palestinians initiated many acts of violence. Later on, as the conflict continued and intensified, cooperation between the Palestinian Authority and militant groups became much closer, and Palestinians engaged in repeated attacks with the clear and deeply deplorable intent of killing as many Israeli civilians as possible. But the charges against Arafat make another claim as well. He is said to have unleashed a wave of terrorist violence in the aftermath of Camp David as part of a grand scheme to pressure Israel; and Israel, it is said, had no choice but to act precisely as it did in response to a war initiated by others against its will. This assessment cannot be squared with the facts stated in the Mitchell report, which describes an uprising that began as a series of confrontations between largely unarmed Palestinians and armed Israeli security forces that resorted to excessive and deadly use of force. Barak entirely rejects the notion that Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount/Haram alSharif on September 28, 2000, played any part in setting off the subsequent clashes. To support his case, he asserts that the visit was coordinated with Palestinian security officials. But that is hardly the point. The point is that when we consider the context in which the visit was taking place—the intense focus on the Temple Mount/Haram alSharif at Camp David and the general climate among Palestinians—its impact was predictable. As Dennis Ross, Clinton's special Middle East envoy, said: "I can think of a lot of bad ideas, but I can't think of a worse one." The Mitchell report says: On the following day, in the same place, a large number of unarmed Palestinian demonstrators and a large Israeli police contingent confronted each other. According to the US Department of State, "Palestinians held large demonstrations and threw stones in the vicinity of the Western Wall. Police used rubber-coated metal bullets and live

ammunition to disperse the demonstrators, killing 4 persons and injuring about 200." According to the Government of Israel, 14 Israeli policemen were injured. From then on, the numbers of Palestinian deaths rose swiftly: twelve on September 30, twelve again on October 1, seventeen on October 2 (including seven Israeli Arabs), four on October 3, and twelve (including one Israeli Arab) on October 4. By the end of the first week, over sixty Palestinians had been killed (including nine Israeli Arabs). During that same time period, five Israelis were killed by Palestinians. According to the Mitchell report, for the first three months of the intifada, "most incidents did not involve Palestinian use of firearms and explosives." The report quotes the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem as finding that "73 percent of the incidents [from September 29 to December 2, 2000] did not include Palestinian gunfire. Despite this, it was in these incidents that most of the Palestinians [were] killed and wounded." Numerous other organizations, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, and Physicians for Human Rights, criticized the excessive use of force by the Israel Defense Forces, often against unarmed Palestinians. Barak suggests that Arafat had planned as his response to the Camp David summit a campaign of violent terror. That is a curious assertion in view of the fact that the Palestinians had argued that the parties were not ready for a summit and that Camp David should be understood as merely the first of a series of meetings. In contrast, as he knows well, Barak conceived of Camp David as a make-it-or-break-it summit. Defining the summit as a test of Arafat's true intentions, he early made clear that he foresaw only two possible outcomes: a full-scale agreement on the "framework" of a settlement, or a full-scale confrontation. Some things appear beyond dispute. The mood on the Palestinian street had reached the boiling point, as the May 2000 violence had shown and as both American and Israeli official reports had confirmed. Sharon's visit on the Haram was both a pretext and a provocation, a case of the wrong person being at the wrong place at the wrong time. A large number of Palestinians had lost patience with the peace process and felt humiliated by their experience with the settlements and at checkpoints; and many were impressed by the success of Hezbollah in Lebanon, where Israel was believed to have decided to withdraw in the face of armed resistance. At a tactical level, the Palestinians may have seen some advantage to a short-lived confrontation to show the Israelis they could not be taken for granted. The Israeli security forces, for their part, were still affected by the bloody experiences of September 1996 and of May 2000, during which Palestinian policemen confronted Israelis. They were determined to stop any uprising at the outset, using far greater force to subdue the enemy. Hence the Israeli decision to use lethal weapons, and hence the very heavy (and almost entirely Palestinian) toll of death and grave injury in the early days of the intifada. That, in turn, made it, if not impossible, at least very difficult for the Palestinian leadership to bring things under control; rather, it increased pressure to respond in kind.

Some among the Palestinian leaders may have hoped that the uprising would last a few days. The Israelis expected their strong reaction to stop it in its tracks. Instead, in this tragic game, in which both sides were reading from different scripts, the combination of the two may have led to an outcome that neither ever intended. Again, it is worth recalling the Mitchell report: The Sharon visit did not cause the "Al-Aqsa Intifada." But it was poorly timed and the provocative effect should have been foreseen; indeed it was foreseen by those who urged that the visit be prohibited. More significant were the events that followed: the decision of the Israeli police on September 29 to use lethal means against the Palestinian demonstrators; and the subsequent failure...of either party to exercise restraint. The report concluded: "We have no basis on which to conclude that there was a deliberate plan by the PA to initiate a campaign of violence at the first opportunity." 5. Barak's broad endorsement of Israel's current military campaign is cause for perhaps the greatest dismay. Of course Israel must deal with breaches of its security and look after its people's safety. Israel cannot be expected to sit idly by as Palestinians target civilians and engage in suicide attacks. The question, however, is not whether Israel should respond, but how. One might have hoped for a wise response—one that combined strong security measures with a genuine attempt to end the conflict—and that Ariel Sharon would have imitated his predecessor in continuing the political talks. Short of that, one might have hoped for a response that was driven principally, and understandably, by security concerns. But what has occurred can be deemed neither wise nor understandable. The wanton destruction on the West Bank of basic infrastructure, of civilian ministries, of equipment and documents, including school records, that have no security value—these are acts of revenge having little to do with security and everything to do with humiliating and seeking to break the will of the Palestinian people and undoing its capacity for self-governance. The recent military action is directly related to the question of what can now be done. Barak appears to have given up on the current Palestinian leadership, placing his hopes in the next generation—a generation that has not lived through the catastrophe, or nakba, of 1948. But what of the catastrophe of 2002? Is there any reason to believe that today's children will grow up any less hardened and vengeful after the indiscriminate attacks of the past few months? Barak also appears to have given up on what was his most important intuition—that the time for incremental or partial moves was over, and that the parties had to move toward a comprehensive and final settlement. While in office, he frequently made the point that Israel could not afford to make tangible concessions until it knew where the process

was headed. Yet the unilateral withdrawal he now has in mind would have Israel—in the absence of any agreement or reciprocal concession—withdraw from Gaza and some 75 percent of the West Bank. It would concentrate the struggle on the remaining 25 percent and on prevailing on outstanding issues, such as Jerusalem and the refugees. Worst of all, it would embolden those Palestinians who are ready to subscribe to the Hezbollah precedent and would be quick to conclude that Israel, having twice withdrawn under fire, would continue to do so. 6. Ehud Barak came into office vowing to leave no possibility unexplored in the quest for peace and departed from office seeking a renewed mandate to complete the talks begun at Taba. Since he left, he has in effect branded the Taba discussions as a sham and hinted broadly that his goal throughout was to "unmask" Arafat and prove him an unworthy partner for peace. As one reads his interview with Benny Morris, it is hard to tell which is the true Barak. Certainly, his wholesale indictment of the Palestinian leaders, his unqualified assertion that they seek the end of Israel, his pejorative reflections on Arab culture, and his support of Sharon's methods are at odds with the goals he once professed. The interpretation of what happened before, during, and after Camp David—and why— is far too important and has shown itself to have far too many implications to allow it to become subject to political caricature or posturing by either side. The story of Barak is of a man with a judicious insight—the need to aim for a comprehensive settlement—that tragically was not realized. The Camp David process was the victim of failings on the Palestinian side; but it was also, and importantly, the victim of failings on Israel's (and the United States') part as well. By refusing to recognize this, Barak continues to obscure the debate and elude fundamental questions about where the quest for peace ought to go now. One of those questions is whether there is not, in fact, a deal that would be acceptable to both sides, respectful of their core interests, and achievable through far greater involvement (and pressure) by the international community. Such a deal, we suggest, would include a sovereign, nonmilitarized Palestinian state with borders based on the 1967 lines, with an equal exchange of land to accommodate demographic realities, and with contiguous territory on the West Bank. Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem would be the capital of Israel and Arab neighborhoods would be the capital of Palestine. Palestinians would rule over the Haram al-Sharif (Temple Mount), Israeli would rule over the Kotel (Wailing Wall), with strict, internationally backed guarantees regarding excavation. A strong international force could provide security and monitor implementation of the agreement. A solution to the problem of the refugees would recognize their desire to return while preserving Israel's demographic balance—for example by allowing unrestricted return to that part of 1948 land that would then be included in the land swap and fall under Palestinian sovereignty.

Barak closes his interview with the thought that Israel will remain a strong, prosperous, and Jewish state in the next century. In order to achieve that goal, there are far better and more useful things that Barak could do than the self-justifying attempt to blame Arafat and his associates for all that has gone awry. —Mr. Barak and Mr. Morris will reply in the next issue of The New York Review, and Mr. Malley and Mr. Agha will then reply in turn.

Camp David and After—Continued By Ehud Barak, Benny Morris, Reply by Hussein Agha, Robert Malley In response to Camp David and After: An Exchange (2. A Reply to Ehud Barak) (June 13, 2002) Robert Malley and Hussein Agha ["Camp David and After: An Exchange," NYR, June 13] still don't get it (or pretend they don't). And it's really very simple—Ehud Barak and Bill Clinton put on the table during July–December 2000 a historic compromise and the Palestinians rejected it. They concede that Barak's offer at Camp David was "unprecedented" and that the upgraded (Clinton) proposals offered the Palestinians 94– 96 percent of the West Bank, 100 percent of the Gaza Strip, a sovereign Palestinian state, an end to the occupation, the uprooting of most of the settlements, and sovereignty over Arab East Jerusalem—and Arafat and his aides still rejected the deal and pressed on with their terroristic onslaught. Yet Malley and Agha continue, in effect, to blame Israel for the descent into war while producing "a smokescreen," in Barak's phrase, of sophistry and misleading nit-picking, that aims to get their man off the hook. Permeating their response is that shopsoiled Palestinian Weltanschauung, that someone else, always, is to blame for their misfortunes—Ottoman Turks, British Mandate officials, Zionists, Americans, anyone but themselves. Malley and Agha, trying to drive home the point of permanent Palestinian innocence and victimhood, speak of "the catastrophe of 2002" in the same breath as "the catastrophe ...of 1948." But how can anyone with a minimal historical perspective compare the 1948 shattering and exile of a whole society, accompanied by thousands of deaths and the wholesale destruction of hundreds of villages, with the two or three hundred deaths, mostly of Palestinian gunmen, and the destruction of several dozen homes in the IDF's April 2002 Operation Defensive Shield, a reprisal for the murder by Palestinian suicide bombers of some one hundred Israeli civilians during the previous weeks?

The answer lies in the realm of fantasy or propaganda—and, unfortunately, much of what Malley and Agha write belongs to one of these categories. They speak of Israel's "indiscriminate attacks of the past few months." Indiscriminate? We hazard to say that no military has ever been more discriminating and gone to such lengths to avoid inflicting civilian casualties. And there were precious few bona fide civilian casualties (despite Palestinian efforts to beef up the numbers with borrowed corpses, double and triple tabulations, the inclusion of dead gunmen in "civilian" rosters, etc., and despite the fact that the gunmen, as in Jenin's refugee camp, were operating from among and behind a civilian "shield"). Human Rights Watch and other groups subsequently concluded that there was no evidence that the IDF had "massacred" anyone in the Jenin camp. Indeed, the only "indiscriminate massacres" that have taken place over the past few months have been of Israeli women, children, and the old by Palestinian suicide bombers, many of them belonging to Arafat's own Fatah organization, in cafés, malls, and buses. But the European media persists in believing the never-ending torrent of Palestinian mendacity; political correctness as well as varied economic interests and anti-Semitism dictate that no third-world people can do wrong and no first-world people, right. Regarding Camp David and the subsequent negotiations, readers should note that Malley and Agha invariably refer to what "Arafat's negotiators" said or accepted or proposed—never to Arafat's own views and actions. And this is no accident. Arafat himself has never affirmed Israel's right to exist or its legitimacy, and has never waived the Palestinian refugees' "right of return"—and what his underlings "offer" or "accept" can always be denied or repudiated. This is the Arafat method, and Malley/Agha enter the game with gusto, while pretending to their readers that what "Arafat's negotiators" said or did carried the old man's imprimatur. They apparently forget that in their original article ["Camp David: The Tragedy of Errors," NYR, August 9, 2001] they stated: "...The Palestinians' principal failing is that from the beginning of the Camp David summit onward they were unable either to say yes to the American ideas or to present a cogent and specific counterproposal of their own." So Clinton had "stormed out" and said: "This is a fraud. I won't have the United States covering for negotiations in bad faith." The Palestinians went "through the motions rather than go for a deal," Malley and Agha then concluded. The new Malley and Agha are busy watering this down. Arafat, they now say, did not reject Clinton's December 23, 2000, proposals; he merely "took his time" in responding. And both Barak and the Palestinians wanted to "renegotiate" the parameters, they say. This smooth, false symmetry is vintage Malley/Agha. They fail to tell their readers that the Israeli cabinet immediately and formally accepted the parameters as a basis for negotiation and that Arafat, on the other hand, according to both Clinton and Ambassador Dennis Ross, flatly rejected the parameters and slammed the door shut. The question of the "right of return" offers a good example of Palestinian doublespeak. All Palestinian spokesmen, including Arafat (see, for example, his interview in Al-Ittihad (United Arab Emirates February 6, 2002) and Abu Alaa (at the press conference at the end of the January 2001 Taba negotiations), affirm the unreserved, uncurtailed "right of

return" to Israel proper of the 1948 refugees and their descendants, of whom there are today close to four million on UN rolls. When speaking in Arabic, they assure their constituencies—in Lebanon's and Jordan's and Gaza's refugee camps—that they will return once "Jerusalem is conquered" (code for when Israel is destroyed). But when facing westward, they affirm that the "implementation" of that right will "take account of Israel's demographic concerns." Going one better, Malley/Agha state that "there is no Palestinian position on how the refugee question should be dealt with as a practical matter" and that "all" acknowledge that there can be no "massive" return. Really? "All"—Palestinians and Israelis—un- derstand that concession of the principle will entail a gradual effort at full implementation, in this generation or the next, spelling chaos and the subversion of the Jewish state and its replacement by an Arab-majority "Palestine," a twenty-third Arab state. The demand for the right of return, in the deepest sense, is a demographic mechanism to achieve Israel's destruction, says Barak. This prospect does not greatly trouble Malley and Agha, who (naively? duplicitously?) admonish their readers not to exercise themselves overmuch "on the question of whether the Palestinian leadership recognized Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state." But surely that's the core of the problem—the Palestinian leadership's desire to ultimately undermine the Jewish state.

The origins of the current violence are a further case in point. Malley and Agha, after trotting out some qualifications, leave their readers with the clear impression that the Sharon visit was what caused the intifada. But Israeli intelligence (and the CIA, according to Barak) has strong evidence that the Palestinian Authority had planned the intifada already in July 2000. For example, in March 2001 the PA's communications minister, Imad Faluji, told residents of the Ein al-Hilwe refugee camp outside Sidon: "Whoever thinks that the Intifada broke out because of the despised Sharon's visit to the al-Aqsa Mosque is wrong, even if this visit was the straw that broke the back of the Palestinian people. This intifada was planned in advance, ever since President Arafat's return from the Camp David negotiations, where he turned the table upside down on President Clinton." (Al-Safir, Lebanon, March 3, 2001). Barak characterizes Arafat "and some (not all) of his entourage" as "serial liars." Arafat's credentials as a serial liar are impressive, Malley/Agha's protestations notwithstanding. Take, for example, Arafat's interview with Al-Ittihad on February 6, 2002, in which he blamed the Israeli security service, the Shin Bet, for carrying out suicide bombings against Israeli soldiers and civilians; the attack on the Dolphinarium night club in 2001, in which about twenty-five Israeli youngsters died, he blamed on an IDF soldier. Arafat routinely tells anyone who will listen that Israeli troops use "poison gas" and "radioactive materials" against Palestinian civilians (Arafat on Abu Dhabi TV/Palestine TV, March 29, 2002). To Western audiences Arafat usually affirms his interest in peace or "the peace of the braves" (a Palestinian baseball team?), as he puts it. To Arab audiences, he speaks

only of battle and planting the Palestinian flag on Jerusalem's walls (as Saladin planted his flag on Jerusalem's walls, after defeating the Crusaders, back in 1189) and of sacrificing "one million shuhada [martyrs, meaning suicide bombers]" in "redeeming Palestine." On May 10, 1994, he told a Muslim audience in Johannesburg that he was engaged in the Oslo peace process much as Mohammed had briefly acquiesced in a truce with the Quraish tribe of Mecca, only to unilaterally revoke it and slaughter them several years later. For good measure, Ara-fat in that speech said there is no "permanent state of Israel," only a "permanent state of Palestine." It is worth noting that Malley/Agha conclude by proposing a settlement based on the establishment of "a sovereign, nonmilitarized Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines, with an equal exchange of land to accommodate demographic realities" and the return of refugees to the area that becomes the Palestinian state. But this, almost precisely, is the deal that Clinton and Barak proposed back in 2000—and Arafat violently rejected. The time has come for the world to judge Arafat by what he does and not by the camouflaging defensive rhetoric tossed out by sophisticated polemicists, Barak says. He refers to Saddam Hussein and Arafat as "the terroristic odd couple" of 1991, who are now back for a second inning, with Saddam helping to fuel the present conflict by inciting the Arab world to join in and, like the Saudis, by paying gratuities to the families of suicide bombers. It is time that the West's leaders, who initially dealt with Saddam and Milosevic as acceptable, responsible interlocutors, now treat Arafat and his ilk in the Palestinian camp as the vicious, untrustworthy, unacceptable reprobates and recidivists that they are. Benny Morris and Ehud Barak Robert Malley and Hussein Agha reply: One might be tempted to dismiss much of what Benny Morris and Ehud Barak write as hollow demagoguery were it not so pernicious and damaging to the future of both the Israeli and Palestinian people. In the past, and through his words and actions, Barak helped to set in motion the process of delegitimizing the Palestinians and the peace process, thereby enabling Ariel Sharon to deal with them as he saw fit and absolve himself of all responsibility for Israel's diplomatic, security, and economic predicament. Now, the inability to reach a peace deal in the seven months between Camp David and Taba has become, in Barak's and Morris's version, a tale in which Arab cultural deficiency and the Palestinians' inherent desire to destroy Israel are the dominant themes. As Shimon Peres has famously put it, Barak is making an ideology out of his failure. It is time he dealt with the failure, put aside the ideology, and let Israelis and Palestinians return to the far more urgent and serious task of peacemaking. To begin, a few words about Morris's and Barak's rejoinder, a catalog of misrepresentations that scarcely deserves more. They distort what we wrote about the tragic events of the last few months, the reactions to President Clinton's December 23 ideas, the right of return, the importance of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, and

the origins of the current intifada. They turn what the world saw as Sharon's dangerously provocative walk on the Haram/Temple Mount into an innocent stroll. They charge the Palestinians with trying to evade all responsibility but then proceed to evade all responsibility on Barak's part, placing the entire burden of failure on the Palestinians while adding for good measure the usual tired accusations about Arab doublespeak, European media bias, "varied economic interests," and even political correctness. They refer to the "Arafat method" by which negotiators, and not Arafat himself, laid out Palestinian positions, without acknowledging that it was precisely the method routinely and quite openly practiced by Barak. Indeed, the desire not to commit himself personally was the reason Barak provided for his refusal to hold substantive discussions with Arafat at Camp David and it is also the reason why he both declined to give his negotiators specific instructions during the Taba talks and asked not to be fully briefed by them.

Then there is the issue of Barak's astonishing remarks about Palestinian and Arab culture that he now seeks to obfuscate. Yet his words in the initial interview were unequivocal. "They are products of a culture in which to tell a lie...creates no dissonance," he pronounced. "They don't suffer from the problem of telling lies that exists in Judeo-Christian culture. Truth is seen as irrelevant." And so on. But, plainly, factual accuracy and logical consistency are not what Morris and Barak are after. What matters is self-justification by someone who has chosen to make a career—and perhaps a comeback—through the vilification of an entire people. For that, indeed, is the real issue that warrants attention. In Morris's and Barak's crude account, Barak made a most generous offer, the "vicious" Palestinian leadership turned it down because they wanted to get rid of Israel, and all the rest is gossip. But is a man who believes that a whole race or culture is immune to the truth well placed to make such a sweeping assessment or, for that matter, well equipped to strike a historic deal with the people about whom he holds such prejudiced views? Barak deserves credit for understanding the need to end the Israeli–Palestinian conflict and the importance of separation between the two peoples as part of a final peace agreement. But it is worth recalling that Barak opposed the Oslo accords from the outset; before 1996 he was against the inclusion of Palestinian statehood in the Labor Party's platform; he insisted on renegotiating an agreement with the Palestinians signed by his predecessor and then failed to carry it out; and, today, he takes pride in having made fewer tangible concessions to the Palestinians than Benjamin Netanyahu, the right-wing prime minister who preceded him. Are these truly the qualifications one would expect of a man who claims to sit in judgment of the peacemaking capabilities of others?

What is clear from his reply and other recent statements is Barak's utter lack of selfdoubt. Yet, by the time he was defeated by Ariel Sharon, less than two years after coming into office, he had antagonized both the religious right and the secular left, not

for the sake of high principle but through poor management. His governing coalition had disintegrated. Arab-Israelis had lost all confidence in him. His own Labor Party was adrift and strongly critical of him. He was unable to reach an agreement with Syria. And relations with much of the Arab world were at a lower point than they had been under his hard-line predecessor. The Palestinians, in short, were only one on a lengthy list of people whom he successfully managed to alienate or had failed to deal with successfully. In view of this record, might there not be room to wonder whether Barak's tactics, approach, and cast of mind had at least something to do with the breakdown of the peace process? Finally there is the question of what, today, Barak stands by and stands for. What, in his opinion, actually happened at Taba in January 2001, and does he accept the positive assessment provided by his official Israeli delegation? It is an assessment he ignores in his reply and that is worth repeating here: The two sides declare that they have never been closer to reaching an agreement and it is thus our shared belief that the remaining gaps could be bridged with the resumption of negotiations following the Israeli elections. That statement contradicts the claim made by Barak, and frequently heard from others, that the Palestinians simply turned their backs on a possible agreement. Would Barak be prepared, today, to resume where things were left off and seek to complete the negotiations, as he pledged at the time and as he repeated to the Israeli public throughout his reelection campaign? The question whether a peace agreement can still be reached, in the current situation of appalling daily violence, has become more urgent than ever. We know what President Clinton's ideas were for an Israeli– Palestinian agreement. We know the positions of more than a few Israeli political leaders who in recent weeks have unveiled their own peace formulas. We even know what the official Palestinian proposal is—though it may or may not be something the Israeli people can accept. But can Barak, who likes to tell the left that he went further than everyone else and the right that he gave less than anyone else, let us know what are his specific proposals for a final peace agreement with the Palestinians? Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm. —Winston Churchill There’s no success like failure, and … failure’s no success at all. —Bob Dylan

The idea of Israeli–Palestinian partition, of a two-state solution, has a singular pedigree. It has been proposed for at least eight decades. Jews first accepted it as Palestinians recoiled; by the time Palestinians warmed to the notion in the late 1980s, Israelis had turned their backs. Still, its proponents manage to portray it as fresh, new, and capable of leading to peace. International

consensus on a two-state agreement is, today, stronger than ever. Meanwhile, interest among the two parties most directly concerned wanes and prospects for achieving it diminish. This inability to turn the idea into practice has prompted reactions that roughly divide into two types. The most common is to blame transient conditions or faulty execution. The implication is that there is no need to revisit fundamental assumptions about the goal itself: an essentially territorial deal that would split historic Palestine into two states along the 1967 borders; divide Jerusalem according to demographic criteria; find a solution to the refugee issue through compensation and resettlement outside of Israel; end the historic conflict; and terminate all claims. What are needed are more optimal conditions, smarter implementation, and some luck. The history of the peace process has been plagued, according to this account, by unfortunate circumstances: leaders too weak to strike a deal when they wished to or too obdurate to sign one when they could; one side ready for compromise when the other was not; divisions on the Palestinian side or dysfunctional governments on the Israeli one. Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s historic mission was ended by an assassin’s bullet; Ariel Sharon’s gradual acceptance of a viable Palestinian state was interrupted by a stroke; his successor’s attempt to end the conflict was cut short by scandal.

Advertisement The US figures as a central culprit. President Bill Clinton was excessively soft, President George W. Bush insufficiently interested. Washington kept Arab countries at arm’s length and paid inadequate attention to developments on the ground—Israeli settlement construction and Palestinian security infringements. It focused on interim steps rather than the endgame. Most of all, it did not pressure the parties enough, by which typically is meant that it indulged Israel too much. It’s a dispiriting list, but one that at least leaves room for optimism: in the right circumstances and with the right US touch, a successful outcome would be within reach. There is truth to all these explanations, and it is beyond dispute that ideal conditions have been missing for the last sixteen years. It is difficult to imagine a time when they will not be.

Today, people point to Benjamin Netanyahu’s complicated mix of right-wing credentials and pragmatic streak to argue that he might be the ideal salesman for a historic compromise. During his first term as prime minister, he agreed to territorial withdrawals and implicitly endorsed the overall outlook of the Oslo accords, contradicting campaign pledges and reversing personal commitments. But none of those steps came remotely close to the kind of conversion that would be required to reach a final agreement. If political survival is Netanyahu’s overriding credo, he will seek to avoid clashing with the US, but will be at least as eager to avert alienating his coalition partners. Making a concession to the Palestinians, sparking a crisis, retreating, advancing some more, placating the US even as he defies it: such zigzagging, far more than a straight-line path toward a two-state solution, seems the likely pattern. Netanyahu knows that moves toward an inter- nationally celebrated yet uncertain destination will threaten his political survival. Meandering is the surer bet. Some see hope, too, in Mahmoud Abbas. For the president of the Palestinian Authority, power has been an acquired taste, the acquisition as slow as it was guarded. One still senses his disdain for the rough-and-tumble politicking of the type Yasser Arafat mastered and relished. But there was something new in the way he maneuvered to pull off Fatah’s General Congress last August, its first in twenty years, sidelining opponents and elevating supporters. Throughout, he displayed a newfound pleasure in playing the political game that appears to have surprised him as much as anyone else. Abbas’s immersion in domestic politics is at once liberating, constraining, and fickle. He will have to stay in tune with domestic sentiment, and pay greater attention to Fatah’s internal dynamics, the rhythm of Palestinian politics. The relative freedom he enjoyed when he glided above the fray may be one sacrifice. Grand diplomatic gestures might not seem so attractive now. He also is at the mercy of a swift and severe turnaround in public assessments. The fallout from the Palestinian Authority’s horrendous mishandling of the Goldstone report on the 2008– 2009 Gaza war—when, under Israeli and US pressure, the Palestinian leadership withdrew it from consideration by the UN Human Rights Council—is only the latest and starkest of reminders. The most heartfelt hope for peace has been placed in Barack Obama. The young President offers the prospect of a clean break with the past and an early start on a more engaged and sustained policy. Underpinning the faith is a straightforward logic: Israel depends on US support; no Israeli leader will dare jeopardize good relations with Washington; if the administration plays “hard ball” while proffering “tough love,” Israel will follow. Obama’s first steps have prompted doubts. By initially insisting on a comprehensive Israeli settlement freeze, then negotiating its details, then seemingly backing down and pushing Palestinians to resume their talks with Israel, the administration increased friction with Jerusalem, squandered credibility with the Arab world, and weakened Abbas. In this last respect, Obama is only the latest in a string of American presidents who have shown few limits to the harm they can inflict on those Palestinians they purport to strengthen. By twice twisting Abbas’s arm, first to attend a meeting with Netanyahu and then to withdraw the Goldstone report, the administration unwittingly hurt him more in the space of two weeks than

its predecessor had done in as many terms. The US hope was to tame Netanyahu, empower Abbas, motivate peace advocates, curtail extremists, and energize negotiations. So far, it has accomplished the precise opposite. Obama will have opportunities to recover. But for those who remain persuaded that the US has the power to produce a meaningful peace agreement, his record so far is hardly a good omen. It fits into a larger pattern and helps make a broader point: the absence of convincing historical evidence that a sufficient degree of American pressure can be applied to persuade an Israeli government to act against its self-perceived fundamental interests. Israelis and Palestinians have their weaknesses, but they have mastered the art of saying no or at least meaning it, and then of living to wage the next fight. Possibly, this time will be different and Obama will achieve what none of his predecessors could, but nothing in his first nine months suggests he can. To harbor that expectation would be to allow the surrender of experience to hope.

A second type of reaction to the persistent inability to reach a two-state settlement is to thrust aside the goal altogether. Two-state detractors offer several alternatives. The most prominent is the one-state solution, which is premised on the belief that Jews and Arabs can coexist in a democratic, multiethnic, binational state. Its proponents defend it as both ethically and practically superior to partition, an answer to the many questions that have bedeviled its pursuit. These include Jewish and Palestinian attachment to the land of Eretz Israel or historic Palestine (since members of both communities could live anywhere within it); the rights of refugees (since they could return to the land of their original homes if they so desired); Israeli security (since there would be no state of Israel to defend and no state of Palestine that might attack); Jerusalem (shared and worshiped equally by both); and closure. A single state, its advocates say, would do away with antiquated notions of ethnically or religiously based political entities, and replace them with the more modern concept of equal citizenship. To which some add that establishing a Palestinian state has become unfeasible, given the scope of the settlement enterprise and the changes that have already taken place in the West Bank. The proposal is intellectually attractive, morally pleasing, but politically fanciful. It fails the elemental test of any proposed solution, which is to fulfill both sides’ basic needs. This is most evident in the case of Israel’s Jewish population. Their fundamental aspiration remains to establish a safe and recognized Jewish state, a goal that would be nullified by the creation of a single binational one. It is hard to imagine Palestinians finding satisfaction in this outcome either. They most probably would end up as an underclass, second-class citizens and a source of cheap labor, unable to compete for land and other resources—again, directly contradicting their desire for dignity and self-determination. Perpetuating the status quo is a quite different alternative. It is a one-state outcome of a kind, though not of the multiethnic, democratic sort. Today, in effect, a single state reaches from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River, in which Palestinians are imprisoned in Gaza, occupied in the West Bank, or discriminated against in Israel. What the status quo has going for it is its remarkable record of survival in the face of repeated challenges and persistent predictions to the contrary. Israel managed, through its disengagement from Gaza and construction of the West

Bank separation barrier, to shield itself from a Palestinian demographic threat. It also stopped security threats from the West Bank, resulting in the absence of any incentive for Israel to alter today’s realities. On that basis alone, one might assume that the current situation can endure, more or less intact and at manageable cost, well into the future. Yet even this long run sooner or later must end. Continued suffering will alienate a growing Palestinian population and tensions almost certainly will lead to new bouts of violence. The worldwide consensus in favor of a two-state solution might be unable to produce that outcome but it puts Israel in an increasingly untenable position. Since 1948, the Israeli–Palestinian dispute has been the direct or indirect cause of nine wars, or roughly one every seven years. That alone will provide impetus to change the status quo.

What is the matter with the two-state solution? To this day, it remains the only outcome that appears attuned to reality; the only one that enjoys broad support. Its rough outlines no longer constitute much of a mystery. Yet all this does not so much answer the question as it reframes it: What basic ingredients have been missing from the conventional two-state concept? Why, so widely embraced in the abstract, has it been so stubbornly rejected in practice?

Benjamin Netanyahu; drawing by John Springs The problem with the two-state idea as it has been construed is that it does not truly address what it purports to resolve. It promises to close a conflict that began in 1948, perhaps earlier, yet virtually everything it worries about sprang from the 1967 war. Ending Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories is essential and the conflict will persist until this is addressed. But its roots are far deeper: for Israelis, Palestinian denial of the Jewish state’s legitimacy; for Palestinians,

Israel’s responsibility for their large-scale dispossession and dispersal that came with the state’s birth. If the objective is to end the conflict and settle all claims, these matters will need to be dealt with. They reach back to the two peoples’ most visceral and deep-seated emotions, their longings and anger. For years, the focus has been on fine-tuning percentages of territorial withdrawals, ratios of territorial swaps, and definitions of Jerusalem’s borders. The devil, it turns out, is not in the details. It is in the broader picture. The problem was built into the structure of the negotiations. It is only a slight exaggeration to describe them as a confidence game, a tacit understanding by all sides to elude the historic core of the matter through disingenuous ambiguity. Palestinians hoped they could achieve their goals even as they persisted in denying the Jewish people’s entitlement to even part of the land; Israelis trusted that if they granted Palestinians some kind of state the whole problem would fade away. The US assumed the role of a willing participant. Others, Europeans included, lazily followed. Failure to deal with basic issues guaranteed their reemergence whenever the parties inched closer to a deal and recoiled from the implications of that last, fateful step. Then what had been obscured came into fuller view, namely that Palestinians were not truly prepared to stipulate that the conflict has been terminated and all claims set aside solely in exchange for an end to the occupation, and that Israel was not prepared to end its occupation in exchange for less. Establishing two states would resolve the occupation, but that is only one aspect, albeit an important one, of a problem that arose decades before the occupation began. An Israeli leader will be loath to relinquish territory and permit the emergence of an indisputably sovereign Palestinian state at least as long as suspicion lingers that Palestinians have not genuinely made their peace with the new reality, that they are biding their time, and that a future of renewed strife lies in store. In turn, a Palestinian leader cannot credibly proclaim that the conflict has come to a close if the solution ignores the genesis of the Palestinian plight and the historic core of its national cause. To adopt such a stand would be tantamount to conceding that the refugees—who make up a majority of the Palestinian population, were once its political vanguard, and could well regain that position—had waged six decades of struggle by mistake and endured six decades of suffering in vain. Internal challenges to such an arrangement might not be immediate. But they would be certain and severe, laying bare the fragility of a supposedly historic accord. There are other reasons to break out of the straitjacket that the two-state model has become. For one, the parties have exposed their positions to the point where they lack negotiating space. The long public history of Israeli–Palestinian negotiations no longer is a legacy to build on. It has become an obstacle to overcome. An Israeli leader offering more to the Palestinians than what Prime Minister Ehud Olmert proposed would be accused of caving in; a Palestinian leader accepting less than what President Abbas rejected would be condemned for selling out. The process of the past sixteen years also has been least effective in dealing with those who can do the most to derail it. The elements of a two-state deal as traditionally mooted carry little

appeal to the more mobilized constituents—Israeli settlers and right-wing activists; Palestinian refugees and Islamist militants. If the objective is a legitimate and sustainable deal, their interests and aspirations too need to be borne in mind. Some will deduce from this that little can be done. It is a conclusion that betrays a lack of imagination. New elements can be introduced and pieces of what has become an overly familiar—and faulty—puzzle reshuffled. Plausible departures from the conventional model should be considered that involve neither a flight of fancy into a one-state universe nor resigned submission to the status quo. They offer no guarantee of success. But the alternative is continuing a process that has consistently failed. Just as the perfect can be the enemy of the good, so the good can be the enemy of the real, which is the key to the possible.

A Long-Term Interim Arrangement As currently defined and negotiated, a conflict-ending settlement is practically unachievable; even if signed it will not be implemented and even if implemented it will not be sustained. Against this background, the idea of a long-term interim arrangement acquires some logic. Instead of a resolution that promises finality, Israelis and Palestinians could strive for an agreement that seeks to minimize risks of violence by attempting to stop some of the dispute’s more inflammatory manifestations. Such an agreement could create a more positive climate and new realities that may, in time, end the conflict. Israel would withdraw from all or part of the West Bank, diminishing friction between the two peoples. Security arrangements would be put in place. More vexing questions, including final boundaries, the fate of refugees and of Jerusalem’s holy sites as well as Palestinian recognition of a Jewish state, for now put on a slow track, would be taken up only after both peoples had grown accustomed to their new interaction. By lowering the bar, the proposal would lower the stakes, preserving Israeli and Palestinian aspirations while defusing the conflict’s more volatile aspects. Should Palestinians feel more secure and prosperous and Israelis feel safer, the constituencies backing renewed confrontation might shrink. Unlike Oslo’s lofty dreams, an interim arrangement would more authentically reflect the two sides’ feelings: begrudging mutual acquiescence as opposed to earnest acceptance. The idea is not new. Among its proponents are an unlikely assortment of Israelis and Palestinians; what they share is disbelief in the possibility of a genuine peace and faith in more circumscribed coexistence. The Israeli right historically has backed the notion of Palestinian autonomy. Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, current Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, and Hamas’s leaders all have raised the possibility of an interim arrangement. Sharon talked of a nonbelligerency pact, persuaded that Palestinians were not prepared to genuinely recognize the Jewish people’s right to their homeland and that peace without such recognition at best could only be a guarded lull. Lieberman, dismissing as delusional the notion

that the two sides could end their conflict in the foreseeable future, argues for a long-term interim arrangement focused on delivering prosperity and security. Although their angle differs significantly, Hamas leaders too see things that way. Existential issues cannot be resolved now, they say, not with emotions so raw, not with an Israeli entity that remains hostile and has usurped the land from its original Palestinian owners. Future generations might find a more harmonious way of living together, but only after a cooling-off period. For the time being, a truce, or hudna, that involves a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders is the most that can be done. Other suggestions fall in this broad category: a Palestinian state within provisional borders or resolving borders first, while postponing questions about Jerusalem and refugees. Unilateralism— the idea that one or both parties would take steps on its own rather than through agreement—is a variant, arguably the more likely of them all. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s notion of building the institutions of a state even as the occupation endures is one example. An Israeli decision to withdraw from parts of the West Bank might be another. All these models differ save in one respect: the faith that something can be done even if not everything can be settled. There are serious problems with all these variations, not least the wide discrepancies between the two sides’ assessments of what would be acceptable. From how much West Bank territory would Israel pull out? Would any part of Jerusalem be involved? For some Palestinians, a truce would require withdrawal to the 1967 lines, with equal swaps between land retained by Israel and land in Israel turned over to Palestinians. In their eyes, anything less risks perpetuating the occupation and reducing pressure to end it. Israelis, who find it difficult to accept such an outcome as part of a permanent deal, will find it nearly impossible to condone if it is part of a temporary arrangement. Likewise, Palestinians might fear that with the territorial question essentially defused, unresolved issues—refugees and Jerusalem—will forever be postponed. Israelis might suspect that Palestinians, with their territorial aspirations essentially satisfied, will adopt maximalist positions on what remains. Then there is the question of how long the provisional can last and still claim to be provisional. How such an interim arrangement would work is hard to fathom. But if an end-of-conflict settlement is out of reach and the status quo out of the question, options that fall somewhere in between deserve at least serious exploration.

Jordan The mention of Jordan as a possible piece of the Israeli– Palestinian puzzle comes with burdensome baggage. Memories of the bloody battle between Palestinians and Trans-Jordanians in 1970 endure, together with Palestinian concerns about the Hashemite Kingdom’s efforts to appropriate their national cause. There is the shadow cast by the view long held by many Israelis

that Jordan is Palestine, from which it follows that there is no need to establish another independent Palestinian state or for Israel to withdraw from the West Bank. Officially at least, no one—not Israel, not the US, not Palestinian leaders, and certainly not the Jordanian leadership— currently will venture to suggest more than a supporting role for Jordan in a peace accord. Yet arguments favoring some kind of Jordanian–Palestinian entity comprising Jordan, the West Bank, and perhaps Gaza are worth considering. Inserting a new variable would give both parties additional flexibility in an increasingly arthritic process. Israelis, almost viscerally unwilling to entrust their future to the Palestinians, hold a more sympathetic view of Jordan. For reasons at once historical, political, and psychological, they have faith in the Hashemite Kingdom, its complicated, uneasy relations with the Palestinians only bolstering the sentiment. What Israel might not hand over to the Palestinian Authority, they conceivably could give to a joint Palestinian–Jordanian entity. In the absence of a continued Israeli presence, a Jordanian security force in the West Bank would be viewed as reliable—undoubtedly more than any alternative Arab contingent, Egypt included. It would be arguably more reliable than a Western force, which might flee at the first whiff of violence. Even were Israel to remain skeptical of long-term Palestinian intentions, it might be prepared to withdraw from the West Bank if Jordan jointly held power on the other side.

Mahmoud Abbas; drawing by John Springs Palestinians would need to overcome the initial jolt. Their national movement has spent the past several decades emphasizing separation from Jordan. Those whose political identity and interests have become wedded to the idea of a separate, independent state will be particularly resistant. Others will suspect an Israeli ploy to resurrect the idea of Jordan-as-Palestine. But more unexpected reactions might follow. For the Palestinian elite, Amman already serves as a substitute political and social hub. For Hamas, which thinks in broader Islamist categories and

for which Palestinian statehood never was the crux of the matter, association with a larger Muslim entity could be appealing. Being closely linked to Jordan—a country of similar ethnicity and faith, where the majority are already Palestinian—and accepting a Jordanian security presence in the West Bank might seem a tolerable price to pay compared to the alternatives, whether continued Israeli occupation or the dispatch of an unfamiliar Western force. Palestinians would gain economic and strategic strength, reduce their vulnerability and dependence on Israel, obtain valuable political space, and become part of a more consequential and self-sufficient state. The notion of a nonmilitarized West Bank could become more palatable: rather than Palestine being deprived of a military, Jordan–Palestine would consent to a limited demilitarized zone, akin to what Egypt has accepted and what Syria, in the event of a peace deal, almost certainly would approve. The concept faces significant hurdles. It needs the Hashemite Kingdom’s consent and, though the thought of expanding its territorial expanse and political weight has long enjoyed appeal, it also causes anxiety among Jordan’s elite. The addition of millions more Palestinians could tip its demographic and political balance in unpredictable ways. The question will be whether—faced with the prospect of more of the same or the birth of a fragile state over which it lacks control— the kingdom finds this the less unattractive option. Moreover, bringing in Jordan might facilitate Israeli–Palestinian negotiations in several respects, but hard issues—not least the refugee question—would remain. Gazans have no history of ties to Jordan and might object to the arrangement. Jordan’s Arab neighbors probably would look askance at a solution that risks magnifying the kingdom’s influence and provide it with direct patronage over the Palestinian cause.

Back to the Core? A more radical, far-reaching approach is conceivable. It is to try to resolve the conflict by dealing not only with the issues that materialized in 1967 but also those that led to the events of 1948: the question of Palestinian acceptance of a Jewish state and Israeli recognition of the Palestinians’ historical experience. Such an approach would bring to the fore historical grievances. To critics, this would probably be one of its worst features. They will point out that however frigid Israel’s peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, they have held; and that overcoming past wounds can only be the outcome of, not the precursor to, a deal. This is true, though the difference between Palestinians and other Arab countries lies precisely in the former’s unique relationship to Israel, which makes it impossible to resolve the conflict in the present without pronouncing some judgment on its past. Critics might add that negotiations would become far too complex were their scope to be expanded, though the arguments would sound more convincing were it not for sixteen years of failed peacemaking. One could imagine two variants. Under the first, Israelis and Palestinians would complement their more conventional negotiations on borders, Jerusalem, refugees, and security with a parallel track devoted to matters left over since 1948. The hope is that progress on 1948 issues would

increase confidence that the conflict genuinely could be ended, thereby leading both sides to show greater flexibility on the 1967 track. A second approach takes this a step further. It would recognize that there can be no end to the conflict without honest reckoning with the past. It would accept that negotiations as traditionally conducted have reached a point of negative returns. And it would attempt a thorough reframing and reformulation of the issues. Core concerns associated with 1948 would be placed at the forefront: whether Palestinians can express acceptance of a Jewish state in a way that is perceived by Israelis as genuine while preserving the Palestinian version of the past, refugee rights, and the interests of Israel’s Palestinian minority; and whether Israel can acknowledge its role in the refugees’ tragedy and both respect and address their rights without this threatening its Jewish character. All other issues would be discussed and addressed from that starting point. The parties might well reach familiar answers and there is every reason to predict an outcome comprising two states established on the basis of the 1967 borders. The occupation would have to come to an end. But the result would derive from a different process and satisfy a different objective: to focus not only on terminating the occupation but also on fulfilling both peoples’ basic yearnings. To pursue an agreement that confronts these matters might be a painful and prolonged endeavor. The outcome is uncertain, for the conversation has not even begun. At a minimum, the effort would be fresh, the leaders untainted and unencumbered by what they had said, done, or rejected in negotiations past. Such an approach might attract support from Israelis and Palestinians who feel alienated from the current process both because it is insufficiently inclusive and because it treats their more deep-seated demands as mere byproducts rather than as focal concerns. It would have credibility and sturdiness, qualities absent from approaches that ignore the legacy of 1948. Assuming success, it would accomplish what those ventures have feigned to propose but have been inherently incapable of producing: a sustainable end to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.

The Obama administration has been in office for less than a year, but it has been engaged from the first with strategic reviews. US policy toward Iran has been discussed and redefined. Early months witnessed debate on Iraq. Substantive deliberations and questioning of past assumptions appear to have occurred regarding Burma, Sudan, and North Korea. On Afghanistan and Pakistan, the administration had not yet implemented the conclusions of a March interagency appraisal before the President decreed a review of that initial review. On the Israeli–Palestinian front, meanwhile, there is no sign of anything resembling thoroughgoing reappraisal. There have been adjustments in tactics. The administration zeroed in on Israeli settlement expansion and steps toward normalization of relations with Arab countries. Relations with Israel are frostier. But when it comes to the fundamentals, apparently it’s still business as usual. The goal is to achieve a comprehensive agreement by persuading Israel to concede more land and Palestinians to demand less while trading off Israeli flexibility on Jerusalem against Palestinian compromises on refugees.

The reluctance of the US to change the way it thinks about the conflict and its possible resolution arguably has several causes. There is a belief embedded in each successive administration that its predecessor either didn’t try hard enough or did not try well. And there is the fear that taking a step back will look to critics more like throwing in the towel than engaging in productive thought. But there must be a better way than the flailing and failing to which all have become inured. A decade ago, President Clinton set out to resolve the Israeli–Palestinian conflict along what now are familiar lines. At the time, one could have called the venture bold, if mismanaged. When, some years later, President George W. Bush waded into the business of peacemaking by following the same general prescriptions, one could describe his efforts as belated and somewhat unrealistic, though ambitious nonetheless. Should President Obama follow the same trodden path, without first rethinking basics, there would be nothing bold or ambitious about his efforts. They would be futile and thoroughly mystifying. This time, there would be no excuse. —November 3, 2009

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