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2177Safire: Not Arafat's Fault?

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  • Leonard Grossman
    Jul 29, 2001
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      July 30, 2001

      WASHINGTON -- The negotiators of the process that led to
      the terrorist war against Israel have independently reached
      consensus on how to protect their posteriors: because
      everybody was responsible for last year's failure at Camp
      David, nobody can be held accountable.
      "Many Now Agree," read the front-page New York Times
      subhead, "That All the Parties, Not Just Arafat, Were to
      Blame." As house contrarian, count me among the many
      who do not agree that the blame for the current hostilities
      can be so soothingly divvied up.
      Certainly Ehud Barak's eagerness for a final peace led him to
      make concessions far beyond what the people of Israel
      would have accepted. And surely Bill Clinton's trust in his
      own persuasiveness or desperation for a Nobel Peace Prize
      drove him to intercede too aggressively. But it is absurd to
      buy an Arab spinmeister's notion that the Camp David talks
      collapsed because Barak offended Arafat by paying more
      attention to Chelsea Clinton at dinner, or President Clinton
      was too solicitous of Arafat's ambitious younger aides.
      The overriding reason for the war against Israel today is that
      Yasir Arafat decided that war was the way to carry out the
      often-avowed Palestinian plan. Its first stage is to create a
      West Bank state from the Jordan River to the sea with
      Jerusalem as its capital. Then, by flooding Israel with
      "returning" Palestinians, the plan in its promised final phase
      would drive the hated Jews from the Middle East.
      Ah, but my distrustful judgment is simplistic, according to
      the nuanced line being peddled by rejected Clinton
      negotiators, shell-shocked Barak aides and a glad-to-be
      embattled Arafat. It is in their common interest to portray
      the abrupt Arab rejection of Barak's too-generous offer at
      Camp David a year ago as merely a misunderstanding of
      each other's psychology, compounded by the unfortunate
      pressures of democratic elections.
      According to the tripartite instant revisionism, the underlying
      reason for the failure of the Camp David meeting last July
      was the visit of Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount. That is a
      tricky point to make because Sharon's visit did not take
      place until late September. Here is how the imaginative
      bashers of the "simplistic blame game" surmount their
      calendar problem:
      The Oslo peace process did not come apart at Camp David at
      all, say the revisionists. Contrary to every press report at the
      time, Barak did not "offer the moon" to Arafat — he offered
      only 93 percent of the West Bank, including the strategic
      Jordan Valley, and a state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
      That may have been more security risk than the Israeli
      public would have accepted, but it fell short of "the moon"
      that Arafat sought.
      Not until a meeting in December at the Taba Hilton, run by
      Israeli superdove Yossi Beilin, with Arab terror attacks in full
      swing, did Barak offer "the moon": 97 percent of the West
      Bank, air rights that would lead to denial of Palestinian air
      space to Israeli aircraft, and a payoff from the U.S. to
      Palestinian claimants who agreed not to migrate to Israel.
      But that pie in the sky came too late as the aroused Israeli
      electorate threw Barak out of office in the most resounding
      landslide in its history.
      In months to come, as Barak, U.S. Ambassador Martin Indyk
      and the Palestinian crew sell their books, we will be
      bombarded with the revisionist if-onlys. If only Barak had
      offered the whole moon at Camp David; if only Clinton had
      forced Barak to stop all building within settlements; if only
      Barak had made Sharon the first Jew to be barred by Israel
      from the Temple Mount; if only those foolish Israeli voters
      understood the frustration motivating suicide bombers and
      had re- elected Barak; if only Clinton could have had a third
      term . . .
      Do not swallow this speculative re- writing of recent events.
      By arguing that peace can be made only by someday
      adopting Barak's extreme concessions, revisionists send the
      unintended message: struggle on, Palestinians! Violence will
      wear down the Israeli will and the full "moon" will shine
      again. That empty promise invites unending violence.
      Blame is not a game; judgment is not to be avoided or
      disapproval diluted by pointing fingers in every direction.
      Nor is conventional wisdom always unwise. The leader
      predominantly to blame for the campaign of killing was and
      is Yasir Arafat. 
      Leonard Grossman