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NYTimes: Looking Back at Camp David

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  • Leonard Grossman
    http://www.nytimes.com/2001/07/28/opinion/28SAT1.ht ml July 28, 2001 Looking Back at Camp David I n bitter, protracted conflicts like the one between Israel
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 27, 2001
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      July 28, 2001
      Looking Back at Camp David

      I n bitter, protracted conflicts like the one between Israel
      and the Palestinians, each side maintains its own
      chronicle of events, emphasizing certain details and
      omitting others. So it has been with the divergent
      accounts of the collapse of last summer's Camp David
      peace talks and the months of violence that followed. But
      those narratives are now being challenged and re-
      examined. From this exercise can come a better, more
      realistic understanding of how Israel and the Palestinians
      can renew their search for a lasting peace.

      An article by The Times's Deborah Sontag this week
      reported on some of the newly revealed aspects of last
      year's failed search for a negotiated agreement. The story
      suggests that both Ehud Barak, who was then the Israeli
      prime minister, and Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader,
      made political and diplomatic miscalculations, as did
      President Bill Clinton and his aides.

      Yet, between the Camp David meetings last July and the
      discussions between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in
      Taba, Egypt, six months later, remarkable progress was
      made in narrowing differences between the two sides.
      They discussed, without finally accepting, far-reaching
      compromises on territory, Jerusalem, the future of Jewish
      settlements and the rights of Palestinian refugees, four of
      the most important elements of a final agreement. If
      peace talks resume, the breakthroughs made in these six
      months could provide the basis for a comprehensive

      Constructing something as complex and sensitive as a
      Middle East peace agreement requires a confluence of
      favorable factors, including propitious timing, compatible
      negotiators and a high degree of mutual trust. In
      retrospect, it is clear that those factors were not present
      at Camp David. Mr. Barak and Mr. Arafat came to the
      talks with different expectations and operated there under
      different political pressures.

      Mr. Barak came to Camp David with a daring offer, a
      peace plan that essentially vaulted over the interim steps
      outlined under the Oslo accords. With Mr. Clinton's
      presidency winding down and his own tenure in office
      uncertain because of a fractious governing coalition, Mr.
      Barak gambled that Mr. Arafat would accept his approach.
      But Mr. Arafat preferred to move more deliberately, even
      initially resisting the idea of a Camp David summit
      meeting. Mr. Arafat did not offer any proposals of his own
      at Camp David. When the talks failed, he condoned the
      violent uprising that broke out in late September.

      Camp David fell short because of insufficient preparation
      and a lack of trust and chemistry between the two
      leaders. Both sides initially believed this failure was only
      temporary, and Mr. Barak and Mr. Arafat continued
      serious efforts to conclude a peace deal for another two
      months, until the outbreak of violence in September.
      Even after that, a new American proposal from Mr.
      Clinton in December led to a final round of talks at Taba
      that dramatically narrowed the remaining differences. But
      by then it was too late. Mr. Clinton and Mr. Barak would
      soon leave office and the months of violence had
      shattered the faith of most Israelis and Palestinians in
      reaching a negotiated peace.

      Some day, efforts to complete a peace settlement
      between Israel and the Palestinians will resume. Both
      sides understand that there can be no military solution to
      their conflict. Peace is still in the interest of both peoples,
      and important Israeli and Palestinian leaders are still
      interested in achieving
      Leonard Grossman
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