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Barak: Israel Needs a True Partner for Peace

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  • Leonard Grossman
    July 30, 2001 Israel Needs a True Partner for Peace By EHUD BARAK http://www.nytimes.com/2001/07/30/opinion/30BARA.html KOKHAV YAIR, Israel -- Eight years
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 29, 2001
      July 30, 2001

      Israel Needs a True Partner for Peace


      KOKHAV YAIR, Israel -- Eight years after the Oslo accords,
      amid a wave of Palestinian terror and violence and without a
      peace agreement, Israel should ask itself, Do we have a
      partner? What is the future of the peace process?

      In spite of the frustration emanating from the collapse of
      Oslo, we need clear answers — not half truths or wishful

      The agonizing answer is that Yasir Arafat did not prove to be
      a partner for peace and quite probably will not be one in the

      At Camp David, Mr. Arafat well understood that the moment
      of truth had come and that painful decisions needed to be
      made by both sides. He failed this challenge.

      An Israeli government, my government, was ready to
      discuss an agreement that while securing Israel's vital
      interests, was far-reaching in its response to Palestinian
      needs. It included an independent, viable and contiguous
      Palestinian state beside Israel. This would have satisfied
      United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 as
      interpreted by the international community.

      But Mr. Arafat proved not to possess the foresight and
      courage of President Anwar el-Sadat of Egypt or King
      Hussein of Jordan. Instead, he missed every opportunity
      presented to him to achieve a permanent peace for his

      It is wrong to think that anyone at the Camp David talks
      tried to dictate to Mr. Arafat the details of an agreement. The
      ideas that were on the table contained painful compromises
      for both sides. But Mr. Arafat was not ready to accept the
      ideas presented by President Clinton as a framework for
      negotiations. There was little evidence that Mr. Arafat was
      negotiating in good faith.

      This frustrated me, and, I believe, it frustrated President
      Clinton and his team. Furthermore, the assertion now made
      by some observers that Mr. Arafat was pushed unwillingly to
      make peace at Camp David is somewhat strange. He signed
      a series of agreements committing him to make peace in
      1993. He even received a Nobel Peace Prize to encourage
      him to live up to his commitments.

      By 2000, we were headed toward deadlock, and we faced an
      inevitable eruption of violence if we failed to reach an
      agreement. The current violence did not erupt as the result
      of the failure at Camp David, but in spite of it.

      The negotiations in Sharm el Sheik and in Paris in October
      2000 strengthened my feeling that Mr. Arafat was primarily
      interested in gaining international involvement in dealing
      with the crisis and doing so through the use of violence.
      This posture on the part of a negotiating partner is simply
      unacceptable to any government.

      We made a final attempt at negotiations at Taba in January
      2001. Those talks did not carry much significance because
      we were on the eve of elections in Israel and because the
      Palestinian negotiators did not offer any viable proposals. I
      had hoped that meaningful progress could be made. Instead,
      Taba was rendered null and void due to a relentless
      campaign of terrorism by the Palestinians.

      During the last 10 months, based on intelligence
      information, I believe that Mr. Arafat has been guiding
      terrorism activities and has turned a blind eye to terror
      attacks by Hamas and Islamic Jihad. He still refuses to
      rearrest dozens of terrorists whom he released. He has never
      stopped the incitement against Israel in the Palestinian
      media, and he has never educated his people toward peace
      with Israel. All these are imperatives if Israel is to begin new
      talks with Mr. Arafat.

      But I am pessimistic about that prospect. Mr. Arafat has
      violated almost every agreement he has signed with Israel in
      both letter and spirit. The Oslo accords assumed that the
      transfer of administrative responsibilities for the West Bank
      and Gaza to Mr. Arafat would encourage his transformation
      into a leader of a nation state. The utter failure of Mr. Arafat
      to live up to that assumption is the primary cause of our
      crisis today.

      Mr. Arafat is an elusive player. It took me some time and
      cost a certain price to find this out. Given the violence of the
      past 10 months and Mr. Arafat's failure to stop the terrorism,
      the new governments in the United States and in Israel
      would be foolish to give him the benefit of the doubt or to
      allow him, a nondemocratic leader, to exploit the changes of
      government in Israel and the United States.

      The peace process is a complicated one burdened with
      details and nuances. This has always been the case, but the
      details of the Camp David talks must not be distorted, and in
      any case, those details have not been fully divulged.
      Currently 98 percent of the Palestinian population is under
      the control of the Palestinian Authority as a result of land
      transfers under successive Israeli governments since 1993.
      The future of the peace process is not bright now; the Israeli
      public no longer trusts Mr. Arafat's intentions. In the
      absence of an honest negotiating partner, Israel should
      unilaterally disengage from the Palestinians and establish a
      border within which a solid Jewish majority for generations
      would be secure.

      At some point in the future a new Palestinian leadership will
      emerge, capable of making the decisions that would make
      peace with Israel possible. When this time comes, I am
      confident that the contours of the agreement will resemble
      the sound ideas discussed at Camp David.

      Ehud Barak was prime minister of Israel from 1999 to 2001.
      Leonard Grossman
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