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Abu Mazen: Camp David offers "never reached the level of our aspirations"

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  • Josh Pollack
    MEMRI Special Dispatch - PA August 1, 2001 No. 249 http://www.memri.org/ Abu Mazen: Had Camp David Convened Again, We Would Take the Same Positions Part I
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 1, 2001
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      MEMRI
      Special Dispatch - PA
      August 1, 2001
      No. 249

      http://www.memri.org/

      Abu Mazen: "Had Camp David Convened Again, We Would Take
      the Same Positions"
      Part I

      Following are excerpts from the most recent and
      comprehensive interview with Mahmoud Abbas, Abu Mazen, in
      the Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam (July 28, 2001):(1)

      The Camp David Summit

      Q: "The PLO was not optimistic about Camp David and tried
      to postpone it, why?"

      A: "First of all, the different Israeli governments refused
      to enter negotiations with us regarding issues of the
      permanent settlement. Netanyahu did not mention these
      issues even once during three years [of his
      administration]. However, when Barak became Prime Minister
      we were shocked from his five no's, which meant that they
      refuse to return to the 1967 borders, refuse to remove the
      settlements, refuse the right of return, and to return
      [East] Jerusalem. We are amazed at how the Israeli
      government wishes to negotiate the questions of permanent
      settlement, while at the same time sets limitations
      regarding these issues. We spoke with Barak more than once
      and told him that if this is Israel's position then what is
      the use in having the negotiation?"

      "The American administration pressed us to enter
      negotiations. We traveled to Washington several times, and
      presented our positions to the American side; the essence
      of which was the implementation of [UN Security Council
      Resolutions] 242, 338, and 194..."

      "From that moment on, both the Americans and the Israelis
      attempted to get concessions from us. We made clear to the
      American and Israeli sides several times that the
      Palestinian side is unable to make concessions on anything,
      since this is the minimum that it is willing to accept, and
      because the Palestinians had taken the difficult decision
      when they recognized Resolutions 242 and 338 in 1988�and
      will not agree to anything short of Resolution 242, and
      338, together with Resolution 194."

      "We never refused to go to Camp David, all we said is that
      if you want to enter negotiations you can't put time
      restrictions on them� There was no other way but to make
      preparations for this summit. The Americans refused [to
      accept this suggestion] right from the beginning. The
      Israelis thought that if we go directly to the summit, it
      would be possible [for them] to get Palestinian
      concessions. At this point, the Palestinian side
      absolutely insisted on the need to prepare for
      negotiations. In the meantime, we met with senior
      Israelis. I met with Barak one month prior to negotiations
      and told him that I'm hoping he understands that without
      preparations for negotiation, he will not succeed and the
      consequence will be a catastrophe. Additionally, [I told
      him that] if you have illusions that the Palestinian side
      can make concessions on land, borders, settlements,
      Jerusalem, or on refugees, you are daydreaming, since the
      official, real, and rational Palestinian position is what I
      tell you: 'We demand a return to the 1967 borders; in
      full.' If there is a need to make minor adjustments and
      [land] swaps that are equal in value and size then we will
      be ready to discuss it. We cannot agree to settlements on
      our land. We want Israel to recognize its responsibility
      for the refugee problem and for the right of return, and
      following that we will agree on ways to implement this
      right. Regarding Jerusalem, it is clear that East
      Jerusalem should return to us, and that West Jerusalem will
      be an open city. There is going to be cooperation between
      the [two] municipalities. This is our position, and you
      should absolutely ignore anything else"

      "Unfortunately, both the Americans and the Israelis
      insisted on going to Camp David� When we asked: 'What about
      the preparations?' The [Israelis] replied: 'The
      preparations can be done in two or three days.'"

      "So there were reasons for our hesitation since we clearly
      knew that the failure of this summit is certain, and that
      it is impossible to reach a resolution for an issue that
      has been ongoing for a whole century in one, two or three
      weeks� In addition, we felt that Clinton wanted to crown
      the end of his second term in victory regardless of what
      this victory would look like. Certainly, this victory will
      be at our expense. Also, the Barak government started to
      disintegrate and thus he wanted to strengthen and
      consolidate it. He had no way of doing this, other than
      [through] any kind of victories�We knew all that, however,
      to prevent him from claiming that the Palestinians refuse
      to enter negotiations or that the Palestinians are afraid
      of the summit, we [agreed to] enter this summit and to go
      through with this experience. We did not yield to any
      pressure put on us since what was offered to us did not fit
      at all to the minimum of the Palestinian aspirations."

      Q: "You mentioned pressure that was applied on you, what
      kind of pressure?"

      A: "We felt as if we were in a prison. The Americans and
      Israelis constantly applied personal and collective
      pressures so we would agree and so we would not waste any
      time, and not retract. They presented a gloomy picture to
      us in case we refused, but the issue was one of historical
      responsibility of crucial importance to our people, and
      thus we were unable to agree whatever the pressures."

      Q: "Did pressures include murder threats?"

      A: "There weren't any murder threats, but there were
      threats such as: 'if you will not accept [the offers] we
      will destroy your authority [PA], and if you will not do
      this, it will be your end, and if you will not agree to
      this your people will curse you, if you will not do this
      the US will repudiate you, if you will not agree to this we
      don't know what will be your fate'�"

      Q: "Were there any temptations?"

      A: "The temptations were in what was offered, but it is
      impossible to describe these as temptations since, despite
      the fact that it is true that they offered things that were
      never offered before, it never reached the level of our
      aspirations."

      Q: "Some say that President Clinton was told � that if the
      Palestinian and the Israeli sides were to be brought to
      Camp David, an agreement could be reached. Was that your
      impression?"

      A: "Yes, he was told that if he will bring the two sides
      together, and apply pressure on them, they will reach an
      agreement. He was told: 'Tempt them with percentages of
      land to be handed over, [tempt them with] the halting of
      part of the settlements, speak about money and aid, and
      about the refugees receiving forty billion dollars, etc.'
      But we replied that the issue was not one of money, aid, or
      land proportions, but an issue of [our] homeland"

      "For instance, when they said, prior to the Camp David
      negotiations, 'we will give you sixty-six percent of the
      land' they thought that they presented us with a generous
      offer. Later on, when I met with Barak, and when he said:
      'we will give you eighty percent' I replied: 'the issue is
      not eighty or ninety percent. Give me one hundred percent
      of my borders, and if [there is going to be a need for
      border] changes, I am ready to accept them under the
      condition that they will be equal [on both sides] in both
      value and size.' We will not agree to anything less than
      that. They offered ninety percent, and they have already
      offered ninety ninety-one percent [before], and told us to
      accept the nine percent [in return for] one percent in
      Halutza [in the Negev]; any sensible person could not have
      agreed to this."

      Q: "[What was their offer on] refugees?"

      A: "Israel refused to take responsibility for the refugee
      tragedy. Israel refused in principal to grant the
      Palestinians the right of return. She refused to even
      discuss the issue of compensations. They admitted to us
      that they squandered the Fund for the Assets of Absentees,
      which they established in 1949, and that they will not pay
      us even a single penny, but that they were willing to be
      one of the donor countries"

      "We made our position clear: they must take historical
      responsibility and accept the right of return and
      [responsibility for compensation for both those who wish to
      return] and those who do not. For those who wish to return
      - compensation would be for the use of their property, and
      for those who don�t wish to return - the compensation [will
      be for] the value of their property and sufferings.
      Additionally, they must pay compensation to the countries
      who host the refugees; this was all that we demanded.
      Unfortunately, when we were at Camp David, there were no
      more than two or three serious meetings regarding this
      issue, and when the Israeli side realized what our position
      was, they started stalling from the second or third day and
      until the end of the Camp David summit."

      Q: "What solution did they offer for the issue of more than
      fifty-three years of misery?"

      A: "There was no offer. They did not offer compensation
      [even for] those opting for money [rather than for return].
      Furthermore, they said that when we will receive
      compensation, half of it would go to them and [only] half
      for us. Why? Because they wish to compensate Jews who
      immigrated [to Israel] from Arab countries. We, of course,
      refuted this story quickly, and made clear they couldn�t
      even think about it. We told them: 'These Jews came [to
      Israel] out of their own free will and sold all of their
      property. If after all that they have demands, they can
      direct those to the countries from where they emigrated,'
      that is if they at all have such property, since we are
      convinced that they sold this property before they came to
      our country. The proof to that is that [former Likud
      Foreign Minister] David Levy traveled to Morocco, where he
      visited his home for which he had a key, they asked him:
      'Is this your house?' He replied positively. When they
      asked him how come he is not returning to it, he replied:
      'I sold it.'"

      Q: "Many Israelis claim that the goal of Palestinian
      insistence on the right of return is to destroy the State
      of Israel, since it is possible to demographically destroy
      the state of Israel with the right of return. Are these
      really the Palestinian goals?"

      A: "We do not wish to destroy the State of Israel. From
      the very beginning, when we entered into the peace process,
      we decided in principle that we would live with the State
      of Israel in co-existence. The Palestinian refugee issue
      is a very sensitive one. You have four million refugees
      which all came out of the land of historical Palestine, and
      they have the right to return to their homes. We do not
      force the refugees to return, but if some of them will
      decide to do so they must have the ability. This will be
      done through an agreement between us and the Israelis."

      "There are those who would say: You had five offers and you
      rejected them all. But what were these offers? [The first
      offer] was that the refugees will stay in their place, but
      this does not offer us a solution. The second offer, [was
      that] they go to a third country. The third offer, that
      they go to the Palestinian state. The fourth offer was
      that some of the refugees would go to Halutza. And the
      fifth offer was that Israel could accept several of them
      based on humanitarian considerations. I don�t think that
      this complies with Resolution 194 or the right of return.
      All these proposals rely on the sovereignty of other
      states. For instance, the Palestinian refugees will be
      allowed to remain in their places if the host countries
      would agree to that. They will go to a third country if
      these countries would agree to host them. They will return
      to Israel conditioned upon its sovereignty and decisions.
      The meaning of all is [actually] that all the refugees will
      return to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. And you must
      realize the following: seventy percent of Gaza's residents,
      and forty-five percent of those of the West Bank are
      [themselves] refugees. Imagine that all the refugees will
      return to the West Bank and Gaza. This does not make any
      sense."

      Endnote:

      (1) "Had Camp David Convened Again, We Would Take the Same
      Positions." Al-Ayyam (PA) July 28, 2001 (Part A); July 28,
      2001 (Part B).

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