Abu Mazen: Camp David offers "never reached the level of our aspirations"
Special Dispatch - PA
August 1, 2001
Abu Mazen: "Had Camp David Convened Again, We Would Take
the Same Positions"
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
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
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
(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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