Sunday, 21 August 2005

Barak's generous offer

Writing about Gaza reminded me of this old post from October 2001:

Some people claimed that the Palestinians in early 2001 turned down a “generous” offer made by Barak. I was sceptical of this claim because Arafat is not exactly a hard-liner. The Oslo Accords, for many Palestinians went too far. Anyway, this is from an article by Ron Pundak (apparently, one of the architects of the Oslo Accords):
Barak failed to grasp that from Arafat's and the Palestinian point of view, the Palestinians had already made the most important territorial concession. There, the Palestinians accepted for the first time the principle of exercising their self-determination - i.e. a Palestinian state - on only 22% of mandatory Palestine. As a result of misreading the Palestinian perspective, Barak was convinced at the outset that it would be possible to reach an agreement without territorial exchanges, and the inaccurate conclusion that the exchange could be based on less than a clear and equitable 1:1 ratio, as Prime Minister Rabin had agreed to in the Peace Agreement with Jordan in 1994. The Israeli offer at Camp David was based on a map, which included an annexation of approximately 12% without territorial compensation. Towards the end of the talks, the Americans made clear to the Palestinians that the maximal Israeli offer included an annexation of 9% and a compensation of 1%. In Camp David, Barak didn't take the necessary step to reach the desired endpoint, and the version presented in retrospect by Israeli spokespersons, claiming that Barak at Camp David offered 95% and an additional 5% in compensation, or alternatively 97% and another 3% compensation, is a form of rewriting history.

Therefore, whilst under the Oslo Accords and UN resolution 242 (both of which Israel agreed to), the Palestinians expected 100% of the occupied territories they were offered 88% with nothing in return. Robert Malley (special assistant for Arab-Israeli affairs to President Bill Clinton from 1998 to 2001) in the New York Times put it like this:
A Palestinian state covering 91 percent of the West Bank and Gaza was more than most Americans or Israelis had thought possible, but how would Mr. Arafat explain the unfavorable 9-to-1 ratio in land swaps to his people?

Gush Shalom (who describe themselves as "the hard core of the Israeli peace movement") said, "This is no generous offer. It is a humiliating demand for surrender!"

Furthermore, Ron Pundak said:
In practice, during Netanyahu's tenure, both sides committed breaches with regard to the Agreement, but the breaches of the Israeli side were both more numerous and more substantive in nature. The Palestinians did not stop the vitriolic propaganda against Israel by radio, the printed press, television and schoolbooks; did not collthe [sic] illegal firearms; did not reach an agreement with Israel on the de facto growth of their Police Force; and did not prove that they were wholeheartedly combating fundamentalist terrorism, including the imprisonment of its activists.

Israel on its part did not implement the three stages of the second redeployment, i.e. did not leave territories which were supposed to be transferred to the Palestinians; completed only one section out of four with regard to the freeing of Palestinian prisoners; did not undertake the implementation of the safe passage which was supposed to connect the West Bank and Gaza; repeatedly delayed the permit to build the airport and maritime port in Gaza; prevented the transfer of monies belonging to the PA for extended periods of time; and continued to establish new settlements, to annex territories for new settlements and to expand existing ones.

The Palestinians were humiliated. The foot-dragging combined with the arrogance of the Israeli Government, and in particular of its Prime Minister, in their relations with the Palestinian public and its leaders, undermined their belief in the process.

And from The Guardian:
A Palestinian this week, spotting for the first time new Jewish houses on the outskirts of Jerusalem, said: 'It is like a magic wand. You go away for a few weeks and then suddenly there is a whole new place.' The Israeli government, supposedly committed to no new settlements, announced this week a further 700 new houses. The Israeli government finds it easy to keep to its commitment to build no new settlements: because there are so many already on the West Bank, all it has to do is just keep expanding existing ones.

It is against this background that Barak's 'generous' deal should be seen. The Israelis portrayed it as the Palestinians receiving 96% of the West Bank. But the figure is misleading. The Israelis did not include parts of the West Bank they had already appropriated.

The Palestine that would have emerged from such a settlement would not have been viable. It would have been in about half-a-dozen chunks, with huge Jewish settlements in between - a Middle East Bantustan. The Israeli army would also have retained the proposed Palestinian state's eastern border, the Jordan valley, for six to 10 years and, more significantly, another strip along the Dead Sea coast for an unspecified period: so much for being an independent state.


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