One of the most powerful myths propagated in the US media today is that at the Camp David summit in July 2000, then Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak made an amazingly generous offer to the Palestinians that Yasir Arafat wantonly spurned, broke off negotiations and then launched a violent uprising against Israel.
One of the most powerful myths propagated in the US
media today is that at the Camp David summit in July
2000, then Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak made
an amazingly generous offer to the Palestinians that
Yasir Arafat wantonly spurned, broke off negotiations
and then launched a violent uprising against Israel.
No element of this, the most cherished of media myths
In fact, Barak’s offer was anything but
generous. It was Israel that broke off the
negotiations, and the committee headed by former US
Senator George Mitchell found no evidence to back the
Israeli claim that the Palestinian Authority had
planned or launched the Intifada.
Let’s go through the evidence bit by bit.
Barak’s “Generous” Offer
What Barak offered at Camp David was a formula for
continued Israeli military occupation under the name
of a “state.”
The proposal would have meant:
- no territorial contiguity for the Palestinian state,
- no control of its external borders,
- limited control of its own water resources, and
- no full Israeli withdrawal from occupied territory as
required by international law.
In addition, the Barak plan would have :
- included continued Israeli military control over
large segments of the West Bank, including almost
all of the Jordan Valley;
- codified the right of Israeli forces to be deployed
in the Palestinian state at short notice;
- meant the continued presence of fortified Israeli
settlements and Jewish-only roads in the heart of the
Palestinian state; and
- required nearly 4 million Palestinian refugees
to relinquish their fundamental human rights in exchange
for compensation to be paid not by Israel but by the
See maps showing what the Israeli proposals would
have looked like in reality at: http://electronicintifada.net/coveragetrends/generous.html
The reality was far from the wild claims routinely
made on the editorial pages of American papers that
Barak had offered the Palestinians, 95, 97 or even
100% of the occupied West Bank.
Barak himself wrote in a New York Times Op-ed
on 24 May 2001 that his vision was for
“a gradual process of establishing secure,
defensible borders, demarcated so as to encompass more
than 80 percent of the Jewish settlers in several
settlement blocs over about 15 percent of Judea and
Samaria, and to ensure a wide security zone in the
[Source: “Building a Wall Against Terror,”
New York Times, 24 May 2001].
In other words, if Barak intended to keep 15 percent
of “Judea and Samaria” (the West Bank),
he could not have offered the Palestinians more than
No one can seriously talk about Israel being willing
to end its settlement policy if 80 percent of its
settlers would have remained in place.
Robert Malley who was Clinton’s special assistant for
Arab-Israeli affairs, participated in the Camp David
negotiations. In an important article entitled
“Fictions About the Failure At Camp David”
published in the New York Times on July 8,
2001, Malley added his own, insider’s challenge to
the Camp David myth.
“Many have come to believe that the Palestinians’
rejection of the Camp David ideas exposed an
underlying rejection of Israel’s right to exist.
“But consider the facts: The Palestinians were arguing
for the creation of a Palestinian state based on the
June 4, 1967, borders, living alongside Israel. They
accepted the notion of Israeli annexation of West
Bank territory to accommodate settlement blocs.
“They accepted the principle of Israeli sovereignty over
the Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem —
neighborhoods that were not part of Israel before the Six
Day War in 1967. And, while they insisted on recognition
of the refugees’ right of return, they agreed that it
should be implemented in a manner that protected Israel’s
demographic and security interests by limiting the
number of returnees.
“No other Arab party that has
negotiated with Israel — not Anwar el-Sadat’s Egypt, not
King Hussein’s Jordan, let alone Hafez al-Assad’s Syria
— ever came close to even considering such compromises.”
Malley rightly concluded that, “If peace is to be
achieved, the parties cannot afford to tolerate the
growing acceptance of these myths as reality.”
The Negotiations Continued
While it is true that the July 2000 Camp David summit
ended without agreement, the negotiations did not end.
They restarted and continued until Barak broke them off
in January 2001.
Since then Israel has refused to enter
political negotiations with the Palestinians.
On 19 December 2000, six months after Camp David,
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators returned to
Washington and continued with negotiations. These
negotiations were based on a set of proposals by
President Clinton which went beyond Barak’s offer of
July 2000, but still fell short of minimum Palestinian
expecations. Nevertheless, the Palestinians went on
with the talks.
By some accounts these were proving fruitful. The
Los Angeles Times reported on 22 December 2000,
“Amid signs that the two sides appear to be edging
toward some sort of compromise on the emotional issue of
Jerusalem, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators worked
through the start of the Jewish Hanukkah holiday
Thursday expressing a rare shared optimism.”
[Source: Los Angeles Times, December 22, 2000.
“Hopeful mood fuels talks on Mideast peace;
Negotiations: Israelis, Palestinians work through
Jewish holiday as signs surface of a compromise.”]
Shortly thereafter, Barak lost the election to Ariel
Sharon, and the talks have never resumed.
So how is it then that all these commentators and Israeli
officials continue to deny that talks which the Israeli
foreign minister at the time called “the most
fruitful, constructive, profound negotiations,”
never took place?
How is it that so many continue to
claim that it was the Palestinians who walked away from
the bargaining table when it was Israel that stopped the
talks and refuses to resume them?
Author: Ali Abunimah and Hussein Ibish
News Service: The Electronic Intifada