Jerusalem and Camp David, Part II
"The peace process is best seen like the stock market. It may
have its frightening ups and down, but its positive direction in
the long term is clear. They key is to avoid irrational exuberance
or utter gloom."
--Ethan Bonner / New York Times
Last week, we took a look at the history of the city of Jerusalem.
This week, we explore the collapse of Camp David II, a process
which, it was hoped, would lead to a resolution of the sticky
issues confronting the holy city.
Recently, former President Jimmy Carter, commenting on Camp
David II, related that back in 1978 during the first Camp David
Summit, both Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin decided that
the issue of Jerusalem was too explosive and they agreed to table
final discussions on the fate of the city.
But with Camp David II, the talks totally broke down as the
parties failed to come up with a plan all sides could agree to.
So what were the proposals offered by Israel, the PLO and, as
mediator, the U.S.?
In a nutshell, the PLO''s Yassir Arafat wanted it all; statehood, a
political capital in E. Jerusalem, and speedier transfer of
territory. Arab affairs expert Fouad Ajami expressed the feeling
that, as President Carter echoed, Jerusalem was always
understood to be an issue apart. Instead, Jerusalem became the
centerpiece of Arafat''s proposal.
For his part, Barak bent over backwards, offering to grant
Palestinian sovereignty over some Palestinian neighborhoods and
administration over others, including Arab parts of the Old City.
In return, Barak sought to expand the formal boundaries of the
city to include major suburban Jewish settlements. Israel would
still have given up about 90% of the West Bank, forcing the
resettlement of tens of thousands of Jewish settlers.
The U.S. position that President Clinton spelled out was for
Palestinian sovereignty over large Arab neighborhoods taken by
Israel in the 1967 war. The PLO would also gain control or
sovereignty over Muslim and Christian quarters of the Old City,
including the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, built on the site
where Christians believe Jesus was crucified.
The U.S. proposal would have also extended Palestinian control
- but not sovereignty - over the Temple Mount, or Haran al-
Sharif. This is, as we discussed last week, the 30-acre paved
platform, one of whose sides is the Western or Wailing Wall -
the holiest site in Judaism.
But, since the Wailing Wall is also part of the third holiest site in
Islam, Arafat insisted on sovereignty, not just "administrative
In return, the Clinton plan would have mandated that the
Palestinians give up their insistence that all Jewish settlements on
the West Bank be uprooted. This would have allowed some
150,000 settlers to remain in their homes.
In the end, however, Arafat wanted full sovereignty over all of
pre-1967 East Jerusalem, meaning the withdrawal of virtually all
Who''s to blame? To my reading of the situation, everyone but
Barak. As President Clinton said in the aftermath, "(Barak)
showed courage, vision, and an understanding of the historical
importance of this moment."
But while Arafat returned to a hero''s welcome, including an
endorsement by Hamas leader Sheik Yassin for not caving in on
Jerusalem, Barak returned to see his government crumble further,
with perhaps only a scheduled recess by parliament saving him.
Israeli opposition leader Natan Sharansky proclaimed, "In
attempting to complete such a process without first having the
broad support of his people, Ehud Barak has made a grave error."
Well, from what I''ve seen, the majority of the Israeli people
support Barak; it''s the hard-liners who have thrown up the
stumbling blocks...and it''s the hard-line settlers who would have
been most impacted by an agreement.
Meanwhile, Fouad Ajami said of President Clinton''s role that he
couldn''t "tame Palestinian passions: He couldn''t still Israeli
concerns and fears. He couldn''t graft his eagerness for a quick
deal in the nick of time onto people who better know and
understand their own world and feel the call of their own
Clearly, the U.S. has not gained a thing from its relationship with
the Arab world. Well...think about it. If we had a domestic
energy policy, we wouldn''t need to bother with them. But today,
we still need them...and we need peace in the Middle East.
Columnist William Safire commented that the failed Camp
David summit had one benefit, "it made clear to the world who
wants peace and who does not."
Arafat continues to be in the pocket of Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
As I''ve mentioned in my Week in Review pieces, the U.S. is
being jerked around by Egyptian President Mubarak, in
particular. $3 billion a year in aid to Egypt...and for what?
Jim Hoagland said of the Arab leaders, in general, "Resisting the
global movement toward democracy has become (their)
overriding political purpose...as demand for change grows
stronger in their countries and as Israel recedes as an
Democracy runs counter to Arab rulers wishes. Hoagland
points out that Forbes recently listed 7 of them as among the Top
10 wealthiest heads of states in the world. You certainly
wouldn''t expect Bill Clinton, Tony Blair or Gerhard Schroeder
to occupy that list. You get the picture.
The efforts of the U.S. administration need to be shifted away
from Barak and Arafat, and towards Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan
and Syria. We need to convince those nations that a deal is in
their best interests, and, undoubtedly, would only result in more
international aid for themselves.
But do we have cause to be optimistic?
Richard Cohen described the Arab leadership as "Whispering
like Greek furies...They are willing to fight for Jerusalem to the
William Safire adds, "The land Arab leaders want is the land of
Yassir Arafat had much to gain from the deal that was on the
table. But he listened to the Arab chorus, and he is threatened by
Sheik Yassin, who added the comment, "Only by force are we
able to retain our rights." Beautiful.
Next week, back to Africa, and diamonds.
[Sources: Same as Part I, 8/3.]