No justice in Israeli peace plan

presented at Camp David by Ehud Barak

It has been repeatedly said, as Dean Ungar put it in his Aug. 16 letter, that “the Palestinians rejected the most sweeping peace proposal ever offered by an Israeli government.”

Israel and its supporters should understand that the peace proposal whether it was the most sweeping or not is not the issue. The issue is that of justice. The issue is that Israel should comply with UN resolutions. But this is the last thing Israel wants. “Justice” never crossed Barak’s mind in Camp David. “Justice” is never mentioned in his Op-Ed piece in the New York Times (July 30, 2001). As for complying with UN resolutions, Barak wrote that his offer “would have satisfied UN Security Council Resolution 242 and 338 as interpreted by the international community.” In his mind, the international community is probably made up of columnits like George Will, Cal Thomas or Charles Krauthammer.

Instead of just referring to this “offer” and characterizing it as “generous” or “unprecedented,” as some other apologists of Israel put it, it would have been more fitting that they tell us what this offer consisted of. But this is something they dare not do because it would expose its true nature: another form of occupation. Ed Krauss’s letter of Aug. 18 is a case in point.

First of all, this “most sweeping peace proposal” was never presented in writing, let alone accompanied with any maps. It was orally conveyed, which is a strange way of conducting serious negotiations.

Second, this “generous” offer consisted of dividing the West Bank into three separate cantons surrounded by Israel. So not only would the Palestinians have to cross Israel to go from the West Bank to Gaza, but also to go from one canton to another within the West Bank. Such an arrangement would have made the future Palestinian state less viable than the Bantustans created by the South African apartheid government. See map drawn up according to information from the Palestinian delegation. See map drawn up according to information from the Israeli delegation.

Third, according to this “unprecedented” offer, Israel would annex 9 percent of the West Bank in exchange of 1 percent of its own territory. In addition, it would control 10 percent of the West Bank in the form of a “long-term lease.” This area would mainly be located along the Jordan River, which meant that Israel would also control Palestine’s international borders. Furthermore, Israel “offered” to control the air space and the water resources of the new Palestinian state.

On the sensitive issue of the refugees, the proposal spoke only of a “satisfactory solution.” On East Jerusalem, the proposal allowed Palestinian sovereignty on isolated Palestinian neighborhoods, which meant that these neighborhoods would not only be separated from each other but also from the Palestinian state. As for the Haram al-Sharif, the Palestinians would only have custody over it.

By what measure can these proposals be considered fair? As Robert Malley, member of the American team in the Camp David summit, put it in his Op-Ed piece in the New York Times (July 8, 2001), “the measure of Israel’s concessions ought not be how far it has moved from its own starting point, but how far it has moved toward a fair solution.” Given the above, these proposals are anything but fair. They perpetuate the occupation, albeit under another form, they do not allow the establishment of a viable Palestinian state and they sow the seeds of another conflict.

Another point that is often made is that the Palestinians didn’t make any concessions. This is not true. The Palestinian made the ultimate compromise, which is to recognize Israeli sovereignty over 78 percent of historic Palestine. What the Israelis wanted them to do is to compromise the compromise, to compromise the remaining 22 percent. What the Palestinians could not have done was to compromise their fundamental rights and the establishment of a viable state.

Moreover, the Palestinians accepted that Israel annex parts of West Bank territories to accommodate the settlements in exchange of an equivalent amount of Israeli land. They accepted that Israel exercise sovereignty over Jerusalem’s Jewish quarter and the Wailing Wall. They accepted that refugees exercise their right of return in a way that would not affect Israel’s demographic and security interests. Barak, however, declared that Israel bore no responsibility for the refugee problem and its solution.

It is utterly wrong, misleading and unseemly to suggest that the Palestinians at Camp David kept saying “no” or did not present any concession. It is up to the Israelis, the party that holds all the cards, to decide whether they want a genuine peace based on justice or an indefinite conflict.

August 30, 2001

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