July/August 2000
Camp David II

The Summit Collapses

The marathon summit at Camp David can be looked upon as a test of whether there exists any practical basis for an Israeli-Palestinian settlement. It can probably now be fairly said that at this time there is none. The maximum Israel can give is less than the minimum the Palestinians will take.

We think we've already seen the maximum. PM Barak went almost unimaginably far in trying to create a basis - beyond the practical Yitzhak Rabin, or the visionary Shimon Peres, and clearly farther than much of the Israeli public. Gaza, 90-95 percent of the West Bank including the strategic Jordan Valley, limited Palestinian return within the pre-1967 borders, and an official - though not sovereign - Palestinian presence in Jerusalem. President Clinton said, "I think it is fair to say that at this moment in time, the Prime Minister moved forward from his initial position (more) than Chairman Arafat, particularly on Jerusalem."

Why didn't Arafat take it? Barak said, "Unfortunately, the conditions were not ripe."

But conditions are unlikely to get "riper," nor is Arafat likely to accept later what he rejected today. Compromise is not on his agenda and he believes time works in his favor. Arafat's "red lines" have always been: a sovereign Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital, an unlimited right of return of Palestinians into pre-1967 Israel, and no concession of "Palestinian" territory to Israeli sovereignty - meaning no final end to the conflict.

Barak can go home saying he did his best to bring peace to his people. Arafat can go home saying he "stuck to his guns" (pun intended). They will both be right.

So, are the parties doomed to further violence? (Actually only one party threatens violence when it doesn't get what it wants, so we should ask if Israel is doomed to be threatened with violence.) If the U.S. wants to influence long-term regional stability, Washington must conclude that although there are unresolvable problems between the Israelis and Palestinians, both must honor the commitments previously made.

Seven years after Oslo, the Palestinians are largely in breach. The PLO Charter still calls for the elimination of Israel. The PA foments hatred and violence against Israel (and the U.S.), refuses to extradite criminals to Israel, has not rooted out the terrorist infrastructure, has a much larger than permitted police force with illegal weapons, and has failed to account for donor funds in the millions of dollars.

The United States must make it clear that continued American participation in the process - including financial and political support for the PA - requires the Palestinians to achieve a healthy level of compliance with accords already on the books. Only this way might the time ever become ripe for a settlement that satisfies American and Israeli requirements for a secure and durable peace.

© Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs {JINSA} 2000

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