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August 7, 2000 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 36

Camp David and the Prospects for a Final Settlement, Part II: Reactions and Implications

August 7, 2000 | By Y. Carmon and Aluma Dankowitz*
Palestine | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 36

Palestinian Assessment of the Summit and Next Steps

PLO Spokesmen present the Camp David Summit as a success in two respects:

  • PA Chairman Arafat's steadfastness and insistence on the nationalist principles, in the face of pressure that was "beyond human endurance"[1]
  • The breaking of Israeli red lines, which was seen as a sign of future Israeli concessions

The PA leadership sees the Camp David Summit as just one station[2] on a road of concessions that Israeli PM Barak has yet to make in a series of summits that they have contemplated from the beginning.[3] Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) Speaker Abu 'Alaa made it clear that "in order for an additional summit to be convened, the Israeli position must come closer to the Palestinian position, rather than the other way around, because the Palestinians are not the party that surrenders to pressure."[4] They want to resume the talks "from where they were left off," and demand that the conditional concessions made by Barak retain their validity.

Seeking to garner support immediately the summit,[5] Arafat launched an Arab and an international political campaign to gain backing for the application of UN Resolutions 242 and 194, and to convene an Arab or Islamic summit at the level of Foreign Ministers[6]. In the territories, too, a public campaign was launched to support Arafat's national principles. Additionally, the Palestinians want to resume the stalled interim-track negotiations in order to collect on what Israel still owes them under these agreements.

The statements made by high-ranking Palestinian leaders in the last few months regarding a "blood-bath," "war," or "violent clashes" erupting if negotiations fail, and the threats to "apply the lessons of Lebanon" in the territories have up till now proven to be empty.[7] The predictions that if the summit failed a spontaneous explosion would occur have not been realized, in great part because these events were never spontaneous, rather, they were a part of the PLO's crisis management tactics. PLO spokesmen, including Arafat himself, state that they "do not wish to clash with Israel,"[8] and as a result, there have not been any unusually violent events in the territories.

Similarly, in statements by high-ranking Palestinian officials, the date for the declaration of the independent Palestinian state has been postponed from September 13 to an unspecified date before the end of the year. (The way for this postponement was opened by the resolutions of the PLO Central Council three months ago.)

There are three primary reasons for the PLO's restraint:

  • The loss of American support and Clinton's direct threat that he would review all US relations with the PLO, in the case of a unilateral declaration of statehood
  • The open Israeli preparations for a massive mobilization of forces, including armor and air power against any Palestinian attempt to spark a violent conflict
  • The belief that the summit was, after all, at least in part successful, and that this success can be further enhanced through negotiations

Barak's Next Steps

Barak sees his proposals as the maximum possible Israeli concessions.[9] Furthermore, he insists that his proposals were conditional to begin with; therefore, after the Palestinian refusal, they are null and void, and will not serve as a starting point for future Palestinian demands.[10] Both in his letter to Clinton after the first Palestinian refusal and in his speeches after the refusal and the end of the summit, Barak stressed that now it is clear that "Arafat is not a partner." Nevertheless, practically speaking, Barak continues to see Arafat as a partner. "Within a few weeks," Barak said, "it will be possible to know if we are entering a [phase of] deep unrealized principle stubbornness on the part of the Palestinians, in which case we will be moving toward a situation of national emergency [a term used by Barak to indicate a coalition that would include right-wing parties] or the Palestinians moderate their positions, in which case there will be room for a renewed discussion."[11]

In view of the PLO's positions, Barak is not inclined to attend additional summits,. He also sees an additional interim agreement as "dangerous to Israel," which is why he does not intend to carry out the third redeployment, the target date of which was July 7. According to Barak, even the September 13 target date has "lost part of its importance."

Nevertheless, in view of the impasse, Barak may still consider an interim agreement, if it is long-term and includes a proposal, already raised at the Camp David Summit, to postpone the issues of Jerusalem, and maybe the Right of Return, for a long time. The PLO, needless to say, objects to such an agreement.[12]

Conclusions

Both in the negotiations with Syria and with the Palestinians, Barak followed the same strategy: He made a significant offer and was refused. This approach has earned him substantial achievements in the relationship with the United States, but did not bring about the internal unity Barak had hoped for. Elements of the right believe that he conceded too much, while elements of the left believe that he did not concede enough, or that he acted in a wrong and faulty way.

The Palestinians ignore Barak and Clinton's repeated statements that the offers were conditional and no longer valid, and see them as standing concessions that prove the inevitability of future erosion of Barak's remaining redlines.[13]

The gap between Israel's greatest concessions and the PLO's "national principles" is unbridgeable. Unless there is a fundamental change in the principles of one or both sides, a final settlement is impossible. Even if negotiations for an interim settlement begin, it is doubtful that an agreement can be reached because Barak would only grant Israeli recognition of an independent Palestinian state in exchange for a final settlement and an end to the conflict. Since the immediate Palestinian goal is the declaration of an independent state, the parties will again reach an impasse.

*Yigal Carmon is President of MEMRI. Aluma Solnik is a Research Associate at MEMRI.


[1] Chairman of the PLO Executive Committee, Abu Mazen in Al-Ayyam (PA) July 30, 2000.

[2] PA Minister for Planning and International Cooperation, Nabil Sha'ath in Al-Quds (Palestinian), July 27, 2000.

[3] Ha'aretz (Israel), July 11, 2000.

[4] Al-Ayyam, July 30, 2000.

[5] PLO Secretary of the Presidency Tayeb Abd Al-Rahim in Al-Ayyam, July 26, 2000.

[6] Abu 'Alaa, Al-Ayyam, July 30, 2000.

[7] Only a few PA officials and journalists continued with these threats after the summit. Fuad Abu Hijleh, columnist for Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), for example, threatened the west that "the Palestinian arm is much longer than the Americans believe, and in the Middle East with its oil, no more than a match is needed to bring the situation back to its point of departure, in which there is no American peace, no American supervision, over that comedy called negotiations." Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, July 30, 2000. PA Minister of Justice Freih Abu Middein also continued to threaten bloody clashes and a severe collapse throughout the Middle East, not limited to the Palestinians. Al-Ayyam, July 26, 2000.

[8] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, July 28, 2000. Secretary-General to the PA Presidency, Tayeb Abd Al-Rahim also said that the Palestinians are not interested in escalation and regional explosion. Al-Ayyam, July 26, 2000.

[9] In his speeches after he returned to Israel, Barak repeatedly asserted "there are three things no nation can give up: security, holy sites, and national unity." Ha'aretz, July 28, 2000.

[10] Ha'aretz, July 26, 2000.

[11] Ha'aretz, July 31, 2000 and also in a meeting of Labor Party Ministers in the government on July 28, 2000, Barak stated that "within a few weeks it will be known whether the Palestinians are heading towards confrontation," in which case he would establish an emergency government. Ha'aretz, July 29, 2000.

[12] PLO Executive Committee Chairman Abu Mazen in Al-Ayyam, July 23, 2000 and Yediot Ahronot (Israel), July 28, 2000.

[13] Abu Mazen, op-ed Al-Quds, July 26, 2000 and an interview with head of the Fatah Militia [Shabiba] Marwan Barghuthi in the Jerusalem Times (Palestinian English language weekly) July 21, 2000.

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