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The issue of the three Jerusalem villages, which Malley mentions both here and in other articles, has to do with the "third redeployment" under Wye. Arafat asked Barak to include in this redeployment the three Arab villages of Abu Dis, Eizariya, and Ram, in the area of East Jerusalem. These villages were "Area B," an Oslo II term meaning that the Palestinians had civil control but Israel had overriding authority to maintain security. Arafat wanted them transferred to "Area A," meaning the Palestinians would have complete control.

This was not part of the original plan, and posed a problem for Barak, since at that sensitive stage in the negotiations it would seem he was planning to divide Jerusalem - something the Israeli public was not yet willing to accept, and a hard sell to his coalition. Nevertheless, after a while Barak did agree to fight for the inclusion of the three Arab villages in the third redeployment.(4)

Just as Barak was struggling to push the transfer plan through the Knesset, violent Palestinian demonstrations broke out to commemorate "Naqba" (Catastrophe) Day, what Palestinians call the anniversary of Israeli independence. During the entire day Palestinian security forces and the IDF were firing at each other. The Palestinians had planned and provoked the violence. These plans were detected in advance, and President Clinton felt the timing was so urgent that he sent a message to Arafat asking him to do what he could to prevent the violence. Arafat did nothing.(5) This killed Barak's efforts to transfer the villages. Malley's repeated citing of the failure to transfer the villages as a reason to blame Israel and excuse Arafat is thus highly misleading. Whatever Malley was trying to demonstrate under this first "myth" sounds unconvincing once one knows "the rest of the story."

Myth 2: Israel's offer met most if not all of the Palestinians' legitimate aspirations.

In this section Malley criticizes the offer made to the Palestinians at the Camp David Summit in July and makes no mention of the Clinton Parameters proposed in December, which represent the true final offer that the Palestinians refused. Thus this entire section is misleading. Even though Malley says this earlier offer "was not the dream offer it was made out to be" (by whom?), he does admit that it "was more far-reaching than anything any Israeli leader had discussed in the past" and "far more than had been thinkable only a few weeks earlier." The proposal at the Camp David Summit was indeed an important step along the way and should be credited as such, but it was not the final step by which the entire process should be judged.

Myth 3: The Palestinians made no concession of their own.

Malley notes that the Palestinian negotiators at Camp David were willing to make certain concessions. This point is not in contention. Dennis Ross has also stated that the Palestinian team was willing to make those very same concessions.(6) What Malley omits is that 1) Arafat refused to back up those concessions, and 2) they still did not amount to the acceptance of an offer thatмЅe#Р чž3WЗ0,Vl,VlVV V Њ=(VьV˜VTюV$ =Times New Roman Symbol Arial ArialReply to Robert Malley
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Camp David 2000

Reply to Robert Malley


Robert Malley was a member of the U.S. negotiating team headed by Dennis Ross. He is the most quoted defender of Arafat's conduct at Camp David. Two or three of his articles have drawn particular attention and need to be considered.

At the outset, it is important to note that nowhere in any of his writings does Malley support the Palestinian lie that the best offer the Palestinians refused would have divided their state into cantons. The usefulness of Malley's writings to the Palestinian cause is limited at best. Let us now consider them.


1. "Fictions About the Failure at Camp David"

In this article Malley states that "I was at Camp David, a member of the small American peace team, and I, too, was frustrated almost to the point of despair by the Palestinians' passivity and inability to seize the moment."(1) Malley's purpose is not to exonerate the Palestinians, but only to show that Arafat does not deserve the lion's share of the blame for the summit's failure.

Malley lists three "myths" about Camp David that he feels need to be debunked.

Myth 1: Camp David was an ideal test of Mr. Arafat's intentions.

Here as in other places Malley tries to find reasons to justify Arafat's mistrust of Barak. It is difficult to understand how any of this justifies refusing a reasonable offer, making no counter-proposal, and failing to negotiate in good faith. Of course both sides mistrusted each other. That is why negotiations were necessary, and why America's role as mediator was also necessary. Negotiations take place between parties who do not necessarily trust each other.

Malley blames Barak for the poor relationship he had with Arafat:

Moreover, the summit occurred at a low point in Mr. Arafat's relationship with Mr. Barak - the man with whom he was supposed to strike a historic deal. A number of Israeli commitments, including a long-postponed Israeli withdrawal from parts of the West Bank and the transfer to Palestinian control of villages abutting Jerusalem, remained unfulfilled, and Mr. Arafat believed that Mr. Barak was simply trying to skirt his obligations.

The history of delays in Israeli troop withdrawals is complex; some of those delays were due to flare-ups of Palestinian terrorism. It is important to put these delays in their historical context.

As part of the "Oslo II" Interim Agreem would have granted the Palestinians almost everything they asked for, including a contiguous, viable state with no cantons.

Malley's effort to let Arafat off the hook ultimately fails, since Malley leaves out important data that cast what he has said in a far different light. His judgment of Arafat is a very subjective one:

The facts do not indicate, however, any lack of foresight or vision on the part of Ehud Barak. He had uncommon political courage as well. But the measure of Israel's concessions ought not be how far it has moved from its own starting point; it must be how far it has moved toward a fair solution.

By the time of the Clinton parameters Israel's concessions had moved very far. But how far is far enough? If Malley does not like the Clinton Parameters (and very interestingly he says nothing critical about them), then what would be a "fair solution"? If even the Clinton Parameters were not good enough, one might conclude that "fair" means the Palestinians getting everything they asked for. But no one gets everything they want in a fair negotiation. And what would 100% for the Palestinians mean? It would mean once again dividing Jerusalem as it was before 1967, with no Jewish control over, or possibly even access to, the holiest site in Judaism, the Western Wall. It would mean giving the Etzion bloc of settlements to the Palestinians - but the towns of the Etzion bloc were inhabited by Jews before 1948, who were massacred by Arab armies at the time of Israel's war for independence.(6) What right do the Palestinians, who insist on their own "right of return" for 1948 refugees, have to claim this area?

Malley does make one very fleeting, indirect reference to the Clinton Parameters of December 2000 in his conclusion:

The Palestinians did not meet their historic responsibilities at the summit either. I suspect they will long regret their failure to respond to President Clinton - at Camp David and later on - with more forthcoming and comprehensive ideas of their own.

Whatever Malley has said thus far about the July Camp David summit is mitigated by this concluding comment in which Malley himself admits the Palestinians' failure to accept or even to respond with any counter-offer to the Clinton proposals of December 2000. Malley's own conclusion states that the Palestinians failed their responsibilities and that their decision was regrettable. Taken all together and in context, Malley's comments do not weaken Dennis Ross's case. They support it.

May 2005


Notes

1. Robert Malley, "Fictions About the Failure At Camp David" New York Times, July 8, 2001.
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2. "Didn't the PLO Finally Revise Its Charter on Israel, Opening the Way to Peace?," Palestine Facts.
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3. "What Was the Wye River Memorandum in 1998?," Palestine Facts.
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4. Dennis Ross, The Missing Peace (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux), 592ff.
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5. Ross, Missing Peace, 617f.
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6. Mitchell G. Bard, "The Battle For Gush Etzion," Jewish Virtual Library: Myths & Facts Online.
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