Face-to-Face Negotiations in September 2010: What Will They Talk About?
The announcement has been made that Prime Minister Netanyahu and Abu Mazen will come to Washington for “face to face negotiations.” It is worth remembering that precisely 10 years ago President Clinton invited then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat to a summit at Camp David. Mr. Barak was bringing a very far-reaching proposal – so much so that in fact that he wasn’t sure he could sell to the Israeli public if Arafat accepted it.
The announcement has been made that Prime Minister Netanyahu and Abu Mazen will come to Washington for “face to face negotiations.” It is worth remembering that precisely 10 years ago President Clinton invited then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat to a summit at Camp David. Mr. Barak was bringing a very far-reaching proposal – so much so that in fact that he wasn’t sure he could sell to the Israeli public if Arafat accepted it. But after what appeared to be an ill-planned and hasty IDF departure from the Lebanese “Security Zone,” he hoped to bring home an agreement with the Palestinians.
In a moment of wisdom, or at least of extreme practicality, Yasser Arafat tried mightily to get out of attending. It wasn’t the right time, he said. He objected to holding a meeting of the principals (Clinton, Barak and himself) when there was no guarantee of success. The time to hold a summit, he opined, was when everything had already been done, and it hadn’t been done. And he was, for once, right.
The crucial issues in 2000 were:
The Palestinian demand for a “right of return” for refugees and their descendants to places in Israel from which the original refugees claim to have come;
Territorial compromise, and;
Agreement on the legitimacy of Israel’s sovereignty in the region, which was also called an “end to the war” and termination of future claims.
The result of the failure at Camp David was the so-called “second intifada,” the Palestinian war against Israel. For the next three years, Israelis were subjected to suicide bombings in buses and in cafes and other acts of violence, including the shooting of an infant in her father’s arms, the massacre of patrons in a Jerusalem pizza parlor, the murder of two toddlers in their beds, the death of a pregnant woman who had been the only child of Holocaust survivors, and a car bombing that killed worshippers at a Passover Seder. Israeli children ride public buses to school; many parents sent siblings on separate buses. More than 1,000 Israelis died (the equivalent of 42,000 Americans) and thousands more were maimed both physically and psychologically.
Israel ended the Palestinian war by going to the sources of terrorist organization and operation – by entering Palestinian cities and retaking security control of the West Bank (it is worth remembering that the war promulgated not from Gaza by Hamas, but by the “relatively moderate” PLO). The IDF took the war to the Palestinian Authority, closed the Orient House in Jerusalem, and built the security fence.
Terrorism emanating from the West Bank dropped precipitously, not because the Palestinians stopped trying, but because the Israelis got better at prevention. Only after that, after Arafat’s death, and after the bloody Palestinian civil war that evicted Fatah leadership from Gaza, did Israelis and Palestinians on the West Bank come to a relatively constructive modus vivendi based on Fatah’s fear of Hamas and Israel’s belief that economic progress for the Palestinians would lower the appeal of radicalism.
In accepting President Obama’s summons, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Abu Mazen know they will, necessarily, be discussing the same four issues that were on the table in 2000. So, as President Obama pushes Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Abu Mazen, the questions are:
If Yasser Arafat could not accept any compromise then, why would President Obama think Abu Mazen, whose legitimate term of office ended in January 2009 and who controls far less territory and far fewer Palestinians, can compromise?
What will the President do if the talks fail and increased violence is again the result?