Members of the panel of experts working alongside the Palestinian negotiating
team.... have embarked in recent weeks on a round of
appearances throughout Israel. They lecture at living room meetings in homes in Herzliya and meet with forums of confused intellectuals in Jerusalem.
The questions repeat themselves....
The young Palestinians, among them a legal adviser from New York and
a doctoral student in law from Oxford, pull
out an answer ... to every question....
....Under the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) logo, they collected the typical questions asked by Israeli listeners and next to them detailed the Palestinian positions and their version of Camp David and the events that snowballed from it.
Their version, especially concerning the map that Barak proposed there,
is quite close to the one that Robert Malley,
former U.S. president Bill Clinton's special assistant for Arab-Israeli affairs, is now publishing in the world press (to
....the importance of the document is in the obvious effort the Palestinians
are making to rehabilitate the trust in
them among supporters of compromise in Israel and to allay their anxieties....The document
was written both in Hebrew and in English. The following is the English version:
1. Why did the Palestinians reject the Camp David Peace Proposal?
For a true and lasting peace between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples,
there must be two viable and independent
states living as equal neighbors. Israel's Camp David proposal, which was never set forth in writing, denied the
Palestinian state viability and independence by dividing Palestinian territory into four separate cantons entirely
surrounded, and therefore controlled, by Israel. The Camp David proposal also denied Palestinians control over their
own borders, airspace and water resources while legitimizing and expanding illegal Israeli colonies in Palestinian
territory. Israel's Camp David proposal presented a `re-packaging' of military occupation, not an end to military
2. Didn't Israel's proposal give the Palestinians almost all of the territories occupied by Israel in 1967?
No. Israel sought to annex almost 9 percent of the Occupied Palestinian
Territories and in exchange offered only 1
percent of Israel's own territory. In addition, Israel sought control over an additional 10 percent of the Occupied
Palestinian Territories in the form of a "long-term lease." However, the issue is not one of percentages - the issue is
one of viability and independence. In a prison for example, 95 percent of the prison compound is ostensibly for the
prisoners - cells, cafeterias, gym and medical facilities - but the remaining 5 percent is all that is needed for the prison
guards to maintain control over the prisoner population. Similarly, the Camp David proposal, while admittedly making
Palestinian prison cells larger, failed to end Israeli control over the Palestinian population.
3. Did the Palestinians accept the idea of a land swap?
The Palestinians were (and are) prepared to consider any idea that is
consistent with a fair peace based on
international law and equality of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. The Palestinians did consider the idea of a land
swap but proposed that such land swap must be based on a one-to-one ratio, with land of equal value and in areas
adjacent to the border with Palestine and in the same vicinity as the lands to be annexed by Israel. However, Israel's
Camp David proposal of a nine-to-one land swap (in Israel's favor) was viewed as so unfair as to seriously undermine
belief in Israel's commitment to a fair territorial compromise.
4. How did Israel's proposal envision the territory of a Palestinian state?
Israel's proposal divided Palestine into four separate cantons surrounded
by Israel: the Northern West Bank, the
Central West Bank, the Southern West Bank and Gaza. Going from any one area to another would require crossing
Israeli sovereign territory and consequently subject movement of Palestinians within their own country to Israeli
control. Not only would such restrictions apply to the movement of people, but also to the movement of goods, in
effect subjecting the Palestinian economy to Israeli control. Lastly, the Camp David proposal would have left Israel in
control over all Palestinian borders, thereby allowing Israel to control not only internal movement of people and goods
but international movement as well. Such a Palestinian state would have had less sovereignty and viability than the
Bantustans created by the South African apartheid government.
5. How did Israel's proposal address Palestinian East Jerusalem?
The Camp David Proposal required Palestinians to give up any claim to
the occupied portion of Jerusalem. The
proposal would have forced recognition of Israel's annexation of all of Arab East Jerusalem. Talks after Camp David
suggested that Israel was prepared to allow Palestinians sovereignty over isolated Palestinian neighborhoods in the
heart of East Jerusalem, however such neighborhoods would remain surrounded by illegal Israeli colonies and would
remain separated not only from each other but also from the rest of the Palestinian state. In effect, such a proposal
would create Palestinian ghettos in the heart of Jerusalem.
6. Why didn't the Palestinians ever present a comprehensive permanent
settlement proposal of their own in response
to Barak's proposals?
The comprehensive settlement to the conflict is embodied in United Nations
Resolutions 242 and 338, as was
accepted by both sides at the Madrid Summit in 1991 and later in the Oslo Accords of 1993. The purpose of the
negotiations is to implement these UN [Security Council] resolutions (which call for an Israeli withdrawal from land
occupied by force by Israel in 1967) and reach agreement on final status issues. On a number of occasions since
Camp David - especially at the Taba talks - the Palestinian negotiating team presented its concept for the resolution of
the key permanent status issues. It is important to keep in mind, however, that Israel and the Palestinians are
differently situated. Israel seeks broad concessions from the Palestinians. Israel has not offered a single concession
involving its own territory and rights. The Palestinians, on the other hand, seek to establish a viable, sovereign state
on their own territory, to provide for the withdrawal of Israeli military forces and colonies (which are universally
recognized as illegal), and to secure the right of Palestinian refugees to return to the homes they were forced to flee in
1948. Although Palestinian negotiators have been willing to accommodate legitimate Israeli needs within that context,
particularly with respect to security and refugees, it is up to Israel to define these needs and to suggest the narrowest
possible means of addressing them.
7. Why did the peace process fall apart just as it was making real progress toward a permanent agreement?
Palestinians entered the peace process on the understanding that (1)
it would deliver concrete improvements to their
lives during the interim period, (2) that the interim period would be relatively short in duration - i.e., five years, and
(3) that a permanent agreement would implement United Nations [Security Council] Resolutions 242 and 338. But
the peace process delivered none of these things. Instead, Palestinians suffered more burdensome restrictions on their
movement and a serious decline in their economic situation. Israeli colonies expanded at an unprecedented pace and
the West Bank and Gaza Strip became more fragmented with the construction of settler "by-pass" roads and the
proliferation of Israeli military checkpoints. Deadlines were repeatedly missed in the implementation of agreements. In
sum, Palestinians simply did not experience any "progress" in terms of their daily lives.
However, what decisively undermined Palestinian support for the peace
process was the way Israel presented its
proposal. Prior to entering into the first negotiations on permanent status issues, Prime Minister Barak publicly and
repeatedly threatened Palestinians that his "offer" would be Israel's best and final offer and if not accepted, Israel
would seriously consider "unilateral separation" (a euphemism for imposing a settlement rather than negotiating one).
Palestinians felt that they had been betrayed by Israel who had committed itself at the beginning of the Oslo process
to ending its occupation of Palestinian lands in accordance with Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.
8. Doesn't the violence which erupted following Camp David prove that
Palestinians do not really want to live in
peace with Israel?
Palestinians recognized Israel's right to exist in 1988 and reiterated
this recognition on several occasions including
Madrid in 1991 and the Oslo Accords in September, 1993. Nevertheless, Israel has yet to explicitly and formally
recognize Palestine's right to exist. The Palestinian people waited patiently since the Madrid Conference in 1991 for
their freedom and independence despite Israel's incessant policy of creating facts on the ground by building colonies
in occupied territory (Israeli housing units in Occupied Palestinian Territory - not including East Jerusalem - increased
by 52 percent since the signing of the Oslo Accords and the settler population, including those in East Jerusalem,
more than doubled). The Palestinians do indeed wish to live at peace with Israel but peace with Israel must be a fair
peace - not an unfair peace imposed by a stronger party over a weaker party.
9. Doesn't the failure of Camp David prove that the Palestinians are just not prepared to compromise?
The Palestinians have indeed compromised. In the Oslo Accords, the Palestinians
recognized Israeli sovereignty over
78 percent of historic Palestine (23 percent more than Israel was granted pursuant to the 1947 UN Partition Plan) on
the assumption that the Palestinians would be able to exercise sovereignty over the remaining 22 percent. The
overwhelming majority of Palestinians accepted this compromise but this extremely generous compromise was
ignored at Camp David and the Palestinians were asked to "compromise the compromise" and make further
concessions in favor of Israel. Though the Palestinians can continue to make compromises, no people can be
expected to compromise fundamental rights or the viability of their state.
10. Have the Palestinians abandoned the two-state solution and do they now insist on all of historic Palestine?
The current situation has undoubtedly hardened positions on both sides,
with extremists in both Israel and the
Occupied Palestinian Territories claiming all of historic Palestine. Nevertheless, there is no evidence that the
Palestinian Authority or the majority of Palestinians have abandoned the two-state solution. The two-state solution,
however, is most seriously threatened by the on-going construction of Israeli colonies and bypass roads aimed at
incorporating the Occupied Palestinian Territories into Israel. Without a halt to such construction, a two-state solution
may simply be impossible to implement - already prompting a number of Palestinian academics and intellectuals to
argue that Israel will never allow the Palestinians to have a viable state and Palestinians should instead focus their
efforts on obtaining equal rights as Israeli citizens.
11. Isn't it unreasonable for the Palestinians to demand the unlimited
right of return to Israel of all Palestinian
The refugees were never seriously discussed at Camp David because Prime
Minister Barak declared that Israel bore
no responsibility for the refugee problem or its solution. Obviously, there can be no comprehensive solution to the
Palestinian-Israeli conflict without resolving one of its key components: the plight of the Palestinian refugees.
There is a clearly recognized right under international law that non-combatants who flee during a conflict have the
right to return after the conflict is over. But an Israeli recognition of the Palestinian right of return does not mean that
all refugees will exercise that right. What is needed in addition to such recognition is the concept of choice. Many
refugees may opt for (i) resettlement in third countries, (ii) resettlement in a newly independent Palestine (though they
originate from that part of Palestine which became Israel) or (iii) normalization of their legal status in the host country
where they currently reside. In addition, the right of return may be implemented in phases so as to address Israel's
demographic concerns. (Ha'aretz, 24 July 2001)
Distributed by Bat Shalom, a feminist peace organization working toward a just peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Bat
Shalom, together with The Jerusalem Center for Women, a Palestinian women's peace organization, comprise The
Jerusalem Link. Visit our web site for more information and our latest activities: http://www.batshalom.org