Published in The Jerusalem Post on July 9, 2000
A quick comparison between Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat shows how Israel has been maneuvered into political predicament.
Sadat went to the famous Camp David summit in 1978 repeatedly declaring “no more war!” Yasser Arafat goes to the doomed-in-advance Camp David summit of 2000 threatening renewed and intensified war.
Sadat went to Camp David after he had stopped all the shooting. Arafat is going to Camp David as a prelude to the shooting. Sadat went to Camp David with a willingness to move his army 200 kilometers away from the new border with Israel. Arafat goes to Camp David with his army ready to march on Jerusalem.
As a result, there are only two possible outcomes from this week’s summit: total diplomatic collapse on our part, or war.
We are in deep diplomatic retreat. Over the past month, Israel’s negotiating posture and positions have undergone rapid collapse. The long-standing “red lines” on almost every issue in dispute between us and the Palestinians have been violated with astonishing speed and alarming equanimity.
It is truly amazing. Last month, and for every previous month over the past 33 years, the Jordan Valley was “vital” to Israeli security. By wall-to-wall consensus, the Jordan Valley was a zone that for defense reasons would remain “forever and ever” in Israeli hands. (The Jordanians were certain of this, too. No Israeli government ever would abandon them, they thought, to face the dire predicament of sharing a border with a revanchist Palestinian state!)
But now, lo and behold, the Jordan Valley is on the negotiating table. This month, it is no longer “vital” to our security. According to published reports, Prime Minister Ehud Barak is now willing to completely cede the Jordan rift to the Palestinians. If Arafat deigns to agree, we hope to “lease” it from the PA, or maintain loose “military control” in the area, for another ten years.
Last month, and for every previous month over the past 33 years, it was absolute doctrine, and a Barak promise, that Jerusalem would remain united under Israeli sovereignty. Now, Barak’s ministers Yossi Beilin and Shlomo Ben-Ami are talking about shared-sovereignty arrangements for the Old City and its environs.
Last month, and throughout his tenure as Prime Minister, Barak has been promising that no settlement in Judea and Samaria would be dismantled and no settler would be abandoned. No Labor Party leader *ever* spoke about handing over 90 percent (!) or more of the West Bank. Now, it is clear from Barak’s withdrawal maps that 50,000 or more settlers are to be abandoned to the rapacity and revengeful rage of the Palestinian Authority. These Jewish towns will never survive under Palestinian sovereignty.
Last month, and ever since I can remember, it was clear to all Israeli negotiators that a West Bank deal would maintain Israeli control over the strategic Samarian mountain aquifers that hold much of our scarce water supply. Now, that too is almost for sure to be recklessly handed away.
What about the Palestinian so-called “right of return”? For every day since the establishment of this state, in the policy of every Prime Minister, this was the ultimate red line — the one thing we always said that Israel would never countenance! The right of return means the flooding of pre-67 Israel with Palestinians, the end of our Jewish state.
Suddenly, we’re discussing numbers! Under Prime Minister Barak, we’re no longer rejecting or debating the right of return, we’re negotiating its dimensions!
Indeed, Israel is in the throws of an all-out retreat, a panicked flight into appeasement, in desperate attempt to head-off the bloody confrontation that the Palestinian Authority clearly is ready for.
When you think back, Israel’s mistake becomes clear. At the root of Oslo was the “confidence building” principle; the premise that over time, through incremental agreements, the two sides would learn to trust one another. According to the theory, the growing confidence was to spawn heretofore-impossible, creative solutions to the conflict. The two sides would undergo a metamorphosis, and become willing to make compromises previously unthinkable.
We now know, sadly, what nonsense this was. Eight years and more than 40 percent of the land later, Yasser Arafat absolutely shows no signs of preparedness to compromise on any of his long-standing, maximalist demands. Today, he is no more ready to forgo his boundless national aspirations for 100 percent of everything than he was before Oslo.
Just the opposite. Now, Arafat is armed and ready to fight us from close quarters, knowing full well that international and Israeli public opinion will not stomach a truly punishing, determined Israeli military response. Going into Camp David, Arafat has Barak, and all of us, on the run.