Ehud Barak, July 30, 2001
Eight years after the Oslo accords, amid a wave of Palestinian terror and
violence and without a peace agreement, Israel should ask itself, Do we have a
partner? What is the future of the peace process?
In spite of the frustration emanating from the collapse of Oslo, we need clear
answersânot half truths or wishful thinking.
The agonizing answer is that Yasir Arafat did not prove to be a partner for
peace and quite probably will not be one in the future.
At Camp David, Mr. Arafat well understood that the moment of truth had come
and that painful decisions needed to be made by both sides. He failed this
An Israeli government, my government, was ready to discuss an agreement that
while securing Israel’s vital interests, was far-reaching in its response to
Palestinian needs. It included an independent, viable and contiguous Palestinian
state beside Israel. This would have satisfied United Nations Security Council
Resolutions 242 and 338 as interpreted by the international community.
But Mr. Arafat proved not to possess the foresight and courage of President
Anwar el-Sadat of Egypt or King Hussein of Jordan. Instead, he missed every
opportunity presented to him to achieve a permanent peace for his people.
It is wrong to think that anyone at the Camp David talks tried to dictate to Mr.
Arafat the details of an agreement. The ideas that were on the table contained
painful compromises for both sides. But Mr. Arafat was not ready to accept the
ideas presented by President Clinton as a framework for negotiations.
There was little evidence that Mr. Arafat was negotiating in good faith.
This frustrated me, and, I believe, it frustrated President Clinton and his team.
Furthermore, the assertion now made by some observers that Mr. Arafat was
pushed unwillingly to make peace at Camp David is somewhat strange. He
signed a series of agreements committing him to make peace in 1993. He even
received a Nobel Peace Prize to encourage him to live up to his commitments.
By 2000, we were headed toward deadlock, and we faced an inevitable
eruption of violence if we failed to reach an agreement. The current violence did
not erupt as the result of the failure at Camp David, but in spite of it.
The negotiations in Sharm el Sheik and in Paris in October 2000 strengthened
my feeling that Mr. Arafat was primarily interested in gaining international
involvement in dealing with the crisis and doing so through the use of violence.
This posture on the part of a negotiating partner is simply unacceptable to any
We made a final attempt at negotiations at Taba in January 2001. Those talks
did not carry much significance because we were on the eve of elections in
Israel and because the Palestinian negotiators did not offer any viable
proposals. I had hoped that meaningful progress could be made. Instead, Taba
was rendered null and void due to a relentless campaign of terrorism by the
During the last 10 months, based on intelligence information, I believe that Mr.
Arafat has been guiding terrorism activities and has turned a blind eye to terror
attacks by Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
He still refuses to rearrest dozens of terrorists whom he released.
He has never stopped the incitement against Israel in the Palestinian
media, and he has never educated his people toward peace with Israel.
All these are imperatives if Israel is to begin new talks with Mr. Arafat.
But I am pessimistic about that prospect. Mr. Arafat has violated almost every
agreement he has signed with Israel in both letter and spirit. The Oslo accords
assumed that the transfer of administrative responsibilities for the West Bank
and Gaza to Mr. Arafat would encourage his transformation into a leader of a
nation state. The utter failure of Mr. Arafat to live up to that assumption is the
primary cause of our crisis today.
Mr. Arafat is an elusive player. It took me some time and cost a certain price to
find this out. Given the violence of the past 10 months and Mr. Arafat’s failure
to stop the terrorism, the new governments in the United States and in Israel
would be foolish to give him the benefit of the doubt or to allow him, a
nondemocratic leader, to exploit the changes of government in Israel and the
The peace process is a complicated one burdened with details and nuances.
This has always been the case, but the details of the Camp David talks must
not be distorted, and in any case, those details have not been fully divulged.
Currently 98 percent of the Palestinian population is under the control of
the Palestinian Authority as a result of land transfers under successive Israeli
governments since 1993.
The future of the peace process is not bright now; the Israeli public no longer
trusts Mr. Arafat’s intentions. In the absence of an honest negotiating partner,
Israel should unilaterally disengage from the Palestinians and establish a border
within which a solid Jewish majority for generations would be secure.
At some point in the future a new Palestinian leadership will emerge, capable of
making the decisions that would make peace with Israel possible. When this
time comes, I am confident that the contours of the agreement will resemble
the sound ideas discussed at Camp David.