Ehud Barak wanted a peace deal. Now he backs Israel’s military campaign.
Former Israeli Prime Minster Ehud Barak says Israel had no choice but to
send troops into the West Bank
By Lally Weymouth, May 6, 2002
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak thought he made Yasir Arafat
an offer he couldn’t resist at Camp David. But Arafat turned it down, and the
latest Palestinian rebellion erupted. Last week Barak spoke with NEWSWEEK’s
Lally Weymouth about what went wrong and what should be done. Excerpts:
WEYMOUTH: How do you see the present conflict?
BARAK: Arafat says [it’s] about occupation. I say it is about trying to
use suicide bombing as a new tool of diplomacy. Twenty-one months ago,
President Clinton put an offer on the table. In exchange for an end of the
conflict, an independent Palestinian state would be created on over 90 percent
of the West Bank. I was ready to take this offer as a basis for negotiations, but
Arafat refused and turned deliberately to terror.
Should Israel get rid of Arafat?
No, we should not directly act.
Why do the Palestinians claim that the offer made at Camp David was not
Arafat and the Palestinians together with low-level American bureaucrats
and some Israeli leftists are trying to revise history. They are providing us with
a stream of lies.
Legend No. 1: there was not enough time to prepare. Actually, there
was no reason to wait. We had literally tons of papers documenting [earlier]
Legend No. 2: Arafat was dragged into a summit against his will. It’s an
oxymoron that a Nobel Peace Prize laureate could be dragged kicking and
yelling into a peace summit. Arafat was ready for a summit at the end of
August, not in mid-July. Can any serious person think that a conflict could be
solved at the end of August but not in mid-July?
Legend No. 3: Barak tried to dictate an all-or-nothing plan. This is a total
lie. The whole concept of Camp David was to achieve a framework agreement.
If it took another year to reach a peace agreement [that would be OK].
Legend No. 4: Barak proposed Bantustans, not contiguous territories. I
have wondered more than once why Arafat lies to his people about contiguity.
Arafat refused to negotiate.
Arafat blames Sharon for starting the intifada.
We know from intelligence that [Arafat] planned and prepared it long
Didn’t negotiations continue despite the intifada?
Following Camp David, there were more contacts. Then in December,
Clinton proposed new terms that went beyond Camp David. He added another
2 to 3 percent to the Palestinians. We had a lot of reservations but were ready
to accept if the other side was ready. But once again they said “no.”
Some claim that Arafat risked assassination if he agreed to a deal with Israel.
What is the worth of a leader if he has no inner compass or will to make
So is Arafat out to destroy Israel?
Arafat’s vision is not of a Palestinian state alongside Israel but a
Palestinian state that will absorb Israel. Basically Arafat has cornered the Israeli
people into having no choice but to fight for their homes.
Is Arafat winning?
If Arafat sees the Europeans are ready to give him more than the U.S.,
he will go with them and humiliate the U.S. He’s playing the card of Saddam
Hussein, who is interested in stirring up the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But the
most crucial element in the war against terror is replacing Saddam. And the
Arab pragmatic regimes will be with the U.S. if they see an unyielding spirit of
Was Sharon right to go into the West Bank?
I believe that Sharon’s government had no choice but to do what Arafat
failed to do – destroy terror.
Will it work?
Yes, for some time. I would add a clear statement that our aim is not to
smash Arafat but to push the Palestinian Authority back to the negotiating table
without gaining an inch. We should [also] launch a unilateral disengagement
plan to put a security fence around Israel that would dramatically reduce suicide
attacks into Israel. We have a fence around Gaza, and there are basically no
suicide attacks from Gaza.
How will the present crisis end?
We will stand firm and they will realize that we are never going to yield
to terror. If we stand firm, we will prevail – all of us.