At the Camp David talks in July, 2000 hosted by President Clinton, Yasser Arafat rejected the proposals for a final status agreement put forward by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and offering Arafat virtually all the territories beyond the pre-1967 armistice lines. He rejected as well Clinton’s suggested amendments to Barak’s offer. Nor did Arafat submit any alternative proposals.
The reason for Arafat’s tack was not difficult to discern for anyone who had been paying attention to what the Palestinian leader had been saying and doing since the inception of the Oslo Accords in 1993. It was not that he was unwilling to take control of more territory and add to the forty percent of the West Bank and most of Gaza already handed him by Israel. Rather, the problem for Arafat was that the Camp David talks were cast as “end of conflict” negotiations. It was understood that any territorial agreement would be accompanied by Arafat signing away all further Palestinian claims against Israel, and this was something Arafat had no intention of doing.
Arafat had made clear his goals for the Oslo process at its very inception. On the night of the signing of the initial Oslo agreements on the White House lawn in September, 1993, he was on Jordanian television from Washington explaining to his fellow Palestinians and to the wider Arab world that Oslo was the first phase of the Palestine National Council’s 1974 program. This was a reference to the so-called Plan of Phases, according to which the Palestine Liberation Organization would acquire whatever territory it could gain by negotiations, then use that land as a base for pursuing its ultimate goal of Israel’s destruction. Arafat made at least a dozen references to this perception of Oslo within a month of that broadcast, and he and his associates referred to it many times thereafter. Once established in Gaza in July, 1994, Arafat also became involved in promoting the increased terror to which Israel was subjected in the ensuing months.
In the wake of abandoning Camp David, Arafat undertook a two-pronged strategy to advance his objectives. He unleashed a still more intense, indeed unprecedented, terror war against Israel, both to weaken Israeli resolve and, potentially, to win world sympathy as Israel’s response, against assailants imbedded within the Palestinian civilian population, would inevitably - he anticipated - cause large-scale civilian casualties.
He also undertook a diplomatic campaign to win international, particularly European, support for recognition of all lands beyond the pre-1967 lines as “Palestine”; in effect, granting it all to the Palestinians without the bilateral negotiations and agreements called for in the Oslo accords and without the Palestinians having to foreswear future, additional claims against Israel culminating ultimately in her dissolution.
But Arafat’s diplomatic gambit did not work. Most importantly, in response to Clinton’s placing the onus on Arafat for Camp David’s failure and Clinton’s opposing the recognition Arafat sought, the Europeans being solicited by Arafat would not sign on to his agenda.
Arafat’s longtime associate and successor as head of Fatah and the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, has continued to pursue Arafat’s course. He has insisted repeatedly that he will never recognize the legitimacy of the Jewish state within any borders. He has used the media, mosques and schools under his control to promote the message that the Jews have no legitimate claim to any of the land under Israel’s aegis; that they are alien usurpers whose presence must be extirpated.
It appears Abbas does not directly organize terror attacks on Israelis, and he has publicly opposed terror; not for ethical reasons but because he sees it as counter-productive. Nevertheless, he has indirectly promoted terror by, for example, falsely claiming that Israel is threatening the mosques on the Temple Mount and urging Palestinians to “defend” them against the “filthy feet” of the Jews. He also praises terrorists, names public institutions after them, uses his media, mosques and schools to urge others, especially the young, to emulate them, provides financial rewards to terrorists and their families, and gives lucrative public appointments to terrorists released from Israeli jails.
Also, like Arafat, Abbas has sought to gain international recognition of “Palestine,” of the Palestinians’ claim to all territory beyond the pre-1967 armistice lines, and to do so without negotiating with Israel, without reaching a bilateral agreement, and, most importantly, without signing an “end of conflict” accord and foreswearing future claims against Israel.
The major difference between 2000 and now is that Barack Obama is no Bill Clinton.
On the contrary, Obama has for eight years championed the Arafat agenda. He has been virtually silent on Abbas’s refusal to recognize Israel’s legitimacy, on his refusal to negotiate with Israel, on his promotion and incitement of terror. He has consistently characterized Abbas as a moderate and peace-maker and has consistently blamed Israel for the absence of peace. He has either done nothing in the face of Abbas’s efforts to gain international recognition of “Palestine” without seeking an agreement with Israel or has actually abetted those efforts.
No less dishonest than Obama’s characterization of Abbas have been his attacks on Prime Minister Netanyahu. Obama asserts that Netanyahu has accelerated the growth of settlements and that his doing so is rapidly closing the door on a possible two-state solution. In fact, there has been less settlement growth under Netanyahu than under his predecessors, notwithstanding Secretary of State Kerry’s recent claims, and there have been no new settlements founded for decades. In addition, the Israeli leader of the Oslo process, Yitzhak Rabin, in his last speech in the Knesset before his assassination, went into some detail regarding areas in the territories Israel would have to retain in a final agreement in order to have defensible borders. The areas are virtually the same as those the current Israeli government has focused on, and Rabin did not see Israel’s retention of them as precluding establishment of a viable, independent Palestinian entity, a goal he obviously favored.
Now, using the supposed “closing door” on a two-state solution as a figleaf, Obama has choreographed and allowed to pass UN Security Council Resolution 2334. The resolution - in violation of the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine and the United Nations Charter, which assert Jewish rights in the relevant areas; in violation of Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, which call for the negotiation of “secure and recognized borders”; in violation of the Oslo Accords, which call for the resolving of all issues by direct, bilateral negotiations - declares that all territory beyond the pre-1967 armistice lines is Palestinian territory.
Clearly, Resolution 2334 resolves nothing. But with its passing, Obama can be seen as having notably advanced Arafat’s Plan of Phases.
Whether a new American administration can redress the harm done to genuine peace efforts, it is to be hoped that it will at least reverse eight years of postures and policies favoring those whose concept of peace is pursuing for Israel the peace of the dead.