What Went Wrong
Oslo - The PLO (PA) - Israel - Some Additional Facts
Gershon Baskin, PhD
Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information
html-editing and additions in () by Joachim
Photo: On the left is Dr. Gershon Baskin, Israeli
on the Right is Dr. Zakaria al-Qaq, Palestinian Co-Director.
(Source: IPCRI-Personalities and Supporters)
And lots of other reasons that will be researched and
written about. I would like to attempt to write about some of the underlying
reasons, some of the events that were not directly in the public eye or
were missed as important and significant as they were happening.
Many of the points written here I have included in the form of policy documents
and recommendations/warnings to the various governments of Israel, the
Palestinian Authority, the negotiators, the US sponsors and other important
players. This is an attempt to summarize those events with some order and
reason. Where to start is a difficult question.
What went wrong with the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is a
question that is troubling Israelis, Palestinians, Arabs and Jews in general
and all other internationals that were hoping that the Middle East might
finally reach peace. Most of the analyses written so far and those
that will be written in the future have/will focus on the obvious:
One could say that the Oslo Agreements were flawed from the outset and
there are many good reasons to point out the flaws. In hope that
others will do that, I will skip that part of the analysis.
Despite the flaws, I for one supported the agreements and thought that
people who truly want/ed peace in the region have an obligation to support
whatever agreements are/were reached by the sides.
Introduction - Israel might not be able to reach a full peace agreement
with Yasser Arafat
From the outset I will also put on record that I have always
been doubtful about the ability of Israel to reach a full peace agreement
with Yasser Arafat. These doubts have significantly increased over
One of the main reasons for this increase in doubts is based
on the nature of the regime that Arafat has created in Palestine ? which
is of no great surprise, but also because of
the refusal of Israel, the United States, and the Palestinian
people themselves to demand from Arafat the kind of democratic regime that
I believe is necessary to bring about real peace. Israel and the
United States are/were afraid of too much Palestinian democracy out of
fear that through this democracy anti-peace forces such as Hamas would
increase their power. They are/were afraid of what I call the "Algeria
These fears might be well placed, however, in my view, the
absence of democracy is one of the main underlying roots of the Palestinian
It should also be noted that the various governments of Israel
viewed Arafatís ability to take actions against anti-peace forces in Palestine
as overriding any need for Palestinian democracy. This was summarized
by Rabinís famous sentence ? "bli bagatz uíbli btzelem" ? without the Supreme
Court and with Betzelem ? meaning that Arafat could arrest, detain, and
even execute anyone, without any real due process of law.
Israel was/is also afraid of the Palestinian Legislative
Council being able to legislate Palestinian laws that are against Israelís
interest or against agreements so that Israel never challenged Arafat when
he declared in private meetings that he could not sign the "Palestinian
Basic Law" ? the Palestinian Constitution - into law because of Israeli
This Constitution would have given some real basis to the
rule of law in Palestine and would have created some semblance of the separation
of authorities and some measures of checks and balances. I myself
appealed to Rabin, Peres and Netanyahu to issue public declarations that
Israel viewed the "Palestinian Basic Law" favorably ? something that never
also take note of the wide ranging Israeli involvement in the development
of the centrally controlled, monopolistic and corrupt Palestinian economic
system. Despite constant warnings by this author and many others of
the dangers of direct Israeli involvement in Palestinian corruption, Israeli
officials facilitated and encouraged what must be called "the ripping off
of the Palestinian people" through shady deals and schemes conducted in
broad day light by tens of former Israeli security officials with agents
of the Palestinian Authority including Palestinian intelligence officers,
policemen and "advisors" working on behalf of themselves and on behalf
of Arafat directly. Many of these deals, if conducted in Israel proper
would have ended with indictments and jail penalties. But in this
case, they were conducted in "the interest of peace". This is perhaps one
of the most cynical elements of what has emerged over the past eight years.
Perhaps even more cynical is that much of that cooperation is continuing
today and it should not surprise anyone that the first order of Palestinian-Israeli
business under Sharon has been the opening of the Casino in Jericho.
Who will follow after Arafat?
With all of that preface I will begin my analysis on some of the other
underlying causes and ailments of the peace process beginning with September
In mid September 1997 during the time of Prime Minister Netanyahu,
Yasser Arafat gave an extended interview to Israeli Channel Two News. That
interview which lasted about 20 minutes was conducted in its entirety in
"close-up". It was striking how ill Arafat appeared. The camera focused
on his quivering lower lip and his shaking hands. The local and international
media was filled for weeks with guesses about what Arafat was suffering
from, what medications he was taking, how the illness and medications effected
his performance (or lack of) and how long he lad left to live. All
of a sudden everyone was asking what would happen in the post-Arafat era
and who would take his place. I myself was interviewed more than 40 times
by journalists from all over the world on these questions.
But more important than the questions of the journalists were the questions
being asked by Palestinians themselves. Since the creation of the Palestinian
Authority the main concern on many Palestiniansí minds seemed to be how
to get a piece of the cake. Many of the former activists who led the first
intifada sought to participate in the Authority, each in his own way, by
getting senior positions in Ministries and in the security forces.
Many of the local West Bank and Gaza personalities were quickly dismayed
as they saw the "Tunisians" - those who came with Arafat from abroad,
getting the top positions, the senior officers, the Ministers, while they
were being given second or third chair in the orchestra that they thought
they had created. More importantly, political "party" life ? that had been
the basis of the first intifada through the unified leadership consisting
of representation from the main PLO factions, all but ceased to exist.
The ideology of the Palestinian resistance and liberation movement seem
to fizzle away with shortsighted short-term private interests taking priority.
One Palestinian intellectual and former Fatah activist described it as
follows: "For me Palestine today ends at my door-step". The impact of that
kind of thinking was the demise of the political parties - the PFLP, DFLP,
Fida, PPP and foremost - Fatah.
A short time after the Arafat interview an informal meeting of former
leaders of the first intifada from Fatah, some of them members of the Palestinian
Legislative Council, was held in Ramallah. The discussion there focused
on the question of what would happen when Arafat died. Most
participants there were in agreement that the two main bodies of Fatah
would most likely play the critical role in selecting/electing a successor.
These two bodies are the Fatah Central Council and the Fatah Revolutionary
Council. Both of these bodies, the participants noted, were controlled
by Arafatís Old Guard loyalists, mostly those who came with the PLO leadership
from abroad. The young indigenous leaders of the first intifada were
not represented in those bodies. In fact, of the participants of
the meeting in Ramallah only one was a member of the Revolutionary Council
and one was a member of the Central Committee. ]
At that point, a decision was taken to revive Fatah through grass-roots
activities and by taking a militant stand on central issues in the peace
process - settlements, refugees and the first order of business - prisoner
release. It is important to note that in September 1996 these Fatah
leaders led the first days of violent demonstrations against the opening
of the Kotel tunnel by Netanyahu. The success of those riots from
their perspective in gaining Palestinian public support was a signal for
them that the model of armed resistance against Israel was not removed
as a real option for future confrontations. Thus a strategic decision was
then taken to reconstitute the Fatah Tanzim (a military
wing of the Fatah organization, J. Gruber), which had been first established
In April 1998 a major article appeared in an important Arab journal in
Beirut analyzing the process of selecting a new Palestinian leader after
Arafat. This was the first of many similar articles that appeared
throughout the Arab world and the subject became the most widely discussed
in the mass media such as the popular Al Jazeera cable television news
program from Qatar. In the lead up to the Wye River agreement in
October 1998, Arafat declared a series of political actions throughout
the Palestinian territories under the title "Days of Rage" in which Palestinians
were instructed to demonstrate and march against Israeli settlements.
All of these events, including the protests led by Faisel Husseini against
Har Homa - Jabel Abu Ghain were failures. The people simply did not
come. Arafat resorted to closing the Ministries and ordering all PA workers
and their families to board buses to protest. In Jerusalem, it was
even reported that people were paid to attend the demonstrations against
The ultimate goal would be to "take control" of the Fatah organs of power
and to revive the Palestinian struggle along the line of steadfastness
to Palestinian political goals of
establishing a Palestinian state in all of the West Bank, Gaza and East
removing all of the Israeli settlers, preventing additional settlement
releasing all Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.
Palestinian Leadership - Fatah Against "The Tunis People"
Many might draw the wrong conclusion that the Palestinian public was apathetic
- they were not. They simply did not wish to answer Arafat calls
out of frustration, shame and despair of what was becoming of their Palestinian
While this was happening the Fatah Tanzim began a process of democratic
elections of new cadres of leaders throughout the West Bank and less so
in Gaza where Arafatís Palestinian Security Forces had more influence and
In a mass meeting held in Nablus prior to the Wye Agreement, a senior Palestinian
security official that had come from Tunis called upon the people to "go
to the streets and fight the occupation".
One angry Nabulsi stood up and said: "We did our share during the intifada,
we sacrificed our children and our lives. Now itís your turn to send your
children." Everyone in the room knew that the children of the Palestinian
security chief were all living and studying abroad.
At Wye River Israel, under Netanyahu, with firm American political and
CIA support pressured Arafat to disarm all of the militia in the West Bank,
particularly the Fatah Tanzim. The Wye River Accord was signed on October
In every village, town, city and refugee camp Fatah was organizing.
Soon they launched their very successful public campaign that they called
the "prisoners intifada" with marches throughout the territories gaining
wide public support.
Fatah Tanzim was also amassing weapons throughout the land.
Between 1996 and 1999 Fatah held more than 122 conferences in the West
Bank alone with more than 85,000 people taking part.
The stated aim at these conferences was to convene and elect a new Fatah
Central Council and a new Revolutionary Council. These groups had not met
in more than 11 years.
On May 15-17, 2000 the Palestinian territories once again erupted in fire
for three days of mass Palestinian demonstrations marking "Yom al Naqba",
the day of tragedy.
On October 25, 1998 the forces of Colonel Musa Arafat, the head of the
Palestinian Military Intelligence Forces (and Arafatís nephew) forcibly
entered the Fatah Tanzim office in Ramallah. Fatah Tanzim resisted
and a shoot out in the middle of Ramallah erupted. In the end, a
young Palestinian, Wassim Tarifi (a nephew of PA Minister Jamil Tarifi)
was killed. Downtown Ramallah was closed for several days during
which time a standoff developed between the Tanzim and Musa Arafat and
In the end, Arafat ordered Musa Arafat to withdraw. The Tanzim won their
first strategic battle in the fight for Palestinian leadership.
It was reported that following this incident the walls of Ramallah were
filled with graffiti denouncing the "filthy collaborators of the Military
Three weeks later rioters in Balata refugee camp tanzim activists stormed
the local PA Police headquarters in the camp, set it on fire, burned a
police car and then only withdrew after being fired on by Palestinian police.
The riot started after PA Police prevented demonstrators from marching
on Josephís Tomb during the "Prisoners Intifada".
In May 2000 after completing the process of elections throughout the territories,
the Fatah Tanzim decided that the time had come to take the struggle to
The final status negotiations with Israel did not begin. Prime Minister
Barak was not taking the Palestinian issue seriously in their view, preferring
to seek an agreement with Assad as a way a weakening the Palestinians.
Barak, insisting that it be part of the final status agreement, did not
accept the third redeployment.
And Palestinian prisoners were not being released; the committee dealing
with the matter simply dragged its feet as Israel spoke about not being
able to release prisoners with blood on their hands.
In a closed meeting organized by IPCRI in April 2000 between Israel MKís
from the coalitions and high ranking Tanzim members, Marwan Barghouthi
stated: "I feel ashamed that more than 500 prisoners -- some of whom killed
Israelis -- are still in Israeli jails. Before Oslo there was the
Intifada and there was fighting between the two sides, between the PLO
and Israel. Barak, who is now your Prime Minister -- and we met with
him personally -- killed three leaders in Lebanon. But we sit down
with Barak now because we have to start a new history between the two peoples."
According to my analysis, at this time Arafat made a strategic decision
to keep the Fatah Tanzim alongside of him.
This was not the first time that the Palestinians marked this day, but
never before had hundred of thousands of them taken to the streets.
Armed attacks took place at some of the major Israeli-Palestinian junctions
in the West Bank and Gaza.
The joint patrols, initiated to take action during times like this ceased
The demonstrations and the military actions were all led by the Tanzim.
It took Arafat three days before he was able to control the situation on
the ground after grinding pressure from Israel and the Americans.
After the three days, Marwan Barghouthi stated: "We used weapons against
Israel and if we have to we will use them again in the future".
According to Arafatís thinking, if he reached an agreement with Israel
he would need the power of the Tanzim to carry the street and if he didnít
reach an agreement with Israel, he would need the Tanzim to lead the resistance.
Shortly after the May 15-17 events, Arafat arranged a reconciliation meeting
between the Tanzim and West Bank Preventive Security Chief Jabril Rajoub
whoís relations had been strained about a year before when the Tanzim accused
Rajoub of turning over several Palestinian prisoners to Israel after Israel
demanded their extradition.
The Failure of Camp David and Beyond
(Source of graphics: "Erinnerungen an die Konferenz von Taba", J. Gruber)
Barak's Offer in Camp David.
Arafat's Demands in Camp David.
Taba - unofficial
The Israeli media reported that Ehud Barak made the most "generous offer"
the Palestinians could ever expect to receive from an Israeli Prime Minster.
Furthermore, the Israeli hasbara (propaganda) machine blamed Arafat
for "not missing the opportunity to miss another opportunity". Mr. Clinton
joined the Israeli bandwagon and laid similar blame on Arafat for rejecting
Barakís offer. Mr. Barak claimed that the Palestinians didnít make a counter
offer or even respond to the Israeli offer
A central part of the Israeli "package" of offers included 89% of the West
Bank, the remaining 11% to be annexed to Israel. (see e.g. Erinnerungen an die Konferenz von Taba, J. Gruber)
Mr. Barak claimed that he would receive the support of the majority of
settlers because 80% would remain where they are and would be under Israel
Only some 40,000 settlers would have to relocate into the so-called "settlement
blocs" that would be annexed.
Yet the Palestinian rejection was swift and firm and in fact, served as
one of the primary motivating forces that led to the intensity of the "al-Aqsa
- Benny Morris, An Interview with Ehud Barak, New York Review of Books, 49,10:42-45 (June 13, 2002),
- Robert Malley, Hussein Agha, A Reply to Ehud Barak, New York Review of Books, 49,10:4649 (June 13, 2002))
Since most Israeli and foreign opinion views the rejection of the Palestinians
as a foolish mistake we need to take a closer look at its causes Palestinians
who were at Camp David spoke about a new concept in the Israeli-Palestinian
lexicon that was born "up on the hill" in Camp David with the help of planners
and map experts brought in to interpret the positions and problems presented
by both sides.
(See also Foundation for
Middle East Peace (FMEP), Limitations
of the Camp David Proposal, Roots of the Intifada, and Possibilities for
Missing in Palestinian judgement are
Maps (J. Gruber):
viability: development potential and territorial conguity,
Barak plan increases shortage of Palestinian water resources
independence: no Israel overriding authority
choice: refugee life has been characterized by an absence
Settlement Clusters, Blocs - No Contiguous
Israel never presented a map to the Palestinians or to the Americans.
Each side at Camp David worked with their own maps and kept them to themselves.
The new concept was: settlement clusters.
As opposed to "settlement blocs" (concentrated Israeli settlements alongside
the Green Line which could be annexed to the pre-1967 borders), the concept
"settlement clusters" refers to groups of more isolated settlements in
the heart of the Palestinian territories becoming islands of Israeli sovereignty
once annexed by Israel.
The Israeli 89% - 11% offer to the Palestinians included a number of these
This reality also meant that about 40 Palestinian villages with about 80,000
Palestinians would also be annexed to Israel. The Palestinianís top
urban planner was rushed to Camp David by Arafat to interpret the Israeli
offer that the Americans were pressuring the Palestinians to accept.
The Americans and the Israelis told the Palestinians that
this was the best possible offer and that Barak had done the maximum.
Barak, they explained, would have to withdraw more than 40
settlements and more than 40,000 settlers. Any additional compromise
would bring down his government and then "Arafat can negotiate with Sharon
and Bibi" Barak said.
In Palestinian eyes, the Barak offer created not islands of Israeli sovereignty
but a series of at least three Palestinian "sovereign cages". There would
be no real Palestinian territorial contiguity. (see also U.
Avnery, The Day Barak's Bubble Burst, J. Gruber)
They would not have control and sovereignty on main arteries of transportation.
The Jordan Valley would still be controlled by the IDF, even if the Palestinians
were granted some kind of control there.
The only part of the Israeli proposal that seemed acceptable to the Palestinians
was their understanding that Barak was willing to remove all of the settlements
from Gaza, including Gush Katif,
however, it was not clear whether Barak was willing to "allow" the Palestinians
to have a sovereign border crossing with Egypt in Rafah. (After Camp David
it became less clear whether in fact Barak had actually offered to remove
all of the Gaza settlements, where they still control about 30% of the
Security Zones allow for Larger
Throughout the negotiations the Palestinians constantly reminded themselves,
the Americans and the Israelis that according to Oslo II, the agreement
signed in Washington in September 1995, Israel was supposed to implement
further redeployment of its forces (and control) to "specified military
The mutual Israeli-Palestinian understanding of this at that time included
the Israeli settlements within the definition of "specified military locations".
According to the Palestinians, by the end of the interim period (5 years)
Israel should have withdrawn from 90% of the West Bank, based on a signed
and endorsed agreement.
The Palestinians believed that the area of the settlements included only
the built up areas, allowing for a perimeter of 50 meters from the last
home in each settlement (something that Netanyahu agreed to at Wye River
regarding future settlement expansions).
This together with IDF bases would amount to about 10% of the West Bank.
When Benyamin Netanyahu was Prime
Minister Israel claimed that the agreement referred to "security zones"
and not "specified military locations", a much broader definition allowing
Israel to decide unilaterally that the further redeployments would be much
less than the Palestinian demands.
Netanyahuís office produced a Hebrew version of the Oslo Agreement talking
about "azorim bitchoniim", security zones.
At the same time, the Israeli Foreign Ministry produced an internal document
labeled "Secret, Limited Distribution" with the correct translation of
the term "specified military locations" claiming that the Palestinian interpretation
was the correct version.
Mr. Barak decided even before being elected that he would "merge" the third
further redeployment with the final status agreement and thereby avoiding
the need to make "unnecessary concessions" to the Palestinians.
In other words: there would be no further redeployment (the Palestinians
had expected to include at least 50% of the West Bank).
Barak believed that after Netanyahu, his "generous" offer would be viewed
by the Palestinians as their version of getting their state "on a silver
platter". To Barak and Clinton, the Palestinian refusal was incomprehensible:
how could they refuse- Who will possibly give them a better deal-
The Palestinians have claimed since Oslo in 1993 that they had made their
"historic compromise" by giving up 78% of Palestine, leaving them
with only the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.
They believed that Israel would make its "historic compromise" in the final
status negotiations when they withdraw from 100% of the West Bank, East
Jerusalem and Gaza, allowing for minor border rectification and taking
into account some of the new realities on the ground.
Taking into account some of the "new realities" led Arafat to offer Barak
2% of the West Bank "for free" and another 2% in exchange for territory
of equal size and quality inside of Israel. (This was the Palestinian counter
offer at Camp David that no one speaks about).
The Palestiniansí position has been based on their demand to implement
UN Security Council Resolution 242 (according to their understanding) meaning
a full Israeli withdrawal from all territories conquered in 1967.
Arafatís agreement to give up 2% "for free" led to a deep rift within the
Palestinian delegation. Unofficial reports even spoke of a "fist
fight" that broke out between at least 2 of the delegates from the Palestinian
The intensity of dissatisfaction within the Palestinian delegation should
have been taken as a signal by Israel and the Americans that the Palestinian
public would "explode" at the notion of having to "take it or leave it"
with regard to the Israeli "generous" offer.
In public opinion surveys conducted amongst Palestinian following Camp
David it was found that the highest level of dissatisfaction and anger
by the Palestinian public was demonstrated with regard to the territorial
issue and the settlement issue.
The Palestinians saw the rapid expansion of settlements and roads during
the past 17 months of the Barak government, 30% more than what Netanyahu
For Palestinians, the reality of settlements means
being in perpetual occupation,
the confiscation of their land,
the monopolistic control of the water resources,
one-side unilateral planning decisions that have a direct negative impact
on their daily lives,
the idea of Palestinian independence and statehood becomes little more
than a farce.
The Israeli peace camp always objected to the building of settlements.
From the very beginning of the settlement movement the peace camp in Israel
was out on the streets protesting.
I remember tens of those demonstrations - the most dramatic of them for
me being the demonstration in Efrat in 1982 on a cold rainy Saturday before
the first person had even moved in.
The reality of the amount of money, roads, infrastructure and houses built
was impossible to ignore. I remember saying "weíre carrying signs
and theyíre building" - what a feeling of impotence!
The Israeli left knew that the settlements were and obstacle to peace -
even the Americans said so. (see also IM BANNE DES FUNDAMENTALISMUS: Israels Gesellschaft als Gefangene der Siedler, J. Gruber)
So why then, did the peace camp adopt the line that the settlements were
a reality - a fact on the ground that couldnít be changed- How is
that the peace camp in Israel became the "defense attorney" for the settlers
and settlements vis-a vis the Palestinians-
Throughout the negotiations over the years, most Israelis have claimed
the irrelevance of international law expressed so eloquently by Ben-Gurion
"Um - schmoom" - meaning "UN - nonsense!".
Who cares that building settlements is a blatant breach of international
Who cares that the "progressive" Supreme Court of Israel has consistently
rejected the notion that it must consider international law - Its mandate
is only within the framework of Israeli jurisprudence.
It now appears after a total breakdown and perhaps permanent collapse of
the Oslo Process that the slogan "settlements means no peace" is a reality.
It seems almost impossible to imagine any Israeli government willing to
remove more settlements than Barak offered.
The End of Camp David
The Palestinians are dissatisfied with the hegemony of the US as the sole
The desire to demand international intervention, protection and even mediation
is not tactical - it is strategic.
They know that international law is on their side.
It seems that their strategy also includes a Hizballah type of war of attrition
on specific isolated Israeli settlements in order to demonstrate their
high cost to Israeli interests.
It is not by chance that Netzerim, Kfar Darom, Psgaot, Kadim and Ganim
have become targets during this new intifada.
It should also be noted that during the entire course of the 15 days of
Camp David negotiations, Barak and Arafat only spoke to each other directly
twice, for a total of less than one hour.
Amazingly those discussions focused only on the food and the weather at
One of the questions for which I have no answer is why did Clinton allow
this farce to continue for so long. According to reports I heard from both
Israelis, Palestinians and Americans who were present at Camp David,
Clinton had decided after Netanyahu and Arafat denied what they had agreed
upon in private talks at Wye, that Americans insist US note-takers to be
present at every Israeli-Palestinian meeting at Camp David.
Barak, who went to Camp David with the
attitude that "all Israeli proposals are hypothetical until all are agreed
upon", refused to be "trapped" (in his words) by American texts.
Therefore, Barak refused to negotiate directly with Arafat.
From the American point of view, members of the US Peace Team were bewildered
by what they saw as the tragic outcome of Camp David almost from the beginning
but were unable to influence Clinton who had staked his entire Presidency
on his Middle East diplomacy.
Camp David was not prepared correctly by any of the sides, yet the ticking
time clock of Clintonís Presidency forced the process forward.
Then came September 28, 2000. Arik Sharon in a direct provocation to talks
in Israel about relinquishing Israeli sovereignty over the Temple Mount
demanded the right to visit there. Barak, feeling pressured by the
public outcry against his intention to turn the most Holy Place for Jews
over to the Palestinians consented to Sharonís request. There are
conflicting stories whether Jabril Rajoub said that the visit would be
all right if Sharon did not enter the mosques or whether he warned that
in any event it would lead to an explosion.
PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL
Five days prior to Camp David I sent a memo to Gilead Sher for Prime Minister
Barak to see. Parts of it are below:
In light of the decision to convene the summit in Camp David next week,
I would like to share with you some of my observations and assessments
following the intensive dialogue we have been conducting with senior officials
from Israel and the Palestinian Authority about the future of Jerusalem.
We believe that these observations and assessments are crucial in the attempt
to reach an agreement about the future of Jerusalem.
The Palestinians feel significantly strengthened in their positions
of principle following the Israeli-Syrian negotiations and following the
Israeli withdrawal to the international border with Lebanon.
The most important of these principles is sticking steadfastly to UNSC
Resolution 242, which they insist applies to the West Bank and Gaza equally
to its application with Israelís other neighbors. They are convinced
and have international legal opinions that support them firmly. They
will stick to this position without bending even 1mm. This is a position
of principle and will serve as their compass for all negotiations and agreements.
The functional translation of 242 for the Palestinians is the return
to the 1967 borders. Any change of the borders will result, from
their perspective, first to the agreement of Israel to the principle of
242 and the 1967 borders and then a Palestinian agreement to accept changes
on territories that are first recognized as being sovereign Palestinian
With regard to Jerusalem it is essential to understand that for the
Palestinians Jerusalem - Al Quds is the Old City. Abu Dis, Shuafat, Beit
Hanina, etc. are not Jerusalem and cannot be in place of Jerusalem.
The Palestinians are firmer on this issue than on any we have ever seen.
The Palestinian position has significantly hardened in the past six months.
The Palestinians demand and will continue to demand throughout the negotiations,
a return to the 1967 borders in Jerusalem. They will hold on to the
position that all of East Jerusalem must be under Palestinian sovereignty.
They will argue their case through international law, UN decisions, and
the general international position that Israel has no legal rights to East
Jerusalem. In my view, the Palestinians will not compromise on this
issue at all. At best they might agree that there be no declared
sovereign over the Haram el Sharif/Temple Mount - not Israel and not the
Palestinians as long as they have effective control over the Haram el Sharif/Temple
If the Palestinians do gain sovereignty over East Jerusalem, they will,
under pressure, agree as a sovereign, to relinquish sovereignty over the
Israeli neighborhoods in East Jerusalem (within the municipal boundaries),
over the Jewish Quarter of the Old City and over the Kotel. To quote
one of our senior participants, the Palestinian State has no interest or
desire to rule over 180,000 Israeli in Jerusalem. The relinquishment of
Palestinian sovereignty over parts of Jerusalem is only "salable" to them
once reminded over and over again that this is a sovereign right and not
something that they are being forced or coerced to do.
There might be an Israeli decision that the price of the agreement
is too high. There might be a belief on the Israeli side that the Palestinians
will "cave in" under pressure, in our view, they will not and the chances
for violent confrontation will increase significantly as result of increased
Palestinian frustration. Arafat has received additional support from all
quarters of the Palestinian society to hold firm. He will weigh heavily
on the Americans to support his position of principles and he will paint
Israel as the primary violator of the already signed agreements.
He will raise the issue of Israeli non-compliance with the redeployments
as a main example of not honoring agreements.
In our assessment, the only way to reach an agreement on Jerusalem
with the Palestinians is to go far beyond what the Israeli position has
ever been. Without this, there will be no final status agreement
and no Palestinian agreement to end the conflict and the demands from Israel.
Postponement of the decision on Jerusalem will necessarily mean that there
will not be an "end to the conflict" agreement. It is essential to
understand this point.
Shortly before Camp David the Israeli media reported that the Chief Rabbinate
was instructed to re-examine the Halacha or Jewish religious law on the
question of Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount. It was further reported
that this reexamination would include the possibility of constructing an
area for Jewish prayer somewhere on the Temple Mount. As the Israeli
press had been publishing full of reports about Palestinian construction
and excavations on the Temple Mount doing irreparable damage to Jewish
historical evidence of the Holy Temple, the Palestinian and Arab media
was full of stories of Israeli tunneling beneath Al Aqsa and Israeli plans
to capture Al Aqsa and divide it into Jewish and Muslim prayer areas like
the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron (The Ibrahamia Mosque). Several days
before the Sharon visit to the Temple Mount, the Islamic Movement in Israel
held a conference attended by 70,000 people (as reported) in Um el Fahm
under the title "Al Aqsa is in Danger".
Sharon, who intended to weaken Barak in the eyes of the Israeli public
never, intended his visit to provoke the response that it did in Palestine.
What Triggered the Al-Aqsa Intifada?
(source IPCRI - Books and Publications)
A Chronology of the Events
I believe that the launching of the intifada was neither planned or strategically
thought of by the Palestinian leadership - be it the PA or the Tanzim.
It was a series of events that developed rapidly, escalated and got out
of control. Decisions regarding its continuation and its course were
made mostly following the events themselves. This is how I see it unfolded.
The Sharon visit with hundreds of security personnel on Thursday September
28th ended almost without incident on the Temple Mount, however in riots
in the West Bank five Palestinians were killed and more than 300 wounded.
There were only about 2,000 Muslim worshipers on the Mount at the
time of the visit.
There was some stone throwing after Sharon has already left.
On Friday September 29th the Palestinian leadership called for demonstrations
all over the territories and in particular on the Haram al Sharif.
At the end of Friday prayers some 50,000 worshippers faced battalions of
the Israeli police and Border Guards who came to maintain public order.
Riots broke out immediately.
One of the first stones thrown hit Jerusalem police commander Yair Yitzhaki
directly on the head. He was removed from the Mount on a stretcher
having suffered a bloody concussion.
I spoke to one of the officers who was there, several days later, he told
me that when the police saw their commander removed from the Mount with
what looked to be a serious head wound, they lost control.
No one was in charge and live ammunition was used to disperse the rioters.
Four Palestinians were immediately killed on the Mount and another two
in the Old City and four more in Gaza with a total of more than 700 wounded.
On Saturday October 1, Israel was celebrating Rosh Hashana - the Jewish
New Year, another 10 Palestinians were killed and more than five hundred
Also on Saturday, Palestinian citizens of Israel joined in the rioting
and main thoroughfares throughout the country were cut off including most
of the roads in the West Bank, in Wadi Ara and in the Galilee.
The country was under siege and people on both sides were very angry.
By Sunday October 2, Palestinians were burying 33 dead compatriots.
The situation was completely out of control.
Well into the first day of riots the Fatah Tanzim pulled out their arms
and opened fire on Israeli targets in the West Bank and Gaza.
Arafatís regular police were not directly participating in the fire, but
they were also not stopping it.
The Tanzim managed to pull masses out on to the streets particularly as
they came out to participate in the funerals all over the territories.
Inside of Israel what started as demonstrations against what people perceived
to be Israeli plans on the Haram al Sharif swiftly turned into complete
civil unrest in response to the brutal force used by the Israeli police
against Palestinian citizens of the State.
On Sunday night IPCRI organized a meeting in Ramallah with West Bank Preventive
Security Chief Jabril Rajoub and two MKís from Meretz - Avshalom (Abu)
Vilan and Mosy Raz.
Abu Vilan had served as an officer under Barak in the elite unit and despite
his membership in Meretz maintained a very close relationship and friendship
In preparation for the meeting Vilan spoke with Barak who conveyed a message
for Arafat. Until that point there had been no direct contact between
Barak and Arafat from the beginning of the intifada.
Rajoub called Arafat and delivered Barakís message: Netzarim and Josephís
Tomb are yours in negotiations, but if we are shot at we will defend those
places and all others.
In Barakís name, Vilan asked Rajoub to ask Arafat what were his terms for
a complete cessation of all the violence. Arafat responded with six
conditions, I wrote them down on a napkin that was on Rajoubís desk. They
Vilan called Barak who was at his home in Cochav Yair. Barak responded
that he was having the information cross-checked from another source.
Fifteen minutes later Barakís military attaché confirmed that they
had received the same information from another source.
Arafat, through Rajoub suggested that he and Barak meet that evening to
work out the details. Barak requested some more time.
Jabril Rajoub instructed his people to prepare for a meeting in his office
between Barak and Arafat. Arafat was in Ramallah.
After half an hour, Barakís military attaché informed Vilan that
another channel of communication had opened and that Barak preferred that
channel. The other channel was Yossi Ginosar, former deputy director of
the GSS, emissary of Rabin and Barak to Arafat and business partner to
Arafatís chief businessman, Mohammad Rachid.
About fifteen minutes later Barakís military attaché informed Vilan
that Barak would agree to conditions 1-5 and that 6 was out of the question.
An end to the closures
A return of all forces to their positions of September 27, 2000
A removal of all the extra Israeli police forces from Jerusalem, the Old
City and around the Haram al Sharif
A reopening of all of the crossing points - Allenby Bridge, Rafah crossing,
and the Gaza airport
An end to the siege of the Palestinian cities
An international investigation of the events of the past four days
We were escorted out of Ramallah by Rajoub himself and his troops.
Later that evening a meeting took place between Ginosar and Arafat that
was a catastrophe and ended up as a screaming match between the two.
By the end of October there were already 134 Palestinians killed and over
7000 wounded. The Israeli casualties also began to build up.
He further informed Vilan that he would not agree to see Arafat that evening.
Today (May 14, 2001) the Palestinian figures are as follows (provided by
the Palestinian Council for Justice and Peace):
Israeli troops and settlers killed 492 Palestinians
The total number of those injured by Israeli fire was 23147,
including 172 children under the age of eighteen
and 77 students.
Three Palestinian doctors and one German doctor were killed.
Ninety-one paramedics and 71 journalists were also injured.
The number of disabled, as a result of Israeli attacks, reached 2200 Palestinians
compared to 2525 Palestinians during the first Intifada in 1987-1992.
Israeli attacks totally damaged 9 ambulances while 82 others were riddled
Unemployment rose to 56% with 297,000 able Palestinians were left without
The Palestinian economy suffered losses estimated at $4.4 billion US dollars.
The GNP plummeted 50.7% during the last seven months.
The Palestinian agricultural sector lost $217,905,509 US dollars by 31
About 30,000 Palestinian farmers suffered huge losses.
40% of them were children and
2077 were students.
Israeli bulldozers and tanks
Israeli troops destroyed 108 artesian wells (used for drinking water);
3802 meters of municipal water network pipes;
41015 meters of fences and support walls and
804 heads of cattle.
Israeli authorities arrested 1850 Palestinians,
uprooted 280,000 mature olive and fruit trees and
dredged 42,000 dunums (10 dunams = 1 acre) of land mostly in the Gaza Strip.
The dredged sites represent 11% of the total area of the Strip of 367 square
kilometers. Israeli authorities confiscated 2617 dunums of land for expanding
Israeli colonies or to pave by-pass roads for use by Israeli settlers.
Forty-one schools were ordered closed, 65 students and 15 teachers were
Since 28 September 2000, Israeli army totally destroyed 4000 homes and
other structures including
0% of them were children under the age of 18.
Israeli military operations displaced 4000 Palestinian families. The average
Palestinian family consists of 10 members in Gaza Strip compared to 6 in
the West Bank.
Israeli occupation authorities dismembered the Palestinian Territories
into small sections dividing the West Bank into 64 sectors and the Gaza
Strip into three. These divisions separated Palestinian cities, towns and
villages into isolated easy to control cantons totally restraining the
movement of Palestinian civilians.
Israeli forces setup 145 new roadblocks with 103 in the West Bank and 42
checkpoints in the Gaza Strip. These measures were used to inflict further
humiliation on the Palestinian people.
Israeli forces closed off all highways, main and secondary roads including
farm and dirt roads. Palestinians had to use dangerous mountainous trails
to by-pass Israeli blockades. Today, it would take a Palestinian triple
the time to travel between two points than what it took in normal circumstances.
328 farmhouses and sheds;
29 poultry farms;
30 mosques and
The Israeli Foreign Ministry adds its own figures:
Seventy-seven dead soldiers and civilians and
hundreds of wounded since September 28, 2000.
Israelis are subjected to living in fear of random terror.
The Israeli economy has suffered great losses in investments, tourism losses,
and very high additional military expenses that had been planned for peaceful
The full details, lists of names and attacks are listed on the Israeli
Foreign Ministryís web page: http://www.israel.org/mfa/go.asp-MFAH0ia50
Where to From Here?
The firm position of the new Government of Israel headed by Sharon is clear
: there will be no negotiations with the Palestinians until all of the
Arafatís position is equally clear - he will not even attempt to stop the
violence without some kind of political gain that he can present to his
people who have suffered so many losses.
Sharon has said that he is not interested in a final status agreement;
rather he is talking about a long-term interim agreement that could consist
of some 42% of the West Bank and limited Palestinian statehood.
Arafat, who rejected 89% of the West Bank, certainly cannot agree to those
Initially it seemed that the intifada would provide political benefits
The Israeli positions from Camp David did move significantly in favor of
the Palestinians by the conclusion of the Taba talks, just days before
the Israeli election. But by then it was too late and Barakís bet
on elections caved in on him and on the peace process.
Arafat's Error During the Intifada
In my view Arafatís critical error occurred around the fourth day of the
Had he taken control then and put and swift end to the resistance and the
violence, he would have returned to the negotiating table as a brave leader.
The Israelis and Americans would have understood the great dissatisfaction
with the Israeli "generous offer".
It would have been before the horrific lynch of the reservist soldiers
who drove into a Palestinian checkpoint by error and ended up brutalized
to death by a wild angry mob in Ramallah.
It might have been possible to reach understandings and agreements on almost
all of the issues. In any event the peace process would have continued
with a lot more empathy and support for Palestinian positions.
Barakís great error was that he did not allow Arafat to have a week without
funerals. Each and every funeral spilled oil on the burning fire of Palestinian
Barak was under attack in Israel. In the public eye he was weak and inconsistent.
He felt that as a military leader - Mr. Security - he had to show Israelís
force and his willingness to deploy it.
Barakís use of the full wrath of the Israeli army encouraged Palestinian
society to fully adopt and support the continuation of the violence against
Shimon Peres: Economic Benefits to the Palestinians
Shimon Peres who's unending attempts to reach a breakthrough will most
likely not work. Peres put his cards on providing the Palestinians
with economic benefits.
Once again, Peres totally fails to understand that the Palestinian people
are fully behind the struggle and have no faith in negotiations with Israel
and even less faith in Shimon Peres.
Palestinians understand that just as easily as Israel increases the number
of work permits it provides for Palestinians it can impose closures and
sieges and end any new economic opportunities.
Building bridges and railroads between the West Bank and Gaza will also
not buy any Palestinian votes in favor of Peresís initiatives.
The Palestinian Focus
The entire Palestinian political focus now is placed on two items:
international observers in the territories and
a complete settlement freeze.
Nothing short of these two issues will lead Arafat to take any steps at
stopping the fighting. Even if this agenda is accepted by Israel,
which at this point seems very unlikely, there is no chance that future
negotiations with Arafat and Sharon at the helm will produce any fruit.
Furthermore, according to many reports, including from the Consulate General
of the United States in Jerusalem, there are more than 10,000 empty flats
in the settlements already.
There are many settlements, particularly in isolated areas, in Gaza, the
Jordan Valley and in the "heartland" of the West Bank where the social
fabric of these settlements are beginning to wither due to the difficult
conditions that the settlers face as a result of the intifada.
It is being reported on almost a daily basis that many settlers are registering
their children in schools within the "green line" for next year - a clear
indication that those settlers will be leaving.
There is no doubt that if opportunities were available for settlers to
receive alternative housing inside of Israel many would leave on their
It is important to point out that despite the difficult situation, more
than 50% of Israelis still have little sympathy for the settlements.
The figures are even high with regard to settlements in Gaza.
The beginning of the peace process after the Madrid Conference in 1991
addressed an initiative that was called "Gaza First". The Israeli
peace camp can once again adopt this platform.
This time "Gaza First" should refer to the removal of all of the Israeli
settlements from Gaza - first. It would be advisable to make clear
that this would occur as part of an understanding with the Palestinians
that the resistance and the intifada must end first in Gaza.
International efforts should adopt this platform as well. The EU and it
member States should call on Israel to withdraw completely from Gaza.
International mediators should try to work out understandings between the
sides. This kind of platform could help to reconstitute the Israeli
peace camp and its supporters around the world.
No sane Israeli is interested in the continued occupation of 30% of the
Gaza Strip and the need to protect the fanatic settlers who force Israel
to continue its occupation there.
Political Change - What Next?
Who is in control in Palestine?
Is Arafat in control?
These questions are argued about daily by the various intelligence branches
of the Israeli security forces.
own assessment is that Arafat is not in control at the tactical level.
But while he is not instructing or ordering, he maintains overall control.
The Palestinian Authority has basically ceased to function as a government
providing services, but the Palestinian security apparatuses are fully
functioning and under the direct control of Arafat.
In my assessment, if Arafat wanted to take back control, he could.
It would not be with the push of a button, but he remains in power.
The more central question is if he did stop the resistance and the violence
would he have anything in his hands that could be used to persuade the
Palestinian public that their fight was worth the grave losses they have
It must be understood that until there is political change on both sides,
we must talk about conflict management and not conflict resolution.
Political change in Israel is very unlikely in the coming years.
Sharon may fall; he may last his full term, but after Sharon will come
The Israeli Labour led left opposition will not come back to power unless
there are political changes on the Palestinian side that will create a
catalyst for renewed hopes of peace.
The Palestinian leadership is very unlikely to change as long as Arafat
is able to function or as long as he is alive.
Under these conditions where is the hope? The Mitchell Committee Report
For one, the Mitchell Committeereport
could provide some kind of "ladder" for the sides to step down a bit.
The general fairness of the report as viewed by both sides is its greatest
advantage - unlike the Egyptian-Jordanian initiative that is viewed by
Israel as being pro-Palestinian.
So one focus for activities might be how to translate the Mitchell Committee
report into policies.
Here the main obstacle is Israelís refusal
to accept a full settlement freeze.
Sharonís government is built on the support of the extreme right wing with
strong settler support.
Nonetheless, international efforts must be placed firmly in this direction.
Secondly, it should be clear, as I have stated in the past, without real
international involvement and engagement, particularly of the United States,
there will be no progress at all.
It is advantageous for the United States to get fully engaged now rather
than later when it will be forced to be engaged as a result of wider regional
I have been very cautious until now in not talking about regional spillovers
of the intifada, however the riot of last Friday, May 11, 2001, in Amman
and the swift and strong use of force by the Jordanian police against the
rioters is perhaps the first real sign that the spillovers are inevitable.
In my view, the situation in Jordan is very precarious and the future of
Jordanian-Hashemite stability should not be presumed as a given.
Continued deterioration on the Israeli-Palestinian front will inevitably
bring about an error of the kind of proportions we have not yet seen -
the kind of mistake such as the killing of 100 Palestinian refugees in
Kafr Qana in Lebanon during "Grapes of Wrath".
Such an error could bring about massive riots in Amman, particularly from
the refugee camps.
While the camps in Amman are unarmed, they are controlled by alliances
of Fatah Tanzim and Hamas forces that could easily mobilize the public.
I would not expect the kind of events of September 1970; rather Amman could
look like Belgrade in the final days of Milosovitch. In that
scenario, rather than fight, it is possible that King Abdallah II and his
family would be on the first flight out to London. Needless to say,
a Palestinian-Islamic forces type regime in Jordan would open an entirely
different eastern front for Israel.
At that point, US engagement would be substantively different and the possible
outcomes much more limited.
There are also numerous possibilities for the eruption of Israelís northern
borders with Lebanon and Syria.
The Link Between Peace and Democracy
There is also a real need to address, perhaps for the first time, the critical
linkage between democracy and peace.
Almost all of the international efforts aimed at programs in democracy
and good governance in Palestine have been money wasted. Peace making
and peace building cannot solely be based on top-down programs.
You canít make peace with an authority; you can make peace with a people.
Yet, Israelis, Europeans and Americans alike have joined hands in support
of the Palestinian Authority in the belief that there has been no alternative
to Arafat and his self-created Authority.
Israelis, Europeans, Americans and the PA itself have feared that real
Palestinian democracy could produce the opposite result of what was desired,
meaning the empowerment of an anti-peace opposition (what I called above
the Algeria syndrome). Such a possibility does in fact exist, particularly
when the PA is perceived by so many Palestinians to be unworthy of governing.
It must be said that not only the Israelis, the European and the Americans
have feared real Palestinian democracy. The Arab regimes in the
region have perhaps feared it even more and although no one of the
Arab leaders particularly has any positive feelings towards Arafat, his
survival has been viewed as more favorable to them than any other alternative.
Nonetheless, I have always believed and continue to do so that real
Palestinian democracy will in the end not only be good for Palestine,
it will be good for Israel as well.
The will of the Palestinian people must be put into power and democracy
will eventually be the basis of lasting and stable peace in the region.
The winds of change are blowing through Palestine launched by a small crowd
of Palestinian intellectuals. This is a very positive development
and should be encouraged and strengthened in every way possible.
Currently one such initiative involves the signing of a petition aimed
at encouraging internal Palestinian reforms and democracy. There
are other such efforts as well. Perhaps it will be one of the few hopeful
outcomes of the intifada.
Israel must also address its own democracy and the rights
of its Palestinian citizens.
The intensity of the uprising within Israel shocked almost everyone concerned.
It signaled a breaking point in the relations between the Palestinian citizens
of Israel and the State of Israel.
There is no doubt in my mind that Barakís refusal to see them as real partners
in his government is one of the sparks that lit the flame.
The treatment of the Israeli Police and the use of live ammunition and
brutal force brought home to every single Israeli Palestinian that they
are not really full citizens of the State in the eyes of the State.
The refusal of Minister Shlomo Ben Ami to take any direct responsibility
as Minister in charge of the police for what happened continues to amaze
me and place huge question marks on the intellectual integrity of the Professor
of History who became a politician.
It is time for Israel
to be truly inclusive with regard to the Palestinian citizens of Israel.
to address the need of this national minority to have much more autonomy
in determining its own cultural and educational needs.
to find the true means to create a democratic Israel that can allow for
the expression of its Jewish character without feeling threatened by the
equal rights of the Palestinian minority to express its own Palestinian
to fully integrate the Palestinian Israelis into Israeli political and
social life. They must be included in government.
The State of Israel must take real actions to equalize development and
opportunities for Palestinian Israelis.
The State of Israel must reallocate vacant lands to Palestinian Israeli
towns and village to meet the needs of growth and development.
The more the State of Israel relates in a truly democratic manner to all
of its citizens, the more those citizens will feel that they are truly
citizens of the State.
We have now retreated 10 years in the peace process.
The situation today is much worse than it was at the beginning of the first
intifada when IPCRI was founded in 1988. That was a period of great hope
for a better future. Today we are living in the trauma of the kind
felt in the post 1948 era.
Palestinian-Israeli trust is at a new low and hopes for peace in the region
are far beyond our wildest dreams. Someone once put it: The future
ainít what it used to be.
Palestinian-Israeli people-to-people efforts have almost come to a total
halt, with small exceptions such as the work being done by IPCRI, the ECF,
Givat Haviva and others. This is a tragic loss to the entire region.
We must not allow this work to cease.
The international community must be encouraged to continue its support
for these efforts.
The energies must be directed at long-term investments, not one-shot projects
that have no built-in continuation possibilities.
Palestinian and Israeli NGOís must be encouraged to continue and to expand
their work in assuring that peace will grow from the bottom up.
Palestinians who are engaged in such activities must be strengthened against
the general trend to view these activities today with great disfavor.
These are courageous people who need support - financial, intellectual
Individuals, institutions, and governments world-wide are called to play
an active role in supporting Palestinian-Israeli people-to-people activities.
Some Final Thoughts
While it is difficult to be hopeful today, we must not give up the hope.
One day this region will return to its senses and sanity will rein in the
public sphere. There is only one way to bring about peace - and that
is through negotiations. As I have stated before, the parameters of a peace
agreement have not changed nor are they likely to change.
The current conflict is likely to push Israeli and Palestinian thinking
away from models of future cooperation. This would be a fatal mistake
for peace. Even today as the battle wages on, Israeli and Palestinian
public figures recognize that they will eventually return to the table
The recognition and the implementation of a two-state solution on the basis
of the June 4, 1967 borders is the "blue print" for any peace agreement.
It is essential to also recognize that real peace will only emerge if the
two States - Israel and Palestine - will work together, cooperate and support
This must begin now with small steps. Small steps can be made by
public figures and they can also be made by ordinary people, who know,
deep in their heart, like me, that eventually we will have peace.
It is time to begin to encourage those public figures to say so out loud
and not only in closed meetings.
Much work is ahead of us to rebuild the trust and confidence that has been
so horribly damaged.
* Credit for the original name of this piece "WWW - What Went Wrong"
goes to Prof. Edy Kaufman of the Truman Institute of the Hebrew University.
** Dr. Gershon Baskin is the founder and Co-Director of IPCRI,
Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, founded in 1988
(Creating a Culture of Peace, Edited by Gershon Baskin and Zakaria al Qaq, January 1999)