Why Arafat rejected the Camp David accords

 By Yusuf Agha
YellowTimes.org Columnist (United States)

May 10, 2002

(YellowTimes.org) – Labeled as "Arafat's folly," it was trumpeted from the highest television antenna; it resonated from the deepest voices on television, and stared at you from the darkest inks of your morning paper. And as you watched the Israeli tanks and bulldozers crush house and home in Palestinian refugee camps, you were led to believe that had the Palestinian leadership accepted the generous offer made to them at Camp David, the Israeli incursions - indeed, the massacre of Jenin - could have been avoided.

But have you noticed that not once were you shown a map of Palestine with the settlements? All those map-meisters, with their maps of Afghanistan and Iraq, and never once a picture of the settlements? If they had shown you the maps of the settlements, you would have understood why the Palestinians rejected Camp David.

The Oslo Accord of 1993 granted the Palestinians 22 percent of their historic homeland - they agreed to surrender the remaining 78 percent to Israel as part of the "Land-for-Peace" that Oslo promised. Camp David offered the Palestinians 91 percent of this 22 percent. The ham was constantly being sliced thinner.

The Palestinian West Bank has a total area of 2185.3 square miles. In this area, there are 400,000 Israelis living in 200 communities or "settlements" in the area. That's approximately one settlement every eleven miles.

The map of the West Bank today, pictured with its settlements, is that of a sieve. And Camp David threatened to defile the map still further.

At Camp David, Barak and Clinton subjected Arafat to nothing short of a Laurel and Hardy act. Writing in The Guardian, David Clark, who was a special adviser to the British Foreign Office at the time, describes the subterfuge that surrounded the "deal."

While "Barak dangled the trappings of Palestinian sovereignty while perpetuating the subjugation of the Palestinians," writes Mr. Clark, "Clinton saw time running out along the hope that he might be remembered in history for something more dignified than blowjobs in the Oval Office. He needed a quick deal rather than a just deal and chose to attempt to bounce Arafat into accepting Israel's terms."

Mr. Clark elucidates the elements of the deal: "…even the most cursory glance at the map revealed the bad faith inherent in it. It showed the West Bank carved into three chunks, surrounded by Israeli troops and settlers, without direct access to its own international borders."

The oh-so-joyful offer did not end there. "The loss of prime agricultural land in the West Bank merely added insult to injury. The only territory offered to Palestinian negotiators consisted of stretches of desert adjacent to the Gaza Strip that Israel currently uses for toxic waste dumping."

An Israeli site, "Gush-Salom," ridicules the "generous" offer that Barak made at Camp David: "This is no generous offer. It is a humiliating demand for surrender! This impossible offer, Barak's imperious attitude, the ongoing massive construction in the settlements, years of Israel's delaying tactics and Sharon's provocation - all these contributed to the inevitable explosion."

The establishment of settlements goes against the very core of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits an occupation force from inhabiting its population on occupied land. Settlements are no longer makeshift encampments. They range in sizes, says the Boston Globe, "from clusters of trailers to fully articulated cities…attractive modern housing and neatly landscaped community centers, clinics and schools."

And once again, it is Sharon, the butcher of Sabra and Chatila in 1982 - and now Jenin in 2002, who is identified as the moving force in perpetuating these settlements. "Twice," writes Charles A. Radin of the Boston Globe, "the settlement movement showed signs of flagging, and both times Ariel Sharon, the current Israeli prime minister, played a key role in reenergizing it." In fact, since Sharon has come to power, 34 new settlements have been constructed.

Israeli policy, compounded in large measure by the continued establishment of new settlements, has resulted in understandable mistrust of Israel's intentions. Dr. Ron Pundak, Executive Director of the Economic Cooperation Foundation of Israel, writes of the frustration that the Palestinians have suffered residing in the shadows of the settlements. While they faced "water shortages during the summer months as opposed to the abundance of water supply in the Israeli settlements; [they witnessed] the destruction of Palestinian homes while new houses were built in the settlements." He writes of their continued humiliation as Israel "…continued to establish new settlements, to annex territories for new settlements and to expand existing ones."

"The Palestinian 'street' and its leadership," writes Dr. Pundak, "interpreted Israel's policy as seeking to destroy the very core of the Palestinian national dream."

The Globe quotes retired Israeli General Shlomo Gazit, first director of government activities in the territories, stating that the settlements "have become a clear message to the local population that Israel is planning to turn this area into greater Israel, and that they should not even dream of having a Palestinian state."

Israeli and American politicians have begun to think of Palestine in terms of American Indian Reservations. Israel's Great Yahoo, Benjamin Netanyahu, hopeful prime-minister-in-waiting, talks of Palestinian territories carved out like concentration camps, surrounded by barriers, barbed wire and demilitarized zones. House Republican Majority Leader Dick Armey, more loyal to Israel than Prime Minister Sharon himself, would like to give the entire territory to Israel, and in the television show Hardball with Chris Matthews, virtually called for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the occupied territories.

Armey stated that he believed the "Palestinians should leave." Chris Matthews, astonished, replied, "Well, just to repeat, you believe that the Palestinians who are now living on the West Bank should get out of there?" Armey responded with one word: "Yes."

Sharon's policies, writes former President Jimmy Carter, "have all been orchestrated to accomplish his ultimate goals: to establish Israeli settlements as widely as possible throughout occupied territories and to deny Palestinians a cohesive political existence."

Robert Fisk, writing in The Independent, also smells foul play. "Will [the Americans] just let the Israelis build more settlements (something the Israelis are doing anyway) and abandon the "visions" and walk away from the Palestinians, leaving them to the mercy of Mr. Sharon and his dreams of a Greater Israel?"

So there you have it. The 91 percent offer to Palestine which Shimon Peres boasted about at the American-Israeli Political Action Committee (AIPAC) last week, was simply this: three parcels of non-contiguous land, divested of prime agricultural real estate, diminished in water supply, surrounded by settlements with armed settlers and Israeli troops, totally sealed off from its current international borders, and laden with toxic waste dumps. A state destined to fail.

The Camp David offer was a bad faith effort, concealed within the shimmering trappings of a superb public relations blitz, which Sharon would have you believe is not part of his roadmap for a Greater Israel at the cost of an obliterated Palestinian dream. And which Clinton would have you gulp down in large mouthfuls.

[Yusuf Agha is a historian who also dabbles in Information Technology. He reads extensively and has an interest in the visual and performing arts. He has resided in the United States for over two decades, loves its people and the land, but is still trying to figure out whom the government represents.]

Yusuf Agha encourages your comments: yagha@YellowTimes.org

YellowTimes.org encourages its material to be reproduced, reprinted, or broadcast provided that any such reproduction must identify the original source, http://www.YellowTimes.org. Internet web links to http://www.YellowTimes.org are appreciated.